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Ross High School teen inventors claim another national award

Ross High School is becoming the teen version of Silicon Valley when it comes to digital inventiveness.

After snagging national honors for a phone security app, which netted teen inventors from the Butler County school $50,000 in awarded technology for their school, some other students have won national recognition for an “immersion learning” head set app.

MORE: Ross teens invent school security app

Thomas O’Neill, a veteran Butler Tech teacher working at Ross High School, said students in his computers and information technology class have developed an app for a still in development Microsoft HaloLens learning device.

The “mixed reality” visor will allow students to see and interact with projections of math equations in the air around them, said O’Neill, who last month was named the 2017 Southwest Ohio winner of the Ohio School Boards Associations’ “Outstanding Faculty Member.

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“It’s not virtual reality (which blocks out the real world surroundings of the user) but a mixed reality (visor) that will show floating blocks of math equations in the air within the space around the user. The students will find an answer and then walk through it,” said O’Neill.

Students in his class are writing an app for use in the visors and their learning programs, which O’Neill describes as “serious gaming” instructional learning.

O’Neill said his students are developing computer coding, graphics, story boards and story-telling to be included in their app.

The work so far was impressive enough to be recognized in “District Administration’s Schools of TechXellence Award.” This is a national recognition program sponsored by HP and Intel, he said.

“To be considered for this recognition, programs and students must demonstrate innovative and creative uses of computer technology, especially HP and Intel technology, which provides measurable impact to student success,” he said.

“”The Microsoft HoloLens is still a development kit, not a retail product. Given the fact that there is not yet a lot of information available to help students learn how to create apps for the HoloLens, and they are creating apps for something that did not exist until a year ago, you would think students would give up at the first hurdle. Not these students,” said O’Neill.

“They all had to learn from scratch, and now they have the makings of a software company if they wish to continue producing HoloLens apps.”

Ross sophomore Isabella Saylor recently introduced an early version of the app in the visor to Butler Tech Superintendent Jon Graft.

Saylor described the new learning device as “blowing my mind.”

Teens in general take to computer coding and technology development easily, said Saylor.

“Each day our world is becoming more reliant on technology and our education has to be pro-active to the students’ inventive contributions,” she said.

Michael Beauchat, spokesman for Butler Tech, agreed, saying “this generation approaches technology with such natural ease.”

“Their ability to collaborate and innovate is stellar. Whether they are on a Butler Tech campus or in one of our associate school programs like Mr. O’Neill’s at Ross High School, it’s amazing to watch these students take the teaching and the tools, and make magic happen,” he said.

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