Westridge Tech. Squad members Nora Fogarty and Shanel Sayre race Sphero robots.

Westridge Tech. Squad Prepares Students for Careers of the Future

From the iPhone X to smart home devices, the world is filled with advancing technology. Rather than rely on technology, many employers are looking to hire tech-savvy workers who also have strong interpersonal skills. While there are many ways to grow these skills in the West Des Moines Community Schools, one unique opportunity is the Westridge Elementary Tech. Squad.

Led by sixth-grade teacher Julie Kaufman, the Westridge Tech. Squad is a group of students who provide training on the school’s technology. They meet twice a month to gain new technology skills and learn how to teach them to other students. Once they are confident in a skill, Kaufman assigns small groups of Tech. Squad members to classrooms that request assistance. The squad members demonstrate how to use the technology, then walk students through the steps.

Westridge Tech. Squad members Shanel Sayre and Nora Fogarty use the green screen in the STEM lab.

Sayre and Fogarty use a green screen.

“We don’t want to do the work for them,” fifth-grade Tech. Squad member Shanel Sayre explained. “We want them to figure out how to do it.”

The light-up Sphero robots in the Westridge STEM lab are a student favorite, but Tech. Squad members can help students log into computers, use the school’s 3-D printer, and make movies with the DIY green screen. They also help students navigate coding programs.

“I really love teaching kids how to use things,” fifth-grade Tech. Squad member Nora Fogarty said. “I like to see what they come up with and do. It’s things I never would have thought of.”

Beyond learning about the technology they love, Westridge Tech. Squad members strengthen the interpersonal skills current and future employers are looking for. All members routinely present to full classes and must be able to explain several types of technology, tailoring the lessons to different grade levels.

“People learn best when they can teach others,” Kaufman said. “The Tech. Squad practices together and then learns even more as they are teaching other students.  Not only are they learning about the technology skills they are sharing, but also about leadership, communication, and people skills.  They help put together a checklist before heading out to train classes, and while they brainstorm they definitely keep in mind the right words to use based on the grade they will help.”

Westridge Tech. Squad members Nora Fogarty and Shanel Sayre steer a Sphero robot.

Fogarty and Sayre steer a Sphero robot.

With the leadership, communication, and technology skills they have gained, Westridge Tech. Squad members are already preparing for the careers of the future. The Tech. Squad members may not be thinking about their future employers quite yet, but there is no doubt their technology expertise will be more than just a hobby going forward. 

“(Westridge Tech. Squad) helps us know how to get into the new world of technology,” Sayre said. “Everything is going to be on technology, so it’s really important information to know.”