The Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) Project (http://www.eastproject.org) helps high school students expand their use of technology and their understanding of science and engineering principles by solving real-world problems. Initiated five years ago in Arkansas, the program is now in place in more than 150 schools in Arkansas, Alabama, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, and Mississippi. It is supported by grants from about a dozen major technology suppliers. The program allows students to work on projects of their own choosing and at their own pace. The requirements are that projects:
• Solve real, identifiable problems;
• Be completed in collaboration with community groups; and
• Focus on using technology to solve the problems.
For example, a student last year redesigned her school’s parking lot so it could accommodate more cars. Among many tasks, she had to measure the parking lot, import data into a computer-aided design (CAD) software package, devise a new layout for the lot that still allowed for sufficient turning space for each car, and work with local officials to get permits for the new layout.
Other students have used the communications power of the web and eMail to mobilize students in their communities to address environmental causes or inform them about key health issues. The program continues to expand to other states.