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VW eLab Spotlight: Hixson High School

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

‘Nooga Springs. Two words, endless possibilities. For Hixson High freshmen, Joseph Franke, Emma Parson, and Riley Bellamy, creating a slideshow for their class business presentation did not seem sufficient. They wanted to take their idea a step further and create a 3D model, called ‘Nooga Springs.

The group approached Jill Moses and LeAnn Plumlee, Hixson High VW eLab specialists, and said they wanted to create something tangible and eye-catching. Although the students were not enrolled in the VW eLab class, this did not hinder their motivation to find a way to utilize the space. Adamant about making their vision come to life, they dedicated hours of their personal time to the VW eLab; coming in before school, after school, and during their lunch period. “They didn’t allow time constraints get in the way of accomplishing their goal,” said Moses. Each 3D printed building took around four hours to complete, and the entire model itself took an entire two weeks. The students asked questions throughout the build, if needed. However, it was all student-driven work. The team collaborated well together, and each student brought something unique to the table. “Riley was driven,” stated Parson. “Emma was organized, and Joseph was able to bring humor when things got stressful,” said Bellamy.

From left to right: Jill Moses, Riley Bellamy, Emma Parson, Joseph Franke, LeAnn Plumlee

So how did this project originally come to light? The Hixson Chamber of Commerce approached Hixson High advisory council, and asked ‘What can we focus on to make our students better employees in the future? And what creative ideas can we bring to the Hixson community?’ Last fall, the team’s 9th grade business class posed the following assignment: Create a concept to improve the Hixson community. The assignment was a great way to incorporate problem-based learning methods for their students.

After extensive research behind their ‘Nooga Springs idea, the three freshmen crafted their presentation. They distributed surveys to all grade levels asking what they would like to see in Hixson and received over 300 responses from classmates. Answers varied from restaurants to shops, to even an amphitheater to boost the entertainment scene. From there, they dedicated their time to constructing the 3D model of their concept. Working in the VW eLab allowed them to sharpen their time management and presentation skills. “The excitement of learning new technologies, building upon their ideas, and going above and beyond on their project was cool to witness as a teacher and as a parent,” said Plumlee, “especially since they didn’t have any prior knowledge of the VW eLab environment.”

The ‘Nooga Springs team won the class challenge against six other teams and continued to present their concept in front of 45+ people, which included several peers and members of the Hixson Chamber of Commerce. “It was interesting to see adults in the professional world who were interested in the plans of students in high school,” said Plumlee. The feedback from the Hixson Chamber? They took a constructive interest in the idea, including discussions with the students on how they would attain the funding for the project and the potential for the future. “The Hixson Chamber loved that the students had real data behind their work and ideas on next steps,” said Moses. Next steps would involve the students narrowing down a location and contacting shops or businesses that could be interested to build in that area. The location options currently being discussed are either the site next to Academy on 153 or the Northgate area.

The students received exciting news after presenting their concept to Hixson High Future Business Leaders of America president, Aubrey Ford. They will compete in an upcoming FBLA state competition for broadcast journalism, where they will perform a live news broadcast. If they win, they will have the opportunity to travel to San Antonio, TX for the finals. Good luck Hixson High students! Your persistence and dedication in your learning and in your work ethic are qualities to be proud of, and the community is rooting for you to further the success of ‘Nooga Springs!

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