2016-12-29 / Front Page

Donors give Swan Valley students a technological advantage

By Bill Petzold


Swan Valley junior Jayden Schafsnitz contemplates a purple skull he created as a test of the school’s new 3-D printer. 
Photo by Bill Petzold Swan Valley junior Jayden Schafsnitz contemplates a purple skull he created as a test of the school’s new 3-D printer. Photo by Bill Petzold THOMAS TWP. – Normally, receiving a stack of damaged iPads on a Monday morning would be a major headache for a teacher like Kay Wejrowski.

But thanks to a group of enthusiastic and tech-savvy students, Wejrowski knew that most of those machines would soon be repaired. A potential setback turned into a teaching moment for Wejrowski and an enterprising group of Swan Valley High School juniors including Lexi Ortiz, Brady Kessler, Jayden Schafsnitz and Logan and Payton Pietz.

As the students entered the back room of Swan Valley’s media center – which serves as decent technology workshop – each grabbed a machine and was in the process of removing broken screens or making other repairs to the tablet-style devices.


Freshman Norris Nguyen operates a robotic catapult he created with learning materials purchased through a crowd-funding campaign on www.donorschoose.com and thanks to the generosity of donors locally and around the world. 
Photo by Bill Petzold Freshman Norris Nguyen operates a robotic catapult he created with learning materials purchased through a crowd-funding campaign on www.donorschoose.com and thanks to the generosity of donors locally and around the world. Photo by Bill Petzold “We’re one-to-one with iPads, and so the service team for those thousands of iPads is my students,” Wejrowski said.

Not only do Swan Valley students use the portable tablets for homework, communicating and myriad other school-related activities, they also have learned how to take them apart, repair them and put them back together.

“They’re knocking them out, and we’ve already delivered three that have been repaired,” Wejrowski said. “It’s so different now because the kids can text and email in and they’ll say ‘we need parts’ and I can go and order them. But the kids are the ones that run this operation.”


Swan Valley juniors Jayden Schafsnitz (left) and brothers Logan and Payton Pietz show how students can use miniature robots to learn more about programming. 
Photo by Bill Petzold Swan Valley juniors Jayden Schafsnitz (left) and brothers Logan and Payton Pietz show how students can use miniature robots to learn more about programming. Photo by Bill Petzold Schafsnitz returned to the workshop with an iPad he had plugged into another machine to do a software repair.

“Since I’ve been here which is about 10 minutes, I’ve restored this one, put a new screen on this one and we’ve got another one (in the works),” said Jayden Schafsnitz.

Beyond learning new skills that are immediately marketable in the real world right now, students are getting a leg up on studying the technology of the future thanks to the generosity of former students and some folks that perhaps have never heard of Swan Valley.

By posting crowd-funding campaigns on the website www.donorschoose.com, Wejrowski’s students now have access to a 3-D printer, as well as a pair of programmable robots and other items that teach them how to program a specific set of behavior into a robot’s consciousness. Students are learning how to program and drive a pair of robots named Dash and Sphero.


Brothers Logan and Payton Pietz control Swan Valley High School’s resident robots, Dash and Sphero. 
Photo by Bill Petzold Brothers Logan and Payton Pietz control Swan Valley High School’s resident robots, Dash and Sphero. Photo by Bill Petzold “This technology all came from lots of people who are from this area and now live all over the world,” Wejrowski said. “I have a son who’s a software engineer in San Francisco, and he saw (our campaign) on donorschoose, and he posted it on Facebook: ‘My mom wants a 3D printer for her kids,’ and within a few days the whole thing was funded. Some of his friends said, ‘Oh, it’s so cool the kids are getting to use that’ and the CEO of his company said, ‘Oh, they’re doing that at school? That’s pretty cool.’


Junior Lexi Orti replaces a broken screen on one of Swan Valley High School’s iPads. 
Photo by Bill Petzold Junior Lexi Orti replaces a broken screen on one of Swan Valley High School’s iPads. Photo by Bill Petzold And so we sent thank-yous to Paris, Australia and to this network of friends all over the world – but they’re still having an impact on our school today.”

Wejrowski said she was encouraged by the campaign for the 3-D printer, so she took to the web again to help secure the robots. This time help came from a bit closer to home: the Horace Mann Insurance

Agency at 4735 Mackinaw Road in Saginaw Township.

“Danny Hughes from Horace Mann came in, and I said ‘We’d really like to have this robot,’ and he said ‘Put it on donorschoose, we’ll cover it,’” Wejrowski said. “So they did, and then I put another (request) and all of a sudden someone else from Horace Mann covered $150 of it and within a couple of days the rest of it was paid for by people we don’t even know.”

Such investments have provided learning opportunities for all of Wejrowski’s students at Swan Valley, including freshman Norris Nguyen, who showed off a working robotic trebuchet (catapault) that he built using the new robotics equipment. Schafsnitz displayed several 3-D projects he had programmed using CAD software and the new 3-D printer – some of which were thank-you gifts for donors.

“The kids appreciate it,” Wejrowski said. “The kids made giant cards and we mailed them out. We want to let people know how much we appreciate it. It was generosity from people in the community that made this all happen.”

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