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A collaborative program between the University of Texas at El Paso and Socorro Independent School District, which exposes SISD students to a wide-range of technologies with real-world, hands-on experiences, is going strong in its third year.

More than 1,000 WIN Academy students from second to seventh grade and 48 teachers have spent a Friday every two months this school year participating in Tech-E, the innovative, award-winning program that demonstrates technology used today and in the future.

The students from 15 SISD schools spend the day at UTEP to learn the importance of cyber security, how to use a 3-D printer, and how to build, program and play games on a Raspberry Pi, a credit-card-sized computer that plugs into a keyboard and monitor. They also get to hear about careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). As an added benefit, students get a taste of university life.

“It’s the best possible opportunity for our students to enhance their educational experience,” said Jessica Macias, SISD school improvement officer. “It gives the WIN students the college experience and how to use technology effectively. It’s such a positive.”

SISD was the first school district to take advantage of the program that began in the fall 2016, said Mike Pitcher, Tech-E coordinator and UTEP’s director of academic technologies. Each year, a different cohort was added. For the 2019-20 school year, another five campuses will be welcomed to the program bringing the total amount of WIN Academy students to 1,300.

“It’s been really exciting,” Pitcher said. “We know our students and they know the staff. They feel comfortable here. It’s home for them now. I want the students to know this is their campus. Tech-E has far exceeded what we expected.”

Students are so curious and learning way beyond their lessons, he said. They create video games and other programs. It’s not just technology in use. Math and science are behind it as well.

“It’s a different style of learning,” Pitcher said. “It’s self-empowered. They learn they can have a great idea and then create it.”

Cesar Raygoza, 9, loves working on the Raspberry Pi and what he is able to accomplish with it.

“It’s exciting to come to UTEP,” said Raygoza, a third-grader at Jane A. Hambric School. “I never thought I could make a computer and see it work. Wow!”

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