Device turns gym into interactive math competition

·2 min read

May 26—HIGH POINT — A little music, colored lights, sound effects and competition has enlivened the physical education classes at Fairview Elementary School while also adding some math problems.

The school installed its Lu Interactive Playground — a computer-controlled, interactive camera-and-projector system — just two weeks ago, but P.E. teacher Martez Finch is sold on it.

"I think every P.E. teacher needs one," he said. "The kids love it. I've never seen our kids so active."

The center of the action is a big, white partial wall bolted to the floor and braced against one wall of the school gym that essentially is just the projection screen for the computerized elements of the Lu. The projector, a camera and disco-like colored lights are mounted over the gym floor, and another camera is mounted over the white wall, pointing back at where the students stand on the floor.

There is a wide variety of programming. Martez puts it to work from the outset of class, having the children warm up to music before beginning a series of exercises, also set to music. On Thursday, that included relay races involving throwing a ball at the correct number to answer a math equation or running up to slap the correct answer, and a basketball shooting competition to see which of two teams could "make" 20 free-throws first.

In between competitions, Martez had them trying to mimic an animated man's dance moves.

Finch said the system presents a wider range of uses than he expected.

"It's an easy way for us to include technology in a lot of different subjects," he said. "I thought it was going to be hard to navigate it, but they make it pretty easy."

Principal Abe Hege said the Lu Interactive Playground was bought with part of the money from a state grant the school received two years ago for innovative technology. Fairview is the first in the Guilford County Schools to have one of the devices, but a charter school in Greensboro also has one.

Even though the device has "playground" in the name, Hege said that he thinks it has broader possibilities.

"We're trying to find ways to get STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) happening outside just that STEM class," he said. "Next year we're going to find new ways for other classes to use it too."