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Sitting under the bright lights on the set of WATE 6 News’ Living East Tennessee, Jordan Haney and Parker Chiles watch as the cameraman mouths “three, two, one.” The segment goes live and together the teacher and student let their memories fall back nine years.

The year 2010 proved to be an exciting time for advancements in technology as it occurred during an economic uptick following the Great Recession, which slowed economic development for more than two years. During this time of revitalization, Apple released the iPad, Time Magazine announced Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as Person of the Year, and Rocky Hill Elementary School teacher Jordan Haney won $25,000 in state-of-the-art technology for his classroom through ORAU’s Extreme Classroom Makeover.

Almost a decade later, technology has evolved, but the technology Jordan Haney received in 2010 has continued to impact the classroom experiences and education of his students. ORAU launched Extreme Classroom Makeover in 2009 to highlight and support educators who use technology to inspire more students to pursue math- and science-based careers. With this grant, Haney purchased iPads, MacBooks, iMacs and a Wii. He immediately started implementing video creation into lesson plans and improved communications with his ePal program, an email pen pal program with an elementary class in France.

Chiles, who was among the first of Haney’s students to use the new technology, still remembers the innovative projects that allowed him to expand his imagination and basic technology skills. Now in his first year of college, Chiles’ eyes still light up when describing his fifth grade experience.

“We did one video that was stop-motion with every student in the fifth grade, and it was amazing. I had never been in a class with this type of technology before,” he said.

When asked if he remembered what his favorite subject in school was, Chiles responded “lunchtime” in shy jest; but Haney quickly refuted and argued that Chiles was a “rock star” in math. In fact, Chiles never minded spending extra time in Haney’s classroom immersed in the new technology to explore.

“I enjoyed all of elementary school,” Chiles said. “Rocky Hill was able to stand out because of the technology.”

And he carried these early STEM lessons with him beyond Haney’s classroom long after his time at Rocky Hill.

“When I started Bearden High School everyone had laptops, and when teachers wanted to do assignments with Garage Band or iMovie I already knew what I was doing,” Chiles explained. “It was helpful getting a head-start with this technology at a young age instead of only sitting in class listening.”

Haney’s experience seeing his students grow in their educational pursuits with the help of this technology has been more rewarding than the initial $25,000 grant.

“ORAU not only opened up doors for me, but it opened up my classroom for all my students. The connections my students have made, not only in this school, but with students around the world, has enhanced what my students are able to do in this room,” Haney said. “It really knocked the walls off of it.”

Now in the tenth year of Extreme Classroom Makeover, ORAU has invested more than $372,000 in technology for area schools, for their teachers and for the students like Parker Chiles whose eyes still light up at the thought of learning STEM.

To apply for this year's competition, visit the Extreme Classroom Makeover application page.

Extreme Classroom Makeover winning class

How do I qualify for Extreme Classroom Makeover?

  • Teach a STEM subject for 3rd through 10th grade
  • Work for a public school within 50 miles of Oak Ridge, Tennessee
  • Submit a 3-4 minute video creatively illustrating the need and potential uses of technology in their classroom.

View full contest guidelines

Contact us

Want to learn more about Exteme Classroom Makeover? Contact Jenna Harpenau at 865.574.8669 or extreme.classroom@orau.org.