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Facebook founder visits Belfry, Ky. students


The Williamson Daily News

BELFRY, Ky., — Belfry High School senior Lyndsay Coleman said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was laughing at her joke while playing a game she helped create in a photo the billionaire posted Monday.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg visits with Belfry High School’s Lyndsay Coleman, Shelby Bailey and Thomas Hager on Sunday. The billionaire visited Kentucky as part of his challenge to visit every state.
(Submitted photo)

“He’s a very nice person,” Coleman said. “He went through individually playing each of our games.”

Zuckerberg surprised 15 Belfry High students and two teachers with a visit on Sunday to Hazard, Ky., as part of the Facebook’s CEO challenge to himself to visit every state.

The students went to the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative center thinking they would be demonstrating projects they made to members of the Zuckerberg Chan Initiative, a foundation Zuckerberg started with his wife to promote education and science.

However Zuckerberg himself made an appearance visiting with the students made from classes of Dr. Haridas Chandran and Stephanie Younger.

Students in Younger’s class showed Zuckerberg games they designed and coded, including a phone app that uses virtual reality gaming and a motion capture suit.

Shelby Bailey, 17, said her jaw dropped when Zuckerberg entered the room and everyone else was dead silent. The students were told he would be there about an hour before so they could get their nerves out.

Thomas Hager,18, said he had never been more nervous to meet anybody before and wishes he had known about it beforehand.

“I feel a slight rage because I would have brought way better stuff to show him,” Hager added.

Zuckerberg told Bailiey he began his career coding games similar to what she and her classmates are doing. That inspired her to make more games, she said.

“If he can start out doing stuff like this then so can we,” she said.

Seth Mounts, 16, said Zuckerberg even joked about a calculator he had programmed too slowly.

“He said, ‘why does this calculator take so long to process,'” Mounts said. “He was then like, ‘you know I’m only joking.'”

Freshman students in Chandran’s classes showed Zuckerberg a robot that could comfort dementia patients, a 3D printer built from scratch, an experiment converting hydrogen to electricity, Lego robots and a drone.

Having Zuckerberg visit the area was an honor and Chandran said he is proud of what his students achieved.

Chandran said Zuckerberg talked about project-based learning, a style of teaching that Zuckerberg’s foundation promotes. Zuckerberg is interested in letting students chose the projects they want to work on. Zuckerberg was impressed with how much Chandran’s students had accomplished.

“These are just freshman and this is what they did in three or four weeks,” Chandran said.

Rural schools are sometimes stereotyped as simple minded or not technologically advanced, he said. Zuckerberg’s visit shows rural areas like Belfry can also produce the next generation of technological advancement.

“If you just give them the chance they will succeed,” he said.

Travis Crum is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He may be reached by phone at 304-236-6497.

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