Best of ISTE 2018: Top 10 Awards

by Kelly Nealson

For educators and businesses serving the K-12 market, ISTE is the banner event of the year. Occurring in late June, ISTE changes locations each year to enable educators from all over the US (and internationally) to attend the event. ISTE 2018 saw attendance dramatically increase to almost 19,000 attendees – a 24% increase over 2017 attendance!

Exploring the exhibit hall at ISTE is a perfect opportunity to learn about the latest and greatest in EDU Tech advancements and new products. With 582 exhibiting companies this year, the exhibit hall was always lively and full of interesting tech. We scoured the exhibit hall floor to learn about the new products that have hit the market this year to enhance learning and simplify educators’ lives through K-12 focused technology. Check out our list of companies that deserve a Best of ISTE 2018 Award for their cutting-edge innovation and application of technology to improve classroom learning and processes. 

Sphero Logo

3D printed robots

First launched at CES 2011, Sphero manufactures and programs spherical robots. The robot’s outer shell is printed using 3D printing technology and can be programmed via iOS or Android app. Sphero Edu brings their programmable robot technology into the classroom to enable hands-on coding experience for students. Students can program paths for the spherical robot to travel via drawing, block-based “drag and drop” interface, or writing text programs that utilize JavaScript for more advanced learners.

Sphero is built for all skill levels and enables learner progression. All educators need to get started with Sphero in their classrooms are the Sphero robot and the accompanying EDU app for iOS or Android. And since educators are rarely teaching only one student, Sphero offers education packs at volume pricing so educators can purchase robots by the dozen.

Due to Sphero’s cutting-edge technology, focus on STEAM learning activities, and ease of implementation in the classroom, we give it a Best of ISTE 2018 award.




Lockncharge Logo

iPad Charging Stations

LocknCharge is known for creating device charging stations that are smartly designed for classroom environments. They provide a variety of charging stations for top devices being deployed in K-12 classroom and include extra “classroom-friendly” features such as color-coded charging baskets and full charge notifications that aid in device management.

The newest charging station that LocknCharge showcased at ISTE this year is called Putnam, and is loaded with handy classroom-friendly features such as:

  • External Charging Status Display – With a color-coded LED charging status display for each slot, easily know if your devices are charging (red) or ready to use (green).
  • Compatible – Designed specifically for iPad but also works with other tablets. Plus, the slot dimensions are optimized to work with most cases and covers.
  • Secure – Fully welded steel construction and a built-in mechanical combination lock make this charging station ultra-secure.
  • Lightweight, Small Footprint –  Featuring a thin profile, you can easily mount this unit to the floor – or to a wall with an optional wall mount kit.
  • Stackable – You can stack two Putnam Charging Stations on top of each other to save even more space. Combine the Putnam 8 with a Putnam 16 to reach 24 slots. An optional pedestal is available to provide easier access to the bottom slots and allowing you to charge all 24 or 32 units with one cord.

Best of all, LocknCharge offers a Lifetime Warranty on their charging stations and guarantees their products are built to last.

Sign Glasses logo

Augmented Reality Glasses for Deaf Students

Augmented reality is leveling the playing field for students of all abilities. One of the best examples of AR we found at ISTE 2018 is SignGlasses, a company that manufactures specializes glasses and software for ASL interpretation of lectures.

The concept is impressively simple. SignGlasses provides the hardware – the glasses and a microphone for the lecturer to wear – and the interpretation software. The student then has the power to replay all of their lectures with ASL interpretation as well as bookmark the presentation and take timestamped notes. This simple, effective use of technology combined with the inspiring mission of leveling the playing field between the deaf and hard of hearing and their hearing peers makes SignGlasses a Best of ISTE 2018 winner.

Acellus STEM Lab

Coding/Programmable Robot

The Acellus STEM-10 program is a 10-year program with an impressive mission. Beginning in students’ 3rd grade year and extending through high school graduation, the program prepares graduates to go out into the workforce as certified programmers.Part of this program (and what caught our attention on the ISTE show floor) is the new Acellus STEM Robotics Lab, which aims to give students a discover-and-create learning experience.  Rather than only working through a simulated environment, Acellus STEM Labs provide students with an actual robot to program, called Cellus Bot.

The Acellus STEM Lab program empowers math and science teachers to offer effective coding and robotics courses without the need for extensive additional training.  For dedicated deployments, specially designed STEM Learning pods include all the tools exceptional learners need to be creative and productive – the right lighting to set that relaxed/stimulated mood, seating that is firm but not confining, a handy place to jot down notes, and touch screen monitor to interact with the program.



PowerUP Toys
PowerUP Toys

Smartphone-Controlled Airplanes

One of the most playful exhibits we came across at ISTE 2018 were smart phone-controlled paper airplane kits from PowerUP Toys. More than just a toy, these kits facilitate students learning the rules of aerodynamics through remote-controlled paper airplane flight. The planes come as kits that allow students to build and fly their own paper airplanes.



The planes are equipped with Bluetooth Smart technology, so students can control their plane with a phone or tablet (iOS and Android compatible). It has simple controls that work for all ages. PowerUP Planes are sold in classroom-friendly packs of 4, 12, or 24 paper plane kits with volume discounting, so educators can easily stock their classrooms with fun and educational aeronautical learning projects.

Polar Watches
Polar Watches

Fitness tracking solutions for physical education

We often see EDU technology focused on classroom learning or school administration, so it’s exciting to see gadgets that give Physical Education a technological upgrade as well. Polar Watches are fitness and heart rate monitors with an accompanying app that can monitor an entire classroom of students at once. Using an iPad, the Polar GoFit App, and the Polar Heart Rate Sensors (worn by each student in the class), a physical education teacher or coach can monitor the activity of their entire class in one snapshot, ensuring the safety of all the students. 

Additionally, educators can set up fitness assessments through the Polar GoFit App and set goals and progress benchmarks for students. Students’ fitness and goals can be tracked over time to encourage progress and healthy living. The app can share progress with parents as well to engage them in their child’s progress via continuous feedback. This individualized approach to physical education goal setting allows each student to be evaluated objectively and individually, helping them to be encouraged by their own progress rather than discouraged when comparing themselves to others.

Gumdrop Cases
Gumdrop Cases

Protective cases for classroom mobile technology

Student-proof protective cases are an essential part of a mobile device deployment. Devices are expensive and students are extremely tough on them over the course of a school year. The cases that caught our eye this year were from Gumdrop Cases. Most of their cases boast 6 feet of military grade drop protection. They even had a pachinko drop test game where an iPhone was dropped from 6 feet in one of their 360-degree protective cases, striking obstacles many times on its way down without breaking the device.

Gumdrop offers cases for every device used in K-12 classrooms, from Chromebooks to MacBooks to iPads and other tablet models, and rigorously tests their cases to ensure they are “student-proof” and can withstand the demands of the K-12 classroom. With over 2,500 school mobile device deployments covered, Gumdrop has strong market expertise.

Guardian Indoor Active Shooter Detection System

School security systems

Though we all hope that school security systems will never be put to the ultimate test, it’s vital to be proactive in preventing potential life-threatening situations in the school setting.

A security system innovator that stood out at ISTE is the Guardian Active Shooter Detection System. It simultaneously detects gunfire and immediately relays this information via floor plan map with shot location, text, e-mail, and other notification pathways to key personnel and building occupants, with no human interpretation required. With security systems integration, the Guardian System calls up surveillance cameras in the incident area, initiates lock-down procedures, sends mass notification alerts to desktops and mobile devices, and provides immediate notification to first responders.

Through its unique hardware design, Guardian can be installed into existing building infrastructure through flush wall/ceiling mount or surface mount for impenetrable structures. The system configuration is fully scalable to the area of coverage desired. When it comes to protecting lives, Guardian makes sure no precious time is wasted with instantaneous communication that eliminates the “human element” of interpretation.




Formlabs logo

3D Printing

3D printers are some of the most fascinating exhibits on the ISTE show floor. It’s engaging to watch a 3D model being built before your eyes in a 3D printer. FormLabs has mastered 3D printing for K-12 classrooms, offering EDU packages and supporting lesson plans for using 3D printers to teach.

FormLabs 3D printers encourage creativity and expose students to professional-level technology that prepares them for the future. With corresponding lesson plans, educators can integrate 3D printing into STEAM curriculum through an accessible, multifunctional tool with applications across science, engineering, art, and design.

Students can learn prototyping/modeling, geometry, engineering, photogrammetry, and other principles through 3D modeling. The tangibility and real-world applications of 3D modelling keep students engaged and actively learning throughout the process.




RoboLink logo

Programmable robot kits

Students learn best by doing, and building robots is fast becoming one of the most popular ways to teach students a variety of STEAM skills. RoboLink’s booth caught our attention at ISTE 2018 due to the versatility and EDU-friendly nature of their robot kits.

Rokit Smart is a user-friendly robotics kit consisting of several components standard to the robotics industry. With it, you can learn and teach robotics building and programming using the Arduino programming language. The Rokit Smart kits include a full set of tools for building real robots, including industry standard components, motors, circuit boards, and frame sets. With the kits, students can learn to build and program 11 unique robots in fun and kid-friendly configurations like animals and vehicles.

RoboLink’s website provides easy to follow tutorials for all 11 robots and even additional robots you can build using the same tools in the kit. They cover basic to advanced programming topics for all learner levels.

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