I suspect that part of the reason that not many minorities enter S.T.E.M. careers may be because we don’t hear enough about the ones who have. This coming January, Hidden Figures will come to theaters to tell the story of three African-American women who worked at NASA, and helped to propel John Glen into orbit. You can see the trailer for the movie here.
As part of the promotion for the movie, PepsiCo and 21st Century Fox have teamed up to sponsor a contest for females who are 13 years and older who hope to change the world with S.T.E.M. The winner will receive a $50,000 scholarship, so if you know a girl eligible to apply please pass this on.
In addition, you can visit the Hidden Figures website to play some S.T.E.M. challenges and read some other inspiring stories about significant S.T.E.M. contributions made by women.
The long-suffering Flat Stanley no longer has to endure the indignation of postal journeys. Karen Bosch and her students have developed a 21st century solution to Stanley’s travel woes. They created 3D Stanley’s! Download one of the .stl files from their site, and print the “Stanley” of your choice with your school’s 3d printer. Then take a picture of your visitor in its new environment and share the picture in a Tweet or through e-mail (@karlyb or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org).
This is a great twist on a popular school tradition, and I love that Bosch’s students even gave their characters short bios to make them unique!
Since I recently did a presentation on global collaboration, this gives me all sorts of ideas. How about doing some sort of mystery print, where the students download separate pieces, print them, and then have to figure out to assemble them to make something? Or tweeting pics of 3D Stanley’s in front of moderately famous landmarks and having classes guess their locations?
I hope that you can support Bosch and her students with their project. Let me know in the comments if you have any other ideas!
My students have always been completely mesmerized by the power of Cubelets, modular robots that adhere magnetically and can be put together in a seemingly endless number of combinations. Obtaining enough Cubelets to feed the curiosity of a large group can get expensive, but we were fortunate enough to get some grant applications approved that allowed us to purchase a decent number. The combined set has definitely been one of the best investments I’ve made for my classroom.
Modular Robotics, the company behind Cubelets, has offered resources to teachers for the past few years. But they now have an updated portion of their site devoted to lesson plans. The plans are divided into grade level strands, starting with Pre-K and ending with 12th grade. Browsing through the plans I found some “meaty” material, including this “Cause and Effect” plan for 4th-6th graders. Be advised that you will need to look carefully at the required Cubelets for the plans you use as some are not included in the less expensive kits.
Cubelets are great for centers and maker spaces. With these free lesson plans, educators may feel more comfortable with integrating these versatile robots into their curriculum as well.
I would like to give Krissy Venosdale (@krissyvenosdale) credit for the awesome image below, and possibly for coining a new term: “iterationist.” When I saw the image tweeted by her the other day, I knew right away it would be a new mantra for me. Considering the experience I described from our robot camp on Monday, Krissy’s quote perfectly states what I need to encourage more from my students (and myself).
“Iteration” is a word that is used quite a bit when people discuss Design Thinking. Anyone who has created something of substance will agree that a new work goes through many drafts before the maker feels satisfied. Those iterations are important to the process; in fact some even argue that they are more important than the final product.
What I learned from my robot camp experience is that I not only need to make students more aware of the importance of iterations, but also how to learn from them. As I mentioned, some of the teams had no problem trying again when their designs didn’t work. However, they didn’t spend enough time on trying to figure out why they weren’t working, and subsequent iterations tended to be just as inefficient.
In school, we usually don’t give students time for multiple iterations, unless we are preparing them for a standardized writing test or telling them to correct failed assignments. If we could make “iterationism” a habit, rather than a consequence or forced strategy, students would be more comfortable about taking risks and we would see a lot more “bravery.”
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we had our second session of Undercover Robots Camp last week. The theme was, “Pageant Edition,” with the scenario being that the Dash robots had been sent on their first undercover assignments to the Annual Robot Pageant, where they were to investigate a potential saboteur.
Only a few of the students had attended our first session, Spy School, the week before, meaning that there were various levels of skill. This is what I love about programming with open-ended challenges, especially with the Dash robots. The activities allow for the contributions of all abilities.
The week was interspersed with design and logic activities. Of course, costumes needed to be created since it was a pageant. Puzzles needed to be solved to find the identity of the saboteur. I even borrowed some ideas from Breakout EDU.
One of the favorite activities was the pageant interview. The students had to program their robots to respond to my questions – but they didn’t know what the questions would be! I told them to come up with three responses: a plural noun, a verb ending in -ing, and a name of a place. I had a set of questions for each robot, who also had to be programmed to come out on stage and then leave the stage. I embedded an example below (make sure your volume is high so you can hear the robot responses).
The students also had challenges to program their students to do an art project, launch ping-pong balls into cups to gather evidence, and to save the other contestants from the saboteur. The latter is when the students learned that less can be more, as the least elaborate contraption attached the robot actually “saved” the most plastic figures (see the pic with the colored pencils attached to the robot below)!
During the week, we also worked on choreographing a final dance number for the pageant. It’s good we started early because there were many, many, many flub-ups! The video embedded below is what we showed the parents. Unfortunately, it still didn’t go quite as planned; we learned that “tired” robots get a bit rebellious about their programs as their batteries wear down!
I absolutely adored seeing everything the students accomplished last week, and I can’t wait to do Undercover Robots Camp again next summer!
My students have loved using the Dash robots from Wonder Workshop so much that I thought they might enjoy some extra time with them over the summer. So, earlier this year, I devised a plan for an Undercover Robots Camp to be held at my house. Last week was the first session, “Spy School.”
Using 4 Dash robots, the campers were divided into teams of 3 for the week. Dash received a letter that he was invited to train to be a secret agent at spy school, and each team took their robot through the different spy courses, such as speaking in Morse code and surveillance. At the end of the week, their robots “graduated” from Spy School.
I’ve never done this before, so I wasn’t sure how it would go. Fortunately, I had a great group of campers who were willing to experiment along with me. Throughout the week, I sprinkled puzzles and crafts (such as creating undercover disguises for the robots) along with the programming challenges, so there were lots of opportunities for every team member to shine and get involved.
My favorite part of the week was the graduation ceremony. The students got so creative with my box of random stuff as they made graduation hats and gowns for their robots! And one of the teams leapt for joy when they finally were able to program their robot to join the graduation procession at the precise time and spot. (Sorry that the video below got prematurely cut when I ran out of space on my phone. Oh, and one robot got replaced right before the final ceremony due to low battery power!)
This week is our second session, where Dash has his first assignment as a bona-fide secret agent looking for the saboteur of a robot pageant. I’ll let you know next week how our undercover spies do in foiling the plot!
Mark Barnett is one of San Antonio’s true treasures. Known as @Maker_Mark on Twitter, Barnett’s passion for education and the Maker Movement has ignited our community. He is the genius behind “The Geek Bus,” a mobile maker space that visits schools and events throughout the San Antonio area, and has devoted his time and resources toward giving students access to STEM with cutting edge technology and project-based learning.
In Mark Barnett’s recent presentation at TEDx San Antonio, he notes the huge divide between the schools that have and those that do not. His goal is to “democratize” making, and his Geek Bus is only one of the many ways Barnett has contributed to this cause. Watch this video, and learn more about Barnett’s dedication to giving everyone access to STEM and Maker Education.