Tag Archives: STEAM

Word Mandalas

I am such a geek.  Last night, I was researching mandalas for an upcoming lesson with my 4th graders.  I remembered that Richard Byrne had just published a post about a new online magazine creator, so I thought it might be fun to try it out and let my students collaborate on the magazine.  Then, I started looking for images to put on the magazine cover, and came across a mandala that used words instead of symbols.  There was no information on how it was created, so I did a search for word mandalas – and that is how I landed on Mandific. (I still haven’t discovered how the original word mandala picture I found was made, but that’s okay.)

Type a word into Mandific, and it will create a mandala for you using the letters of the word.  You can adjust the color, the spacing of the letters, and the design.  See if you can figure out my word in the mandala below.

mandalaword art
Word Mandala created with Mandific

H/T to GeekMom for sharing this tool on a blog post.

Then, I continued my search (I won’t tell you how long I spent on Mandific before remembering my actual mission.) I found MyOats.com.  Still not exactly what I was looking for, but it gave me another alternative for including words in a mandala.

74f72feb-63df-48c9-80fd-58e45ff914d6
Created with MyOats.com

As you can see, I didn’t spend a lot of time on that one because I had suddenly become obsessed with finding the perfect word mandala generators.

My next attempt was with using the word cloud generator, Tagul.

Word Cloud
Made with Tagul

I also tried Tagxedo, which will allow you to upload your own image to make into a word cloud. However, I had so many problems with it not loading correctly on three different browsers, that I finally moved on to some iPad apps.

WordFoto has always been a favorite of mine.  I uploaded a photograph of a mandala from the web, and then added some text. If you are not familiar with WordFoto, here is a post I wrote about the app.

Photo Mar 22, 7 21 43 PM
created with WordFoto app

My last word mandala attempt was created with the TypeDrawing app. I uploaded a mandala photo, and then traced the main lines with words and some of the symbols offered in the app. After completing my drawing, I changed the photo opacity setting so that only my drawing shows. I have to say that this was my favorite creation.

Photo Mar 22, 7 46 23 PM
created with TypeDrawing app

Photo Mar 22, 7 44 12 PM

I will keep you posted on what we use! If you have any other ideas for word mandalas (that don’t require expensive software like Photoshop), please let me know in the comments below.

Joey’s Mental Health Recovery

Three years ago, I decided to host an online class that would encourage students to “make things” over the summer.  It was called, “Design a Theme Park,” and I invited some famous makers to help judge the different categories each week.

Joey Hudy was one of those makers.  Well-known for the video of his appearance at the White House Science Fair with President Obama, Joey was an inspiration to many of my budding “makers-in-training.”  I invited him to be a guest judge of the student-designed theme park rides.  Joey’s mother kindly responded for the teenager that he would be happy to do it.  I wish I had kept copies of his mother’s comments, because I remember that she was excited about any program that promoted maker-education and/or STEM, and her supportive words were very motivational.

Joey had a difficult time choosing a winner from my students’ projects. The day before he announced his decision, he posted this, “I’m sitting here getting to judge your awesome projects. I don’t really like picking winners, you are all winners. You all did exactly what I want kids to do..
Don’t be bored…make something!
Ok..the winners are..drum roll.”

Joey’s mantra of, “Don’t be bored…make something!” has lived on in my classroom since then.  I have been following him on Twitter over the years, and often chant those same words to my own students – particularly right before they are about to leave school for long vacations.  The enthusiasm of Joey (and his mom) have directly and indirectly affected my teaching style and educational priorities ever since the first time I viewed his marshmallow cannon demonstration.

Today, I saw a Tweet that announced sad news about Joey.  He is now 20 years old, and was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia. In this “GoFundMe” post, Joey’s sister makes an impassioned plea for help with the staggering medical costs facing his family as they navigate the difficulties of identifying the appropriate treatment and care.

This post struck a chord with me for many reasons.  First of all, I benefited from the great kindness of Joey and his mother when they donated their time to my students as proponents of STEM and maker-education.

Secondly, I know, first-hand, the treacherous havoc that mental health issues can wreak on the sufferers and their families.  Over 15 years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and PTSD.  This was not a surprise to me, as other family members had received similar diagnoses or exhibited symptoms that were never treated.  Therefore, I have great sympathy and empathy for Joey and his family.

I write this post for two reasons: to ask you to consider donating to the Hudy family to help cover Joey’s enormous medical expenses, and to also ask you to consider what our country and/or world can do to educate people about how to better identify and aid the people who suffer from mental illness.

I wish the best to Joey, Elizabeth, and the rest of the Hudy family.  Thank you for all of the contributions you have made so far to “making” this world a better place.  It’s time for the world to help you now.  With so many people behind you, I guarantee you will continue to be a positive force on this planet for many years to come.

Hidden Figures

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.

image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/argonne/4534997622
image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/argonne/4534997622

3D Stanley

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 kbosch@southfieldchristian.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!

For more information on 3d printing, including what you should consider before purchasing one, you may want to check out some of my other posts.

Add a New Dimension to Flat Stanley!
Add a New Dimension to Flat Stanley! Image courtesy of Jimmie on Flickr

Cubelets Lesson Plans

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.

image from modrobotics.com
image from modrobotics.com

Iterationists

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.”

by Krissy Venosdale
by Krissy Venosdale

 

Undercover Robots Camp – Pageant Edition

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!