Middleschoolers design and build STEM carts for younger students

[Read about a wonderful example of student innovation at Hampton Middle School, near Pittsburgh. I work with Ed McCaveney, the Technology Director, at Hampton, on several projects in the region and nationally. Hampton received recognition from Edutopia last year, and with projects like this, more national attention should be on the way. I, personally, work on Design Challenges sponsored by the Energy Innovation Center in Pittsburgh with teams of high school students from the Parkway West Consortia. On November 8, I’ll present with teachers and students some of our findings at the Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference.]

October 28th, 2016

School cart competition put creativity to the test. Now, grant funding will get them built

cartimage2-300x300Team by team, 50 Hampton seventh-graders recently pitched their competing blueprints for a rolling cupboard of educational aids.

Their assignment: Design a cart to carry today’s tools for STEM learning — the teaching of science, technology, engineering and math — in Hampton Township’s three elementary schools.

“We are Spark Engineering — lighting your world on fire one idea at a time,” Mia Conte, 13, told the 15 judges who ultimately chose her team’s cart design for production.

Later this year, Hampton High School students will manufacture three of Spark Engineering’s mobile carts — dubbed Tech Eddies — for use in Wyland, Poff and Central elementary schools.

As part of their product development, Mia’s classmates computed each Tech Eddie’s production cost: $235.

To boost their cart’s child appeal, Mia’s teammates proposed to coat each Tech Eddie with chalkboard paint.

The carts are being designed and manufactured by Hampton Middle and High School students for use in the elementary schools as part of a $20,000 grant coordinated by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit Center for Creativity, school officials said. Funding came from Chevron, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the Grable Foundation.

Glenn Geary, technology education teacher at Hampton Middle School, supervised the seventh-graders’ weeks of data gathering, measurement taking, cost estimating and cart designing that preceded each team’s 15-minute presentation to judges Oct. 13 at the middle school.

“Please don’t be nervous,” Marlynn Lux, acting principal of Hampton Middle School, urged the presenters.

“We’re excited to hear you” said Lux, one of 15 Hampton administrators, teachers and business people who judged the proposed cart designs and oral presentations.

Read more…

Stanford Experiments with Virtual Reality, Social-Emotional Learning and Oculus Rift

[The growing popularity of Virtual Reality (VR) is moving in new directions. In this Edsurge article two schools share how they’re using VR as part of a focus on social and emotional learning. In the past simulations didn’t really engage students. The simulations were artificial. VR has the potential to change the equation. One of the leading researchers for VR is MindCET, an educational technology think tank in Israel. While they question some of the hype with VR, they feel that examples like the experiment at the Alpha School and Synapse School in California deserves our attention.]

Virtual Reality using zSpace

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

By Blake Montgomery Aug 16, 2016

What can virtual reality, the technology that arguably takes the viewer farthest away from the tangible world, teach students about expressing themselves and interacting with each other?

Two experiments at two very different California schools aimed to find out.

In May 2016 at San Jose’s Alpha Public Schools, a 13-year-old student named Jose met four Stanford computer science students bearing an Oculus headset and a laptop. Jose was among the first student to try Emoti, a virtual reality (VR) mindfulness exercise developed with the help of a $3,000 grant from inspirED, a partnership between Facebook and the Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence.

Jose put on the headset, headphones and, lastly, a watch-like device designed to measure stress by tracking heart rate and sweat. The first thing he saw was a beach set against a pink sunset—a calming backdrop. Emoti’s simulation then taught him a mindfulness exercise—breathe deeply as he pressed his middle finger to his thumb—with text, CGI demonstrations of the hand motions and verbal instructions.

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Racing The Middle School Brain

[NPR captures the trials and tribulations of a group of middle school students as they work on their design for a human kinetics race car. This summer at the South Fayette STEAM Innovation Summer Institute I had a chance to watch middle school students grapple with similar challenges as they learned how to program drones to play student designed games. In both cases it’s a great STEAM challenge that keeps kids engaged and involved in an authentic problem.]

Students design drone game

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

When things heat up, they expand. And when that thing is the axle shaft to your drive train, you’re going to have to make adjustments, or else.

Michael Guarraia kneels down next to a metal part that just popped off the rear axle. “Ok guys, listen up,” he tells his team. “The drive train broke again and we need to find a sustainable solution. This can’t happen during the race.”

The team members nod and furrow their brows. Some scratch their heads.

Illustration of the pedal car

LA Johnson/NPR

In front of these young engineers is the 200-pound steel frame that is the base of their racing vehicle.

One gets up close and points to the piece that popped off. It’s called a woodruff key. “We need to reinforce this,” says Sean Davis, sketching his idea on a small white board. “Maybe with magnets?”

Illustration of a woodruff key

LA Johnson/NPR

Heads nod in agreement. “We could use duct tape, here,” Aiden Blair adds. They all look at Guarraia for an answer.

Good ideas, he tells them, but even with those fixes it still won’t be stable enough. And they were good thoughts, considering the “guys” are 11- to 13-year-olds, and this is middle school.

Welcome to Kinetic Race Club at Arbutus Middle School. Guarraia is a science teacher at the suburban Maryland school, about a 20-minute drive from Baltimore.

He and two dozen students are on an eight-month mission to design and build a human-powered kinetic sculpture that they’re going to race on a 15-mile obstacle course around Baltimore Harbor.

What, exactly, is a “kinetic sculpture”?

Basically it’s a giant piece of art that contains movement within it. It can only be powered by people—no motors allowed—so the designers have to get really creative.

Guarraia and his team agreed to let NPR Ed hang out with them as they built their vehicle and raced it. The drive-shaft crisis came in March – by this time they’d been working after school on their design for six months.

It was supposed to be a big day —the first day of test-driving— but the woodruff key popped out, causing the bike chain to slack and fall off.

The vehicle can’t run like this, so it’s back to the shop. But “Mr. G.” and the team have come a long way since day one. Let’s go back to the beginning.

Read more…