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‘Electric Avenue’ lights up STEAM Night at Salt River Elementary

This year’s theme gave us plenty space for creativity at our 5th annual STEAM Night celebrating science, technology, engineering, art and math at our school.

The cross-streets of Electric Avenue were filled with parents and children engaged in activities from ‘art bots’ to solar power; from unusual ‘machines’ to circuits. Then there were the bridge builders! The competition this year was to build a bridge with no more than 50 Popsicle sticks. The structure had to carry a load of up to 10 pounds.

  • Students could not use: Metal, plastic, wood, nails, screws, super glue, staples or string.
  • They could use: Paper, Elmers glue, a glue gun, and 4 clothespins

As you will see design, and not just heavier or more expensive material, is key. A big thank you all the teachers and support staff who participated. Also to three organizations I had invited:

Montessori International School – Brown Road campus. Students and their science teacher, Scott Logan had an interactive table display of batteries (the fruit kind!), motors built with copper wire and a battery. They also brought a student-made ‘Electric House’ designed just for this event. It was a cardboard cutout with working models of home appliances that could be operated via a series of switches.

HeatSync Labs – Mesa, Arizona. Eric Ose brought something that required a hands-on effort of many students to make the device work. It was a cutout of Saturn, and students were given a soldering iron with which they had to connect a string of individual LEDs, to the ring of Saturn.

By the end of the evening, we could light up the ring, taking Electric Avenue to a different level! HeatSync Labs, a Maker Space run by volunteers, is definitely worth a visit. I took my robotics team there a few years back.

Martin Art Center. Martin Wesolowski and his wife displayed a Chaldni Plate. Martin runs a hands-on STEM center in Glendale Arizona. The experiment was about using sound waves to create artistic patterns when particles on the plate (salt, typically) resonate.

My ‘Specials’ team manned a  ‘MakerSpace’ table on circuits, batteries and motors. I even built something I had wanted to do for a long time – build the so-called Slow-hand Game. This used to be a staple game of skill in our youth.  The concept being, a wand that you had to move along a twisted wire, without touching it and completing the circuit.

Below is an art project that glowed under a black light, and some of the bridge entries.

 

 
 

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‘Customers Not Cargo’ act thanks to United Airlines

You’ve heard of ‘cattle class‘ – the seating area most of us are herded into?

After last week’s horrible incident in which a doctor was dragged, bloodied and asked to get off a United Airlines flight, congresswoman Jan Schakowsky plans to introduce legislation “that would end the practice of involuntarily ‘bumping’ passengers from oversold aircrafts once and for all.” Likewise in the senate, Chris Van Hollen is introducing a similar ‘Customers Not Cargo’ bill.

The gist of it is that an airline which oversells a flight for business reasons has to come up with a business solution (not a law-enforcement one) to make sure the flight is emptied of the excess passengers who paid for that spot, anyway.

Now I’m not sure we need to have laws to ensure businesses treat customers with respect. But if you’re like me having been adequately bruised, and given the cattle prod, you’d agree they had this coming. Especially the folks who wax about the ‘friendly skies.’ (The Leo Burnett-inspired slogan dates back to 1965, and was brought back in 2013.)

Note the ad on the right. About embarking at Chicago. As the 1960s headline promised, the airline would later ‘catch’ Dr. Dao not far from the gate at Chicago O’Hare. The body copy goes further to suggest being friendly is catching. Hmmm)

Bonus Reading: Read the business evolved between United’s and Continental Airlines merger Wired Magazine

 

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My ‘Maker’ nephews’ hydraulic-powered bot built from scrap

This morning my nephews, Nikhil and Shenal, surprised me with a a video of a robotic device they built from scratch.

You’ve probably seen STEM projects that involve making bots or mechanical arms using batteries and sensors. This whatchamacallit does not require electronics. Just cardboard, pins, and syringes.

As a teacher, there are three things I love about this project:

  1. They don’t read off a script!
  2. The commentary is a conversation, building drama (including a mini count down) as the brothers wrestle with the device
  3. Simple explanation of the scientific principles – about levers, the ‘power’, and traction

I like how the claw seems to have a life of its own – good choice of camera angle!

This is what the Maker Space movement encourages, to build, test, fail, redesign, and demonstrate. Their ‘lab’ is their kitchen table!

 
 

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Bad week for United, Pepsi and Spicer. Good week for apologies.

A week like no other, when an airline, a fizzy drink and the White House faced the wrath of citizens.

Here are the three apologies.

The Pepsi Apology

“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize…we did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

 

The United Airlines Apology

“The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.”  Oscar Munoz, CEO   Read the full statement here.

The Sean Spicer Apology

“In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust….I was trying to draw a distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers. Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable.”

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2017 in Public Relations

 

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Pepsi lesson: Our B.S. detectors still work

Brand storytelling can be too fixated on featuring celebrities, weaving them in for name recognition, rather than for something they represent.

So why did Pepsi take this latest tack with Kendall Jenner? After all it had decades of insight, having used people from Michael J Fox to Michael Jackson. (Remember this one, in which Michael J Fox braves traffic, and rain?)

Inserting Jenner into a protest movement means nothing to Millenials. Unless Pepsi assumed they would fall for the fake anti-establishment story line. (Throwing in a head scarfed photo-journalist into the mix.) Or they thought most young people would like to see a can of soda solve a street crisis. Maybe they were trying to borrow from the iconic image of that calm activist in Baton Rouge who walked up to armed police.

It reminds me of the cringe-worthy tweet by Kenneth Cole in 2011, trying to hijack the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt with a brand message about its spring collection.

Writer Eric Thomas called out the lame Pepsi ad as “the holy grail of offensive media.” He dissected, frame by frame, what Pepsi got so wrong. He noted that as storytellers, we owe it to ourselves to “fight for more understanding” –and by this he means coming up with course corrections for other storytellers. “Millennials have hyper-advanced B.S. detectors,” warns Thomas.

To me there was positive that emerged out of this brand story. The hoi polloi detected the B.S. and told Pepsi in no uncertain terms.

 

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Remedial Reading for Brutal Dictators

I’m not sure what books Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is supposed to have read while he was in medical school in Damascus, but I’m itching to blame his professors in London for not giving him some compulsory reading.

Or what if Robert Mugabe had read Robert Frost? Or Joseph Stalin had read Joseph Conrad? Would it have changed the course of history?

Just asking!

Actually my April column in LMD is on this. And I got some recommendations from some literary types here and in Sri Lanka. The Remedial reading list for brutal dictators includes:

If you want to know why, you’ll have to read the article – here.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2017 in Book, Book Reviews, LMD

 

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Writers wanted. Start Here!

Is writing a dying skill? It appears to me that good writers are in short supply – analytical writers, storytellers, creative writers.

I am talking up writing and publishing in my school because I see the huge gap between what people read, and what (or how) they write. Young people read Dr. Seuss, but hardly take a stab at poetry. They may binge watch on Netflix, but never consider a screen play, or even coming up with a skit. They consume the news, but seldom look at the nuts and bolts of news writing, features, or Op-Eds.

You want to write? Here are a few places to start.

  • WriteTheWorld, an organization I have been talking to, has a very interesting Poetry and Spoken Word Competition. It’s open to students between the ages of 13 and 18. And there are prizes. $100 for the first prize! More details here.
 

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