Author Archives: Angelo Fernando

About Angelo Fernando

Author, business journalist, elementary school teacher, podcaster. I have been blogging since 2004, and a business and technology columnist for magazines, since 1994. Passionate about education, and media literacy.

SPACE DAY – Our 5th year of ‘slipping the surly bonds of earth’

In 2012, when I put together Mars Day at our school, I could tell there was a huge appetite for all things space-related. After all, the Mars rover ‘Curiosity’ had landed on the red planet a few months before.

space-dayThis year, our 5th year, we are broadening our lens, so to speak. We are calling it SPACE DAY. It is on Oct. 19th at Salt River Elementary.

I am so fortunate to have so many groups supporting me. From a NASA scientist, to Orbital ATK (formerly Orbital Science), and several groups from the School of Earth and Space at Arizona State University. Also a team who keeps bringing back StarLab, the inflatable planetarium. But wait, there’s more – a surprise guest from the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), the NASA group prepping for Mars.

There are several break-out sessions, some that will happen concurrently. We may even have a few real rocket launches outside! This year two of my colleagues will  conduct hands-on sessions that add art and design to the mix. My goal has always been to add more of the ‘A’ to the S.T.E.A.M programs.

Almost every week it’s hard to escape news of audacious new programs pertaining to vehicular designs, space colonies, cosmonauts, or discoveries about comets, asteroids, and planets –the ones we know, and those that are still to be named.

One day of the year just scratches the surface, don’t you think?

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Posted by on October 6, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, STEM, Technology


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From ‘cardboard’ to fabric, wearable VR gets more affordable

Ever since those ‘cardboard’ VR headsets came out, I’ve been waiting to see how augmented and virtual reality would be adopted. One big drawback was the cost of the competitive headsets, and of course the phone.

Now it looks like Google has fired back with Daydream, a low-cost ‘fabric’ headset that could put the technology within reach of the rest of us.

Conveniently, the Daydream headset (which works with the Google phone, ‘Pixel’) was designed to be ‘dumb’ – as in minus the electronics. The phone does the hard work, not the headset. I wonder what could follow cardboard and fabric?


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Posted by on October 5, 2016 in Disruptive, Ed-Tech, Technology


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Your ‘rights’ aren’t much under Twitter’s Terms of Service

I’m amused at what Twitter packs under ‘Your Rights;’ in its Terms of Service.

“By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).”

In other words, it says, soon after it says “You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display…” etc, it lets you know that you have no control over what it does with any content you tweeted, whether it be pictures, ideas of comments.

But hey, when one uses a free communication platform, one doesn’t get it for free. As we remind young people, you pay for the ‘free’ service in one way or another.

Let’s just rename Terms of Service, ”Cost of Service.”

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Posted by on October 1, 2016 in Social Media, Twitter


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As Rosetta mission ends, Osiris Rex soars

As an asteroid and comet watcher, the Rosetta mission designed to swing around and land on a comet ’67P’ fascinated me. I also used in for a class on animation last year, so that 6th graders could learn about the mission while learning to animate the path of Rosetta. The European space agency lost contact with Rosetta at 11:19 a.m. GMT today when the craft’s probe ‘impacted’ the comet, having reached it two years ago, on August 2014.


This year, my students focused on Osiris Rex, the NASA mission to study the asteroid Bennu. marsed_sept2016By some coincidence, this was one of the big themes of the Mars Education conference I attended at ASU last Saturday.)

Students have looked up facts about the mission and next week will begin animating the path of Osiris Rex.

Osiris Rex will reach Bennu sometime in 2018, and its probe will do something more daring, – use a probe to scoop up a bit of the asteroid’s material, while it is still moving! Fascinating to think of the planning and steps this involves.

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Posted by on September 30, 2016 in ASU, Education, Technology, Workshops


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Going bats! How robotics makes science exciting

When I am asked what we do in robotics, I tend to answer it with something about ‘making science relevant and exciting.’ Not the about how it is fun to build, or why programming is a 21st century skill etc. which is also accurate.


This Tuesday, I had ASU researcher and robotics mentor Ruben Gameros kick off a brainstorming session with my robotics team. The topic was ‘animal-human interaction.’ I loved how Ruben got the students thinking of ‘animal’s that are often not on their radar: bats, bees and insects.

Bat’s after all are mammals, with amazing navigation skills. They also help our survival in ways that often go unnoticed. Ruben is familiar with ‘critters’ for another reason. He works in a field of bio-mimicry, and swarm robotics!

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Posted by on September 28, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, Robotics


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In Robotics, investigating, journaling, and ‘core values’ matter

This week, we selected members who applied to our Robotics club. That’s right, we have an application process which involves a short test, an interview and a contract (the code of conduct) they sign and agree to practice.

Why such a process? Robotics is an after-school club at my school but I wanted members to realize what they were getting into. It’s not just building and playing with Legos. I have done this for 5 years now, and found out that the real value for students is when they get their hands around the broader scope of robotics. They learn to be researchers, problem-solvers, journal-keepers, programmers, and ‘mission specialists.’ They must also become good presenters of their work.

This year, the focus (‘Animal Allies‘) is on Animal-Human interaction. What happens when animals and people interact? Are there problems they could identify, and solve? As FLL recommends, could the solution be beneficial to animals and humans?

If you’re starting out with a team it’s important to know that many of the previous themes have nudged students towards a ‘win-win’ solution.

At the tournaments, teams will be judged on three areas

  • Core Values
  • Project
  • Robot Design


A little neglected fact is that winning the Robot game will not earn the most points. But as we coaches all realize, the robot game is what eats up most of the meeting time. It’s also worth looking at the rubrics for each of these three categories:

Just the Rubric for the Project (right) involves:

  • Problem Identification, Sources of information, Problem Analysis, Review of Existing Solutions.
  • Team Solution, Innovation, Implementation.
  • Sharing, Creativity, Presentation Effectiveness.

In other words, getting into robotics means learning to become an investigator, a problem-solver, learn to be an effective communicator of the science you worked on. It’s exciting to see 5th and 6th graders step out of their comfort zones to do this!

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Posted by on September 23, 2016 in Education, Robotics


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Thank you to all the IT folk who make our lives simpler

Tuesday was National IT Professionals Day. Yes, there is such as thing! A day set apart (the third Tuesday in Sept) for us to stop clicking and swiping, for a moment, and consider what makes some of these technologies work most of the time.

So thank you for all the IT teams who keeps our engines humming.

Behind the scenes of our busy workplaces are system administrators, database folk, IT security teams, those who pre-empt and fix outages in the network, web developers,and tech-support people we tend to vent about, as if they owned and designed the technologies we use. I’ve done my share of venting, and I realize that you folk, who are the first responders to my overblown crisis, have other fires to put out, too.

So on this day I like to thank all those un-named people who come to my rescue. Happy IT Pros Day!

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Posted by on September 21, 2016 in Technology