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Category Archives: Education

Could humans replace robots? (That’s not a typo)

When we teach students about robotics, it’s important to give them the big picture of why robotics is important. To do that it’s best to steer clear of the cliché that ‘Robotics are replacing people.’

So don’t you love this story that humans are being given back jobs that robots are not good at? Mercedes and Toyota have begun this, which is a surprise considering Toyota set the standard for automation in its factories. Remember ‘Lexus and the Olive Tree‘ in which Thomas Freedman described how cars were being manufactured by industrial robots?

Turns out humans, though easy to lay off, are better at keeping pace with changes and problem-solving.”The variety is too much to take on for the machines,” observed the head of production at Merc. They realize that humans are better at individualization, and dealing with variations. Robots, on the other hand, while they never need a lunch break of a sick day, work appear to be unable “to keep pace with changes.”

The point is not to teach young people to design robots that will replace human input but to manage them, and work alongside them.

If you subscribe to the opposite view, that robots are replacing humans, this story proves your point. It is a robot called Eve, a ‘robotic scientist’ that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the University of Manchester.

 

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Solar Oven STEM project – Chili Cook-Off!

As temps rise, I’m bringing out my solar oven for an engineering & science class. It will be a ‘maker’ type session that will culminate in a Chili Cook-Off for 5th and 6th grades. Students of each grade have been asked to come up with their own class Chili recipe and put it to the test. Outside judges will decide on the best Chili

To get started, I’m introducing them to topics such as insulation, radiation and the greenhouse effect.

  • Next a session on designing and building a Solar Oven from a Pizza Box.
  • Finally, Ann Patterson from Solavore will be here to teach a class on Solar Cookers and the engineering principles behind it.

If you’re looking for solar oven recipes, here are some. I’m a big Chili Concarne fan. Solavore has some here, too.

 

 

Chilli CookOff - CHILLI & STEAM - May 2016

 
 

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Second eBook experiment. It gets better!

As I mentioned yesterday I’m trying out different publishing tools for eBooks. Here’s the second option, using SimpleBooklet. It is at www.Livebooklet.com. Click on the image to open the book

livebooklet.comFrontPage-Culture

       https://livebooklet.com/angelofernando3

 

 

QR Code - Culture Book

 

The Pros

  1. Simply upload a PDF and the site converts it to an eBook.
  2. You could start with a blank page and add content –including audio and video.
  3. You could change the layout of the book, the way the page flips, and also add a contact card.
  4. Sharing is a big deal here. It generates links and embed code for social channels.You could also email directly from the website to your network.
  5. QR Code generator. Very neat feature lets you generate the QR code –on the right.
  6. You can check Stats on the dashboard (it uses Google Analytics)
  7. My best feature: A unique URL livebooklet.com/yourtitlehere

The Cons:

The embed code was not available for WordPress. You need to upgrade to a paid account to get this.

NOTE: The previous eBook Was created using YouBlisher.com.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, Workshop

 

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Creating an eBook from a PDF – Cool tool!

I am testing a book creation tool called YouBlisher. The goal is to learn how it works so I could teach my students next year how to ‘publish’ in more ways than one! Test it out and let me know what you think.

Click on the icon to view a digital book that lets you flip pages. Then read below the pros and cons:

eBook Experiment - YouBlisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s good about Youblisher:

  1. It’s free, so I don’t have to download any software.
  2. The content has to be created on a local computer, and not on the provider’s website.
  3. You need to convert your document into a PDF to upload it. Which means you create your book as a Microsoft Word doc, or Publisher. Alternatively, you could create a photo book using Photoshop or Powerpoint. As long as you save it as a PDF.
  4. The pages flip like a professional ebook.
  5. YouBlisher gives you a link to embed (which is not what I did here – I just linked an image of the cover, back to the site.) They also give you a Facebook embed code.

What I wish was possible:

  • A way to download the entire ebook, and save it on any device
  • A custom URL would be terrific! Right now it’s www.youblisher.com/p/1391665-Full-STEAM-Ahead. But hey!
  • I wish the links within the content worked. There may be a way to fix this…

Note: The content for this eBook was culled from several posts on this blog. It took me just 20 minutes.

 

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Technology lessons – No books required!

Sometimes you don’t need text books to learn a skill.I don’t usually advise young people to skip university, but I know of many folks who have learned incredible skills, never having stepped into a classroom for the past 20 years. One friend fixes BMWs as a hobby (sometimes has about 10 in his driveway). Another runs a mid-sized marketing communications agency, but has built and operates an eco-resort. The former never went to engineering school. The latter never took a class in architectural design or management.

And my point is, we often hone our skills in our garages, and our basements.These are our ‘labs.’ No one gives us a certificate for these long hours of professional development.

Here’s a related example: Children learning about science and tech on a farm. Think of it as a STEM lab in Nebraska.

Cows. BMWs. Conservation. Plenty of knowledge out there, not found in books and lectures.

 

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Visual Thinking Strategies

I didn’t realize there’s a whole territory called Visual Thinking Strategies or VTS!

Indeed, an image (often something we saw online) becomes a discussion trigger. You’ve probably indulged in VTS by asking people to comment on a photo. It’s something we use now and then in a classroom, to set up a topic, or draw students into a subject that might otherwise lack context.

I ran into VTS because of series in the New York Times called “What’s going on in this picture?” on Mondays. Readers comment and try to guess what was happening, and on Friday the paper reveals what it was about.

So here’s a bit of VTS for you:

What do you think is going on in this picture?

An unnamed company secretly testing drone delivery? Engineering students working on the next generation of medical drones. Or something else entirely?

You would be surprised at the real context!

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, Technology

 

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Big payoff for science students at ISEF

Not only is science fun, it could have a big payoff for students.

Big, as in $150,000!

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (of ISEF), the world’s largest pre-university science competition, really rewards budding scientists,engineers and inventors.. This year three students won the top $150,000 prize each. Second place winners won $75,000 each.

This year’s ISEF Fair will be held here in Phoenix from May 8 – 11th. I plan to be there. Interestingly, three Sri Lankan students will be participating in it.

Founded 75 years ago, the fair attracts some 1,700 high school students from over 75 countries, regions, and territories who showcase their research and compete for approximately $4 million in prizes.

One of the winners (left), 17-year old Paige Brown, found a way to filter pollutants in stream water, and has nano-technology in her sights to expand on the device.

This kind of scientific problem-solving is extremely relevant here in the US, where several cities are discovering high levels of lead in drinking water, after the Flint, Michigan disaster. As the New York Times states in its report, “Rules and science are outdated.”

The future generation of scientists and policy makers like Paige will be updating the science. Other students are ‘discovering’ new ways for disease management and medical breakthroughs.

All this while still in school!

 

 

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