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Category Archives: Education

Robotics Olympics highlights. Team Sri Lanka returns

Washington DC’s humidity hovered around 90 percent when the competition began on 16 July. Team Sri Lanka’s four students were sweating bullets for different reasons. In a crowded basement, parked between Senegal and Sudan their 20-wheel steel robot needed some repair work.

The bot that they built in secret in a classroom in Colombo (they called it ‘Area 52’) arrived with a warped axle and damaged omni-wheels. Two hours before departure the airline forced them to repack the 23-kilo microwave-sized contraption into two boxes. The next day the motor failed –not an uncommon problem among teams here.

But they did take on the world! In this competition, designed by FIRST Global like the Olympics, each team worked in ‘alliances’ – groups of three country teams. It was fascinating to watch each team, battling cultural and language barriers (and jet lag and sleep) work through the constraints and perform. My family and I were so proud to be there supporting them.

They did quite well in strategy and design of the bot. In terms of rankings they were placed 138th out of 163 teams – beating the US, France, and Russia. When you consider they had just 9 weeks to prepare for this (many teams had at least 12 weeks), it was quite a feat.

Kudos to coach Dilum Rathnasinghe who took on such an unthinkable task. The team comprised: Ali Anver, Ishini Gammanpila, Vinidu Jayasekera and Akash Gnanam

Here are some images from the 163-team, 157-nation Robotics Olympics.  Read previous post here.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2017 in Ed-Tech, Education, Robotics

 

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If only schools can be like this!

I just interviewed Kris Canekeratne, CEO of Virtusa, a 20,000-strong global business consulting and IT outsourcing company headquartered in Massachusetts. Among the many strands we talked about, I was fascinated by his take on learning, and how schools ought to be the ‘ignition’ for curiosity.

“Students have an innate proclivity to curiosity,” he says – no different how engineers are inherently curious, with problem-solving and design thinking as part of their skill set. If only we could design schools to be the spark plugs of knowledge! It’s time we began exposing students to Big Data, Nanotech, AI, user experience, and gamification, he says, instead of teaching them how to memorize material just to pass exams.

To this end, here’s an example of design-thinking class at a Charter School in Berkeley, California.

 
 

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Team Sri Lanka head to International Robotics event in DC

I like to break to the news about a story that has been in the works since April. Sri Lanka was invited to participate in the first ever International Robotics event, billed as the Olympics of Robotics. It is organized by First Global, an extension of FIRST Robotics, by Dean Kamen, a serial entrepreneur The event will be from July 16 to July 18th.

The team (4 students) received the robot kit from FIRST Global in April. Given the short time frame, they have been moving mountains to build, program and test the robot. I have been in touch with the coach and the school while they have been prepping for this. More details will follow.

Meanwhile, here’s a look at the team testing some of the working parts of the robot.

 

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Summer boot camp: SLRs, Robots, and a Solar Oven

Last week, students at the summer boot camp I conducted here at Li’l Sprouts Montessori got to work with different technologies. From building robots and circuits, to using cameras and a solar oven. They also used one of the oldest ‘technologies’ that tend to be overlooked – pencil and paper.

But besides motors, and learning the software (to program the robot below) students also learned about engineering design, using toothpicks to build a bridge and a tower.

They did a fair amount of writing, maintaining their journals each day. They worked on essay writing, a news story, and poetry.

On the final day I introduced them to the solar oven, and Tanu helped them bake cookies. One batch got done in just over 30 minutes!

 

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Summer camp with Photography, Writing and Robotics

So next week I teach a summer camp for students involving three ‘ingredients’ – photography, creative writing and robotics.

The goal is to get students to connect visual and language arts, with technology. They will also tinker with robots, and understand how to design and program them.

This is one of the simplest bots (the NXT model) we use for the FIRST Lego League competitions. It has four different sensors, and can be modified with several wheel sizes. Students will learn to program them using Mindstorms software.

Robots don’t always have to look like this, They could be made from everyday objects found around the house. For instance, students will also experiment with ‘brush bots’ – tiny devices made from the heads of toothbrushes, of all things!

 

As for photography, there’s plenty of material to photograph right here in our back yard!

 

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2017 in Ed-Tech, Education

 

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Li’l Sprouts Montessori – school’s out with some science and photo ops

Today was the last day of school at Li’l Sprouts. Since my school closed yesterday I got a chance to do some science projects with Tanu’s students. Amazing how pre-schoolers engage with circuits and electricity!

I also got to do year-end group pictures, as a few students move up to kindergarten.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2017 in Education

 

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The call to teach, as seen through a different lens

Today is the last day for two of my team members at Salt River Elementary. Wes Filhart has been our PE teacher for 9 years. Suzanne Decker leaves after a 14-year run. There is so much I have learned from them over the years.

It’s not fun when your core members leave. They sure motivated me with their passion for their job, and their infectious sense of humor. Which is a great way to set up this video that Mrs. Decker, titled The Five Phases of Teaching’.

On a different note, below is last year’s Spring music event, one of the many well-produced events Suzanne has been putting together. You can catch a glimpse of Wes, a musician in his own right in the clip (at 4:14 secs.)

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2017 in Arizona, Education, STEM

 

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