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Category Archives: Events

Robotics teams immersed in complex (timely) water challenge

So as #Flooding and #StormSurge is on everyone’s mind with havoc from hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it is unhappily timely that robotics in schools and clubs across the country are wrapping their minds around an H2O challenge. Specifically, ‘Hydro Dynamics.’

It’s this year’s theme for the FIRST Lego League that will culminate in tournaments between November and December. (Interestingly, the theme of the FIRST Global ‘Olympics‘ in July was H2O Flow ) Alongside the work on building and programming a bot to run missions, students must work on a research project. How water is sourced, conserved, distributed etc. They must also come up with a solution that ‘adds value to society’.

Right now there are a myriad of issues that experts and government officials are wrestling with. Could students hypothetically solve some of these in the future? Dean Kamen’s FIRST outfit has been doing an amazing job of using robotics to build a new cadre of engineers, designers, and problem-solvers.

As I watch my school team assemble the missions in my lab, it’s evident that each mission (built of Lego pieces) is more complex this year: There’s a ‘Pump addition’ mission, a Water Treatment model involving ‘Big water’, and others involving Pipe Replacement, and Sludge Removal.

Here is what the field mat looks like.

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Posted by on September 7, 2017 in Education, Events, Robotics, Technology

 

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The Real Moonshot – getting back to the Moon, soon!

While we have been obsessed with Mars, a big project has been underway to revisit the Moon. This little guy below, a Rover being tested by TeamIndus (India), is small compared to some of the Mars Rovers. It weighs just sixteen and a half pounds.

Google created an XPrize challenge, known as Lunar XPRIZE, with a $20 million prize for the team that could do three things:

  • Successfully land on the Moon,
  • Travel 500 meter
  • Transmit images back to Earth.

Five teams are in the running: Israel, US, Japan, India and International team.

Google is known for it’s ‘Moonshots’ –from balloons that could beam down the Internet to remote parts of the world, to autonomous cars, to cancer research. And of course robots.

And it’s being sponsored if you will, by Google.

 
 

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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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‘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 ‘Steady-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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Planning for Star Wars class for ‘Hour of Code’ next week

I wish I had had the opportunity to learn JavaScript. But it’s never too late, since I can learn it while teaching some programming next week. You know, ‘He who teaches, learns twice‘ and all that!

hour-of-code-star-wars

I’m doing this because it is Computer Science Education Week from Dec 5 – 11 with a focus on the ‘Hour of Code‘. (It is also the week when I have to take my ‘Lab’ to the classrooms, while the computer lab is being used for NWEA evaluations.)

The ‘Hour of Code’ folk have added new tutorials featuring, Star Wars. Something my students are focusing on for an Image Manipulation class this week. It helps to have Kathleen Kennedy (seen in the video below), producer of The Force Awakens explain how programming is very much a part of movie production today.

Students will specifically learn to program a game in which BB8 must be sent on missions to recover objects and deliver messages.

In case you are interested, Hour of Code has several social media outlets, including

Twitter https://twitter.com/codeorg
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Code.org
Instagram https://instagram.com/codeorg
Tumblr https://blog.code.org

 

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Former copyboy, Scott Pelley’s optimism in the face of ‘bad information’

Last week, Scott Pelley, anchor of CBS News made some timely observations about the news business. Which, we should not forget is indeed a business. Pelley was awarded the Walter Cronkite award for Excellence in Journalism by the Cronkite School at ASU.

Now I regularly watch his broadcast, so I admire his candor  when he observed that:

“Never in our history have we had so much bad information.”

Let that sink in, against the other platitudes we hear that ‘never in our history have we had so much information at our fingertips’ etc. In 2013, Pelley warned that the media was getting the Big Stories wrong, over and over again. How prescient, considering most media misread the 2016 electorate. They are, after all our filters, and when their filters get trapped in the same gunk, we lose our faith in them.

At the ASU event he went further to warn, “We’re in our digital citadels, unchallenged by ideas. Biased reporting closes minds. Journalism is meant to open them.” Pelley, kicked off his career at age 15, as a ‘copyboy’ at a newspaper in Lubbock, Texas. If you’ve never heard of the job of ‘copyboy’ this person was, to put it nicely, a delivery boy who was given a sheet of butcher paper (on which stories were then written), to deliver it to the sub-editors’ desk.

Like Kelley, Cronkite was also optimistic about delivering the truth, alluring to the movie Network, when he said:

“We’ve got to throw open our windows and shout out these truths” 

Just for larks, here’s Walter Cronkite, as he signed off on March 6th, 1981.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2016 in Arizona, ASU, Events, Journalism, Media, Technology, TV

 

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Martin Sensmeier visits school as Native American Recognition week kicks off

Last Thursday, we had a visit from Martin Sensmeier, the actor who plays Red Harvest in The Magnificent Seven.

The 31-year old Native from Alaska, spoke to our students about how perseverance in the face of rejection got him where he is. Beside his acting interests, he shared with us his passion for helping youth, and how he has partnered with Nike in support of the N7 Fund.

The Nike Air Native N7 brand was inspired by the wisdom of the ‘Seven Generations’ –how our decisions impact the seventh generation. The fund supports Native American and Aboriginal tribes in health programs.

martin-sensmeier

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2016 in Education, Events

 

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