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Category Archives: Robotics

My school profiled on US Dept. of Interior website

When Sec. Sally Jewell visited our school last week, little did we know how it would figure in the grander scheme of things. It was much more than a simple ‘air drop’ of a dignitary.

Turned out it was to kick off something bigger – a Listening Tour, of Native youth.

Yesterday we noticed that apart from the previous media coverage of this visit, the folks managing the communication for Secretary Jewell’s department had featured a lot of great shots of her engaging with our students. Two of the students featured are potential podcasters in my class on audio. Three are in robotics.

Here’s the video:

And below are some of my pictures taken at the event – also covered here on this blog.

This, taken in my class. Student Council president and robotics student explains how they approach a mission, program and document their work.

More pictures from my class blog, here

We often complain that government is tone deaf to much of what goes on in our communities.Speaking to Sec. Jewell, I could tell that this was much more than a token visit so as to report to the boss she’s been on the road.

We spoke of science. A lot! I mentioned that in the midst of so many changes in education, government seems to be not doing enough to promote science and technology.I mentioned that the State of the Union this year barely touched on STEM, despite Obama’s otherwise talking the talk on why we need more investment and more STEM teachers in science in schools. She was a good listener.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2015 in Education, Events, Robotics

 

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Visit by US Secretary of Interior to my class

Exciting morning yesterday with the visit of Secretary of Interior, Sally Jewell to our school.

Sec. Jewell was kicking off to the Obama administration’s ‘Listening Tour’ in Arizona, visiting Native American schools and communities. She devoted a good part of her talk to stress the importance of science, in the four STEM areas. “I am the ‘E’ in STEM,” she said.

As part of her tour she stopped by my class to hear about the robotics program.

One of my students in robotics, who happens to be the president of the student council, explained our program and research projects.

Some media coverage, below.

 

Cronkite News, ASU

KJZZ Story – Interior Secretary Sally Jewell Begins Native Youth Listening

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2015 in Arizona, Education, Robotics

 

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Fun way to ‘warn’ drone enthusiasts

I’m impressed at how the FAA decided to educate would-be drone pilots. They partnered with The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), to release this video.

It sure doesn’t look like a government agency production.

It’s mainly about the 400-foot rule, but also ‘gently’ warns about invasion of privacy.

 

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2014 in Education, Robotics, Technology

 

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Communicating with crew on ‘Mars’ – Text-To-Speech

Those who know me, know I’m a follower of all things in space – from watching the International Space Station fly by, to the latest maneuvers of the latest Mars Rover.

So this week, it was a chance to communicate with Jocelyn Dunn,one of the 6 inhabitants of a Mars simulation mission, going on in Hawaii. The project, is called HI-SEAS (which stands for Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation).

The reason: I’m putting together Mars Day a now-annual event at my school. I thought my students would get a kick out of talking to the folks who are paving the way for humans on the red planet. Or, to put it another way, they’ve seen a lot about the bot that got there; now it’s time to communicate with Homo sapiens!

Jocelyn and the rest of the HI-SEAS crew began their ‘analog simulation’ last Friday, inside a 1000-square foot geodesic dome.(Another crew member, Zak Wilson is also blogging the stay.)

HI-SEAS Dome

Image, courtesy hi-seas.org

So what is it like to be practically isolated from the rest of the world? Isolated as in no phone calls. Now they do have access to the Internet (!) so I will be asking her these questions in a few days. Yet, to simulate the real thing, the crew’s email is subject to a 20-minute delay.

The fun part is planning for Jocelyn and her crew to answer questions from my students. After a couple of back-and-forth (time delayed) she came up with a good solution: We would send her the questions via email, and they would record their answers on a video, and send it back to us in time for Mars Day!

It will give new meaning to ‘Text-to-Speech’!

Here are links to other crew members

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2014 in Education, Robotics, Social Media, Technology

 

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Could robotics’ kids could teach adults some ‘Gracious Professionalism’?

Newsflash: Not all kids are staring at their phones.

Ever walked into a mall and thought the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, watching teenagers ‘socialize?’

I had the opportunity to see another side of kids and technology, at a robotics tournament yesterday. The event is part of the FIRST Lego League events, that challenges young kids to put their minds to robotics. (There are a series of such events going on across the country over the next few weeks.)

Salt River Elementary School, Robotics - Gracious Professionalism

It’s a different lens. You get to peer into the future, watching a bunch of 12-year olds get themselves in and out of a sticky situation, and employ communication skills we wish some grown-ups had. You see them go through all stages: panic, disagreement, leadership and teamwork. When things go awry, they often problem-solve and improvise on the spot. (And there’s not an App in sight!) And best of all, they celebrate each other’s success –even competitors at the next table.

If only Congress would work like this, I thought.

And then it dawned on me. These kids will be the ones on Capitol Hill, someday. Or running our institutions, setting our agendas…

The FIRST Lego League requires that we adults promote what it calls ‘gracious professionalism’ in our teams. (The term was coined by Dr. Woodie Flowers, a professor at MIT), because that is how the grown-up world works. But the reality is, such a brand of professionalism in many facets of business and governance is more the exception than the rule. It’s a winner-takes-all world, we are often reminded.

But here at the FLL level, we teach our students to consider failure as a wonderful learning opportunity, and to not be obsessed by trophies. One of the core values they must exhibit is enlightening:

“What we discover is more important that what we win.”

Then, at the end of the day, the results show up on the large screen. Your heart sinks as you see the wide gap between the team that has mastered every mission, and those that had epic failures as their bot went off track, and wrecked their team’s chance of making it to the State tournament. But they quickly get over that and enjoy the moment.

They’re our gracious professionals in the making. 

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2013 in Robotics

 

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And then life threw me a lesson plan

For more than a year, I have been making a transition from corporate communications to education. I have been given an opportunity to be a computer teacher at an elementary school in Scottsdale, Arizona.

It’s an amazing time to be joining a profession that’s getting lots of attention. And scrutiny. From the recent schoolteachers’ walkout in Chicago, to the just out Nations Report Card, among others, the story is not exactly cheerful.

Meanwhile, as knowledge acquisition is moving an 120 miles-per-hour, pedagogy is ambling along.  I can see this through the lens of our two children, as new engagement tools emerge, and curricula change. Analog classrooms are trying to adapt to digital natives. Britannica now has an app for the iPad and other tablets. Classrooms are being ‘flipped.’ We can’t continue to do the same old, same old.

If there’s a simple lesson plan for my career, it’s this: push students to the edges. Focusing on ‘core’ areas, but also widen the aperture. Knowledge of ‘computers’ without context of where they are used, is meaningless. Often it’s the topical things we introduce in class that make planned (not canned) lessons relevant. One study last year found that students who did “science-related activities that are not for schoolwork” performed higher.

TO KICK OFF, I re-positioned the computer class as a Technology and Computer Lab, in which students will engage in subjects from space exploration to search engines.

Being the school’s robotics coach helps. This is a program established by the FIRST Lego League. Students can step out of their comfort zone and take risks, even while engaging their math and design skills.

Each day, the lens zooms in and widens…

 

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Education, Personal, Robotics, Technology

 

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Will tablets and smart phones kill conversations?

A few weeks back, I passed a sad tableau of an Asian family: a dad and two sons waiting for Mum outside a Chinese grocery store. All three of them were silently thumbing away on their iPhones. In cars, in waiting rooms, the tablet and the smart phone has become the new baby sitter.

Over the past five years, having reported social media’s many benefits I often have to step back and wonder about what it means to be too much digital.

We have become so used to being ignored while having a conversation with someone with a Blackberry that we sometimes take it for granted.

It’s not just an etiquette problem as some have alerted us to in the past few years. It’s a social problem that will have deeper ramifications -too much ‘media’ perhaps - as we marvel at how connected we are.

It generates caricatures such as this and this.

  • Smart phones don’t automatically make us smarter. (Perfectly captured in that Geico commercial that poses that rhetorical question.)
  • Likewise one more screen in the home won’t make us better informed. While we do see attempts to engage students better using tablets, social media and other digital platforms, parents and educators need to add some caveats. Teaching children media literacy would be a start.

There is a connection between learning to have ‘conversations’ and learning how to learn by deconstructing information presented –a.k.a. discourse analysis. I am planning to connect my Robotics class with a class in Thailand, soon, and have given much thought to the balance of a traditional class with a digital experience where students will talk to each other with and without digital devices. More on this later.

I will leave you with two great pieces :

Enjoy! And do send me your thoughts, comments.

 

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