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Category Archives: STEM

Olympic-styled Robotics competition coming up in July

Last week I was contacted by ‘FIRST Global‘, an organization launching an Olympic-styled robotics event in Washington, DC, in July 2017. They were keen to see students from Sri Lanka represent their country.

I have been talking to organizations in Sri Lanka about this, and wanted to summarize details of the endeavor.

FIRST Global is the brainchild of serial entrepreneur, Dean Kamen, whose organization holds several robotics competitions for schools across the country. My school participates in it, and I have been the robotics coach since 2012. But this event is different, and stretches its global footprint to reach out to every country on earth, and empower students in engineering and science.

The event: An international competition in Washington, DC
The Goal:  To ignite a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) among the more than two billion youths across the world.
Dates: 14 – 18 July, 2017
 
The Requirement: High-school students (ages 15 – 18) who would build and program a robot from a provided kit (hardware and software)
Team : Could comprise 3 students, plus a coach
What I like most about this event is that it fosters a new international movement among future STEM leaders who will use the ‘competition’ as a springboard for global collaboration not just in robotics but in the emerging fields within science and technology.
The Robot Challenge: The focus this year is on Water. More specifically access to clean water.
For this, the robot table at the competition will be set up with challenges solving the global water crisis.
This could be similar to how the ‘missions’ are set up on the board for the other FLL competitions (2016 was Animal Allies, in 2015 it was Trash Trek etc) in which the robot to accomplish as many missions as possible within two and a half minutes.
For students who might want to contact me, here is one of the videos that explain the hardware that will be available  to design their own bot. If you need more information, please contact me at publicradius at gmail.
 

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A trip to Mars would make NASA great again

Scientists plan to grow wheat seeds in growing substrate called arcillite

There is a lot of discussion on whether the US can afford to be in the space business. After all it costs something in the range of $4 billion to maintain the International Space Station.

It cost $1.7 billion to build a space shuttle back in the day.  The Space station’s building it and running costs have a price tag of $160 billion. But that bill is divided by all tenants – the Big Four (United States, Russia, Canada, Japan) plus 10 other European nations. Some estimates put the US portion at $3 billion a year.

NASA which is now focused heavily on research, is committed to supporting the space station until 2024, which is about six years ahead of when it expects to have a Mars mission ready. NASA has always had a research bent, since its inception as ‘NACA’ which was called a Research Laboratory.

Exploring another planet may seem a luxury, considering that our tax dollars are being used for other urgent matters at hand – healthcare, infrastructure, etc But the ongoing work in planning for a trip to the red planet is in and of itself an endeavor that helps scientists and engineers push the boundaries of science and technology. Take for instance the ‘lab work’ going on in the continuous study of humans in Mars-like habitats on an Island of Hawaii. Or hundreds of experiments being done in space (on the Space Station) on cellular biology, remote sensing, micro-biology, seed growth, and micro-gravity.

The latter two, are some of the dozen science projects from students, who would one day diversify, and spearhead various fields we have not even heard of today. Mission 12, will accept experiments from Grades 5 to 16, for their experiment to be included on a flight to the International Space Station in September this year.

Perhaps it is this scientific thrust, and the work of an emerging cadre of scientists who would make NASA great again!

 

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2017 in Education, STEM, Technology

 

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As seen outside Tucson, Arizona

For those of who think giant cacti are the only things that dominate Arizona, here’s another fantastic landmark.

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And no, it’s not a set from Close encounters of the third kind. It’s one of the many giant telescopes on Kitt Peak, 55 miles east of Tucson. And yes, it was snowing up there, at 6,800 feet when we visited.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2017 in Arizona, STEM

 

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So you think you can’t draw?

Who says Microsoft Word is just for typing?

3rdgrade_illustrationHere’s how my 4th graders have been discovering their inner artist, using the hidden drawing tools. (The illustration on left was by a 3rd grader.)

They start off assuming they cannot draw. But once they have mastered the tool, ideas start to flow, as you will see below in the video.

 

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Kids take to design as Digital Learning Month kicks off

sculptDon’t you wish you could have learned in elementary school what kids have access to now?

That was one of the comments of a designer from TimeFire VR, speaking of how excited she was to see 6th graders quickly learn how to use SculptGL. It is a powerful open source CAD program for 3D sculpting. (I created this in just 2 minutes, having no experience!)

Of course there is much  more work to be done and TimeFire showed us how we could to get there, with Blender, another open source application. This being Digital Learning Month, we will dlday1have time to get deeper into CAD and 3D sculpting. I’m planning to ask TimeFire to come back for an encore session soon.

I like to thank John Vise for making this happen. Specially to Jessica, Rainy, and Ariana for showing us the exciting software, and future career possibilities.

 

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2017 in Ed-Tech, Education, STEM, Technology

 

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Do we have space for Makerspaces and tech shops?

Some days I wish I could convert part of my computer lab into a Makerspace. After all I have re-defined it as a Computer and Technology Lab, so it would be appropriate to have other technologies. Like a metal cutter, or workbench to build things – such as making a speaker out of an Altoid tin, or rudimentary printing such as silk-screening.

I thought of this again after getting into a discussion with a teacher visiting our school from New Zealand this week. She spoke of how curriculum there includes woodwork, needlework and many hands-on activities.

She was not been aware of Makerspaces, but mentioned a parallel well-organized movement called Mens’ Sheds – run by retired people so that anyone could take up a new skill.

Makerspaces here are great places for students with rudimentary engineering products in mind, for say a science fair. They are open to anyone and are often free. Some school libraries are carving out makerspaces for 3-D printing.

I’ve visited one in Mesa, Arizona called HeatSync Labs. Love the name!

I’ve still to visit the TechShop in Chandler where you could learn CAD drawing, or how to build a (guess what?) Bluetooth speaker!

 

 

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When Microsoft ‘draws’ as good as a Sharpie

When I tell students that Word or PowerPoint is a versatile tool, and not just for typing of creating slides, I never know what to expect. Such as how some of them have mastered the ‘Curve’ tool in the Shapes menu.

Here’s one. Looks like a pen-and-ink sketch, doesn’t it?

goku_student_drawing2

 

It gets better! Because this is about animating.  The student’s storyboard in PowerPoint  just kept growing!
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Posted by on December 20, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, STEM, Technology

 

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