RSS

Category Archives: Technology

‘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 Slow-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.

 

 
 

Tags: , ,

My ‘Maker’ nephews’ hydraulic-powered bot built from scrap

This morning my nephews, Nikhil and Shenal, surprised me with a a video of a robotic device they built from scratch.

You’ve probably seen STEM projects that involve making bots or mechanical arms using batteries and sensors. This whatchamacallit does not require electronics. Just cardboard, pins, and syringes.

As a teacher, there are three things I love about this project:

  1. They don’t read off a script!
  2. The commentary is a conversation, building drama (including a mini count down) as the brothers wrestle with the device
  3. Simple explanation of the scientific principles – about levers, the ‘power’, and traction

I like how the claw seems to have a life of its own – good choice of camera angle!

This is what the Maker Space movement encourages, to build, test, fail, redesign, and demonstrate. Their ‘lab’ is their kitchen table!

 
 

Tags: , , ,

A weekend on the Moon? Soon, says Jim Bell

So here’s ASU’s (School of Earth and Space Exploration) version of TED Talks – KEDTalks.(In case you’re wondering, KED stands for  ‘Knowledge-Enterprise-Development.’)

Perhaps, SpaceX and AirBnb are already holding talks on this!

KEDtalks: Weekending on the moon from ASU Research on Vimeo.

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 28, 2017 in ASU, Disruptive, Technology

 

Tags: , , ,

Decoding what’s fake – and not just the News

I came across an excellent primer for students on How to Spot Fake News. It simplified a few things we (and students) could do to check if a story is credible.

In teaching Photoshop a big part of it is to get students to create something that seems plausible, but ‘fake.’ This week, one of my 6th graders worked on an animal face-off and was amazed at how real a photo-montage might seem, even though it was a silly cat-fight.

Back to the Common Sense Media article. It lists six things to check for:

  1. Who made this?
  2. Who is the target audience?
  3. Who paid for this? Or, who gets paid if you click on this?
  4. Who might benefit or be harmed by this message?
  5. What is left out of this message that might be important?
  6. Is this credible (and what makes you think that)?

 

I found a more insightful primer from Washington Post (Video below), which provided more ways to validate a story or an image. Such as:

  • Dragging an image into Google images
  • Downloading a Chrome Plugin for spotting Fake News
  • looking closely at the URL, often made to look like the original URL
  • Inspecting the image to see if it looks Photoshopped

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/60daed34-adb2-11e6-8f19-21a1c65d2043

Yes, many images we see are so heavily doctored that we turn a blind eye to the fact that they are not exactly real. So my hope is that by Photoshopping images themselves, students might pay a little more attention to the visuals coming at them from media platforms they use.

And that’s not even getting to the language used to pitch the story or idea, learning to look for clues in the craft of the writer, which is another topic entirely.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 24, 2017 in Ed-Tech, Education, Technology

 

Tags: , , , ,

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.
 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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!

 

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: ,

Typos in educashen tweets mask bigger issues

I’m sure Dan Quayle, the vice president who got famous for (mis)spelling ‘potatoe must feel vindicated, now that the new US Education secretary had a tweet sent out to correct a typo in a previous tweet. Unfortunately the apology contained this gem:

“Post updated – our deepest apologizes for the earlier typo.”

Now I’m not going to join the bandwagon and frame it as the end times in education. We all make mistakes. Even one like this, as her staff did. Mistakes happen when we blurt things out without much thought.

However, there are some lessons here worth repeating about using a social media handle to go public:

What is the purpose? Micro-blogging, or trying to communicate in 140 characters requires a different discipline (from say shouting, or firing off a press release). One needs to craft the message to the channel and its audience. What was the point of the Education secretary’s Twitter handle being used to publish a quote from the essayist and author? Just to show that the department is clued up on sociology and civil rights? Come on! Does the Dalai Lama need to quote Gandhi to prove himself?

Whose ‘voice’ is it? A department or an organization comprises many divisions. But the top dog sets the tone of voice. A random quote is quite an anemic way to communicate, since it basically reflects no one. Is the channel a news feed, or for insight into the workings of the organization? Is it a place to link to important assets, or ideas? It can’t be all things to all people. Define your brand voice!

Who is doing it for you? Sure someone else may manage the communication, but you oversee it. Or, as some companies like Dell do it, set up multiple Twitter accounts for different constituents. This was something we discussed in 2009 and 2010.

Perhaps government agencies shood should go back to Twitter skhool school. Or at laest least take communication 101.

 

Tags: , , ,