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Solar oven Chili Cook-off returns as school winds down

For the second year, I’m holding the Solar Oven Chili Cook-off.

Nothing like bringing the school year to a close at the computer & tech lab, than something that does not involve batteries, software or screens. I think we have all had enough of that!

So let’s chow down and enjoy some class recipes!

  • Three 5th grade classes and three 6th grades will bring their own recipes and compete.
  • Next Tuesday’s temps should reach 105 degrees. The oven usually gets to 275 – 300 degrees, even without reflectors.
  • I’m bringing a Sri Lankan killer chili for those who dare!

Though this is the second annual Chili Cookoff, this is the third year of incorporating a solar oven project into my STEM curriculum, thanks to Solavore. We use the Solavore Sport ovens. In the picture, extreme right is Solavore founder and CEO, Ann Patterson.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2017 in Arizona, Ed-Tech, Education, STEM

 

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Build a ‘Steady-hand Game’ for under $3

Here’s the device I constructed from mostly scrap material. It’s been called the ‘steady-hand game.’ The goal in this challenge is for the player to not to complete the circuit!

If any part of the metal wand touches the wire, it completes the circuit, which is connected to a rudimentary ‘fan’. Took me about 45 minutes to assemble the contraption.

I admit, the challenge was a tad too difficult. I could have made it easier, but it tends to be more fun if it triggers the fan. Perhaps for a younger group I could have straightened the wire, or bent back the metal ‘wings’.

Material: wood, scrap wire, duct tape, old plastic container, 9-volt battery, copper wire.

  • The Wand: Metal egg beater from the Dollar Store. Bend back some of the loops to create wing-like protrusions.
  • Fan: Made from an old CD, with a piece of Duct tape to cover the center hole. Pierce the tape with the top of the motor. Connect the positive and negative terminals of the motor to the battery
  • The motor. Available at any hobby store, Radio Shack, or online
  • Battery: Ideally a 9-volt battery. D-size battery will also work fine.

Expand the idea! While this is a great way to incorporate it into a unit about electricity and circuits, you could get some students to design an elaborate set up: More complex coils of wire, different size wands, and different circuits that set off off a bell, a light bulb, a buzzer, and a fan, depending on which circuit the wand touches.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2017 in Ed-Tech, Education, STEM, Technology

 

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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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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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Farewell to our quintessential Rocket Man, John Glenn

John Glenn was quite a guy. You don’t find many role models like him these days. The ones you could hold up for kids as examples of someone pushing the boundaries of science. He was the first American to orbit the Earth. To me he stood out as someone who put in the grunt work most people miss.

It’s easy to forget that before he climbed aboard ‘Friendship 7′ spacecraft on Feb 20th 1962 for his short (4 hrs, 55 mins, and 23 secs) flight, John Glenn was a fighter pilot.*

The story not often told is that before re-entry, NASA’s Mission Control told Glenn “not to jettison the retro-rocket package after firing” in order to better hold the heat shield in place. In other words, “Wait and see – you are part of the experiment!”

At the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, standing beside Friendship 7, one marvels at the courage it took to climb into this over-sized tin-can in the interest of science, not knowing what might happen when being hurled into an orbit around the Earth at 17,000 mph.

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John Glenn passed away today. He was 95.

* He flew missions in World War II, Guam, and Korea, and later served his country as a senator for 25 years. He even got back to space, briefly for a flight on the Space Shuttle.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2016 in Education, STEM

 

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What’s a humanoid robot doing in a STEM class?

Intrigued by robots that look less like appliances and more like humans?  Even I sometimes get a bit creeped out.

But this little guy, NAO, changed my perspective. It is a learning tool, no different from any other bot, such as a spherical bot, a drone, or an Lego NXT brick. It’s got a friendlier interface, too.

I met the company that showcased it, RobotLAB, and this week spoke to their team members about how it can help students learn programming. It’s possible to even incorporate it into some aspects of a STEAM program.

ISTE 2016 Denver (17)I found out that some schools in the San Francisco Bay area are using this NAO to support reading and writing modules. As you might imagine, the program – a software and hardware package- is a bit pricey. But they are big on year-round support for teachers. Meaning it’s not like buying some hardware and being left to figure things out, or fix something that breaks.

Fours years ago, I spoke to someone who worked on the first humanized a robot to be sent up to the International Space Station. It was clear even then that such a humanoid  ‘device’ (which could be folded into a suitcase!) was designed to work alongside a real engineer or scientist –rather than make humans redundant.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, STEM, Technology

 

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Solar Chili cook-off continues today at Salt River Elementary

Thanks to Anne Patterson of Solavore, for helping me host the solar oven event in my class yesterday and today. I put together this STEM event for 5th and 6th graders as a final year STEM module.

AnneP1A great way to end the year on a high note – focusing on concepts such as insulation, radiation and the greenhouse effect, and letting students taste the end product! I liked how she compared different feeding habits of living creatures – carnivores, herbivores and ‘solavores‘ – to bring home the point about how we consume energy in one form or another. The sun, however is not a ‘consumable’Top 10 Sunnest Countries in that sense since we have an infinite supply of it.

Anne then compared the Top 10 Sunniest Countries, showing how the US has the most number of sunny days, and Arizona tops the list of States as well, with 4015 hours of sunshine a year!

Which is why, within 20 minutes of placing our ovens outside, they reached 250 degrees. One even topped 300 degrees!


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Thank you to my judges on both days, Annette Williams, Chris McIntire, Erik Haarstad, Joni Andreas and Wayne Sekaquaptewa who braved the chili recipes and the near double-digit heat outside. Today’s judges got to taste some of my Sri Lankan Chili as well.

Finally a big thank you to my colleagues. 6th Grade teachers: Erlinda Allen, Donna Horn, David Crebs, John Emmons. 5th Grade teachers: Maria Enriquez, Bernadette Spencer, Valencia Gorman, and Ashlee Chee for supporting this crazy idea.

 

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