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10 STEM Vacation Ideas

It may be time to box up the microphone and the rocket, the robots and the VR headsets. But truth is, we could do a lot of interesting things related to science and technology during the long summer break.

So here’s what I am asking my students to do in July and August.

  1.  Become a ‘Maker’ – Build something. A tree house? Make a parachute out of a plastic bag, or a scarf, and a large eraser. Drop it from a balcony (or that tree house!) and change the way it lands.
  2. Create a Rube Goldberg device. Use scrap material, some dominoes, a tennis ball, a discarded cardboard tube, and a flower-pot… Watch this amazing example for inspiration
  3. Practice Coding. Work on a project at Code.org, or Scratch.Mit.edu
  4. Create a paper airplane or rocket contest. As we learned at the recent STEAM Night, some of the rockets that flew the furthest cost nothing, and were made of paper!
  5. Conduct a potato battery experiment! Two potatoes, a few nails, copper wire, and a light bulb from a flashlight. Ask an adult to download the steps here.
  6. Build a robot. Wrap a shoe box in tin foil. Add wheels and axles using bottle caps and skewers. For accessories like an antenna, and a probe, cut a coat hanger, and bend it into shape.
  7. Take up photography! Last year I taught a class using point-and-shoot cameras, and (the horror) phones! Figure out how depth-of-field, and back-lighting could enhance your pictures. No (Instagram) filters required.
  8. Write a short story! Try your hand at science fiction. Write your friends into the plot, and see where the story takes you! Check out these YA sci-fi authors
  9. Produce a skit. Before there was this thing called the Internet, we kids down the street created our own ‘drama.’ Find a friend who could help you co-write a short play about pollution, or landing on Mars.
  10. Build a solar oven. Start with a pizza box. Watch this video for inspiration! 
 
 

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Spinners – Stress reduction fad or potential STEM tool?

Gadgets fascinate me, especially those that have levers, sensors or even gyros. So the Spinner, a ‘momentum toy’ also known as a ‘fidget toy‘ looks promising.

If not for the fad factor.

Every kid finds it irresistible, no different from how yoyos, or Rubik’s cubes were hard to put away. But the Spinner is also seriously hyped, being claimed to solve many problems. Stress, ADD, and whatever seems to fit. But we better make a distinction between a sensory aid and a gadget that could be used just to show off. Not to mention it becoming a distraction device, rather than solving an ‘attention’ problem.

Having said that, I could envisage how with a few add-ons and variations of the Spinner design, it might be used in a STEM lesson. I’ve seen at least one teacher use the rotations and spin time as variables for math challenges. My colleague and I just discussed how this could become part of a robotics-related lesson, being a mechanical device, after all. No apps required, please!

The field is wide open. Let’s hope we don’t get steamrolled by the fad, and it doesn’t evaporate like…. last Summer’s Pokemon Go.

 

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2017 in Robotics, STEM, Technology

 

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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 Oven STEM project – Chili Cook-Off!

As temps rise, I’m bringing out my solar oven for an engineering & science class. It will be a ‘maker’ type session that will culminate in a Chili Cook-Off for 5th and 6th grades. Students of each grade have been asked to come up with their own class Chili recipe and put it to the test. Outside judges will decide on the best Chili

To get started, I’m introducing them to topics such as insulation, radiation and the greenhouse effect.

  • Next a session on designing and building a Solar Oven from a Pizza Box.
  • Finally, Ann Patterson from Solavore will be here to teach a class on Solar Cookers and the engineering principles behind it.

If you’re looking for solar oven recipes, here are some. I’m a big Chili Concarne fan. Solavore has some here, too.

 

 

Chilli CookOff - CHILLI & STEAM - May 2016

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, STEM

 

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STEM Student Ambassdors to visit Sri Lanka

STEM Ambassadors - Salt River Elementary 2Two students from my school district have been invited to visit Sri Lanka as ‘STEAM Ambassadors‘ in December.

They will represent the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community at two workshops for teachers on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. The workshops will be held in Colombo and Kandy.

The students are:

  • Dominique Grey, a sixth-grade student at Salt River Elementary.
  • Haley Smith, a seventh-grade student at Salt River High School.
  • Maria Chavez, the school’s Parent/Community Involvement Specialist, will accompany them, as well as one parent of each of the students.

Listen to the story here, on KJZZ.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2015 in Education, Sri Lanka, STEM, Workshops

 

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Skype with a rocket scientist – Today’s STEM Talk at Salt River Elementary

It’s funny how an ‘old’ technology comes to the rescue, even in education that’s all about Ed-Tech.

I’ve used Ustream, am experimenting with Stre.am, one of the newest shiny objects for collaboration and live-streaming. WebEx is not feasible for legal reasons, which is why Skype has come to the rescue. Skype – that grandaddy of web conferencing tools– is old in Internet years! Released in 2003, it came in a different era from our one-click chat apps that are morphing into lean, mobile must-haves. It’s still a trusty, if not crusty application.

Anyway, for this ongoing series of STEM Talks, I am pleased to be able to connect my school with an eminent NASA scientist, Dr. Ashwin Vasavada. He is the lead scientist on NASA’s Curiosity Rover mission, and comes to us via the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. For those of us with one-planet experience, know this: Ashwin participated in Galileo mission to Jupiter, and Cassini mission to Saturn.

My students have some background to Curiosity, because of robotics, and some have seen the full-scale model of this Humvee-sized robot at ASU. I’ll be curious (I know, bad pun!) to see how they engage with him.

Place: Computer & Technology Lab

Time
: 4:00 pm

Light refreshments will be served.

Check out previous STEM Talks here, and here.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2015 in Ed-Tech, Education, Technology

 

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The news ‘eco-system’ from Google

Definitely worth paying attention to.

You don’t need to be a news producer to think about –and be concerned about –the way Google helps the discovery of, and context around any piece of information.

Crawling, grouping, ranking –not the terms tjose working in old media needed to think about.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2009 in Disruptive, Social Media

 

Broadband: priming marketing’s new eco-system.

‘The revolution will not be televised.’ is the title of the book by Joe Trippi, the man who gave Howard Dean the reputation of the first politiian to tap into grass-root networking, a.k.a. blogs.

Let’s temporarily assume that television is passe (not entirely true, loking at what’s going on in China, or with digital TV in Europe, etc). How much further could the communications revolution go once it has been open-sourced, blogged, webcast, and podcast? Or to put it another way, what else is there on the horizon? 

When Web 2.0 meets enterprise IT,  open sourc-ism will takes off says says Kim Polese (This and more at IT Conversations, which, not by accident is a free podcast.) It means the top-down models have to run for the exits as the bottom-up ones come into being. Polese calls it the ousting of the ‘Industrial ego system’ by the new eco system. Ego Vs Eco! So unlike a techy to phrase it that way!

It’s all about interoperatibility –that awful 18-letter word that describes how the new economy works. I was asked yesterday how podcasting will change communications when phones blend with ‘pods’ or MP3 players. Imagine what would happen if your MP3 player could send a message to mine. Or you could stream your content to a few folks in a room at a seminar. Would anyone care about your PowerPoint presentation at the far end of a room, when you could podcast it directly to a personal device that attendees can save –or even respond to at question time?

Broadband is making a lot of these things possible (Ever tried Skype?) as the pipes –or more accurately the wireless signals– that move data, text, audio & video transfer larger files at faster speeds.  WiMax is going to be the new standard for wi-fi, and should be here in laptops and pda’s by next year.  The revolution in content distribution and access, means that content will be shared on large scales, enterprise-wide. Check this out: MSNBC handled over 100,000 simultaneous ‘streams’ in May, when people logged on to watch the new Pope being elected in Rome. This was just on the web. The content delivery was handled by Limelight Networks. By the next Olympics in 2008, we will probably be watching (and sharing video) on wireless devices. Three years from now, marketing will be in a different league as our phones and ‘pods’ morph into 2-way, multi-media communication devices. Strong content and on-demand (permission) marketing will then play a big part in this new eco system.

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Posted by on June 21, 2005 in Marketing

 

Will Sri Lanka get a Tsunami Warning System?

As I reported a few days ago, Professor Joe Fernando (harendra) of ASU, is in Sri Lanka to study a model that would allow us to develop a tsunmi warning system.

“We want to know what the size and distribution of the wave impact was during the tsunami,” Fernando said. “By knowing that we can see if currently available wave models are correct. If the model works, then the science behind it is correct, and if the wave model is correct, then we will have a good idea of how to develop a tsunami warning system for the region.”

See the full article here on the ASU site.

India has already set a time frame (within 3 years) and a cost ($27 million) for a warning system. See BBC report here.

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Posted by on January 12, 2005 in Communications

 

TiVo, eBay and Blogs: Journalism’s new eco-system

TiVo_logo

Dan Gilmore’s interview by WIRED magazine last week about Gilmore’s latest book, We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People, available online here, makes a few points that the old media will hang onto –trust, and the ‘code of ethics’ question, now that bloggers are in the news business.

But the real point Gilmore made about the anyone-can-be-a-journalist issue, was the potential for the big media to lose advertising when their readership drops. He cites, eBay, Tivo and Blogs as part of the new eco-system.

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Posted by on August 16, 2004 in Marketing