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Category Archives: STEM

Evidence that student writing (about chapatis and chickens) isn’t going obsolete

One of my passions is to help students become better writers. Many teachers will tell you that students are not writing enough. Anecdotally we know that information consumption (coupled with information overload) compounds the problem. Research supports this. Forty percent of college students who took the ACT writing test, lacked college ready skills.

As a computer and tech teacher, I am pleasantly surprised when students ask for scratch paper before they login. It’s not ‘old school’ to jot down ideas; to organize information before it gets into a brochure or PowerPoint. One of my lessons for 5th grade at the end of the school year involves teaching them how to write a radio script, and record it! A script, of course, isn’t like an essay. It gives a student an opportunity to adopt tone of voice that comes naturally. To speak from the heart. To talk about odd, personal, funny things that connect with the listener. Like a letter, I suppose. “Who writes those?” You ask! You’d be surprised how many Thank You letters are queued up to print next week. That’s my evidence, and I’m sticking to it! 

On that note, here’s some inspiring  student writing. One of the college application essays featured in the New York Times last week. Eric Muthondu, who’s entering Harvard, talks about his Kenyan grandmother.

“When I return, the chapatis are neatly stacked on one another, golden-brown disks of sweet bread that are the completion of every Kenyan meal.”

Or this piece of writing by Jeffrey C. Yu, a second generation Chinese American.

“Not all sons of doctors raise baby ducks and chickens in their kitchen. But I do. My dad taught me.”

These essays are worth a read, if only to recognize that good student writing exists –in certain places one has to dig to find. Here’s another place: Write The World. A global community for student writers I have been in touch with, and have covered in a previous post. By some coincidence, this month, Write The World has a Food Writing contest for students. First prize for a 6,000-10,000-word essay is $100.

More chapatis and chicken, please!

 

 
 

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The day rockets flew!

Rockets soared at our school, on April 30th –the same day news broke of China’s plans to test a reusable launch vehicle, the ‘Long March 8.’ STEAM night was quite an experience, six years since we began on this journey.

Ours too were reusable, but they were built by students from Kindergarten upwards. Made of paper, drinking straws, Popsicle sticks, and rubber bands they traveled where no rocket had gone before on the basketball court. (One flew way out of our test range, covering 70 feet!) Most were powered by rubber bands. Some preferred to use wind power – blowing them out of the launch tube! The judges were quite impressed. Said Orbital ATK engineer, Monique Dalton of one model:

While most rockets flew pretty flat and straight, this one showed a curve visible to the naked eye of the sort of trajectory rockets take in space. It was as if this rocket really was on a mission delivering a payload.

This student’s rocket traveled 58 feet, 7 inches.

Meanwhile, SpaceX, is looking for ways to go beyond ‘reusable’ into mass production of rockets, just like GM does cars. Some day one of these kids will be in Mission Control –and I’m going to watch it from my rocking chair!

         

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Bring out the rockets – It’s S.T.E.A.M. Night!

This will be our 7th annual STEM (or S.T.E.A.M.) event, and it seems like a perfect year to focus on rockets.

Paper, air-propelled rockets, slingshot rockets, and even those that soar nearly 300 feet. Students have already begun designing and building their entries for the competition. Rubber bands create great kinetic energy!

We will have several related S.T.E.A.M. activities:

The Date:  30th April, 2018
Place:       Salt River Elementary
Time:         5 – 7 pm

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2018 in Education, STEM

 

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Relaunching his brands – Musk puts excitement back into Space science

A red sports car, a rocket and a trip to Mars. Many generations from now that’s what some might consider the birth of the new space age.

Last afternoon’s liftoff of ‘Falcon Heavy‘ – the largest rocket by far to be launched –by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, was by all accounts, a spectacular event combining science, savvy marketing, and enough material to get the attention of many audiences: Space geeks, Tesla enthusiasts, the international space community…and Mars watchers. Nothing like a live stream of the event, that included the dummy’s view from the Tesla roadster!

From a marketing perspective, think of it a a relaunch of three brands:

SpaceX: The ambitious company is not just a record holder of the biggest, baddest rocket with a retrievable booster (one didn’t land successfully), but an international ‘agency’ in itself. It can carry a spaceship – one taking humans back to the Moon, and later to Mars.

Tesla: Imagine the opportunities, to sell car that has the pedigree of the first car in space…Fascinating backdrop to an otherwise boring auto industry.

Elon Musk himself. Perhaps –just perhaps– he may have a bigger agenda in positioning himself as more than an entrepreneur.

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2018 in STEM, Technology

 

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When space exploration looks like Sci-Fi

One part Star Wars and two parts Arthur C. Clarke, one of the new things being tested in space is something called ‘Spheres.’

It is the name for three small “free-flying satellites” on board the International Space Station. Students in middle school have been getting involved in using SPHERES (which is an acronym for ‘Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellite’) in micro-gravity experiments. One of the goals of SPHERES has been to see if these small satellites could one day solve the problem of space debris, apart from other future space missions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arthur C Clarke was the earliest proponent of communication satellites. His 1945 Proposal was on Geostationary Satellite Communications. This March would be the 10th anniversary of Clarke’s passing.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2018 in Education, STEM, Technology

 

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While you weren’t watching Amazon CEO is in the space race

Jeff Bezos was once known for books, when Amazon was the world’s largest online book store. That was in 1994.

He had been recently investing in robotics, and also acquired Whole Foods. But flying under the radar has been his space company, Blue Origin, building and testing rockets. It is  what they call a rocket system, with a reusable, stage-one booster. It can take up to 100,000 pounds into space. This Apollo-sized rocket (much taller the Falcon rockets from SpaceX) is one of the few contenders in the space tourism business. Possibly a moon landing soon!

It may be a space race, but Bezos is taking it slow for now, to get it right.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2017 in Best Practices, STEM, Technology

 

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Google’s drag-and-drop ‘Scratch’ doodle

As Google doodles become more interactive it’s fitting to see it launch Hour of Code with a drag-and-drop doodle. It’s their first Coding-based doodle. Have you tried it? It’s on today’s Google landing page.

Worth reading: A description by MIT’s Champika Fernando, who was on one of the 3 teams that built this doodle.

Hour of Code runs through this week, which is also Computer Science Education week, and the anniversary of 50 years of programming languages. Scratch was developed at MIT.

 
 

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