Two weeks to Robotics Olympics! Team Sri Lanka gears up

Yesterday I spoke to Sri Lanka’s four-member team making the final tweaks to their robot, with hundreds of moving parts including 8 motors, 4 sensors, 4 servos, and some pretty fancy wheels. (This was them, 2 weeks ago.)

These are A-Level students, with the grit and passion you’d expect from college kids. They’ve mastered the programming software Blockly. They tell me they redo some parts of the design, just to be sure. In two weeks, they pack it all up and head to DC.

Today I also spoke to Joe Sestak, president of FIRST Global, and he told me how impressed he was by this team which is so committed, despite getting the robot kit a few weeks later than most other country teams.

I wish them the best!

 

Summer boot camp: SLRs, Robots, and a Solar Oven

Last week, students at the summer boot camp I conducted here at Li’l Sprouts Montessori got to work with different technologies. From building robots and circuits, to using cameras and a solar oven. They also used one of the oldest ‘technologies’ that tend to be overlooked – pencil and paper.

But besides motors, and learning the software (to program the robot below) students also learned about engineering design, using toothpicks to build a bridge and a tower.

They did a fair amount of writing, maintaining their journals each day. They worked on essay writing, a news story, and poetry.

On the final day I introduced them to the solar oven, and Tanu helped them bake cookies. One batch got done in just over 30 minutes!

Book promoting ‘STEAM’ careers for girls

I was so glad to hear of this book, written to empower young girls to consider science and tech. It will be launched with a Kickstarter program on June 21st. It’s called STEAMTEAM5More details here.

What’s more, the authors, are Arizona based!  If you support science, tech, engineering, art, and math careers, please click on the ‘Thunderclap’ button.

https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/57104-steamteam-5-book-launch/embed

Summer camp with Photography, Writing and Robotics

So next week I teach a summer camp for students involving three ‘ingredients’ – photography, creative writing and robotics.

The goal is to get students to connect visual and language arts, with technology. They will also tinker with robots, and understand how to design and program them.

This is one of the simplest bots (the NXT model) we use for the FIRST Lego League competitions. It has four different sensors, and can be modified with several wheel sizes. Students will learn to program them using Mindstorms software.

Robots don’t always have to look like this, They could be made from everyday objects found around the house. For instance, students will also experiment with ‘brush bots’ – tiny devices made from the heads of toothbrushes, of all things!

 

As for photography, there’s plenty of material to photograph right here in our back yard!

 

The call to teach, as seen through a different lens

Today is the last day for two of my team members at Salt River Elementary. Wes Filhart has been our PE teacher for 9 years. Suzanne Decker leaves after a 14-year run. There is so much I have learned from them over the years.

It’s not fun when your core members leave. They sure motivated me with their passion for their job, and their infectious sense of humor. Which is a great way to set up this video that Mrs. Decker, titled The Five Phases of Teaching’.

On a different note, below is last year’s Spring music event, one of the many well-produced events Suzanne has been putting together. You can catch a glimpse of Wes, a musician in his own right in the clip (at 4:14 secs.)

Why good writing matters. Even in the PowerPoint obsessed business world

The reason we teach writing is to get students to illuminate their ideas. The craft of writing is indeed on the decline, a topic I have dealt with in many posts before.

So I was heartened when I came across how Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon insists that his staff write memos with a ‘narrative structure.’ (See Fortune magazine article on this.) The reason? He requires someone to communicate clear thinking. Unfortunately, we let bullet points take the place of rationales, criticism, and memos. Or even advertisements.

I see an ad for a charter school that’s the biggest mish-mash of bullet points and headlines I’ve ever seen. It comes up as a slide in a cinema I visit. Every ‘important’ point has been thrown in for the audience to consume in about 4 seconds.

I do hope they teach writing, though. The Elements of (Jeff Bezos) style, at least.