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.

Robotics challenge 2017 to focus on water

I’m really looking forward to the next robotics season in Fall, given the theme – H20!

For our students, Hydro Dynamics is something they’ve been passionate about this whole year, especially the Dakota Access Pipeline issue they took up, supporting the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, and their water conservation efforts. They have made presentations to the community, and had many brainstorming sessions on water challenges. The theme, also harks back to an earlier environmental challenge in 2015, Trash Trek.

So when they come back in Fall, many of them who rejoin robotics will be primed to think like engineers, designers, and scientists, and problem-solve a water issue facing a community.

Here’s more about Hydro Dynamics in the 2017 season. And the teaser video.

‘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.

 

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.

Surprising things happen when Digital Natives get their hands on old-school cameras

Here’s a batch of pictures taken by my students yesterday. Cameras may seem ‘old school’ but there’s always an interest in the basics of aperture, lighting, and perspective. In my Ed-Tech class, 5th and 6th graders can’t seem to have enough of this, as the results show.

An accidental homage to Silicon Valley?


Digital City?

Two very different perspectives of a robotic arm

There are much more! Who knows what ideas they will come back with after Spring Break?

Kids take to design as Digital Learning Month kicks off

sculptDon’t you wish you could have learned in elementary school what kids have access to now?

That was one of the comments of a designer from TimeFire VR, speaking of how excited she was to see 6th graders quickly learn how to use SculptGL. It is a powerful open source CAD program for 3D sculpting. (I created this in just 2 minutes, having no experience!)

Of course there is much  more work to be done and TimeFire showed us how we could to get there, with Blender, another open source application. This being Digital Learning Month, we will dlday1have time to get deeper into CAD and 3D sculpting. I’m planning to ask TimeFire to come back for an encore session soon.

I like to thank John Vise for making this happen. Specially to Jessica, Rainy, and Ariana for showing us the exciting software, and future career possibilities.

 

Yes, we can be tracked! What students learned at Digital Learning Month kickoff event

Thank you, Fred von Graf for conducting a highly interactive session for our 5th grade students last afternoon. It was the kickoff to our Digital Learning Month in February.

dlday-tnTo a packed room of students and teachers, Fred asked them what social media platforms they use, and provided some cautionary stories of how to protect themselves from hackers, trolls and anyone with rudimentary search skills. He spoke of the dangerous side of oversharing, using same gamer handles and aliases across multiple platforms.

What I liked most about Fred’s presentation was that he avoided the geeky terms (no mention of Phishing or spoofing or doxxing), while explaining quite simply, how someone could find out sensitive and private information about you.

“Some people think of social media as a popularity contest,” said one student, commenting on a case of a someone grabbing information off people and posting it to his YouTube channel. Some spoke about how tagging children could reveal too much information about the family. Teachers shared their safe practices, such as not providing the location of when a picture was taken, or doing it after one leaves the location.

Overall, the room was brimming with insightful thoughts and suggestions, sparked by Fred’s topic, and style of presentation. He summed up, by bringing up oversharing, about seeking ‘Likes’ and the ‘addiction’ that could results from these self-gratifying practices. “You want that attention, and it becomes so easy to say ‘my privacy isn’t that important, let me put this out there’ ,” he said.