NASA Workshop at Museum

Sorry for the long delay in my post. It has been quite busy the past couple of Months. I do have a couple of posts that I will be uploading in the next couple of weeks.  Hopefully?

So people think sometimes I’m nuts. I end up going to these workshops on the weekends.  Weekends should be made for break right? Well as we all know teachers really don’t take breaks on the weekend. Okay maybe once in awhile we do. But enough of that let’s get on with this entry.
On one recent Saturday morning I headed to the Museum of Natural Science.  I went to a workshop hosted by the museum and NASA. It ended up being one of the best workshops I had gone to in a while. I had worked with the NASA representative at astronomy day last year at the Museum of Natural Science.  Her name was Marile Colon Robles she was a NASA educator Professional Development Specialist. The workshops title was “Rev Up Math with Real World Problems”, it contained a boat load of information on race  cars and physics principles that influenced how racing cars are built. It included the use of measuring air pressure and temperature on regular tires as well as other tires (space shuttle). We learned how to read the data on the side of the tire. Something new.

From Wikipedia

From Wikipedia


Using this information we measured and calculated the air pressure and other data.  To reinforce this, we went outside and gathered some information on tires. Pretty cool and neat idea. This led to the next activity which included some math, using tire pressure and temperature. The workshop made a comparison between Race car, school bus and Space Shuttle Tires.

The day was well worth the few hours, I came away understanding more about the mathematics behind the tires used on the shuttle and Racecars. A great comparison for kids.  Information on the Rockets 2 Racecars can be found on the web at NASA stem resources webpage. Of course this would be a perfect project for classroom.

Part of the Drag Race to Mars, was a engineering challenge in which students design and create a capsule that uses drag to slow down and safely land the science payload on the surface of Mars. This very similar to the Lunar Egg drop we do in class. Awesome activity and great use of NASA engineering design process. There are some great tips and resources on how to guide students through this process at the NASA’s BEST website.

I have never been disappointed when attending a workshop at NC Museum of Natural Science. And especially when it is one hosted by NASA.


It comes to an End..this year anyway.

Second full day of competition brought some more ups and downs. I would have to say more ups’ until the end of the day.  The day started early again and we had the 3rd match of the day.  The team needed to come through with a win and show  how their robot could perform well in competition. The competition was rocking as they say. FRC which was in the other half the building was starting their competition also and having opening ceremonies.

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Before the beginning of the competitions that day Dean Kamen spoke to everyone . His passion for STEM and helping young people was evident in his speech. On the First Challenge website  it says “his passion and determination to help young people discover the excitement and rewards of science and technology are the cornerstones of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).” DSC_0073

Once opening ceremonies were finished, competition began. The day went well for Gibbons Robotics, we won both matches. After the matches were complete the alliances would be chosen. The top teams would choose other teams to partner with during the last part of the competition. We were hoping to be chosen since we did well in the last part of the competition. Also, again personal opinion, we had one of the best defensive robots and it had looked promising. But it didn’t work out, we were not picked for alliance. The awards took place at the end. The team had been hoping to get the PTC design award again, this would then qualify us for World. But it didn’t work out that way.

We went 3-3 at the competition and the team did a good job. They shouldn’t hang their heads. It was a tough run, only 8 days to prepare. They didn’t even have an opportunity to shake the bot down and make sure everything was working before competition. Also half the team wasn’t there due to different reasons. They did get in the news, there is an article that highlights the team. It does a good job talking about the patent the team has on its hardware.

Everything went well and the team was a bit down about not making the World competition, but they did a good job for such a short turn around. They should be proud of themselves, the coaches and mentor’s are. Which reminds me a big shout out to Mr. and Mrs. Toebes for their time and thank you to all the parents for their support. They’re already talking about getting started for next year.

Lessons of Robotics

Second day is in the books and wow what a day. I’m beginning to understand how important practice is to robotics. The team went through some lessons for the competition. Our day started early since we were the first match of the day.  For matches, you have the blue alliance and red alliance, we teamed with another team to form the blue alliance. Our autonomous program worked really well, this is when the robot runs itself. Then we hit a bit of trouble, called static electricity. When one of the other robots hit ours it sent a static charge through our NXT, freezing it. Not a good thing. Our partners did really well scoring points on blocks and raising the flag (if you need to see rules go here).  Immediately afterwards the team repaired the robot and had to get ready for their next match. No time to sulk over the problem. Great teaching moment!

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Match two was a better. They were part of the blue alliance again and in this match they did a double hang, it fell a bit so they didn’t receive points for this move. But what a great try and they even impressed the MC. I’ll try to explain this as best as I can. This is when the our robot picks up another robot and hangs on the bar. Something very hard to do. Of course, Coach Toebes was impressed and happy. We lost this match by only two points. They came back from the match in good spirits having done well.

Match three ended on a good note they won the match. Their alliance did really well and they were becoming one of the best defensive robots at the competition (personal opinion here and Mr. Toebes agreed).  Match four didn’t end well, the motor on one of the wheels went out. So they couldn’t steer the robot correctly.

DSC_0084         DSC_0154

Overall they did well, but Friday’s competition they needed to win both matches if they even wanted a chance to be a part of an alliance. Also they were hoping to win the Design Award by PTC. Mr. Toebes thought this was possible but they needed to show they could help win a match.

This whole day was a great lesson in perseverance . When the robot didn’t work they needed to learn from that and move on. They had to fix it and continue to compete, the competition was no where near being over. Lessons all day long, hence the title of this blog. I’ll be the first one to admit that this experience really represented the best of STEM. I was really happy to be a part of this event. 

Friday was another day of competition.

Alamo Super Regional Day One

We are here! Yeah. We only found out 8 days ago we had made the Super Regionals.  Yep, 8 days of preparation. Not much. But the Gibbons Robotics team did an awesome job preparing and getting here. Its really rocking here at the Convention center where the  (hastag) #AlamoFirst regionals is being held. I’ll try to be descriptive enough in the next few blog entries so you get the idea of how amazing this event is. 72 teams  are attending this regional.


DSC_0044We arrived at the competition early evening and set out to set up our pit area. Meanwhile the team members worked on getting the robot inspected. Everyone chipped in and by the time the night ended we had successfully set up our pit area and attracted a few teams for our alliance.

I think one  of the most amazing thing I have seen is that number of people who have come by to talk with the team. They seem to be very impressed by the our 3D drawings and Engineering views. This of course includes our patents that we are obtaining for some of the hardware on the robot.

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Special Thanks to Theo Foster from Haynes and Boone for helping us get our recent patents.

Of course who to thank for all this support are the Coaches and Mentors. Amazing job they have done getting this team to where it is today.  Official competition starts on Thursday and runs into Friday. Check out the live feed if you would like to watch the competition. Gibbons has the first match at 2:00 pm on Thursday Feb. 27th.

I will continue to update the blog and twitter (@rippie77) with news about the competition.

Say What? 5 Ways to Get Students to Listen | Edutopia

Say What? 5 Ways to Get Students to Listen | Edutopia. I like this article since I have this problem in class at times. I’m especially frustrated when I’m giving out instructions for a lab I have students not listening. And how do I know their not listening? I have students asking me two to three times about the instructions.

The ideas in this article sound really good. They say some of the ideas work great in “5th grade classroom”, I think they would work great in my class. “If kids are accustomed to hearing instructions twice, three times and even four times, listening the first time around becomes unnecessary.” This statement is definitely true. I know in my class anyway. “Ask three, then ask me” is going to be my new statement in class. I have no doubt these strategies have been used by other teachers and are nothing new. These activities would be an awesome team building activity at the beginning of the year. It would set the stage for the rest of the year.

Since I’m on break right now I will have to wait to try these strategies out. One of my colleagues suggested using these strategies with our whiteboard activities ( great idea Angie). I think we need to teach the proper techniques for listening and communicating in class. I know it will help them in future. How I know this is because during my summer experiences all I heard about was collaboration and communication. Communication includes listening.

#bcChallenge #6..still have a long way to go.

Flipping with Kirch: OC CUE Tech Fest – Flipped Learning and Screencasting!

Flipping with Kirch: OC CUE Tech Fest – Flipped Learning and Screencasting!. This is a great presentation for any teacher who would like to get involved with flipping their classroom. Ms. Kirch does a great job presenting the philosophy behind flipping and explaining what “Flipping” the classroom really is about. Her WSQ format is very popular among teachers and its something I have been thinking about implementing in my class.

If you are interested in “Flipping” you classroom I would begin here. The author also gives some really good resources that I can’t wait to review. Blog entry is a definite read!

BC #5- Yes maybe..#BCChallenge

Robotics Tournament

Finished! And it was a great success. According to everyone who participated in the event. We had over 500 live views on our broadcast at High School Cube. It was the second most watched event at Cardinal Gibbons since we started broadcasting live. Over 300 people attended the event. A special shout out to all the volunteers who worked. We were lucky in that we had a number of volunteers from Cisco. We also had teacher, parent and student volunteers working throughout the day. To read a brief summary of the event you can see an article written by our development person (thanks Rachelle) on our school web page. You can also find the rules to the qualifying matches. The event was called FTC Block Party gameFirst Tech Challenge of NC helped with various areas of the tournament. Their support throughout the tournament was appreciated. Various other people like our Principal Mr. Curtis and Assistant Principal Mr. C both supported and helped with the event. Their support was greatly appreciated during the planning and executing phase of the tournament.

Robotics_by_Ryan_Ruff (10)             Robotics_by_Ryan_Ruff (288)


More photos are available at our school smugmug page. The purpose of the blog entry is not to go over the whole event; you can read about that on the school web page. It’s about sharing pointers to someone who might be planning on holding a robotics tournament.

First I would recommend you have a meeting with your administrators to make sure you have the materials, facilities, and support. I had tons of meetings with my administrators and maintenance to make sure we had what we needed. When we didn’t,  we had to go outside the school for it. We were lucky because our Coaches were amazing and made sure whatever we didn’t have at school we brought in.

Second make sure you have your community involved. We had over 25 Parent volunteers and 30 student volunteers. All of them helped to make event go as smooth as possible. If I had a shortage of people for somewhere, there was a volunteer waiting to fill in. We also had the support of the science department. Even though we had just put on our Science Festival about a week or two before, the science teachers agreed to volunteer and help with tournament. Our judges and referees came from Cisco. Again volunteers. NC First did provide a couple of volunteers to help out. Overall this was the most important component of this event. If you don’t have the volunteers to run the event, well then your in trouble.

Third, make sure you schedule it on the calendar way before anything else. If I had to go back I wouldn’t have the science festival and tournament so close. But that was nobody’s fault it just happened that way. Also, food, we had our concession stand open all day. I really think we only needed it open right before lunch and maybe a couple hours after lunch. Usually teams will bring their own snacks. In the cafeteria we had the ability to assign one table for each team. We hoped this would keep the food out of our classrooms. It did. I might add that the teams did an awesome job in cleaning up and keeping everything clean.

Last, use Google Docs to help you organize the event. I can’t tell you how awesome the forms and spreadsheets were for organizing volunteers. I created a form for the event with two hour time slots for different volunteer spots. It worked great, I could share the documents with the organizing committee and change times or add times when needed on the fly. I really do like Google Docs, and now that our school has set up an account with them its becoming easier to use. One thing, advice keep a watch on your time slots so you can close them when filled. I had too many people at a certain time and then no volunteers at another time. I wonder if there is a script you can use in Google? Not sure, but there are tons of templates in Google you can use.

I hope I helped anyone who is organizing an event like a robotics competition or science event.  I really was on the side of organization, the Coaches took care of the technical side. I did enjoy watching the matches and our team Purple Gears 2901 did well and earned the PTC Design Award. Again a big thanks to our volunteers, NC First Tech Challenge and Cisco.

Science Festival Done!

It’s finally finished. We hosted our first Science Festival at school. It didn’t go too bad. Didn’t have the crowd we expected but our students who attended had a blast. We held it on a Monday night from 5-8 pm. The night started out with our guest speaker Dr. Mary Jane Epps, who works at the Dunn Lab at NC State University. She did a great job and we are actually thinking about bringing her back to talk to our students after school one day.  Attendees had a couple of options; they could listen to Dr. Epps speak, visit the new  Robotics team“maker room” , visit our Science Olympiad team, participate in one of the STEM activities in a the science rooms, or star watch on the piazza.  I’m not sure I can do the night justice, but if you want to see how it went check out Rachelle Garbarine’s story on the front page of Gibbons  website

In my room everyone played the Mar’s Rover Game on Xbox 360. The kids had a blast and my students who were helping wanted me to bring it to class one day. Might be a good treat for them, we are in astronomy right now. Students also helped the younger children build air rockets. A distance competition was held and winners received prizes. I found this activity on a NASA education website.  We also had our students working with our new Lego kits. This was possible because of the NASA grant we received and also the Siemens grant I obtained over the summer. Students worked to build and complete the Green City Challenge. Side note we purchased the Space Challenge from Lego Education also, this works with the EV3’s. At our Robotics Regional Tournament set for January 25th, my students will be mentoring the younger visitors on the Green Challenge activity.  Another blog entry to come.

I will mention one highlight of the night, our Science Department Chair, Sr. Janet Schemmel SND, dropped different objects into liquid nitrogen, freezing them in an instant, then breaking them.  Thanks to Dan Porter for obtaining the liquid. Not only did she have a blast but also everyone who attended her demonstration.

Science Festival 2014_By_Lorenzo_Macaisa (35)       Science Festival 2014_By_Lorenzo_Macaisa (142)

The whole night would not have been possible without everyone in the department being on board. If you are going to do this, and I mentioned this in another entry, make sure you have people to help. It took a good deal of planning to do this, and with the help of others we got it done. I did get others in the school involved, great opportunity for collaboration, for instance our Marketing club helped create the flyers for the event and our Tech theater students helped with setup. One other thing make sure you have a budget, you will have expenses and don’t want to have to use your class budget. Applying for a grant might be a good idea, science festival + community, I think you could find funding immediately.

Even though we didn’t have the attendance we would have liked; it was a great success. Or so people are telling me. It also was a great start to establishing our relations with our community.  We are already talking about what we should do next year. Next department meeting should be interesting.  My goal when proposing the festival was to spur some interest in STEM and establish a future event for us to host.  And I think we did.

By the way this #3 of the #bc20 challenge. The first three I had included in one entry. But I’m going to change that. I think I might have been cheating a bit. Embarrassed smile

BC # 4 …CGHS Science Festival

So I promised in one of my other blog entries that I would talk about our upcoming science festival. A 3 hour night that everyone in the Science department is taking part in. The idea came to me about a year ago and I proposed it to our department. I had read about other schools holding a STEM event for their community and thought this might be something good for our community. Well guess what? It worked and now we are hosting our first science festival at Cardinal Gibbons High School. 



Getting everyone on board was easy, communication was the hardest part. Getting the word out to middles schools and middle school teachers was a hard job. I think this year we are just relying on word of mouth and then next year we hope to expand our communication.  So I would advise anyone who is going to do this make sure you establish a line of communication with your middle school teachers.  We hope to have a signup for future notifications at the event.

Our second hurdle was when to hold it. January seemed the best with all the other events occurring at school. So we decided on January 13th a Monday.  Now we needed to decide on a time. Hoping to draw more people we scheduled the event from 5-8 pm.  What impressed me the most was the support of my administration and colleagues. Very important if you are to succeed in doing this type of planning.

I can’t thank my colleagues for coming through with some awesome STEM activities.  See the schedule below. Plus visitors will be able to meet our Science Olympiad and Robotics teams.

“Belly Button Biodiversity” presentation by NC State graduate students — Main Theater from 5:30 – 6:15 pm and again from 6:30 – 7:15 pm

Belly buttons fascinate us all.  Ever wonder what microbes may be living inside your belly button?  The Belly Button Biodiversity Project is currently researching this unique biome.   Come and learn more about how this collection of organisms on our skin forms our first line of defense against pathogens.

Stargazing on the Piazza

Have you always wanted to gaze into the night sky through a telescope?  Maybe you really are an astronomer at heart.   What is special about the night sky on January 13, 2014?  Stop by and bring your eye up to the lens to view our solar system and beyond.

Science Olympiad – Auxiliary Gym

Introduce yourself to our medal winning Science Olympiad team and see how they are preparing for their upcoming regional competition – from elastic launched gliders to bottle rockets to boomilevers to forensic science to Duck® tape structures to …

ROBOTICS – room 120

Come and meet the Gibbons Robotics team — the Purple Gears, and see their latest robotic designs perform specific tasks as they ready for the upcoming FIRST Tech Challenge.  In the past five years the team has developed novel solutions to earn one published patent application and two pending submissions.     

The Strawberry Genome Project – rooms 219 and 221

All living things, including the food you eat, have DNA – the genetic code.  In this 20 minute laboratory experience you will extract visible DNA strands from the cells of a strawberry and find out what it means to be OCTOPLOID!  Delicious!

Olympic Broomball – room 223

It may not be ice hockey or officially the sport of curling, but you can challenge yourself employing the laws of physics, and record the fastest time by chasing a bowling bowl along a bordered course with only a broom!

NASA – A STEM Activity Area – room 225

What’s the buzz about STEM?  Find out why you have the “right stuff” to be an engineer, a scientist, or mathematician in the 21st century.  Engage yourself in a variety of STEM activities from rockets to rovers.  You can even try landing the Mars rover, “Curiosity” using Xbox.  Innovators unite!

Dazzling Demos in Chemistry – rooms 227 and 228

  • See the Miracle – turn water into wine!!
  • Get excited by watching “excited electrons” produce light.  Chemiluminescence – is this what happens in a firefly?
  • Old Faithful has nothing on Old Foamey – come check it out!
  • Shake it Up!!  Come and jiggle the flask and make it turn the colors of a stoplight!

Who knows what else?  Chemistry holds “the element” of surprise!

The Unnoticed World – room 229

Come and meet – up close and personal, some of the most common insects and discover nature’s remarkable beauty. Visitors participate in caterpillar and termite races and win a prize

Concessions – CGHS Café

Fuel your science brain and give it a rest with a snack or two from the concessions.

check the website for a map

I have to thank Joleen Smith for this wonderful write up she is amazing when it comes to this type of job. There are a lot people working on this event, and that is what you need when doing something like this. It can get overwhelming if you don’t have the help you need. Now we wait and see, if 20 people show up I think it’s a success because it’s a start. Once we get our foundation we can build on it next year. I do have to mention here that the parents have been awesome. They have given us a great deal of support and are volunteering to help in any way possible. A special thanks  to them.  Also a special thanks to all my colleagues taking the time out of their to schedule to do this event.

BC 1, 2 and 3..Blog Challenge

I’m a bit behind with the blog posts for the BC 20 Challenge. But I have an excuse I just joined yesterday. So I’m going to combine all three for today. Right here it goes…

For my first Blog entry I would have talked a bit more about our new #edugood Project. An awesome project that I worked with last year and now we starting a whole new year. Each day has a different word or phrase. Using your imagination and a bit of creativity you take a picture that you think represents that word or phrase. Currently there is a twitter account you can follow @Edugood365 and a Flickr account where everyone is posting their pictures. After one year we had about 3,000 pictures. What an awesome project. One good thing this project has made me do is to stop and take a break from all the hectic things happening around me. Its also is real fun. In another part of my blog you can see my Grand Finale picture for 2013. Try it you might like it.

Second on my list is the #DENchat we had the other night. It was great! The number of people who participate was amazing and the ideas that were flowing were great. In a matter of an hour I obtained new ideas for my flipped classroom and new tech tools. Recently I had the opportunity to use Thinklink for our upcoming science festival. Definitely a blog entry for the future. PNaugle showed me how she used it in class. You can find her blog entry #4  addressing the topic. Some really cool ideas for the classroom. Here is my use of it for our science festival. Looks like edtech tool you can use in the classroom for projects. I’ll have to think about this a bit.

Third entry I would have discussed is twitter and how it has really enhanced my PLN. I’ve found more teachers on twitter than any where else. The collaboration is awesome and if you haven’t already joined twitter I would advise you do so. Not to just tweet. Because many people don’t have the time or desire to tweet all the time. Plus I understand it can be scary. But just joining the educational chats can be rewarding. I know #Denchat has become very popular. I’m not saying it’s the total answer to developing your PLN, but it helps and the ideas you can gather from other teachers attending these chats is amazing. Actually there are tons of other chats happening about education. Check out this article about the topic. If twitter is not your thing, then join something Edutopia or DEN (Discovery Educators Network). I’ve found they can really give you some great information.

Okay short and sweet. Thanks to Kelly Hines for sending the challenge out about blogging. Great idea!


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