NSTA16.. First Presentation

Wow I’m always really impressed by this conference. Between the number of presentations, meetings, focus groups and attendees it has be an huge deal fro me. Not sure if everyone agrees. Some people don’t enjoy events like this but I sure do.  Sorry this is so late, its been a bit busy since returning to school.

The whole event was kicked off on Wednesday night with Bill Nye from the Planetary Society. It was a really good talk and I never realized how funny he can be. Fast forward when we at the Planetary Society table in the exhibitors we saw him again. He has such a following among everyone it is amazing. Camera’s don’t stop when he is around. His theme is “we are creating the next great generation”.  Teachers signed up for the new “STEAM TEAM”. Let’s see what happens with that. I did sign up for other opportunities so we will see how they pan out.


Next day was our presentation day. I was presenting  for the first time at NSTA with a fellow colleague from NASA Explorers School Kathy Biernat, who by the way is inspiring.  She has some experience with presentations, so this worked out well. We had decided in the Summer that we would present at the conference on 3D printing. How we incorporated it into our class and how we were collaborating on different ideas.  If you are interested in 3D printing and want to join other teachers, you can see our presentation PowerPoint here and sign up with our discussion group. We are trying to form a group of educators who would like to bounce ideas off each other and help each other out. Hopefully we will be getting a website or Google group together.  The presentation went well I think and it was my first.  On to the next one!

It’s been two weeks since the event and I’m still sifting through all the information I obtained at the conference.  I went with another colleague from school.  He went on one of the day trips, Oak Ridge. He said it was very good. Meanwhile, the exhibitors hall was overwhelming and I did my best to get to the exhibitors I wanted to.  One of the exhibitors was Dremel 3D printing  company. Yep the tool company is now getting into 3D printing for education. I was invited to their lunch and they showed off their new 3D Printer that would be available in May.  My school is looking into buying some new 3D printers. Makerbot was also at the conference and showing off its goods.  Their new product also looked interesting.

One of the workshops I did attend was by NSTA and writing for their publications. I’ve always wanted to write an article for the Science Teacher but have never found out the criteria. Kathy and I would like to collaborate on article for Science Teacher and 3D Printing. This workshop was very helpful with that. If you are thinking about writing for one of the publications, you should really attend one of their webinars or workshops.  I also attended a Wards Scientific workshop, it was also good. Everything I went to was good and interesting.  Gave me a couple of ideas to bring back to the classroom.

Some advice the key is when going to the national conference I pick workshops out that you can get ideas from.  Of course there are some you find are not right for you, have a backup ready just in case. I will tell you the exhibitors workshops usually close really quick, you need to get there early.

Update on Modified “Genius Hour”

Just a short up date on how my version of Genius Hour is going. I changed things around this year by allowing students a bit more freedom with topics. Again another change made because of last years results or rather outcomes from the project. Which, by the way I think are improvements on the implementation of the project.

We have passed the halfway mark on our projects and I think this year they are going much better than past years. Or should I say they seem more organized and students seem to be on track with everything. I had put Fridays aside for students to work on project, but there have been changes along the way. Of course, when does anything stay on schedule? Flexibility is the word of the day when coming to this project. Which really doesn’t bother me. If you are going to do this project you can schedule those work days, but a little advice be flexible if you can.

I posted the introduction to the project in a previous post 5-ways to launch your genius hour projects. After Brainstorming students started a journal to track their progress with the project. I made it on line so I could grade their progress and comment on it. I used Google Documents to make it simple. I handed out an outline on how I wanted the entries to look, but gave them a good deal of latitude about their information.  Some of the requirements I obtained from ROBOTC Curriculum for TETRIX and LEGO MINDSTORMS “Engineering Design Notebook”. So far their journals are looking good. Some of the students needed a bit more guidance when working on their journals, but overall they are getting the hang of it.

Entries should include the following:
• Daily logs and notes
• All sketches, photographs, videos, plans, and drawings
• Notes from design
• Calculations relevant to your project
• Documentation of the changes of your project
• Research information, such as computer print-outs and newspaper articles
• Notes for presentations, reports, proposals, etc..
• Any resources being used in the project

Some information taken from ROBOTC Curriculum for TETRIX and LEGO MINDSTORMS “Engineering Design Notebook”

(resource: http://www.geniushour.com/2013/03/31/genius-hour-ideas/  and http://www.20timeineducation.com/20-time-ideas)

I have some interesting projects this year, one set of students are using music and bacteria. They want to see if bacteria will react to sound. Another set of students are working on the Star Trek Replicator Challenge , being a Star Trek fan I was excited they decided to do this.  A great engineering challenge and hosted by the Future Engineers Website.  Another project has students creating a tutorial on how to use Tinkercad and a 3D Printer. This is part of a 3D Printer collaboration effort with another teacher. Also it’s a great way to introduce 3D modeling to my Forensics classes for their end of the year project. There are a ton of other projects that are interesting to say the least.

Students are deciding on how they present the information. I’m getting a variety of formats. Websites are bit more popular with this years group. I do have the normal Google slides and PowerPoint but they are becoming a bit more creative with adding video etc. As we get closer to the final projects I’ll make another post to summarize the whole process.

Computer Science in the Science Classroom

First let me just say that Computer Science can include a broad range of topics. One of those topics can include 3D modeling or coding. Recently I was asked how can you implement these in a science class. Well my answer was I can do it because the administration supports it. However, as I think about it I would figure a way to integrate the topics into class. Meaning, even with testing and other requirements today there are ways to implement some of these computer topics in class.

Here’s an example I’m working on now; of course this can be a bit different for middle and elementary school, but I think it the premise is the same.

I’ve decided this year to give my Forensic class a different end of the semester project. This year I’m having my students Write/Sketch/Build a crime scene. This will include 3D printed parts. I’m giving the students a bit of a change and allowing them to use the 3D printer for some of the building parts. Below was a test of our 3D printer and a hotel room stl file from thingverse. Let’s see what they come up with. This should be fun.

(This file is created by lgstoian)

In my other class Earth Science I have students working on the Genius Hour/20% project. Which I still have to give an update on. I can briefly say it’s working great this year. Two groups have chosen to do their project in Computer Science. One group is working with the EV3’s and the Space Challenge. Which includes building and coding. Using the challenge has been a great way to introduce students coding and robotics. I’m especially looking into introducing coding at some point hopefully in the future.


The second group is creating a video tutorial on the 3D modeling program Tinkercad. They are creating this video for a middle school audience. They will use their video to teach middle schoolers how to create various items for 3D Printer. Part of their project, which I think is a awesome, they are creating houses for a another groups tsunami project. I can’t wait to see their work I think it’s going to be great. Actually they are actually making this video for another teacher I know. Her class is starting to use a 3D printer and she would like some type of tutorial for her students. Since her and I are collaborating on a talk at the NSTA National Conference in Tennessee. We thought this would be a great way of collaborating on the topic of 3D printing. Our talk is “Creativity, Collaboration, and Innovation: Using a 3D Printer to Energize Your Teaching”come on by if you at the conference.

5 Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Unmotivated Students | Cult Of Pedagogy

If we know what works to motivate students, why are so many students still unmotivated? These five questions will help you determine if your practice is really in line with research. Continue […]

Source: 5 Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Unmotivated Students | Cult Of Pedagogy

There are some really good points in this article. I really never thought about some of these. But now I think I might have to think about some of these.

The End of the season is Here!

Well the FTC robotic season ended with our state competition this year. There were 32 teams at the states, it took place at A & T University in Greensboro.  The day started really early in the morning with hardware, software and field inspections, which we passed. Even though we might not have won the competition or came in the top 5 for Super Regionals we did learn a lot this year or so I think. A major lesson team members learned was that there was more to winning competitions then just the building a winning robot. Our members realized that we need to remember that the engineering notebook and other components of the competition play a major role in winning at competitions. They also realized that winning isn’t everything at competitions the Journey to these competitions was just as important. As one of our mentor/coaches said he was not worried about what we won, he wanted members to learn along the way how to use the design process to build a robot. Making mistakes was just as important as doing things right. Which of course brings up a whole other discussion that we need to allow our students to fail before they can succeed. And we do know that this is becoming a big discussion in the educational field.



The last meeting of the year was held just the other day and our mentor/coaches talked to the team about various components of the year. What worked and what didn’t. What can we improve on and what did we do well this year?  We tried to stick with the positives and one positive was that we improved our engineering book tremendously. In the previous competition we won the Think Award which qualified us for the state tournament. Advice to anybody who is coaching and mentoring a robotics team one of the things I’m learning is that the engineering book is really important and putting the time and effort into it is worth it. I would advise anybody to make sure you have someone in charge of the engineering book that is going to put the effort into making sure the book is complete. We had a an awesome student/member coordinating the notebook.



As a result of the end of the year meeting we came to the conclusion that next year we’re going to have 2 teams so that everybody will have a chance to have hands opportunities with the robot. This means that next year we should be registering two teams for FTC competition. I think this is a great idea because not only will it give everybody a chance to be a part of the decision making with the robots but also I think the younger team members will be able to learn bit more then when you have a larger team. Sometimes the larger teams don’t give young members ability learn because there’s too many people and not enough robot.

So we ended on a really good note by agreeing on what we needed to do to be successful next year in competition.  Now we wait and we’ll see, meanwhile over the summer we already have some outreach going on. We have a week long EV3 Mindstorm robotics summer camp for rising 5th to 9th graders at school, check it out on our school website. Also next month we are going to be at the Triangle Tech Expo at the Museum of Natural Science in Raleigh. So it’s going to be a busy next couple of months with outreach and also preparing for the beginning of next season. Good job by all this year and looking forward to next year.

What Teachers Can Learn About Failure From Elon Musk – A.J. JULIANI

While John Spencer and I were developing the LAUNCH Cycle, we came up with a few areas that were likely stumbling blocks in the creative (design-thinking inspired) process. One of the keys to the Launch Cycle is taking the time to Look, Listen, and Learn throughout the entire process (that is the L in the …

Source: What Teachers Can Learn About Failure From Elon Musk – A.J. JULIANI

Very interesting take on this. I think we do this very well at our school in Robotics. Our mentor/coach is excellent at this, he allows the team to figure out what failed and how to solve it. Students are learning, listening, and asking tons of questions during the whole process. A building process of the LAUNCH Cycle.

5 Ways to Launch Your Genius Hour Projects to the World – A.J. JULIANI

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been asked the same question multiple times after speaking, “Do you still believe Genius Hour and 20% Projects are the best way to engage students?” My initial response was to shout YES, without really thinking about my answer. But, as someone who ran the 20% Project with my students, …

Source: 5 Ways to Launch Your Genius Hour Projects to the World – A.J. JULIANI

I really like this and probably will use this next time. I have already implemented the project. I did narrow their focus a bit, and kept their projects on STEM Topics. Students did do a Brainstorming session to see what they might want to do outside the STEM topic area. When reviewing their Brainstorming papers most of them did pick subjects they were curious about. I did tell students I didn’t want them becoming bored with their topic, I wanted them to honestly be interested in what they are doing.  I’ll continue to update my blog with posts about the project and how its going. I do like the “Launch Cycle”, and hope to use in the future.

Cardinal Gibbons Mars Student Imaging Project

Source: Cardinal Gibbons Mars Student Imaging Project

Check out the blog my students are doing for their research project for the Mars Imaging Project. Once we have our proposal accepted we will begin working on the research and using the camera onboard the Mars Odyssey Orbiter. Students have been doing a great job working with Alex Longo our lead researcher.

And We are Off to States-Robotics

Just a bit of an update on Robotics. Actually more of a summary of the year to this point. I neglected to write an entry for the past events, so I’ll catch up here.

We started the year off at Cisco, for the Kickoff to the NC FTC Challenge competition year.  And I will say what a challenge this year.  You can read about the challenge and watch a short video at the NC FTC page. It was a great day, two of our students got a chance to work with Congressman David Price. Half our team presented in different sessions during the day.

robotics      Robotics Kickoff 2015 (1)

Once our team found out the challenge for this year they got to work. The next event was a scrimmage and they didn’t do bad.  New wheels and a base were created using the shopbot and 3D printer. A couple of bumps in the competition but overall they did okay. This is the time the team usually will redo and improve on their build. Hint for mentors and coaches in robotics, give the students as much time as possible and allow them to experiment. Sometimes we need to let them fail to succeed.

Lauren Pettibone robotics tournament (368)-X3

The next event was the qualifier on January 17th held at Cardinal Gibbons, we had 24 teams from around NC come for a day of competition.  This year we hosted the event in the Gym and broadcasted the event. We estimated about 300 people came to watch throughout the day. If you missed it  check it out the broadcast is on High School Cube Channel. Over 600 people have watched so far. We didn’t do as well as we wanted to and had to go back to the drawing board. But that’s the point, making the robot better every time. We had two weeks to improve the robot. Our next qualifier was at Trinity High School. There we did well in our first two matches and then had a servo break on us. Overall the robot ran well. But again we needed to make some more modifications if we were to do well at the next competition. Ended up we won the Think Award, for our engineering book. We qualified for States. So the young men and women who worked hard on the robot are now getting a chance to go to States and try to qualify for the super regionals.

Through this whole thing I think the team learned a great deal about persistence and teamwork. Never expecting to place the team’s hope was to win something so they would qualifier. They did that and also came in second for another award. They might not have won the tournament. But they did well. That is the one good thing about First Robotics, they do give everyone a chance to win something even if they don’t win their matches.

Next stop for the team is States at A& T University in Greensboro on February 20th.

The Science of Learning (and technology’s impact on how we learn) – A.J. JULIANI

This is the third article in a four-part series answering the question: Does education really need to change? You can read the first two posts here and here. I leaned over the shoulder of a student in the library. She was quietly working with headphones in, and completely focused. What caught my attention is that …

Source: The Science of Learning (and technology’s impact on how we learn) – A.J. JULIANI

Interesting points brought up by Mr. Juliani with this series. This article is especially interesting when discussing the changes that have taken place in what we learn and how we learn it. With new technology, a new way of learning is introduced. How we deal with this is the question. I have not really thought about this in depth. After reading Mr. Juliani’s article I do believe “how we learn”does become important in education. Read his article and let me know what you think.


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