Category Archives: Cardinal Gibbons High School

NatGeo Educators

Student Work

Recently I was honored to be interviewed for the NatGeo Educator Spotlight. They interviewed me about my capstone I did for them on their certification. You can read about their certification National Geographic Certification.  I’m always a bit hesitant of being interviewed, but it turned out okay and I’m happy to have shared my project with everyone.

Now for the project I’m not sure if I did write about the project in the past. But as you read through the interview you will get an idea what’s about. I used the Book reading project we do in class and integrated the maps from National Geographic. During the year I give a book reading project, students in class read Rocket Boys and Hidden Figures. Two great books by the way. Students are given a schedule for reading, I would recommend this, I found it helpful for the students. My sophomores knew exactly what pages they had to have done by a certain date. Feedback from students indicated this kept them on track, even for my Honors class.

Rocket Boys Book Project

When completing their reading they had to answer questions on a google form and then they were to create a presentation answering the questions posted on the assignment sheet. I changed things up a bit, by choosing different groups to present after each section was completed. I decided the year after I had implemented this project, I would adjust it and assign the “Hidden Figures” book. Last year was the first year we did both books. The only changes I’m going to make for next  year is I will assign this project in the 2nd Semester. I’m flipping the Genius Hour project with this project.

West Virg

To enhance the Rocket Boys Project I used National Geographic Maps and Mapmaker.  Basically the goal of the lesson was to get students to understand the different resources (geological)  in each state. Using the maps the students needed to create a legend and indicate on the maps the resources and geology of the states. During the activity we highlighted West Virginia and Coal Mining. Integrating some of the readings from Rocket Boys. They also learned about their own state and its resources.  Feedback from the students was great, they gave some ideas on how to improve the activity.  

The project was my capstone for the certification. I would recommend the program to anyone who would like to become a part of the NatGeo Education community.

For those of you who are interested here are the National Standards I addressed with this project: HS-ESS3-1 Earth and Human Activity and HS-ESS3-3 Earth and Human Activity.

National Geographic Education Twitter: @NatGeoEducation



Up, Up and Away


An amazing opportunity was presented to us when a parent offered to help launch a weather balloon for our school. I’ve been trying to do this for a long time. When the student came forward and offered to have his father work with us I jumped at the chance.  Awesome! That is all I could think. What an educational opportunity for my students. Plus, it fit in with the curriculum that I was teaching in class; meteorology. It also was an event the whole school could take part in. Which did happen.

The launch was sponsored by the Science Department and Space Explorers Club. Once we had our launch date, Earth Day, one of our students created a mission patch for the event. Using the mission patch we created buttons to hand out at Earth Day. I then had a student create our payload, he 3D printed the Banner for our Astronaut. It was a great opportunity to get students involved in the event.

So it didn’t go as planned, launch day had to be rescheduled due to weather. So we decided to launch the week after. And that was probably a good idea because the landing predictor had the balloon heading towards the coast, it seems the Jet Stream was pretty fast that day.  Below you see the comparison between the predicted and actual path of the balloon. After launch we tracked the balloon to Pine Level, NC.

The balloon reached 92,000 ft, something we didn’t expect. Part of the payload were two PocketLabs, one we had taking readings of altitude and accelerometer.  The other measured all the weather variables. You can find some of the information in the Google Folder.  A video was made to commemorate the event,  2018 Balloon Launch. 

Overall the event went well, but we are going to have to fix a couple of things. First the PocketLabs can record over 30,000 data points. Problem is that we didn’t set the sensors to take 1 reading per 2 or 5 minutes. Instead it took readings every half second. So it shut down too early. So reminder, change data point readings. Second, the Samsung 360 settings have to change so it can record better footage for stitching. Here is the final version of the 360 footage. And finally, we are going to let this be a student driven event. Meaning we are going to allow the students to pretty much take over the launch.

It was a great educational opportunity and we plan on having another launch next year.

Citizen Science Projects

Oh wow! Another blog entry! This time it’s about another project I having going on in class. I’m always looking for different ideas to use for class projects. If one works then I will use it again, if not I try others. This year I decided to use an idea one of my NASA colleagues has used in class; Citizen Science Projects. I really had never thought about this type of project before until I listened to this person give a discussion on the topic at an NSTA conference.

The reason I choose to do this project is because I believed that students should know more about what is happening in the science community and become informed citizens of science. I also like the environmental issues that some of the projects address. Different environmental issues are being addressed every day in the news, so I felt my students should understand the problems their generation will face. Which leads to a positive of this project, I have a good number of students working with the National Wildlife Foundations certified habitats. They are creating habitats that meet the criteria to become certified habitats by the NWF. Many of the groups are working with their parents to develop an area in their backyards to a “Garden for Wildlife” or “Wildlife Habitat”.  Another project a number of students are doing is Project Noah, a site that you post your spotting (pictures) of wildlife in your area.  The site allows a teacher to create a classroom and students can sign up. Through this site, the teacher can keep track of the student’s spottings. Students learn about different species from around the world and their scientific name for these species. I have taken part in this project and have posted some awesome pictures of animals. My username is rippie772011. I’ve enjoyed doing it too!

Project Noah is a tool to explore and document wildlife and a platform to harness the power of citizen scientists everywhere

This has been such a success in class that I think I will be doing this again. I’ll give students a project survey at the end to see what I might have to do to improve the project. But overall I think it is going great. I’ve listed the various resources students used to pick their projects.

Project Noah: You will sign up under my classroom
Cornell Labs:
Globe Observer:
Hubble Telescope:
National Geographic:
National Wildlife Federation: Certify your garden (this one you will need your parent’s help)-
Globe Program: There are various readings and projects to do with this program. Please see the Teacher.
Museum of Natural Science- There are opportunities to work in labs. You need to see the Teacher for this.


Summer Thoughts

So I’m probably near the end of my summer. We ended our school year the weekend of memorial day and go back early August. So… I’m almost at the end. Ask me what I did this summer and I’m not sure. It went by so quick. I did try to take  time for myself and do things I enjoy. I actually caught up on some reading that had been put on hold. But I’m still at a loss what I did.

I do have an idea for the upcoming school year that I already posted about and I’m trying to iron out in my mind. I’ve been reading a good deal about allowing students to stand to in class. I know, there are are a lot of variables you need to take into account. But as I continue to think about this,  I think I’m going to create some standing stations at our counters. This might help those students who can’t sit still and can use a little help focusing and it could create a better atmosphere for them. Now I know this could create some problems, but its worth a try. See my earlier post about the article I read.  I’m leaning towards trying this year.

Another new “tool” (I’ll call it that for now) available to me this year is a new 3D printer from Dremel.  We recently purchased the new Dremel 3D40edu.  I was given permission to order two printers one for the IT department and the other for Science. Well lets just say both have been in constant use.


It was also used in our Academic camp this year for 3D modeling. Both work like a charm and came with some lesson plans. I’m definitely looking into doing something this year with students. But I have to figure out what. I want them to create the model, not just download something from the internet.  Something I will have to really think about.

The last item I have been thinking about is having students read a book for the first semester project. I would split the year, 1st semester book project and 2nd semester “Genius Hour”. This is something I definitely would like to implement this year. I thought I would assign the book to make sure students are working on the same page. Not sure yet, pros and cons to this. What I also might do is assign a couple of choices and let them choose. It would be a good way to get them to read. The other option was to assign a weekly reading assignment and have them discuss in class on Fridays. This could be a kind of current events assignment.  II really have a lot of choices here. One of the books I was thinking of assigning was Rocket Boys by Homer H. Hickman Jr. My reasoning is our history teacher shows October Sky in class and this might be something we could collaborate on.

Yep a couple of items I really do have to think about. But they are already coming together. Meanwhile I started my professional development this summer and will post about in the next entry.

Using Stand Up Tables in the Classroom | Edutopia

WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Source: Using Stand Up Tables in the Classroom | Edutopia

After reading this article I’m thinking of allowing students to stand in class. It really does a good job pointing out some of the benefits of this option.  Of course I would have to think about rules students would follow to be able to do this. I did like the suggestion in the article about the new gained rights and responsibilities of the students:

Students were …allowed to stand as long as we made reasonable decisions on where we stood and made sure we were not obstructing anyone’s view or being distracted by people we were standing beside.

A good start to some of the rules I would implement in class. I like this idea because I know I have had students who would prefer standing. They usually get very restless in their seats. I think giving students this option in class might help improve focus for some of them.  Again I would make this a choice, this is not for all students. The only problem I see which was mentioned in the article is the  work area. As I think about implementing this idea I need to think about the classroom and how to do it. I’m picturing counter space designated for this purpose. This is not a new idea, but I think it is becoming popular among teachers. I know the  concerns teachers voice deal mostly with class management. However I think this can be addressed by teachers who are flexible. I don’t think this is for everyone, but if you are flexible and willing to try something new, I think this is great. Our librarians like to stand and have desks that suit this option. So why not let students? Adults like to do it.

If you ever have thought about this, check  this article out it might help with your decision.

Behind the Scenes of a Makerspace — Campus Technology

The Rutgers University Makerspace has become a hub of creativity on campus. Here’s how it manages operations, equipment, projects and more.

Source: Behind the Scenes of a Makerspace — Campus Technology

Great article on how the Makerspace at Rutgers got started. The most important point throughout the article, I think, is making the room accessible to all.  I think this is a very important for a Makerspace. Everyone should be able to create or build something they have envisioned.

Final Poster for Mars Imaging Project

Here is our final poster for the Mars Imaging Project. Great Job by students. Hopefully this could lead to future research. I know I’m going to try and do this again but in class.

Spring_2016_Cardinal Gibbons Mars

A year of Guest Speakers

This year we had the opportunity to have Skype sessions with aerospace engineers and scientists from the space exploration field. The opportunity opened up when we started our space explorers club. The young man ( Alex Longo) who helped start the club, asked members of the science community if they would Skype with us. Well low and behold they were more than willing to help out.

We had a total of 5 guest speakers this year. Matthew Golombek was our first speaker. His discussion centered around Mars and the next landing site. He explained the criteria behind deciding on a landing site for 2020.  Dr. Golombek was gracious enough to answer questions at the end. His talk was very interesting and students gained a better understanding about the future missions to Mars. Our next speaker was a bit different, he was associated with the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution. Dr. John Grant works with the Planetary Science Institute and agreed to talk to students. Students were really interested in his job and had many questions about what he did at the museum. Dr. Grant really did an awesome job explaining how he became part of the Mars landing site project. It was especially interesting because Dr. Grant was a geologists, not an engineer. After speaking with Dr. Grant we then spoke to Dr. Jim Rice.  He introduced himself by talking about how he came to love space exploration and decided to go into space exploration field. His talk centered around his work with Spirit and Opportunity. Again a geologist and not an engineer. But the highlight of his talk was the discussion at the end about NASA’s Budget. I knew the budget to NASA had been cut but I didn’t know how by how much. His comparison which is below was amazing.  Thanks to Dr. Rice for giving me permission to post these.






After Dr. Rice we spoke with Dr. Steven Levin from GAVRT. I had meet Dr. Levin a few years back when I attended the Teacher Workshop at GAVRT. I had been sent to the workshop when I was picked for the NASA Explorers PD. Dr. Levin works with the JUNO mission that is on its way to Jupiter. It will be there in July. His presentation was about what they are looking for when they arrive at Jupiter and mission itself.  Our last speaker was from Space X. Convenient since it occurred at the same time  they landed the rocket back on Earth.  Paul Wooster is a Spacecraft GNC Manager at Space Exploration Technologies. His talk centered around going to Mars and what were the future plans of SpaceX.  We had a ton of people at this one. Everyone was interested in knowing what is was like to work for SpaceX . Students asked a ton of questions at the end.

It was an awesome year for speakers and we hope to continue this next year. A couple of things about speakers, you need to be flexible because of their schedules. We did most of our talks after school. Also make sure you can use your internet connection with Skype sometimes school networks will  block Skype. All the talks were well worth it and the most positive experience ever for our students. By showing them the different STEM careers available, maybe they will want to choose one of these career paths.  That is the goal and purpose of our club and having these speakers.

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.

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.