FIRST in Texas Round 1 Grant Awards

FIRST in Texas Foundation Logo
FIRST in Texas Foundation

The FIRST in Texas Foundation began notifying recipients of their grant awards from the first round of grant application processing on Friday, 28-October-2016.

FTC 11242 (Error 404) from Ferris High School is proud to announce that it has received an award letter from the Texas Workforce Commission for a grant in the amount of 1,525.00 for the 2016/2017 FIRST Tech Challenge Season!

Texas Workforce Commission Logo
Texas Workforce Commission

Texas Workforce Commission is the first official sponsor for FTC 11242 and we are proud to have their support and thank them for their sponsorship.

The grant is set-up to cover the season league fees of $250.00 and can then be used for qualifying expenses for materials and resources. With $250.00 allocated for play within the Citrine League of North Texas, that leaves $1,275.00 for materials and resources.

We will be seeking reimbursement of our $275.00 national registration fee which can then be applied as a credit with Pitsco. We will be using that credit to purchase components where Pitsco is a sole-source supplier.

AndyMark Logo
AndyMark Logo

The remaining $1,000.00 will be used to purchase items from AndyMark such as components of the Velocity Vortex game and parts for the robot.

We are once again, very thankful for the support of the Texas Workforce Commission and their continued support of FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition.

Eggs Away! Look Out Below!

Egg Drop Experiment
Egg Drop Experiment

In my Principles of Technology class, we performed the classic “egg drop” rig building experiment. As this is a fundamental physics class, we’re using this to discuss Unit 2: Conservation of Energy and Momentum where we cover Newton’s 3 laws of motion.

The students were given three 90-minute class sessions to research ideas for their drop rigs and to build them.

Following these three class sessions, we performed the drops.

The first drop was done from the ground at a height of 2 meters (~6.56 feet). Of the 20 rigs that were dropped, 18 survived and 2 failed.

The second drop was done from the basket of a pneumatic boom lift at a height of 7 meters (~22.96 feet). Of the 18 rigs that were dropped, 10 survived and 8 failed.

The third drop was also done from the basket on the boom.lift at a height of 15.5 meters (~50.85 feet). Of the 10 rigs that were dropped, 5 survived and 5 failed.

The final drop was done like the third drop, but each rig was thrown as opposed to only being accelerated by gravity. Of the 5 rigs that were thrown, 3 survived and were declared the “winner” and 2 failed.

Panoramic Image from Lift of FHS
Panoramic Image from Lift of FHS

Following the last drop, I took a quick panoramic picture using Google Cardboard Camera. It was a nice view around Ferris today!

Base 10, 2, & 8 Addition and Subtraction Worksheet

A few weeks ago I covered base-10 (decimal), base-2 (binary), base-8 (octal), and base-16 (hexadecimal) number systems with my UIL Computer Science team. I am now getting to that same concept with my Computer Science I class.

I am starting with the basics of bases 10, 2, and 8 on the first day. We’ll cover what they are and then how to add and subtract numbers within those numbering systems. Of course, for base-10, this should be very easy. However, I realized that covering the mechanics of what actually happens when you add or subtract numbers in base-10 tremendously helps when covering the other numbering systems.

Following this exercise, we’ll add base-16 to the mix and then discuss how to convert between the systems.

Robotics Parts Are Coming!

PITSCO Education Logo
PITSCO Education Logo

After several weeks and months of preparing for this moment, we now have robotics parts on order!

Our first parts will be coming in from PITSCO shortly and will consist of our TETRIX Competition Kit of Parts set as well as additional TETRIX components that are needed that are not part of the basic KOP.

We also ordered a starter communications bundle from PITSCO which contains two Moto – G Second Generation phones, two Logitech control pads, OTG cables for the phones, and a USB hub to allow for the control pads to interface with the driver station phone.

AndyMark Logo
AndyMark Logo

We also have parts en route from AndyMark, which is providing the upgraded motors for our robot along with some of the competition field materials, such as the beacons for us to practice with for the season.

We are extremely happy to have AndyMark as one of our vendors this season and look forward to working with them in future seasons as we expand our program further.

McMaster-Carr Logo
McMaster-Carr Logo

McMaster-Carr is our supplier for general mechanical parts and fasteners. They are providing all of our nuts, bolts, washers, screws, and hand-tools for the robotics team. All of the parts we are using from McMaster-Carr are stainless steel to replace the aluminum parts provided in the PITSCO KOP.

We were going to use Grainger for these parts, but McMaster-Carr had exactly what we needed and Grainger had some of the exact parts and only approximations of others.

Amazon Logo
Amazon Logo

Finally, we have a our “catch-all” vendor – Amazon. We are receiving numerous items from Amazon that we could otherwise not get from other vendors easily.

We are also using Amazon to purchase all of the Anderson PowerPole products that we need that we cannot purchase from PowerWerx. Unfortunately, PowerWerx only sells products to pre-pay customers. Public school districts are typically post-pay. As such, we had to go with another vendor to get the parts that we needed.

In addition to these Anderson PowerPole products, we are also purchasing battery chargers, safety glasses, fuses, and numerous other components from Amazon for our competition team.

1st Quarter Grades

The first 25% of the 2016/2017 Academic Year is now in the books! Hard to believe – but, it’s true. This past Friday, 14-October-2016 marked the end of the first 9-week grading quarter of the year.

Here’s a recap of how the grades broke out for my various classes:

Computer Science I (1B)

Q1 2016 Grade Summary - Computer Science
Q1 2016 Grade Summary – Computer Science

This quarter ended with an introduction into iterations, which is one of the more challenging concepts for students to comprehend. As such, the grades fluctuated a little bit at the end of the grading cycle.

The only 2 failures were due to poor performance on the unit tests and not taking advantage of the opportunity to submit corrections to bring the grades higher.

Principles of Technology (2A)

Q1 2016 Grade Summary - Principles of Technology
Q1 2016 Grade Summary – Principles of Technology

The quarter ended with an introduction to Conservation of Energy and Momentum. The only two failures in the class were not a direct result of poor performance on a test, but due to lack of participating on projects.

The only 2 failing students elected to not participate on various major projects during the first quarter (e.g. air skimmer, water bottle rocket, etc…).

Robotics & Automation (3A)

Q1 2016 Grade Summary - Robotics and Automation
Q1 2016 Grade Summary – Robotics and Automation

Unlike the previous two classes, all students in this class passed all objectives for the quarter. Any low-grades were once again due to students not submitting work and not due to lack of understanding.

Business Information Management I (2B)

Q1 2016 Grade Summary - Business Information Management (2B)
Q1 2016 Grade Summary – Business Information Management (2B)

While the graph shows 1 student failing this class during this period, that grade was adjusted up to passing as it was within the 69.0 to 69.9 range. I personally do not let students sit on a “9”. I always override and round up the 69, 79, and 89.

As such, like the 3A Robotics and Automation class, this class had no failures!

Business Information Management I (3B)

Q1 2016 Grade Summary - Business Information Management (3B)
Q1 2016 Grade Summary – Business Information Management (3B)

Like the BIM class before it, this class had no failures! However, this class genuinely had zero failures and also held the highest average of all of my BIM classes! Way to go BIM 3B!

Business Information Management I (4A)

Q1 2016 Grade Summary - Business Information Management (4A)
Q1 2016 Grade Summary – Business Information Management (4A)

Like the BIM class before it, this class also genuinely had zero failures and came in a close second for the highest average of my BIM classes! Good work BIM 4A!

Business Information Management I (4B)

Q1 2016 Grade Summary - Business Information Management (4B)
Q1 2016 Grade Summary – Business Information Management (4B)

Like the BIM class before it, this class also genuinely had zero failures. However, this class had the highest number of low-C’s of any of the BIM classes. I am going to need to watch this class closely as there were far too many students who were too close to falling below the cut-off for my comfort.

What Will Be Changing

As we enter the 2nd Quarter of the year a few things will be changing in all of my classes.

  1. Seating chart will be established for Computer Science I to cut down on incidents of students disrupting class and interfering with learning.
  2. Seating chart will be established for Principles of Technology to address incidents of student disruptions.
  3. Seating chart will be established for Business Information Management (4B) to address student interactions that are preventing work from being completed in a timely manner.
  4. Students who fail to complete an assignment will be immediately assigned to come in for lunch/advisory on that day if in 1st or 2nd periods and on the next day if in 3rd or 4th periods.
  5. Students will not be allowed to take “breaks” on the computers when working. They will be allowed to listen to music, but video games will be blocked until complete and proper work is submitted.
  6. Campus late policy will be implemented as written. Work will no longer be taken after 5 days from assigned date except in rare and extreme cases.

Iterations Exam 1

In Computer Science I, we have now completed our first exam over iterations. This was a high-level look at basic iterative structures such as:

  • for loops
  • while loops
  • nested while loops
  • do while loops

The test was administered in a single 90-minute class and then reviewed for corrections which were submitted during the next class session.

Computer Science Unit 2 Test Grade Distribution
Computer Science Unit 2 Test Grade Distribution

The raw (uncurved) exam grades came in with a MEDIAN of 53% and a MEAN of 60.4%. The curved exam grades had a final MEDIAN of 74.05% and a MEAN of 77.8%.

Following validation of the 25 questions, it was determined that only 1 question (#6) was a bad question and was discarded. The remaining 24 questions were considered valid and correct.

Why Wait ‘Til the End?!?!?!?

As we rapidly approach the conclusion of the last day of our 9-weeks grading cycle, I have a plethora of students who are asking what they can do in order to bring their grades up.

While this in and of itself is not unusual (this is my 14th year working in education), what frustrates me is the number of them who are in what is arguably the easiest of my 4 classes (Business Information Management).

Everything in this class is handed to the students in step-by-step instructions with screen shots. All students must do is follow the instructions, whether they are reading on their own or following along with me, and then submit their work when done.

While I do not feel that I will ultimately have very many failures in this class, it frustrates me that many choose to wait until the end of the grading cycle to perform. Why just not perform the entire time and the stress level will be much lower?

Android Studio Setup for FTC

Robotics Laptops Are Ready
Robotics Laptops Are Ready

Finally got around to setting up the FTC programming team laptops with Android Studio today. We’re using 4 HP EliteBook 840 laptops for programming and 1 HP EliteBook 840 for our design and mechanical team.

The plan is to setup all of the hardware to interface with Github for a common development repository for our FTC programming efforts. Obviously, the programming team will be working with this repository much more than the design and mechanical team will.

Once the laptops were ready, Android Studio was downloaded and installed. The installation went fairly smoothly. The SDK that was installed at this time was for Android 5.0 as this is what our driver station and on-board phones will be running.

Motorola G 2nd Generation

We’ll be running the Motorola G 2nd Generation as both our driver station and on-board phones.

We purchased them as part of the starter kit from PITSCO this year. After the ZTE Speed, the Moto-G 2nd Generation appears to be the next smallest volume phone. As we’ll be fighting for every cubic millimeter of space inside the robot, we need to go with the smallest hardware when possible.

Now, to find CAD files of this phone so my design and mechanical team can build a mounting system to hold this and an OTG cable inside the robot.

Proposal for 2017/2018 Robotics Program Expansion in Draft

Well, my proposal for the expanded robotics program has started to take shape and I’ve started discussing it with my district leadership as outlined as one of my T-TESS professional goals.

The initial discussion has been very positive and looks like it has a high degree of being adopted by the district for the 2017/2018 school year.

The possible schedules and classes are as follows:

Proposed Schedule 1

08:00 – 08:53 FJH – Robotics 6 (FLL) or STEM Lab
08:58 – 10:01 FJH – Robotics 7/8 (FTC)
10:06 – 10:59 FJH – Conference/Planning
11:10 – 12:20 FHS – Lunch & Advisory
12:25 – 13:55 FHS – AP Computer Science I [A-Day]
14:00 – 15:30 FHS – Robotics I (FTC) [A-Day]
12:25 – 13:55 FHS – AP Computer Science II [B-Day]
14:00 – 15:30 FHS – Robotics II (FRC) [B-Day]

Proposed Schedule 2

08:00 – 09:30 FHS – AP Computer Science I [A-Day]
09:35 – 11:10 FHS – Robotics I (FTC) [A-Day]
08:00 – 09:30 FHS – AP Computer Science II [B-Day]
09:35 – 11:10 FHS – Robotics II (FRC) [B-Day]
11:10 – 12:20 FHS – Lunch & Advisory
12:41 – 13:34 FJH – Conference/Planning
13:39 – 14:32 FJH – Robotics 7/8 (FTC)
14:37 – 15:30 FJH – Robotics 6 (FLL) or STEM Lab

Next Step

My next step is to go see our STEM Lab at FJH in action with students engaged in it. I’ll also be going over to evaluate components and equipment they are currently using and how a robotics team could be implemented in conjunction with it, namely with the 6th graders. For the 7th/8th graders, the plan is to simply offer a second STEM elective as a robotics course that aligns with FTC.

Funding Sources

I am also in the process of working with Samantha Bradbury – STEM Co-Coordinator for Education Service Center – Region 10 to communicate with program teachers and coordinators across the region to identify where junior high-level robotics programs can and are being funded from.

Microsoft Word Exam #1

bim-2010-bookWe recently gave the first exam for Microsoft Word. In our textbook, Microsoft Word was broken into 4 distinct units (A, B, C, and D).

We started the school year working on developing or refining keyboarding skills using Alfatyping. As such, we didn’t get started in the book until mid-September.

Our current grading cycle closes on 14-October. Up to this point, we have only covered through Unit C of Microsoft Word. At the conclusion of each unit we have given a unit “concepts quiz” and have taken numerous daily grades. Unfortunately, we have not yet had the opportunity to take a major grade.

After some discussion, we agreed to create an “intermediate” exam that would cover only Units A, B, and C. We created both an application (hands-on) exam and a concepts (knowledge) exam. The plan is to utilize the materials created by my predecessor (who is no longer able to teach BIM due to additional administrative duties) for an “end of Word” exam that would cover Units A, B, C, and D.

Our application test was the following:

Students were presented with a file with partial content and a set of 20 instructions to complete for formatting. They also had to complete the content in the file. Each major numbered task was worth 5 points.

Our concepts test was the following:

Students were presented with a total of 30 multiple choice questions. Approximately 10 questions from each unit (A, B, & C) were presented to the students.

Students were told that the exam was “open resource” and they were welcome to use whatever research techniques they had at their disposal. Examples of using the book, searching online, and discussing with a neighbor were all presented to the students.

Both tests were given over 2 90-minute classes. The application test was presented at the start of the first 90-minute class while the concepts test was presented at the start of the second 90-minute class.

On average, 65% of students completed the application test by the conclusion of the first 90-minute class. The remaining 35% completed the application test by the conclusion of the second 90-minute class following their work on the concepts test.