2016-2017 Year In Review

Well, here I am – the last day of the 2016-2017 school year. It’s been a great ride this year.

June 2016

I had the experience of attending my first Advanced Placement Summer Institute! This was to prepare us for AP Computer Science Principles (AP Computer Science I).

This particular APSI was different from others in that it was not run by College Board, but by the UTeach Institute at University of Texas through the National Science Foundation.

July 2016

After learning about Computer Science in June, I shifted gears to learn about FIRST Robotics. I got to attend a week-long hands-on workshop with Freid Elliott of Dallas ISD and Dr. Patrick Michaud of University of Texas: Dallas.

This training was invaluable in preparing me for the launch of our new robotics program at Ferris High School. Without this workshop, I couldn’t even guess as to how long it would have taken us to get our robot moving.

August 2016

For the first time since August 2012, I had the opportunity to start a school year in a high school! I was very happy to be returning to high school for a full-year.

In August of 2013 and August 2014, I was teaching at The Art Institute of Dallas and in August 2015, I was teaching 4th grade at Ferris Intermediate School.

This year, I taught 1 section of Computer Science, 1 section of Robotics & Automation, 1 section of Principles of Technology/Physics, and 4 sections of Business Information Management (BIM).

September 2016

Now that the school-year was fully underway, I got started on teaching material.

In Computer Science, we hit the ground running with programming in JAVA. In Principles of Technology, we built pressurized soda-bottle rockets and launched them!

In Robotics & Automation, we had the reveal of the game for the 2016/2017 season – Velocity Vortex! It was exciting to see the gears turning as my students started planning how to address the challenge of the game for this year. They were very excited to start designing and building the robot for the game!

My robotics class had the opportunity to work on the Finch robots that were loaned to us from Carnegie Mellon University.

October 2016

Now that we knew the game for robotics, we started having “Come As You Can” (CAYC) workdays on Saturdays for students to come up to the high school and work on the robot.

Here, students were encouraged to come up to the high school to work on the contest robot. I would have the lab open and it was a self-paced workday. Each CAYC workday was typically 8 to 12 hours.

In addition to the robotics CAYC workdays, I had fun with my Principles of Technology class with an egg drop experiment. Here, they had to create a rig that could cushion the fall of a raw egg dropped from a considerable height.

There were 3 rigs that no matter the height, the egg survived again and again. I was very pleased. In the follow-up, the groups had to calculate the force their rig struck the ground with.

November 2016

The robotics team did the majority of their hardware work during this month. This was the month that we got the robot moving!

This was also when we had our only season scrimmage for robotics.

This was our first experience with one of the guiding principles of FIRST Robotics – “Coopertition”. This is the idea of cooperative competition. While this was a scrimmage in that we were able to see what the robots of others teams were able to do, it was also a workshop for us to be able to refine our skills and the build of our robot.

During this month, Principles of Technology worked on creating mouse trap racers.

They had the chance to demonstrate their ability to mix-and-match parts to maximize their designs.

The parts for this project were donated from Donors Choose over the summer in preparation for the school year.

December 2016

As we began to wind-down the 2016 calendar year, the robotics team arrived at their first of 3 league meets which was hosted at Ferris High School.

The robotics team performed very well in their first outing and assumed 2nd place in the season standings. This was an outstanding way to start our inaugural season of FIRST Tech Challenge robotics!

UIL Computer Science also kicked off this month with its first virtual meet. Back in the 2015/2016 academic year, the UIL Computer Science team advanced on its own to UIL Regional competition as a student-run after-school club!

January 2017

This month saw two robotics league meets. Both of these meets were at Mansfield Ben Barber Innovation Academy.

In addition, between the two league meets, the robotics team presented at Ferris Intermediate School addressing the disproportionate representation of girls in STEM fields.

The various members of the robotics team had an enjoyable time working with the students at FIS!

February 2017

This month was really “hot” in multiple ways. The robotics team hosted the league tournament at Ferris High School.

ERROR 404, the FHS robotics team, entered the tournament in 4th place and by the end of the day was solidly in 3rd place.

The team performed very well and had a strong alliance partner as they advanced into the elimination round of the tournament. Unfortunately, we saw the season come to an end in the blink of an eye when a spectator turned on a WiFi hotspot on their phone, which caused our robot to stop.

The Tuesday following the league meet, the month got even hotter when an experiment in my Principles of Technology class went very wrong!

Just 4 days after that fire, the Computer Science team performed in its only face-to-face invitational meet in Mabank. The team from Ferris High School finished in 1st place at the invite!

March 2017

As robotics shifted into off-season mode, and I was looking to regain footing by retooling some experiments in Principles of Technology, March was all about Computer Science.

In late-March, the UIL Computer Science team competed in the UIL District Tournament where they finished in 1st place and advanced to the UIL Regional Tournament!

I was extremely proud of how our team captain performed at this tournament and his decision to hand over the reins to his successor so she could gain some experience in the role she has shadowed for the past two seasons.

April 2017

As we had “played with fire” in February in Principles of Technology, I elected that water would be much safer for us to play with.

So, in mid-April, Principles of Technology built water balloon launchers and launched to strike targets at 20, 40, and 50 yards. To make this more fun, the targets were Mr. Mack McClesky (FHS Assistant Principal), myself, and Dr. Kevin Dixon (FHS Principal) respectively.

Students had to calculate maximum range, height, and launch angles in this experiment!

In addition to getting soaked, this month was also the UIL Computer Science team appearance at the UIL Regional Tournament at Texas A&M University: Commerce.

The UIL Computer Science team had a bit of a rough performance at the UIL Regional Tournament. I believe this was in-part due to over-preparing.

I appreciated with enthusiasm of the team members, but I think they over-worked themselves and succumbed to “brain drain” and fatigue ultimately did them in and they were just overwhelmed with information as they went into the test.

While we did not perform as well on the written test, the team demonstrated outstanding growth on the hands-on test. In 2015/2016, the team solved no hands-on problems at the UIL Regional Tournament. In contrast, the team solved 3 hands-on problems at the UIL Regional Tournament in 2016/2017!

On a personal note, April was when I said “Goodbye” to my home of 9 years in Forney.

For two of my children, this is the only house they really remember. Over the past several years, we have seen Forney grow from a semi-rural community to a suburban community where possessions and materialism have taken over and you are solely based upon what you have and how much you have.

We elected to move to the community where I teach in and where my oldest daughter elected to attend junior high at – Ferris.

It was a bit of a shift to go from a home that we built and was only 10 years old to a home that is over 100 years old. Our new home was built in 1894 and is now 123 years old! The pace of life in this community is wonderful and I would not go back to the suburban rush ever again, if I can have any say in it!

May 2017

Now, we have come full-circle. It has been a year! Both Robotics and Computer Science are in off-season mode and preparing for next year.

Principles of Technology finished the year with a project similar to the one we started the year with, using the 2-liter soda bottles. Unlike the project at the start of the year, students had to create an air foil to achieve non-projectile motion flight with the thrust provided by the pressurized 2-liter soda bottle.

I am looking forward to seeing my graduates walk across that stage and close one chapter in their lives and open the next new chapter! I am excited to hear how they continue to mature, grow, and develop.

I am very excited to see the programs and teams that were launched this year continue to develop next year.

In 2017/2018, we will be launching 2 new engineering courses:

  • Principles of Applied Engineering
  • Engineering Design & Problem Solving

In addition to those two new courses, we will be streamlining the robotics courses:

  • Robotics I
  • Robotics II

We will also be expanding our Computer Science program:

  • Computer Science I (based on AP Computer Science Principles)
  • Computer Science II (based on AP Computer Science – A)

I am extremely blessed to work for a school district and on a campus that supports my out-of-the-box teaching style and methods. I look forward to continuing to work in Ferris and with the children of this community.

A Real Final Exam: Principles of Technology

Well, since entering K-12 education in the 2004/2005 school year, I have now written and administered my first “real” semester exams!

While I have always given exams at the conclusion of the semesters, I have never really given a genuine exam “experience”. There would be a test. That test usually consisted of 50 questions. 25 of the questions were True/False and 25 were Multiple Choice. The students were given a single sentence review guide of “Always Be True to Yourself”.

Now, with that as the review guide, I think you could safely guess that the answers were “B” and “True”. Your guess would be correct. Sadly, I did have students fail that test.

The test was not a “give-me grade” since there was usually a major end-of-year project that the majority of their semester grade was based upon. This final was created so we could simply check a box that said we gave a paper final.

This year, I opted to write and administer a genuine rigorous exam as I was not using any major end-of-year projects.

Principles of Technology (EOY) Final Exam – Test

Principles of Technology (EOY) Final Exam – Answer Key

Maximum Height & Range Calculator

As you can see, this is a bit more rigorous of a test. In fact, all of the questions require a calculated answer.

As I have several students who have had no exposure to trigonometry, I have had to provide them with an Excel spreadsheet that has the formulas for solving maximum height and range problems. That spreadsheet is provided above.

Once the tests are completed, I will analyze student performance in another post.

Spring Exam Exemptions

It is that time of the year again. It’s time for spring semester exams and ’tis exemption season! This is the season when students start seeking if they qualify to be exempt from having to take the semester exam in a given class.

Each school I have had the opportunity to work at does this process differently and each school has used different criteria to determine eligibility for exemptions.

Exemptions (Spring 2017 Finals)
Exemptions (Spring 2017 Finals)

Here, you can see that I have a total of 146 students. There are 88 students enrolled in Business Information Management (BIM) across 4 sections. There are 15 students in my single section of Computer Science I. There are 25 students in my single section of Principles of Technology. There are 18 students in my single section of Robotics & Automation.

As you can see in the chart, 51 of the 88 BIM students are eligible to be exempt from their spring semester exam. This means that 57.9% of my BIM students are eligible to be exempt from their exam!

In Computer Science, that percentage rises to 66.7% are exempt and in Robotics and Automation is continued to climb us to 72.2%!

Unfortunately, in my Principles of Technology, the percentage plummets to 48%. This has been due to poor grade performance because many teams elected to not submit required documentation with their projects throughout the semester.

As Computer Science, Robotics & Automation, and Principles of Technology are stand-alone single-section courses, let’s take a quick look at how each of the BIM sections performed individually.

BIM Exemptions (Spring 2017 Finals)
BIM Exemptions (Spring 2017 Finals)

Here is the break-out of the 4 sections of BIM that I teach.

While the average for all 4 sections of BIM was 57.9%, 1 section performed well above that average, 1 section section performed well below that average, and the other 2 held pretty close to that average.

  • 2(B) has 10 of 23 students qualifying for exemptions, which is 43.4%.
  • 3(B) has 14 of 23 students qualifying for exemptions, which is 60.8%.
  • 4(B) has 14 of 19 students qualifying for exemptions, which is 73.6%.
  • 4(A) has 13 of 23 students qualifying for exemptions, which is 56.5%.

Compared to past years, this is close to what I have experienced as far as exam exemption qualification is concerned.

Launch Angle, Velocity, Range, and Height

In my Principles of Technology class, we are preparing for a water balloon launching project. Teams have to build a rig to launch a water balloon at a target.

The targets are placed at fixed intervals of 20 yards, 40 yards, and 50 yards from the launchers. At each target site will be either a school administrator or myself.

Before launching, each team must present their mathematical proofs of concept of how they ensure they hit their target(s).

Leading up to several days of building, we are taking a test over these calculations.

Launch Angle Calculator

Launch Angle Exam Review Guide

Launch Angle Exam Review Guide Answers

As several of my students have not yet covered Trigonometric mathematics, I have provided a quick “plug-and-chug” worksheet in Excel that solves for the missing equations.

It will solve for the following:

  • H when given Vo and Theta
    • =((((B2)^2)*((SIN(B4))^2)))/(2*B5)
  • R when given Vo and Theta
    • =((((C2)^2)*((SIN(2*C4)))))/(B5)
  • Vo when given H and Theta
    • =SQRT((D6*(2*D5))/((SIN(D4))^2))
  • Vo when given R and Theta
    • =SQRT((E7*E5)/(SIN(2*E4)))
  • Theta when given Vo and H
    • =ASIN(SQRT((F6*(2*F5))/((F2)^2)))
  • Theta when given Vo and R
    • =ASIN((G7*G5)/((G2)^2))/2

Projectile Motion Worksheet #2

My Principles of Technology class is continuing to work on the preparations for the projectile motion project of launching a water balloon at me from 40 yards away.

Today, we analyzed how to calculate the maximum height and maximum range of a projectile.

I first showed them the formulas and we pulled apart the variables:

Maximum Height and Range Formulas
Maximum Height and Range Formulas

We then discussed that the mass of the object does appear as any of the variables. We discussed why this is and then watched the following video:

Afterward, we started to work on the problems in the following online worksheet.

Projectile Motion Worksheet

The first 5 questions are short answer and will vary by student. The answers to the last 15 questions are provided at the link below:

Projectile Motion Worksheet Solutions

Up next, we will analyze drag coefficients and the impact of air/wind resistance on the flight path of the balloon.

We’ll then move into designing a launch apparatus that can launch the projectile at the correct angle and velocity.

Finally, we’ll move to testing. Fortunately, for this project, no fires!


Projectile Motion Worksheet #1

In my Principles of Technology class, we are starting to gear-up for a projectile motion project. The students will be working in teams and launching a water balloon at me from exactly 40 yards away.

In the first worksheet in the series, students were given a series of right triangles with sides A and B given. Sometimes the units were the same and other times they would have to convert units.

ABCx Triangle
ABCx Triangle

The students were asked to calculate the length of C in the most appropriate units and then calculate angle X using the trig function (sine, cosine, or tangent) of their choice.

All of my students were able to perform the first calculation using the Pythagorean Theorem. The second calculation, even through it was given step-by-step, was not completed by the majority of the students who are in Algebra I.

The claim was that they had never seen it before. Obviously, I countered with, “Well, you have now.”.

Getting Hot in Physics

Well, to say that today did not go as expected would be the understatement of the school year!

My Principles of Technology class has been working on building model rockets as part of a unit that was analyzing the physics concepts of impulse, velocity, and acceleration, the chemistry concept of balanced chemical equations/reactions, and the engineering concept of technical drawing/documentation.

Today was the day that we launched. We had 6 small single-stage rockets to launch in addition to 2 small two-stage rockets.

Each single-stage rocket was loaded with a single A-rated motor which would carry it to a total altitude of approximately 250 feet. Each two-stage rocket was loaded with two C-rated motors which would carry it to a total altitude of approximately 1,800 feet!

Before going outside, we verified the weather conditions, which showed winds from the west at 7 MPH with guests to 11 MPH. The humidity was 41% and dropping. We decided to launch from the west side of the property with the idea that the winds would carry the rockets onto the soccer fields which had recently been watered.

Rocket Launch Site
Rocket Launch Site

Our first launch of the morning performed as expected and came down next to the roadway by the launch site.

Our second launch of the day did not perform as well. The first stage of the rocket fired as designed and carried the rocket to around 900 feet. Unfortunately, the first stage did not properly separate as designed and the rocket began to tumble back to the ground.

After a few seconds, the second stage ignited which sent the rocket flying on the path it was pointing at, which was toward the ground west of our launch location and it ignited the cardboard frame of the first stage which was now in a free-fall into the field to the west of the launch location.

Rocket Crash Site
Rocket Crash Site

The rocket came down about 100 yards west of the launch pad and the first stage landed about 30 yards to the east of the crash site. Unfortunately, since the first stage was on fire when it landed and it landed in a field of 1 meter tall grass/hay, the field was quickly engulfed in fire.

Rocket Burn Area
Rocket Burn Area

Ultimately, the crash resulted in the burning of approximately 1 acre of grassland which is fortunately owned by the school.

Because of the quick response of the Ferris Fire Department, the fire was quickly contained and everyone was safe with the only loss being the grassland, the rocket launcher, and the rocket launch stand.

Burned Field
Burned Field
Burned Launcher in Grass
Burned Launcher in Grass
Burned Launcher Inside
Burned Launcher Inside

Quarter 2 Report Card Grades

It’s only been 3 weeks since we discussed grades, but it’s been 9-weeks since we last discussed grades in relation to loss of eligibility for UIL. We are closing out the 2nd quarter of the year and this is when students can both gain AND lose their eligibility.

Continuing the practice I started at PR4, I continued to adjust grades to be in alignment with the campus policies for grade distribution. In the graphs below, the black represents the original (uncurved) grades for the grading period and the orange represents the modified (curved) grades for the grading period.

The first cluster is percentage of A’s, the second cluster is percentage of B’s, the third cluster is percentage of C’s, and the final cluster is percentage of F’s.

2nd Quarter - Computer Science
2nd Quarter – Computer Science
2nd Quarter - Principles of Technology
2nd Quarter – Principles of Technology
2nd Quarter - Robotics & Automation
2nd Quarter – Robotics & Automation
2nd Quarter - BIM (All Sections)
2nd Quarter – BIM (All Sections)

At the time of this writing, my current enrollment numbers are as follows:

  • Computer Science I – 15 Students (1 Section)
  • Principles of Technology – 26 Students (1 Section)
  • Robotics & Automation – 18 Students (1 Section)
  • Business Information Management I – 84 Students (4 Sections)

Principles of Technology – Semester Grade Closing

The semester exam in Principles of Technology was given today and the final grades for this course are ready for posting.

1st Semester - Principles of Technology (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester – Principles of Technology (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester - Principles of Technology (Post-Exam)
1st Semester – Principles of Technology (Post-Exam)

As you can see, the grades in this class did shift to the right.

F’s = 1 < – > 0
C’s = 5 < – > 4
B’s = 8 < – > 10
A’s = 11 < – > 11

While the total number of A’s remained unchanged, the number of B’s increased and the number of C’s and F’s decreased.

This class had a semester failure rate of 0%!