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: Robotics & Automation

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.

Robotics and Automation (EOY) Final Exam – Test

Robotics and Automation (EOY) Final Exam – Answer Key

Robotic Classification Systems Notes

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

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.

Robotic Systems Classifications Exam

We have spent the past 2 weeks covering 5 different classification systems of robotic and automated systems.

We have covered degrees of freedom, drive technology, kinematic structure, motion characteristics, and workspace geometry.

Robotic Classification Systems Notes

At the conclusion of this unit, students were given a review guide and an exam.

Robotics Classifications Exam

Robotics Classifications Exam Key

The results will be posted following the administration of the exam.

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)

Robotics – Semester Grade Closing

The semester exam in Robotics & Automation was given today and the final grades for this course are ready for posting.

1st Semester - Robotics & Automation (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester – Robotics & Automation (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester - Robotics & Automation (Post-Exam)
1st Semester – Robotics & Automation (Post-Exam)

As you can see, the semester exam had no impact on the grades for this course.

F’s = 0 < – > 0
C’s = 1 < – > 1
B’s = 4 < – > 4
A’s = 13 < – > 13

This class had a semester failure rate of 0.00%.

Pre-Exam Grades

It seems we were just talking about grades and here we are at the conclusion of the first semester! Hard to believe that we are now at the midway point of the 2016/2017 school year.

As we come into semester exams week, I have run my current S1 reports which factor Q1 and Q2 but don’t have a semester exam calculated in.

Computer Science I

1st Semester - Computer Science I (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester – Computer Science I (Pre-Exam)

As you can see, the grades in Computer Science for S1 led to a double-hump camel and not a nice bell curve. While we have a nice spike in the 80’s (42.85%), we have another smaller spike in the 50’s (14.28%).

Currently, this class has failure rate of 21.43%. Hopefully, the semester exam will be enough to pull some of those failures up to passes.

Principles of Technology

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

As you can see here, the grades don’t give us a nice bell, but there is no double-hump. At present, 44% of the students in the class are holding an “A” for the semester.

Currently, the class has a failure rate of 4%.

Robotics & Automation

1st Semester - Robotics & Automation (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester – Robotics & Automation (Pre-Exam)

As you can see here, the grades give us a nice bell, but it spikes in the 90’s. At present, 72% of the students in the class are holding an “A” for the semester with 38% of those holding a 100%.

Currently, this class has a 0% failure rate!

Business Information Management I

1st Semester - Business Information Management - 2B (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester – Business Information Management – 2B (Pre-Exam)

 

1st Semester - Business Information Management - 3B (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester – Business Information Management – 3B (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester - Business Information Management - 4B (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester – Business Information Management – 4B (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester - Business Information Management - 4A (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester – Business Information Management – 4A (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester - Business Information Management - All Sections (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester – Business Information Management – All Sections (Pre-Exam)

As you can see, all of these classes have a heavy shift to the A’s with 71% of all students enrolled. Just under 22% of students are evenly split between B’s and C’s.

Currently, all BIM classes together have just over a 7% failure rate for the semester.

 

Progress Report 4 Grades

It’s once again that time. It’s time for progress reports. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked by my students if they can lose their eligibility or can only re-gain it at this progress check. As a UIL coach, I have to say that’s not filling me with a lot of confidence as we come into the proverbial home-stretch of the semester.

For the record, students can only lose eligibility at a report card (each 9-weeks) and at the state-mandated 6-week grade check that is obviously 6-weeks into the start of the school year.

This progress check, I also began to adjust grades to be in alignment with the campus policies for grade distribution. In the graphs below, the blue represents the original (uncurved) grades for the grading period and the red 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.

Progress Report 4 - Computer Science I
Progress Report 4 – Computer Science I
Progress Report 4 - Principles of Technology
Progress Report 4 – Principles of Technology
Progress Report 4 - Robotics
Progress Report 4 – Robotics
Progress Report 4 - BIM (All Sections)
Progress Report 4 – BIM (All Sections)

While it appears that some classes tremendously benefited from the modifications (e.g. Computer Science I) and other received little benefit (e.g. BIM – All Sections), remember that you are looking at percentages and not actual numbers.

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

  • Computer Science I – 14 Students (1 Section)
  • Principles of Technology – 25 Students (1 Section)
  • Robotics & Automation – 18 Students (1 Section)
  • Business Information Management I – 83 Students (4 Sections)

As you can see, in some of the classes, an adjustment to the grades of 2 students can reflect as a major grade shift in some classes (e.g. 14% in Computer Science I) and a minor grade shift in other classes (e.g. 2% in BIM – All Sections).

QR Robotics Classification

Upon returning from Thanksgiving break, we’ll be looking at standard classification systems for robotic and automation systems. To start with, we’ll be doing a QR knowledge hunt.

Robot Classification Knowledge Hunt Cards

Classification Knowledge Hunt Card #1
Classification Knowledge Hunt Card #1

The 17 cards are placed on the walls around random parts of the main hallway. Unlike in my larger classes, everyone will be able to start at a set question and will not have to work in groups. Each student must move through all 17 cards in any order they would like as long as there is no unnecessary “congregating” around any single card.

This particular knowledge hunt requires the students to utilize a QR scanner to “read” the question.

They must scan the QR code and then either use their existing knowledge or research skills to answer the question. The answers are then recorded on a provided answer document, which is submitted for a grade.

Progress Report 3 Grades

It has been 3 weeks since the 1st quarter of the school year wrapped-up. As such, we’re at another grade check – Progress Report 3.

As this is a progress report, students cannot lose eligibility per UIL guideline, they can only regain eligibility if they lost it 3 weeks ago when the 1st quarter ended.

Following is how my 4 courses performed at this grade check.

Computer Science I

For the past 3 weeks, Computer Science I has had 1 quiz grade and 5 daily grades. One of those daily grades was eligible for a grade drop as there was an unusual disruption to the instruction that day.

Progress Report 3 - Computer Science I
Progress Report 3 – Computer Science I

As you can see, the grades are starting to separate considerably from where they were in prior grading cycles. This grading cycle has had a challenging concept covered for much of its duration: Base-2, Base-8, Base-10, and Base-16 numbering systems and conversions between and arithmetic within those systems.

Robotics

For the past 3 weeks, Robotics has had only 4 daily grades.

Progress Report 3 - Robotics
Progress Report 3 – Robotics

As is the case with Computer Science, the grades have started to separate considerably from where they were in prior grading cycles. Nothing during this grading cycle has been very difficult, but some students have elected to not participate and their grades reflect this decision.

Principles of Technology

For the past 3 weeks, Principles of Technology has had 3 daily grades, 1 quiz grade (Egg Drop Project) and 1 test grade (Unit 2).

Progress Report 3 - Principles of Technology
Progress Report 3 – Principles of Technology

Unlike the preceding two classes, this class is relatively tightly packed in the 70+ range with a peak in the 90+ range. Given the materials covered, I am relatively pleased with these grades.

Business Information Management I

For the past 3 weeks, all 4 of my BIM classes have had 4 daily grades and 1 test grade (Tables in MS Word).

Progress Report 3 - BIM 2B
Progress Report 3 – BIM 2B
Progress Report 3 - BIM 3B
Progress Report 3 – BIM 3B
Progress Report 3 - BIM 4B
Progress Report 3 – BIM 4B
Progress Report 3 - BIM 4A
Progress Report 3 – BIM 4A

As you can see, several of the BIM classes have multiples A’s as well as multiple failures with the exception of BIM 3B. Many students have elected to not submit class assignments or their tests or both. As such, this has had a major impact on their grades. All students who have submitted work are passing.