STEAM: Wisdom from the Front Lines

Region 10Today, I had the opportunity to attend a professional development entitled STEAM: Wisdom from the Front Lines that was held at Brookhaven College and coordinated by Education Service Center: Region 10.

The training brought together, in a single room, STEAM educators from secondary and higher ed in an Ed Camp formatted one-day conference. While K-12 and higher ed coordinate with each other at the higher levels, they rarely coordinate at the local level. Today was a first for many of us.

We got to hear what higher ed would like in our graduates and they gave us ideas on projects and programs that we could implement to get them there. It was very insightful and helpful.

On a selfish note, I have recruited an additional team to our robotics league from Faith Family Academy in Waxahachie!

GT/STEM Drone Summer Camp – Day 3

GT STEM Drone Summer CampToday was the 3rd and final day of the GT/STEM Drone Summer Camp at Ferris Junior High School.

Teams had 2 hours to prepare for their attempts at solving the Eureka Dilemma. All attempts were completed before lunch as the forecast high temperature was 102. During the preparation phase, I setup the town of Eureka in the stadium parking lot placing the medical center landing pad at the exact location as written in the directions.

The first team to present a solution to the Eureka Dilemma was the Purple Team. Their flight was fully manual and clipped the medical center on landing. Their cargo pod remained secure.

The second team to present a solution to the Eureka Dilemma was the Green Team. Their flight was fully autonomous with the exception of the landing. They executed a perfect landing with a completely in-tact cargo pod.

The Orange Team created a program to bring their drone out over the stadium and then to turn North into the parking lot.

Unfortunately, their flight ended in a catastrophic crash into the rear of the press box on the stadium. The cargo pod survived the crash, but the drone did not.

In the scale map, the supplies crashed approximately 3 miles Northeast of Silverton, CO – too far for the citizens of Eureka to trek to secure them.

We ended the day creating water bottle rockets. As I could not find my bottle launcher, we dropped the rockets from the press box of the stadium. All bottles were filled with the same volume of water. There was a control rocket (unmodified 2-liter water bottle) and then each team created their own rocket. They had to create a rocket that could reach the ground quicker than the control (reduce drag) and then a rocket that could reach the ground slower than the control (increase drag).

 

GT/STEM Drone Summer Camp – Day 2

Today was Day 2 of the GT/STEM Drone Summer Camp at Ferris Junior High School.

As my G/T Coordinator said I talked too much yesterday, I elected to have my assistant lead the session today.

The goal of today was to perform autonomous programming on the drones in preparation of solving the “Eureka Dilemma”.

Drone Programming Tasks

Students were given blocks of tasks/challenges to complete.

The A-block tasks were somewhat simple and required only straight flights. All teams completed the A-block tasks with the exception of the Orange and Purple drones on task A-4. A reset of the drone and iPads resolved the problem.

The B-block tasks were intermediate level programming which required the drones to fly out to a pre-selected location, land, take-off, and then return to the departure point.

Task B-1 caused problems for all 3 teams as the camera pitch values were invalid and stopped the programs from running. This was resolved by removing the camera instructions.

All teams completed the B-1 task with no problems with the exception of the Purple drone. This drone initiated the RTH (return to home) protocol because the battery level dropped below 5%. Unfortunately, the UAV clipped a tree and somersaulted in the stadium parking lot. The UAV sustained some scratched and dents, but no major damage.

Task B-2 led many students to attempt a dry-run of the Eureka Dilemma. The Purple drone would not accept autonomous programming as it needs a firmware update following the crash. This will be done at the conclusion of the day.

The Orange team attempted a first-draft of the Eureka Dilemma, but drifted into the fence at the baseball field at the departure point and crashed.

The Green team attempted a first-draft of the Eureka Dilemma, ran the length of the West property line, turned 90 degrees to the right, ran along the North property line to the stadium, turned 90 degree to the right, flew South for about 20 feet and then landed, which put it down in the stadium parking lot with no problems.

Many teams also realized they can manually land the drone in the Eureka Dilemma and not need to program the landing.

The C-block tasks were simulated in the lab due to the extreme temperatures outside and the iPads inability to operate in the summer temperatures.

The Purple drone was updated to the latest firmware and was programmed and tested successfully. It is ready for the final day of the camp.

GT/STEM Drone Summer Camp – Day 1

Today was Day 1 of the GT/STEM Drone Summer Camp at Ferris Junior High School.

I opened the morning covering the basic principles of flight and lift. We started with creation of a basic paper helicopter.

We then moved to discuss the following concepts:

  • Lift/Weight
  • Thrust/Drag
  • Pitch
  • Roll
  • Yaw

We also discussed FAA guidelines for hobby flights and what we could and could not fly over and the 400 foot ceiling.

Following lunch, we moved outside to fly in small geofences and then on to free flight. I encouraged students to fly beyond the parking lot and pay attention to the telemetry being returned to the iPads.

Unfortunately, it was hot today and the iPads were shutting down in the heat, which caused a few problems.

When we returned to the room, the students were given the “Eureka Dilemma”, which was the problem the 3-day camp is based upon.

Homework was sent home on the first day that asked students to solve various thrust, drag, lift, and weight calculations.

At the conclusion of the day, the G/T coordinator said I talked too much and should have encouraged the students to research the answers and problems on their own.

GT STEM Camp Challenge Problem

In about a month, I will be leading a GT STEM Camp at Ferris Junior High School! The camp will run July 18th through 20th and will be based upon the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones).

I have spent the past few days drafting up the challenge problem they are to solve by the end of the camp.

The Eureka Dilemma

Above is a link to the draft of the challenge problem that I have written for them to solve. Take a look and let me know your opinion on it.

The students this will be given to are students rising into 8th grade and they will be using DroneBlocks for the programming of the drones. The drones to be used are DJI Phantom 3 Standard UAVs.

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.

At a Loss

I am actually at a loss for words, which is rare for me.

We are wrapping-up final exams and to-date, I have 3 students who have willfully chosen to not take their semester exam! These students did not qualify for an exemption and therefore receive the grade of a zero on their exam! The students are fully aware of this are do not care.

Why They Don’t Care

Currently, we run a 9-week quarter system. Quarters 1 and 2 comprise the fall semester and quarters 3 and 4 comprise the spring semester.

At the conclusion of each semester, we have a semester exam. Each of the two quarters is 45% of the semester average (combined for 90% of total grade) with the remaining 10% coming from the semester exam.

The two semester grades are equally averaged together to calculate a year-end grade. This grade is what is used to determine if a student receives credit for the course.

These 3 students have said that as long as they get credit for the year, they are fine to fail the semester.

What The Numbers Look Like

Let’s say that we have a student with the following grades:

Q1) 85 (B)
Q2) 75 (C)
SE1) 90 (A-)
S1) 81 (B-)
 
Q3) 70 (C-)
Q4) 61 (F)
SE2) 0 (F)
S2) 58.85 (F)
 
YR) 69.925 (F)

As you can see, this students finished the first semester with a low-B (81). They opted to not take the final exam and finished the second semester with an F (58.85). This resulted in them finishing the year with a 69.925. While this is technically passing, this is barely a pass and clearly does not demonstrate what the student is capable of.

Now, let’s look and see what happens if the student were to have taken the exam:

Q1) 85 (B)
Q2) 75 (C)
SE1) 90 (A-)
S1) 81 (B-)
 
Q3) 70 (C-)
Q4) 61 (F)
SE2) 88 (B+)
S2) 67.75 (F)
 
YR) 74.375 (C)

As you can see now, if the student were to simply take the exam and score an 88, which they scored higher than that on the first semester exam, they would finish the second semester with a 67.75, which is 8.9 points higher than if they took a zero on the exam.

For the year, they would finish with a 74.375. For GPA purposes, this is still a C, but it is a mid-C versus a low-C that was rounded-up from a high-F.

A Suggestion – Make It Count More!

I would suggest that we look at increasing the weight of the semester exam. At 10%, it has an impact on their grade, but not too much of one.

As opposed to a 45% / 45% / 10% split, maybe we should consider a 40% / 40% / 20% split. Here is how that would look with those grades from earlier:

Q1) 85 (B)
Q2) 75 (C)
SE1) 90 (A-)
S1) 82 (B-)
 
Q3) 70 (C-)
Q4) 61 (F)
SE2) 88 (B+)
S2) 70 (C-)
 
YR) 76 (C)

Using the 40% / 40% / 20% split, you can see that the semester average and therefore the year average is impacted greater.

Let’s see what happens when a students elects to take a zero on the exam:

Q1) 85 (B)
Q2) 75 (C)
SE1) 90 (A-)
S1) 82 (B-)
 
Q3) 70 (C-)
Q4) 61 (F)
SE2) 0 (F)
S2) 52.4 (F)
 
YR) 67.2 (F)

As you can see now, if a student were to decide to take a zero on the exam under the 40% / 40% / 20% split, they would fail the semester with a 67.2.

By all accounts, the student is academically able to perform they work, they are just unwilling to do it and know that they can still get their course credit.

What are your ideas to address the situation?

Panorama Fun

Had some extra time in my computer lab today to clean and put some materials on the walls finally. Also gave me an excuse to play with the panoramic camera apps I have on my phone. 😜

90° Camera Sweeps
90° Camera Sweep 1 of 4
90° Camera Sweep 1 of 4
90° Camera Sweep 2 of 4
90° Camera Sweep 2 of 4
90° Camera Sweep 3 of 4
90° Camera Sweep 3 of 4
90° Camera Sweep 4 of 4
90° Camera Sweep 4 of 4
180° Camera Sweeps
180° Camera Sweep 1 of 4
180° Camera Sweep 1 of 4
180° Camera Sweep 2 of 4
180° Camera Sweep 2 of 4
180° Camera Sweep 3 of 4
180° Camera Sweep 3 of 4
180° Camera Sweep 4 of 4
180° Camera Sweep 4 of 4
360° Camera Sweep
360° Camera Sweep
360° Camera Sweep

League Meet #2 – Lessons Learned

FIRST Tech ChallengeWe had our second league meet of the 2016/2017 season yesterday at the Ben Barber Career & Technology Academy in Mansfield, TX.

Team 11242 and our robot (Rufus) performed very well.

At the start of the meet, we were in 2nd place in the standings after only 1 league meet completed. At the end of the day, we slid to 3rd place for the season. However, we were tied with FTC Team 127 (Fighting Pickles) for qualifier points. Ultimately, the ranking points had to be used to break the tie – giving FTC 127 2nd place and FTC 11242 3rd place.

This meet was good as we got to see all 8 teams within the league. At the first league meet, 2 teams were unable to attend and 1 team had to forfeit at the event due to circumstances beyond their control.

Lessons Learned as an Event Coordinator
  • Do not generate the qualifier schedule until robot inspection is completed
    • We had 1 team (FTC 9582) who did not pass robot inspection but the schedule was already created and the first round of the contest already completed.
    • In this case, the team was allowed to compete, but had to remain powered-down and parked. They were “dead weight” for their alliance partners. However, they benefitted from having several strong alliance partners and did not finish in last place.
  • Do not change the order of the qualifier schedule once it’s compiled.
    • We had a few teams who wanted to make some last-minute adjustments to their robots before being called into the queueing area, where they are not allowed to make any changes to the robot. They asked if their rounds could be moved.
    • Once teams receive the qualifier schedule, they start staging resources based upon that schedule. For example, a team may choose to weight to do a quick repair on their robot knowing they are about to be off for a round or two and can move back to their pit.
  • A large screen for displaying the timers and scores is needed.
    • When we hosted the first league meet, we had this on a 21 inch monitor. This was too small.
    • I am going to secure a large projector screen and a projector for the league tournament.
  • The event coordinator does NOT need to be the emcee as well.
    • There are too many things going on at a tournament or meet that the event coordinator needs to manage and emcee duties can hinder this.
Lessons Learned in Regards to the Robot (from Students)
  • Watch for penalties! Use the timers when testing the robot in simulations.
    • We were hit with 2 major penalties during the day for crossing the center line of the field during the autonomous period before the first 10 seconds.
    • The first penalty would not have made a difference in winning or losing as we would have lost by 70 points as opposed to 110 points.
    • The second penalty made a H-U-G-E difference in the day. As opposed to losing by 20 points, we would have won by 20 points. In that round, we against the team we ultimately were tied with in the qualifier points tally. Had we not had that penalty, we would have finished the day in 1st place and been solidly in 2nd place for the season standings.
  • Don’t overcomplicate the game.
    • We have spent the majority of the season trying to determine how to effectively hit the button on the assigned half of the beacon during the autonomous period.
    • We realized the rules allow for an infinite number of button pushes during the autonomous mode.
    • So, we can drive up and just hit the beacon regardless of which button we hit or color we are assigned. We have a 50/50 shot of getting the correct color.
    • At this point, the color sensor will determine if the beacon is the correct color. If it is, we move on to the second beacon. If is isn’t we wait 5 seconds and just ram the beacon again. This will toggle the beacon to the other color.
    • If we have to change the color of the beacon, we’ll make sure to build in a check to verify the color before we move on to the second beacon.
  • A launcher for autonomous can’t be that hard to build.
    • We’ve been struggling to build a reliable intake and launching system for the small particles used in the game this year.
    • We’ve decided to just build a launcher. This will allow us to load 1 or 2 particles during autonomous to score points.
    • We’ll use a servo to push the balls into the correct position to be caught by the launching wheels.
    • These launches will occur at the start of the autonomous period while we are waiting to make sure we don’t get any penalties.
  • Servos stink at pushing beacon buttons.
    • The original design had called for servos to extend an actuator to push the beacon buttons.
    • Unfortunately, the beacon buttons are just a below the height of the game floor walls. As such, the actuator can actually get snagged on the wall.
    • When trying to break free, the servo horn is the weakest point in the system and typically fails. We have now lost two servos this way.
Lessons Learned in Regards to the Team (from Coach)
  • FTC 11242 is an outstanding team!
    • Our programming captain takes charge and can make on the fly changes to the program!
    • Our design and mechanical captain gets everything done on the robot that needs to be done and keeps us operational!
    • Our driver did an awesome job! He even saved another team who had gotten stuck on the base of the center vortex!
    • The members of the team support each other and showed the best of what Ferris has. I am very proud to be their coach!