Clean Classroom = Crazy Mind

As we come into the end of February, I have a strange thing happening in my classroom – it’s clean!

Usually, my classroom is a “vortex of chaotic creation”. We usually have tools, robots, computer parts, a robotics competition game floor, and an assortment of other random materials laying about in the classroom on tables and in cabinets.

As you can see, the robotics floor is out of the room and that opens up a massive amount of room!

We also have everything in the robotics closet organized!

We have all of the parts sorted in various bins and trays now and they are labeled. We can actually find stuff pretty quickly now!

We now have a dedicated “clean-up” time at the conclusion of each robotics class to ensure that everything gets put away in its proper place.

I am very happy to have a clean room, for the moment. It is very “unlike” me and has led a few to wonder if I have gone crazy!

Houston is “No Go”

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Ag Robotics event is this upcoming weekend (03-March-2018).

Ferris High School had all intentions of competing in this somewhat new event at HLSR this year. Regretfully, we’ve got a student scheduling conflict with UIL Solo & Ensemble and will be unable to attend the HLSR event.

In addition to being down a student, we are honestly not genuinely prepared for the event. While the build would be arguably easier than an FTC build, the programming is infinitely more complex and would rely on numerous bits of sensor data.

Due to the overlap between the FTC season and this event, I was not able to give this the attention it deserved and we were not able to really start working on it until just two weeks ago. That is just not enough time to build and program a competitive robot.

If I had been able to give it the attention it needed, I would make every effort to pull in an additional student to allow us to have a “full” team. However, the loss of one of the students just served as confirmation to me that we were not meant to do this event this year.

I am thinking of doing an “agricultural robotics event” as a possible FFA/FTC Robotics fund-raiser for next year. May look at something similar to the HLSR game or may go a completely different direction.

Draft Information Flier for Girls Robotics Summer Camps

Well, it’s looking like it’s going to be more and more of a reality. As we approach the end of February and wrap-up a successful week of touring at Ferris Intermediate with the FTC 11242 robot, it’s time to get an information flier ready for our girls robotics summer camps.

Still have a few logistical issues to iron-down and these fliers will be ready for prime-time. Hopefully, they’ll be ready to go out this time next week.

Number Conversions from Base 10

I have written a few posts (Post 1, Post 2, & Post 3) concerning various base number systems. In all of these posts, I covered how to convert from a non-decimal base into a decimal base. In other words, I covered how to get INTO base-10. This post is going to cover the inverse (decimal base into non-decimal base).


We will need to start by reviewing the concept of modulus division. Let’s look at the standard division problem 5/2. We would typically say that the answer is 2.5 and this would be correct.

Now, modulus is simply the remainder of a division problem. Go back to when you were first introduced to division. In Texas, this is typically in 4th grade. Let’s take a look at that division problem of 5/2 again. When you were learning division, you would have said the answer was 2r1. The 1 is the modulus. When we’re writing the problem to just solve modulus, we would write it as 5%2.


Decimal to Octal

Let’s say that we have the decimal number (base 10) 4,814 and we want to convert it to an octal (base 8).

We will be building the number from right-to-left. The first thing we will do is solve 4,814/8. This equals 601r6. So, our first digit of the solution (starting on the right) is 6.


Now, we solve 601/8, which equals 75r1. So, our second digit of the solution (floating from right-to-left) is 1.


Now, we solve 75/8, which equals 9r3. So, our third digit of the solution (floating from right-to-left) is 3.


Now, we solve 9/8, which equals 1r1. So, out fourth digit of the solution (floating from right-to-left) is 1.


Finally, we solve 1/8, which equals 0r1. So, our fifth and final digit of the solution (floating from right-to-left) is 1.


So, the decimal number (base 10) 4,814 is equal to the octal (base 8) 11316.

As you can see, this is a bit of a process, but once you know the process, it is very simple. I now want to take a look at going to number systems with more digits than base 10, for example: base 16.

Decimal to Hexadecimal

Let’s say that we have the decimal number (base 10) 4,814 and we want to convert it to a HEX (base 16).

We start by solving 4,814/16, which gives us 300r14. Remember, that is number systems with more than 10 digits, we start using letters.

10 = A
11 = B
12 = C
13 = D
14 = E
15 = F

So, the first digit of our solution (building from right-to-left) is E.


Now, we solve 300/16, which gives us 18r12. So, the second digit of our solutions (building from right-to-left) is C.


Now, we solve 18/16, which gives us 1r2. So, the third digit of our solution (building from right-to-left) is 2.


Finally, we solve 1/16, which gives us 0r1. So, the fourth digit of our solution (building from right-to-left) is 1.


So, the decimal number (base 10) 4,814 is equal to the hexadecimal (base 16) 12CE.

Girls Summer STEM Camp

Well, my original “gutsy goal” for an all-girls Summer STEM camp has hit a funding snag. I was hopeful that we could purchase LEGO Mindstorm EV3 kits and establish 4 FIRST LEGO League teams at Ferris Junior High and 4 more at Ferris Intermediate. While I have not exhausted all of my funding avenues, I am starting to plan my fall-back solution should we have extremely limited funding.

The plan will be to have girls who have completed 4th or 5th grade be in the first camp, which will be the weeks of June 4th and June 11. The girls who have completed 6th grade will be in the second camp, which will be the week of June 18th and June 25th.

In both camps, the girls will be broken-up into 3 teams. I would limit the number of girls on a team to 7, so that means no more that 21 girls can be enrolled in the camp.

Each team will be given a basic FTC kit of parts. One will be REV and the other two will be PITSCO/TETRIX. We will cover basic build and programming in the first two or three days and then take a look at the Relic Recovery game. The girls will have the rest of that week to build and program a robot and will compete one-on-one in a Relic Recovery game.

We will do to different rounds of competition to determine a “winner” from the camp. On the last day, we will break-down all of the equipment for either the next group of campers or for summer storage.

The only expenses I see with this solution are that I do not have phones or controllers for the REV kit of parts. As such, I would need to purchase two inexpensive Android phones and will need to purchase the controllers.

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.