We just wrapped-up our first league meet of the FIRST Tech Challenge 2016/2017 season!
The Citrine League has 8 teams who are committed to participating in the 2016/2017 season coming from Erath (2 teams), Tarrant (2 teams), Dallas (1 team), Ellis (1 team), and Kaufman (2 teams) counties.
At the meet, we had 6 teams show with 1 team having to forfeit just before we got started.
Following 7 rounds of matches in the Velocity Vortex game of the season, FTC 11242 (Ferris High School) came out in 2nd place for the meet.
As this was the first meet of the season, the meet results are the current season rankings as well.
At the end of the day, the rankings broke-out as follows:
1st Place – FTC 9609 (Kaufman High School) 10 QP / 47 RP
2nd Place – FTC 11242 (Ferris High School) 4 QP / 56 RP
3rd Place – FTC 9402 (Henderson Junior High School) 4 QP / 47 RP
4th Place – FTC 9403 (Henderson Junior High School) 4 QP / 42 RP
5th Place – FTC 127 (Ben Barber Career/Tech Academy) 2 QP / 56 RP
Unranked teams include the following:
FTC 9408 (Kaufman High School) 0 QP / 0 RP
FTC 9582 (DeSoto High School) 0 QP / 0 RP
FTC 11085 (Mansfield High School) 0 QP / 0 RP
All-in-all, the team and robot performed exceptionally well. I am very thankful for the volunteers who assisted me with successfully pulling this meet off.
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.
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).
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.
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.
For the past 3 weeks, Robotics has had only 4 daily grades.
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).
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).
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
Seating chart will be established for Computer Science I to cut down on incidents of students disrupting class and interfering with learning.
Seating chart will be established for Principles of Technology to address incidents of student disruptions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Well, I gave myself a real challenge this year: I put down as one of my professional goals for my T-TESS to complete a proposal for expanding our robotics program within the district. I was smart and simply said that I will have a proposal before the School Board and did not say if it was approved or not. Of course, I hope that it would be.
Currently, we have STEM labs at our upper-elementary school, intermediate school, and junior high school. Those labs are based upon the SmartLabs by Creative Learning Systems.
My proposal would be complementary to those STEM labs and allow students to expand their horizons further into the fields related to robotics and automation.
As far as current robotics classes, we have a single Robotics and Automation class at the high school and a single FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team that is also based at the high school.
The proposal would call for us to add a second-year Robotics course to the high school, which would center around curriculum related to the FIRST Robotics Competition program. The first-year Robotics course would center around curriculum related to the FIRST Tech Challenge program.
In addition, we would add two new courses to the junior high school offerings. We would have a Robotics 6 and a Robotics 7/8. The Robotics 6 class would center around curriculum related to the FIRST Lego League program while the Robotics 7/8 class would center around curriculum related to the FIRST Tech Challenge program.
These are absolutely part of the proposal in addition to AP Computer Science I (AP Computer Science – Principles) and AP Computer Science II (AP Computer Science – A).
I have also been brainstorming on if there is a way to incorporate a FIRST Lego League team or teams at our intermediate campus, but as of now, I can’t seem to come up with a way to incorporate that.
A rough schedule would look something like this…
08:00am to 08:53am – Robotics 7/8 (FJH)
08:58am to 09:51am – Robotics 6 (FJH)
09:56am to 10:49am – Conference/Planning (FJH)
11:10am to 12:20pm – Advisory/Lunch (FHS)
12:25pm to 01:55pm (A) – AP Computer Science I (FHS)
12:25pm to 01:55pm (B) – AP Computer Science II (FHS)
02:00pm to 03:30pm (A) – Robotics I (FHS)
02:00pm to 03:30pm (B) – Robotics II (FHS)
As you can see, there is really no time for a transition and class for a single teacher to cover at another campus. Now, I may add in the proposal a future considerations section which would discuss FIRST Lego League and FIRST Lego League Junior at the upper-elementary and the intermediate campus.
Still in its early stages of development and drafting. Time will tell what the final proposal looks like.
I submitted a proposal in the Spring of 2016 to create a new hybrid STEM Robotics and IT Computer Programming pathway. This entire pathway starts with the STEM course, Principles of Technology.
This course is a very hands-on Physics class with a major CTE flair. The majority of the class, at least 60% must be taught in a hands-on lab setting.
Unknown to me, our Physics teacher has been having problems with enrollment in his classes. Namely, he does not have sufficient enrollment to offer the AP Physics class.
He is concerned that more students will leave Physics for the Principles of Technology Course since it’s more “fun”.
The Bigger Problem
To me, this highlights a bigger problem. According to the Physics teacher, his hands are tied because he has a standardized TRS (formerly CScope) test he has to utilize. However, our superintendent has said that these are now only diagnostic and don’t have to be taken for a grade.
He honestly has the freedom to make the Physics (non-AP) into anything he would like to. I think there is unspoken concern in transitioning from a class that is majority lecture/minority lab to the opposite.
In my original proposal, students were to only be signed up for the Principles of Technology course of they were entering the Robotics / Computer Programming pathway. Otherwise, they should plan on take Physics.
In the future, I will know to discuss ventures that intrude into the core with the core teachers it may impact while drafting any proposal.
I will also be interested to see just how much of an impact this will have on the enrollment of our Physics classes and home many of my Principles of Technology students go on to Computer Programming and the rest of the pathway.