Teaching them to Code, one block at a time

My colleague and robotics coach, Donna Horn gave me a Wall Street Journal article on Coding that’s worth sharing. It’s about why coding shouldn’t be so intimidating (at least to us teachers who didn’t learn to code).

Titled “We want our children to code, even if we can’t.” it argues why this is a skill we need to introduce early and often. Reading. Writing, and Coding…The timing of the article is not accidental.

February is when Coding fills the news, since Digital Learning Day is on Feb 17th. This year we have plenty to pick from –the usual powerhouses Code.Org and Khan Academy. There’s also Scratch, and other visual programming tools. Plus, there’s Mindstorms, the visual programming language we use in robotics.

Grant Smith, a tech writer for Edutopia makes a god point about teaching coding in schools. We need to set the stage first by (a) Curating the resources into the curriculum  (b) Organizing the classroom to be coder-friendly and (c) Rallying around those who might support your initiative. Including use some of the social media tools to build one’s personal learning network or PLN.

I’m planning on getting experts to come into the classroom, and teach.Ideally I’m thinking of App developers, from surrounding tech companies.

Please contact me if you know of someone!

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Starting a Robotics Program? Check this!

Here’s a video I did with Ruben Gameros, a grad student at State University. It’s about what it takes to start a Robotics program.

This was a hot topic in the STEAM Workshop last December in Colombo and Kandy, Sri Lanka. We know drones are changing the game in many areas. How about ‘Swarm’ robotics? Watch Ruben explain!

‘Trash Trek’ Robotics theme leads to ‘Story Of Stuff’

The upcoming theme for FLL Robotics challenge in Fall, has already fired up my students’ imagination.

 Yesterday no sooner had I introduced them to the recycling / trash theme, Trash Trek, than they began thinking of a project. By happenstance, I was getting rid of a large cardboard box, and it became the discussion point of where it ‘stuff’ comes from and where it ends up.

Better still, in my closet was another cardboard box filled with a gift from Solavore last week —the solar oven. As we looked at the ‘technology’ I could see the gears turning, as thoughts about energy, land fills, insulation and composting filled our discussion. I assigned a note-taker, and an ‘investigator,’ to seize the moment.

These are the last 3 days of  robotics, but it will become  a topic they could think about during the long summer break.

 

 

At our next class we will be watching this classic presentation by Annie Leonard called the ‘Story of Stuff.’

This Month’s STEM Talk on Swarm Robotics!

Excited to announce the second in our monthly  STEM Talks series.

The speaker:  Dr. Spring Berman, from ASU’s department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. She is a recipient of the 2014 DARPA Young Faculty Award. This DARPA program is to engage the next generation of researchers who focus on national security issues.

The Topic:  Swarm Robots.  Dr. Berman’s ongoing research focuses on controlling swarms and ‘distributed sensing’ of not-so-smart robots.

This will be followed by a demonstration of a swarm. Ruben Gameros, a postgrad student will show how 2-4 bots could be manipulated to do complex tasks. “These tasks or ‘games’ are inspired by ants, which collectively work to deliver food through a tunnel to feed the queen,” he told me.

Date: Mon 9th March, 2015       Time: 4:00 pm           Venue:  Room A122  – Computer & Technology Lab

Light refreshments will be served.

(Check out last month’s STEM Talk)

 

Salt River Elementary featured in Dept. Of Interior News

I covered the visit of US Secretary of interior, Sally Jewell to my school, here on the school website.

It was exciting that she also visited my class, and had a talk about robotics and science. At that time, little did we know how it would figure in the grander scheme of things…as a Listening Tour, of Native youth.

The department’s video below included several pictures of her engaging with our students. Two of the students you see in this are potential podcasters in my class on audio. Three are in robotics.

More from the Department of the Interior’s communication channel called ‘This Week at Interior.’

Local NPR Station, KJZZ covered the visit here.

Here she talks  to two of my students, and watches a demo in my class.

 

 

And this from Cronkite News at ASU.

 

Launching ‘STEM Talks’ with Hamid Shojaee

Happy to launch a new series of outside speakers in a series I am calling STEM TALKS. The goal is to get students at Salt River Elementary School to engage with technology experts, scientists and outside educators. They could learn to feel comfortable asking the tough questions, being curious about other careers especially in the sciences.

To kick off this series, I am inviting Hamid Shojaee, CEO and founder of Axosoft, to talk with our students, during my Robotics class.

In  2012, at age 38, Mr. Shojaee was named one of the ‘Most Admired CEOs’ in Arizona by the  Phoenix Business Journal. He has been an active member of Arizona’s entrepreneur community, and is an angel investor in several software startups.

I was inspired to discover that Axosoft has rooms named after some of the world’s best known problem-solvers – scientists and inventors such as Newton, Kepler, Hawking, Tesla, and Socrates. I asked Mr. Shojaee to speak to the robotics team about programming and being problem-solvers.

The event is via Skype.

Date: Tue Feb 10th, 2015                Time: 4:00 PM                       Place: Computer & Technology Lab