Summer Camp Scholarships for Girls!

Exciting news! We are about to announce details of a summer camp scholarship for girls.

This has been in the works for the past month. As you may have seen, I moderated a ‘Women in Engineering’ Town Hall meeting, here in the computer lab on April 21st.

Applications will be taken from students at Salt River Elementary. The scholarship will pay for a summer camp at Arizona State University. These ‘camps’ are for those interested in learning skills such as design, app development, robotics, animation, and renewable energy.

This STEM Scholarship program is being underwritten by The Quarter Project, a Colorado-based non-profit promoting engineering for young girls.

Application forms will be out later this week, and posted to our school website.


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)


Science and Tech – main topic when students met Energy Secretary

SaltRiver_Robotics_ASUAs much as I prepped my robotics students for that a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet someone in government, there was the stuff you couldn’t anticipate.

Such as yesterday’s meeting with Energy Sec. Ernest Moniz, who was supposed to stop by their poster for about a 30 seconds. He continued to prod them on details for about 10 minutes. “Who’s next?” he kept asking. We had lined up three speakers. Two 4th graders, and a 6th grader.

The line of questioning was about their communication with a crew on Mars (the simulated community known as the HI-SEAS project) going on. Their project, for the just concluded FLL robotics tournament had extensive detail about how to use indigenous tools and material when, say, 3D printing (something used by the current Mission crew) isn’t enough.

After that high-profile moment, the students went on to check out the science packed into the 3-storey interdisciplinary science building or ‘ISTB4′ at Arizona State University.

This included an underwater robot, a weather station, and of course the impossible-to-resist full-scale replica of the Mars Curiosity rover.

If you’ve never been to ISTB4 at Arizona State University, the newest of the Engineering faculty buildings, it’s definitely worth a visit. It also houses a meteorite gallery, bio-tech labs and other interesting models of rockets, drones etc.

It’s one of the labs we visit when I take a group of winners of the Mars Day competition.

Mars Day 2014 – Video

Thanks to the support from SRPMIV-TV, we had coverage from Mars Day 2014 that took place on October 29th at Salt River Elementary School.

This is the third year we have had this event, which has become a fixture on our school calendar. (Check out last year’s event!)

Once again, thank you to:

  • Mars Space Flight Facility
  • ASU: Professor Jack Farmer, Sheri Klug-Boonstra, Anthony Zippay, Leon Manfredi
  • Conrad Storad
  • HI-SEAS Mission 3 Crew: Martha Lenio, Allen Mirkadyrov, Sophie MilamNeil Scheibelhut, Jocelyn DunnZak Wilson
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • School of Earth and Space Exploration, ASU

Adding Maker-space component for Mars Day 2014

Exciting plans are underway for Mars Day 2014. It will be on October 29th. Much of it is hands-on.

We have a full day of events, starting a morning assembly.

  • Video-conference with space scientist – all classes will interact with speaker via smart boards
  • Grades 2-6 will take part in a brand new concept called ‘Maker Mars’ – a NASA-designed STEM project for students to design, and come up with scenarios for what it might take to build a community on Mars
  • Pre K, Kindergarten and 1st grade will be involved in a hands-on science-writing workshop, with award-winning author, Conrad J. Storad
  • We will also launch a poster competition in two weeks, so that the winners of the competition will be picked on Mars Day

StarLab evokes the big questions from kids

If you cannot visit the planetarium, I’m going to try to bring the planetarium to you, I promised my students in the middle of the school year. With the help of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, that dream came true with the visit of StarLab to Salt River Elementary School last week.


This is how the ‘lab’ arrived.

Dome_1In less than 30 minutes it would fill the room!

InsideStarlabOn the inside, Karen Knierman from ASU, setting up for 16 class sessions…

Constellations_1Follow up: This week First Graders in my class had to design and name their own constellations!

Starlab, such a gift to students

Yesterday, at Salt River Elementary School, our students got to experience astronomy in a whole new way. We had StarLab here for two days.

It’s impossible for any kid to sit out this lab!

StarLab_SREThis 2-day experience was made possible through ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration.  (Don’t I sound like a line from NPR!) Translated: We have some really smart, passionate post-doc students working with StarLab to conduct 8 sessions each day.

Two things StarLab struck me about bringing an inflatable planetarium to a school.

  • This is what the whole ‘pop-up’ phenomenon has taken after. If you’ve not heard, there’s a new fascination with ‘pop-up agencies’ and pop-up marketing booths at events such as South By Southwest.
  • The notion that planet Earth is so tiny when compared to the universe, and how much in science is left to be discovered.

For students the latter could be a powerful catalyst, incentivizing them (even wide-eyed first graders) to consider a career in the sciences.

As for the former, just the fact that you could view galaxies and constellations in a portable space like this, smashes that stereotype that science is boring, and/or hard.