Year3-Week5 & 6: There’s No Place Like Home

2018-09-10_STEAMLab wk05 google-earth_02

Year3-Week5 & 6: There’s No Place Like Home

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I came up with this idea that I wanted to work with Kindergarten & first grade using the theme of “my community,” building on what it’s like to live in North Las Vegas and a child’s almost infinite capacity to create based on the tiniest bits of lived experiences. Week 4 we used Google Earth to virtually visit their homes and I had them tell me one thing that they liked about their homes. They listed everything from dogs to their bed or having their own bedroom, to playing in their backyard. This week I showed them the home I grew up in in Southern California, then we visited some of the homes we didn’t get to visit last week and I had them tell me the one thing they’d like to have in their neighborhood. They listed everything from LEGO-land, to parks and petting zoos, to movie theaters, Olympic pool swim centers and “princess” club houses.

I was hoping that “driving around the neighborhood” virtually, and given all of the undeveloped property around the school, that we could map out the things that we would like to have in our neighborhood, things like big grocery stores or more recreation areas. But that seemed just a bit too advanced for my kindergarteners and first graders. So, for Week 6 I decided to give them the option to build their parks/theaters/rec centers using LEGO or draw something on good ol’ paper and crayons.

I looked for “coloring book” images that I might print-out as a starting point for those who chose the “drawing” option. But I didn’t find anything that I felt would work. I’m pretty sure that I’ll need something more than blank paper to help the Kindergarteners with their illustrations. Several first graders got the idea about what they were supposed to draw, but several were more “general.”

I still hope to figure out a way to “map out” North Las Vegas with some kind of simplified “map” and have my students do some “civic planning” and come up with ideas about what to do with all of the undeveloped lots in the neighborhood. I think that this is going to require many feet of white butcher paper and lots of crayons.

Year3-Week4 – It’s not like it’s rocket science, kind’a

2018-09-04 STEAMLab_wk04 WeDo-kits

Year3-Week4 – It’s not like it’s rocket science, kind’a

2018-19 school year week 4. How do you turn left or right with robots that only have one motor connected to a single axle? Hmmm… I hadn’t thought that about that. I was just so happy that students were completing their builds and the little guys were rolling across the floor to think about programming the little beasties to maneuver across an obstacle course.

Actually, toward the end of their four sessions working with the robots, I wanted to have them do the twister challenge, like what we did at Full Sail Labs. The end of the Robots sessions featured a Robot Olympics with several competitions including a “Twister” game where we would have two opposing robots begin at opposite ends of a twister “field,” spin the color chooser and then program their robot to drive to the color selected. They would win one point for having one-wheel in the colored circle, three-points for two-wheels and five-points for all three wheels. Each team would have three or four turns to hit their targets. But with no way to actually turn the robot, this could be a matter of pointing the robot in the right direction at the beginning of each stage. In the original game you cannot touch the robot during the game, part of the challenge, so programming turns were required to go from colored circle to colored circle. Damn. It turns out that “simplicity” is hard.

Let’s see, I could have two teams work together and combine their robot parts so that they would have two separate motors to program for turns and other maneuvers (at the moment I don’t know if the programming brick would allow for two motors). Or, I could have several pre-built EV3s (that use two motors to facilitate turns) available on the last day for interested students… but that might be too much of a jump from from the WeDo programming system to EV3. Damn.

There really is a huge difference what one can accomplish when you have students working for five to eight hours for five straight days (the summer camp model) versus once a week for only fifty-minutes (the traditional school model). Turns out that a school year of 50-minute sessions is about 31-hours, versus the 40-hours one has to work with for most summer camp programs. Oops. I can’t imagine how irritating it would be to have to start up and then shut down and put everything away every 50-minutes, especially when students get into a building or programming or playing groove. Not cool. But that’s “the best” we can do with the traditional school structure. Ugh. It’s not rocket science, but it’s also not something you can be successful at without a lot of planning, with endless unknown variables (like not being able to turn your robot!).

I created the following video back in the robotics summer camp days as part of their end-of-the-week presentation/celebration event. I learned a lot and these kids were great to work with.

In the meantime the K/1st graders are continuing to virtually “drive” around North Las Vegas via Google Earth. A few have figured out that it’s important to know one’s actual address to better get around the simulation. Fourth and one fifth grade class, continue to noisily learn to program in Scratch block programming. Second and Third-graders continue one- and two-finger typing, a few have broken the 11-wpm rating. I’ve been using the Typing bolt website, but I’m not really happy with the “random word” set up that works against building any typing skill in conjunction with English language construction. I’m looking for something to use that can also connect with real word usage and sentence construction. I know my students aren’t anywhere close to this level, but typing speed comes from muscle memory connected with word usage/sentence construction anticipation and you can’t build the anticipation part with random, meaningless strings of words. Again, it’s really not rocket science, but it’s also not random gobbledygook. Year three – week three: robots rolling.

Year3-Week3 – Welcoming Our Robot Overlords

2018-08-27 STEAMLab_wk03 WeDo-kits

Year3-Week3 – Welcoming Our Robot Overlords

2018-08-27 STEAMLab_wk03 WeDo-kits

2018-08-27 STEAMLab_wk03 WeDo-kits

I’ve been wrestling with this problem since coming here in 2016: how to get robots into the hands of all of my students in the best way possible… And I was so excited that I didn’t take any photos/videos of the first class that began working on their LEGO WeDo robots (you know that’s excited!). Last year’s EV3 experiment was not that great because there’s not much you can get done when you only get 100-minutes with a complicated robot. Very few teams got even close to finishing their first and only robot build.

This year we’re working with a less complicated robot with better tutorials, we have 28 LEGO WeDo robots (instead of eight) to share in two classes at a time in groups of two for four 50-minute sessions. So far I’d guess that half got through the knolling (organize your parts) stage and a third finished the first build (the glowing snail) and a few built the second robot, Milo, the rover. Several teams jumped into the build before finishing the knolling process. We will see how they do as the robots get more complicated. It does take some time to organize the bag of parts. I’ll definitely have the kits pre-organized for the third and second graders and maybe for the fourth graders.

Remember when I thought that I might delay the roll-out of the other curriculum or doing a rolling launch across the grade levels? Yeah, not so much. I had kindergarten and first graders using Google Earth to “drive” around the streets of North Las Vegas, began having second and third graders test their computer keyboarding skills with Typing Bolt, and had fourth and the one non-robot fifth grade begin working with Scratch. It was a good week. It was a very good week.

I wonder what Week Four will bring?

Learning LEGO EV3 Robots & Kids

LEGO EV3 Gotham Noir by Joe Bustillos
2018-03-13 STEAMLab LEGO-EV3s_1

2018-03-13 STEAMLab LEGO-EV3s_1

Learning LEGO EV3 Robots & Kids

The first time you deploy anything in the classroom, much less something involving lots of small moving parts, I can guarantee that things won’t go as planned but if you planned well you’ll be able to see all the areas you need to fix/change the next time you do the lesson/unit. I’ve been waiting over a year to give my students a chance to do some hands-on learning with the EV3s, mostly fretting over how I was going to share eight LEGO robots with over 400 students spread over 21 classes and survive the experience. Today was the end of our first four-week attempt and boy did I learn a lot about what NOT to do next time (with the next group of 5th grade students beginning next week).

Number one, do not attempt to have groups bigger than pairs working on each robot. Actually, I originally thought that one couldn’t do robots with anything other than a 1:1 setup, but I learned that learning pairs was a much better ratio when I helped do Dash & Dot and M-Bot robots with Full Sail Labs before beginning my Las Vegas robotics experiments. And this past session confirmed that with groups of three (and some groups of four) there are just too many idle students with far less focus on getting the job done. I had been hoping I could spend the four fifty-minute sessions broken down to having students build the robots for the first week, learn how to program the robots the second and third sessions and have a little robot competition session/robotic olympics for week four. Of the seven teams building robots this time only one finished a basic (non-sensor) build and did one program and the other six ended at various levels of incomplete robots and almost no programming. Yeah, we’re not doing that again.

2018-03-13 STEAMLab LEGO-EV3s_2

2018-03-13 STEAMLab LEGO-EV3s_2

So the adaptation from this past four weeks, is to lower the number of group members to 1:2 (one robot per two students) in classes with 23 students. Thus I’m going to split the class in half with half of the class working two-weeks on the build/programming while the other half does online research on robots on the web & some media work on the subject. The second two-weeks I will flip students doing the hands-on robotics with the students doing online work. I’m hoping that the greater focus will allow students to get through the build and programming much quicker with less distractions from non-participants. At the same time, those working online will need to be virtually self-sufficient because I won’t be able to address their questions while working with the hands-on students.

I wish we had much more time to just explore, but sometimes more can get done when one is seriously limited. When we did robotics at Full Sail we had over 30-hours to explore, so I have to be a lot more lean and directed with the 100-minutes I have available to expose my students to robotics. Watching my students these past few weeks, I’m thinking that part of the difficulty that can be addressed is giving them experiences following build directions with other LEGO projects before attempting robotics (next year). Many got so confused when they ran into a simple SPIN direction (blue arrow) that indicated that they were supposed to turn the robot around to do the next step(s). This threw off several groups. So, more hands-on with other directed build projects should help them when they do this EV3 build. So, between now and next Wednesday I need to prep for the next group of students (disassemble robotics and make sure they have all the needed parts in their kit) and develop the media/online research component for the non-hands-on students. Nothing stress-tests any classroom unit or technology like a classroom of students. My lab hardware and I have the scars to prove it.

2018-03-13 STEAMLab LEGO-EV3s_3

2018-03-13 STEAMLab LEGO-EV3s_3

Video Fridays: Lego Space Shuttle and What Kind of World Do You Want?

Lego Space Shuttle:
Uploaded by vinciverse on Mar 2, 2012
My Lego tribute to the end of the space shuttle era. Proving that although retired, this machine can still fly, albeit in toy form.

The launch took place from central Germany and reached a max altitude of 35000m. A 1600g meteo balloon filled with helium was used alongside a GoPro Hero, Spot GPS and of course Lego Space Shuttle model 3367.

The launch took place on the 31st of December 2011, the equipment was recovered via GPS tracking 240 km S-E from a remote area.

I wish to thank Steve Sammartino for the opportunity to do this project and the german airtraffic control for the understanding. (Thanks to CrudBasher for the link)

What Kind of World Do You Want:
Uploaded by ReelNASA on Jul 8, 2011
Although STS-135 is the final space shuttle mission, the International Space Station will continue an uninterrupted human presence in space. This music video featuring the space station and its crews is set to the song “World” by recording artists Five for Fighting.

Mt26 31-56 – Disciples Scattered & Jesus Arrested

Matt. 26:31-56 Disciples Scattered & Jesus Arrested

Part of me was distressed that, once again, it seemed that the disciples at the moment of the savior’s great need were not able so much as just stay awake with him while he prayed. Who knows whether they had any appreciation for what had just happened, the Last Supper, or the events that were about to transpire. If there’s a doubt about the historicity of these passages, one would think that the gospel writers would make the apostles at least a bit more heroic instead of portraying them so completely human, so unable to grasp what was happening all around them and with whom they were dealing with.

Peter had confessed who Jesus was (Matt. 16:16) and they had left their lives to spend three years with him. But I get the impression that they felt like they were following a great teacher, albeit not one respected by the religious or community leaders. A great teacher and miracle-worker, blessed by God. In the context of the time, I don’t doubt that they had all heard stories of others who had come before who had claimed to be The Annointed of God (Matt 24:24), so I’m not surprised that they underestimate who Jesus really is and what he is about to accomplish.

I don’t see Peter’s proclamation that he’d never deny Jesus as empty bravado, but just that gap between the good we want to do when called upon and our lack of really understanding what’s going on around us. We assess the situation in our limited scope and when the odds seem to turn against us, we flee. Peter intended to defend his teacher to the point of cutting off the ear of one of the soldiers, but quietly standing beside his master as they took him away was not within him or the other disciples and they all fled into the night. So I’m left to see two things. Jesus knows us through and through, apparently better than we know ourselves. The second is that, even in the moment when foretold of their failure, he dsaid that he would meet them again after his resurrection and join them in Galilee. He extended the hand of forgiveness and hope, in that He would be waiting for them when He finished doing what he came for. Even within their small world, their small grasp of what He was going to accomplish, He offered them a small window into their reunion in Galilee (John 21:1-23). In the darkest of hours, when we completely fail, there is always hope and One who will never leave us or abandon us, even when we fail him. JBB

Music: I Am Your Child from the album “VC 56 Sweetly Broken” by Jude Del Hiero