I spent the evening yesterday up at Lake Tahoe helping to plan the events and activities for the March For Science Lake Tahoe and Earth Day celebration that will happen in the Village at Squaw Valley(map) from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 22nd. I was recruited to be part of this event, instead of the one right here in Reno by scientists and science educators in the area since we work together on several projects.
We will be offering hands on science activities based on Earth science, a climate science short film festival, the “Trashion Show” which is a fashion show of student designed clothing made from trash, live music and much more.
I’ve included an Earth Day graphic for your downloading pleasure:
I’ll be providing the keynote and 2 to 3 breakout sessions. They asked for a “STEM-ish” theme so I’m redesigning my “STEM Is A Culture, Not a Time of Day or Day of the Week” presentation and plan to build in more STEM experiences. My sessions will focus on STEM inquiry and the important parts that get left out too often because the activity is engaging, the students get excited, time runs short and we skip the parts that really make STEM learning powerful.
In case it helped others think about how to incorporate mini drones at their school I thought I’d share this design. Not presenting this as an ultimate solution, just as an example to build on. Please share links to designs you might have in the comments. As an aside I want to stress: I don’t train teachers that students should never fly drones via a joystick … but I am pretty frank that piloting via joystick is more just play – and that is not a bad thing – it has its place. Having students use apps like Tynker where they have to learn programing skills and problem solve to navigate their drone is really the point.
One awesome unintended consequence of receiving a grant is that sometimes there is “money leftover” – usually because of a cost savings or other circumstance. I just came into some “leftover” funds from 2 grants we have going. Some of that money I spent to get more Parrot Rolling Spider Minidrones. When I wrote the NSUAVCSI grant these drones were $99.99 each, the bid we negotiated got the price down to $62 (we bought 65 of them at once) and now the price is down to $49. Parrot has discontinued this model apparently, and the new models don’t have the wheels and are more than double the $$$ that I can get The Rolling Spiders for … so 62 new ones just arrived.
Now that I have some experience with checking out “kits” of drones for teachers to use in their classrooms, I re-designed the kits to make them easier for teachers and students to utilize.
The plastic tubs we have fit about 8 mini drones each, but since many class sizes here can be 30 students or more, each kit consists of 2 tubs (16 drones total) figuring 2 students per drone. BTW – 3 students per drone works too, but I like to provide as much flexibility as possible.
As with almost anything that runs on batteries, you can never have too many. So each kit has 4 battery chargers that each charge 4 batteries at a time – as well as 16 extra batteries. The USB cable that comes with each mini drone also fits the charger (which didn’t come with a cable). Removing batteries from the drones with just your fingers to recharge them in a charger is a bit of a struggle and tends to foster anxiety that something is going to break – so each kit also contains popsicle sticks that work well to gently pry the batteries from their confines.
A power strip with both regular 3-prong sockets and USB ports rounds out the kit for now. One thing that is missing are iPads to program and run the drones. I do have 20 on the way, but that is short of what is needed. A fair number of local schools have iPads, but they tend to be older, non-Bluetooth iPads that won’t work with the mini drones. 20 iPads was as far as I could squeeze the “leftover money”.
Hope that helps anyone looking into adding a programming component to your curriculum that also teaches students the care and feeding of aerial robots!
I’ve written about Mike Ismari’s class before (here and here). He received a grant last summer to buy several models of drones and flight simulators to use with students.
ABOVE: Mike’s drones finally arrived and are stored on shelves his students are building.
Since he had little to no experience with drones he signed up for our institute. His plan was to learn the safety, ethics, programming and operation of UAV’s and then when his drones arrived he’d be ready to go. But, one thing after another delayed his purchase, so he kept checking out NSUAVCSI drones … finally his have arrived along with iPads to operate them. He stopped by my office yesterday to return some Phantom 3’s he’d checked out and told me I had to come by again and check out what his students were up to.
10 students were flying Parrot Air Cargo Minidrones using Tynker to program them. Mike rotates his students through these different activities. Students were paired up – a student that had experience programming the drones with an inexperienced student. The experienced student talked and prodded the new student through the steps to program the drone “around the mountain” -portrayed by a chair on a table. The goal is to take off, fly around the mountain making specific maneuvers meant to keep a front pointing camera (which these don’t have – only down-looking) pointed at the mountain and eventually land back on the spot where it launched. I shot some video of 2 students doing just that.
In this first video (less than a minute long) they are troubleshooting their most recent flight:
Now they run the program with the changes they just made (about 20 seconds)
Some students were learning and practicing computer programming on the NCLab program our grant provided:
Others were constructing vehicles:
Others were practicing with RealFlight flight simulators (not pictured).
Great “messy” things happening! More photos and videos on the link below:
Nevada STEM Underwater and Aerial Vehicle Computer Science Institute
Sarah Richardson, a high school science teacher at Virginia City High School in Nevada, and also a participant in our NSUAVCSI program checked in with me while I happen to be writing my last post. Virginia City, Nevada is in the Storey County School District, a very rural school district that also happens to be home to the new Tesla Gigafactory and the largest data center in the world the Switch Supernap. And yes, it’s the same Virginia City made famous by the TV show Bonanza.
I delivered Parrot, Phantom 3 and OpenROV drones, 10 Chromebooks, and other materials the grant provided, to Sarah in mid January which was later than planned because of the historic rain and snow we’ve had. Sarah took it from there. Today she emailed me this update on what she and her students have been up to:
I am having the students (well I am trying to get the students) to make videos about what they have been doing. We have come up with a few road blocks with the drones that they have problem solved. We could not get the drones to pair with the controllers. I told them to figure out what to do, and they did it. I was excited that they actually did it! Once paired they played with the flight simulator. I am hoping that once the weather clears up, we will get them piloting outside!
After they get comfortable with the controls, they are figuring out how to code a course that will take a panoramic picture of the school. Our final project… hopefully, will be to create a topographical map of the school grounds. Then I have grand ideas of using that map to design a sustainable slope in the front of the school. As we have one side of the front of the school that is covered in rocks that flooded the walkway and the other side is full of weeds. I am hoping to have them design a sustainable slope or create a terrace garden of sorts with a native plant garden. That is my vision, but the second part might take a while to do.
You can tell from the bulk of my most recent posts that a big part of my job right now is about facilitating our STEM institute. I actually have another post about telescopes waiting in the wings for after I get a couple of questions answered. This video was produced by the Washoe County School District to celebrate Mike Ismari’s STEM class at Dilworth Middle School STEM Academy. Mike signed up for our STEM institute right away last year because he had received a grant to buy several models of drones (you mostly see them in the video, but a few he checked out from the institute make an appearance as well). Mike wanted to learn about the ethics and safety of utilizing drones in the classroom as well as the pedagogy to consider. Our institute is still ongoing and will be pretty much right up to the end of the school year. I think you’ll enjoy the video … it’s does a great job of showcasing Mike and more importantly his students and the learning they are part of. Enjoy!!
Although classroom visits are not actually required by the Nevada STEM Underwater and Aerial Vehicle Computer Science Institute (NSUAVCSI)“College and Career Ready” grant I wrote last summer, I believe visits and mentoring are a vital pieces of quality professional development. I’ve done about 4 visits so far and plan to do many more. Back in December (Yes I’m late getting this posted – Urgh!) I visited Carrie Mieras’s class at Sparks Middle School. They were experiencing using the Parrot Spider Minidrones for the first time although they had used another type of drone that only allows controlling via a joystick controller, so this would be their first attempt at writing a program to fly.
They worked in pairs and “3’s” to assemble the wheels that allow these drones to roll on the ground ceiling or walls, but also perform as blade guards. While one partner was assembling, the other was setting up either Tickle or Tynker on their iPads or iPhone to write their block program that would tell the drone what to do.
Block programming is a great first step to learn programming because it can be used successfully by even young children. Even though students are not writing actual lines of code, the process of block programming includes many of the thinking and problem solving skills required to program in languages like Python.
It was interesting to watch students struggle some to write their first program, but also to identify which of the 8 or 9 Parrots that showed up on their iPads was theirs. Several times students would choose the wrong one and when they started their program someone else’s Parrot would spring to life and begin it’s journey. That led to a quick lesson on how to tell which is which and then they were off!
You can see the block program on this student’s iPhone (he was using Tickle, (Tynker doesn’t work on iPhones) to tell his Parrot Spider Minidrone what to do.
By the time everyone had had a chance to get things off the ground a bit the period was over (“Whaaaaat!!??”) and it was time to put stuff away.
It was definitely a bit of a “messy” experience for the students, so I loved it. They weren’t taught everything … they had to figure things out on their own, but they were now ready to be more productive the next day!
It was a crisp and glorious day at Pyramid Lake...
Above: Panorama of Pyramid Lake including the Tufa formations “Stone Mother” and the Pyramid that gives the lake it’s name. Note the people on the beach between the formations for a scale of size.
Between a busy work and holiday schedule, and a bout of aggressive bronchitis, I’m late with some posts – this is one of them … and it’s an experience worth sharing! First I want to thank the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe for giving us special permission to visit this special and sacred part of the Pyramid Lake shore to “test drive” our OpenROV 2.8’s and fly Phantom 3 Professional aerial robots as well.
Back in October we were supposed to put the underwater robots the teachers had painstakingly assembledinto the crystal clear water of Lake Tahoe to further test them and learn piloting skills. However, that day got “weathered out” by rain and high winds. The next time we could schedule a meet-up was December 3rd. It was a crisp and glorious day at Pyramid Lake. We met at the turn-off from the highway to the dirt road that leads out to the spot in the photo above. Besides the teachers having this opportunity, Trevor Galvin a math teacher at Pyramid Lake Middle and High School is part of our class and he brought along some current and past students and a few others’ students showed up as well.
Here’s how a local TV report explained the day:
The OpenROV’s have a built-in camera and the water was much clearer than we expected:
Algae covered tufa formations and lake bottom.
In the bright sunlight the computer screens were hard to see, so when one of the students reported that he could see something floating in the water straight ahead we told him to take pictures so we could see it later. Turns out it was a large sacred Cui-ui fish:
In the meantime Kirk Ellern was flying the Phantom 3 Professional drones the teachers had been trained in (and so were teachers and students) with the goal of photo/video archiving the experience and the area in aerial video. Kirk produced this video of the day, but more to come:
I’ll be posting more about classroom visits I’m making with the teachers in the grant from their classrooms.
Kevin and I both (like so many others) seethe at the slow pace of innovation and change in education. Below is the text from the EduCon 2.9 web site about the session. Come be a participant in the conversation:
Brian Crosby, Kevin Jarrett — Brian Crosby – Pre-K – 12 STEM Learning Facilitator, Nevada’s Northwest Regional Professional Development Program; Kevin Jarrett – STEAM teacher at Northfield Community Middle School
A discussion of the productive tensions facing innovators at all levels of leadership, formal to informal, classroom to central office, as they dare to advance new ideas and transform professional practices, often despite seemingly insurmountable organizational inertia and even hostile political environments. Kevin and Brian will use their personal experiences as the starting point for the group’s exploration of “typical” (and not-so-typical) challenges facing those who willingly disregard the status quo in pursuit of what’s best for kids.
The basic gist is this: great teachers want to innovate; how do they do so, and how far do they go, without potentially angering colleagues, administrators and clients and destroying their careers?
What does / could / should innovation look like?
How and can we make innovation happen?
Who needs permission?
How do we get this message to, “The leaders that will lead us to this?”
What examples do we have that this works?
How do we effectively promote innovative classrooms / schools / districts doing this already?
How do you grow seeds of innovation into more than isolated pockets of innovation, in a world where ‘accountability’ and data are more of a focus than ever before?
Since much of what this looks like defies easy measurement, what measures CAN we use?
This will be a conversation that embraces the adage that, “The smartest person in the room is the room itself.” Kevin and Brian will take on the role of facilitators, and while they will add to the conversation, their goal will be to incite the participants in the room to explore the productive tensions in the room. A private wiki will be used to gather thoughts and compile summary observations. In addition, we plan to use the ‘Sucks vs. Rocks’ methodology, described by Darren Kuropatwa here: http://adifference.blogspot.com/2014/10/assessment-rocks-and-sucks.html
My last 5 or 6 posts have focused on the Nevada STEM Underwater and Aerial Vehicle Computer Science Institute (NSUAVCSI) grant I wrote and am now facilitating. 18 middle and high school teachers started out learning a bit of computer programming, then the ethics, safety, educational uses and how-to’s of aerial vehicles, and now underwater vehicles.
Beyond teaching and facilitating the institute classes and activities I’ve begun doing visits to the participating teachers’ classrooms. I’ve waited until now so teachers had time to be trained and then begin utilizing the Parrot, Phantom 3 and OpenROV 2.8 robots with their students.
This week I visited Mike Ismari’s class at Dilworth STEM Academy Middle School. Besides science classes Mike teaches an elective called “Aviation and Drone Tech.” He has also received a grant of his own which will provide several models of aerial drones for his students to build and fly later. He’s still not sure when his will arrive so he signed up for the NSUAVCSI to not only get training in utilizing robots in student learning, but to have access to the Institute robots now.
His students have already been programming 6 of the Parrot drones from the grant he checked out, but during my visit the class was involved in several other activities. Some students were finishing up a research project on drone safety and the laws governing drones.
One of the resources available are RF 7.5 flight simulators that allow you to virtually fly different models of drones. It really is a great way to learn to fly them by stick without the “messy” learning part that might include crashing and breaking expensive vehicles before flying a real one. One of Mike’s students was practicing his skills that day.
Still other students were busy building their own model aerial vehicles that cannot actually fly and other devices to learn “making” skills.
We recently received prop guards for the 19 Phantom 3 Professional quadcopters available for checkout, so Mike is planning on checking some out in the next few weeks. This news was just what his students wanted to hear.