Another Teacher Checks in on Progress with the NSUAVCSI

Nevada STEM Underwater and Aerial Vehicle Computer Science Institute

DSCF0003[1] 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.

As far as the ROVs, (Editor’s note from Brian – she is referring to – OpenROV 2.8 Underwater robots) I have a small group still coming in and working on building their own. We just received the thruster packs from SeaPerch… it took about three weeks to get them from the time I ordered them. So, I think by next week we will have a few homemade ROVs. Then we will focus on building the controllers.

Can’t wait to hear what others in the program have been up to when we meet up for our first follow-up class.

Learning is messy!

NSUAVCSI Classroom Visit SMS

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.

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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!

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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!

Learning is messy!

 

 

 

Underwater and Aerial Vehicles – Pyramid Lake Edition

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 assembled into 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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And next another student piloted 2.8 caught a Lahontan Cutthroat Trout:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Here’s a link to a Flickr album from the day.

Learning is messy!

NSAUVCSI Classroom Visit

Aviation and Drone Tech

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 vehiclesand 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.
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Others were utilizing the ncLab computer programming courses the grant paid for to learn not only programming, but 3D printing as well.

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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.

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Still other students were busy building their own model aerial vehicles that cannot actually fly and other devices to learn “making” skills.

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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.

Learning is messy!

Building our 6 OpenROV underwater robots

Teachers being messy - learning "Making" skills

The Nevada STEM Underwater and Aerial Vehicle Computer Science Institute (NSUAVCSI) was designed to provide professional development for 6th through 12th grade teachers in not only computer programming, aerial vehicles and underwater robots, but to more importantly then make those resources available to their students. My last several posts have been about our progress so far in the computer programming and aerial vehicle aspects. Now we have begun the underwater robot section of the institute.

I chose to purchase 7 OpenROV 2.8 underwater robots partly because they would have to be assembled. Many teachers have limited “making skills,” and assembly of these vehicles requires soldering, wiring, acrylic welding, gluing with epoxy, super glue, other adhesives and more. Dr. Alex Forrest from the University of California, Davis,  the lead instructor for this portion of the class, received one of the 2.8s weeks ago so he could assemble one to prepare to guide the teachers through the process. There are excellent directions online provided by OpenROV on how to build the robots, but having an experienced builder there able to share their “messy” mistakes and learning during the build has been invaluable to say the least.

Friday the 18 teachers in the institute met at the Tahoe Science Center home of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center (which is affiliated with UCD, hence Alex’s connection) to learn the science and engineering behind UAV’s, but also to begin assembling the 6 vehicles they’ll be able to check out for use with their students.
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Above: Dr. Alex Forest begins class with a short presentation on the hows and whys of underwater vehicles.

Below: The goal – an assembled OpenROV 2.8 next to an unassembled one.
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First steps involved acrylic welding the parts of the housing making sure everything was lined up and turned the correct way before making the weld … a bit nerve wracking.
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After much of the welding and gluing was done and parts started to take shape it was time to begin wiring and installing circuit boards and other electronics.

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DSCF0115Above: Alex clarifying the next step
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Above: Things taking shape while double-checking the online directions.

Below: “Shrink wrapping” soldered wiring connections with a heat gun.

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Lots of gluing and wiring, but below, lots of soldering too.

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This is where we left it at the end of the day Saturday. We meet next Friday and Saturday to finish building and perhaps even give them a tryout in the public swimming pool. A day at Lake Tahoe will come in October.

Learning is messy!

Video from our computer science and AUV class

I recently blogged about our current course for teachers on computer programming and aerial and underwater vehicles (drones). The underwater vehicle section starts this week. In the meantime, Kirk Ellern at AboveNV, who taught the bulk of the aerial vehicle part of the class, put together this short video that illustrates what teachers learned about in his section of the class. Enjoy!

Learning is messy!

Update on our aerial and underwater drone class

We've been busy!!

It’s been almost 2 months since I shared about how this class is going. We got started  later than planned because we couldn’t get drones delivered fast enough. So far the 18 teachers have had 2 days of computer programming training with the ncLab online course (which their students have access to as well at school and home) to acquaint them with and put them at some ease as to how the course works. We originally planned 4 trainings up front but decided to wait on the last days so they can be designed to support the teachers and their students in the very kind of programming they will use with the various vehicles.
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Next, we jumped into 24 hours spread over a week of training with aerial drones. We started with safety, ethical use and the laws governing drone use. Then everybody got a Parrot Rolling Spider mini-drone. We ran into some issues with getting the firmware updated. We are using 3 different drone apps for the Spiders – Free Flight3, Tynker and Tickle. They required updating the firmware before the apps would cooperate with the Spiders, but that was problematic … even though I had done a couple the day before to be sure we wouldn’t have trouble … we did. Computers wouldn’t “see” the connected Spider and the bluetooth connection you can use with Free Flight 3 tended to time out before it was successful. But we eventually figured out a method that worked and plugged them in to charge.

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Teachers then practiced programming their Spiders and ended that day in groups of 3-4 planning how they would use them in class with their students. The following day each group shared out lesson ideas and even some early experiences with just their one Spider in class (we have almost 50 of them that can be checked-out for classroom use in sets of 8 – 12).

Teachers were given initial instruction and some practice in DroneBlocks as one way they and their students can program their Phantoms. Just this past Saturday we all met to fly some of the 19 Phantom 3 Professional drones the grant provided. Thursday night teachers took turns flying the Phantoms virtually using Real Flight 7.5 and the built in flight simulator that comes on the Phantom remote. After a follow-up “ground school” of sorts on Saturday and some demonstration flights of different kinds of drones the teachers got to fly the Phantoms.

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DSCF0052 A “Hex” drone takes flight

 

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Today I got all the Phantoms prepared to be checked out to teachers to work with their students, but Saturday they decided everyone should check one out for a week or so to practice setting things up and gaining confidence. Tomorrow my goal is to update the firmware on the 50 additional Parrot drones and get them ready to be checked out as well.

Next week we start underwater vehicles with OpenROV 2.8‘s.DSC_0243

 

 

 

 

Learning is messy!

DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library

Maker and Collaboration Space

Last week I was part of a small group that was given a tour of the award winning DeLaMare Science & Engineering Library on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno.

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Todd Colegrove,  head of the DeLaMare Library, took the time to show us around.

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We saw laser cutters, 3-D printers, large format printers, Lego Robotics, Arduinos and many more resources which they will not only allow teachers and students to use, they have people ready to help you learn about and use them. Since they are a no-profit they will also print your 3-D designs for cost.

They also have collaboration rooms, many that have walls made of whiteboard material, tables, chairs, computers and more, that can be checked out and used. They also support classroom field trips to the facility that be everything from a tour of the facility and resources available, to using the facility to plan and “make” using the library’s resources.

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Here’s a YouTube video that shows the resources and maker spaces they have available:

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We took advantage of the opportunity to print out in large poster size one of our favorite photos from the “High Hopes Project.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We printed on a nice matt paper in 42 x 54 inch size and it cost less than $30.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m planning on making a trip to learn about and use the DeLaMare Library as part of classes and trainings we offer to encourage teachers and the community to take advantage of this incredible resource.

Learning is messy!

Why should education leaders embrace digital technologies in their schools?

Why should education leaders embrace digital technologies in their schools? leadershipday2014_01-300x240

1) If you are in a state that adopted the “Common Core State Standards” (CCSS) you really don’t have a choice. There are many (yes many) English Language Arts standards alone that require students as young as kindergarten to use technology to read, produce and publish digital content and to collaborate in doing so. Just a few examples from the CCSS:

K – 12 – Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

K-12 – With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.

6th grade – (NOTE: by 6th grade the “… guidance and support from adults …” is gone. 6th graders are to master this standard on their own) Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting.

5th grade –  Analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text (e.g., graphic novel, multimedia presentation of fiction, folktale, myth, poem).

I’m not sure how we get our students to the mastery of these standards, and many others without ubiquitous access to and utilization of the technologies required.

2) Collaboration – This was already stated in the standards above, but those were specifically language arts standards. Communication and collaboration are already key to being educated, but also in getting a job. Learning to collaborate with the student next to you in class or in your group is great, but technology makes it easy (yes, easy) to collaborate globally. Will it be “good enough” if students just learn to collaborate in class? Will that foster solid collaboration skills with today’s (and tomorrow’s) technologies? Not that getting a job is the only reason to learn solid collaboration skills, but getting a job without having those skills is not getting easier. Mastering all the ways collaboration is leveraged personally and using technology is vital.

3) Programming and design – 3D printing (did you know they are printing whole houses, food and blood vessels already?), also –  software development, engineering, graphics, architecture, transportation, art, medicine,  and much more all rely on programming and design skills … this is what is happening now in fields with good paying jobs.

4) Inventing (often referred to as “making” these days) – This is hands on and motivating and requires the skills developed through pedagogy that includes all of the above.

5) Problem solving – (See above)

So you think children are already mastering these skills and technologies on their own by using their smart phones and other technology 24/7? Ok, let’s see how that works out with your students.

I don’t pretend that I’ve included all the reasons that leaders should consider (please add your own in the comments). But these are not easy or cheap changes that have to happen. We’re not going to provide the technology and professional development and commitment to change on the cheap. Only real leadership will get us there.

Learning is messy!

3D Printers – Where Will It End?

I’ve known about 3D printers for quite awhile, but only though news reports and the occasional conversation. So once I got involved in building my own …  then of course they were on my radar and I constantly notice them and hear about them … and acquaintances that have seen mine printing in my cubicle at work are amazed at the whole concept. Not that my printer is much of an example as yet … everything I have printed so far is flawed – not enough heat or printing too fast or ???. It needs adjustment and I need some time and some mentoring to get it there.

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My printer printing out a 3D squirrel.

 

Here are just a few examples of where 3D printing is heading that have been in the news lately – click on the titles to read more:

Researchers are using 3D printers to make blood vessels

BY JON FINGAS

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[Image credit: Khademhosseini Lab]

From the article:

“There has been talk of printing blood vessels for a few years, but it’s tricky to make tissue that fits the complex shapes of a human body while remaining effective. However, a research team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital may have licked that problem: they’ve 3D printed vessels using a new technique that allows for intricate yet capable designs.”

 

3D-Printed Food Actually Looks (and Tastes) Pretty Delicious

“Across the pond, in Germany, companies are doing some incredible things with 3D printing. They’re using it to make food. Actual food, like the kind that tastes good.

One of the more successful projects is Biozoon’s Smoothfood, which was developed to print food for senior citizens in retirement and assisted living communities. Those communities have a major need for food that their residents do not need to chew.”

 

Giant Chinese 3D printer builds 10 houses in just 1 day

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From the article:

“A private company located in eastern China has printed ten full-size houses using a huge 3D printer in the space of a day. The process utilizes quick-drying cement, but the creators are being careful not to reveal the secrets of the technology.

China’s WinSun company, used a system of four 10 meter wide by 6.6 meter high printers with multi-directional sprays to create the houses. Cement and construction waste was used to build the walls layer-by-layer, state news agency Xinhua reported.”

The article/post includes a YouTube video that exhibits the houses and the printer in action.

These represent just a few of the ways 3D printing is being used – they’re even looking into printing food and more in space. What are the implications in education and in our lives?

Learning is messy!