May 25, 2016

3rd Grade Dash Robot Life Cycle Exhibition Projects

At Sherman Oaks Elementary School, all students in grades TK - 6 prepare an exhibition project to present to the community at the end of the school year. I was thrilled when 3rd grade teacher, Vanessa Diaz, reached out to me about planning their exhibition project around the 3rd NGSS standard of Life Cycles and incorporating programming with the Dash Robots. 
In groups, students researched a plant or animal and the different stages in its life cycle. Each student was then responsible for typing a paragraph about a particular stage in the life cycle in Spanish or English (since Sherman Oaks is a Spanish immersion school).
Students then worked with their teams to create a poster to organize the stages of their life cycle. We asked them to map out at least six different stopping points for Dash to stop and teach others about that particular stage. 
When programming, we also challenged students to have Dash always facing the audience when he is saying something. This proved to be quite a challenge as students had to calculate the extra degrees required to have Dash continue turning after arriving at a specific destination.
The 3rd graders can't wait to share their Life Cycle Dash Robot Projects with the entire school community at Exhibition Night later this week!
You can view the full lesson plan for this STEAM Project by Clicking Here. This lesson and others are also available on our Campbell USD STEAM Resource Website by clicking on the Dash Robot Button:

May 23, 2016

3D Modeling and Printing Training, Bicycle Helmets, and Gold Rush Tools

We recently had four 3D modeling and printing trainings in our district to build interest and expertise around manufacturing and design. We had over 80 teachers, technicians, librarians, and parents throughout the district participate! The trainings were facilitated by myself and Sam Patterson, Technology Integration Specialist at Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School.

During the training, we focused on using TinkerCAD and the Polar 3D Cloud. You can view resources from our training by: Clicking Here We also encouraged teachers to think about a project that they are currently working on and how they can incorporate 3D modeling and design. I also created several screencasts that teachers could use with their own classes to get started with 3D modeling:
As a follow-up, two of the classrooms that I've recently worked with are Anne Stephano's 2nd grade class and Brian Tamekuni's 4th grade class. The second graders had been learning about bicycle safety, so we had them use TinkerCAD to create a bicycle helmet. This was the first time that I had used TinkerCAD with second graders, but it went really well since we did the tutorials together as a whole class. Students also had to explain to us why they added specific features and how it helped to make the helmet safer.
Brian's 4th graders were just starting to learn about the California Gold Rush, so we had the students design a gold rush tool. We introduced concepts like scaling, creating holes, grouping, and duplicating shapes to create tools that were realistic. One of my favorite tools was the pick, since students had to problem solve to figure out how to create the curved metal head. The student below even designed a gold nugget!

May 12, 2016

2nd Grade NGSS Mystery Science Materials Unit at Sherman Oaks

The 2nd graders at Sherman Oaks Elementary school are hard at work learning about materials and their properties, one of their new NGSS performance expectations! Their teacher, Maria Guevara, is one of our new NGSS Teacher Leaders, and invited me to try out a Mystery Science Lesson with her. All 2nd - 5th grade units are currently available for a free trial on K - 1st grade units should also be available in the fall.
The students started by watching a few short videos and discussing the guiding question: Why do we wear clothes? Students were introduced to different material properties like, light, heavy, hard, soft, stretch, and staff.

Students were then given the challenge of designing a hat using different materials. They first tested all of the materials for softness, stiffness, and sweat-soaking (water).

They then used what they had learned about each material to design and create a hat that they could wear outside. We added that they should think about all of the reasons why people wear hats, and if their hat was providing protection from the sunlight and rain and was comfortable!

The second graders can't wait to test their hats outside!

May 9, 2016

4th Grade 3D Printing Jewelry Factory at Blackford

Our 4th graders at Blackford Elementary School have been busy starting their 3D jewelry design and printing factory! 4th grade teacher, May Liu, was part of our 2015 Advanced STEAM Cohort and was excited to work on a project with Blackford's new 3D printer. We recently purchased a Polar 3D printer for all of our elementary and middle schools through a K - 16 Manufacturing Grant that we are part of with our local high school and community community college. We selected the Polar 3D because of its ability to send prints wirelessly through the Polar Cloud (great for sharing with multiple classes), its included live video capabilities, the ease of preparing the build plate (only a layer of hair spray is needed), the safety and environmental impact of using recycled PLA filament, and its relatively low cost of $599 (with educational pricing).

We first had students do the first three self-paced tutorials on (using their district Google Accounts to sign in) with their Chromebook and a 3-button mouse. Students were then presented with the engineering design challenge of designing a pendant for their mom for Mother's Day. They were given the criteria of an original pendant no larger than 25 mm in length, 25 mm in width, and a total height of 10 mm. We suggested a base height of 7 mm, and allowed them to decide how high to make their attachments (letters and other shapes). Students were also reminded that a pendant should have a hole for the string or keychain, so either creating it with the hole tool, or using another shape like the tube to attach a loop. It was really interesting to watch the students create innovative solutions to stay within these parameters.

Students then saved their finished pendants as .STL files on their Google Drive, which could then be shared with their teacher. We then taught some of the students how to load the prints to the Polar Cloud so that they could help us start the prints and retrieve them from the printer (which is housed in the school library). We printed all of the pendants using white filament so that students could use sharpies to create multi-colored designs.

Ms. Liu also had the brilliant idea of using recycled plastic containers and post-its to keep track of the progress of each student. Using their student numbers, we could easily see which pendants still needed to be printed, colored, or tied into a necklace or keychain. She also exercised a lot of patience as she spent over a week getting a pendant printed for each student in her class!

The finished pendants were beautiful and the 4th graders were so proud to give them to their mothers!

May 7, 2016

8th Grade NGSS Project-Based Learning "Science Behind the Music" Unit

Josh Pizzica and Anne Sanderfer, 8th grade teachers at Monroe Middle School just created and facilitated their first NGSS Project-Based Learning Unit! Their unit on Waves and Musical Instruments allowed students to discover frequency, pitch, amplitude, and how sound waves travel in an authentic way. The entry event was having a San Jose State University visit their classes to bring musical instruments and to allow students to see how particular instruments were engineered and created different sounds. Students then had about 3 weeks to choose and build their own instruments out of recycled materials. This also gave students a hands-on experience using woodworking tools like saws, drills, and hammers. With their groups, students also created a presentation to teach others about their instrument and the "science behind how it works" at their Musical Showcase. Magnificent work Anne, Josh, and your musical 8th graders!

May 5, 2016

3rd Grade Dash Robot Polygon Party at Marshall Lane

As part of their geometry unit, the 3rd graders at Marshall Lane Elementary School have been learning about polygons and angles. Teacher, Meghan Snelham, incorporated the Dash robots by having her students create giant polygons on the floor using blue painters tape.

In teams of 2 - 3 students, students drew a model of a polygon, labeled each side, calculated the perimeter, and came up with at least four facts about it.

They then used painters tape, rulers, and protractors to create their polygon on the classroom floor.

Students then began programming the Dash robots to travel along the perimeter of their shape and to say a fact at each corner. It was really interesting to see them problem solve with their partners how to measure the angles that they had created, in order to be able to program Dash to turn that many degrees to the left or right. Students also had to measure the polygon sides accurately so that Dash could travel along each side. 

Students also programmed voice recordings so that Dash could teach other students about their polygon. Some students even composed songs and had Dash sing them!
Finally, groups presented in front of the class and we video-taped each performance. We have learned that having a final video recording has worked really well, since our schools share Dash with multiple classrooms. It lets the students have a final copy of their project to share with their parents, and there are no hurt feelings when other classes use Dash and record over their work. Awesome work Ms. Snelham and Marshall Lane students!

Apr 28, 2016

CUE STEAMPunk Flying Drones Land in Campbell Union School District!

I was so excited when the CUE STEAMPunk Drone Suitcase arrived in Campbell! I had heard about these awesome Parrot Flying Drones, but had never actually used one. Thanks to the CUE STEAMPunk Mobile Labs and Parrot, we were able to test four of them out for FREE!
Before they arrived, I began planning which schools I would use them with and which content areas they could be best integrated with. Thanks to CUE STEAMPunk Teacher Advisor, Brian Briggs, I was able to quickly find a few lesson ideas on his Drone Academy:
With our STEAM students at Monroe Middle School, we had them start with Mission 1: Speed and Distance. Students used the Tickle App to predict and measure the different distances that Parrot would travel, when adjusting the time and speed. It was amazing to watch the students eyes light up in both fear and excitement as they programmed the drones to take off for the first time!
Next, I took the drones to visit the students at Castlemont Elementary School. We worked on Mission 2: Bullseye there, with the goal of reaching the center of the target. It was really interesting to observe our students brainstorm with their teams different strategies to adjust the time needed to fly both vertically and horizontally. Some groups used trial and error, some measured with rulers, and some role played with Parrot counting the number of seconds. Spatial problem solving at its best!
We also tried to engineer Parrot to deliver paper plates for lunch (since we were in the cafeteria), but soon found that the plates were too heavy. The students came up with some great prototypes anyway!
Learn more about the CUE STEAMPunk Mobile Labs Program here: or follow on twitter #cuesteampunk A big thank you to Jon Corippo and CUE STEAMPunk for giving us our first flying drone experience!

Apr 20, 2016

1st Grade Scratch Jr. Animal Habitat Projects

We tried a new coding app and coaching model at Lynhaven last Monday! The administrators were really supportive and covered two of the class periods so that I could work with all four first grade classes. We had two classes in the room at once and all four teachers could observe and assist me at the same time. Then, after recess we switched to work with the remaining two classes, so all four teachers could observe and assist me a second time. It was ambitious to have 50 first graders working on a new project at the same time, but with 5 teachers it worked out well.

The first graders were just starting to learn about habitats and animal adaptations. So we started by having all of the students select an animal (or sprite) that they had some prior knowledge with. We then had students select a background of the habitat that their animal lived in. We chose Scratch Jr. specifically for this project, since there were pre-made background images of the arctic, desert, savannah, ocean, and wetlands. We then instructed students to select start and movement blocks. They introduced their animals and habitats by typing a text speech bubble and creating an audio recording. Students then had the option to present their finished project using Apple TV.

The teachers also told me that it was really helpful for them to have copies of the Scratch Jr. block descriptions that I found here:

Apr 14, 2016

2nd Annual CUSD STEAM Showcase

Our 2nd Annual CUSD STEAM Showcase was a huge success! Thank you to all of our hard working teachers, students, administrators, and our community partners for celebrating STEAM in our district. We estimate that we had over 1,200 people attend the showcase this year!
This year, we also included student performances. We had both elementary and middle school CUSD Extensions Drama performances, Lynhaven 5th grade Drumming and Poetry, elementary and middle school choirs, and our three middle school bands. Below is a clip of the Lynhaven 5th graders and their enthusiastic teacher, Asha Finkel, performing at the showcase!
All of our 12 schools presented at least one classroom STEAM project. Some of the projects that I got to learn about from our students were engineering toys, bridges, simple machines, global warming, hands-on art sculptures, optical illusions, ceramics, math and technology projects, Blue-bot Literacy Adventures, Dash Robot Missions, MakeyMakey computer science game controllers, 8th grade exhibitions, 3D printing club, Future City, MESA, and the Tech Challenge. There were so many projects, I wish there was more time to visit them all! Thank you to Marla Sanchez for sharing all of the pictures below.

We look forward to seeing you at next year's CUSD STEAM Showcase!

Mar 23, 2016

National CUE Conference 2016

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the National CUE Conference with 15 teachers and administrators from our district. We all left the conference completely inspired, hopeful, and excited about advancing technology and STEAM integration throughout our district. One of my favorite quotes from the weekend came from Cindy Moss, "STEAM is a culture, not a class." Those words really helped me to reflect on the fact that I really want to help our teachers to think of STEAM as a district-wide learning culture, and not as an extra activity.

Other words that really inspired me were Brad Montague (creator of the Kid President Videos) saying to "Choose to take a chance with what you have." This really reminded me to continue to take risks, even if all of the conditions aren't perfectly in place. With technology and STEAM resources changing so quickly, if you keep waiting, the moment will pass, and you could keep waiting forever.

Hadi Partovi (creator of also reaffirmed all of our district efforts to integrate computer science in our TK - 8th grade classrooms. It helped me to remember how important a background in computer science will be for all of our students to be successful in the future. I also thought more about how my goal for next year will be for most of our schools to have 100% of students participate in the Hour of Code. And for schools who did that this year, the next step will be to provide training around more comprehensive coding programs and ideas for true classroom integration. Instead of always creating a screencast or movie for storytelling or to explain their thinking, students could start to program it, using apps like Scratch Jr. or Scratch.
I was also very fortunate to be on the opening panel of The Underwater Dreams movie by Allan Cameron. This was my first time being on a large panel, but it was truly humbling to share my opinions and experience with so many people!

My co-worker, Amanda Haughs, and I also presented a session on STEAM Integration. I was reflecting about how far we have come as a district and I am so proud to be part of such a motivated and forward-thinking team!

Mar 13, 2016

MESA Day 2016 - Campbell Middle School

Last weekend, we had 35 students from Campbell Middle School compete in MESA Day at San Jose State! Students competed in different engineering design challenges, including the prosthetic arm, popsicle stick bridges, mousetrap cars, balsa wood gliders, egg drop, and bioengineering. Thanks to the dedicated MESA teachers, Richard Timpson and Pedro Garcia, the students were ready and proud to present their finished projects before the teams of industry judges.

Below are pictures of the the 5/6th grade and the 7/8th grade prosthetic arm teams. The teams worked for months designing an assistive device that would pick up and throw as many bean bags as possible into a specific area. Our students used 3D modeling software to 3D print a hand that would best pick up and throw a bean bag. They then used an Arduino circuit board to program a motor to that would move the hand's fingers with the touch of a button. Finally, they used cardboard and other recycled materials to connect all pieces of the arm together. One of the most challenging parts was presenting and documenting their process, budget, and final design in a technical report and poster.

Many of our 6th grade students competed in the popsicle stick bridge contest. The challenge was to use up to 50 popsicle sticks to design and create a bridge that could hold the heaviest amount of weight. Our strongest bridge held 49.5 pounds!

Another popular challenge was the mousetrap car. Students used a mousetrap to propel a car that could travel 5 meters in the shortest amount of time. The fastest time from our 6th grade students was 3.59 seconds!

Five student projects were awarded medals for their categories. One of the 8th grade balsa wood gliders won first place, and will be moving on to the state-wide MESA competition. Campbell Middle School Principal, April Mouton, even came out to cheer the students on! All students left with a deep sense of accomplishment for the hard work that they had put in for the past few months. Many shared that they can't wait to continue engineering next year, in high school, in college, and beyond! Thank you Richard and Pedro for inspiring our next generation of engineers every day!

Mar 7, 2016

National Engineers Week 2016!

This year we celebrated National Engineers Week as a district STEAM event! It was optional, but we had over 100 classes choose to participate!

We started by preparing teachers for Engineers Week by hosting three Engineering Teacher Boot Camps at three different schools and libraries throughout the district. Teachers who attended learned about the Engineering Design Process and recommended engineering projects (including our STEAM Library Book Projects and the Tech Challenge Classroom Projects). They then shopped for the materials that they needed to do their favorite Engineering Project with their students and had the option of trying the project as well!

I also had the privilege of getting to work with many classes on their engineering projects! Here are a few of the classroom highlights throughout the week:

Jan 29, 2016

Arduinos with the MESA Teachers and Students

Last Saturday, our dedicated MESA teachers (Richard Timpson and Pedro Garcia) invited me to join them at their Arduino training for students and teachers. We have a set of MakeyMakeys at all of our middle schools, and so far we have just been using the front side with the arrow keys. It was fascinating to learn about all of the advanced functions that we can now use on the back of the MakeyMakey!

We started out by learning how to program an LED light to blink on and off, how to create a light dimming switch, how to create a motion sensored light, and how to make a motor turn forwards and backwards. The Arduino Software is free to download here:
This was one of my first times attending a training with students, and it was amazing to see how quickly the students picked up on the coding concepts. I was even more impressed that they remembered a lot of it when we returned to school the next day and were able to teach others about it.

A few notable Arduino commands that I remembered were:
// - “comments” for human eyes only, computers can’t see it
= equal to
=! not equal to
<= less than or equal to
>= greater than or equal to
I also appreciated the teaching tips of our presenters, as they shared their favorite free Arduino presentation tool:

Jan 15, 2016

MakeyMakeys in 5th Grade

All of the 5th graders at Rolling Hills Middle School loved making MakeyMakey game controllers and pianos last week! After programming 2 - 3 of their own video games on using the Google CS First program, the students were ready to start bringing their games to life! As an extension to their electricity science lessons, Anna Rutledge had her students bring in items from home that would conduct electricity. It was fascinating watching them test out if their items in fact conducted electricity and were able to complete the circuit! 
Students then used to create their own original compositions on their newly created pianos. It was such a great learning experience to see students problem solve and collaborate how to have multiple students play at the same time and stay "grounded" to the circuit board!