Archive

Archive for the ‘Teaching Technology’ Category

Move over soccer moms: Robotics moms take over

April 2nd, 2018 No comments

By ANNIKA HAMMERSCHLAG The Naples Daily News Mar 11, 2018
LINK

IMMOKALEE, Fla. (AP) — Christy Kobes jumps to her sock-and-sandal feet, sending a vibration rippling down the metal bleachers.

“Let’s go! Let’s go! Think destructive thoughts!” she yells to her son’s team.

Her cellphone, attached to a lanyard around her neck, swings back and forth as her enthusiasm builds.

It’s day four of the tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, and Kobes’ voice is strained, though her forceful cheering rises above the other moms that fill the expansive exposition center.

Then, an abrupt pause: She sits down, bows her head, and says a prayer.

Seconds later, she’s back on her feet, bellowing orders to the team.

Kobes is no soccer mom. What she does, she said, is far more demanding.

“The soccer moms, they buy the shoes and sit on their phones while someone else manages their kids’ practice,” she said. “But as a robo mom, I have to do everything.”

Robo mom. As in robotics.

The after-school activity has been credited with drawing children to science and technology fields; mothers tell of little ones staying up into the early morning hours programming and building robots.

Robotics companies have cashed in on the trend, selling assembly kits and organizing regional competitions. Students build their robots to fit the object of the game, which changes each year.

VEX Robotics, one of the country’s leading robotics kit suppliers, hosted the largest-ever robotics world championship competition last April, inviting 1,400 middle and high school and university-level teams from 30 countries to the weeklong event.

Immokalee High School’s two robotics teams, Megazord and Dragonzord, were among the competitors.

As she has done every year since 2015, Kobes drove her son’s team 6½ hours from Spartanburg, South Carolina, to attend the event — a short excursion compared to the journeys taken by the Kazakh, Ethiopian and Thai teams.

That year, the game consisted of two allied teams competing against two others to see how many objects each could throw over to the other side of a 12-by-12 foot rink. The teams with the fewest objects on their sides of the arena after two minutes won.

Slabs of metal scurried around the rink, gathering bundles of foam stars and cubes and flinging them over the divide. A designated team driver operated the bot with a video game controller as their teammates watched the action with furrowed brows.

In a special round, the robots performed the tasks autonomously — that is, if their programming didn’t fail.

Even during manually controlled rounds, the bots often malfunctioned, collided or flipped over, and teams would rush back to their booths between matches to make repairs.

“This is more intense than football,” said robo mom Evelyn Amoros, who co-coaches her son’s robotics team with Kobes. “My heart rate is constantly pumped up.”

As the team circled their robot to fix a mechanical failure, Kobes and Amoros hovered over their shoulders with tools at the ready: batteries, rubber bands, screws and, of course, snacks.

“I would’ve forgotten to eat today if they weren’t here,” said Amoros’ son Greg, 17.

As she nervously chomped on a piece of gum, Amoros gave the team last-minute instructions: focus, win, and don’t forget your protective goggles.

Between cheering and shouting commands, Amoros, 52, a single mother and Spanish teacher, detailed the countless hours she has dedicated to supporting her son’s five-person team. She and other robo moms said their children’s schools were too focused on their traditional sports teams to provide resources to their robotics programs, leaving it up to parents to step in as coaches.

Kobes, 47, a gynecologist, and Amoros taught themselves engineering. Eagerly swiping through photos on her phone, Kobes showed off the classroom trailer she and Amoros helped transform to house a robotics field.

The team had painted an Albert Einstein quote on the wall: It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.

“I’m in charge of organizing the team, recruiting members, doing administrative work, making budgets and arranging transport,” Kobes said. “I attend every practice, sometimes seven days a week, from four until sometimes 10 at night. And all through spring break and Easter.”

She and Amoros regularly cook dinner for the team and drive them to competitions on the weekends.

“We’re their mothers,” Kobes said. “We never leave.”

And the commitment has been worth it, they said. Kobes’ son Grant, 17, went from being a shy introvert to spending his evenings on a headset chatting with robotics enthusiasts around the world. He even is a frequent guest commentator on a robotics talk show, and his grades have soared.

As for Amoros, robotics competitions brought her son back to life, she said.

Greg used to be captain of the swim team and a star football player. Sports were his identity, Amoros said.

When he got a concussion playing football, a tumor formed on his brain, triggering chronic seizures. The doctors said he couldn’t play sports anymore. He sank into a deep depression and was homebound for six months. He didn’t want to return to school.

But when Grant introduced him to the world of robotics, Greg discovered a new passion. Robotics, he found, offered the same camaraderie and excitement as contact sports.

Tearing up, Amoros said she couldn’t be more grateful.

“What it’s done for my son is beyond anything I could ever imagine,” she said. “They’ve learned how to care not just about the robot, but each other.”

Amoros remembers the early days when he’d ask her for help with mechanical problems. But now he figures it out on his own.

It’s like letting go of her baby as he takes his first steps, she said.

“He may fall, but he can pick himself up,” she said. “And as a mom, that makes me very happy, and I’ll keep on cheering all his successes and keep wiping the tears when there’s failure.”

Yesnia Diaz, a robo mom who flew in with her 15-year-old son’s team from Puerto Rico, said she too owed a great deal to robotics. Due to a disability that stunted his growth, her son Sebastian Caballero was never able to play competitive sports. He felt like he was missing out.

When Diaz learned about competitive robotics, she made sure he could participate.

She organized bake sales and contacted local TV stations to raise money. Her son’s school was so small that they didn’t have room for a field, so Diaz and her husband, Efrhayn Caballero, built one in their backyard out of wood and zip ties.

Despite all the work, she never forgets her most important role: No. 1 fan.

Decked out in headbands topped with feathered pom poms, Mardi Gras necklaces with bells attached and a Puerto Rican flag draped over their shoulders, Diaz and her daughter cheered on the team through dozens of matches. Diaz wore a fanny pack, but sometimes she wears a tutu instead, she said.

After a win, they paraded around the Louisville convention center waving flags and singing songs.

For the last three years, the team has won the spirit award at regional competitions.

“We want them to know that we’re going to be there for them when things go well and when things don’t go as planned,” Diaz said.

As a parent, she said, she feels accomplished that she has been able to give him this opportunity. Despite being a little person, she said, he has grown so much: Robotics has taught him to appreciate other people’s strengths and how to leverage his own.

Other robo moms said that in addition to encouraging their children to pursue careers in science and technology, robotics has taught them time management skills and how to solve problems under pressure; they have learned how to be leaders but also how to work as a team.

After Greg and Grant won their match — one of about six they played that day — Amoros and Kobes gathered the team with their alliance for a group photo. The teens struggled to hold their smiles as Kobes took an extra few moments to find the right button on her phone.

As they returned to their booth, Kobes and Amoros reflected on their roles as mothers.

The most exciting part of parenting, they agreed, is watching their children find their passions and realize their dreams.

“And whose dreams come true at 17?” Kobes said, nodding toward Greg and Grant who were busy rummaging through a drawer of spare parts. “That’s why we’re cheering so loud.”

At the 2017 competition, the boys’ team qualified for finals and placed 27th in their roughly 200-team division.

They since have graduated from high school and are working toward degrees in engineering — Greg at the University of South Carolina and Grant at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Greg is taking a break from robotics, but Grant volunteers as a referee at high school competitions and started a robotics program in the first month of his freshman year. Without funding or lab space to start, Grant used leftover parts from his high school robot and built a new one on the floor of his dorm room. He plans to take it to compete in the university division at the world championship in April.

Kobes plans to fly out to support him.

Although she is excited for the trip, Kobes said the absence of her son and his team from her daily life has left a void.

The house feels empty, she said.

But things are getting better; she has two other children after all.

One is performing in her school’s rendition of “Beauty and the Beast.” Kobes helped build the set and she plans to attend all four shows. But she fears there won’t be much left to do after the final curtain call.

Her other child is a soccer player, but being a soccer mom just isn’t the same, she said.

Last weekend was the first game of the season.

“I had the lawn chair and everything,” she said. “But it got rained out.”

Circuit Classics

January 1st, 2018 No comments

If you are an electronic hobbyist, you have probably come across the books by Forrest Mims III that were sold by Radio Shack. I still use the ones I bought years ago and they are probably one of the best series of books to get started in electronics.

Well now Star Simpson is brining the circuits in those books to life. Here is a video about the project:

You can order the first batch from https://www.adafruit.com/?q=star%20simpson but they seem to be sold out as of the writing of this post.

Some seem to be in stock at Crowd Supply

For More info check out:
Adafruit
Crowd Supply
Electronics Weekly

Categories: Teaching Technology Tags:

Article: A high-school student won $250,000 for explaining relativity using a pick-up truck and Usain Bolt

December 29th, 2017 No comments

From: Flipboard
By: Chris Weller
Dec 29, 2017

A high-school student won $250,000 for explaining relativity using a pick-up truck and Usain Bolt

  • 18-year-old Hillary Diane Andales won the 2017 Breakthrough Junior Challenge for her video explaining the theory of relativity.
  • Andales took home $250,000 in scholarship money for her win.

The German physicist Albert Einstein needed complex equations to describe his theory of relativity, but 18-year-old Hillary Diane Andales of the Philippines does just fine with a pick-up truck, a few cell phones, and Usain Bolt.

Andales is the winner of the 2017 Breakthrough Junior Challenge, an annual competition that calls on teenagers across the world to submit videos no longer than three minutes that simplify big ideas in science or math. For her win, Andales took home the grand prize of $250,000 in scholarship money.

Her winning video was entitled “Relativity & The Equivalence of Reference Frames.” It began by displaying a sideways number, which you could interpret as either a “6” or a “9” depending on which way you turned your head. The perspective you take, Andales noted, determines your reference frame.

Reference frames are fundamental to relativity because observers perceive things differently if they’re in different locations, she explained.

Andales demonstrated this by recruiting three of her friends to record the sound a pickup truck made as it drove down a road and honked the horn. Each person stood in a different spot — one in front of the car, one behind the car, and one inside the car — and recorded the sound.

Each reference frame yielded a different sound, since the sound waves coming from the horn were either bunched up (producing a higher pitch) or spread out (a lower pitch) relative to where they got recorded.

The same test can be done with velocity and time, Andales explained. If Usain Bolt ran the 100-meter dash at 98% the speed of light, a 10-second finish from his perspective would read 40 seconds on the judge’s clock.

The reason is that faster clocks seem to move slower relative to a stationary observer. It’s the same principle that explains why clocks on the International Space Station, which orbits the Earth at 17,000 mph, lag behind terrestrial clocks by about 0.007 seconds every six months.

Thus, as Andales points out, Bolt is the Olympics’ best time traveler.

You can watch her entire submission video below:

Categories: Teaching Technology, Uncategorized Tags:

The 2017 Top Programming Languages

November 4th, 2017 No comments

From: IEEE Spectrum
The 2017 Top Programming Languages
Python jumps to No. 1, and Swift enters the Top Ten
By Stephen Cass
Date: July 18, 2017

It’s summertime here at IEEE Spectrum, and that means it’s time for our fourth interactive ranking of the top programming languages. As with all attempts to rank the usage of different languages, we have to rely on various proxies for popularity. In our case, this means having data journalist Nick Diakopoulos mine and combine 12 metrics from 10 carefully chosen online sources to rank 48 languages. But where we really differ from other rankings is that our interactive allows you choose how those metrics are weighted when they are combined, letting you personalize the rankings to your needs.

We have a few preset weightings—a default setting that’s designed with the typical Spectrum reader in mind, as well as settings that emphasize emerging languages, what employers are looking for, and what’s hot in open source. You can also filter out industry sectors that don’t interest you or create a completely customized ranking and make a comparison with a previous year.

So what are the Top Ten Languages for the typical Spectrum reader?


[Click here to explore interactive rankings]

Python has continued its upward trajectory from last year and jumped two places to the No. 1 slot, though the top four—Python, C, Java, and C++—all remain very close in popularity. Indeed, in Diakopoulos’s analysis of what the underlying metrics have to say about the languages currently in demand by recruiting companies, C comes out ahead of Python by a good margin.

C# has reentered the top five, taking back the place it lost to R last year. Ruby has fallen all the way down to 12th position, but in doing so it has given Apple’s Swift the chance to join Google’s Go in the Top Ten. This is impressive, as Swift debuted on the rankings just two years ago. (Outside the Top Ten, Apple’s Objective-C mirrors the ascent of Swift, dropping down to 26th place.)

However, for the second year in a row, no new languages have entered the rankings. We seem to have entered a period of consolidation in coding as programmers digest the tools created to cater to the explosion of cloud, mobile, and big data applications.

Speaking of stabilized programming tools and languages, it’s worth noting Fortran’s continued presence right in the middle of the rankings (sitting still in 28th place), along with Lisp in 35th place and Cobol hanging in at 40th: Clearly even languages that are decades old can still have sustained levels of interest. (And although it just barely clears the threshold for inclusion in our rankings, I’m pleased to see that my personal favorite veteran language—Forth—is still there in 47th place).

Looking at the preset weighting option for open source projects, where we might expect a bias toward newer projects versus decades-old legacy systems, we see that HTML has entered the Top Ten there, rising from 11th place to 8th. (This is a great moment for us to reiterate our response to the complaint of some in years past of “HTML isn’t a programming language, it’s just markup.” At Spectrum, we have a very pragmatic view about what is, and isn’t, a recognizable programming language. HTML is used by coders to instruct computers to do things, so we include it. We don’t insist on, for example, Turing completeness as a threshold for inclusion—and to get really nitpicky, as user Jonny Lin pointed out last year, HTML has grown so complex that when combined with CSS, it is now Turing complete, albeit with a little prodding and requiring an appreciation of cellular automata.)

Finally, one last technical detail: We’ve made some tweaks under the hood to improve the robustness of the results, especially for less popular languages where the signals in the metrics are weaker and so more prone to statistical noise. So that users who look at historical data can make consistent comparisons, we’ve recalculated the previous year’s rankings with the new system. This could lead to some discrepancies between a language’s ranking in a given year as currently shown, versus the ranking that was shown in the original year of publication, but such differences should be relatively small and not affect the more popular languages in any case.

Categories: Computing, IEEE, Teaching Technology Tags:

Neat way to learn Robotics

September 29th, 2017 No comments

From: https://www.roboterra.com/

Origin™ Robotics Kit & CastleRock

Looking for a fun and easy way to introduce STEM in your classroom? Our Origin Robotics Kit enables anyone to build real robots and program them. The kit includes metal parts, servos, LEDs and sensors, so kids can create robots that react to the environment around them.

Origin Robotics Kit includes access to our CastleRock programming software. Using CastleRock, kids will learn to code while they construct robots that spin, wave arms and flash LEDs. Students use C++ coding language to control their robots, providing a solid foundation to easily explore other languages and skills. Going beyond programming, CastleRock provides a set of tiered challenges that guides students through a planned, conversational curriculum. No previous technology experience is required!

Robotic program helps students build STEM skills

September 11th, 2017 No comments

From: KPLC
Tuesday, September 5th 2017, 6:20 pm CDT
By Jolina Okazaki, Multimedia Journalis

KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

MIDLAND, TX (KWES) –
A STEM robotics program at Lee High School is allowing students to put their engineering skills to good use.

“It takes brainpower, you can’t just come up with it out of nowhere,” said Cristian Valeriano.

It brings science, math and technology to the next level.

“The nice thing about it is you step back and help them if they need help,” said Alan Pitkin, Career and Technical Education Teacher of STEM Robotics. “You want them to use their brain to think and problem solve. Say, ‘Hey Google something, see how something works, see how the real world is using it and implement it in your robot.”

Building a robot isn’t as easy as it looks. It takes brainstorming, teamwork, problem-solving, executing and trial-and-error.

“Building takes a lot of precision,” said Christian Martinez. “It’s really key to this. One small mishap can ruin the whole thing. Building takes a lot of hours. After school, we come, on weekends and in the summer.”

“When we first got started, it was grasping an idea,” said Valeriano. “First, it’s where to start. We make the wheels and build off from there. We need to pick up a ball, we need something to pick up a ball. It’s piece by piece.”

Every year, students in the program learn and prepare for a robotics competition towards the end of the year called First Robotics. It’s one of the biggest competitions where teams build robots and compete against each other and win scholarships. But it doesn’t come cheap and only a small portion of school funds are used with help from the MISD Education Foundation.

“When you have to go to regionals, like Georgia, it’s $12,000 to $15,000,” said Pitkin. “Houston is $5,000. It also depends on how many kids you take. Some of these kids haven’t been out of Midland. I give them the experience and see what the world is doing. Midland isn’t that far out and Midland can compete with anybody.”

The program has become successful thanks to the Midland Independent School District Education Foundation and its sponsors from SM Energy, the J Robert Jones Charitable Trust Foundation and Pioneer.

“They see a value in giving your money to the school for robotics,” said Pitkin. “It’s all being put to good use.”

But these funds are what get the gears turning for these students to become successful and inspire the next generation of engineers.

“It’s beneficial to learn now then get put out in the world and not know what to do,” said Valeriano.

“I want to go to A&M, which has a good engineering program as far as architecture,” said Martinez. “I feel like this will help me get there and achieve it.”

To help and sponsor the program, you can contact Jami Owen with the MISD Education Foundation here.

There will be a Phillip Phillips concert that will benefit the MISD Education Foundation this Saturday, Sept. 9, 8:00 p.m. at the Midland County Horseshoe Amphitheater.

Categories: Robot News, Teaching Technology Tags:

Turing Tumble: Gaming on a Mechanical Computer by Paul Boswell — Kickstarter

June 3rd, 2017 No comments
Categories: Computing, IEEE, Teaching Technology Tags:

State Progress on K-12 Computer Science Ed Policies: ‘We Have a Long Way to Go’

April 24th, 2017 No comments
Categories: Computing, Teaching Technology Tags:

How to Make Hydraulic Powered Robotic Arm from Cardboard – NTD Inspired

March 24th, 2017 No comments

America’s High School Graduates Look Like Other Countries’ High School Dropouts

March 17th, 2016 No comments

Ed Note: I felt I had to post this as an educator……

From: nprED
Date: March 14, 2016

A new study confirms what many Americans already knew deep in their hearts: We’re not good at math.

Not only that, but when it comes to technology skills, we’re dead last compared with other developed countries.

The PIAAC study — the Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies — looks at the skills adults need to do everyday tasks, whether it’s at work or in their social lives.

“Clearly, we have some work to do in this country,” says Peggy Carr, the acting commissioner of the government’s National Center for Education Statistics. The study compared countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Read more…

Categories: Teaching Technology Tags: