RobotLAB Blog

Everything You Need To Know About Robotics in Education and Businesses

Blockly VS Scratch: What’s best for me?

Learning to code can sometimes seem overwhelming.  I remember when I was making the leap from learning vocabulary and syntax to creating an entire program I experienced some writers block.  I had all the tools I needed, but I didn’t know where to begin. 

Enter Scratch and Blockly: two programming environments that use a graphical interface of interlocking blocks to make coding easier for new programmers.

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The necessity for Computer Science in the 21st Century

 

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The future is now. We need to get up to speed and time is wasting. The Industrial Revolution  transitioned to new manufacturing processes, as agrarian, rural people came to cities, learned new skills to live a better life and support their families. Today a Computer Science career enables workers to secure a job and provide for their families. Jobs in the STEM fields are not going away, and If anything will increase in number and variety.

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STEM and CTE: Opening up the Path to Career Readiness

When I was in high school, in the early 1990s, we had an open-day with universities and business schools. Representatives from these schools came to promote their college-degree programs.  Back then, we were conditioned to believe that anyone who was smart and wanted to be successful in life should take the college path. Career readiness programs were associated with hard, underpaid jobs. They were a path for the students in difficult situations or those who couldn’t “cut it” in college, and they were considered a path to failure.

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What is it Like Working for a Robotics Company?

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When we first started at RobotLAB, we had no idea what it would be like working with a company of robots, technology, and education. During these past six months, we have experienced many situations that have truly transformed our perspective of our work and our personal lives. Here are our experiences and challenges:

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Introducing STEM to your kids in their daily life

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With the growing demand of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) related occupations, the focus on STEM education has jumped significantly in recent years. However, the majority of kids nowadays have little to no interest in STEM subjects. The way they are introduced to STEM subjects in schools is unengaging and unrelated to their lives. They can’t connect the logic between Math formulas and living out their daily activities. Children should really be exposed to STEM in their homes since early age.

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Machine Talk

Last month Amazon purchased Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. This is incredible news for several reasons!

 First, it shows the phenomenal success of young companies that emerged from the information technology revolution a few decades ago. Think about what Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple achieved in the past 20 years. Their success is both amazing and inspiring!

 Second is the story behind this purchase. Jeff Bezos just wanted to buy some fruits at Whole Foods, but Alexa didn’t understand it correctly…

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Of course, this is a joke. But a powerful one!

Humor says a lot about the culture of its time. And this tells us an interesting story about where today’s technology is going. We are entering an era where we talk to our devices. This brings the biggest change yet to the integration of technology and our lives.

Communication and language are key to the evolution and development of species. And particularly for us humans.

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Do we really need to teach Algebra?

One of the most debatable topics these days is whether we should keep teaching high school math or not.

“Where will I use it in my life” is common feedback from the grouchy students. However, studies show that students don't mind practicing math, its testing math where we lose them.

And we lose them badly. In 2016 a Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) unveiled the results of an international math quiz that showed U.S. high school students lag behind their global peers in math, ranking 40th in math out of 72 countries last year. The U.S. score was down 17 points from 2009 and 20 points below the average of others taking the quiz, which saw Singapore come out on top, followed by Japan, Estonia, Finland, and Canada.

As a result of this failure, many in and out of the school system advocate to “lower the bar”, drop Pre-Calc, Algebra II or even Algebra I from the curriculum (and standardized testing) and help students overcome the “math anxiety” by bypassing the subject altogether.

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How Society Pushes Women Away from STEM at Every Step of the Way

You are invited to a child’s birthday party. As an adult with no children you have no idea what kids are into these days, and hope that your random purchase at Toys R’Us will be acceptable. When you enter their website or their store the first choice you make is based on the sex of the child. Is the child a boy or a girl? Although most of the toy categories under boy’s toys and girl’s toys are the same except for a few, within the categories you will see a difference. Within the building sets and blocks category the page looks different if you are in the boys or girls section. For example, girls have a Lego play house, and frozen treat stand. The boys have a technic hydroplane racer and Homing spider droid.

 

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TJ Bot! an open source project to connect to IBM Watson services in a fun way

TJ Bot is an open source project to access IBM Watson services in a fun way. You can 3D print or laser-cut the robot, then use one of his recipes to bring him to life! The kit targets senior high school or college students and anyone interested in using Raspberry Pi. Depending on what you plan to build with TJ, you may need other electronics such as Neopixel LED, camera and microphone.

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Students at Folsom High School learned how to program with the Nao Robot check out the amazing results!

Beginning computer science students at Folsom High School, in Folsom, California, have been learning how to program using the NAO Robot. After the lessons in the curriculum completed, teams of four students were required to write a lesson plan before they started programming which would include the following:

  • Grade level taught 

 

  • Subject NAO will be teaching

 

  • Summary of the lesson

 

  • Materials needed to complete the lesson

 

  • A detailed description of the program by using a textual storyborad format

 

They were then to work as a team to program this lesson, problem solve, work out bugs, and then video tape the lesson once it was working properly. check out the videos, programmig can be fun! 

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Coding, Programming and Computer Science are not the same

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You’ve probably heard about the push to provide students with coding and programming skills as a way to better prepare them for the 21st century and possible future careers. Many companies like code.org, code academy, tinker, programming basics, RobotLAB and many others, offer to students a variety of learning exercises to teach them coding and programming in a fun and easy way. There are even online platforms for children as young as 5 years old.

Nevertheless, exists big differences between coding and programming and it is important to know what makes them unique. Each student has a different goal for their learning; whether it be to improve a specific skill, further a career path or engage with their passion, they should be sure if they want to become a coding or a programmer.

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The Four C’s to prepare our students for the 21st-century workplace and beyond

 

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The Four C’s have created quite a buzz in the last few years in education. The four C’s consist of Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Communication. Each has a very unique and powerful aspect, and some might say that one is more important than another. We will discover each of the four C’s and why teaching the 4 C’s is important to prepare our students for the 21st century workforce.

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Let’s take an example in a Math class. For so long Math has been taught in a way to give a strict question and have the student come up with one answer. There are very specific 1, 2, 3 steps and a rigid guide on how-to. The first C represents the opposite of this, which is Creativity - thinking outside of the box. Being inspired to come up with more than one solution to a problem which allows students to approach it in multiple perspectives.

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Three trends in education you must put on your tech-radar

In the past years, teachers are moving from being teachers to being facilitators of discussions in the classroom. From a traditional teacher standing in front of rows of students, we see classrooms transitioned into the high-tech environment, collaborating and working in small teams, sharing ideas and debating with each other, searching for information online, and coming up with presentations that represent their collective understanding/view/work. Schools and classrooms have changed in the past five years more than they have in the 200 years before.

 Educators who believe that this change is more than enough, that there’s nothing more to be changed, that this tectonic shift that we’ve seen in the past years has reached its peak, and we can sit and rest from now on and just perfect our teaching methods are up to a big surprise. The ever-accelerating pace of technological advancements is here not to stay. They are set to transform every corner of teaching and learning, and then in no-time, transform it again and again and again.

Here are few upcoming changes we clearly see going to transform the education world very soon.

1. Mixed reality  

Unlike virtual reality which blocks the viewer from the world, or augmented reality which just adds some virtual items (menus, Pokemon) on your screen/headset, the mixed reality is the holy grail of this new medium. Mixed reality allows the computer to be aware of the environment, and it’s depth, and attach digital objects to physical ones.  In this way, our senses are tricked to think there’s a real object in front of us, although it’s digital.

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Remember the operations center in the movie Avatar? Everyone is looking at the Tree of Life, from different angles, and they share their thoughts as if the tree is a physical object in the room, although it is a digital rendering of that. This is possible today with tools like Microsoft HoloLens that allow creating a mixed reality environment where everyone shares the same experience. Now imagine this powerful tech in your classroom, imagine you could bring to life concepts in the middle of the classrooms, and let everyone experience them, right in front of their eyes. Allow them to interact with that and allow them to make predictions and test, all while working in between real and digital.

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Washoe County School District Gifted and Talented Program- Case Study

Washoe County School District Gifted and Talented Program- Case Study with RobotLAB at NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) Conference 2016 

I am Cheri Di Martino. I am the Director of Washoe county School District – our gifted program. And we are really excited to talk about NAO with you today. What we did in Washoe County is we knew we needed to get into the 21st century, we knew we needed to teach kids at a level they needed to be taught, so we were looking for a partner that could take us into the 21st century and get those NAGC standards, our state standards and have this beautiful marriage together. Well, what we found was RobotLAB, and we found the NAO robot. So what we asked was could a picturesque humanoid robot achieve what we wanted to achieve in Washoe County? This is something that could really help take our 

students to a whole other level. This is something I'm feeling very passionate about, but I could feel passionate about something, but will everybody else around me feel that same passion, that same energy and want to buy into this incredible, incredible product.               

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WHAT TO SEE AT ISTE CONFERENCE 2017?

Extraordinary educators deserve extraordinary professional development. At ISTE 2017, you’ll find strategies that work from the brightest minds in ed tech. Connect and learn from other innovative educators, thought leaders and education companies at the world’s most comprehensive ed tech meeting of the minds.

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Only 6.7% of women graduate with STEM degrees. Could it be changed?

The following video shows how the equality gap between genres is very far releated to STEM fields, girls are being segregated and limited for don't have the same opportunities as men,  what to do to eliminate this division? How would you help?


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Can robots help students avoid the #PatienceTest? | Elad Inbar | TEDxSVSU

"Robots are just the beginning, new technologies like mixed-reality, are mature enough, and opening doors to even more learning opportunities. Our kids use snapchat’s mixed reality already!

We owe that to our kids.

Every day when they go to school, they trust us to teach them based on recent discoveries, and not based on dogmas from a century ago. [...] without visualizing it for the students, without opening the curiosity-door using a robot, without seeing a real-world use for the math, they would have never listened... ]

Bridging this gap is my life-mission and commitment, to the kids, and to the teachers"

Watch the full TEDx Talk below:

 

 

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Students' Voice On Learning With Robots

One of the top priorities at RobotLAB is encouraging a revolution in STEM education. We bring the best of technology into the classroom, not just as a cool-tool, but as a real teaching aid that helps educators engage students and bring abstract concepts to life.

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The NAO robot is a good example of this kind of teaching aid.

In our everlasting mission to optimize the way NAO is used in the classroom, we took it to a classroom at Oakland Unified School District and analyzed how students responded to this enhanced learning experience.

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RobotLAB new learning platform Engage! K-12 won the Best of Show award from Teach & Learning at TCEA 2017!

Engage! K-12 is an interactive and hands-on learning experience organized by eye-catching themes (such as soccer-playing robots or autonomous cars). Students and teachers can access the browser-based learning ecosystem from any device. A user-friendly interface allows teachers, even those with zero programming experience, to bring their lessons to life with virtual or physical robots.

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Westworld The Series And Two Important Issues


westworld_gunslinger.jpgI first watched Westworld in 1973. It was a science fiction movie written by Michael Crichton and starting Yul Brynner. Yul Brynner’s character was an out-of-control android which killed visitors to a western-themed amusement park. I remember thinking before watching the movie that Yul Brynner was an odd choice of a malefactor: The last time I’d seen him was as the King of Siam in Oscar Hammerstein II’s musical The King and I;  I could not imagine any actor-- no matter how talented--able to make that switch. As it turned out, he was marvelously menacing, and no one in the HBO series Westworld--not even Anthony Hopkins--was his equal.

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PISA Scores Indicates The Importance of Common Core

Are you by any chance familiar with the P I S A test?  Perhaps like me you are acquainted with the test’s dismal results  where American  students are concerned, but the actual name of the test has remained a mystery--until now.

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THE EVOLUTION OF DARWIN-OP FROM THREATENING TO CUTE

I stumbled over this photo and text on the ROBOTIS support site while looking for something interesting on DARWIN-OP:

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Lava NAO and Sky NAO Find a Home At Wellesley Free Library



Here is a riddle: What connects the two newest employees of the Wellesley Free Library and the super-popular Internet game MineCraft?   The answer: a ten-year-old boy named Oliver.

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IBM Watson Helps Teachers Teach Common Core Math

The new common core math standards appear to be the answer to increasing math literacy amongst students. But at the moment the standards are under attack as the popular Internet meme below indicates:

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We choose to go to the moon challenge met by the Silent Generation


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In a recent Apple news article , well known tech consultant Tim Bajarin, President of Creative Strategies, Inc.,  discussed the importance of President John F Kennedy's “we choose to go to the moon speech.” Mr Bajarin believes that that speech given by the president on  September 12, 1962 at Rice Stadium in Houston was crucial in the development of a whole generation of engineers and mathematicians: the very people necessary to this nation's winning  the last century's great space race to the moon. It is Mr Bajarin’s opinion that “by the mid-1980s, without a similar push by either the US.government or the schools to emphasize science, technology, engineering and math (STEM for short), we lost almost two decades of youth who chose to go into other fields of learning.”  

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NAO to be Used in Special Education Elective

Great news: a new Robotics Elective to help students learn computer coding will start in September at the NuView Academy of New Jersey . Teachers will also be hosting “Running Robots: Computer Coding & Special Education” - an Action Lab at the New Jersey School Boards Association’s 2016 Workshop in Atlantic City in October.

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Real-Life Research Projects for Teachers and Students on Zooniverse

avatar_sunspotter.jpgZooinverse is a people-powered research platform. It is a dream come true for teachers, students, and thousands of people around the world who understand just how important information can be.

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Feature a Teacher: NAO Assisting Students Across a Broad Spectrum


Benjamin Durham is a science teacher at Lane Technical High School in Chicago who has been using NAO in Robotics 2 and Adaptive Robotics. In Robotics 2, an intermediate-level robotics class, students use both Choregraphe and Python to program NAO. Many of these students have aspirations of going into medical or social work, and wanted hands-on experience of what robots might be able to do in these fields.

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Feature a Teacher: Using NAO in Behavior Analysis

Thus far, NAO and other humanoid robots are commonly used successfully to help teach children STEM subjects, as well as help children with autism learn social skills. But there is one education program using NAO in a completely different way - and with some very promising results.

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Double Robot: Teaching Kids in a Remote Classroom Experience

I have been writing posts for RobotLab the better part of five years. Few things have excited me as much as the Double Robot virtual presence device. And absolutely nothing (not even the money) has done as much to make me feel like one of the RobotLab staff (I live over 1950 miles from the office!).

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Double Robot: Virtual Presence Device for Special Education


Double_Features_1-1.jpgIf you have an interest in robots there is a good chance you watch the Big Bang Theory.  In one of my favorite scenes, Sheldon, meets the “great and powerful Woz,” Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple.  Not in person, you understand: no, Sheldon is there only as a voice and face on a virtual presence device: a tall, thin, remotely controlled robot on wheels with a tablet of some sort that projects an image of Sheldon and allows him to see and speak with Mr Wozniak. I have embedded the video directly below this paragraph because I think it important to view before continuing.

 

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Pepper the sailor Robot

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Welcomed Onboard Costa Diadema, flagship of the Costa Cruises fleet, Pepper and crewmember Take A Selfie.  

Pepper robot, the world’s first emotional robot, keeps extending its employment range.  Designed at first as a sympathetic companion for the lonely, Pepper is now working in lines that require a robot with the ability to listen to and put up with multiple humans. After discovering that Pepper the robot is now working for the French railway system, it comes as no surprise to find the robot preparing to become a mariner... No, not a space probe; the ancient type of mariner: like the guy in the poem with the albatross around his neck (in the image above Pepper has a tie around his virtual neck); a sailor on board a ship.

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Seymour Papert, EdTech Pioneer Dead at 88

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Seymour Papert, one of the grand old men of educational technology, died last week at age 88. Long before the personal computer and the Internet, long before this generation’s computer heroes like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs brought the digital age to the classroom,  Seymour Papert and his colleagues realized that computers would change education. They developed the first computer language for children in 1967.

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Candy Coding!

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No, not "candy coating", but maybe just as fun. The makers of Pocky, Glico, have made a game app called Glicode that let's kids start coding by arranging the real-life cookies into various patterns and snapping a picture of the arrangement to translate it into in-game commands. The game itself is brightly colored and cute, and the cookies are ready to eat once they've been used - what more could a kid want?

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Apple's Swift Programming Language Comes To The Playground

Until recently Apple’s icons were a colorful, friendly bunch: like the original classic byte.jpgapple logo with a bite out of it; the wonderfully expressive--if silent-- speech bubble. But the latest arrival, Byte the Swift Playgrounds’ hero, while every bit as colorful, is built like the mating result of a hammerhead shark with a pear; it looks like the digital incarnation of a child’s nightmare.  Yes, Yes, I know, kids will probably love it!

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Dr. Michio Kaku: Robots Take Jobs...But Not From Teachers



At the June 27, 2016 ISTE famed futurist Dr Michio Kaku spoke to the assembled maxresdefault-1.jpgeducators about the coming “digitization” of many industries. He thinks it is only a matter of time--and not much time at that!--before many--maybe even most-- jobs now held by humans will be handled more cheaply and efficiently by robots. If my own past is any guide, I think he’s right.  But he was also quick to point out that there were some jobs that he didn’t see replaced by artificial intelligence any time soon--if at all. Teaching, Dr Kaku believes, is one of those jobs. So far nothing digital has appeared on the horizon that looks likely to replace the classroom teacher.  I’ve had reason to agree with him there too...

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RobotLAB ISTE 2016 Crew Inspired By Dr Michio Kaku's Keynote Speech

Michio_0.jpgThe momentarily stern-looking gentleman in this image gave the opening keynote address at the recent ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference, June 26 through 29,  2016, in Denver, Colorado. I’m certain his face is familiar, but do you know his name? I didn’t, although I feel like I’ve seen him a thousand times on TV explaining everything from time-travel to warp-drives (neither of which exists, of course; but after he got through explaining them I did  finally understand why!). And with his infectious enthusiasm and shock of gray hair, he is hard to miss.

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NAO Robot Assists Teaching STEM-Skills In Fort Mill, S.C.


I just came across some school-rating figures that surprised me: according to the personal finance website WalletHub based in Washington DC, South Carolina public schools were rated 45th in the nation in educational quality in 2015. That’s 45th in a field of 51. That’s not a good score. The reason this low score surprised me is that I had recently read an interesting Internet post that described at least one South Carolina school district  as very up-to-date, progressive and STEM oriented. I guess I thought that would be the same for the entire state!

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Presidents Eisenhower and Obama Have Great STEM Legacies


Personally, I can't remember a president since Eisenhower that has tried as hard to inspire young people to undertake a STEM career as has President Barak Obama.  And yes, I can remember the Eisenhower Administration and the day Sputnik wendownload.jpgt into orbit and changed the world forever! John Kennedy’s administration might have set the nation’s course for the moon in 1961, but I doubt we could have achieved that without the impetus provided four years earlier by Sputnik orbiting the Earth.

This drove the country to increase spending on what we know today as STEM Education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).  Until that moment, we had thought ourselves invulnerable. Sure, the Russians had the bomb too, but they had nothing with wings to deliver it across the thousands of miles separating us as up-to-date as our own Strategic Air Command’s B-52 Stratofortress.  And then suddenly, they did…
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Why Turn STEM Into STEAM?

Why go from STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math)?

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Teaching NAO Robot To Do The Right Thing

TEACHING NAO ROBOT TO DO THE RIGHT THING

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Astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson Says It's Better To Die Rich!

neil_degrasse_tyson-1.jpgAstrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson is a well-known TV personality whose education and experience in physics has  qualified him to make pronouncements of great weight in the area of --as you might guess--astrophysics.  While his background in economics may be somewhat obscure, one thing he said recently at a press conference held at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan can be taken to the bank!  “Everything we know about science and technology” he said, “tells us that they are the engines of the future economies. They are the seeds of tomorrow’s growth of wealth. I’m not going to twist your arm to get you to like science, but I don’t have to twist your arm to make you like money. If you don’t want to die poor you should invest in STEM.”

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What is Blockly?

When I first heard the term “blockly” I thought I’d heard “broccoli” and I remembered a comment made by the first President Bush when he came under fire from the dietary fascists for reportedly banning broccoli from the White House:

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Nao robot assists Robonaut 2

Faithful readers of this column have repeatedly heard us say how important NAO Robot is to research and education.  Doubters among you need only read on to learn how NAO is helping changing life aboard the International Space Station.

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NAO Robotics Program by Champions at Beebe Elementary / Naperville School District

Some students at Beebe Elementary have storytelling down to a science. Naperville News 17's Evan Summers learned more about these students and their robots.

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Pepper Robot The Future of Retail

"I'm a sophisticated combination of hardware and software designed to interact with humans and bring them joy," Pepper told CTV (that’s Canadian Television for those few of you who may not be aware that Toronto is in Canada) on March 2, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario. Does the fact that Pepper is conversing with CTV mean that the robot will arrive in Canada before the United States? Will Pepper speak French before English? And will he be playing hockey before football? Oh, the humiliation!

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Pepper Robot Meets Astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson at CGI

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While we common carbon-beings were going on about our dull, ordinary lives, Pepper Robot was one of the luminous participants at the recent Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) held in New York, City, September 26-29th, 2015. Pepper was onstage with famous  American Museum of Natural History Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Other notable participants at this year’s CGI included 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi,  Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of the Republic of Liberia and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. Not to mention Chelsea Clinton and Sir Richard Branson. Participants talked about-- and we assume committed themselves to solving-- issues in such important subjects as Implications of Gender-based Violence and Addressing Early Childhood Development.

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Brilliant Little Girl Shares Insights on Cubelets

When we introduce children to cubelets, we have them assume the role of robot investigators. Kids form simple hypotheses on each new component works and then test it by building robots and seeing how robot behavior changes. This robot building process teaches kids to be creative when solving their problems.

 

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Story about Robot Olympics in an Elementary School

For many people, the activity 'Robot Olympics’ is not too far-fetched because it at least paves the way for something that is highly possible on a larger scale in the future. Here you have 10-year-olds creating their own little contraptions with simple and amazing tools to discover how things work. The results varied considerably with some robots needing a little coaxing on the way. However, everyone gets the basic idea about robots from this event as they are able to tinker around with Dash and Dot.

 

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3D printing in 3rd grade classroom

Technology is one of the most important parts of our lives; this makes it very important that student should be guided to make use of technology in best of its way. Technology when used to teach the students such that they get to make use of something they already learned theoretically is a great idea.

 

This idea was presented to world by the two learned teachers of 3rd grade. They combined mathematical knowledge of geometry and latest technology of 3D printing together. This combination of two factors not only made mathematics and especially geometry fun for students but also practical use of them is also learned. How these two teachers proceeded while introducing technology of 3D is somewhat like this:

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CUBELETS OS 4 - A Major Update and Improvement!

ANNOUNCING CUBELETS OS 4

Hello Friends,

We’ve got something exciting to announce. We call it Cubelets OS 4.
Cubelets OS 4 is a new operating system for Cubelets that changes the way they communicate. Cubelets OS 4 enables Cubelets to do everything they do now, only better!


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With Cubelets OS 4, robots will respond faster to the world around them, providing much quicker feedback on any changes users make. Using a Bluetooth Cubelet is speedy and simple! Reprogramming changes behaviors more quickly and reliably, and, with our NEW Cubelets app, remote-control robots respond in real-time.

 

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Seattle Pre-school Children Spend Time in Nursing Home

It's totally shocking how many societies, especially developed ones, tend to shun the old. Aged homes have become a concept known in many parts of the world where people surrender ageing members of their family. The reason; there is no time in this busy life to look after or tend to the old. However, aged homes are a reality that we endure although they help in some way; people deprive their pre-k children of the pleasures of old age which may be synonymous with grandparenthood, and they simultaneously deprive their own children of time that could be well spent with experienced individuals of their families.

 

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5 Tips to introduce students to 3D printing

3D printing is the new dimension to technology and with uprising and futuristic technology it is necessary that the students are guided to make use of it. 3D printing is one of the technologies that can open up the new dimensions of learning. Sometimes, thing are too fragile to be handled, these can be printed in 3D form and can be understood in better understanding and without any fear of them being broken down or ruined especially rock structures, fossils and microorganisms that are difficult to study under microscope can now be studied in magnified form. When introducing 3D printing to students, teachers should keep in mind these five tips that will make it easy for them to teach.

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GET A PEPPER ROBOT, Don't Kick the Dog!

     President Harry S. Truman is reputed to have said “If you need a friend in Washington, get a dog!” Apparently having a human friend and living in Washington is a contradiction in terms. Current political news tends to confirm that!  But owning a dog is no longer the only way to to gain the tension reducing benefits of friendship.  

Robotic engineers have developed an emotional robot. Aldebaran’s Pepper Robot is programmed to respond to evidence of human emotions like laughter, tears, and long faces. This programming allows Pepper to develop an attachment to the robot’s--for lack of a better term--“significant human.” Pepper then reacts to its significant human’s emotional signals in the way that that particular human has shown in previous similar situations he wants the robot to respond to effect a reduction in tension.  At first, presumably, the significant human must tell the robot what reactions he prefers in various emotional situations; which is, after all, not all that different from developing a well-functioning human relationship. Much as we would like our significant other to know what we need emotionally without being told, it rarely happens. Spouses are particularly difficult to program.

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Millennials Fail at Numeracy

You’re in a dungeon with two doors. One leads to escape, the other to execution.

Do we have your attention? Good! This riddle’s relevance to a discussion on the failure of American students to meet the necessary minimum standards of numeracy is to be explained as we continue...

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Robot Abuse, Or What Goes Around Comes Around

The scene, a gritty street in downtown Philadelphia, Pa. The victim, Hitchbot, a world-famous robot fresh from hitch-hiking trips around Europe and across Canada.  Waiting patiently for a ride to San Francisco, Hitchbot was suddenly viciously attacked and decapitated by an unknown assailant.

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NAO for Autism: An Effective Way to Develop Social Skills

Autism is being experienced in different parts of the world. Obviously there's a wide spectrum of Autism. Some people who are autistic can hardly communicate and blend with the crowd. They easily lose their focus and sometimes act violently. But with the continuous innovation of technology, a program for the NAO robot called ASK NAO was made to help children with autism develop their social skills. This will make it easier for them to interact with people or respond with different actions.

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NAO Robot started to demonstrate self-awareness

Technology is taking a big leap of advancement in every sector of industry today. Artificial intelligence in particular has taken a new turn with the NAO robot.  Programmed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute by Professor Selmer Bringsjord, the robots are able to detec and attract human attention. They can even give responses which is utterly awesome. Some may call it "self awarness...

 

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Champions before and after school program is featuring NAO robots!

When it comes to education, we always want the best for our children. However, there are times that you will see them no longer interested in studying their lessons or even going to school. They can even tell you that a school is a boring place. These days, teachers can hardly get the attention of children. With this, it would be hard for them to make their students understand what the lesson is all about. They should come up with an idea that will catch the interest of their students.

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Grandpa needs a pepper robot!

Hey! Why not?

Some grandfathers have everything they need: a full-featured, available, caring network of spouse, kids, grandkids and pets to look after them and be looked after; some,unfortunately,don't.

And yes, grandmothers as well as grandfathers are included in this discussion(No sexism tolerated on this blog; although we walk on the grey line past the censors from Time to time).

Sure, the fact that they are grandparents means a network once existed; but it's no secret in this world of ours that these networks don't always function very well. Even grandparents--old but still human--get divorced; kids move to the other side of the country; grandchildren,if their grandparents are lucky, go with their parents. Dogs and cats are the next best thing to family, but they, like every carbon being, die. And all too often the old are forced by circumstances beyond their control to live where pets are unwelcome. So, family out of town? No pets allowed? It's time to think about getting a robot!

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How Much Is That Pepper Robot In The Window?


How much is that doggie in the window?
The one with the waggly tail
How much is that doggie in the window?
I do hope that doggie's for sale

Drooling over images of Aldebaran's Pepper robot now being sold in Japan and hoping I’ll have saved enough to get one by the time it arrives in the United States next year, I found myself humming an ancient ditty I haven’t heard for a very long time: How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? And why that particular song, you might ask? Well, it kinda fits! Read on!


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Important Role of Robots in Educating People

Robots in classrooms are no longer an unimaginable vision. They are being used in various schools from different parts of the world for education purposes. Humanoid robots are being used these days in teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math or the STEM subjects to children especially to places that are having problems with these subjects. This is why NAO robots are distributed to many organizations in order to improve standard education.

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Humanoid Robots for STEM Education

Education is one of the most important things that everyone should have because this has something to do with the kind of life that they can have in the future. This is the reason why the government of United Kingdom would want to improve the engagement of children with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math subjects also known as the STEM.

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What you need to know about dash and dot robotics for kids

Playtime is vital for kids; however it's fundamental that you attempt to increase the value of those good times. Kids of all ages do love robots, and an item composed only for children will give them a chance to control their own particular robots while learning to write computer programming concepts. That's the concept behind Dash and Dot robot pack.

dashanddot.jpg

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There is Something About Pepper The robot

Yup, there's something about Pepper!  No, she isn't Mary, I mean Cameron Diaz...but she is a fox! Well, anyway she's kinda foxy in a robot sort of way.  I mean, how else can you describe 120 centimeters of curvy white plastic topped with the gorgeous, big, black, full eyes like Astro Boy gliding like a dream through your life with no aim but your happiness?

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Robots Steal Show at Old Dominion University.

NAO_Old_Dominion

Congratulations to Old Dominion University that prepared an amazing show, that " broke down STEM barriers".  

We know all the work required behind the scene ! The article explaining how the robots are used for STEM , is very inspiring and the actual video of the robot has a great touch. What an entrance. Keep on the great work you're doing with the robots Dr. Helen Crompton. 

RobotsLAB Team

 

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Drones have replaced Johnny Appleseed!

robot-servant-watering

Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk worry that artificial intelligence (AI) might spell the end for mankind as the dominant being on this planet. Maybe, if environmental collapse doesn’t get to us first...and then just maybe AI might save us.

And so I thank the earth,

For giving me the things I need:

The sun and the rain and the apple seed;

The earth is good to me.

John Chapman (September 26, 1774 – March 18, 1845), often called Johnny Appleseed, was an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as the northern counties of present day West Virginia. He became an American legend while still alive, due to his kind, generous ways, his leadership in conservation, and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples.

The rhyme is part of a song sung by Dennis Day in a Walt Disney production of the Johnny Appleseed Story, circa 1948. The prose is from an Internet article on the Wikipedia, circa about now.  While Disney used a good bit of poetic licence telling the story, there was such a man as Johnny Appleseed and if you’re interested you can find his grave behind a rusting metal fence at the edge of a park in Fort Wayne, Indiana; at least you could have 30 years ago. We can only hope it wasn’t bulldozed under for more parking; the earth might have been good to us but lately we haven’t been all that good to the earth and we are sadly lacking committed conservationists like John Chapman.

Every year humans cut down between three and six billion trees; that’s “billions,” not millions. In the United States alone we take down nearly a billion. And that’s not including those lost to fires and other acts of nature. In mankinds’ defense,  we do try to plant more than we cut down: more than a billion and a half here in the States. Problem is, replanting is neither as profitable or as fun as chopping them down and a lot of seed and seedlings go to waste. Keeping up with the cutting down means some trouble must be taken to insure they take root; simply broadcasting seed with a wave of the hand might suffice for a lawn, but not for trees. Johnny Appleseed was certainly aware of this, and apparently took pains that the trees he planted survived.

Since Johnny Appleseed is a long-time dead and the carbon based organisms that have replaced him seem determined to denude the planet of trees (and themselves of oxygen), it is comforting to know that their silicon-based creations (robots) are about to step in and remedy this unbalance. Johnny Appleseed’s dream is about to be undertaken by some even more tireless beings.

Word of these particular robots comes out of the U.K. where a company called BioCarbon Engineering has developed a plan to use drones to plant trees. These drones consult “high resolution 3d maps” of the intended reforestation area before buzzing out and performing what BioCarbon Engineering describes as “precision planting activities” including shooting pre-germinated seed pods “encapsulated in a nutrient-rich hydrogel” into the soil with pressurized air. Later the drones will assess the results and take such actions as might be needed to improve them. The developer claims their process will save up to 85% of the cost and still plant vastly more trees than any comparable human-reliant system.  

Lately science Titans like Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates have been predicting doom for mankind if he continues on his present course to artificial intelligence. AI is certainly one of a number of possible avenues to armageddon, but environmental collapse appears likely to arrive first. Intelligent robots may be our only salvation...Johnny would understand.

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Happy Pie Day math lovers

RobotsLAB wishes you a happy Pie Day . A very special one as mentioned in this great Slate article 3/14/15, and here you have the first 4 digits of Pi 3.1415 . Wait, the article continues and point out that at 9am or 9pm , you should wait for 26 min and 53 seconds. Look at your watch, your phone or your iwatch  and you will see the first 10 digits of Pi 3.141592653 ... How cool is that? We math lovers, number admirers will be sure to catch that very moment.

And it's also Einstein's birthday.. 

Like every special day it is best to spend with beings you care about. You know who we're going to spend it with :)

 

NAOrobot

 

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Math joke

Fun education cartoon, Math meets jokes! We had a blog post earlier about Math meeting Arts, on a different level this cartoon can be Art and definitely meets Math. 

 

MathJoke

  

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tech defines new normal in education

teacher-vs-students

It is good to realize that, as this infographic says, that today’s college students have more options than their 1980’s counterparts had but their time is also stretched more thinly across the school day.”

Indeed, computers, smartphones, online courses and a host of other digital gadgets as well as the Internet itself have made it possible for the education industry to welcome committed students who must provide for their families as well as work on their futures. And the addition of more women and many more minority students in the classroom--both brick and mortar as well as virtual--can only be seen as a positive.

But still, it is no wonder President Obama has called for a national effort to secure the first two years of community college for free. A look at this infographic titled Technology Defines Much of Higher Education’s New Normal will tell you that higher education’s “new normal” is darned expensive. Almost eight times more expensive! Even adjusting for inflation, that increase still seems out of bounds. It also seems particularly anomalous that the price of school books has increased by almost ten times--this in the age of the tablet and online courses. But according to other sources it’s apparently going to get worse before it gets better. Which in turn increases the importance that today’s students gain the skills in school they will need to get the jobs they are going to need to pay off their student debt.

And as this infographic further points out, those jobs increasingly are in the STEM field. Instead of the old standby careers that were still with us in the 1980’s, construction, manufacturing and the service industries, almost 75% of present job openings out of college are in high-tech related industries like computer design, engineering, and one more not mentioned in the infographic, robotics.  

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Denver Public Schools Need The RobotsLAB BOX

mathonboard_Denver_

The Common Core Standards in education are getting more than their share of bad press. Teachers complain of a lack of materials and training while parents are upset because they don’t understand the new methodologies and can’t help their kids with math homework. We here at RobotsLab think we have at least some of the answers teachers and parents are looking for.

The problems facing the Denver, Colorado, public schools are a case in point.  Next year, four years after the state adopted the standards, Colorado students will be subjected for the first time to standardized tests based on the Common Core standards. And yet teachers and administrators feel that the materials they have been using are not up to the task. That leaves them facing a situation where their competency will be questioned because students will be thrown by this new Common Core emphasis suddenly appearing in the tests.

According to some educators, that is partly because some educational publishers seem to think all they have to do is retitle their books to meet the new standards.  Alyssa Whitehead-Bust, the district’s chief academic and innovation officer says this: those companies… “ haven’t redone their material. We’re looking for materials that are really redesigned, not just realigned.”

One student demographic is particularly endangered by this lack of adequate materials, English learners. Students for whom English is not their mother-tongue in Colorado now make up 35% of the student body. That means that even while teachers are trying to increase their students ability to function in an English language environment, they are also attempting to teach them subjects like math. And math, as taught in the Common Core, requires an emphasis on informational text, in English primarily.  District chief schools officer Susana Cordova, notes that even those materials that have been redesigned, like material for English learners learning the language, don’t necessarily help with understanding that informational text. She says most of the redesigned lesson plans she has seen for English learners put too much emphasis on idiom and “That’s not the bulk of what English learners need to learn.

While the robots at RobotsLab can’t solve the whole problem, teachers will find them helpful in teaching math to English learners. Our RobotsLAB BOX, for example, depends less on a student’s language than on his engagement in the lesson plan--and engaging students in lesson plans is our forte.  Watching the robots that come with the BOX demonstrating math principles on the included tablet as complicated as Quadratic equations doesn’t require English, just their undivided attention; something robots do better than any lecture, book or blackboard.   

 

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Cool Teacher Introduces Cool 3D Printer Tech To School

STEM_BOT_3D_large

RobotsLAB salutes Shaun Cornwall, a SciTech teacher at Clark Elementary School in Issaquah, WA, whose courage and committment to his profession is only matched by his creativity!  Tired of using the school’s 3d printers making nothing but boring knick knacks, he printed a Christmas gift for his students that they can use--and abuse! A kids dream and a teacher’s nightmare.

When I was a kid in elementary school the only computers available wouldn’t have fit in our classroom and a printer was someone who probably worked at the local newspaper (remember those?). The only 3D technology we knew anything about came in cereal boxes, two-tone, paper and cellophane 3D eye wear that brought to life characters on the back of that cereal box. What we had in abundance, however, was spit wads and the means to launch them, rubber bands and straws. I preferred rubber bands myself as straws became waterlogged and unhygienic after only a few wet shots on goal--other students.  Teachers used to wait at the door after lunch confiscating any rubber bands and straws they might see.

I am sure a lot has changed in the last half-century, but I’d be willing to bet that a middle-schoolers’ proclivity for tormenting their fellow students with spit wads is not one of those.  Nor, I wager, has the average teacher’s desire to keep their classroom free of such attention-shattering activity.

But then, Shaun Cornwall is not the average teacher.  He was convinced that the useless knickknacks most teachers made with the school’s 3D printers were not fully conveying the importance of this new technology to his students. He decided to build something that they could and would use and give it to them as a Christmas present. He went to Thingiverse and found just the 3d template he was looking for, a desktop catapult.

A what?  That’s right, a catapult. A device described by the developer, Microsoft, as A small desktop catapult to launch projectiles at friends or coworkers.  Wha..!“ launch projectiles...at friends..!”   My first thought was  what teacher in his right mind would deliver a projectile launcher into the hands of a bunch of teenagers?

 But then I got to thinking and I realized that what Shaun Cornwall had done was sheer genius! Sheer genius at a future cost to himself in frustration and exasperation, but genius nonetheless!  Because he was right about the problem he set out to solve: at present most schools present 3D printers to their students as little more than elaborate cookie-cutters for decorative objects: knickknacks.  When in fact, 3D printing is considered by many, including President Obama, as the future of manufacturing--and I can’t imagine a better way of presenting that to kids than the way it was done by Shaun Cornwall with his gift of 50 desktop catapults.

We wish more teachers would take the risks that Shaun Cornwall did. Some of his colleagues will probably complain from time to time when those catapults show up in their classes but the kids will always remember a cool teacher that built something new with some cool new technology.

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Robots and Gardens as Math Instructors

Robot_taking_care_of_garden

What do gardens and robots have in common? Waiting…. Give up? They both make great math instructors!  

Whether digging a garden or interacting with robots, students find themselves engaged (emphasis on this word “engaged”) in an activity that takes abstract math, a subject once found only on school blackboards or books, and puts it to work in a concrete and meaningful way.

Take for example the garden cultivated by teacher Nancy Rhodes’ fifth-grade kids in Corte Madera School in Portola Valley, California. For the last two years the kids have been laboring (“laboring” is likely too harsh a word) in what Ms. Rhodes calls “A Symbiotic Garden: Designed for a purpose.” Her first project aim was to have her students struggle with the question, “Can animals live without plants and can plants live without animals.” The students were required to design plant beds with the goal of attracting different animals. Again, some extra emphasis on the word “design” in the preceding sentence...

After all, as any gardener worth their salt knows, designing a garden plot requires more than grabbing a handful of seeds and throwing them on the ground. Every garden has a limited amount of room and the plants themselves differ in the space needed for healthy roots and sunlight. Some need shelters. Some need deeper soil than others. Water requirements differ with every species. No, it isn’t rocket science but any fifth-grader that has worked through a problem like the following is going to feel pretty good about themselves: The edge of a circular flower bed, 220 ft in diameter, needs mulch. How many cubic yards (yd3) of mulch do you need if you want the mulch to cover 3 ft in from the edge to a depth of 2.5 inches, all the way around?
Diameter = 220 ft
radius = 110 ft.
pi = 3.142
Area of a circle = pi x r2
Area of total bed = 3.142 x (110)2 = 38018.2 ft2
Area of inside bed = 3.142 x (110-3)2 = 35972.8 ft2
Area of ring needing mulch = 38018.2 - 35972.8 = 2045.4 ft2
Volume of ring (2.5 inches deep = 0.208 ft) = 2045.4 x 0.208 = 425.4 ft3
Convert cubic feet to cubic yards à 1 yd3 = 27 ft3 so 1 ft3 = 0.037 yd3
425.4 x 0.037 = 15.7 yd3 = 16 yd3
OR
1 yd3 = 325 ft2 to 1" deep
325 ft2       2045 ft2
1 yd3      =     x
325x = 2045     x = 6.29     6.29 x 2.5" = 15.75 yd3 = 16 yd3
From: Dr. Leonard Perry, Univ. Vermont : Garden Math Sample Problems and Calculations

A garden then is certainly one great way to answer the question asked by nearly every student, “What do I need this math for?”

Here at RobotsLAB we don’t dig gardens, but we do develop robots that engage and instruct students in a manner that makes math interesting and concrete. Kids love robots. At least as much as they love gardening. And the big gain here for teachers is they don’t have to strain their backs, get sunburned, or dirty their hands while working on their lesson plan. 

 

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Do Kids Really Care About Stem Education.

STEM_Education_like_a_Rose

I recently came across a blog post titled Do Kids Really Care About Stem Education. Written by a young educator who teaches high school sophomores, he made some interesting observations that many of us might not want to agree with.

He writes that while teachers, parents, politicians, the whole darn adult zoo, put the emphasis on learning with the hope of future employment in the tech world, teenagers are not really that interested or excited in the world we believe we are building for them.  He says...”High school kids have never been too excited about the adult world, and that hasn’t changed.” Some of us may find that observation upsetting, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. With the possible exception of a few goal-oriented, driven students, this is certainly the way it has always been. And would we really want it otherwise?  Forget dreaming and get on with choosing a career before they leave high school?

One interchange with his students was particularly telling. After a failed attempt by the school to generate some interest in using teenage-tech savvy to build student engagement he came right out and asked them,  “You guys don’t really like using technology at school, do you?”   He went on to describe how... “They smiled and laughed. One student spoke for the class: ‘No, but you teachers all think we do.’ Another student said, ‘We like playing games and sending messages to each other, but we don’t want to use our phones for schoolwork.’ Their heads nodded emphatically in agreement.”  Again, nothing new here. Just ask Facebook developer Mark Zuckerberg about how teens have been avoiding his site since they discovered their teachers, parents and grandparents were on there with them!

But don’t take from this that the author of this post thinks stem learning is a waste of time. What he has learned from his students is  that most of them...,“want to play games and talk with their friends. They like to solve mysteries, and they want to learn more about people… but they are not listening when he tries to engage them by talking-up their futures in high tech. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to most high school math teachers who long ago gave up trying to interest their students in math by telling them it was something they were going to need to get a good job when they grew up.

The post Do Kids Really Care About Stem Education has received a good deal of attention online. It has been tweeted and retweeted often. Some of the attention was less than favorable, but our take on it here at RobotsLAB is the author of this post didn’t say anything that we didn’t already know in our heart of hearts--besides, we build robotic teaching aids that engage kids without asking them to include us on their cell phones. Our robots will most certainly help them develop the skills that they need for future employment. But don’t tell them that while they are enjoying them.


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Robots Swarm To MoMath

Robot_Math_Museum 

When I was a small boy growing up in the desert Southwest, I thought I wanted to grow up to be an anthropologist-- with the emphasis here on “ant.” They were everywhere in the desert: black ants, red ants, big ants and tiny ones.  I had no idea why they fascinated me so, but fascinate me they did, and I spent my summers watching them marching and counter-marching across the sandy desert floor--and of course, being a boy, I messed with them in every conceivable way from frying with a magnifying glass to trampling their elaborate nests and pathways. I sprayed them with insecticide bombs and drowned them in water. All that, and I don’t think I ever managed to completely destroy one of their nests. A few days and they would be back as busy as ever.

Not overly introspective as a boy, I never questioned my intense interest in their organized behavior. That it was “neat,” was enough for me (neat, by the way, was the 1950’s functional equivalent of “cool”). Later--much later, I am forced to admit--I stumbled into robotics and discovered that the very ant behavior that had fascinated me long ago was now a much sought-after goal in robot behavior. Robotics scientists hope that clues to understanding swarming, flocking, herding, crowding, thronging, whatever you call this instinctive, self-organizing behavior of ants, birds, cows and some higher biologic organisms, will guide the way toward developing robots capable of accomplishing tasks without the need to program every single individual unit in a...gang? of robots.

“Gang” will apparently not be the term of choice. The National Museum of Math in New York (MoMath) recently opened a new exhibit named Robot Swarm. A “swarm” of bees maybe, but robots…? Anyway, the exhibit is in the old Taj Mahal of Boxing, Madison Square Garden and the robot swarming (ok, maybe “ganging” does sound a bit inelegant!) takes place under a transparent floor in the ring beneath the spectators’ feet. Just as I once tormented swarms of ants, spectators can now torment small robots by stomping around the ring sending them scurrying to and thro in an organized fashion. But unlike my earlier efforts in the desert which were nothing more than a mixture of childish curiosity and wanton destruction, the purpose here at MoMath is to demonstrate and improve robotic self-organizing behavior.

Why bother, you ask?  Remember the Gulf Oil Spill of 2010? Because of the depth it took months to cap the open pipe. Currents, pressure and collapsing equipment changed the job requirements on a minute to minute basis. Imagine the savings to jobs and the environment if a tool consisting of thousands of small self-organizing robots could have been sent down to wrestle the plugs into position instead of trying to control the tools and plugs in a constantly changing environment  from a distance.

Just as those ants I tormented so long ago were able to survive my actions with their instinct for self-organization, it is the hope of roboticists that someday it will be possible to assign to a robot swarm a task like shutting down that pipe and letting the swarm self-organize the tools and behavior necessary to get the job done.

 
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NAO robot visits President Obama for hour of code

Screen_Shot_2014-12-09_at_10.07.21Here is a riddle: What did President Obama, the world’s most powerful man, say to NAO, the world’s most popular anthropomorphic robot for educational purposes, when they met on December 8, 2014 during an Hour of Code event at the White House?

“Hi NAO! Last year, students and teachers across our country celebrated Computer Science Education Week with an Hour of Code. They learned new skills, programmed games and apps, and realized that while no one is born a computer scientist, becoming a computer scientist isn’t as scary as it sounds. With hard work, and a little math and science, anyone can do it.

For this year’s Computer Science Education Week, more than 48 million people have already participated, and we’re hoping even more of you will get involved. Don’t just consume things, create things.


Take an hour to learn more about the technology that touches every part of our lives. That’s how you can prepare yourself with the skills you need for your future. And that’s how you can help prepare our country for the future as well. America
has always been a nation of tinkerers, builders, and inventors.

We brought the world everything from the lightbulb and the telephone, to the iPad and the Internet. So whether you’re a young man trying his hand at programming for the first time or a young woman who is already hard at work on the next big thing, we’re counting on you–America’s young people, to keep us on the cutting edge. Thanks NAO, and happy coding!”

Wow eh?  Who’d a thunk a robot-- Oh, you don’t believe this? Good for you! We kinda hoped you wouldn’t. No, actually this is the text of the speech President Obama gave the day before to open 2014’s Hour of Code. What he really opened the speech with was “Hi everybody!”

This silly subterfuge with the riddle was nothing more than an attempt to draw your attention to the fact that our buddy NAO was a guest at the White House. I mean, when was the last time you were there? NAO is apt to be seen anywhere these days.

Hey, just last January he was on Mars helping the astronauts master the finer points of communicating with robots! Well, Ok, that was Utah, an analogous Mars with analogous astronauts, but that’s about as close to Mars as we’re gonna get for a while and NAO was there with us!

One more riddle… Check out the image below. Do you think NAO and VP Biden were talking 2016?

naoexplainshourofcodetovp

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With NAO robot learn from the 2014 Hour of Code

NAO_robot_hour_of_code-891640-edited

The ability to do computer coding has become one of the big three...ok, make that the big four, goals of education: those are reading, writing, arithmetic and now computer coding. It appears that the nation that fails to educate its young in any one of these four will find itself severely disadvantaged in securing employment for them in the future. A development that quickly leads from mere unemployment to a falling standard of living and finally social unrest. The world is replete with national examples of this phenomenon. 

The first three goals, the ability to read, write and avoid being short-changed have been universally met--in this country at least--for several centuries; the fourth, a knowledge of computer coding is--no matter what the ancients say--something new under the sun. I was able to survive without knowing anything about it until I was well into middle-age, but my children have always been aware of it and my grandchildren, still in elementary school, are already putting it to use.

One code-learning advantage leading to their acceptance and understanding that my grandchildren have that I and their parents didn’t have is The Hour of Code Initiative. Begun last year, 2013, by Code.Org, a non-profit organization, The Hour of Code bills itself as “a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics.” On its website it claims The Hour of Code is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. Anyone, anywhere can organize an Hour of Code event. One-hour tutorials are available in over 30 languages. No experience needed. Ages 4 to 104. It is supported by many organizations such as Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the College Board and as of this post, it states that 92,871,946 individuals have tried the Hour of Code--a lot of peoples grandkids among them!

The first of several available tutorials stars Anna and Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. They, along with Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg (who stay out of the way) help kids get interested and get going. There’s also an hour for kids who want to start coding their own games!

Hour of Code is available for use at home but many school systems are also enthusiastic about teaching code. Take for instance public schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, Florida. There’s already a NAO robot named Cody who is being programed to speak, walk, wave, and do Tai-Chi moves (which puts them one up on me!).  The school principal believes that coding should become a required subject and says that “"It's allowing our boys and girls to have this wonderful opportunity to expand their horizons, to think creatively...Coding helps them to better understand reading, mathematics, science, so it's a collaboration of all subjects, doing something that they enjoy."

At home or at school. It doesn’t matter where we learn it, but learn coding we must  if we are going to stay competitive on the world scene. And with easily accessible and user-friendly sites like Code.Org there is simply no excuse--for us or our progency---not learning or becoming proficient in coding.


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NAO Robot Making his show in Mexico

This how it looks when our partner in Mexico is kick-ing off a show for EdTech to the local government ! 

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robots-move-to-K12-classrooms

NAO_Robot_for_STEM 

When the digital world was in its infancy the study of robotics was left to graduate courses at major universities--and not many of them!  In a pitifully few schools K-12 students got a chance to work with robots after school. As a result, only a very few of the most STEM-minded students had anything to do with robots.  Things have changed.Robots are no longer just extracurriculars.  Educators across the country have come to realize that robots are among the most perfect of teaching tools.

Onslow County, North Carolina high school teachers, for example, are using the RobotsLAB Box to show students how certain math concepts are relevant to their increasingly digitally outfitted lives. The RobotsLAB Box contains four robots and a tablet to demonstrate and display these concepts. How better to engage agile young minds with  quadratic equations than watching them roll out on the tablet to the tune of the quadcopter dancing above them?

In Okaloosa County, Florida, seventh graders built a tablet-controlled mini-Mars rover. Using the robot’s cameras and sensors they move about a table-top Martian landscape covered with red and blue balls. They get to program the robot to move about and collect the balls. At a tech center in Evansville, Indiana, high school students learn to program and operate a robotic arm. At Fayette County Schools in Kentucky, both middle and elementary schools have robotics as electives. In Colorado, the St.Vrain Valley School District has robotics in its K-12 curriculum because as Axel Reitzig, St. Vrain’s STEM coordinator says,” ... building STEM skills means really mastering technology. When students are designing and building robots, there’s a lot of trial and error and they’re getting that immediate feedback, helping them piece together the whole picture.”

It is hard to imagine that there are many school-age children in this country that are not in daily contact with the digital world. Most schools have computers. An amazing number of children in elementary middle and high school have smart phones-- and most kids without one wish they had and are actively pressing their parents for one. For today's’ students the future appears to be digital. It is past time for robots, the most perfect of digital wonders, to become part of every school’s regular curricula.    

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RobotsLAB Announces STEM Teaching Aids Aligned With McGraw-Hill and Pearson Curricula at Kaplan EdTech Demo Day


RobotsLAB Announces STEM Teaching Aids Aligned With McGraw-Hill and Pearson Curricula at Kaplan EdTech Demo Day

RobotsLAB Shares Vision for Improving U.S. Math and Science Performance with Investors and Educators

San Francisco, CA ; New York, NY – October 22, 2014 – RobotsLAB, the educational robotics company™, today announced the 2015 version of the RobotsLAB BOX. RobotsLAB BOX is an innovative set of four robots and accompany lessons that aid teachers to demonstrate complex STEM subjects. The newest version of RobotsLAB BOX was announced today at TechStars EdTech Demo Day in front of hundreds leaders in education. In addition, the 2015 version of this award-winning kit is newly-aligned with the curricula and lesson plans of education market leaders such as McGraw-Hill and Pearson.

RobotsLAB sells revolutionary programs that use robots to bring abstract concept to life bridging abstract and concrete, making them easier to understand by students. The standards-aligned curricula uses flying drones to teach algebra and calculus, an intelligent basketball to demonstrate problems in algebra and statistics, as well other robots such as rovers, and a humanoid robot that drives his own car, covering a variety of STEM subjects.

According to recent reports, only thirty-two percent of U.S. high school students were proficient in math upon graduation even though sixty-two percent of U.S. jobs require entry-level workers to be proficient in algebra. RobotsLAB's mission is to solve this learning gap by using robots to create “Ah Ha!” moments in the classroom.

“We are excited to be working with Kaplan to accelerate the development of the company, expanding our reach, and our products development” said Elad Inbar, CEO of RobotsLAB.

The Kaplan EdTech Demo Day is organized to highlight leading startups focused on education. The product launch was attended by more than 500 stakeholders in the Edtech community, venture capitalists, and education industry leaders.

Already this year, RobotsLAB has continued its pattern of solid growth and ongoing innovation. Highlights from 2014 include:
• The introduction of four new products and accompanying curriculum
• Introduction of RobotsLAB BOX curriculum into Spanish
• Educational robots from RobotsLAB now in place in schools in every U.S. state
• RobotsLAB named the Edison Award Gold Winner for Innovation in Education
• RobotsLAB was the winner of the LAUNCHedu Competition at SXSWedu earlier in 2014
• RobotsLAB MathBall was awarded ISTE 2014 Best of Show
• RobotsLAB BOX awarded one of‬ "Latest and Greatest ‪#Education‬ Friendly Tools"‬‬‬ by Scholastic Administrator Magazine.
• RobotsLAB BOX received Reader's Choice Award from eSchool News


About RobotsLAB: Working in the intersection of robotics and education, RobotsLAB is introducing drones, rovers and other robots as a teaching-aid for middle and high school math and science classrooms. Many STEM projects focus mainly on the STE-, neglecting the M(ath) component. Meanwhile mathematics proficiency in high school students has fallen to 32% -- disqualifying many graduates from entry-level jobs. Our team of roboticists, engineers, teachers and professors are dedicated to fixing the education system using 21st century technology, bringing math to life and preparing students for their future. RobotsLAB’s mission is to augment educators and engage students using the most innovative tools -- driving excellence, and ensuring their future success. http://www.RobotsLAB.com 

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State by state look EdTech planning

 In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. 

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Chelsea Wilhelm,  a Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE) Fellow with the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation, an American non-profit, nonpartisan public policy think tank located in Washington D.C., recently  took a close look at individual state planning programs--or the lack thereof--for education technology.  

Using an Education Week report from 1989 that stated that “technology planning is clearly a weak area of endeavor” as a baseline, she analyzed state plans for what she considered likely key components in any edtech development plan, student learning objectives, professional development goals for teachers and adequacy of staff support. What she discovered must give us pause: As I have found, that lack of thoughtful planning in the 1980s still exists in the present day. While the problems schools and educators face have evolved, the planning done by each state has not.

Ms. Wilhem’s report comes with a map of these United States that shows that a clear majority of states have no updated plans currently available. Check out the color scheme on the map below! In fact only 19 states have plans that extend beyond 2012. That’s two years ago, folks! Some states like Virginia, Ohio and Maryland come in for praise. Others, including Iowa, Montana and Missouri admit they have no intention to plan past 2012.

 

Screen Shot 2014 10 15 at 11.08.54 AM 871x609 1980’s Planning in 2014: A State by State Look at Ed Tech Planning

 Why is this happening?   Ms. Wilhem gives us two reasons she thinks most states seem uninterested in planning ahead. Reason number one is the decision in 2011 by the US Department of Education to eliminate the Enhancing Education through Technology (EETT) program, the largest federal incentive for state-level planning. Reason number two is pretty much the same as reason number one, except the funding authority is the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC is still funding with its E-Rate program, but not requiring proof of planning.

Keep in mind this doesn’t mean these laggard states are necessarily forgetting about funding for educational technology while they ignore planning for it. I believe it would be safe to say that all of them intend to keep their schools competitive in the new edtech paradigm.  What is does mean, however, is that they are no longer approaching financing edtech in a systematic way. I mean, it’s hard to imagine that the entire West Coast, awash as it is in technology firms, won’t continue to update their classrooms.  What will probably happen, however, sans prior planning, is a lot of wasted money on poorly thought-out programs.  

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3d printing in K-12 grows average contract $39,000

 

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3D printing is on a roll. Big businesses have had the technology available to them for the last twenty years or more. Recently however, 3D printing became available for the rest of us: for example, UPS opened 3D printing services in 100 stores nationwide last September. The monster transporter claims thatSmall business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to print prototypes as part of the new product development process…. The UPS Store locations will be equipped to produce items like engineering parts, functional prototypes, acting props, architectural models, fixtures for cameras, lights and cables.” And that’s just the latest word from the private sector.

ONVIA dot Com, a website that describes itself as intelligence for winning more government business says the public sector is booming also. Take for instance these three exciting developments at the federal level. First of all, the army is working on developing guns using 3D technology. This particular example of a technology going to the dark side might not thrill some of us, but Pandora’s box is open. Private individuals have already uploaded files capable of printing a working--if rudimentary--gun on 3D printers found in many homes.

Another example of an important federal use of 3D technology that many will consider more positive than the first is NASA’s testing of a 3D printer in zero gravity. The hope is to bring the costs of spaceflight down by manufacturing tools and replacement parts in orbit rather than blasting them up there at $2000 or $3000 per lb (the Space Shuttle once ferried a pound into orbit for about $10,000; the lower figure is an estimate by Elon Musk of what he thinks his Space X can do). The third exciting development at the federal level is the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) launching of its NIH 3D Print Exchange. This website is all about downloading and editing 3D files related to health and science. No doubt we soon can print off a perfect replica of an Ebola virus….

While the federal government spends big bucks on developing 3D printers for spaceflight and guns, state and local governments have increased spending for 3D technology in schools. Oniva says the average 3D printing contract value for K-12 was $38,981. Again according to Oniva, contracts awarded for 3D printing in schools (K-12 and above) grew from 18 in 2012 to 27 in 2013. The figures for 2014 look to double as 24 awards were issued in the first six months of the year.

All of this is good news for the progress of additive manufacturing in this country. Many people, including President Obama, consider this new form as the next industrial revolution. It is great to see that the schools are getting involved, as that is where the future creators of the new technology and its future workers are now found. In partnership with Makerbot, developer of the under-$2000 3D printer for the masses, RobotsLAB has created lesson plans to help make a teacher’s job easier when it comes to teaching about  this new manufacturing process.

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Why Do Americans Stink at Math?

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A 2012 study of adults in 20 countries found that Americans ranked near the bottom in numeracy. Numeracy being defined simply as the ability to work with and understand numbers. What’s worse is that other studies showed that even the most educated among us displayed a deplorable inability to work with numbers: almost twenty percent of medical prescription  showed math mistakes on the part of doctors and pharmacists. How can this be?

Why Do Americans Stink At Math is the title of an article written by Elizabeth Green for the New York Times Magazine on Sunday, July 23, 2014. The thesis is that the deplorable state of math education in the USA is the result of poor carry through on the part of our most highly placed educators.  In spite of attempts to change the teaching of math by engaging students in actually studying math rather than memorizing it, the change is not happening. As evidence of this failure Ms Green relates the story of a Japanese educator who used math-teaching theory and methods developed in the USA to improve Japanese schools by engaging students but found these same theories and methods either ignored or misunderstood and misused in American schools. That Japanese educator  thinks “Americans might have invented the world’s best methods for teaching math to children, but it was difficult to find anyone actually using them.”  Again, why?

According to the article, American educators in the most important and influential teaching colleges don’t actually spend a whole lot of time teaching; they are into research and publishing. The result is great theory but poorly communicated methodology with the teachers actually teaching students. Common Core Standards provide us with a recent example of this disconnect.

Explains Ms Green, “With the Common Core, teachers are once more being asked to unlearn an old approach and learn an entirely new one, essentially on their own. Training is still weak and infrequent, and principals — who are no more skilled at math than their teachers — remain unprepared to offer support.  Magdalene Lampert, a professor of education at the University of Michigan notes “In the hands of unprepared teachers, alternative algorithms are worse than just teaching them standard algorithms.”  What results, of course, is confusion leaping from teacher to student to parent. A sequence Ms Green illustrated with this amusing anecdote:  The comedian Louis C.K. parodied his daughters’ homework in an appearance on “The Late Show With David Letterman”: “It’s like, Bill has three goldfish. He buys two more. How many dogs live in London?”

Textbooks haven’t really made the jump to Common Core either. They have  “have received only surface adjustments, despite the shiny Common Core labels that decorate their covers.”  On the textbook issue, no less a personage than Phil Daro, a senior member of America’s Choice and one of three principal writers of the math Common Core Standards agrees, “To have a vendor say their product is Common Core is close to meaningless…”


It is not necessary to agree with every point made in this article to agree with the overall conclusion so succinctly implied by the title, that Americans do indeed stink at math.  And there is no doubt that teaching methodology must be greatly improved if we in this country are to retain our technological superiority. Engagement, not rote learning must be encouraged.  Our goal here at RobotsLAB is to provide teachers with technological aids, our robots and included curricula, that will engage and encourage students to study rather than memorize.

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Engaging students a creative teacher project

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Teachers, need some new lesson plan ideas to meet the requirements of the new Common Core Standards? Well, BetterLesson.Com and your own Union, the National Education Association's Master Teacher Project heard your cry for the help that you weren't getting from your administrators and came up with a plan of their own: they searched out lesson plans from 95 or more of the best teachers in the country and paid them $15,000 each to put their plans online with BetterLesson.com.  All these plans and related materials that they paid for are now online free for your perusal. Besides affording teachers fresh ideas, Instructional philosophies and implementation tips will also be provided with the lesson plans.

Nor is the NEA alone in assisting teachers in working within the new paradigm. In 2012 the American Federation of Teachers worked out a similiar lesson-sharing plan with ShareMyLesson.Com. Unlike the NEA, the AFT has teachers post their own plans. Like the NEA, the AFT shares the plans for free. This plan too, appears successful as it has 250,000 registered members and has had almost two-and-half million lesson downloads during the 2012-2013 school year.

In many quarters, Common Core has not been met with positive reviews. The transition has not been smooth. The complaint that teachers were given insufficient training is common. While there is no substitute for that training, both of these websites, BetterLesson.Com and ShareMyLesson.Com might help teachers get by until they get the training they deserve.

RobotsLAB is also in the business of assisting teachers with meeting the requirements of the new Common Core standards. Our engaging robotic teaching aids and their included curricula have been designed with the standards in mind and will provide your classrooms with effective alternatives to boring texts.   

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3D printer in the classroom making and unstructured exploration

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When I was a kid and enormous cars with long sharp tail fins ruled the road, it was said and believed by many, "If it's good for General Motors, it's good for America." Not so today with GM recently coming out of bankruptcy. But things haven't changed all that much, only the names of the mega corporations we worship. Yesteryear it was GM, today it's Google. And with good reason: GM came roaring out of the Second World War the largest, most productive business on the planet; they were doing something right! The same for Google in this era; their search engine and browser rules the Internet. Their cellphone operating system connects the globe.

With Google products dominating the new industrial age, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Google workplace practices are garnering a lot of attention--and emulation--in business and education. Chief among these much emulated practices is 20% Time.

20% Time, as defined by the Google practice, is allowing their employees 20% of their work time to work on creative projects that are unrelated to the employee’s assigned projects. The result has been the creative surge that brought Google to the forefront of its industry.

In education, 20% Time allows kids a chance to take their attention off class content and get creative. Oh, sure, you say, untethering kids from classroom routine and letting them get creative sounds great, but without structure in the classroom you soon get chaos. Good point! The way to avoid chaos is to add a touch of chaos-preventing structure. The Maker Place is a great way to add that structure.  

The Maker Place isn’t simply a portion of the classroom where kids are turned loose to get into trouble. The idea is to provide a space where kids can loose their creativity with engaging projects suggested by teachers and other students . The Maker Place should also include the materials ( 3D printer ) necessary to complete the projects.

RobotsLAB’s STEM BOT 3D CLASS provides both the curriculum and the materials for a perfect Maker Place. The STEM BOT 3D CLASS teaches students how to 3D print a robot, assemble it, work on the electronics, use a 3D printer and finally program it using Scratch.Kids love robots. It doesn’t take much effort on the part of the teacher to get them interested in making one.

Educators, give some thought to freeing up time for your students creative urges--without losing control, of course. 20% Time works for Google. It might work for you.  

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NAO robot illustrating a TechCrunch article

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Wondering how to teach a kid to write? How about helping a kid teach a robot to write?  Committed teachers have been saying forever that they learned more from their students than they learned from them. Might this have the same profound effect on students working from the teacher’s perspective?

I don’t have the answer to this riddle. The question simply came to me when I stumbled over this great picture of the French company Aldebaran’s anthropomorphic robot NAO hovering studiously over a digital pad seemingly writing an earnings report for the Associated Press. Looking stiff with the pencil at an uncomfortable angle and totally focused, doesn’t NAO look a lot like a kid learning to write?

Actually the blog post with this picture is talking about robots that look less like humans and more like computers. But how better to illustrate the point that computers are freeing humans from boring jobs?  NAO, after all, is the most widely used anthropomorphic robot for educational and research purposes.

Not only anthropomorphic, but autonomous also. Which brings me back to the question about NAO as a possible student and the student as a teacher. In my experience kids like to act like teachers. I know I did, and I can remember my youngest teaching to an attentive Jack Russell Terrier. NAO is programmed to be even more attentive than the Jack Russell--and speaks better English--and French, German, and dozens more. NAO is better disciplined also and won’t interrupt the teacher with barking when the doorbell rings.

NAO is a favorite with us here at RobotsLAB. We put a great deal of effort into  developing curricula that

provides NAO with the ability to keep kids engaged in learning. While writing copy for the AP is a stretch at the moment, it is certainly only a matter of time.  

 
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NAO Humanoid robot coming soon to the library

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I can remember the indignation I felt the first time I found video tapes in the public library; a desecration, I thought! Libraries are for books, not light-weight, made-for-tv documentaries!  I kept holding my nose when I walked by those shelves until I missed Ken Burns’s documentary The Civil War on tv and the only place I could find it was...you guessed it, the public library. Alas, virtue once lost is virtue overcome and I found myself welcoming the computer into the library (a screen search beats the old card system any day), and absolutely thrilled with the coming of the Kindle; so the idea of anthropomorphic robots on the library floor doesn’t bother me at all.  

Like it or not, public libraries are in a competition with the internet for information-delivery relevance. The internet delivers text and imagery with a speed the library cannot; public libraries, on the other hand, can deliver the real thing. Watching a video about robots is interesting, but actually interacting with one is both interesting and fun--just ask any kid!  

One of the first libraries to acquire these tradition shattering mechanical beasties is the WestPort Public Library in Westport Conn.  The Westport library has broken the mold before; specifically, by  setting up a “Maker” space for its patrons and installing a 3D printer,  technology that President Obama has referred to as the “future of manufacturing.” Now, the library intends to introduce its patrons to robots. "Robotics is the next disruptive technology coming into our lives and we felt it was important to make it accessible to people so they could learn about it," said Maxine Bleiweis, executive director of the Westport Library. "From an economic-development perspective and job- and career-development perspective, it's so important."  

The robots, named Vincent and Nancy, are “Nao Evolution Robots,” the latest model NAO robot created by the French robotics company Aldebaran. Standing about three-feet high and looking a bit like the anthropomorphic robot C-3PO in Star Wars, they have a mild, calming way about them that has made them an important tool in teaching autistic children. They are not simple windup toys with a limited behavioral repertoire; besides walking and talking, they recognize faces, can detect where sound is coming from, touch, feel, and avoid obstacles; more, library staff and patrons can program them to do all sorts of entertaining and even practical things, like help find books and meet children arriving at the library. Says Alex Giannini, the library digital-experience manager, "I don't know what the coolest functionality is going to be. Someone coming in off the street is probably going to teach us that."

Nao robots in libraries is a novel development (no pun intended), but these robots are by far the most popular robots used in science education and are found in schools worldwide. Many of these engaging robots have been sold by RobotsLAB along with lesson plans designed for students of all ages. Teachers interested in presenting their classes with an educational experience their students will remember for ever can find more about NAO at our website.  


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Is doodling a good teaching tool?

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Just guessing, but if you’ve achieved an educational level that makes the overall material in this blog at all interesting you were probably a doodler when you were a student. I was, but that isn’t the only reason for this otherwise unwarranted assumption: recent studies show that doodlers retain and process 29% more information while listening to a lecture. Who knew?

Exactly why doodling provides an advantage is still a matter of conjecture.  Some educators don’t care why, they are simply looking for any advantage they can find that will help students succeed. Sunni Brown from Austin, Texas is among that number. Considered  one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business and one of the “10 Most Creative People on Twitter”  by the business magazine, Fast Company,  Ms Brown fervently believes in the power and value of doodling.  She is the Chief “Infodoodler” (this position title found on Wiki) of Sunni Brown Ink, a “visual thinking consultancy” with which she pursues her passion.

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Tech education can't start too early!

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The programming language "Scratch" is for young people that have an itch to create interactive games, stories and animations online. Designed originally for kids 8 through 16, it is offered free by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The Lifelong Kindergarten Group believes its interactive programming language provides the young with essential skills for 21st Century employment, including the ability to think creatively, reason systematically and work collaboratively.

Scratch Jr., the newest example of this language from prestigious MIT is designed for even younger students, preschoolers as young as five. A new Ipad app is now available for these younger kids. Scratch Jr. was developed with mobile devices rather than computers in mind like Scratch. Its developers hope that the language will meet the following educational goals for younger kids:

  • give them a better understanding of literacy and math

  • help them become familiar  with classifications of various computer software and mathematical components

  • help them learn to be problem solvers and thinkers and better understand science and software development

A personal note here: The last time I had babysitting duty I downloaded the Scratch Jr App to my Ipad and handed it over without comment to my seven-year-old grandson, Fox. He likes cats and I thought he might take to it. He did. Also without comment.

I wandered off leaving him completely unsupervised in my recliner with the Ipad inches from his face. When I returned a few minutes later he had already completed three projects.

 

“Was it fun?” I asked

“Yes.”

“Did you learn anything?” I said, knowing I was pressing my luck.

He rolled his eyes in answer and went back to playing with the app.

Another learning tool for the younger set that Fox and his three-year-old brother Dexter both like is RobotsLABS' own CUBELETS.  Their small hands find these little magnetic blocks safe and easy to manipulate. They get a big kick out of the autonomous robots they can make entirely on their own. It pleases their parents and me to see them developing their ability to think procedurally and learning to solve problems in a step-by-step manner.

 

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STEM's Newest Darling: Robotics

 

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Me, being a believer in the robot as a teaching tool,I was at first a little put off by the title of a recent article in the Boston Globe, STEM's Newest Darling: Robotics; a bit cloying, I thought.  The subtitle, It’s the 21st century’s newest must-study subject, came across as patronizing.  I felt certain my favorite machines were in for a verbal drubbing. And guess what, after reading the entire article I've decided my first opinion was almost entirely wrong!  Error! Error! Will Robinson!

Oh, I guess I could still fault the article writer for his off-putting approach in the title, but I certainly can't complain about what he had to say about robots and education; it was highly complementary and informative.  It's good to see that Massachusetts, the home of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), really gets it. Maybe it was the fear that Massachusetts, certainly one of the most progressive states in matters of education, didn't get it, that put me off at first (Ok, Ok, I won't use any further renditions of the term 'off-put' in this post!).

Anyway, Massachusetts does seem to be a hotbed for STEM learning using robotics. An elementary school in Boston’s oldest community, the North End, plans to use robots in Kindergarten classes. And the “inventor-in-residence” (a PHD from MIT) at a private school in Brookline where they intend to integrate programming into all the classes K6-12 says, “robotics is not about building real-life C-3POs, quasi-humans… Instead, it’s a way of combining sensors, computer programming, and actuators to solve problems in the physical world.”  The president of  Worchester Polytechnic Institute, Laurie Leshin, has this to say about the importance of introducing robots early in a student’s career and sticking with them: “Second- and third-graders get this stuff inherently,” she says. “By the time they get to middle and high school, life has beaten out of them some of that interest, and I think robots are a way to get that back.” We couldn’t agree more!

The one disagreement I still have with this article comes near the end where the author says, “The last and maybe biggest challenge, as schools try to start programs, is teachers.”  The author quotes the principal of a Boston K-8 school that says it is difficult to add robots to a classroomunless you have a person who has expertise and is motivated.”  The best teacher is always a motivated teacher, but we here at RobotsLAB would argue that a motivated teacher who lacks expertise in robotics should not be held back.  Any well-motivated teacher skilled in their own discipline, be that math, science, engineering or whatever, will find themselves capable of engaging and educating their class from day-one with nothing more than the material we provide with our robots.

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3 myths about Edtech in the classroom

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A recent post on the role of technology in education made me take another look at our approach here at RobotsLAB. The post discussed three “myths” the writer found prevalent: myth 1 was that educational technology “was all about disruption;” myth 2 was that it was “all about the classroom;” and myth 3 claims “It’s all about...well...technology.”

Myth 1, says the post author, results from the tendency to over-hype the potential educational gains from new tech; people expect an entirely new educational environment. This leads, says the author, to a failure on the part of educators to incorporate the new tech with the existing system which usually leads to failure and increased skepticism by these same educators of subsequent new tech arrivals. The answer, says the author is not to view new tech as disruptive but as a tool to improve present practices.

At RobotsLAB we believe our products are “hyped” as doing exactly that: improving present practices. Our BOX, for example, doesn’t attempt to fundamentally change the study of math, but only to make it more engaging for students. It allows teachers to present their own interpretation while displaying the algorithms at work in the real world.

As for myth 2, the belief that new edtech is “all about the classroom” when there is actually a great deal of very important software for more administrative requirements, we are willing to admit that RobotsLAB’s products are indeed “all about the classroom.” Our products are developed with teachers teaching students in mind rather than software helping administrators with hiring, teacher development and data storage. We make no apologies for that, although in the future we may decide to develop more administratively directed products.

Myth 3 says that some believe that technology is an end all unto itself. We at RobotsLAB don’t even begin to believe that! We think our robotic products are wonderful tools, but only in the hands of committed and trained teachers. We are well aware of the studies that have shown that the teacher is still the most important “school-based factor” for student achievement.

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Algebra curriculum enhanced by rubik cube

Rubik cube helps teaching STEM

Our robots and their included curricula provide students with exciting, engaging experiences in the STEM learning disciplines. Notice the emphasis on the word ‘experiences?’ An ‘experience,’ according to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (circa 1976),  is “something personally encountered, undergone, or lived through.” Even better is the definition found for the verb ‘experience’ with a more modern-media Google search: practical contact with and observation of facts or events.’  That practical contact, that sense of personally encountering something otherwise thought of as abstract, is what our robots can deliver. No book, no blackboard and no lecture can hope to make concrete a abstract math concept as well as interacting with NAO, the BOX and MATHBALL.

 

Obsessed as we are with delivering students an experience that they will remember, we are always pleased to find someone else who understands the importance of engagement in learning. One such educator is teacher Sabrina Truong at  East Harlem high school. She recently discovered that the Rubiks Cube could  help kids learn algebra. She stumbled across a brochure announcing You Can Do The Cube at a educational science fair. She says she followed the brochures’ algorithms and solved the Cube for the first time in her life. That experience made her think that the Cube could be a source of inspiration for her math classes. She then found more interesting material at the site, youcandothecube.com, that helped her set up a curriculum based on the Cube.

Apparently Ms. Truong’s Rubik’s Cube curriculum for algebra class was a hit immediately with both administrators and students. The principal had this to say about this new initiative: This is the first real student initiative at the school. The students took one small idea and developed it into an extraordinary competition. I am impressed by the momentum that it has gained the last three weeks. One thing that stood out is this young man, Steven, who for most of the year was a truant and yet is here to help organize the event. Congratulations to the Rubik’s Cube Club.

Congratulations to Ms. Truong for her extraordinary commitment to her students math education and the same to her principal for his ability to allow a new, untested initiative to survive long enough to prove its worth. We hope the kids at East Harlem High realize how lucky they are to have teachers like these!

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NAO robot introducing Kids to emerging world of robotics

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Although Aldebaran’s robot NAO is far and away the most popular anthropomorphic robot used in education, there are still too few of them to go around. As yet, school systems are more interested in getting a tablet into every child’s hand rather than a robot. A shame it can’t be both as there is recent evidence out of the Robotics project of  Carnegie Mellon University that suggests that kids are beginning to view the computer as a bit passé and computer programming downright boring. But few school systems have the bucks for both.

Realizing this, Murray State's Kentucky Academy of Technology Education has created a program for schools that meets both the NAO shortage and the developing engagement deficit head on. Accepting reality as inIf the mountain won't come to Muhammad then Muhammad must go to the mountain," Murray State overcame the NAO shortage by creating a virtual NAO simulacrum that behaves exactly as the actual NAO when kids program it on their too-familiar computer screens or tablets.

Programming with tools as fun and easy as drag-and-drop and as detailed as C++ and Python, the young students get to watch the NAO simulacrum behave as they program its actions on screen. Later, when one of the few actual NAOs in that  school system is available at their school and in their classroom, they can use that very same program to animate it. This process seems to work wonders as area educators report that students that once held back are now stepping out as leaders and 80% of the kids that take the course are reportedly inspired to take more STEM courses.

Robots like NAO inspire kids to take more STEM courses because they keep them engaged as no other teaching tool can. Kids watching them behave at their behest suddenly find themselves feeling  as if the math that up to now they never found relevant has suddenly come alive.

We here at  RobotsLAB provide NAO and a number of other anthropomorphic robots like BIOLOID and DARwin-OP--along with their included curricula-- that can keep a classroom full of otherwise easily-distracted kids interested in math for an entire class period--and beyond.

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Your Robot Chauffeur Has Arrived



We are very pleased to announce today that the NAO robot from Aldebaran Robotics has two new homes: behind the wheel of a BMW Z4 electric car, and exclusively available only from RobotsLAB. 

 

The stylish BMW Z4 is now part of the broad STEM curriculum services available from RobotsLAB as well for developers.  The NAO + Car will be offered by RobotsLAB as part of our STEM-U program; a holistic and revolutionary curriculum for STEM subjects from pre-K to higher education that makes use of robots and other visual tools.  Under the STEM-U umbrella, we now offer standards-aligned curricula using drones, rovers, robots, Cubelets, 3D printers, and even basketballs.  All part of our mission to assist teachers and better engage students using the most innovative tools available to twenty-first century educators.

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How robots will become soon indispensable teaching tools

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At the risk of exposing my lack of poetic ability, Robots are the new cool,/ and a soon to be/ indispensable teaching tool! Let me explain...

No one questions the commitment of the young to new technology. They take to it like fish to water or birds to the air.  Why then, is there such a lack of interest in computer programing among these young tech user in high school and college? Kids that spend every free moment on the Internet still avoid learning the very disciplines that underlie this technology. The answer, according to Tom Lauwers, member of the CSBOTS project for introducing robot programming at the Robotics institute of Carnegie Mellon University, is simply that “many students find the initial work very boring.”

The people behind CSBOTS at Carnegie Mellon believe that many students find programming computers boring.  Robots, on the other hand, are cool and programming them is fun. Students develop the same skills programming a cool robot as a boring computer. This situation is analogous to an earlier age with the internal-combustion engine and its most popular embodiment, the automobile: everyone drove, but fewer wanted to look under the hood and even fewer troubled themselves with the underlying physics.

The automobile is still around, of course, but the human hand and brawn have been replaced on the assembly line with...you guessed it, Robots! Robots in Israel are saving lives in ruined buildings; robots are under construction that can take the place of men in combat situations and the sky is filled with robotic flying machines, drones. Robots like RobotsLAB’s NAO are even edging into the sports field with the hope of beating a human team at soccer in a generation or two. At the moment NAO isn’t much of a threat to Lionel Messi, but it is ready for prime time in the educational arena.

In fact, NAO in education is the very embodiment of the “cool” educational robot with which Carnegie Mellon hopes to inspire a love of STEM learning and programming in more students entering college. In addition, RobotsLAB’s NAO is coupled with a curriculum that allows students to develop a structured approach to finding solutions while keeping those students interested and engaged in learning skills that will be needed in the future to secure jobs in the STEM field.

And NAO isn’t the only “cool” robot digital teaching assistant here at RobotsLAB that can help teachers keep kids engaged while learning the STEM disciplines. There’s MATHBALL, a robot in the shape of a basketball that was originally designed to help professional basketball players perfect their scoring shots and will now teach kids about parabolas in a way they will never forget.  There’s the RobotsLAB BOX with several robots including AR DRONE to show kids how important math can be in their real lives. There’s BIOLOID to help teachers explain the relevance of STEM and for the younger set there’s CUBELETS for building simple robots that don’t need programing to keep them interested. Take a look at our site for more information--and less poetry.

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10 ways to bring Edtech into your school

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There is plenty of educational technology out there waiting for educators and teachers to use in their schools. And RobotsLAB provides some of the best with its engaging BOX, MathBALL, MAKERBOT 3D printers and anthropomorphic robots like NAO, BIOLOID and DARwin OP. But according to many educators, much as they would like to see more edtech, getting their school systems to accept it is not an easy matter.

Lack of money is one of the first problems that teachers say they run into when they try to upgrade classroom technology. They have a point: some technology, like providing every student with a tablet, costs a financially challenged school district many hundreds of thousands of dollars. But providing every student with a new gadget isn’t the only way to get edtech into schools. Believe it or not there is a lot of free stuff out there that can engage an entire class with only a nominal original outlay.

Scratch, the programming language for example, can teach kids about coding using the computers most (I would hope all) school districts already have. With a single low-priced 3-D printer in the classroom (MAKERBOT 3D printer sells for less than two grand) teachers have a tool that will bring kids into contact with the new manufacturing technology considered by many, including President Obama, as the new revolution in technology. With the 3D printer in hand, teachers can turn to such online repositories as Thingiverse for thousands of free, interesting and engaging 3D templates. For more free edtech ideas try Googling the phrase free edtech. If your school district is having trouble coming up with even the nominal costs like a few 3D printers or a RobotsLAB BOX or two, consider government or private grants. You’ll be amazed at the number of grants available for educational technology if you Google the phrase educational technology grants.

Of course lack of funds is not the only impediment to getting new educational technology into schools. Schools, like all institutions, struggle with change. Educator and edtech blogger Dr. Justin Tarte has what he calls 10 tips for starting a technology revolution that might prove useful for those of you out there who are determined to upgrade the level of tech in your schools.

1 - Make sure the administration is on board…

2 - Lay the groundwork and foundation by asking simple questions… (find out what what level your colleagues are in this revolution you hope to start)

3 - Some educators will be advanced...but most will not be - GO SLOW…

4 - Do not drown your fellow educators with too much too soon…

5 - Support and encourage your shining stars…

6 - Use the largest, loudest, and most listened to group in the school - the students…

7 - Get constant feedback from your colleagues…

8 - Offer your time to help others (off the clock)...

9 - Help make technology and social media applicable to their class / content area...

10 - When you get discouraged, don't - the revolution will be long and hard…

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NAO robot is revolutionizing STEM

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“Klaatu Barada Nikto,” that’s robot talk for...well, several things, including “don’t destroy the Earth” (I’m paraphrasing here, but that is a line from the 1950 Sci-Fi thriller, The Day the Earth Stood Still).  It seems that GORT, a huge and immensely powerful robot has been brought to Earth to teach mankind a lesson; i.e., “either quit fighting among yourselves or I am going to get rid of you all before you become a danger to other planets.” And only moments before he teaches mankind  that violent lesson, along comes Helen Benson, played by Patricia Neal, who utters the fail-safe phrase that began this paragraph and ends GORT’s rampage.

Fortunately, NAO, today’s premier teaching-robot, responds to English--as well as French, Japanese and most other languages. And while GORT had a bad attitude and stood fifty-plus feet tall, NAO stands less than four feet and is so unthreatening that he is welcomed as a friend and teacher by autistic children. NAO has one other advantage over GORT: there’s a lot more of them; in fact, NAO is by far the most popular robot for educational purposes.

In spite of NAO’s small size, he is of immense value to education. No STEM learning academy is more aware of that than techJOYnt in Oklahoma, City.  In the movie, GORT pretty much stayed in one place while he decided what to do; NAO, part of techJOynt’s mobile STEM lab, teaches mankind all over Oklahoma City, from Rockwell Plaza to satellite campuses at Oklahoma City Community College. He is part of the techJOYnt’s Humanoid Robotics course.  He helps students study Node and Python programming using touch and motion sensors; and as as mentioned earlier NAO also helps autistic students communicate.

One thing both GORT and NAO have in common is their ability to engage students. Kids love robots. Can’t keep their eyes or their hands off them. That’s why we at RobotsLAB are so pleased to partner with techJOYnt in seeking to put even more of them into schools.

GORT’s presence was enough to get an important lesson across to mankind (a lesson, I might add, that recent news indicates we didn’t learn very well).  NAO’s presence is less imposing and the curriculum more varied. According to Ray Shaik, President and CEO of techJOYnT, “By using the NAO robot in class, students connect theory and practice, develop teamwork and communication skills, and gain a higher level of motivation and interest in technical career paths.” We earthlings have every reason to hope that the results will be more lasting.


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The best soccer player were playing in brazil last week

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NAO, the small but mighty anthropomorphic robot manufactured by the French company Aldebaran, is evolving. Already the planet’s most acclaimed fully programmable, autonomous robot for education and research with over 5000 operating in more than seventy countries; NAO EVOLUTION, the new generation, sports several advancements over its successful predecessor.

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Can video games teach math?

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Dr. Keith Devlin (the NPR Math Guy and Stanford Mathematician) believes that anyone can become proficient in math if it is taught in a way that makes it relevant to them, and a perfect way to teach math to middle-school kids is with video games. He’s putting his money where his mouth is by starting his own video game company, InnerTube Games. According to InnerTube Games, the company doesn’t just build video games to teach mathematics, instead they build ‘instruments’ which are designed to be played; and playing with these instruments teaches the players mathematics. A bit like learning about music while playing the piano.

Wuzzit Trouble, the first game developed by InnerTube games, came out late last year. Wuzzits are imaginary little beings that look like tailless squirrels with a proclivity for getting trapped in cages in dark castles. It’s up to the player to get them out of these cages with keys found by answering puzzles.  That’s one level of the game. At another level the game is a device for acquainting kids with the mathematical concept of integer partitions. Integer partitions are whole numbers expressed as a sum of other whole numbers. The whole number 4, for example can be expressed in five different ways: 4, 2+2, 3+1, 2+1+1 and 1+1+1+1.

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Rural Vermont school embraces edtech

 

I’ve never thought of Vermont as “poor and rural” inspite of the image I had of it as nothing but forests and maple syrup farms--or whatever they call them ... maple groves, maybe? So I was surprised to read about one school superintendent’s difficulty in upgrading the public schools in his district: Ned Kirsch, superintendent at Franklin West Supervisory Union (FWSU) in the small town of Georgia, Vt., population 4300.

He says that upon his arrival in Georgia, he was pleased with the schools that he found. The problems in the schools were not with the “hard-working teachers, committed administrators, and 2,000 excited students;” instead, those excited students needed a connection to the technological world outside Northern Vermont.

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Gamification can improve learning speed and retention

 

This book, Playing to Win: Gamification and Serious Games in Organizational Learning by ASTD Research, claims to be the result of rigorous research into the value of gamification as an aid to learning. Gamification, for those of you for whom the word isn’t instantly definable, is the use of games in a non-game context to engage and encourage users to solve problems. It's a new paradigm in learning made more possible by recent technological advancements.

The book’s author, ASTD Research, is introduced by Wikipedia asThe Association for Talent Development (ATD), formerly American Society for Training & Development (ASTD)... a non-profit association for workplace learning and performance professionals.” It was formed in 1944. On its website ASTD claims the following for its research: “... an empirical foundation for today's data-driven decision-makers, containing both quantitative and qualitative analysis about organizational learning, human capital management, training, and performance.”

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california schools embrace blended classrooms

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Oakland CA schools have a problem trying to teach their academically diverse student body. Kilian Betlach, the principal of Oakland’s Elmhurst Community Prep says that while one third of Elmhurst’s kids are at grade level in reading and math, the remaining two thirds are from one to four years behind. No doubt Principal Betlach’s school shares the same problem with many inner-city, high-poverty middle schools.  

The question of how best to address this problem is complicated by lack of staff and lack of funds -- another common problem with inner-city schools. With too few teachers, how can they keep the slower learners from falling farther behind without denying faster learners the time they deserve and thereby cheating them all of a decent education? Unfortunately the answer to this problem is not to be found in the old factory model of education most of us grew up with.

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Summer slide achievement gap vacation

 

This shouldn't come as a surprise, but after three months off in the summer most kids return in September at a lower learning level than when they departed: A whole month behind, according to Catherine Augustine a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation who has studied summer learning loss. Apparently a majority of children come back behind in math, whereas fewer are left behind in reading. This step backward is most obvious with children in low income neighborhoods where they might have less access to libraries and books in the home.  

Over the years educators have promoted various changes in the educational system they thought might go a long way toward cutting back this deficit. School year-round was one idea; a marginally longer school year was another. The year-round idea apparently wasn’t anywhere near as effective as its proponents had hoped: studies still showed a deficit of one month or so at the beginning of the next year. It didn’t make much sense fiscally, and it surely ruined a lot of family summer vacations. Extending the school year made better financial sense but didn’t work all that well in some countries that had tried it, and Canadian schools showed better than the U.S. on the tests while only holding the kids in for three more days during the year.

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looking for ways to interest kids in tech? 3D print their ice cream!

 

We’ve all heard the old saw “the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”  I can’t say I put much stock in that one, but I’ve heard that the “quickest way to get a kid’s interest is with an ice cream cone” -- I believe that one based on my own experience an impossibly long time ago.

Therefore it didn’t surprise me at all to hear that the fine institution of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was experimenting with producing ice cream with a 3D printer in hope of drawing kids' interest to the technology. It apparently started one semester when Professor John Hart’s class in additive manufacturing printed 600 ice cream spoons. Additive manufacturing, by the way, is considered by many including President Obama to be the new revolution in manufacturing. Instead of forming things in molds or by punching, pressing and whittling them down on tool and die machines, additive manufacturing builds things up nature's way, one layer at a time.

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RobotsLAB is a winner of the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator powered by TechStars

Kaplan, Inc., the global education company and largest subsidiary of the Graham Holdings Company (NYSE: GHC), and Techstars, the global startup accelerator, announced today the 12 education-technology startups selected to participate in the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator, powered by Techstars, their three-month immersive mentorship and business development program beginning today in New York City.

 

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Profesional Development Tips

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When computers first burst into the classroom back in the late eighties and nineties, most teachers were nonplussed by a new technology they had hardly been aware of, much less trained for.  They stared at these new machines and wondered what were they supposed to do with them. A lifetime of teaching couldn’t provide them with a clue and what they were hearing from their administrators only added to the confusion. As a result some retired rather than deal with the newfangled things and some simply set them on their desks and ignored them.  

The majority, thankfully, buckled down and decided to find out how these things worked and how they could be made to serve their students. Of course one of the first things they discovered was that the students either already knew how to use the darn things or were capable of learning to use them faster than their teachers … and teachers are still playing catch up with their students with each new technological arrival.

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Awards

Best in Show, ISTE 2014 

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What makes a parabola relevant to kids?

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Conveying to kids the idea that math plays an important part in their lives is, as any math teacher can tell you, one of the most difficult things about teaching math. The blackboard, the book and rote memorization were for years the only tools math teachers had; that, and the hope that they were getting it across. As most of us are aware, for the great majority of kids over the years it wasn’t enough.

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profesional development for technology use

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In an earlier post (Professional Development Tips) we discussed professional development courses for teachers as presented by noted educational consultant Tom Daccord of learning consultancy EdTech Teacher. Mr Daccord offered six tips that he believed would improve teacher professional development courses leading, of course, to improved teacher classroom effectiveness.  

One point he made that we found particularly arresting was his insistence that it was no longer necessary or even wise for teachers to attempt to understand the “nuts and bolts of technology” when dealing with new tech teaching aids. Learning how to operate the new technology, something that students seemed to be able to do almost instinctively, was not as important as having a plan that would insure that these new tools were applied effectively in the classroom. Good pedagogy was  to be preferred over technical proficiency. What adult, after all, can move his thumbs as fast as a teenager?

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Math meets art -- are you inspired?

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That math and music are closely related has been known forever. Music symbols (not cymbals) read like strangely designed math symbols -- or maybe the other way around depending on your orientation. A musical piece divides into measures and bars, which are further delineated by beats, and fractions are used to indicate the length of individual notes. What isn’t as well known is the relationship between math and the graphic arts. That math can be beautiful...

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Meet the newest Math summer camp

 

Louisiana math teachers are stepping up their efforts to make teaching their discipline special. These are not your father’s math teachers. Nineteen of these new model teachers, five from Lafayette Parish middle school and fourteen others enrolled in UL-Lafayette’s Louisiana Mathematics Masters in the Middle program, a graduate course funded by a $1.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation, recently took math off the blackboard and out of the classroom to an Olympic-themed summer math camp held at J. Wallace James Elementary School, Scott La.

Lasting ten days and hosting more than 40 gifted students from at-risk Lafayette schools, this is a great example of a university and neighboring elementary schools cooperating in bringing fun -- that’s right, FUN -- the newest paradigm in math instruction, to students. Instead of learning math procedures by rote, these young people had a chance to see how math can be relevant to their lives and, yes, fun!

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3D Print Your World -- and your classroom!

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 A few weeks ago my wife took my two grandchildren to a paper-cutting artist who snipped out near-perfect likenesses of both their profiles in a matter of a minute with nothing more than paper and scissors. As I am incapable of doing the same with a pen and paper- - much less scissors -- in any amount of time, I was greatly impressed. This led me to look online for more examples of paper-cut art; of which, it appears, there are more than a few.  One of the most impressive examples that I found of this art form was a project by artist Rogan Brown.

Aptly titled "Outbreak," these paper-cut figures are painstakingly-detailed reproductions of microscopic pathogens and human body cells. While it took the artist cutting out my grand-children's profiles less than two minutes, artist Rogan Brown worked on OutBreak for four long months. As I have even less patience than graphic talent, I was impressed yet again and wished I could behold them in all their 3D splendor; but having even less money than either talent or patience, it was impossible to imagine how that could ever happen -- I Mean, what would you have to pay an artist to possess such an intensely time-consuming creation? No, online pictures were the only way work of this nature could ever be enjoyed by the average individual.

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What Can We Do About Math Anxiety?

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Parents, are you feeling guilty about inculcating your children with that educational scourge, Math Anxiety? Take heart, it might not be your fault. According to a recent study at Ohio State University, there is a genetic component to the malady. Says lead author Zhe Wang, We found that math anxiety taps into genetic predispositions in two ways: people’s cognitive performance on math and their tendency toward anxiety..."

Which leaves us wondering, what can be done about math anxiety in teachers and students if math anxiety is genetic?  I’m not a teacher and I haven’t been a math student for nearly half a century, but as a parent (Ok, Ok, a grandparent!) I’m relieved that yet another potential, parental guilt trip has been resolved in favor of nature rather than nurture.

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Google and Lego want to send kids to the moon!

 

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Forty-two years have passed since Gene Cernan was the last man to walk on the moon. I think it is way past time that we went back and I am pleased to find I'm not the only one who thinks so...

It's called the 2014 Moonbots Challenge. Sponsored by Google and LEGO for 9 through 17 years olds, its goal is to stimulate interest in young people about returning to the moon. First the kids are asked to form teams and produce a video that answers the question “Why should we go Back to the Moon for Good?” Twenty-five teams are picked from all over the world based on their answers in their videos. Each of the twenty-five video winners will then get a LEGO MINDSTORMS robotics toolkit, a lot of LEGO bricks and some other as yet unspecified materials (faux moon rockst?) with which to build a robot capable of surviving in a simulated moonscape.

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Silicon Valley stars put up $15 Million in prize money to inspire future mathematicians

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After very little deliberation I have decided to forgo the Nobel Prize in Physics and work on the less well-known but better funded Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics announced just last year by Mark Zuckerberg, Yuri Milner and their respective wives. The aim of the prize is to help make mathematics a more appealing career course. It’s discovery certainly did wonders for my view of the subject!

My interest in a Nobel had been waning since 1980 anyway when they debased the Nobel Prize Medal by cutting the gold content from 23 to 18 carat. But what really decided me was learning that the Breakthrough Prize this year was 3 million dollars, 2 1/2 times the Nobel’s measly 1.2 million. This year's five winners will take home a total of...um, let’s see...that’s fifteen million dollars (I obviously need to practice more).

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subvert the K-12 classroom -- Makerbot can help

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Students and teachers in the United States unite, you have nothing to lose but your boring textbooks (apologies to Karl Marx)! A revolution is in the Making -- pun intended! We must overthrow the dull, unimaginative educational processes that have sent so many of us running from the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). It won’t be easy; the present system has centuries of tradition and billions of dollars behind it. A direct onslaught won’t win this revolution ... we’re going to have to become subversives! Or, as Dale Doughterty, founder of Make Magazine and Co-Founder of Maker Faire put it last month at the 9th Annual Maker Faire in San Mateo, CA.,“I could probably make it easier for all of us if I said that [Making] aligns perfectly with all the educational standards and all the mainstream thought in education … But I think it’s actually subversive ... subversive because it’s causing change, and innovation … It’s a desire to change the way things are, and making in schools needs to be subversive if we’re going to invite kids to actually do things that are meaningful to them.”

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A New Operating system for NAO - NAOqi 2.1

Aldebaran team just announced a new software release for NAO.

Here is the announcement and the list of changes:

 

It's been one year since we published the last official maintenance release for NAO (1.14.5).

As you may know, we worked hard (and secretely) to release Pepper, and NAO Evolution.

But those two robots needed a new software that Rocks !

So, here's the result of more than two years of work of our software team: NAOqi 2.1.0.19 is out!

 

To begin with some bad news:

1.14 Behaviors are not compatible with NAOqi 2

- This version ends the support of Geode CPU Robots, you'll need an Atom processor to use it.

 

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Two New Robot-Based STEM Learning Platforms at ISTE!

Studies continue to reinforce two issues upon which our company is built:

  1. Students need help with mathematics
    1. The American Diploma Project estimates that “in 62 percent of American jobs over the next 10 years, entry-level workers will need to be proficient in algebra, geometry, data interpretation, probability and statistics."
    2. According to research from Harvard University, "the percentages of high-achieving math students in the U.S.— and most of its individual states — are shockingly below those of many of the world’s leading industrialized nations."
    3. Twenty-nine countries outperformed the United States in mathematics by a significant margin according to The Program for International Student Assessment.
  2. Humans are visual learners
    1. The U.S. Dept. of Labor has found that information was retained significantly better when presented visually and orally in combination.
    2. Visual aids improve learning by 400%
    3. Even brain insights (those 'A-ha' moments) are being discovered in the brain's visual cortex

With all of this in mind, we are very pleased to announce two new resources for teachers looking to make STEM subjects like mathematics more engaging and more visual.  We have developed tablet-based curriculum to accompany two of the more interesting products we have come across recently.  Both of these will be publicly demonstrated for the first time next week at ISTE.

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NASA thinks 3D printing is good enough for the space station, now how about your classroom?

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Building spaceships in space, that is the promise of 3D printing! Of course additive manufacturing technology of that magnitude remains far in the future, but the future begins this August when the first 3D printer, built by Made In Space and tested for safety and operational requirements, Al, is lifted to the International Space Station (ISS).

The orbital test of Made In Space’s 3D printer is part of the "3-D Printing in Zero-G Technology Demonstration" project. This project is part of a competitive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program which encourages domestic small businesses, with government financial assistance, to engage in research and development that might prove profitable while advancing high-tech development in the US."Throughout our partnership with Made In Space, we have helped prepare the printer to work in an environment that is literally out of this world," said Niki Werkheiser, 3-D print project manager at Marshall Space Flight Center. "NASA engineers have a vast amount of experience designing and certifying hardware to operate in space. We were happy to share that knowledge with Made In Space. As a result, the hardware passed testing with flying colors."

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Programming in elementary with cubelets

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What are people saying about CUBELETS, the new robotic teaching aid from start-up Modular Robotics (a spin-off from Carnegie Mellon University, with funding from the National Science Foundation)? Time Magazine called them one of the most interesting and accessible robots on the market today...  a great way to teach kids about how robots work without actually having to solder or know anything about programming.

Online magazine MakerShed, the magazine of do-it-yourself (DIY) digital projects, says “...we love Cubelets! These magnetic robot building blocks snap together and don’t require any programming, making it easy for anyone to build their own robotic creation. What could be more fun?”

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How Can 3D printing help your students?

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What can 3D printing do for education? No doubt everyone has their own list,  but here is mine and it’s a short one: engage student interest and add relevance to the classroom.

Engage Student Interest

One definition of a “good teacher” is one who can interest students in the subjects they teach. A good teacher does not toss the information out there and hope it sticks somewhere. A good teacher tries to inspire interest in all their students, not simply the few gifted ones.  A good teacher is always looking for ways to pique that interest -- and 3D printing is one of the best options around right now.

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Can NAO break through to autistic kids? A new study aims to find out

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Can Aldebarans’ NAO robot actually help children with disabilities? According to anecdotal information gleaned from the experiences of educators and children at Shaler Academy in Ridgefield, N.J. and at Vanderbilt University, it seems that NAO’s calm, non-threatening approach lets autistic children feel they can come out of their shell safely and interact with NAO in a way they cannot with other children or adults. A new study is underway to find out how true those observations are.

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NAO EVOLUTION V5 - Official Release

UNVEILING OF NAO EVOLUTION: A STRONGER ROBOT AND A MORE COMPREHENSIVE OPERATING SYSTEM

ALDEBARAN is announcing the launch of NAO EVOLUTION, the new generation of its NAO robot, equipped with the NAOqi 2.0™ operating system.    

Aldebaran, the global leader in humanoid robotics, is pleased to announce the launch of NAO EVOLUTION, the 5th and latest generation of NAO, the interactive, autonomous, and fully programmable robot. NAO is already being used for specific research and education purposes. Over 5000 robots are currently operating in 70 countries. With its new functionality, NAO EVOLUTION is the next big step for the development of innovative applications for a broad range of companies and content publishers.

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Chevron invests in bringing more girls into STEM

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Some argue against the intrusion of big business into education. Critics left and right have what they consider good reason to fear the beginning of a “slippery slope” leading us toward disaster. President Obama seems to have no such fear as in his February 12, 2013 State of the Union Speech he asked for the creation of manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Department of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs.”

Energy giant Chevron is forging ahead with plans to assist educators of students who will become the tech sector's skilled STEM-educated employees. In the next three years Chevron intends to invest more than 30 million dollars in STEM learning in this country.  Blair Blackwell, Chevron’s manager of education and corporate programs tries to alleviate the fear of big business intrusion by admitting that “We recognize we’re not education experts. We have to partner with the education experts, with officials on the ground.”

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Can skateboarding help convince kids to like math?

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Teachers, are you having trouble convincing students in your STEM classes that the subject matter has relevance for their lives?  Of course you are! What teacher isn’t? Luckily programs exist for this generation of hard-to-convince students that can help you. Among these is Rochester Institute of Technology’s REMS Program.  Why? Well, it uses skateboards, for one thing. For those of you unfamiliar with the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), the school has been consistently rated 7th among regional colleges (North) by US News and World Report. It boasts  that “Our outstanding faculty deliver innovative and creative programs that are enhanced by experiential education and world-class facilities.” The REMS program is proof of the truth behind that boast.

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2014 Educational Grant Deadlines

Educators, as you might have heard, money for school special projects is tight. But your kids still deserve the best and there is money to be had out there if you have time to do some grant writing. Some of the best ones are coming due between now and the first of the year. Check out this awesome calendar with application deadlines listed for dozens of grants!

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The US needs more programs to expose students to computer science

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The long and the short of it is simply this: the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that in the next six years the demand for computer programmers will exceed the supply by at least one million. That’s one million jobs that will likely go to individuals from outside the US. These will be some of the best paying jobs around and the segment of our society that will lose the most will be women, students from rural areas, and students of color.

Why is that? Colleges across the country are flooded with requests for an education in computer science in numbers that would meet that and any future demand. Simple answer: there are not enough classes, teachers or equipment to meet that enormous demand. And there's not much chance that will change anytime soon. Colleges and universities have simply been caught flat footed after cutting back in their computer science departments.

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court ruling gives teachers even more incentive to challenge students

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Teaching has always been a tough, thankless job. Back before the teachers’ unions managed to give members of the profession some degree of security it was a job that allowed hiring and firing at the whim of the educational powers-that-be. In recent years there have been complaints that teachers’ unions have taken the system too far the other way and that it is now impossible to get rid of bad teachers, thereby making it impossible for students--particularly minority students--to get a good education. That was the argument made by the nine students before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu in Vergara vs State of California. Judge Treu saw it their way. Plaintiff Julia Macias, entering high school this year, said Judge Treu’s decision proved “students have a voice and can demand change when we stand together.”

This is one of those rare times when we can say with no attempt at flippancy, that we feel strongly about both sides of this debate. How can we not sympathize with students who feel their futures have been jeopardized by poor teachers and entrenched bureaucracy? And how can we ignore the feelings of those good teachers -- certainly the vast majority -- who believe their careers and their family’s future is now in jeopardy from over-zealous politicians, looking for quick-fixes to complex funding problems? We can’t…

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Meet Pepper, the robot who might become your best friend

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“If you want a friend in Washington, get a robot.” The Internet seems unsure of the origins of the much older phrase, "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog." Either way, for the first time, it has become possible to get a robot if you want a friend.

Her name is PEPPER. PEPPER stands 48 inches tall and weighs 62 pounds. French robot developer Aldebaran designed the robot for Japanese mobile operator Softbank. Aldebaran, as you might be aware, is also the developer of the most widely distributed robot ever made, NAO. In fact, PEPPER looks like a taller NAO on a wheeled pedestal instead of two articulated legs.

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10 ways 3d printing can be used in education

 

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The infographic above serves as a great example of how swiftly things are changing in the EdTech world. At the time it found its way to the Internet, way back in February of 2013, there were indeed only ten ways that 3D printing could be used in education. Since then, an important eleventh way has been added: printing robots!  

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Soccer + robots = A winning combination! RoboCup 2014 is coming

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This year the Soccer World Cup will be played in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The crowds, as always, will be huge. After all, everyone wants to go to Rio de Janeiro and a World Cup is as good an excuse as any. The first game  will be on Thursday, June 12th, between Brazil and Croatia.  Those of you who dislike crowds might want to miss this competition; but don’t worry, if you’re looking for an excuse to boogie on down to Brazil there is an even more important soccer event occurring a month later a little north of Rio in João Pesso. I'm referring, of course, to RoboCup 2014 -- the Robot Soccer World Cup! 

Actually João Pessoa is more than a little north of Rio -- 1,223 miles north, to be precise. But that means three hours less flying time in a cramped airplane seat. And if you can believe the image on the Internet, João Pessoa appears to be on a bay as beautiful as Rio’s. More, it’s reputedly a safe city...a claim Rio de Janeiro certainly can’t make!

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Travelling NAO Robot moves between schools

Madison-Oneida BOCES district purchased a programmable robot named NAOmi this past year and its impact is being felt in many schools. Laurie Yager, the Tech Integration Specialist for the Mohawk Regional Information Center, says the $16,000 investment is paying off, "We do have a second one on order, so she is going to have a brother sometime this summer, so we will have two devices."
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The Mohawk Regional Information Center serves the Madison-Oneida BOCES district -- Mohawk is one of 12 statewide information centers which provide participating districts with access to state-of-the-art technology, services, training and support for teachers, students, and administrators. 
 
 
Yager says Naomi recently made a visit to a 6th grade math class at Richfield Springs Central School, "They programmed her to move across the floor through an XY Coordinate plane that we had mapped on the floor."
 
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ISTE Honors Education Leaders

 

                                                                                     From:    Silicon Beings of RobotsLAB

 

                                                                                                   San Francisco, California

TO:Honored Winners of The 2014 ISTE Award

 

     In Care of The International Society for Technology in Education

 

     South Africa, Canada, Turkey, USA and Beyond



To all the winners of the International Society for Technology in Education 2014 Awards (ISTE), we, the assembled robots of RobotsLAB, salute you!  Without human educators like you to guide us, our own silicon-being efforts to improve and enhance STEM education would go nowhere

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Cubelets in the Classroom -- A Recipe for Education and Play

 

Mr Jaravata gets it!  Engagement is the key to learning. Nothing engages kids like robots! And CUBELETS are engaging robots from which young kids can both enjoy and learn.

Fred Jaravata is a San Francisco Bay area educator who realizes that robots are the way to kids' minds. 

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According to his blog post ‘Our Students Playing With Cubelets,’ he recently decided to try CUBELETS after a period of working with Lego Mindstorm.  He didn’t tell the kids much about the cubes he was giving them and kept directions to a minimum; he wanted to see what would happen naturally.

For those of you not familiar with CUBELETS,  every cube  has a different function. Some move the robot, some sense temperature or distance, some act like a flashlight. The cubes snap together magnetically and the trick is to snap them together in a fashion that forms an autonomous robot capable of movement in tune with its environment as indicated by its sensors. Kids have made everything from slithering snakes to writing robots with them.

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MakerBot Adds 3D Printable Curriculum Content to Thingiverse for Teachers

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 With our awards winning RobotsLAB Box (Gold Edison  Award, Best STEM Solution by EdTech Digest,  LAUNCHEDU COMPETITION AT SXSWEDU), we here  at RobotsLAB are always on the lookout for innovative  companies that compliment and enhance our product  and further our view that STEM education need not be boring--or unaffordable. Makerbot, developer of the MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer is one such company.

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Just as our robots engage students by demonstrating in real time the practical importance of math, MakerBot's 3D printers draw students in by showing them the fascinating new world of digital manufacturing. Engineering exercises like building bridges and pyramids, once cobbled together in the classroom with popsicle sticks, clay and epoxy, and taking days to build, can now be manufactured cleanly and swiftly in a matter of minutes or hours. Nor can the importance of students understanding the science and practice behind this new manufacturing method be overstated in terms of their future ability to access employment: no less a personage than President Obama has declared that 3D printing is the next manufacturing revolution and he intends that America will be the leader in this new revolution!

The first 3D printers, like the first computers, were huge and far more expensive than any school district could hope to put in the hands of its students. But Makerbot has brought the size down to little more than that of a desktop printer and the price to under $2000 dollars. Besides that, the company has made its printers available through crowdfunder Donorschoose.org; all teachers have to do is contact Donorschoose with their request. As of this writing more than a thousand schools have received printers.

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Makerbot Steps Back in Time with Jurassic-Themed Models

 

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Looking for a Tyrannosaurus rex figure for your home or classroom and the $8.36 million price tag (paid for Sue, the largest, best preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found) seems a bit high for your budget? Then how does $14.99 at the MAKERBOT DIGITAL STORE for an anatomically correct, realistic, scale model of a full Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton sound? Not only is the MAKERBOT Tyrannosaurus Rex model a lot less of a budget buster, but it's going to be a lot easier to lug from classroom to classroom -- even in death, Sue’s skeleton weighs 3922 lbs.

MAKERBOT, as you are probably aware, makes affordable desktop 3-D printers and scanners for the home, the classroom and for businesses. These products have won top awards from Popular Mechanics, Time Magazine and Popular Science. Working with their products keeps kids engaged in the moment and learning as they go. The MAKERBOT Tyrannosaurus Rex for example, allows students the chance to become involved with the new manufacturing paradigm called Additive Manufacturing -- it creates products through sequential layering, much as the natural world does. “3D printing,” says President Obama, “has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.”

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Self Assembling Robotic Building Blocks!

CUBELETS, the new robot digital teaching aid for K-4 by RobotsLAB, is much more than just an entertaining toy. The included digital curriculum makes it a fun and engaging way for younger students to learn procedural thinking, pattern recognition, abstraction and the experience of developing a step-by-step strategy for solving problems.

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CUBELETS are small magnetic blocks easily and safely handled by children that snap together to form an endless variety of robots capable of responding with lifelike behaviors to light, sound, temperature and other environmental pressures. There is no need to connect wires or program, and yet these little blocks herald the approach to the classroom of the latest advance in the science of robotics,Swarm Intelligence (SI).

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Why 3D Printing Belongs In The Classroom

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Like all good presidents, President Obama leads with optimism and enthusiasm and doesn’t let reality hold him down. For example, in his 2013 State of The Union Speech he had this to say about the future of 3D printing: "3D printing has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. The next industrial revolution in manufacturing will happen in America."

The president was spot-on with the first sentence about the importance of 3D printing, and while we can forgive his optimism about the next industrial revolution happening in America, the reality is that unless we undertake some serious modifications of our teaching methods in the STEM disciplines, that next revolution is likely to happen somewhere else! Here’s why: far from being a leader in STEM learning, the United States is rated a dismal 17th in the prestigious Pearson’s International Education Index, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that US 15-year-olds placed an even more dismal 25th out of 30 countries in math and 21st in science!  How are we going to win this revolution without a large cadre of trained workers?

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Students love the cubelets

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Do kids enjoy playing with CUBELETS? Perhaps more important, do they actually learn something while playing with CUBELETS? If we can believe the teachers who have reviewed their interactions with them on the Internet, the answer to both questions would seem to be a resounding yes!

A Canadian teacher for instance was surprised how excited the kids in his elementary class were at the thought of getting their hands on these CUBELETS. They had watched a video and begged him to get some. What particularly surprised him was that it was June and getting warm and the kids were finding it difficult to keep their minds on schoolwork. He tested their resolve by saying that he would get some but they were going to have to do some writing after playing with them. To his surprise the students agreed to this extra class assignment.

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STEM + (EdTech x Hands-On Learning) = An Equation for Engaged Students

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A recent yahoo story disclosed a growing chorus of parental complaints about the difficulty of the new Common Core standards for math. Having trouble with the math themselves while trying to assist their children with homework,  parents complain that the standards are simply too difficult for their children.  Adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing they say is now as difficult as calculus. “Satan’s handiwork,” cries one rattled parent.

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Math curriculum makeover

 

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Math teacher Dan Meyer is at it again! No longer content to just insist that teaching math has got to become entertaining if today’s kids are going to compete with kids from around the world, he’s now on record saying math teaching should get out of the textbook and go multimedia, audio, video -- the whole deal.

 

He’s got a point: kids live in a multimedia environment, maybe they should be learning in one as well.  And as he points out, the multimedia learning environment needn't set the school or the teachers budget back by that much: “...this is an amazing time to be a math teacher right now ...because we have the tools to create this high-quality curriculum.... It's ubiquitous and fairly cheap, and the tools to distribute it freely under open licenses has also never been cheaper or more ubiquitous.”

 

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MakerBot and RobotsLAB want to put a 3D printer in every US public school

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We all need to think creatively about giving our young people the tools to be 'the makers of things, and not just the consumers of things.

The above quote is by Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, following up on a statement by President Obama in his 2013 State of The Union speech where he said "3D printing has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. The next industrial revolution in manufacturing will happen in America."

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Think you can build a super-affordable, super-awesome educational robot?

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The African Robotics Network (AFRON) and IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS) sponsor one of several worthwhile initiatives designed to interest young people in a technological future, the Ultra Affordable Educational Robot Project Design Challenge. Specifically, their biannual challenge hopes to "collaboratively create an educational robot that is an order of magnitude less expensive than existing products, to inspire young people around the world."

 

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MakerBot Announces 3D Printing Innovation Centers for Universities

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The nation’s first Makerbot Innovation Center opened February 11, 2014 at SUNY New Paltz in New York. Being a denizen of the heartland a thousand miles and more from either coast, my first thought was, “What in the world is a ‘SUNY New Paltz?’”  A quick trip to Wikipedia  answered that question:The State University of New York at New Paltz, known as SUNY New Paltz for short, is a public university in New Paltz, New York.”

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Alvin Toffler on keeping up with change in the 21st Century

 

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The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Alvin Toffler


Although this quote is attributed to famous futurist Alvin Toffler, it seems impossible to discover when he said it -- if he said it -- prior to it appearing on his website. A web search for its source uncovers controversy, nothing conclusive. Some bloggers believe it to be a paraphrase of something he said in one of his books; others are less charitable and believe it should be attributed to another author altogether.

 

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Improving gender and ethnic diversity in STEM jobs

 

stemsolAs everyone in the field is well aware, women and ethnic minorities are not sufficiently represented in STEM careers and in learning programs nationwide. Increasing their participation in a field that is fast becoming an important job provider in this country was the subject of a recent “Creating a Sustainable Commitment to STEM” session at U.S. News & World Report's STEM Solutions Conference in Washington, D.C.

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3d printers in Suffolk libraries

 

suffolk_libraryLibrarians in Suffolk County, NY believe it is part of their mandate as civilization’s repository of wisdom to allow users access to newer technologies like 3D printers. With a traveling exhibit including a Makerbot 3D digitizer and Makerbot 3D printer, they are out to show us that libraries are not, as one library director, Robert Lusak of the Smithtown Special Library District says, "... just about books and movies. Whatever the latest is in technology, we as the library want to be able to offer that kind of tool to our community."  No question about it, 3D printers are the latest in technology, with one soon on its way to the International Space Station so astronauts can produce their own spare parts -- Scotty the chief engineer on the Enterprise would certainly have loved to have one!

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Using 3D printer, every student can be a maker

 

 

brooklyn-tech-manufacturing-lab-makerbotEducators, do you find yourself sceptical about the claims made for 3D printers as valuable teaching tools?  I know I have been and I was educated when manual typewriters were the highest tech you were apt to see in high schools. As a freshman, I thought I wanted to go into engineering, but when I took a course in mechanical drawing and found myself pathologically incapable of drawing a straight line I left the engineering route forever. After reading about the experiences students had with 3D printers at Brooklyn Technical High School I lost my scepticism regarding these printers and began to wonder... if they’d had these printers when I was a boy would I have stayed in engineering?

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Gates Foundation report - Teachers Know Best: What Educators Want from Digital Instructional Tools

 

gatesfoundInstead of simply leaving it to guesswork, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation decided to come right out and ask the question “What do teachers want?” The foundation asked the question because “in our work with schools over the last few years, we have heard a common theme: Teachers are trying hard to challenge and engage their students, but they don’t have sufficient choices for effective digital instructional tools that truly meet their needs.”

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Bringing the MakerBot 3d Printer into the Classroom

I want you to take a minute to think about how your life might have been different if you’d grown up with a MakerBot in your high school or elementary school. How might it have changed your understanding of math, mechanics, or design? And what could it have unleashed in you if you had the ability, from an early age, to take things that you imagined and turned them into things that are tangible? These are all questions that are really exciting because the way things are headed; the next generation is going to grow up "MakerBotting". I personally can’t wait to see what kind of positive effect that’s going to have on our future.
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RobotsLAB BOX IS NAMED A GOLD EDISON AWARD WINNER

San Francisco, CA – May 1, 2014 – The Edison Awards, honoring the best in innovation and excellence in the development of new products and services, announced today that RobotsLAB was voted a Gold winner for innovation at the April 30th event in San Francisco. The company’s representatives joined hundreds of senior executives from some of the world’s most recognized companies to acknowledge the innovation, hard work and commitment of all of the 2014 Edison Award winners.

RobotsLAB is thrilled to be a winner of this distinguished award and recognized for the innovative solutions we bring in the educational market," said Elad Inbar, the company’s CEO. “As the leader in educational robotics, we strive to make a difference with our products. We embed non-traditional and engaging new methods to teach abstract math and science concepts, ensuring the next generation’s career and college readiness. Our educators are constantly seeing breakthroughs in students’ understanding, thanks to the robots and the integrated learning experience we bring.

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Elad Inbar, CEO, with the Edison Awards trophy.
This award come on the heels of three other awards RobotsLAB BOX has received in the past months - Educational Game Changer Award at at RoboBusiness conference, The Best STEM Tool from EdTEch Digest and The Best EdTech Startup at SxSW EDU. 

Being recognized with an Edison Award has become one of the highest accolades a company can receive in the name of innovation and business. The awards are named after Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) whose inventions, new product development methods and innovative achievements literally changed the world, garnered him 1,093 U.S. patents, and made him a household name around the world.

“Our judges recognized RobotsLAB as a true innovator out of the many products in its category,” said Frank Bonafilia, executive director of the Edison Awards.

The ballot of nominees for the Edison Awards™ was judged by a panel of more than 3,000 leading business executives including past award winners, academics and leaders in the fields of product development, design, engineering, science and medical.

The Announcement


One of the evening’s many highlights was the presentation of the prestigious Edison Achievement Award to two very prominent innovators: Yang Yuanqing, the Chairman and CEO of Lenovo, the first Chinese executive so honored, and Elon Musk, the charismatic leader behind Tesla Motors and SpaceX. The award honors innovation leaders and business executives who have made a significant and lasting contribution to innovation throughout their careers. The Edison Achievement Award serves as inspiration to future innovators and to the world at large.
Click below to learn more about the awarded product:
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3d printing in education in Japan

Hey! Here is some good news: the Japanese government thinks it has to play catch-up to the United States in at least one area of manufacturing technology, 3D printers. After a lifetime of hearing about the supposed superiority of Japan in all things manufacturing--I’m driving a Subaru;  how about you?--it’s great at last to find something about American manufacturing worth emulating.

Even more important, it’s great to realize that we Americans are doing something right in our schools--intending to furnish every single one of them with 3D printers. The determinative word in that last phrase is “intending;” we still have a long way to go before we can claim victory.

This wonderful new technology, as President Obama said in his 2013 State of the Union speech, “... has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. The next industrial revolution in manufacturing will happen in America.” Of course the Japanese would prefer that the revolution start there!

 

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Soft Skills for success

 

 

What do robots and soft skills have in common in relation to EdTech? The answer, at least to this writer, was "more than I thought!"

 

I am assuming that anyone reading this post knows what a robot is. But in the absence of a formal definition, let's agree with a paraphrase of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous definition: I know one when I see one.

 

The definition of "soft skills" may be another matter. I hate to admit it, but until stumbling across the term in an interesting Eschoolnews post the other day, I’d never heard the term before. I went to the Wikipedia and et voilà!! there it was, the definition: “Soft skills are personal attributes that enhance an individual's interactions, job performance and career prospects. Unlike hard skills, which are about a person's skill set and ability to perform a certain type of task or activity, soft skills relate to a person's ability to interact effectively with coworkers and customers and are broadly applicable both in and outside the workplace.” You know, stuff like showing up on time for work and not punching-out the boss when he criticizes you.

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Advanced math and reading in kindergarten benefits school performance

 

 

Just when we thought it was safe to follow the old dictum ‘just let kids be kids,’ we stumbled over this latest research from the University of Chicago in the American Educational Research Journal which indicates that only four days per month of advanced math and reading content in Kindergarten leads to better test scores in the higher grades. This study will be difficult for parents eager to get their children off to the best start to ignore.

 

But don’t panic, ‘advanced math and reading content’ doesn’t mean algebra and James Joyce’s Ulysses. According to Amy Claessens, assistant professor of public policy at Chicago University's Harris School of Public Policy Studies and primary author of this study, ‘advanced’ in this context simply refers to the fact that 50% of kids arriving in Kindergarten have already mastered the basic content; advanced means providing content a majority of children have not as yet mastered.  

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Makerbot 3d printing in schools

Math teachers, science teachers and engineering teachers, are you looking for a way to make your beloved disciplines more relevant to your students? Maybe even inspire a few to love them the way you do?  Well, right now there is affordable new technology out there that can help you do just that! The Makerbot 3D printer and STEM BOT 3D CLASS from our own RobotsLAB.

 

 

StemBot 3D program that teaches students how to 3D print a robot, assemble it, work on the electronics, and finally program it.

Actually, 3D printers have been around since the 1980’s, but they were massive and super-expensive like the first-generation computers. Only in the last few years have they shrunk in size and dropped in price to where individual households and schools could afford them.

 

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Robots in Pre-Calculus

 

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As part of a school wide implementation of Problem based Learning (PBL), the pre-calculus classes at Sammamish High school in Bellevue, WA used robots to teach math.  The prompt was simple, “What pre-calculus level math lesson could you teach using one of the robots we have?”  The work produced was amazing!

First the students were given the opportunity to play with the robots and see how they worked.  They had access to all four of the robots from the RobotsLAB kit: Sphero – a small robotic ball, ArmBot – a mechanical arm that can pick objects up, Mobot – a rover that moves with precision, and a quadcopter AR.Drone. Students also had access to an additional robot, LinkBot – two rover bots who could be programmed to mimic each other. After students investigated each robot, they selected one robot to use as a tool to teach a pre-calculus level lesson.  Students had the option of choosing a topic they had already studied or choosing a topic they had yet to study.

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NAO humanoid robot gives a more personal connection to autistic children

No one is certain as to why, but it seems that NAO, the anthropomorphic robot from the French company Aldebaran, appeals to children with autism. Some experts suggest the appeal has something to do with NAO’s non-threatening voice and appearance. Others say they believe it is NAO’s ability to communicate with these children without the complicated social and emotional facial clues given off by other humans that confuse and frighten them.

 

Several studies indicate that NAO is a valuable addition to the existing systems that work with autistic children. No claim is made by NAO’s adherents that it is the only viable strategy for dealing with childhood autism-- but with over 5000 of these anthropomorphic robots placed in research and educational institutions worldwide there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest they work well with these children in existing classrooms. The recent experiences of educators and children at Shaler Academy in Ridgefield, N.J.and at Vanderbilt University illustrates this point.

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The importance of ensuring America’s continued competitiveness with STEM

The Great Recession began in 2007 and ’by the numbers’ ended in 2009. "By the numbers" meaning "technically". The Misery Index and unemployment have remained high in spite of this technicality. Why is that do you suppose? Is it possible there has been a change in the economy at a fundamental level not responsive to rising housing prices?

 

Could it be that the workplace itself changed so greatly during this period with the explosion of mobile computing devices like smartphones and tablets that the available jobs no longer reflects the pool of trained, unemployed job seekers? According to Sidharth Oberoi, chief academic officer at Zaniac, that’s the case. He writes, "A closer look at U.S. unemployment statistics shows that even with unemployment still at historically high levels, large numbers of jobs are going unfilled. Most of these jobs have one very important thing in common — the need for STEM education". He says further data suggests that while there are 3.6 applicants for every available job in the US, there is only one unemployed STEM worker for every two available STEM positions.

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Forbes 30 under 30 honored edtech entrepreneurs

Forbes Magazine recently presented Nic Borg with its "30 Under 30" award. The magazine presents the award annually to young entrepreneurs (under 30 years-old, as you might have guessed) in 15 different fields like finance, entertainment, technology and education. Mr. Borg’s award was in the education field for his co-founding of Edmodo.com with Jeff O’Hara.

 

Mr Borg’s background, Forbes magazine says, differs from other entrepreneurs in the field by being an intensely practical one forged in a high school environment where he built web-based tools and management solutions for seven years before founding Edmodo. Edmodo, formed in 2008 with the slogan "Where learning happens," uses what he learned in that down-and-dirty educational environment to facilitate communication and collaboration between students teachers both in and outside the classroom. He wanted to form a site that solved "real" problems for teachers. The largest K-12 social learning network with more than 33 million users, Edmodo  is often called the "Facebook of education".

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RobotsLAB BOX Named the BEST STEM SOLUTION by EdTech Digest

EdTech Digest Awards Program 2014

Spirit of Innovation

From EdTechDigest:

For so many reasons, the education technology space is moving forward with great momentum and robust spirit. A confluence of factors — the right time, technology and people — has made for a superlative year.

With top talent and quality in so many corners, it wasn’t an easy selection process, but we are shining a spotlight on some of the best and brightest tools, leaders and trendsetters pushing forward today’s education revolution for the benefit of future generations.

There are now thousands of startups, apps and companies working in edtech, more than ever before. The introduction of new methods, ideas, products and frameworks for learning, the willingness of investors to power such ingenuity through, or for startups making a go of it to boldly bootstrap their own efforts — and the real results that come of it — all converge to a single point: in the edtech sector, a spirit of innovation is alive and well. The courage, energy and determination of so many in and around education, their attitude, their underlying intentions to create positive change in one of the most important fields of human endeavor — not only deserves respect and warm approval, but is heartening to witness and partake in.

We are part of a greater movement here, one that takes a tremendous amount of drive, but one with so many gains to be had. We’re very excited to recognize these cool tools, leaders and trendsetters in the education technology space. We intend to continue contributing to the forward motion of this revolution, and we salute those dedicated souls that create the human energy involved in such an undertaking. Well done! Continue! 

RobotsLAB BOX named the winner and the best STEM Solution

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Taking Math Out of the Classroom into the Construction Site

High schoolers building homes for the non-profit organization Habitat For Humanity is another great example of 21st Century math teachers taking math out of the classroom where it has been languishing for centuries and putting it to work in a fashion guaranteed to engage young minds and hands. Forty-nine High School students in Vancouver built homes while participating in a class called Math in Construction.

 

What did they learn? Well, confidence for one thing. An appreciation for real-world math for another."It was an amazing experience," said One young scholar. "I'm going to use this in real life."

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DARwIn-OP Robot Can Imitate Human Motions

 

The proposed system can perform full-body imitation of human motion by humanoid robot. A humanoid robot has potential to support people in various environments such as homes, hospitals, offices, etc. However, if a robot has to work in a real environment, actions based on various motions, which should be input by humans, are essential. The motion-capture is one of the easiest ways to generate humanoid motions. However, there are lots of problems. Often it requires offline process for building motion database. High computational cost is also a big problem in a small-sized humanoid. Moreover, because of the difference between human and robot kinematic structure, the original captured human motions are often infeasible movements for humanoid robot.

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And the winner (of the free RobotsLAB BOX) is...

Two weeks ago, when RobotsLAB BOX won the first place at LaunchEDU competition at SxSW, we were so excited and honored that we decided to donate one of the educational kits to a school.

We've asked the audience (as reported by EdSurge) to submit the names of their schools, and nominate them to win a free RobotsLAB BOX. We had tens of schools submit their details -- we were very excited to see the passion educators had to work with the latest and greatest in educational technology!

We would like to thank the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for supporting educators across the country and promoting EdTech as a paradigm shift driving students' engagment in STEM.

So without further ado - the winner is:

Mrs. Helana Corda from James Lick Middle School
Here is the a short video of the final drawing:
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It's here! The NAO Robot is finally out of the classroom! We took it to skydive! Take a look...

Do you remember when:

  •          AldebaranRobotics' NAO robot was only available to schools and universities?
  •          When a NAO cost $16,000?
  •          NAO was unable to fly?

 

Well, that's old news because:

  •          NAO is available for purchase by anyone.  No more academic requirements
  •          The price of a NAO has been reduced to only $7,990!  Or even free (see below).
  •          We arranged a skydiving trip to get NAO out of the classroom

Nao_Skydive

We are working with Aldebaran Robotics and their NAO robots since 2010. We've delivered hundreds of NAOs to schools, universities, research institutes and tech museums around the world, and even publicly shared apps for NAO on the RobotAppStore. Unfortunately, over the years we have had to turn away many people that wanted to adopt a NAO because they didn't meet the academic criteria. It has been very difficult to say "no" over and over again, and to disappoint all of those people that wanted to put their hands on the latest and greatest technology.

At last, the wait is over.

Aldebaran no longer requires NAO purchases to come from academia.   Anyone can buy one! (Just make sure that you understand computer software before you buy one.)

And general availability isn't even the best part! The best part is that the price has dropped from $16,000 to only $7,990. That's a 50% drop!  That's right.  NAO is half price AND anyone can buy it!

To celebrate this exciting news, we've decided make it even more exciting and give cash back to one out of twenty of the buyers of the NAO! (Please read the terms and conditions here). Not only that, we’ve arranged a skydive experience for NAO, to demonstrate the robot is out of the classroom and the amazing price drop. Take a look for yourself, (and don’t forget to share!)

 

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ROBOTSLAB WINS LAUNCHEDU COMPETITION AT SXSWEDU

RobotsLABWonSxSWEdu

 

Austin, TX and San Francisco, CA – March 6, 2014 - A handpicked group of distinguished judges representing a cross section of in business, technology and education experts have selected RobotsLAB BOX as the winner of the LAUNCHedu Competition

The competition began in August 2013 with approximately eighty applications.  RobotsLAB was one of ten finalists chosen by the judges to present at SXSWedu on March 3.  Following that presentation, RobotsLAB was one of three companies to be selected as a finalist.  The final presentation was made in front of judges and a jam-packed room of educators on the morning of March 5.  As part of the Educator Insights panel that discussed all ten competing companies, all three panelists cited RobotsLAB BOX as their favorite.

Based on the votes of attendees and judges, RobotsLAB BOX was ultimately chosen as the competition winner at the LAUNCHedu party on March 5.  Betsy Corcoran, CEO and Co-Founder of EdSurge presented the award to RobotsLAB CEO Elad Inbar.

 

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RobotsLAB is excited to be one of the finalists of SxSW Edu!

       
       

Austin, TX,  March 3, 2014 - The educational robotics company RobotsLAB is proud to be among the finalists of the LaunchEDU competition at SxSW edu conference in Austin, TX (March 3-6, 2014)

       

 

       

The company’s flagship product - the RobotsLAB BOX - was chosen as one of the finalists by experts and judges from the education market. The innovation and creativity of RobotsLAB BOX was recognized for its potential to create a profound change in the way that students understand the importance of math and science in our lives, and to help them to pursue a successful life in career or college.

       

 

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RobotsLAB BOX is among the top 10 finalists of SxSW Edu LAUNCHedu competition

Next week RobotsLAB is going to Austin TX for SxSW Edu LAUNCHedu competiotion.

We are one of the top 10 awesome finalists:

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EdTech is introducing a Blended-Learning to Math Classes

"The Times They Are a-Changin" and never more so than now in math class. After struggling futilely for generations to instruct all math students in a classroom at the same rate, today’s math instructors have a viable, technology-aided alternative, blended learning. Blended learning, according to our ubiquitous friends at Wikipedia "is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path or pace."

 

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Launching The first 3D printed robot - STEM BOT 3D

RobotsLAB, the educational robotics company, recently launched a new robotics curriculum- STEM BOT 3Dduring the FETC conference in Orlando, FL

 

 

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Why We Love EdTech (And You Should, Too!)

What is the future of EdTech? Well, it took almost 500 years for EdTech to progress from the hornbook to the magic lantern. The hornbook appeared in England in the 15th Century. First immortalized in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor’s Lost,

  • ARMADO. [To HOLOFERNES] Monsieur, are you not lett'red?
  • MOTH. Yes, he teaches boys the hornbook. What is a, b, spelt backward with the horn on his head?
  • HOLOFERNES. Ba, pueritia, with a horn added.

The hornbook made its way to the colonies where it was gradually replaced by the equally low-tech slate and blackboard. It wasn’t until the latter end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th that EdTech underwent a revolutionary change.  

 

Imagine if you can the impact of the projected images of the magic lantern or the 3D images of the stereoscope on students for whom the written word in books, on slates and blackboards that had been the only source of information. At the same time their ability to express themselves individually improved as slate and blackboard were pushed to one side by that mass-produced writing instrument the pencil and its work-mate, inexpensive paper.  

 

While it took 500 years for EdTech to progress from the horn book to the hand-held, 3D stereoscope, it took less than 50 years for the next EdTech revolution, electricity, to run its course. Edison said let there be light and school rooms were never the same again from their lighting to the available teaching tools. According to the infographic below the moving picture projector arrived in 1925, the overhead projector in 1930 and the mimeograph in 1940. Radio carried information to school rooms across the nation in the 30’s and 40’s and television first found its way into the classroom in the 1950’s. While radio and tv appeared to be the future of EdTech, yet another revolution was underway as the transistor replaced the tube in radios and televisions.

 

The digital revolution began with the transistor. The transistor brought about the microprocessor revolution and the microprocessor begot the handheld calculator which brought relief to those of us who had always found math tedious and despair to some math teachers who suddenly found their dullest students capable of adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing more quickly and accurately than they. The handheld calculator was quickly followed by the personal computer revolution and software that allowed poor spellers like me to quit worrying about every word and begot the Internet revolution….

 

What then is the future of EdTech? We believe it is technological revolution upon revolution, each building on the preceding revolution and hastening the arrival of the next!

 history-of-classroom-technology

 

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'Robot Olympics' 17 Cyborg Athletes to Vie for Glory in DARPA Challenge

We look forward to DARPA challenge, awesome robots are coming! But with all due respect to DARPA challenge, the real Robot Olympics game is the ' NAO Olympics' . RobotsLAB has crated a series of sport challenges with the NAO robot. Check it out, game on!

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Technology Trends for Teachers

Teenagers can make for difficult students. They might show up for class, but that doesn’t mean they will participate--or even stay awake! As the old saying goes, "you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink." Does not matter that the horse needs water to get through the day or that the teenager needs the skills taught by science,technology, engineering and math to get a job when he leaves high school. Sweet reason won’t get either to do what is best for them. An old cowboy once said that it took a 2x4 across the head to get cooperation from the horse. That sounds a bit harsh and might lead to problems with PETA and the SPCA. The same method with teenagers would get a teacher 20 years in the pen! But after trying reason and violence, what’s left?

 

Simple! TECHNOLOGY is the answer to the question posed by the preceding paragraph. STEM teachers are no longer restricted to lectures, boring books or trips to the blackboard. They can count on great learning-software like Scratch, new technological paradigms like the 3D printer and engaging, interesting teaching tools like the RobotsLAB BOX.

makerBot

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NAO is the first robot that goes to Mars

On January 18, 2014, Aldebaran’s NAO Robot stood where no robot has gone before, and RobotsLAB was responsible for training his seven human companions in the finer points of his programming. NAO will be the only robot in an analog astronaut crew  ascending into the Mars Society’s, Mars Desert Research Station in the the high desert of Utah. Anyone familiar with the high desert can appreciate the analogy--at this time of year the high desert is nearly as barren, dry, sandy and cold as the surface of Mars!  

 NAO_Robot_Mars_1

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RobotsLAB Box Charity Auction

In our day-to-day interaction with schools across the country, we are exposed to countless fundraisers, rafflles, and bake sales, but we've never seen anything quite like Tech Search Party

 

For this reason, we have donated a RobotsLAB Box to this event which is now being auctioned off to the highest bidder here.  The auction is currently live and will remain open until Feb. 11 at 5:00 pm PST.

tech_search_party

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The History Of Common Core Standards

commoncorestandards

The history of the Common Core Standards began in 1983 with the publication of a report called Nation at Risk.  Nation at Risk was developed by President Ronald Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education. The 18 member commission consisted of individuals drawn from the private business sector, education and government. Nation at Risk reported a long list of what it considered problems with American students, including the following (keep in mind these figures are from 1983):

  • American students finished last on seven of 19 tests of international student achievement
  • 23 million American adults were functionally illiterate
  • Average achievement of high school students on most standardized tests were lower than when Sputnik was launched
  • Between 1963 and 1980 SAT scores fell 50+ points in verbal and nearly 40 points in math

As one might imagine, this report shocked the nation. We were falling behind again, and at that time "falling behind" meant we were losing ground to the USSR!  It was not to be borne!  Sputnik had provided the last call to arms; the new clarion call came from Nation at Risk.  The commission thereby made some 38 recommendations which included the following:

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Oklahoma public schools are boosting their STEM learning with RobotsLAB BOX

Oklahoma public schools are about to receive an enormous boost to their STEM learning programs. The innovative Oklahoma City STEM learning facility techJoynT has teamed with us here at RobotsLAB in San Francisco to bring our award winning RobotsLAB BOX with its innovative math teaching aids to public school students in the state. Yes, the study of math is about to become exciting!

As those of you familiar with this blog are aware, our BOX is designed to assist math educators in teaching abstract math concepts by engaging students with robots. And as Dr Peter Stone, Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow, AAAI Fellow, Fulbright Scholar, and Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin, explains “You don’t need to be experienced with robotics or have a degree in computer science, just an enthusiasm for your subject area...You can open the BOX, turn on the preloaded tablet and within minutes be explaining quadratic equations with a quad copter.” This beats pontificating in front of a blackboard every time!

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A new $250m grant - California Career Pathways Trust - act now!

California STEM educators in grades kindergarten through grade fourteen, it's time to freshen up those rejected grant requests; the state is finally coming around to seeing it your way : the legislature has set aside a quarter-billion dollars ($250,000,000) to "fund specialists in work-based learning, as defined in Section 51760.1 of the Education code."  

How can we be sure Section 51760.1 is talking about STEM ed?  Well, here are the first few lines of that section:

 

For purposes of this section, "work-based learning" means an
educational approach or instructional methodology that uses the
workplace or real work to provide pupils with the knowledge and
skills that will help them connect school experiences to real-life
work activities and future career opportunities.

 

Now if that isn’t a perfect description of the inherent virtues of STEM learning for young learners, what is? What learning component is more likely to provide students with the skills they will need when they enter the future job market?  Woodworking, maybe? Film?  Hey, both laudable endeavors but not guaranteed the multi-million openings expected in science, technology, engineering and math in the next few years.

 

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Challenges in Real-World Math Lead Students to Success

As every grade-school kid knows, a well-fed caterpillar gets longer (and fatter) than a poorly fed caterpillar of the same species. Also, as every grade-school kid knows, a caterpillar that runs afoul of a hungry bird never becomes a beautiful butterfly. And so what does this have to do with STEM learning?

 

Well, studying caterpillars has always been more interesting than listening to a teacher talking about math problems found in a book. Almost every kid likes caterpillars. They are still interested in caterpillars by the time they reach the sixth grade, but most of them have been turned off to math by that time. Caterpillar, the board game, is an attempt by some innovative educators to stop that decline in math interest in 6th through 8th grade kids by combining caterpillars and math. Oh, and don’t forget dice!

 

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Professor Peter Stone Can't Get Enough Of NAO Robots Playing Soccer

The World Cup, the pinnacle of soccer, starts this June in Brazil. NPR science correspondent Joe Palca will be one of those obsessed, screaming fans. It's not often Joe gets to do a story that mixes science and soccer, but as part of his new project, Joe's Big Idea, he found a computer scientist who actually studies soccer using robots as players. So Joe felt compelled to investigate.

 

I love watching soccer matches. I really do. I get it why soccer is called "the beautiful game". It's played with a mixture of speed, skill, and cunning. Robot soccer, on the other hand is not quite so beautiful. Alison is a two foot tall robot. She’s made of white plastic and looks like a robot. By robot standards, she's a scoring machine. There's a right foot kick, and the ball is heading, and goal. Oh, that was exciting. As I watched, Alison scored several times into an empty net. But by human standards, well, how do I put this gently, I've seen toddlers do better. She got up, she fell, she tripped over, she took oh, she's got a little balance problem. Despite the clunkiness, Professor Peter Stone thinks robot soccer is also a beautiful game. Professor Stone is a computer scientist at the University of Texas at Austin. He has built an indoor soccer field in his lab where he puts his robot players through their paces.


Peter_Stone

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5 Tools Everyone In The Educational Robotics Industry Should Be Using

Of course the first answer to the question posited by the title of this piece is a facetious one--lots of money! So let us qualify the question a bit more by asking, "What are 5 tools everyone in the educational robotics industry should be using that most of us in the industry can afford?"

 

Since learning to code is so important to any STEM discipline, the first tool everyone in the educational robotics industry should be using is the online community and programming language called Scratch. This innovative site helps kids learn its namesake programming language and create interactive stories, games and computer animations. This outstanding tool is actually free!

 

 

Since math is basic to any scientific endeavor, the ability to interest and engage students in math is crucial to the educational robotics industry. Our second tool that everyone in the industry should be using, the RobotsLAB BOX, has proved its ability to interest and engage kids in math with an innovative combination of robots and tablets in many progressive school districts. The old teaching standbys like the book and the whiteboard can’t compete with "cool" robot helicopters demonstrating quadratic equations in real-time on a tablet.

 

 

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How To Solve The Biggest Problem With STEM Education

Judging from the number of e-gadget users in this country, technology is all the rage. Over 90% of adults have a cell phone.  Thirty-four percent (34%) own a tablet. And no one doubts that the percentages will continue to rise. One might also be forgiven for thinking our schools are up to the job of graduating the vast numbers of science, technology, engineering and math students needed to keep this country in the forefront of this technology wave--the interest is obviously there. Unfortunately that is not the case!

 

By 2018--now less than 4 years and a single generation of high school students away--we are expecting at least 8 million jobs in the US dependent on skills learned in STEM learning courses. But experts estimate that less than five million of those jobs will go to kids from American schools, with three million or more of these well-paid positions going to foreign applicants.

 

Why is this happening? Why can’t our schools keep up with the demand for young people trained in science, technology, engineering and math? Well as you might expect there are all sorts of excuses for this, from lack of funding to a lack of interest in STEM learning on the part of students themselves.  We at RobotsLAB can’t do much about the funding issue; that requires political action.  What we can do is help change the culture of math education.

 

 

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NAO Robot is not alone anymore - it can learn from his friends!

The great German psychologist Carl Jung believed that a substrata of knowledge existed beneath the consciousness of the individual, a great reservoir of information shared by every member of every species. He called this the vast reservoir of insight, instinct, and a-priori knowledge, the “collective unconscious.” He believed It is always there when needed by the individual seeking answers to questions not provided by his experience.

 

The existence of the collective unconscious in humans is still being argued over by psychologists and philosophers, but wouldn’t it be great if we really had some way of finding answers to questions outside our experience? You know, like books--and most recently, the Internet.

 

And what about that most recent addition to the flora and fauna of our planet, the robot? Wouldn’t it only be fair if it too could call upon a reservoir of knowledge beyond its own RAM? The Internet is there as a conduit for this knowledge; now all that is needed is a storage facility.

 

That storage facility that is actually being tested this week in the Netherlands. It is called RoboEarth and its goal is to see that every individual service robot has a means of identifying and manipulating objects it has never come across before. Service robots are autonomous robots that will someday perform everyday tasks in common human environments like the home and office. These tasks might be as simple as shoveling your snow-covered walk and as challenging as creating a nutritious meal for old guys like me.

 

 

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Common Core Math Standards - Myths vs. Facts

Many people wonder if the Common Core Standards are good for their classrooms, children, and their state. There is a debate about that, like there is a debate about any new thing in the world. Many people just don't like changes. (and sometimes for good reason!)

commoncorestandards

The initiative's website (http://www.corestandards.org/) has gathered some myths about Common Core and they provide some facts to eliminate them. Lets take a look at the math myths: 

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Insider's summary of the hour of code initiative

This email sent by Gary Page from California Education Department is a great wrap up from the 'coding week' which was a huge success! 

hourOfCode

"

Teacher/Administrator:

Special thanks to all the teachers and administrators who took time to introduce students to coding during the recent Hour of Code week. The campaign brought attention to the need for all students to understand computational thinking and will help bring attention to education policy and decision makers on the need to make computer science “count” towards graduation.

In a single week, students at schools across the U.S. wrote 500,000,000 lines of code as part of Computer Science Education Week, organizers said.

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Students smart shop with calculators

 

One of a number of interesting educational initiatives nationwide by and for kids is the Kids Feeding Kids Program undertaken by 26 Students from the Dobson and Copeland elementary schools’ Academically and Intellectually Gifted (AIG) program in Dobson NC. Dobson NC, by the way, is near legendary (mythical?) Mt Airy, NC, home of the Andy Griffith Museum. This is Mayberry R.F.D. country!

 

And in the best traditions of Mayberry R.F.D.’s good neighbors, the elementary students in the program are urged to study about the underprivileged and the just plain unlucky and then work up a plan to feed the kids found in these situations. Their teachers hope this study will inspire their sense of social responsibility as well as giving them a background in the real-world art of smart grocery shopping.

studentsSmartShop 

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Robotics competition draws students from all over Texas

It makes me proud as an expatriate Texan to find that the state of Texas is one of those states that realizes STEM learning is important and is doing something to ensure that its students meet the educational requirements of the new millennium in science, technology, engineering and math.
The Vex competition at Roosevelt high school in San Antonio is a good example.
One of the teams in the event sponsored by the U.S Army was a Vex team from an all-girls robotics club at the school.
So seriously does the state of Texas view these competition that recently the Texas Workforce Commission funded a startup grant to help 400 new Vex robotics teams in Texas.
Sounds like a lot of teams, does it?  
Well countrywide 9000 Vex robotics teams are expected to compete in the USA this year.
Texas intends to have its share.

 

If you find yourself wondering what a Vex robotics team is, the VEX Robotics Design System is centered around the VEX Clawbot Kit.
The Clawbot is similar to the LEGO NXT in that assembly and disassembly is made simple with assorted pieces easily fitted together.  
Some say that the Clawbot is cheaper.

 Clawbot-vex

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Edmodo Top 10 Paid Educational Apps

Edmodo_logo Edmodo

Following the popularity of our previous blog post about Edmodo top 10 free educational apps, we've gathered this time Edmodo top paid educational apps of 2013.

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Edmodo Top 10 Free Educational Apps

Edmodo_logo Edmodo

Edmodo, as a free social learning platform for teachers to share content and manage student learning, offers over 500 educational apps.  

Each one of those educational apps was designed to include one or more of the following:

  • Get students excited about learning in a familiar environment;
  • For teachers - to continue classroom discussions online;
  • Introduce polls to check for student understanding;
  • Award badges to individual students based on performance or behavior;
  • Connect teachers to their students, administrators, parents, and publishers
  • Connect teachers to other teachers;
  • Track students progress;
  • Get the pulse of their classrooms through student reactions to quizzes, assignments, and discussion posts that capture understanding, confusion, or frustration.
  • Personalize learning for every student;
  • Help teachers to amplify their lesson plans;

The top 10 free educational apps of Edmodo 2013 are fully described below.

 

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RobotsLAB BOX is a finalist at LaunchEDU EdTech competition at SxSW

It is well known that BIG is the adjective most appropriate for the State of Texas. And nothing that comes out of Texas is bigger than that series of film, interactive, and music festivals and conferences titled SXSW (South by SouthWest)  that has taken place in Austin, Texas the Spring of every year since 1987. 

How big, you ask?  Well, where else will you find over 250,000 performers, bands, films and other exhibits in the first weeks of March!

sxsw-logo

And while the thousands of bands,  performers and independent films  make for a great time after a long winter, South by SouthWest isn’t just about music and film. Long considered a breeding ground for new ideas and creative technologies, it is also about recognizing important innovations in media,  human computer interaction, and perhaps most important of all to our nation's’ continued technological dominance, creative and innovative new ventures in education technology like our RobotsLAB’s BOX. The BOX is one of only ten finalists selected to participate in the SXSWedu Festival after months of extensive evaluation of hundreds of applicants by a panel of stakeholders including university professors, teachers, administrators and policy makers.

 

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Here’s why we absolutely need EdTech

Here’s a question for you: What is your opinion as to the importance of EdTech in education? EdTech, as you know, is short for educational technology.

What defines EdTech, you ask?

Good question! You see the term everywhere but no definitions. So let’s go with the definition advanced by our good  friends at Wikipedia: "Educational technology, sometimes termed EdTech, is the study and ethical practice of facilitating e-learning, which is the learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources…"  "Appropriate technological processes and resources" include more than just the Internet, although online courses are important tools; tablets, computers, cell phones, the whole digital zoo is included. Even robots! Especially robots!

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Would you consider NAO Robot as a Looney? Prof. Hunter Lloyd has a surprise for you!

Montana is considered to be deep in the heart of "flyover country". You know, that part of the United States that people traveling back and forth to the East and West coasts look down at from a curved window at 35,000 feet and wonder if anyone really lives there.  Those people don’t think of Montana as a high tech state.

 

But they would be wrong! Montana, Bozeman, Montana in this case, settled between the Bridger Mountains and the Tobacco Root Mountains in the southeast part of the state and home of the University of Montana, boasts one of the most formidably competitive robots in this or any country. I’m talking about LOONEY, winner of six medals in the recent (2013) RoboGames in San Francisco. Oh, and he was winner of new fewer than five medals in the previous games, 2012 .

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To learn algebra secret way to student hearts

It's not a big secret, committed teachers have been aware of this forever. The best way to get students to learn anything about a subject is to find out what they are interested in and then show them how what interests them relates to the subject the teacher hopes to teach them. But like most things we believe instinctively it is always nice to find scientific proof for our beliefs.


Recently researchers using a Carnegie Learning software called cognitive tutor put high school students in two distinct groups to study Algebra. In one group were the students whose backgrounds had been researched in order to discover their personal interests. Stuff like music, movies and sports. These students received their algebra with lesson plans attuned to their personal interests. The second group was taught in the good old way math has always been taught, from a book and with no attention paid to the kids real lives. Can you guess what those researchers discovered? Exactly!

 

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The FIRST EUROPEAN MUSEUM ONLY ABOUT ROBOTS OPENS IN SPAIN

Did you know that the largest Robot Museum in Europe is located beneath the Juegetronica games store in central Madrid? When I first stumbled across this interesting bit of robo news I was a little surprised that a continent as technology conscious as Europe would have its biggest robot museum in the basement of a store. In this country we have museums featuring robots in nearly every major city. Most appear sponsored by various universities like The Robotics Institute (RI), a division of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We even have them in out-of-the-way but well-known entertainment parks like Wisconsin Dells, deep in the Wisconsin countryside.

 

I needn't have worried: first of all the Juegetronica is not just some small game shop in a Madrid strip mall-- online images display a game store on steroids; secondly,  the owner of the Madrid Robot Museum further described his place as "perhaps the only dedicated robot Museum in Europe outside of universities and training centers where we can see this technology of the future."  Which is to say the museum is independent of any big European institution. Maybe a bit like our own Wisconsin Dells? And like Wisconsin Dells, it is a big favorite with kids.

robot-museum

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Furhat, the Sweden's advanced social robot

In 1950 mathematician Alan Turing introduced what is today called the Turing Test for Artificial Intelligence. According to his paper written at that time titled Computing Machinery and Intelligence, Turing believed that machines would evidence intelligence equal to humans when a human interacting with one could not tell the difference between the machine and another human.

 

Thus far, at least with humans of average intelligence, there is no danger that the automatons we find ourselves forced to communicate with on various “helplines” will be able to convince us of their humanity. But today’s robotics engineers have not quit trying to be the first to meet Turing’s Test.

 

Sweden’s Furhat robot is an example of a new approach to the test: not by merely attempting to convince its interrogator of its humanity by means of verbal dexterity, but rather by the added enhancement of displaying human facial expressions.

Sweden’s Furhat robot

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America Desperately Needs More STEM Students

Here is some interesting information on the future of STEM learning I found in a cool graphic illustration by First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise, that seems to indicate this country is heading for trouble in a few years, trouble brought about by our losing our edge as the world’s most technologically advanced nation.

 

It is expected that By 2018 there will be at least 8 million jobs in the US dependent on skills learned in STEM learning courses. Problem is, experts estimate that at least 3 million of those jobs will have to go to applicants from outside the US due to a shortage of qualified people here. Worse, the companies needing those workers might take the jobs elsewhere.

 

Why don’t we have enough qualified applicants in this country to supply our own employment need? We certainly have enough kids in school. In fact, each year over 1 million freshman high school students claim to be interested in a career requiring STEM skills. Unfortunately 60%--six out of ten--change their minds before graduation.

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NYC bets on the future by reinforcing STEM focus programs

New York, like many cities large and small in this country, wants to build its own answer to Silicon Valley. Unlike many other cities, New York has really leaned into this initiative.

 

New York persuaded Facebook and Google to open offices in the city. It worked with local business partners to set up high-tech incubation centers to attract new tech jobs. New York also put lots of money where its mouth is by looking to create a new high-tech institution of higher learning and opening several STEM programs in the city's five boroughs.

 

In 2011 former mayor Michael Bloomberg, convinced that the city’s once dominant financial sector was too volatile to be a dependable economic engine for the city, pushed the city fathers to ante up free land and $100 million in taxpayer funds to a university or a group of universities willing to build a first-rate engineering or tech campus within the five boroughs. The press came to call this his "genius school" initiative. Several big name universities in the science field including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Sanford University entered into what amounted to a competition for the honor of being the "genius school". Cornell University in upstate New York won the competition.

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Why using arts to encourage more STEM learning

Is it really all that important that the "A" in Art education find its way into STEM learning and make STEAM? You bet! And as always there is a movement to do exactly that. I say "as always" because concerned individuals throughout history have attempted to merge the arts and the sciences.

 

 

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Will you teach with an educational cockroach robot?

For those of you--and unfortunately that includes most of us--who were unable to get over to Europe during European Robotics Week 2013, November 25th to December 1, you missed quite a show. Just perusing the event list on the Internet was a daunting task! Imagine attending over 300 events across the continent, from an educational reach-out titled "Robots are Coming-Are You Ready?" in Helsinki, Finland on the north to a robotics workshop in Nicosia, Cyprus on the south; and from a lab tour and workshop in Ankara, Turkey near the Black Sea, to an event in Mayo, Ireland in the Atlantic called the "First Lego League Event 21".

 

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Gamification STEM learning

Gamification, for those of you too busy earning a living and raising a family to keep up with the new words added almost daily to the popular tech lexicon, is a term first used by Nick Pelling a British computer programer in 2010. According to Wikipedia the term has come to mean "the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems".

So what does that mean in the context of STEM learning?

 

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Thanksgiving RoboParade - What a great idea!

Move over Macy's, here comes the Thanksgiving Robo parade at Macomb Community college in Warren, Michigan. Put on by middle schoolers from Jefferson Middle School in St. Clair Shores, it demonstrated the creativity, drive and technological skills students will continue to show in the future if this country of ours is to remain competitive in the world technological arena.

RoboParage

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Report Discusses Teaching with Technology - In Which Percentile Are You?

It should come as no surprise that the results of a recent Pew Research poll of middle and secondary teachers across the United States showed that the use of digital technology has become an integral part of their teaching method.
Fully 92% of polled teachers admit the Internet has had a major impact on how they access classroom material. Almost half report using an e-reader or tablet to complete classroom assignments.


Perhaps more surprising is the number of educators willing to allow students to do research in the classroom with the cellphone. Apparently undaunted by fears of cell phone interruption or distracted students (or maybe just trying to make a virtue of necessity), 52% of teachers in upper and middle-class districts and 35% of teachers with lower income kids let them work on their assignments with smartphones.

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Applying Math curriculum to real life using Google SketchUp

Math in practical use as opposed to being practically useless.
That’s the approach taken by more and more math teachers.
Of course math was always useful in the real world; the trick was convincing your students that that was the case.
Hard to do when the curriculum and available tools limited teachers to books and the blackboard...Oh, and let us not forget transparent plastic protractors for drawing straight lines on paper...at least that’s what most of us used them for.
The only angle we thought about was a guy’s agenda as in “What’s his angle?,” not “the space (usually measured in degrees) between two intersecting lines or surfaces at or close to the point where they meet.”

 

What’s happened to change all that? Technology!
Technology has made all the difference in turning math class into a learning experience as practical as woodworking or auto repair.
And that's what eighth-graders and their teachers discovered at Upper DuPont Area Middle School in Loyalton, Pa. while undertaking the redesigning and landscaping of the schools courtyard.

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Sailing into knowledge: Learning math and geometry on the ocean

Up until recently the concept of “learning math by doing it” meant some terminally embarrassed student standing in front of a class of tittering fellow students while desperately trying to solve a completely (to his life, at any rate) irrelevant problem, or that same student sitting home that night at his kitchen table trying to stay awake while solving one meaningless, irrelevant equation after another. His teacher hoped this process would result in the student memorizing math procedures and learning to perform them quickly and accurately.  Perhaps even becoming a math teacher himself.

What usually happened, however, was that he decided to dedicate his life to getting as far away from math as possible. He became an... an English major writing meaningless SEO blog posts that no one reads flogging products for some uncaring corporation, when he could have been looking for a cancer cure or charting a route to Mars.

But that was then and this is now! The rapid advance of technology and the absolute necessity of keeping this nation in a competitive position Vis-à-vis the rest of the world has forced many schools to create a more relevant math curriculum, thereby bridging the gap between math’s abstract concepts and reality and increasing relevancy. Our Sister’s School in New Bedford Massachusetts, for example, teaches the relevancy of math by way of the sailing ship. The young ladies learn the math behind tacking, the art of sailing against the wind.  

tacking-when-sailing

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Augmented Reality practice in math classroom?

What the heck is “augmented reality?” That was my first thought when first seeing the phrase in a related post. No, I take that back; to tell the truth, like most people I asked,  I thought it was merely another way to say “virtual reality.” But It most certainly isn't...

This according to the Wikipedia: Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. By contrast, virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one.”

Let’s put it another way: augmented reality is to The Minority Report with Tom Cruise as virtual reality is to Inception with Leonardo Dicaprio. Remember in The Minority Report when Tom Cruise stood facing a huge transparent computer screen manipulating images and data with gloved hands? That manipulation, a combination of real objects (gloved hands) and digital reality (data and images), makes for a perfect example of augmented reality (a teacher holding the control tablet from the RobotsLAB BOX in his hand can impose data on the real world the way Tom Cruise did--and he wouldn’t have to wear gloves!) On the other hand, Leonardo DiCaprio's avatar immersed in a simulated dreamworld, is a perfect example of virtual reality.

minority-report-to-cruise

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A Grant from SF CEO to SF City Schools

"Mayors just dream of these opportunities." 

That’s what San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said after he and schools Superintendent Richard Carranza met with Salesforce.com (SF) founder Marc Benioff. What they were asking for was some financial support for the city’s 12 middle schools to increase technology access. They wanted money to purchase several hundred Ipads for students and training for affected teachers. They thought their request was reasonable if expensive.

 

Marc-Benioff-Salesfoce-founder Marc Benioff Salesfoce founder

What they got was a surprise:  "You have to think bigger," Marc Benioff told them. At the end of the day what Mayor Lee and Superintendent Carranza actually walked away with was the Ipads they had originally asked for and a $100,000 grant to every principal at the 12 middle schools. The total donation came to almost three million dollars!  

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Imagery a key to understanding math

There is no shortage of quotations referring to math as beautiful--just Google “math and beauty” and you’ll see what I mean. But my favorite quote comes from G. H. Hardy (1877 - 1947), an English mathematician known for his work in numbers theory and mathematical analysis.

 

He said,“The mathematician's patterns, like the painter's or the poet's must be beautiful; the ideas, like the colors or the words must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in this world for ugly mathematics.”

 math-is-beautiful

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What Is Wrong With American Education?

As with everything else the question is best answered by "it depends!" In this case it depends on who you ask. 

scotOsterwell

Ask many reformers and they’ll assure you there is plenty wrong as shown by the poor showing American students make on international standardized tests. We can not completely ignore that.
But ask Scot Osterweil, a professor at the MIT Media Lab, and he will tell you that he believes educators need to worry less about standardized tests and work harder toward inspiring students' natural creativity.

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Why kids take on adult math anxiety

kids take on adult math anxiety

Of course the answer to the question posed by the title of this article is simple: Adults!
Adults instill in children their own feelings about certain learning disciplines like math and science.
Studies show that children tend to follow the lead of the same-sex parent where learning is concerned. Mothers discouraging daughters, fathers discouraging sons.


But both are guilty of perpetuating harmful stereotypes with comments like "girls are usually better readers", or "boys do better at math!"
Teachers, in spite of their training are often guilty of the same mistakes when working with kids. 

 

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Our future depends on EdTech (Teaching tech, and teaching with tech)

Technology isn’t a part of the core curriculum in most American school systems?  That’s a question mark at the end of the last sentence, not a period, because this writer find it hard to believe that is the case. But that’s the view of educator and co-founder of the IT Academy, Cullen White. He complains that most IT courses and many technology courses centered around the digital universe are considered “non-essential” and therefore weighed as electives on the curriculum grade-scales in most schools. (Just like we saw few days ago that a school in Las Vegas teaches computer science with a pen and paper...)

future of education

The future is in tech

OK, ignoring the obvious unprofitable future this country faces if we find ourselves net-importers of information technology instead of net-exporters, why should technology courses become part of the core curriculum like English and math?

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How to improve Math proficiency in 21st century classroom

Once upon a time...and not all that long ago, teachers found motivating youngsters to engage themselves in the wonders of mathematics a difficult proposition--which is not to say that educators here in the 21st Century have completely overcome all the difficulties. No, it still takes a committed teacher to break down the barriers both societal and unique to the child to get it done.

posamentier

Prof. Alfred Posamentier, Dean and professor of mathematics education at Mercy College, NY suggests 9 strategies a teacher might use to engage students with mathematics:

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KIPP Founder Sees Correlation Between EdTech and High Test Scores

In today’s RobotsLAB Blog we want to give three Cheers for one of this countries’ most successful ed-tech aware education systems! KIPP! KIPP! HOORAY! and... KIPP! KIPP! HOORAY! and one last time... KIPP! KIPP! HOORAY!

kipp

Okay, so that was a bit of a silly opening. But Hip! Hip! Hooray! is so last century and I wanted to get your attention to K-I-P-P, a definitely this-century system of over 140 schools administering to under-resourced communities across the United States. Google “KIPP” and you’ll be amazed at the number of big inner-cities with a KIPP school. (Or go directly to their website: http://www.kipp.org/ )

 

KIPP by the way, is an acronym which stands for Knowledge Is Power Program. To show how successful KIPP is, take a look at the record of KIPP Los Angeles, the highest performing elementary school in the LA system and one of the top ten in the entire state of California!

 

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Hour of code initiative - are you in ?

Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek), designated in 2009 by the U.S. House of Representatives as the week of Grace Murray Hopper’s birthday, recognizes the transformative role of computing and the need to bolster computer science at all educational levels. This year, 2013, Dec. 9-15, CDEdWeek has added something new, a call to help introduce more than 10 million students across the length and breadth of the United States to computer programming, called HOUR OF CODE.

 

 

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Art project draws from science lesson

We often talk about STEAM adding Art to STEM. The skills needed in STEM and Arts are similar and the study of these two different fields can teach both creativity and logical thinking. Arts can be also used to attract young adults that otherwise won't be willing to learn any STEM subject. More than that in the experience described, a concrete fun and engaging application ( paiting or creating some art ) serves as a live example of why Math concepts are needed and how we can find math in dawing a line.

Technology helps us understand how interconnected the apparently disparate elements of our reality actually are. The arts and sciences, once disciplines completely at odds with each, other are swiftly becoming more and more compatible--and more fun!  

STEAM-Math

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Why do I need to learn math?

An inspiring video created by WeUseMath.org team, featuring some of the brightests minds, and how they use math.

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NAO Robot can now speak 19 languages thanks to Nuance

NAO Robot Delivers Truly Natural and Conversational Interactions with Nuance's Powerful Voice Recognition and Text-to-Speech, Driving the Future of Human-Robot Communication

We really love NAO, while working with it for 4 years, we've learned a lot about the robot, it's capabilities and especially how we, humans, interact with it. One thing is very clear: every person, either 3 or 90 years old, absolutely adore NAO. The most common response to seeing it "He is so cute!" followed by "Ohhh..." No one can ignore it, or be indifferent, the robot paved it's way to the hearts of everyone around it.

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RobotsLAB BOX nominated for the Edison Awards as an Education and Learning Game Changer.

Edison-Awards-NomineeSeal2014UPDATE: May 1st: ROBOTSLAB BOX IS NAMED A GOLD EDISON AWARD WINNER

 

We are proud to be among those few considered to be following in the steps of Thomas Alva Edison. With the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, moving pictures, and many other inventions often taken for granted in the modern world, he left an unmatched legacy of practical, innovative inventiveness and entrepreneurial drive.  Every school child can name one of his inventions, but he was also an inspired salesman and hard-charging businessman who built an investor-owned electric utility and developed mass production methods to profit from his inventions. We believe our RobotsLAB BOX is indeed a alignd with Edison's tradition and meets the four criterion for the Edison Award: Concept, Value, Delivery and Impact.

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Business and education leaders urge STEM education, What about you?

 

It’s pretty much the same everywhere. There are simply too few skilled workers to go around. This is particularly true in the trades and industries depending on skilled workers with a background in science, technology, engineering and math. (STEM)

john-curtis-mayor

Provo, Utah is a good example of a technology center that should have no problem recruiting workers. Nestled in the beautiful Utah Valley surrounded by the snow-capped Wasatch Mountains and home to Brigham Young University, it still find itself forced to depend on immigrants to meet the needs of local technology companies. Provo's mayor, John Curtis says "My single biggest impediment to bringing businesses to Provo is that there are not enough qualified workers."

 

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Can You Teach Students To Love Math?

keep calm and love mathMost math teachers say they love math. And the best ones make a determined effort to inculcate their students with that same sense of the divine. How often do they succeed in this? We all know the answer is “not very often.”

And why not? Well for one thing as math professor Manil Siri recently said, “Math gets a bad rap.” Before we get to school our parents have already told us about math--and what they’ve told us about it wasn’t good. Math’s hard, it isn’t very useful in real life; and besides, you need a special mental aptitude for it to be successful. For another, even those teachers otherwise capable of making students fall in love with math are limited by their curriculum; or as high school math teacher Dan Meyer complains, to simply “memorizing procedures and performing them accurately and quickly.” A method requiring lots of boring homework far from that inspiring, charismatic teacher. 

Do students need to fall in love with math to be good at it? Well, it certainly makes a teacher’s life easier if the students are enjoying what they are doing. This is true of every discipline from language to physics. But in the absence of ‘Love!’ most teachers would settle for students simply realizing how beautifully an understanding of math can help them interact with the real world.

 

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The Awesome Power of Gamification Of the Classroom

Games engage children and adults. They are a powerful learning tool. Engagement is important in education because the more an individual becomes involved the greater his interest and he learns more about the subject. Unfortunately the engagement trajectory in American education seems to angle downward as the student’s grade level rises. A recent study shows the following dismal statistics:

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How do you get students from the worst school systems in the US to and through college

Now I know why LAS VEGAS says “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” The city isn’t really bragging, it is just embarrassed. There are probably a lot of reasons for that embarrassment, but here are the two I just discovered after watching this video:

First, they have some of the worst public schools in the entire country.

Second, some of those poor Las Vegas schools have no computers.

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Some say math instruction is unnecessary ... really?

After many years as a math teacher, John Bennett has come to believe that higher math (algebra and beyond) is wasted on most students. 
Worse, he believes teaching higher math is downright destructive in many cases, bringing on "math anxiety" rather than math proficiency.
His answer is to stop teaching higher math except to those students that actually want it and to find another means of instructing students in inductive and deductive reasoning, perhaps with puzzles and games.

Educational heresy?
Perhaps, but the cogent reasons he gives in this video are based on his long experience as a math teacher and are worth a debate.
One argument in particular, that most people (99% is his estimate) will never use higher math after leaving school, bothers us greatly here at RobotsLAB.
If John Bennett is right about the numbers (and we disagree with his thesis that only math teachers, scientists and engineers will ever use higher math in the real world), then we still have too few math teachers, scientists and engineers.

To keep this nation’s competitive edge, we need more of all of the above, not less.

Many students, including this writer, came late to appreciating higher math and often wish their math teachers had bedeviled them with algebra, trig and geometry a bit longer.

Besides, just as modern technology demands more math teachers, scientists and engineers, it also provides today’s students with exciting new technological marvels like our own RobotsLAB BOX to inspire them.

The blackboard has been replaced with the tablet and the computer screen.

Instead of hard to relate to chalk scribbles, students can now experience the universe of meaning behind such once-seemingly exotic puzzles as quadratic equations and vectors by interacting with our exciting robots.

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ROBOTSLAB NAMED WINNER OF THE RBR GAME CHANGER AWARDS

RobotsLAB BOX recognized for the innovation, creativity and delivery of a “Game Changer product” in the education market.

Game Changers AwardSanta Clara, CA, Wednesday, October 23rd 2013 - A panel of distinguished experts from NASA’s JPL, universities around the world, the investment community and Robotics Business Review, chose RobotsLAB BOX to join an exclusive group of products recognized for outstanding achievements.

The awarded product – RobotsLAB BOX, is a teaching-aid, designed to help educators demonstrate abstract concepts in math and science using robots.

RobotsLAB BOX won the Game Changer Award in the Education category, one of twelve categories honored by the Game Changers Awards. The distinguished awards are celebrating exceptional developments in technology, innovation, accessibility and delivery.

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HOW THE U.S. CAN ENGAGE GIRLS IN STEM

The problem has been around forever. Young men go into science, technology, engineering and math at a far greater rate than young women.
Men are twice as likely to be in STEM positions as women, and one out of every five female science and engineering graduates has left the labor force completely.
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NAO, THE HUMANOID ROBOT IS USED TO ATTRACT STEM STUDENTS

Robots are a great learning resource. NAO, a humanoid robot made by Aldebaran Robotics of France, has become one of the most popular robots on the STEM learningscene.
We recently talked about a robot fashion show put on in Austin, Texas by the robotics club of a local high school.
The high school students programmed NAO to strut down a runway wearing various outfits the kids had made for it. 
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ROBOTSLAB BOX IS A FINALIST FOR THE GAME CHANGERS AWARDS

UPDATE: OCt. 23rd  - RobotsLAB BOX is the winner of the "Game Changer" Award 

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IMPROVING EDUCATION: GREAT MINDS ARE MADE! NOT BORN!

Growth Mindset” isn’t a new idea. It was formulated almost thirty years ago by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck.
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AMERICAN EDUCATION: DOES OUR PRESENT SYSTEM ENDANGER OUR FUTURE PROSPERITY?

Lew Dobbs, for those of you that might not know, is the host of Lou Dobbs Tonight, a prime time program on the Fox Business Network. 
Endangering Prosperiy: A global view of the American school
In this interesting video Dobbs discusses a recent book by Eric Hanushek titled Endangering Prosperiy: A global view of the American school with the author himself.
As an interviewer Lou Dobbs tends to be more laid back than most of his fellow hosts on the Fox Network, but he did seem upset by two figures author Hanushek claimed showed the inadequacy of our public schools:
  • one, students in the US were rated 32nd of 65 nations in math proficiency;
  • two, US students ranked 17th in reading proficiency worldwide.
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AWARD-WINNING ROBOTICS CLUB DEMANDS ACTION

According to Jeff Gelles, Philadelphia Inquirer Business Columnist, the Philadelphia public schools are short on money.
‘Imperiled’ is the word used to describe public schools in the area.
Worse, even the money that is there is being distributed unfairly as evidenced by the grade of “D” the Education Law Center's National Report Card on school-funding fairness gave the state of Pennsylvania for how it distributes school funds.
Students rightly feel unfairly treated by the state. 
Student’s at Philadelphia’s Central High School are particularly fed up with this seeming lack of interest by politicians in the school’s decay.
Student’s on physics teacher Daniel Ueda’s award winning robotics team wrote up a petition detailing some of the ways the schools were being short changed and what they thought needed to be done to make things right.
Interested parties are asked to sign this petition.  
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ROBOTS HELP TEACHERS FIND EACH STUDENT'S SWEET SPOT OF LEARNING

Have you ever wondered why students don’t like school?
Most of us haven’t given the question much thought; disliking school just seemed to come naturally.
Personally I disliked sitting in one place for such a long time.
But maybe the author of "Why Don’t Students Like School", cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham, is on to something with his “sweet spot.”
 
“The problem,” for each student, Willingham says referring to teaching in general,  “must be easy enough to be solved yet difficult enough to take some mental effort,”  He calls this the “sweet spot” of difficulty.
Goldilocks would have understood: the bed couldn’t be too hard or two soft (easy); like all of us she was looking for “just right!”
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PATHWAYS TO ICT EDUCATION AND CAREERS USING ROBOTICS IN CLASSROOMS

Why introducing robotics for computer science education?
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ROBOTS: THE NEWEST MILESTONE IN SCIENCE LEARNING

In an online edition of Scientific American,  Michael Wysession, an earth and planetary scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, wrote, “Though we live in a thoroughly modern scientific world, our science education structure is now 120 years old.”
That sounds like a criticism, but it’s really just a statement of fact.  
froebel blocks
Mr. Wysession breaks the last 120 years of science education into four separate eras or milestones.
 
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THE NEW ERA OF TOY ROBOTICS

The online edition of the Wall Street Journal is where the article was found.
“IN OLDEN TIMES…” is how the article begins.
Nostalgia is what I felt.
 
 
Eric Sofge, author of The New Era of Toy Robotics, hit the proverbial ‘nail on the head’ with that opening.
In olden times young engineers like myself had to build robots out of Tinkertoys (has anyone seen any of those lately?) or erector sets.
Or maybe if you were lucky and your parents hadn’t cleaned the garage lately, you could cobble one together with some duct tape, wire and sheet metal.
 In any case it was pretty much like Sofge says, “In Olden Times, the most an ambitious young tinkerer could hope for...was to be able to stick one funny-shaped piece onto another.”
And then all you had in front of you was the skeletal facade of a robot; you could roll it around the floor with your hands--and not much else.
But instead of whining about being too old, I’m thrilled to find that these new toys are as fun for us old guys as for young ones!  
Lego NXT EV3
 
 
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6 TECH TOOLS THAT BOOST TEACHER-PARENT COMMUNICATION

Communicating effectively with parents is one of the most trying things a teacher will do.  
Some parents are working several jobs and are hard to find;  some don’t speak the teacher’s language, and truth to tell it, some parents just don’t want to be bothered.  
Teachers too have things to do, grading papers, planning lessons; some become discouraged when their communications with parents have been ignored.
Fortunately in today’s educational digital universe there are several means available to help teachers get their thoughts across to parents without going door to door or making endless phone calls.
Educator Jeff Knutson discusses several of these means in a blog post on Graphite.Org called 
 
weebly logo
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IF MASSACHUSETTS WAS A COUNTRY

I ran into an interesting article by Alan Singer, a Hofstra University social studies educator.
The article is openly contemptuous of what he terms the "self-proclaimed educational ‘reform’ movement" which in his opinion "is busy packaging Common Core standards with high-stakes assessment, scripted curriculum, packaged test prep, the de-professionalism of teachers and the privatization of school support services".
 
Professor Singer believes that the process, he so deplores, is driven in part by a recent book by Amanda Ripley titled The Smartest Kids in The World: And How They Got That Way, kids which she apparently discovered in Finland, South Korea and Poland.  
These kids did particularly well on international exams when compared to American kids.
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BLENDED LEARNING PAVES WAY FOR DIGITAL CONTENT

Most of us are aware that blended learning means integrating face-to-face classroom instruction with online learning.

The benefits of blended learning are many, including allowing greater leeway for students to work at their own pace and take a lot more courses than they might otherwise have had access to at their own local schools. Think of it as an educational leveler.

But as Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia and president of the Alliance for Excellent Education opined at a recent panel discussion, "Blended learning is not using technology to diminish the role of teaching, it enhances the role of teaching."

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HOW TO STAY ALIVE IN THE SWAMP


Alive in the Swamp

The first four words in this article on EdSurge by Tony Wan, Nine Questions for Evaluating Education Innovation, caught my interest immediately.

They must have done the same for Mr. Wan as he took them directly off the title of a new report from Nesta and newSchools Venture Fund, an otherwise ’sober-sides’ educational organization.

 

What are the four words you ask? Hang on, I'm getting to them!

 

Drum roll... and the four words are, “Alive In The Swamp”!

Mr. Wan aptly terms these three words as a possible title for a “cheesy survival horror flick,” and also a good analogy for the problems experienced by “entrepreneurs and educators slogging their way through edtech jungle, trying to figure out how to best build, deploy and assess technology for the classroom.”

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NAO ROBOT FASHION SHOW, HIGHSCHOOLERS ROCK

Teachers searching for innovative ways to interest kids in STEM learning should watch this video of high schoolers in Austin, Texas, producing their own robot fashion show at a local Barnes and Noble. That’s right! A robot fashion show complete with a runway and the latest fashions for well-dressed robots!

The students are from the award-winning robotics clubs of Anderson High School and Eastside Memorial

High School presented five ‘NAO’ humanoid robots developed by Aldebaran Robotics of Paris, France; they programed them with five distinct personalities, taught them to move like little models, and sent them down the runway strutting their stuff and dressed to the nines!

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OHIO OFFICIALS LAUNCH 'STRAIGHT A' FUND

RobotsLAB is pleased to report that yet another state has realized the importance of STEM learning and the necessity of spending more of their scarce educational funds on it. 
The state this time is Ohio!
 
Ohio State Superintendent Dick Ross believes that “many educators and administrators are eager for transformation and we have the innovative spirit needed to improve student efficiencies.”
 
Apparently Ohio’s Republican governor John Kasich agrees with Ross as he recently asked the Ohio State Legislature to make available $250 million for new education innovation fund grants in the next two fiscal years.
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STEM LEARNING INITIATIVE IN ILLINOIS

University of Aurora
More state educational systems are realizing the importance of STEM learning.
Some of them also realize they have shortcoming that must be overcome.
Illinois appears to be one of those states that understands this and is taking the initiative in these matters.
Aurora Illinois, home of the University of Aurora, is the leader of this STEM initiative.
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EDTECH ISN'T OPTIONAL, IT'S ESSENTIAL

An overwhelming majority of teachers (86%) and administrators (93%) think it's "important" or "absolutely essential" to use products (such as apps, computer games, websites, digital planning tools, or digitally delivered curricula) designed to help students or teachers.

Almost all teachers (between 87% and 96%) agree the use of educational technologies increases student engagement in learning, enables personalized learning, improves student outcomes, and helps students collaborate.

And 9 out of 10 teachers agree they would like to use more edtech in the classroom.

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HOW 3D PRINTING IS CHANGING THE WORLD FOR THE BETTER

Robohand
 
Here is a name we all should remember when we talk about people who made this world a better place: Richard Van As.
This resilient South African carpenter turned a personal catastrophe into a victory for the disabled everywhere.
After losing four fingers off his hand to a circular saw, he used a 3D printer and created a capable mechanical hand with a design taken from the online-video of a theater-prop.
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AN ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF CRITICAL THINKING

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz
 
Years ago in graduate school one of my favorite professors, a top man in his profession with many published articles to his credit, stated his classroom philosophy thus (paraphrased): I am going to do most of the talking, because I’ve been at this a lot longer than any of you.
He was a wonderful old guy and I honor his name, but even back then--the late Sixties--many of us in the class questioned his teaching method.
He gave a fine lecture, both illuminating and entertaining, but those of us with a real interest in the subject had to grab moments with him after class to satisfy our curiosity--which, being the fine educator that he was, he was more than happy to provide.
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MOTION MATH GAMES HELPS MAKE MATH FUN

If making the subject seem relevant is one of the toughest things for a math teacher to accomplish, then certainly the next most difficult task is making math enjoyable. 
Or is it the other way around? Maybe! And in an earlier post, Eight ways Kindergarten Hold the Key to 21St Century Instruction, we discussed one educator’s view that only kindergarten provided children the eight essential elements (he refers to them as “ways”) needed for educational excellence. 
One of those ways was play and play by its very nature is relevant to children!

 

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DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT ANSWER TO THE WRONG QUESTION?

Shari Stockero is assistant professor of mathematics education at Michigan Technological University and a former high school math and science teacher.

Stockero is studying teacher education experiences and designing new programs for beginning mathematics teachers in middle and high school.

Her research is funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award.

The award is worth almost half-million dollars over five years.

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DON'T MISS THESE STEM LEARNING ORIENTED EDUCATION GRANTS

There isn’t nearly as much money out there for educational endeavors as there once was, and the noose is getting tighter every day. 
That’s why it is alarming to think that the failure to take advantage of educational grants may leave money on the table that could have been put to a much better use enabling students and teachers in STEM learning. 
In order to avoid this waste, every first-of-the month the online blog eschoolnews.com lists those very grants about to expire in hopes that educators reading the blog will take action.
 
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SPREADSHEETS CAN HELP STUDENTS GET FROM ARITHMETIC TO ALGEBRA

Ever wonder why so few students seem to survive the jump from learning arithmetic to math, or algebra? 
Many of us found ourselves in exactly that situation. 
We wonder what happened to the bright, eager kids that learned so quickly to multiply and divide but stumbled and almost crashed when brought face to face with the simplest of equations. 
Was it simply because they had plateaued intellectually with division and were never meant to fly higher? 
Was it the fault of their teachers? 
Or, as suggested by educator John Barnes, did the fault lie in the tools used by those teachers to try to bridge the gap?
 
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MATH LESSONS IN NEW CURRICULUM

STEM learning just gained a powerful adherent in the UK. According to the UK online daily The Telegraph, the government there recently changed the technology and design curriculum to place more emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math, as it was believed that Britain would need  more than 100,000 graduates in those fields in the next few years to stay competitive.
 
 
The Telegraph claims that “The new curriculum is in sharp contrast to the original draft published by the Coalition in February, which expected children to receive lessons in sewing and knitting, cultivating plants for "decorative displays", bike maintenance and extensive cookery classes.”
Is this claim for real? Seriously? Sewing, knitting, cookery classes and bike maintenance? Could any government in recent years actually have emphasized homemaking courses in view of the global fixation on science?
 
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HOW 21ST CENTURY THINKING IS JUST DIFFERENT.

How 21st Century Thinking Is Just Different. This was the title of a recent post on the blog, TEACHTHOUGHT. My first reaction was negative as I am a great believer in the old adage that “there is nothing new under the sun.”

The writer’s argument is that information overload coupled with the human instinct toward socializing forces us to interpret this onrush of data and “spin” it to fit our own world view. “As a result,” says the post’s author, “the tone of thinking can end up uncertain or whimsical, timid or arrogant, sycophant or idolizing--and so, devoid of connections and interdependence.” In order to overcome these shortcomings he feels the following Habits of Mind are important to inculcate in youth:
  • Persisting.
  • Managing impulsivity.
  • Responding with awe.
  • Questioning.
  • Innovating.
  • Thinking interdependently.
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EIGHT WAYS KINDERGARTEN HOLDS THE KEY TO 21ST-CENTURY INSTRUCTION

Robert Fulghum’s #1 New York Times bestseller, written twenty-five years ago,All I Really Need To Know I learned in Kindergarten, was way-less depressing than the article I read last night, Eight Ways Kindergarten Holds The Key to 21St-Century Instruction by educator Sam Gliksman.  This newer, insightful view of the education process in this century left me hoping that it would be read by educators that matter, because something obviously has to be done.

Gliksman, as you might take from the title, discusses eight ways in which a child’s first introduction to the educational system, Kindergarten, makes for a positive experience.  Then he proceeds to show us what happens to that same way or aspect as the child proceeds through the grades.

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CONTROLLING NAO ROBOT WITH YOUR MIND

Since the early days of science fiction, robots were controlled by the brain. We saw that in many movies as well (from Pandora to Surrogates with Bruce Willis) -- one of our customers, Prof. Wei Li from CSU Bakersfield made it happen! He made the humanoid robot NAO walk around using a non-intrusive sensor helmet to read the operator's brain signals, and transferring them as commands to the robot.

 

 

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WHAT DO EDUCATORS THINK ABOUT THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS INITIATIVE?

Common core logo

Backed by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the Common Core Initiative Standards which are intended to provide clarity and consistency to student learning countrywide are scheduled to go into effect in the 45 states presently committed to them in 2015 (Five states, Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia are not participating at this time).

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TODAY’S SCHOOLS LACK CREATIVE TEACHING AND LEARNING, STUDY SAYS

Is it possible to teach “thinking outside the box?” (Pun intended! Our RobotsLab Box is an invaluable tool for inspiring innovative and creative thinking!)

According to an Adobe Systems survey the answer is yes.

Why isn’t it happening then?

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WHILE DEVICES ENGAGE, TEACHERS MUST INNOVATE

We here at RobotsLAB.com love our electronics devices with all our hearts and we believe in them with zeal, but we recognize that without committed teachers they are nothing but inspired gadgets.

Recently we came across an article by educator David Jakes in The Smart Blog For Education that wonderfully articulates our feelings about our devices and teaching children.
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ARE YOU AS KNOWLEDGEABLE AS AN 1912 EIGHTH GRADER?

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I found this test on the Washington Post Blog.  It was originally given to Eighth Graders in Bullitt County, Ky in 1912. For what it is worth, I was impressed with what a fourteen-year-old kid had to know in that less-than enlightened day and age. Was a passing grade required to move on to the ninth as in today’s much-maligned end-of-the year tests? Don’t know; the blog didn’t say.

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SAN JOSE MATH CAMP IN FINANCIAL TROUBLE

Before STEM Learning came along with its host of cool gadgets to inspire young people to undertake careers in science there was only math and passionate math teachers to bridge the interest gap. Jose Valdes was one of those passionate teachers, one of the best.

Teaching in East San Jose in the late 1980’s, this expatriate Cuban became disgusted with the number of bright Latino kids having trouble with math and dropping out of school. He decided to do something about it.

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TEACHING THE LAW OF COSINES WITH ROBOTS

 

guillermo del toro's Pacific Rim produced by Warner Bros. a Jaeger fighting a Kaiju

Who doesn’t like seeing Optimus prime fight Megatron? Or one of the robots in “Pacific Rim” use an oil tanker to fight one of the monsters? Well controlling a robot, large or small, involves the use of cosines, among other mathematical equations. However, cosines, like quadratic equations and vectors, are hard to understand using just a math book. Unless your students are really interested in figuring out how tall buildings are, they may not care to learn how cosines factor into things like designing and building a roof. RobotsLAB solves this problem by stripping down the concept of cosines to their core functionality, giving the students something physical (and pretty cool) to look at and makes the concept easier to understand.

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BUBBLESHEET APP FOR EDUCATION SAVES TEACHERS TIME WITH DIGITAL TEST SCORING

The educational technology (#edtech) industry is booming, but how do you know what technologies are good and which are subpar? Once a month we feature a piece of technology from an outside company that is making life easier for teachers. This month we are focusing on an app that makes scoring multiple choice exams easier, using any smart device with a camera.

About the App:

The bubblesheet app from MasteryConnect allows you to scan in and score your multiple choice bubble sheets using your tablet, smartphone or webcam. First take a blank Mastery Connects bubblesheet app user interface for teachers grading quizzess. answer sheet and create a key. Then enter your answer key into the app by either scanning it or uploading it as a document (word, pdf, etc.). Continue scanning your students answer sheets until the entire pile has been captured. After you’ve done that, you can either enter the information into your gradebook manually, or export it if you have the paid version of the app, which creates a much cleaner, organized work area. 

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DEMONSTRATING QUADRATIC EQUATIONS IN THE REAL WORLD

Quadratic Equations are one of the more abstract mathematical concepts for high school students. Even if you can remember and solve the formulas, it’s hard for teens to think about how quadratic equations could ever help them in their future job, or even how they could save a life. It is the main goal of the RobotsLAB BOX to help bridge the gap between concepts and what they truly mean in a world that doesn’t revolve around white boards and exams.

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A QUICK LOOK AT OLIVER HEAVISIDE

Oliver Heaviside 

Who says dropping out of high school is the biggest mistake you’ll ever make!? OK, for about 99% of us, dropping out is a huge mistake… not for Oliver Heaviside. However, if you could teach yourself telegraphy and electromagnetism like he did, then I doubt that you would have a need for high school either. Heaviside would also go on to develop a few useful things still popular today. 

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LESSON PLAN IDEAS FOR TEACHING VECTORS

Vectors are a simple concept that can be hard to apply in real life. Some teachers use examples with trains, braver/crazier teachers have explained vectors by instructing students to run at each other. Both examples are difficult for students to understand because it involves too many distracting variables to think about at once, especially if you now have a concussion. RobotsLAB simplifies this lesson using the RobotsLAB BOX
Mobot Robot for use in math, physics and robotics classes.
 
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SHOULD EDUCATORS TEACH ALGEBRA 2?


Algebra 2, teaching, math, education, Texas, Florida, STEMFlorida and Texas passed laws no longer requiring proficiency in Algebra 2  in order to graduate. Based on a recent federal report roughly one quarter of all high school students do not take Algebra 2 or its equivalent, however those fundamental math skills are needed to pursue STEM careers. 

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5 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR TEACHING USING NEW TECHNOLOGY

Did you ever as a student have the pleasure of a teacher assigning a Power Point presentation, only to watch in embarrassing agony as they struggled to figure out how to connect their laptop to the projector? If you’re a teacher reading this, you’ve probably been in this predicament (hint: use a dvi/HDMI cable). Teaching, Projecting, Education, STEM, Mathematics, Science, Technology, Engineering

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ELIMINATING BOREDOM IN THE CLASSROOM

Fact: bored students don’t learn. I doubt you’re blown away by this but in case you need some reassuring, a new study from the University of Pittsburgh, coauthored by the University of Michigan looked at student engagement, and the key to helping students stay focused in the classroom.Bored students, rethinking teaching, education, STEM, University of Pittsburgh, University of Michigan

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WHY ARE WE TEACHING MATH THE SAME WAY WE DID 10 YEARS AGO?

If you were to buy a cell phone 10 years from now, do you think that it will be the same phone you bought a year ago? Probably not. If you buy a car 10 years from now you’d want it made with better technologies, right? The same thing should be applied to education. But rather than 10 years from now, we need to have that sort of change within 1 year.Math, STEM, education, frustration, teaching

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LIST OF TOP COLLEGES FOR STEM MAJORS

If you want a career in a STEM related field, it makes sense that you should go to a school that grants the most STEM degrees right? So with that in mind here is some ofSTEM, education, Technology, Science, College the top-ranked STEM degree granting universities.

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FOCUS ON PEOPLE NOT JUST TECHNOLOGY

I’m sure you’ve seen YouTube videos of young kids picking up iPads and operating them like it was second nature (if not here’s your chance). There’s also a chance that either you or someone you know has sat at a PC wondering how to make a table in Excel. Powerful and useful technology is useless if the design of it is convoluted.

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TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL TAKES NEW APPROACH TO LEARNING


STEM Education, teaching, math, computing, computers, technologyHow many of us remember dissecting a frog? Or perhaps you can complete this phrase: “I” before “e” except after… I rest my case. Teaching is one of the oldest professions and so are the majority of the approaches to subject matter.

The standard lecture, standing in front of a class with facts and formulas on a dry erase board are leaving children disengaged and wanting more (after all, didn’t we dream of school being less boring?). Some schools, like Manor New Technology High School in Texas, have tossed away the textbooks and advance placement classes and replaced them with project-based learning.

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GE GRANT PROVIDES HELPS MATH PROFICIENCY AND GRADUATION RATES

Math Graduation General Electric education

Unfortunately, almost everyone has a friend that didn’t graduate from high school. Sometimes this person excels with tests but never does their homework, it could be that friend’s home life makes school incredibly difficult to get through, or there’s the friend who lands an awesome job programming and decides they don’t need school anymore. There are many reasons for dropping out but a common factor is a lack of an understanding of basic education ideas, like math for example. GE understands this and has responded to this with the introduction of the GE Foundation's Developing Futures in Education program.

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MUSEUMS OPEN DOORS TO INFORMAL MATH LEARNING


New York Museum of Mathematics MoMath STEM

Math students are notorious for asking the question: When will I ever use this? The answer isn’t simple, (or convincing to most teens) and has been known to keep math teachers up at night, at least I think it does, to be honest I have no idea if a math teacher even sleeps but I digress. The point is math is not exactly a “sexy” subject in the eyes of many K-12 students… until now.

The National Museum of Mathematics in New York City is attempting to change math’s image problem and make it cool to learn about. In conjunction with other math exhibits around the nation (side note: the National Museum of Mathematics is the only museum dedicated to the subject in the country), curators are inviting the public to look and think about math in a hands-on, fun way. Sounds awfully similar to what we do here at RobotsLAB with the BOX.

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MINIROBOT UNVEILS AFFORDABLE CUSTOMIZABLE ROBOT MOWAYDUINO

Who doesn’t want their own personal robot right!? If you’re reading this blog, chances are you either want one, or already bought/built one.... or you’re a teacher and can’tmOwayduino arduino robot science technologyafford one. However, not everyone has the means to buy or build one… until now.

Introducing mOwayduino a programmable Arduino-based robot toy from Minirobots, designed to be used in conjunction with mobile apps (like using your smart-phone’s accelerometer to control the robot), and hardware add-ons like a camera and Wi-Fi receiver. The goal is to create a rich environment for learning by encouraging experimentation on both the software and hardware side of robotics, including an open API so users can create their own apps.

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OBAMA UNVEILS NEW PLAN TO BRING SCHOOLS AND STUDENTS INTO DIGITAL AGE

Just like kids shouldn’t be hitting chalk erasers together, teachers shouldn’t be writing on chalk boards either. 
Obama connectED high-speed internet mathematics I mean, chalk is dirty, it gets everywhere and every time youhave to write on it you inevitably make that screeching noise with it. Don’t get me started with dry erase boards either, we’ll be here all day with that one.

The Obama administration feels the same way about chalk/dry erase boards. At least I hope it does, which is why the President unveiled a new project called ConnectED which plans to get more electronic devices into the hands of teachers and students so that lessons can be taught digitally. Digitization of the classroom should lead to more engaged students, have less boredom, and better prepare them to compete in a highly industrialized economy. Tests are also digitized just like the lesson plans.

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4 WAYS SCHOOLS CAN PREPARE FOR NEW TECHNOLOGIES IN THE CLASSROOM

    STEM Science Technology Engineering Mathematics

Remember having to smash together chalk erasers when you got in trouble during class? It seems like an old punishment, but in fact some schools have been unable to adopt newer technologies, like white boards (or even more advanced: smart boards) in their classrooms. Despite how many times you personally had to clean the erasers, and how you may be fond of the taste of chalk dust, chalkboards (and thus their erasers) should be a thing of the past.

In a recent report, the Alliance for Excellent Education agrees, addressing four challenges that school leaders need to complete in order to give their students an advantage in the modern world and begin utilizing new digital learning and education technologies.

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6 TECHNOLOGY CHALLENGES EDUCATION IS FACING

If you’re reading this I’m pretty sure that I don’t have to tell you that we have a growing problem with our education system. There is a problem, but the first step to solving any problem is recognizing there is one; so we’re on the right track, right? The New Media Consortium also recognizes this and has put together "The NMC Horizon Report: 2013 K-12 Edition,” in hopes to identify problems with our approach to education technology. Below are the key issues they hope to have addressed.

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WHY YOU'RE NOT SMARTER THAN YOUR 5TH GRADER

Can you solve a problem involving slope-intercept? How about a quadratic equation?  If you can’t that’s OK, typically our ability to recall how to solve problems like these gets weaker with time, especially without a strong STEM education background. Just think of how you feel when the more complicated questions come up on “Are you smarter than a 5th grader!” You know you learned that in school, but can you recall the answers off the top of your head now? It's OK if you can't.

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CONGRESS HELPS PROMOTE STEM EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE CAUCUS

Do you often have nightmares about your kids asking you to help them with their math homework? Do you see your child get out their graphing calculator and suddenly you’re scrambling for an excuse to leave the room? This is actually nothing new, so you’re not alone. Just like previous generations, parents of generation Zs are overwhelmed by the level of advanced skills their children can comfortably complete. But this is a good sign as the days of working on an assembly line have been replaced by working on network servers and the blueprints of tomorrow’s workforce demands a more educated population.stemcaucusfirstevent

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MEET BAROBO'S NEWEST EDUCATIONAL ROBOT: LINKBOT

Our friends at Borobo Inc are currently on Kickstarter.com for their newest robot: Linkbot. .

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NCTM President: My Summer Math Reading List

OMG, the school year is over! Summer is here again! Pool, beach and picnics, here we come! NCTM's President Linda Gojak has compiled a list of recommended books to read this summer. Whether you teach preschool or college, perhaps there is a title or two here for you to enjoy this summer.
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EDUCATORS TOUT SUMMER SCHOOL AS ACADEMIC BOOSTER

Local school districts are promoting summer learning programs as an academic booster for all students as they ramp up efforts to meet more stringent state academic standards.

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EDUCATORS TOUT SUMMER SCHOOL AS ACADEMIC BOOSTER

Local school districts are promoting summer learning programs as an academic booster for all students as they ramp up efforts to meet more stringent state academic standards.

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