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…
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.
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.
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."
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.
"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."
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!
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.
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.