Monday, April 11, 2011

Delaware - Winning (too)

Bolstering science education is essential for U.S. prosperity is the title of an article on DelewareOnline.  Like every other article I've read lately, they claim that levels of math and science education are well behind what they should be in the United States.

What has happened in Delaware is that Dupont, along with educators in that state, have changed their curriculum and have seen great improvements in both science and math.  Outstanding!  What they don't say is what changes they made.

Everyone loves to see that students are performing better in math and science, and it even looks better when a big corporation is linked to their success (at least to that corporation).

I'd really like to know what curriculum changes they made.  Things like this are something that should not be kept a secret.  The title of the article is "... essential for U.S. prosperity"  not just Delaware (or Dupont).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Invitation to the FIRST World Championship in St. Louis

A nice video invitation to the 2011 FIRST World Championship has been on the Internet for a while and we are less than 3 weeks way from the start of the event, so I'm posting this invitation here.  Take a minute and watch -

Morgan Freeman will be there, and you should too!

This will be the final "celebration" of the 2011 FIRST season.  Unlike other competitions, this World Championship is more than finding the winners for 2011, it is a major celebration for all the hard work these students have invested.  Don't get me wrong, the competition will be fierce, and the celebrations will be out of this world.  It is a big deal, trust me.

For more information about FIRST, see the official FIRST website at or my own FIRST public outreach community at

If you are going to be anywhere near St. Louis on April 27 - 30, do yourself a favor and check this out.  Like always, admission is free and everyone is welcome.

Cross post at Roger on FIRST

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sample Return Robot Challenge

A new NASA Centennial Challenge is about to be making news.  The Sample Return Robot Challenge is a newish challenge of the Centennial Challenge and has recently been taken over by WPI.  This link from WPI will be providing some of the details as they become available.  Right now there are more questions than answers on the site, however they claim that the official rules will be coming this spring.  The contest is set to take place in the spring of 2012.

From what I can tell the challenge tasks teams to build an autonomous robot to search a variable terrain for specific "samples".  I'm not entirely sure what that means, but it sounds to me like your autonomous robot needs to be able to navigate a variable terrain (from rocky to granular (maybe sand)) in search of these samples, then return them to a designated "drop zone".

The purse for this event is $1.5M.  I think it's time to start programming robots again.  :)

This has been cross posted at Roger on FIRST

Monday, April 4, 2011

High School Robotics Curriculum

As you may know I've been involved with a couple FIRST teams in the West Michigan Area.  The first team I was involved with was a team that graciously took several of us in when our schools existing team couldn't find sponsorship and folded up.  The second team I have been involved with, I helped start.  This team is back at our school with new sponsorship and a very bright future.

So I've been around the horn 5 times, helping students engineer, build and program an FRC robot.  The skills these students have learned, I think, are irreplaceable.  This has got me thinking a lot about why this type of curriculum isn't taught in the classroom.

So I have many ideas of how I think a robotics class should / could be taught to students in the classroom during normal school hours.  Students would learn some basic physics, mechanical engineering, electronics and computer programming.  I intend to post some of my curriculum ideas here in the near future.

My question for you is, are you aware of a classroom robotics curriculum?  If so leave a comment with any details you care to share.  Thanks!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Science Day - Yay!

Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ is hosting a Science Day for high-school students.  Students and faculty from Rowan will be providing hands-on experiments and demonstrations targeted at exposing the high school students to subjects that will be available to them in college.

Faculty from Rowan University's astronomy, biochemistry / chemistry, computer science, math and physics departments will be on hand to facilitate these activities.

What is still unclear to me as the actual date of these activities.  This article, written yesterday afternoon, and claims that this will happen Friday...  Would that be April 1 or April 8?  I couldn't tell ya, but either way, I like the fact that they are working to inspire students with science, technology and math.  Good job Rowan University!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Economics needs Engineers

If Mars need Moms, then economics needs engineers.

I'm reading an article by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) "U.S. economic future needs STEM education" on The Hill's Congress Blog.  In short, the article, which I must say I mostly agree with, proclaims that the United States needs more students educated in STEM for the benefit of the nation's economy.  Duh...

As I wrote earlier today, NASA is sponsoring the STEM program - The Great Moon Buggy Race and also as I write this there are literally thousands of high-school students competing in the non-profit FIRST Robotics Competition this weekend.

My point is that there are great STEM programs that have been in place for many years (18 for the Moon Buggy Race and 20 for FIRST).  People talk about STEM in recent months like it is something new.  Not!  I know NASA is a government agency and has funded for the Moon Buggy Race.  If we want to continue to fund STEM programs/events, maybe a little more attention should be given to FIRST.

Fact: Our economy does need engineers, and there are programs across the country that are trying to make this happen. Pay attention to these programs and help them; they are doing amazing things.

The Great Moon Buggy Race

I've spent some time today watching the 18th annual Great Moon Buggy Race on NASATelevision's USTREAM.TV feed.  It's been fun!  The race continues into tomorrow (April 2) so check it out.  Here's a quick link if you're interested:

Here's a blurb from the NASATelevision USTREAM page:
The 18th Annual Great Moonbuggy Race will be held April 1 - 2, 2011 in Huntsville, Alabama, at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Students are required to design a vehicle that addresses a series of engineering problems that are similar to problems faced by the original Moonbuggy team.
This is great and I'm not sure why I haven't heard of this before, but thanks to the Internet, I'm now in the know.  If you're interested in more of what the race involves, here's another quote from the USTREAM page:
Each Moonbuggy will be human powered and carry two students, one female and one male, over a half-mile simulated lunar terrain course including "craters", rocks, "lava" ridges, inclines and "lunar" soil.
If you have a chance, check out the race online.  It's a lot of fun to watch.