Posts about K-12

Google Science Fair 2011 Projects

The Google Science Fair selected 60 semi-finalists in 3 groups (age 13-14, 15-16 and 17-18). The 60 global semi finalists will then be narrowed down by our judging panel to 15 global finalists who will be announced later in May.

The 15 global finalists will be flown to Google HQ in California, USA for our celebratory Science Fair event and finalist judging round will take place on 11 July 2011. These finalists will be expected to present their projects before a panel of acclaimed scientists including Nobel Laureates, tech visionaries and household names.

Sailboats using canting keels are among the world’s fastest ocean-going vessels; however, there are inherent problems. Canting sailboats require the addition of canards or dagger boards to replace the loss of the primary underwater lifting surface, adding significant complexity. The second and more important issue is that the cantilevered weight of the ballast bulb at the end of the keel generates tremendous loads on the vessel. The objective of this research was to test a concept to make sailboats even faster and safer than the current designs. To test the concept, this researcher built a remote control functional model fitted for both canting and hydrodynamic keels. The results showed that the hydrodynamic keel out performs the canting keel both upwind and downwind.

The Grand Prize winner plus one parent or guardian per winner will win an amazing 10 day trip to the Galapagos Islands with National Geographic Expeditions. Traveling aboard the National Geographic Endeavour the winner will visit Darwin’s living laboratory and experience up-close encounters with unique species such as flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, and domed giant tortoises. They also win a $50,000 scholarship, split equally between team members should a team win this prize. This scholarship is intended to be used towards the finalists’ further education.

The 2 age group winners that are not selected as the grand prize winner will win $25,000 scholarships.

You can vote on your favorite projects and help select the people’s choice winner that will receive a $10,000 scholarship.

Related: 11 Year Old Using Design of ExperimentsPresident Obama Speaks on Getting Students Excited About Science and EngineeringScience Fair Project on Bacterial Growth on Packaged Salads

Help Science Education in Tanzania

Students in Tazania using a microscope

Diana Hall, a physics teacher from Bell High School, Ottawa, Canada is spending 6 months in Tanzania helping build a more active science program. This reminds me of my time in Nigeria (while my father taught Chemical Engineering at the University of Ile Ife to help build a strong university program). It is great to see all the good that people are willing to do.

The objective of the Do Science, Tanzania project is to share teaching strategies and equipment with science teachers and students in Moshi, Tanzania. The goal is to facilitate a more active science program and to inspire students to continue studying beyond the secondary level.

The photo shows students at Reginald Mengi Secondary school, Tanzania, getting their first experience with microscopes in the classroom. There are over 210 Form I (freshman in high school, for you USA readiers) students in 4 classes. The 4 classes had an introduction to the microscope by preparing slides and viewing onion cells.

Working with science teachers is a big part of do Do Science is about. Their blog discusses a recent meeting where 50 science teachers from the Moshi area attended a workshop. The teachers at the workshop modeled thinking exercises, conducted sample labs, investigated computer simulations and interfacing equipment, looked at some DVD resources. and networked.

You can help by donating equipment or money. Or if you are a science teacher with workshop and leadership experience who would consider spending some time in Tanzania as a facilitator?

Related: Learning Design of Experiments with Paper HelicoptersFund Teacher’s Science ProjectsScience Education ResourcesWays to Help Make the World Better

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Friday Fun: Dinosaur and Kids

Just a fun video for this Friday, showing a visit by a puppet dinosaur to a Australian school.

Related: Most Dinosaurs Remain UndiscoveredNigersaurusKids on Scientists: Before and AfterFriday Fun: Aerodynamics for SportsGreat 3D Printing PresentationTornado Ride, Wet-n-Wild Australia

11 Year Old Using Design of Experiments

This reminds me of great times I had experimenting with my father when I was a kid. Though, to be honest, Sarah is much more impressive than I was.

Catapulting to Success with Design of Experiments

photo of Sarah and her trebuchet

Sarah Flexman with her trebuchet at the Storm the Castle science challenge in North Carolina.

At the end of 2010, Sarah had decided to take part in Storm the Castle, one of the events offered in the statewide science Olympiad competition. This particular challenge was to design, build and launch a model trebuchet, which is a medieval-style catapult for hurling heavy stones…

Here’s Sarah’s whole process: She built the trebuchet, tested it, used JMP for DOE during optimization, changed the hook angle and sling to improve performance, did more tests, entered this new data, reran the model, and made her final prediction graphs. The variables in her DOE were string length, counterweight and projectile weight, and she optimized for distance – that is, how far the projectile would go.

“Rather than doing 125 tests because we have three variables with five levels each, DOE found a way for us to perform only 26 tests and get approximately the same results. I typed in the results, ran the model and used the JMP Profiler. I understood how the variables predicted the outcome and found several patterns,” she explained.

“I hadn’t done any building like that. The whole day was fun. It was a very open learning environment. You were experimenting with things you had never done before. I would definitely do it again,” Sarah said. And she will – next year.

I have collected quite a few design of experiments resources, for those who are interested in learning more. Here is a nice webcast by brother: Combinatorial Testing – The Quadrant of Massive Efficiency Gains, discussing the incredibly efficiency designed combinatorial testing (very similar ideas to design of experiments) can provide.

Related: Learning Design of Experiments with Paper HelicoptersPlaying Dice and Children’s NumeracyStatistics Insights for Scientists and EngineersSarah (a different one), aged 3, Learns About SoapStatistics for ExperimentersMulti-factor designed experimentsCombinatorial Testing for SoftwareWhat Else Can Software Development and Testing Learn from Manufacturing? Don’t Forget Design of Experiments (DoE)Letting Children Learn

8-10 Year Olds Research Published in Royal Society Journal

Eight-year-old children publish bee study in Royal Society journal

Their paper, based on fieldwork carried out in a local churchyard, describes how bumblebees can learn which flowers to forage from with more flexibility than anyone had thought. It’s the culmination of a project [Blackawton Bees] called ‘i, scientist’, designed to get students to actually carry out scientific research themselves.

The class (including Lotto’s son, Misha) came up with their own questions, devised hypotheses, designed experiments, and analysed data. They wrote the paper themselves (except for the abstract), and they drew all the figures with colouring pencils.
It’s a refreshing approach to science education, in that it actually involves doing science.

The children designed a Plexiglas cube with two entrances and a four-panelled light box in the middle. Each panel had 16 coloured lights, illuminated in clear patterns of blue and yellow. Each light had a feeder that dispensed either delicious sugar water or repulsive salty water. Once the bees had learned to drink from the feeders, the kids turned the lights on.

Absolutely great stuff. This is how to engage kids in science. Engage their inquisitive minds. Let them get involved. Let them experiment.

Some of the children’s questions when looking at what to discover using experiments:

What if… we could find out how much effort the bees will go through in order to get a reward? For instance, they have to move something heavy out of the way to get a reward.

What if… we could discover if bees can learn to go to certain colours depending on how sweet they are?

What if… we could find out how many colours they could remember?

Related: Playing Dice and Children’s NumeracyKids on Scientists: Before and AfterTest it Out, Experiment by They Might Be GiantsWhat Kids can LearnTinker School: Engineering CampTeen diagnoses her own disease in science class

And some of their comments:
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Top Countries for Science and Math Education: Finland, Hong Kong and Korea

The 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)* report has been released. The report examines the science of 15 year olds from 57 countries in math, science and reading. The main focus of PISA 2009 was reading. The survey also updated performance assessments in mathematics and science.

The Asian countries continue to do very well for several reason including tutoring; they have even turned tutors into rock stars earning millions of dollars. The results show that the focus on student achievement in sciences has had an impact in Asia.

The emphasis is on mastering processes, understanding concepts and functioning in various contexts within each assessment area. the PISA 2012 survey will return to mathematics as the major assessment area, PISA 2015 will focus on science.

Results for the Science portion (rank – country – mean score)(I am not listing all countries):

  • 1 – Finland – 554
  • 2 – Hong Kong – 549
  • 3 – Japan – 539
  • 4 – Korea – 538
  • 5 – New Zealand – 532
  • 6 – Canada – 529
  • 7 – Estonia – 528
  • 8 – Australia – 527
  • 9 – Netherlands – 522
  • 10 – Taiwan – 520
  • 11 – Germany – 520
  • 14 – United Kingdom – 514
  • 21 – USA – 502 (up from 489 and 29th place in 2006)
  • OECD average – 501
  • 25 – France – 498
  • 46 – Mexico – 416
  • 49 – Brazil – 405

Results for the math portion (rank – country – mean score)(I am not listing all countries):
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Bronx High School of Nobel Prize for Physics Laureates

Bronx physics

Bronx Science owes its historic status to the fact that seven future Nobel-prize-winning physicists went through its doors – more than any other high school in the world and more than most countries have ever achieved. The school, which opened in 1938, was founded by the educator Morris Meister, who believed that if a school put bright students together, it would kindle ill-defined but valuable learning processes. The school seems to have proved him right: according to the Bronx laureates, their physics learning took place mainly outside the classroom.

Leon Cooper, who shared the 1972 prize for work on superconductivity, recalls physics lessons as boring, and was far more enchanted by his biology classes, which lured him to stay late after school designing and running experiments “until they threw me out”. Indeed, the school’s basic-physics textbook was written by a certain Charles E Dull, whose work, though widely used in US high schools, lived up to his name. The future particle physicist Melvin Schwartz, who shared the 1988 Nobel gong, once told me his classmates’ excited discussions – not his teacher – were what first awakened his interest in physics.

[today] the school’s most fearsome physics module – Advanced Placement Physics C – is tougher than most college-physics courses. Its dynamic instructor is Ghada Nehmeh, who was born in Lebanon and studied nuclear physics. Diminutive – smaller than most of her students – and scarf-clad, she jumps rapidly from lab table to lab table, helping piece together equipment and analyse results. Famous for being ruthlessly demanding, she tests the students on their first day by assigning them 40 calculus problems, due back the next day. “I’d never seen derivatives before,” says Kezi Cheng, a senior interested in theoretical physics. So Cheng did what most Bronx Science students do – she asked her classmates to give her a crash course on the subject. “They’re always willing to help.”

Sounds like a great place to go to school. The article also has some good anecdotes about how these students learned by seeking knowledge themselves not passively sitting and being lectured to.

Related: Science Education in the 21st CenturyFeynman “is a second Dirac, only this time human”The Nobel Prize in Physics 2009Letting Children Learn, Hole in the Wall Computers

Nearly 1 million Children Potentially Misdiagnosed with ADHD in the USA

Nearly 1 million children in the United States are potentially misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder simply because they are the youngest – and most immature – in their kindergarten class, according to new research by , Todd Elder, a Michigan State University economist.

These children are significantly more likely than their older classmates to be prescribed behavior-modifying stimulants such as Ritalin, said Todd Elder, whose study will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Health Economics (closed science, unfortunately). Michigan State should stop funding closed journals with free content – other schools have decided to put science first, before supporting a few outdated business models of select journals.

Such inappropriate treatment is particularly worrisome because of the unknown impacts of long-term stimulant use on children’s health, Elder said. It also wastes an estimated $320 million-$500 million a year on unnecessary medication – some $80 million-$90 million of it paid by Medicaid, he said.

ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder for kids in the United States, with at least 4.5 million diagnoses among children under age 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The youngest kindergartners were 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than the oldest children in the same grade. Similarly, when that group of classmates reached the fifth and eighth grades, the youngest were more than twice as likely to be prescribed stimulants.

Overall, the study found that about 20 percent – or 900,000 – of the 4.5 million children currently identified as having ADHD likely have been misdiagnosed.

Related: Lifestyle Drugs and RiskLong Term ADHD Drug Benefits QuestionedMerck and Elsevier Publish Phony Peer-Review Journal

Sylvia’s Super Awesome Mini Maker Show: Rockets

Watch this fun webcast on how to make a rocket.

Related: Home Engineering: Bird Feeder That Automatically Takes Photos When Birds FeedLego Autopilot Project UpdateYoung Engineers Build Bridges with SpaghettiHome Engineering: Building a Hovercraft

Engineering Innovation Summer Camp

Summer engineering program fosters genuine interest for some students

Engineering Innovation, which Johns Hopkins has taken nationwide since 2006, is designed to encourage students to pursue careers in engineering and science. According to the university, 90 percent of students who participate in the summer program continue on that path.

Shiesha McNeil, 16, discovered a new potential career during the four-week course. Shiesha — whose bridge held 49 water bottles — had never worked with electric circuits before the class, and she became enthralled with the science behind electricity.

Shiesha is looking at the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University. She wants to be a software or computer engineer. “I’ve never worked with electricity like that before,” she said. “I got to work with circuits! I got to make a robot move!”

Related: Infinity Project: Engineering Education for Today’s ClassroomFun k-12 Science and Engineering LearningHands-on Engineering EducationLego Learning

Letting Children Learn – Hole in the Wall Computers

The hole in the wall experiments are exactly the kind of thing I love to lean about. I wrote about them in 2006, what kids can learn.

Research finding from the Hole in the Wall foundation:

Over the 4 year research phase (2000-2004), HiWEL has extensively studied the impact of Learning Stations on children. Hole-in-the-Wall Learning Stations were installed in diverse settings, the impact of interventions was monitored and data was continually gathered, analyzed and interpreted. Rigorous assessments were conducted to measure academic achievement, behaviour, personality profile, computer literacy and correlations with socio-economic indicators.

The sociometric survey found:

  • Self-organizing groups of children who organize themselves into Leaders (experts), Connectors and Novice groups.
  • Leaders and Connectors identified seem to display an ability to connect with and teach other users.
  • Key leaders on receiving targeted intervention, play a key role in bringing about a “multiplier effect in learning” within the community.
  • Often girls are seen to take on the role of Connector, who initiates younger children and siblings (usually novices with little or no exposure to computers) and connects them to the leaders in the group

I believe traditional education is helpful. I believe people are “wired” to learn. They want to learn. We need to create environments that let them learn. We need to avoid crushing the desire to learn (stop de-motivating people).

If you want to get right to talking about the hole in the wall experiments, skip to the 8 minute mark.

Related: Providing Computer to Remote Students in NepalTeaching Through TinkeringKids Need Adventurous PlayScience Toys You Can Make With Your Kids

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