Posts about teachers

Good Chemistry: A Love Song for Ionic Bonds

Song and video by 10th grade student, Eli Cirino, for extra credit in his chemistry class.

An ionic bond is a type of chemical bond formed through an electrostatic attraction between two oppositely charged ions. Ionic bonds are formed between a cation, which is usually a metal, and an anion, which is usually a nonmetal.

An ionic bond is considered a bond where the ionic character is greater than the covalent character (ionic bonds cannot exist on their own, they must have a covalent bond present also).

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MIT Engineering Design Workshop for Boston High School Students

This summer, a few dozen Boston-area high school students chose to spend their mornings toiling away with a variety of materials to create working marvels of engineering in the Engineering Design Workshop, a month-long program that gives teenagers a hands-on experience with the joys and challenges of engineering.

None of the activities are prescribed; instead, students take part in brainstorming sessions on the first day, and things develop from there. Typically, the “counselors” — a mix of undergraduate and graduate students from MIT and other local universities — present a few ideas, and the high school students decide which projects they’d most like to work on. I really like the idea of involving the college students.

This year, the 22 students divided themselves into five projects: a modified Razor scooter, equipped with a motor and brakes; a sound system of giant tower speakers; remote-controlled “anything” (which ended up including cars, fish, birds and even a flying turtle); a mosaic tiger meticulously assembled from pieces of stained glass; and an electric cello.

Each student is allotted $100 to spend on materials for his or her group’s project; this way, projects that attract more students have a larger budget to work with. Counselors help them purchase supplies online and work with them on the construction from the ground up.

There are probably thousands of similar type activities throughout the year to help engage students in engineering. I think it is great, but we need to do more. We need to let young students know what they are missing. If people know the wonders of engineering and choose something else for their career path, that is fine. It is a shame when people don’t get to decide, because they never experience what engineering has to offer.

Read the full press release.

Related: Infinity Project: Engineering Education for Today’s ClassroomRutgers Initiative to Help Disadvantaged ChildrenInspirational EngineerWhat Kids can Learn on Their Own

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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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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All About Circuits

All About Circuits is an online textbook covering electricity and electronics. Topics covered include: Basic Concepts of Electricity’ OHM’s Law; Electrical Safety; Series and Parallel Circuits; Physics of Conductors and Insulators; Solid-State Device Theory; Binary Arithmetic; Logic Gates; Switches; Digital Storage? It is a great resource. Enjoy.

Related: Textbook RevolutionOpen Access Education MaterialsHigh-quality Curricula and Education Resources for TeachersOnline Mathematics Textbooks

USA Science And Engineering Kavli Video Contest

Do you think Science is cool? Do you want to share your passion for science with others? Here is your chance to inspire thousands of people to be more curious, and to care about science & engineering the way you do: create a short video that explores the question “Why is Science Cool?”

We are seeking videos that are creative, surprising, and “contagious” in terms of spreading your enthusiasm about science to others. Videos might explore a scientific concept, show us the wonders of nature, give us a glimpse into the future, show us what scientific discovery has done for us in the past or will do for us in the future, introduce us to a great scientist or engineer, tell us why you think science is so cool or simply show us why we should care about science and/or engineering.

1st prize: $1,000 (to the school or science club); plus $500 electronics gift certificate for the student (or student group); plus a travel stipend to travel to Washington DC for the Expo!

In addition, the winning videos will be screened during the USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo on the National Mall in Washington DC on October 23 and 24, 2010 and at other key Festival events.

Find out how to submit a video.

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Teaching Through Tinkering

I wrote about the Tinkering School, Engineering camp previously. I am a strong believer in the value of helping kids (even adult kids – the few that haven’t resigned themselves to limited capacity to wonder since they now are grown up and not suppose to waste their time dreaming) explore their ideas and assisting them in making those ideas into reality. I think this is the best way to learn, not learning to pass a test, but learning to gain knowledge and accomplish things. Here is a nice 15 minute talk by the founder of the Tinkering School, Gever Tulley: “Turning Curriculum Design On Its Head: Engage First Then Look for Learning Within”

The format of the tinkering school is week long sessions where the kids stay overnight.

Some quotes: “we would use real tools and real materials and we would build real things, not model building, [but instead] actual building.” “create a meaningful experience and learning will follow”

Gever Tulley recently published: Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do).

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IBM Fellow Grady Booch on the Value of Engineering?

In this webcast IBM Fellow Grady Booch discusses the critical role engineering plays in moving society forward. And he explores the history of science and engineering. This interesting webcast would be a good video to show children, or anyone, to bring out the desire to study engineering and encourage them to study so they can join the many engineers shaping our world and our future.

Related: What is an Engineer?Engineer Tried to Save His Sister and Invented a Breakthrough Medical DeviceThe Engineer That Made Your Cat a PhotographerEngineers Should Follow Their Hearts

Infinity Project: Engineering Education for Today’s Classroom

The Infinity Project is a national middle school, high school, and early college engineering curricula. The math and science-based engineering and technology education initiative helps educators deliver a maximum of engineering exposure with a minimum of training, expense and time. Created to help students see the real value of math and science and its varied applications to high tech engineering – The Infinity Project is working with schools all across the country to bring the best of engineering to their students.

The Infinity Project curriculum is a complete, year-long course designed to complement the existing mix of math and science classes. Experience in classrooms all across the United States shows that Infinity keeps students challenged, learning and exploring from start to finish. Using The Infinity Project curriculum in the classroom, students learn firsthand how to use math and science to create and design a wide variety of new and exciting technologies that focus on topics of interest to students – the Internet and cell phones, digital video and movie special effects, and electronic music.

Engineering Our Digital Future is designed for early college students or high school students who have completed Algebra II and at least one science course. The course focuses on the fundamentals of modern engineering and technology in the information and communications age.

Related: Hands-on Engineering EducationEducation Resources for Science and Engineeringposts on engineering educationFund Teacher’s Science Projects

Presidential Science Teaching and Mentoring Awards

Related: President Obama Speaks on Getting Students Excited About Science and EngineeringPresidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering MentoringFund Teacher’s Science Projects$12.5 Million from NSF For Educating High School Engineering Teachers

Remarks by President Obama on the “Educate to Innovate” Campaign and Science Teaching and Mentoring Awards, January 6, 2010

To all the teachers who are here, as President, I am just thrilled to welcome you, teachers and mentors, to the White House, because I believe so strongly in the work that you do. And as I mentioned to some of you, because I’ve got two girls upstairs with math tests coming up, I figure that a little extra help from the best of the best couldn’t hurt. So you’re going to have assignments after this. (Laughter.) These awards were not free. (Laughter.)

photo of President Obama with science teachers at the White HousePresident Barack Obama with Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching winners in the State Dining of the White House January 6, 2010. (Official White House photo by Chuck Kennedy)

We are here today to honor teachers and mentors like Barb who are upholding their responsibility not just to the young people who they teach but to our country by inspiring and educating a new generation in math and science. But we’re also here because this responsibility can’t be theirs alone. All of us have a role to play in building an education system that is worthy of our children and ready to help us seize the opportunities and meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Whether it’s improving our health or harnessing clean energy, protecting our security or succeeding in the global economy, our future depends on reaffirming America’s role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation. And that leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today, especially in math, science, technology, and engineering.

But despite the importance of education in these subjects, we have to admit we are right now being outpaced by our competitors. One assessment shows American 15-year-olds now ranked 21st in science and 25th in math when compared to their peers around the world. Think about that — 21st and 25th. That’s not acceptable. And year after year the gap between the number of teachers we have and the number of teachers we need in these areas is widening. The shortfall is projected to climb past a quarter of a million teachers in the next five years — and that gap is most pronounced in predominately poor and minority schools.

And meanwhile, other nations are stepping up — a fact that was plain to see when I visited Asia at the end of last year. The President of South Korea and I were having lunch, and I asked him, what’s the biggest education challenge that you have? He told me his biggest challenge in education wasn’t budget holes, it wasn’t crumbling schools — it was that the parents were too demanding. (Laughter.) He’s had to import thousands of foreign teachers because parents insisted on English language training in elementary school. The mayor of Shanghai, China — a city of over 20 million people — told me that even in such a large city, they had no problem recruiting teachers in whatever subject, but particularly math and science, because teaching is revered and the pay scales are comparable to professions like doctors.
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Learning Design of Experiments with Paper Helicopters

Paper helicopter stairwell dropPhoto showing the helicopter test track by Brad

Dr. George E.P. Box wrote a great paper on Teaching Engineers Experimental Design With a Paper Helicopter that can be used to learn principles of experimental design, including – conditions for validity of experimentation, randomization, blocking, the use of factorial and fractional factorial designs and the management of experimentation.

I ran across an interesting blog post on a class learning these principles today – Brad’s Hella-Copter:

For our statistics class, we have been working hard on a Design of Experiments project that optimizes a paper helicopter with respect to hang time an accuracy of a decent down a stairwell.

We were to design a helicopter that would drop 3 stories down within the 2ft gap between flights of stairs.

[design of experiments is] very powerful when you have lots of variables (ie. paper type, helicopter blade length, blade width, body height, body width, paperclip weights, etc) and not a lot of time to vary each one individually. If we were to individually change each variable one at a time, we would have made over 256 different helicopters. Instead we built 16, tested them, and got a feel for which variables were most important. We then focused on these important variables for design improvement through further testing and optimization.

Related: 101 Ways to Design an Experiment, or Some Ideas About Teaching Design of Experiments by William G. Hunter (my father) – posts on design of experimentsGeorge Box on quality improvementDesigned ExperimentsAutonomous Helicopters Teach Themselves to FlyStatistics for Experimenters

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