STEM + x (where x is a value you don’t care about) = Deep engagement beyond the due date

My Presentation ‘STEM + x (where x is a value you don’t care about) = Deep engagement beyond the due date’ at the National Summit on Student Engagement, Learning and Behaviour, hosted by QUT in July 2015 is now online! Take a look!

This presentation is based on the work I described in my post Engaging tasks which live beyond the due date. Assessment + AR.Drones + 3D Printing.

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Addendum: Learn to Code and Make Useful Stuff…Its Satisfying!

Following on from my previous post here is some more progress on my little Parking Proximity Sensor project and the power of social constructivist learning outside of the ‘classroom’.

Last night I decided I wanted to use a smaller Arduino for my project both because it would be a neater solution and also because it was an excuse to develop my soldering skills further.  For a while now I have had a small Freetronics Leostick Arduino which I originally bought to see if I could make a MakeyMakey for ~AUD$30 (turns out I can 😉 ). The Leostick comes with header connectors (the plastic sockets you put wires into on most Arduinos to make prototyping really quick and simple) but they aren’t attached to the board. I looked at the little circuit board pads and header pins and thought “I don’t think I could solder something that small on something so delicate”. Last night I changed that thinking around to, “I have access to fantastic mentors at Hackerspace Brisbane who have collectively soldered thousands of these connectors, maybe I should ask someone to teach me to solder better”. So I did…

During the our regular Tuesday Open Night I got tips from three different people who are very proficient at soldering all of which helped to refine my skills and develop my confidence in not only soldering, but de-soldering and how to do various tricky things to rapidly create things on prototyping boards.

Here is the result:

Interestingly what I thought was ‘tiny little’ soldering… was in their opinion regular soldering everyday vanilla flavoured soldering and they showed me examples of much more intricate soldering on very tiny components. It was a typical example of thinking something is going to be much harder than it is, then discovering that by learning from the right mentor who can teach you from their practical experience (and mistakes) how do something,  you can achieve something you thought was going to be a real stretch more easily than expected. What I thought would take me months to learn to do properly took minutes…

Now version 2 of my project is smaller and also has the benefit of a built in piezo speaker/buzzer: https://vine.co/v/i7FgqwlM3M1

Never stop learning… seek out mentors…and as Vygotski termed ‘more literate peers’… set goals to learn something you want to achieve.

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Learn to Code and Make Useful Stuff…Its Satisfying!

A bit of reflection on coding and making during the Hour of Code season and  Computer Science Education Week.  Why do I find it useful to learn to code and learn about ‘making’ stuff? For me, its liberating and satisfying to know how stuff works (what magic is in the box) and it’s satisfying to actually create things you have dreamed up. Here is an example :

My garage at home is like i’m sure many of your’s is, a space shared between the car/s and other items like tools, gardening equipment and things that you don’t want to store inside your home such as bicycles.  Even with a double garage it is often a tight fit to park the car.  Despite having parked in my garage hundreds of times I still always feel like I am about to driver either too far forward or not far enough to a) avoid hitting the shelves in front or b) not clearing the garage door. A few times I have thought, “I need a proximity sensor at the front to visually guide me know how close I am. Like reversing sensors but for driving forward.”

Ideas + knowledge of coding + electronics + tinkering = making!

So last night while waiting for my dinner to cook I knocked up an initial prototype / proof of concept using an Arduino (A Freetronics Eleven to be precise), an IR distance sensor (yeah I just happened to already have a few of those… yep… geek…), an RGB LED, a couple of resistors, header cables and a breadboard. The closer I get the colour changes and eventually flashes red. Here is the result: https://vine.co/v/i7gwdYlIiMz

This was about 30mins of tinkering before dinner! If I end up making one for the garage I might use RGB LED strip along the shelf, and would use a smaller Ardunio, put it all in box to keep it neat and maybe battery power it, and maybe even hook it up to the garage door so it turns on when the door opens and off when it closes.

The point is…with some knowledge of programming and basic electronics, not being afraid to give it a go, a bit of googling of reference materials, and an idea… you can make anything you can dream up.

If you are interested, this is the code in the middle of the Arduino sketch. I’m surethere is a more elegant way those more learned than me would solve this problem (basically if the sensor gives reading of between A and B change the colour to X, if its not change the light to green):

if (val >= 85 && val <= 200)
{
  analogWrite(blueLedPin, 50);
  analogWrite(greenLedPin, 50);
  analogWrite(redLedPin, 0);
  delay(500);
}
else if (val >= 201 && val <= 300)
{
  analogWrite(blueLedPin, 0);
  analogWrite(greenLedPin, 20);
  analogWrite(redLedPin, 150);
  delay(500);
}
else if (val >= 301)
{
  analogWrite(blueLedPin, 0);
  analogWrite(greenLedPin, 0);
  analogWrite(redLedPin, 255);
  delay(200);
  analogWrite(redLedPin, 0);
}
else
{
  analogWrite(blueLedPin, 0);
  analogWrite(greenLedPin, 255);
  analogWrite(redLedPin, 0);
  delay(500);
}

Where to start? There are lots of options to choose from until you find one that suits your interests.

Try https://code.org/learn Lots of themed challenges there to give you a taste.

Even for adults I would recommend trying Scratch.  Scratch is a programming language and online community where you can create your own interactive stories, games, and animations — and share your creations with others around the world. In the process of designing and programming Scratch projects, people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively. Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab. It is available for free at http://scratch.mit.edu

Adding physical hardware to your knowledge of programming and being able to interactive and ‘see things happen’ is a great way to apply your programming knowledge.  An Arduino kit is a great way to learn about electronics step by step and also transfer what you might have learned from using scratch over to the Arduino IDE (the more techy looking code like I used above… its not the complicated really!).

Two kits I recommend are:

The pcDuino scratch kit from http://www.linksprite.com.au/ or at Jaycar. This kit is amazing because you can use it to learn about the Internet of Thingstoo. Your creations could be hooked up to send emails or SMS to alert you of events. Eg the garage door is left open, SMS is sent to let me know.

The other one I like is from Freetronics and is also available from Jaycar.  It has a great guide teaching you step by step from turning on an LED through to more complicated projects. The guide explains what is happening with the hardware and your programming. *I am not affiliated in any way with Jaycar… I just buy my Arduino parts from them. Your mileage may vary.

Be Inspired! Happy Making!

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THE FOLLOWING IS A CROSS POST FROM MY LINKED IN PROFILE….

I know most teachers are mad for a bit of stationary…sticky notes, whiteboard markers, butcher’s paper…oh I get it. On my desk right now I have six different colours and three different shapes of sticky notes alone…

The bounty of beautiful stationary we love to adorn our diaries, planning documents and whiteboards with is not only useful for administrative stuff but is of course great for ideation sessions, brainstorming, mind-mapping, and checking for prior knowledge. I’m sure we have all been in professional development sessions or taught a class over the past few years where ideas are written on sticky notes and plastered on the wall. How do you capture all that? Take a photo with your phone? Or are the main ideas jotted down on paper to possibly be resurrected in a future staff meeting or lesson?

But what if you could take this into the digital age? What if sticky notes and sketches were available to students or remote team members anywhere, from their own devices? Not only that, but what if the ideas can be captured and re-visited during another session?

Take a look at the Nureva™ Span™ classroom collaboration system:

This is so much more than just a replacement for sticky notes and butchers paper AND this is not another teacher centered device just for presenting from the front of the room!

The combination of a collaborative digital workspace and 1:1 devices is where I believe powerful stuff goes on. For example, when using Nureva Span classroom collaboration system from 1:1 devices (iPads, tablets, laptops, chromebooks, etc) students can work with the group and also individuals:

  • Each student can think and represent their thoughts in their own individual way (e.g.sketches, numbers, words) and share their thoughts when ready
  • Keeps the focus on the individual’s thinking and learning, not the technology or social dynamics

Of course getting up and using the panoramic display at the front of the room is a fantastic way for multiple student work together at once, however getting up at the front of the room isn’t always something every learner in the room wants to do, this is one of the reasons I think the Nureva Span classroom collaboration system is unique. The flexibility of being a massive multi user multi touch interactive touch system and a multi device multi platform collaboration system at the same time is where the power is.

Dreaming up and designing your next collaborative learning or project space?  Let me know if you would like a demo either in person or remotely over video conferencing… we have the technology! Leave me a comment below, contact me via twitter @nathanbeveridge or on LinkedIn to get in touch.

-Nathan Beveridge

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Game on as classrooms integrate IT – Minecraft Part of Lessons | Quest: Westside News 1 Oct 2014

I have had the pleasure of having some student work featured in our local paper this week.  Take a look!

Article: Game on as classrooms integrate IT

Source: Quest Newspapers, Westside news, 1 Oct 2014 – Photo credit: Patria Jannides

Thanks to Amanda Horswill for showcasing the work we enjoy so much!

One little correction I would like to add is that this year Brynlea Gibson created a robot but another student did the quadcopter modification.  They are both two of my tech ninjas and enjoy collaborating so its all good 🙂

They were both amazing projects!  Brynlea’s project involved building a robot that could be remotely controlled over WiFi using a Microsoft Kinect with body gestures.  This project used so many different technologies and is a great example of self-regulated and social constructivist learning.  Raspeberry Pi, Robotics, Linux, Python programming, C# programming in Visual Studio using the Kinect SDK, streaming video, video production for YouTube… the list goes on.  You can see great videos of that project on her blog at http://www.ictinme.com/tutorials-and-videos.html  .  This amazing work has been recognised recently with Brynlea Gibson being awarded as the Queensland state winner of the iAwards Secondary Student Category and then going on to to be the National iAward Secondary Student Category winner.

The quadcopter modification that is attributed to her in this article was the work of one of my year 12 students and is the subject of my previous post Engaging tasks which live beyond the due date. Assessment + AR.Drones + 3D Printing .  I’m sure you will find this an interesting read.  This is an example of the power of current technologies to engage students and provide open ended learning opportunities.

Minecraft is mentioned in the Westside News article too and is an ongoing project with a range of classes and students.  I should dedicate a blog post to the MinecraftEDU work we have done over the past two years with year 3, 4 and 5 students.  In the mean time here are some examples from my twitter feed of some work we did earlier this year:

-Nathan Beveridge

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You know your an OG (Original Geek) when…

…like me you occasionally find it easier to remember how to do something in BASIC on the Commodore 64 than on some new fandangled thing. 😉

I thought some of you would at least appreciate this problem I just faced.
I wanted to get some text in for the background of something I was making for work and fussed around for a few minutes in Photoshop to try and get it looking how I wanted…then thought… zOMG!!?!1! it shouldn’t be as tricky as this… it should be as easy as:
10 PRINT “#OMGROBOTS “;
20 GOTO 10
RUN
🙂  So just searched for an online C64 emulator, typed in that, did a screen shot to integrate back into the image I was creating in Photoshop… and was happy.
OMGROBOTS c64
This is the emulator I used for your reference http://codeazur.com.br/stuff/fc64_final/
Is there anything else you guys do an ‘old’ way that you find more satisfying than some new fandangled way?
My guess is at least one of you find it satisfying to occasionally telnet to port 25 and send mail manually haha
-Nathan Beveridge
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Engaging tasks which live beyond the due date. Assessment + AR.Drones + 3D Printing

Assessment tasks which live beyond the due date

We often talk about the high quality products that students create and how much further they go when given a real audience and meaningful topics.  Today I had a student send me some evidence of her real audience from around the world resulting from something she created for assessment.  A student of mine uploaded a working 3D model they had designed and tested to Thingiverse (thingiverse is a site where 3D printing enthusiasts share their designs so that others can print them).

Image

Uploading the finished work wasn’t part of the task…creating an actual usable 3D model wasn’t even part of the task…this was something that she did because she was engaged with the topic she has chosen and was proud of the resulting design and thought she might share it back to the 3D printing community.  After this being up for 3 days 106 people from around the world had viewed her design and 19 people had downloaded it and potentially printed it to try it out! How many assessment tasks have you seen get that kind of mileage?

First some background…

A student I work with had a graphics/technical drawing task that she had to do for one of her year 12 subjects.  Students could pick pretty much whatever they liked to design to fit the task their teacher had set which related to product design and demonstrating particular skills.  This techie student has been keenly flying an Parrot AR.Drone quadcopter for fun and decided that it would be cool to design something related that.  I mentioned at the beginning of the term when she started the task that if she wanted to she could design something that could be 3D printed and then she would be able to actually produce it and see if her technical drawings were accurate.  So she first had to take measurements of her quadcopter and draw it up on paper and in her CAD program so that she could then design the part to fit and then design the part to suit the 3D model of the quadcopter.  Now this on its own is quite cool and demonstrates some great skills.  However, what is very cool is the way that the learning continued way past the due date because the topic and task was something that really captured her attention and meant something to her rather than being something abstract that the teacher assigned her.

That is all pretty neat huh? Here is the process!  (Keep in mind this all happened after the assessment officially finished)

This is the first iteration of the design 3D printed from the model created for the assessment.

Image

The student quickly discovered that while the dimensions were EXACTLY correct (which showed her drawings for assessment were accurate!) it was tricky to fit onto the quadcopter in two pieces without part of it being removed.

Image

Then it was decided that it would be good to test fly it anyway to see if the weight of the parts didn’t affect the flight of the quadcopter.

It worked fine!

Image

So back to the drawing board… As it was a computer based 3D design (CAD drawing) she could just use the existing design and slice it up, etc.

Image

Image

This is the second iteration.  Almost correct….but the extra part was a little too long.

Image

As soon as the student saw the physical printed part she could tell where her error was! (The power of being able to rapidly prototype and physically handle the product beyond the 3D image on the screen).  The part was too long because she had forgotten to subtract the length of the extra locking mechanism from the current length of the part.  So it was too long by the length of the new section.

Hey…why not fly it anyway to see if it works despite being a little wonky… any excuse to fly quadcopters at school.

Not only did it fly just fine… it could carry a payload.

Image

So she went back to the computer to make a little change to only the new part of the model.  A change of 10mm on each side to solve the puzzle.  Keep in mind this is longer than a week after her original assessment item and she is still thinking about it and won’t give up until it is right.

About an hour more of printing and preparing the last part and it was done.

The final iteration that fits!

Image

This picture the student emailed on a Friday night from home still excited about the work she had done during the week.

How often would we see a student do that where the question is “Find x where x is a number with no relevance to your life”?

So the moral of the story isn’t how cool 3D printers or quadcopters are (although they much school much more interesting 😉 )… well you are smart readers… you know the moral of the story… meaningful student negotiated open ended tasks are awesome.

Feel free to leave comments!

-Nathan Beveridge

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Bananas about STEMx – Applications of Fruit & High Technology in 21C Learning – My presentation for V2 Conference @SLQ

Take a look at a presentation I did at the end of 2013 online on YouTube.

Part 1 – Bananas about STEMx – Applications of Fruit & High Technology in 21C Learning

And

Part 2 Bananas about STEMx – Applications of Fruit & High Technology in 21C Learning

For over a 100 years Australian hobbyists have been tinkering with home-brew electronics and learning through experimentation, with many STEM geeks learning to solder at the kitchen table while trying with varying levels of success to construct Dick Smith kits or amateur radio projects. This spirit of tinkering and hands on learning through experimentation is alive and well in 2013 but is much more accessible (and safe!) for teachers to implement in their classrooms and with extra-curricular groups.

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Making RJ45 terminators for Ergo/Indoor Rowing championship – success!

I did a little bit of soldering and electronics tinkering yesterday for the first time in a long time and was quite happy that it worked!

At work we are holding our Open Day this weekend and our Director of Rowing is running an Ergo Championship with races between students and staff.

Rowing is a hugely popular sport at our school and we have a gym that is home to a number of Concept 2 indoor rowers.  Like this:

At the Open Day the plan is to set up 8 or 9 ‘ergos’ linked together and connected to the large projector screens in our main school hall.  The screens will display the placing of the rowers during the races with times and simulated boats. Connecting the ergos to each other and a laptop is fairly straight forward with a regular Ethernet cables with RJ45 connectors and a USB cable from the last unit to the PC. The catch is though that RJ45 terminators are required at each end too.  This is where my little bit of soldering fun came in.

To make a pair of terminators I decided rather than trying to find some unused RJ45 connectors and crimping a resistor between pin 1 & 2 I would cut the ends of a spare cable and solder the resistor between the wires of the pin 1 & 2 pair.

Step by step images of making an RJ45 terminator

Making an RJ45 terminator

There are two steps that aren’t shown in the image above.  I haven’t shown the step where I was soldering the resistor in because I didn’t try to juggle the hot soldering iron, camera, etc and also didn’t think it was worth seeing my entry level soldering skills 😉 . The other step is that I realised that I hadn’t cut one of the wires at a longer length to allow the resistor to lay lengthways in the cable and still be connected firmly at each end.  I ended up soldering in another short length of the same wire in to achieve the same thing.

As you can see it is all bundled up in the standard glamorous electrical tape that is a cornerstone of every quality homebrew electronics project.

Best of all it worked! The Director of Rowing sent me a message this morning to say he had connected all the machines up for a test run and it worked perfectly!  Success!

It was good to have a practical use to do a little bit of electronics tinkering in a lunch break other than just for tinkering sake.  It was also a great chance to show my ‘tech’ students how soldering works.  This something they hadn’t experienced before and the process was interesting to them. I think it was the combination of seeing liquid metal and the allure of scorching hot things that might possibly result in something catching on fire.  They have seen the ‘magic smoke’ escape from components before during one of our robotics projects…that is a different story all together.

<RANDOM TANGENT> oh wow… that just make me think of a new codename we could use for our project.  C.O.F.F.E.E.  Chance.Of.Fire.From.Electronic.Experiments.  I love coffee…the brewed refreshment…but the students probably like C.O.F.F.E.E. more </RANDOM TANGENT>

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MakeyMakey Minecraft

I just gave a MakeyMakey to some of our students to mess around with during lunchtime.  They had seen it before but had only really seen me demo the idea. So what was the first thing they tried to do with it? Minecraft controller of course!

controls drawn on paper using 6B pencil, each control connected to makeymakey

Students created a pencil drawn minecraft controller.

First the girls connected the W, A, S, D and Spacebar keys to the MakeyMakey using wires connected to the headers on the reverse side.  Then connected those wires to alligator clipped wires to make it easier to connect to the paper controller.  The controlled consisted of some basic controls drawn using a 6B pencil (graphite pencil is conductive! hooray for science 🙂 ) on some note paper, connected the edges of the drawing to the alligator clipped wires.  To complete the circuit the player needs to be connected to the earth pins on the makeymakey.  This was done using a ‘anti static strap’ that I had laying around that came with some hardware once upon a time.  This makes it super easy because you just put that around your wrist and still have your hands free to use the controller.

Of course minecraft was ready to go before I even arrived so there was no delay in testing the connections as they went.

using makeymakey as a controller for minecraft

MakeyMakey Minecraft controller in action.

After giving another student a go they quickly realised that they needed to add more controls that would normally be used for minecraft…but alas… the bell went for the end of lunch and it was time to dash off to class.

And this is why I love my work and why I am trying to create a makerspace/hackerspace for students to tinker with tech in lunchtimes and after school 🙂  The students are super super keen to set up ‘piano stairs’ using the makeymakey at our school’s open day.  So stay tuned for more makeymakey madness in the coming weeks.

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