Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Growing Engineers in MCS - Starting Year Two!

New school year = new engineering challenges in Moore County!

After a short summer break, we welcomed our students back into our buildings this month to start the new school year.  As kids have come back, it's been exciting to see that their knowledge and motivation around engineering and problem solving have not been sapped in any way over the break- in fact, we're starting to see some momentum from last year carry into this year!

Ms. Robledo (DIF extraordinaire at HFE, CES, and RES) reported that while doing the 1st engineering project of the year with a group of 1st graders at Highfalls Elementary, she asked "What is an engineer?" to which students replied enthusiastically with "someone who solves problems!"  When asking what they needed to do before they created their first prototype, cries of "make a blueprint" and "make your plan!" ringed out.....  Just think of where these little engineers can go from here!

On the older spectrum, I had the distinct pleasure of visiting a 6th grade class already this year, as the DIF team is now taking our engineering thread into the middle grades this school year.  The first class I was able to visit was Ms. Willis's class at Southern Middle School.  She worked with DIF Beth Alderson on the "Whatever floats your boat" engineering project that focuses on the core concepts of density (always a tricky one for 6th graders).

Students were given free roam to plan around and choose various materials to create a boat that would hold as much mass as possible.  Each material (such as styrofoam, cork, cardboard, aluminum foil, etc.) was given a pricetag and students had $1,000 to spend.  After planning and building their first prototypes, they placed them into a container filled with water.  They measured displacement of water as well as the amount of mass their boat held before sinking.  Next, they tried their boat in a container of saltwater to record this same data.

From there, they were able to go back and re-engineer/improve their boat designs in order to hold more mass.

Students did a GREAT job in thinking through this task.  A really cool part of the lesson, though, was when Ms. Alderson asked the students how many of them did engineering last year as 5th graders- almost every hand went up!  It was clear that the students were comfortable with the engineering process and taking some risks of failure along the way.  Very cool!

As a DIF team, we are excited to be a part of this revolution of critical thinking and problem across Moore County Schools.  We look forward to sharing more stories through this blog and also don't forget to follow us on Twitter at @MCSDigital.

-Steve J

Monday, September 11, 2017

Take your students anywhere with Virtual Field Trips

Lets face it. There just isn't the money to do fun field trips anymore, and even more than that there is only so many times that you can take your students to the local zoo or aquarium before it gets monotonous. 

Well let me introduce you to Virtual Field Trips!!!! 

Virtual Field Trips are a free resource put on by museums, archives, and companies around the world with the expressed purpose of linking your objectives with their missions. There are virtual field trips for all ages, grades, and subjects. Some even provide lesson plans for you to collaborate with your students and the museum employees. 

This year I was able to facilitate quite a few vitual field trips in my schools. I took 4th graders to Washington State to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West to leaarn about animal adaptations from both our region and regions around the country. 

I got to take Mr. Baker's 8th grade class to New Orleans to visit the National World War II museum and got to focus on Dr. Seuss cartoons and primary sources since that is what his student's were struggling with.
Virtual field trips offer an oppurtunity for students to hear the information from someone other than you. Let's face it, after a while we can get a little repetetive. Why not let your students travel the worl and learn from someone new!!!

If you are wondering what is out there here is the link to Microsoft's Skype in the Classroom program, where you can search already designed field trips by grade, age or student, or even subject. 

Wondering how to get started?  Ask your friendly neighborhood DIF!!! 

Virtual Field Trips are a fun way to take your students to new places to discover new information. Let me know if you need some help finding the perfect field trip for your students!!!

Beth Alderson
Southern Middle School/ Aberdeen Elementary School

Thursday, June 29, 2017

STEM Camp 2017- Best STEM Camp Ever (until next year)!

Today, the Moore County Digital team is wrapping up our 5th annual summer STEM Camp and it's safe to say this has been the biggest and best one yet!

For those that don't know, our summer STEM Camp is offered as a 4-day camp for two consecutive weeks (it runs as two stand-alone weeks with a different group of kids each week).  During STEM Camp, our students are exposed to cutting edge technology, amazing guest speakers, loads of great STEM career options, and are able to think and act like real engineers.  It is open to rising 3rd-8th graders and this year we also opened an Advanced Robotics camp that included students in grades 9 and 10.  Tuition is $160 for the week, which includes all lunches, snacks, and a free t-shirt.

Simply put- this is the best camp in North Carolina, PERIOD!  Our DIF team works tirelessly to provide the best possible experience for the 200+ students that attend.

Check out all the pictures and videos from STEM Camp this year!

Each year, our camp has a theme.  This year, our theme was aviation.  We worked in partnership with the Moore County Airport to provide a top-notch experience and exposure to real people who have been successful in the aviation career pathway.  Each of 4 rooms in the camp worked on different aviation related tasks and challenges.  Here are the things our students got to experience this year:

Room One:  Rockets and Thrust Structures

Mr. Rogers, Mrs. Priest, and Ms. Boesch worked with students through the engineering process, where they were given the task to produce a thrust structure from cardboard, Popsicle sticks, and hot glue.  The structure had to be strong enough to not break apart through 3 consecutive launches into "lower orbit" (ie, launch the water bottle to the top of the metal rod without flying off).  Students had to do a ton of critical thinking in this room- deciding on their design, managing their materials budget to make their structures strong but cheap, figuring out how much water the rocket should hold, how much sand the launch mechanism should hold, and how high their launch mechanism should be held to produce the correct amount of lift.

At the end of the week, students created presentations to try and convince NASA to purchase their thrust structures.  A lot of fun mess was had by all!

Room Two:  3D Printed Wing Designs
Ms. Alderson and Mr. Martin worked with students to design wings to test for lift.  Students learned how to use Tinkercad, an accessible 3D design program we use often with students.  After completing their designs, we had three 3D printers churning their designs out all week.  Once their designs were printed, it was time for testing!

Ms. Alderson's father-in-law built a custom wind tunnel for all of our student testing.  Students placed their design into the wind tunnel and turned the wind on high.  Students had to intently observe how their design fared and whether or not it achieved lift.  After discussions about design, shape, and thinking about why some achieved lift and others didn't, it was back to Tinkercad to work on improving their designs in hopes of achieving lift (or better / more stable lift) with the new and improved versions.  Students did an excellent job with this engineering process and learned a lot!

Room Three:  Mars Rovers and App Creation
Ms. Reynolds and Ms. Snotherly created an awesome experience for students in the Mars Rover room!  The elementary students were tasked with creating a livable habitat on Mars out of a boatload of craft materials (cardboard, tape, ribbon, paint, confetti, etc.).  The other task they needed to complete was the creation of a Mars Rover out of our Lego WeDo kits.  This rover was built to navigate the landscape successfully.

Our middle school campers worked with Ms. Reynolds to create apps using the MIT AppInventor program. Students were totally engaged in creating their Mars-related apps and testing them out on Android tablets that were provided.  We definitely sparked some future programmers this week in this room!

Room Four:  Drone Obstacle Course
Ms. Collazo and Ms. Robledo led our Parrot Drone room and it was a huge hit!  After being introduced to the many careers that are popping up around the world that involve drones, students were tasked in teams to collaborate and design an obstacle course object for their drones to fly through.  But here was the catch- they only had $100 to spend at the "Drone Depot", where they could purchase items such as PVC pipe in 2-ft and 4-ft lengths, PVC pipe connectors, and various lengths of rope.

After creating their obstacle, students headed off to the gym to learn how to program drones to fly in a set, autonomous way as well as how to manually fly their drones.  Finally, on the last day each team got to attempt to manually fly their drones through multiple obstacle courses they had built and carried to the gym.  Students loved the experience and learned a ton!

Advanced Robotics Room
A brand new addition to STEM Camp this year, the Advanced Robotics room worked with 9 rising 8th-10th graders to get their hands on designing, building, and programming advanced robotics to complete challenging tasks.  Led by Mr. Herring and Ms. Holmes, students were given an intense crash course on how to be successful builders and programmers.  The growth our students made in this week was incredible and we look to expand this offering next year!

Guest Speakers
We were also proud to offer our campers some exposure to some amazing guest speakers throughout the course of camp.  Lt. Col Ana-Maria Ehrler spoke about her experience as a combat pilot.  Lt. Tim Davis and Detective Shane Fogle from the Moore County Sheriff's department brought and demonstrated a drone they use in their police work and described how it helps keep them and the public safer.  Paul Von Hardenberg, a former mechanical engineer with Sikorsky Aircraft, spoke to students about the engineering process as well as how helicopters achieve lift.  All of our guest speakers made our camp a richer, more authentic experience for kids.

Finally, we had some great surprises in store for our students this year that could not have happened without our partnership with the Moore County Airport.  On the Monday of each camp, we invited Greg Hudson, the CEO, to land his helicopter on the front lawn of New Century Middle School.  Needless to say, the kids were totally caught by surprise when helicopter came in and really enjoyed learning about it from Mr. Hudson after he landed.

And, last but CERTAINLY not least, the airport allowed all of the kids to come and take a tour and talk to real pilots, flight controllers, and aviation mechanics.  Our students got to get up close and personal with many types of aircraft and learn from the experts what it takes to be successful in their field.  And the cherry on top came at the end of camp- our students were given the opportunity to go up for a free flight with the Airport's Young Eagles program.  Unfortunately, our first week of campers were rained out but received a rain check for the fall.  But, in the 2nd week the skies stayed clear and calm as over 80 students went up in the air, many of which for the very first time!  Truly a thrilling end to a great STEM Camp!

Finally, we would like to thank the entire DIF team for their extremely hard work in providing the best summer camp in North Carolina.  We'd also like to thank the Airport Authority for partnering with us to provide opportunities for students they will never forget.  We'd like to thank all of our guest speakers for sharing their knowledge of their fields.  And, finally, thanks to all the Moore County Schools' support from top to bottom, thanks to New Century for hosting, and thanks to the parents for trusting us with your kids this year.  We truly enjoyed it!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Middle School Competition and Regional Competitions 2017

   Last year Moore County held its first middle school robotics competition, which was a fantastic success. Not only did we continue to provide the competition for middle school students in our county, but we extended the invitation out to other counties as well. We held our first middle school regional competition this year, which definitely upped the ante for robotics. Middle school competitions were held back to back on Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20th. All of the participants did such an outstanding job and it is apparent that robotics has really taken off in the region!

   Scotland County joined our "American Cities" themed competition with open arms, and participated in the elementary showcase too. Scotland County had at least one team from each middle school attend our regionals. The competition for middle school consisted of a series of challenges that were much different than the elementary showcase. For example, we had two First tech Challenge (FTC) fields set up, one depicting an urban environment and one depicting an rural environment. In addition, the students had to build an arm to throw a football and design their robot to pull "snow" on a sled. Lastly, there was also the crowd pleasing Battle Bots! These robotics events drew many people from Scotland and Moore County, with many other counties inquiring about these events throughout the year. Next year, it is our goal to have many more counties participate.
   The apparatuses that students created for these events at regionals was absolutely amazing! The competition in general, aside from being fun, really challenged the kids in engineering, problem solving, and teamwork. It is out goal to continue to challenge students in this way, so they are prepared for advanced robotics concepts and 21st century skills.


   Below are pictures from the Middle School Regional Competition and we hope you can help spread the word about robotics in your county! Thank you to all of our schools, staff, and coaches that participated in these extraordinary events!

MCS Regional Middle School Competition

~Deanna Boesch

Elementary Robotics and Regional Competitions 2017

   Robotics in Moore County this year has definitely stepped it up a notch. Not only did we continue to provide showcases and competitions for our elementary and middle school students, but we extended the invitation out to other counties. We held our first regional competitions this year, which were a great success! The elementary competitions were held back to back on Friday, May 12th and Saturday, May 13th. All of the participants did such an outstanding job and it is apparent that robotics has exploded through the region.
   This year in addition to holding the robotics part of the competition, we introduced a Dash competition as well. Students were able to showcase their knowledge in navigating their Dash robot through a series of challenges on map like mat. This competition was hosted by Digital Facilitators (DIF's) Kelly Priest, Clint Rogers, and Kim Collazo. They did an outstanding job of building up our younger kids coding skills, to prepare them for robotics in the coming years! 
We had our first every Dash competition!
   Scotland County gladly joined the challenge and at least one team from EVERY elementary school participated in our elementary competition. The Scotland county Superintendent and many other county members were in attendance and it was evident that they had a great time enjoying their students learn, struggle, and then succeed. From speaking with Superintendent Ron Hargrave, he stated that, "we have many students that have struggled academically this year. As soon as they started with robotics we noticed a change in their behavior and motivation." That is such a refreshing and heart warming statement to hear as a Moore County Digital Integration Facilitator. It is what we all strive for! We are hoping in the next year that more counties will attend our regional competitions. 

North Laurinburg Polar Bears
 So much can be learned from participating in a robotics competition. Not only did the teams display teamwork and cooperation, but complex problem solving and engineering, which is at the heart of Moore County's principles. Thank you to all of our schools, teachers, and staff that participated in these extraordinary events!

MCS Regional Elementary Competition

~Deanna Boesch

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

School Year in Review: 2016-17 Edition

As the school year winds down and summer plans begin to take form, I want to take a few minutes and reflect on some of the great things that have happened this year.
Engineering Thread

  • Before students returned in August, teachers were beginning to prep for the upcoming year.  Teacher leaders in Moore County met with Curriculum Specialists to develop our Engineering Thread in K-5 classrooms.
  • Early in the school year, our high school CyberPatriot Teams began the qualifying rounds for the State and National rounds of the competition that puts students in the place of newly hired IT professionals managing the network of small local businesses.  One Union Pines CyberPatriot team received a State award for advancing to the 3rd Round.  
Winter Warriors
  • Before Christmas break, our middle and high school FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Robotics teams competed in a local warm-up called Winter Warriors.  This event was hosted by Union Pines High School and was a great measuring stick for future FTC events.  Robotics teams were able to practice their robots and programming on the actual Velocity Vortex playing field they would eventually see at Trinity High School in Durham, NC in January.  
  • In January, the DIF team traveled east to Ocracoke for a Team Planning Session at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching.  While we were there we planned out our Spring activities (digital learning showcase, NCTIES presentations, elementary and middle school robotics events, STEM Camp).  
FTC Robotics
  • On January 28th, Moore County Schools took 7 FTC Teams to Trinity High School of Durham and Chapel Hill to compete at a Regional Qualifier event.  Our teams were pitted against 15 other teams from around the state in an attempt to qualify for the State level Robotics Competition.  
  • In March, the North Carolina Technology In Education Society (NCTIES) had its annual conference in Raleigh at the Convention Center.  This is always a great learning experience as we get to meet with colleagues to share ideas about how to effectively use technology and digital tools in the classroom.  It is worth noting this year that 8 DIF's presented at NCTIES on topics like Coding in Middle School Math, Sustainable STEM Camps, our Elementary Engineering Thread and using the app SeeSaw in Elementary Schools to create portfolios.  
Digital Learning Showcase
  • In March, our students and teachers had an opportunity to show the community the great things they are doing in their classrooms with digital tools.  We had our 3rd annual Digital Learning Showcase at West Pine Elementary.  Teachers, students, parents and community members were invited to check out things like 3D printed fidget tools, custom built cell phone applications, programmed drones, play-dough pianos and robotic Lego arms.  
Elementary Robotics Showcase

  • A few weeks ago, May 12th, we held our 3rd Elementary Robotics Showcase at Pinecrest High School.  The event has grown tremendously since our fist elementary robotics event held at Sandhills Farmlife in 2015.  Students had to navigate terrains that depicted different cities around the United States but programming for different turns and objectives throughout the unknown landscapes.  We also opened up our Elementary Robotics Showcase to other districts in our Region with Scotland County sending several teams the following day on Saturday.  
Middle School Robotics Competition
  • The following Friday, May 19th, we had our 2nd Middle School Robotics Competition.  This year's competition provided opportunities for students to program robots to throw a football, pull a weighted sled, measure area of a building and traverse terrain with various obstacles.  The middle school event was opened up to other schools in our region the following day as Scotland County schools brought 5 teams to the Saturday event.  
STEM Camp and Advanced Robotics Camp
  • STEM Camp will be our next big thing in the district.  This year's STEM Camp will be held at New Century Middle School.  There are two, 1-week camps (June 19-22 and June 26-29).  This year we are partnering with the Moore County Airport to have an Aviation Theme culminating with the opportunity for campers to fly for free at the conclusion of camp on each Thursday.  STEM Camp filled up at a record pace this year with over 280 applicants in the first week.  
  • This year is a first for our Advanced Robotics Camp (ARC).  This camp will run during the first week simultaneously with our June 19-22 STEM Camp and will focus on preparing students for the FTC Robotics use in secondary schools.  The ARC is open to rising 8-10 grade students and still has a few open spots.  If you are interested in attending the Advanced Robotics camp please email me at jcallahan@ncmcs.org
As we wind down (or wind up) for summer, it should not go unnoticed that our schools are in a dire financial situation.  With the cuts that have been proposed, these events listed above will certainly be affected in some fashion.  The support staff that makes things like this possible are vital in sustaining them.  I feel like the people that will read this article already know about the great things teachers and students are doing in the district.  My hope is that this article reaches those that do not know about all of the great things Moore County Schools students are achieving.  My hope is that at least one person reads this article and thinks "We have to fully fund our schools".  My hope is that people realize that Moore County children are our greatest investment.  So I ask of you, share this article with others so the hard work our teachers, students and support staff get the notoriety they deserve.  Share this article so we can let the community know what our students are capable of when they are funded.  Share this article to be part of the solution.  

Tyler Callahan
Digital Integration Facilitator

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Soaring to New Heights!

From the military, to farming, movie sets, and even the Super Bowl halftime performance, drones are on the rise, and the sky’s the limit for teaching STEM skills with these unmanned aerial vehicles.  This year, thanks to Randolph Electric’s Bright Ideas Grant, students from Westmoore Elementary and Highfalls Elementary have had the opportunity to program, fly, and most importantly, learn, with Parrot “Airborne” drones.
Up and Away in Math!

Ratios and Proportions took on new meaning for sixth graders at Westmoore Elementary.  Working in small groups, students worked through four different stations, measuring the distance from point A to point B at each stop.  After finding the distance, students flew their drones from point A to point B, and used a stopwatch to find the time that their drone made it to point B.  Using their distance and time calculations, students were able to determine the speed of their drone.  Now when students think about ratio and proportions, and the formula for finding speed, they can reflect on this hands-on learning experience!

Flight School

Students from Mrs. Pfiefer’s 4th-grade class at Highfalls met once a week for a month to participate in “Flight School”.  In Flight School, these students learned about current and future uses for drones, discussed drone safety, learned how to code using the Tynker curriculum, and then finally they were able to program and fly their drones!
Carson Phillips showing students how to program the drone to fly.
Carson Phillips, a fourth grader in Mrs. Pfiefer’s class, demonstrated his drone programming skills at the 2017 MCS Elementary Digital Learning Showcase and at Highfalls Elementary’s Family STEM Night.  He describes his experience with flying drones, “At first, I thought the drones were going to be hard to program, but after working with the Tynker app and the website, it wasn’t so hard.   I really like the cool tricks you can do with the drones, like programming it to flip forward or backward.  At the Showcase, I was able to teach other students how to program the drones using the app, that was really cool and really easy!  And at the Family STEM Night, I was able to write the code to fly my drone through a basketball goal!”

So what does this fourth grader hope to do next with drones?  Carson explains, “I think it would be cool if there could be a drone competition like we have the robotics competition.  We could have courses set up like we do for the EV3 robots and we could program our drones to fly around the courses!”

Carson just might be onto something with his idea for a drone competition!  This summer, students participating in MCS STEM Camp will be using their engineering skills to build drone obstacle courses to fly their drones through!

As you can see, flying drones impacts student engagement, communication, collaboration, and other important classroom components. Students are engaged, motivated, and inspired to learn in ways that no other technology will allow.

To see more pictures and videos of drones in action, follow me on Twitter @carrierobledo