Tag Archives: aoe

Engineering Symposium & Showcase

Hi friends, our engineering seniors are wrapping up their capstone course by developing prototypes and presentations of their new inventions and innovations on products they’ve been developing this year. Consider donating $20 or whatever you can to help make our EDD Symposium & Innovation Showcase a success.

Donation link: https://rally.org/baltimorepltw2015

Website link for more info: https://sites.google.com/site/baltimorepltw2015/home

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White House Science Fair

At the White House

Lunch at the White House. Image © Iragena Serge Bangamwabo

As I mentioned in my last post, five of our students were invited to the White House Science Fair.

Here are a few news articles about them:

In front of their display board

In front of their display board, inside the White House. Image © Iragena Serge Bangamwabo


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Summer Plans

Yesterday was our last day of school. Woohoo!

However, I can’t just sit back and relax – I have many different things to do this summer. After my first summer teaching, when I took an engineering course and also taught Summer Bridge math, I told myself that I should leave the majority of my summertime uncommitted, for me to travel, have fun, learn new things, and relax. For the past several summers, I’ve managed to keep it down to two weeks during the summer of formal workshops/conferences/trainings. Yet, somehow this summer is shaping up to be one of my busiest yet!

Next week, I plan to travel to Kansas City with two of my students, to compete in the National Leadership and Skills Conference. A month and a half ago, after putting in many long hours of practice, they earned first place in the state-level Robotics and Automation Technology competition for Skills USA. Which garnered them the chance to compete at the national level. I have had one pair of students make it to the national level before (three years ago), but this will be my first time going with them. Wish us luck!

A bit later in the summer is the annual NAF Next Conference, which I’ve been to thrice before. This year it’s in Orlando, Florida. I plan to make a nice drive out of it, a smaller version of my trip from two years ago. I’m thinking of taking the Blue Ridge Parkway on the way there, driving down Florida’s coast on Highway A1A, heading down to Key West and the southernmost point in the continental United States, then taking US Route 1 on the way back to Baltimore.

After a three-year hiatus from taking new Project Lead the Way courses at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (I’ve been trained in Computer Integrated Manufacturing, Principles of Engineering, and Digital Electronics), I’ll be back there later this summer for another one. This year I’m taking Introduction to Engineering Design, where I’ll learn about the design process, engineering sketching, and more advanced skills in the 3D modeling software Autodesk Inventor.

And, finally, throughout all of that, I’ll also be working with several other teachers for the Baltimore City School District, to develop a remediation plan for students who fail their engineering classes.

So, I anticipate that it will be a fun but busy summer for me. Hope all the rest of you teachers are having a wonderful start to your summer breaks! And, to everyone else in other jobs that don’t supply a summer break, hope you’re at least enjoying the beautiful weather!


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Well, I guess I haven’t announced it here yet, so here goes:

My school received certification this summer from the National Academy Foundation, and is now an official Academy of Engineering (AOE)!

One of my colleagues designed these two slides (powerpoint) (or here’s a google docs version). The first slide highlights the news above (and our claim to fame as the first and only Baltimore school certified both by PLTW and AOE); the second lists some benefits for our students. Go check it out.

In personal news, this is my first year not teaching any math. I’ve been doing various ratios of engineering to math courses from year to year, but this is the first year the denominator has fallen out of the picture and the ratio has blown up to infinity! It’s too early in the year to say I miss the math yet after just two weeks, but I know I will soon (you could probably tell even in that last sentence, with talk of ratios and denominators and infinities, couldn’t you?). This semester, I’m teaching just one prep, two sections of Computer Integrated Manufacturing, and spending the rest of my time on coordinating/improving our AOE.

I’m also happy since the weather’s been cooler the last few days! Hope your school years are off to a good start too.

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Today I spent some time working on a grant application to begin a mentoring program as part of my school’s Academy of Engineering. Here’s the project description so far:

Patterson High School’s Academy of Engineering (AOE) would like to begin a multi-level mentoring program for our students. We plan to bring in outside engineers from industry to work with our students at every grade level. We’d also like to have several of our seniors and juniors mentor the students just entering our program, at the ninth and tenth grade level. The mentoring setup will include a once-monthly meeting, to include 1 industry mentor, 1 peer-to-peer student mentor, and 6 mentees. The meeting will vary month to month, but will include STEM-themed hands-on activities, discussions of what it takes to succeed in AOE, discussions of what it takes to succeed beyond high school in the engineering field, tips for college applications, advice on student innovative projects, and a luncheon / awards ceremony.

Any advice, things to add, things to change?

With budgets being cut more and more each year, it seems like grant writing is becoming a bigger and bigger part of my life. Last year I applied (either individually or with another teacher) for four grants: PLTW Innova Grant, NACME STEM Innovation Grant, AIAA Educator Grant, and SME-EF CIM Upgrade Grant. We received funds from the latter three, which helped pay for a bus, supplies for STEM Competitions, a rocket launcher, and upgrades to new equipment for my CIM course.

Still, even with these grants, we are working with a smaller budget than ever before. With declining enrollment at the school (though the engineering program is still growing), and education cuts across the board due to the economy, we have less money budgeted to support our programs than years prior. And, so, we’re looking for grants to apply for, like the one above. Any great ones out there that I should know about?

Speaking of fundraising and grants for classroom projects, there are only three days left to donate to my Mustaches For Kids Donors Choose page. On it, I’ve selected several grant proposals from my school and from other Baltimore City Schools that I think are important and worthwhile. The fundraising drive ends with the month of November. Please give today, whether it’s $5 or $25, to support my mustache and our kids’ education.

Almost through the mustache month!

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AOE Site Visit

AOE Fall Site Visit today. Combined with our school’s open house this evening in the heavy rains, that made for another >12 hour day. Tomorrow I’m promising myself <9 hours (shooting for a standard 8 hour workday, but promising <9).

Encouraged by some of the feedback from our site visit. We have continued to make progress as an AOE in all four areas (academy development, curriculum/instruction, advisory board, & work-based learning). We’ve put a lot of pieces in place that are helping our students. Still have more work to do in every area, but solid progress has occurred. Some is thanks to me, but much is thanks to our awesome team of teachers, or thanks to our terrific industry partners.

While impressed with that progress, the major piece that is still not in place is the AOE as a small learning community within the larger high school. With common planning time built into the school day for our AOE teachers (by grade). Including a pure academy model where students stay with academy teachers for all subjects and don’t go to other academies except for electives or rare offerings (e.g. AP calculus). Not because other academies’ teachers suck, but because our AOE teachers will collaborate and make connections around engineering, and because our AOE teachers will meet and collaborate around improving education for our shared students. Right now there is lots of cross-academy teaching, which doesn’t fit in with the AOE model.

If this were to fall into place, it would make much of what we are doing for AOE so much easier, and make some things possible that are not currently possible. With the new principal and new leadership team, today was really their first in-depth introduction about the goals of the NAF/AOE model. So here’s hoping that we will have a commitment to work along these lines for next year.

Anyway, I apologize for errors of grammar and sentence fragments and such. I usually proofread for you, but not tonight. Need some sleep now. :^)

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NAF PLC Seminar

Today I was away from my school and my students, attending a conference. It was held by the National Academy Foundation (NAF) at Baltimore’s NAF High School. So, pretty close as conferences go!

It was a first-time gathering attempting to create a sustainable professional learning community of educators from schools with NAF academies from the southern Northeastern United States. That is, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, DC. I met people from Philadelphia, PA, Elizabeth, NJ, and various counties across Maryland. Some were teachers, some were principals, some were academy directors, some were work-based learning coordinators, some were industry partners. The focus today was on work-based learning and internships.

Unlike some PD’s and conferences, I did take away a lot from today. I’m outlining it here, both to share with y’all and also to commit myself to following through on these items. Before Thanksgiving, I will:

  • Look into ACE
  • Look into Baltimore’s YouthWorks
  • Reach out to find an organizer and presenters for a January “Professional Development Day for Students” around soft skills (including interviewing, public speaking, time and project management, self-presentation)
  • Discuss with school leaders re-instituting “Wonderful Wednesdays” where students “Dress for Success” in professional business attire; look for donations of professional clothing to have some extras
  • Check out Lockheed Martin’s IT Apprentice program

Within the year, I will:

  • Create a student checklist of our tiered work-based learning program
  • Hold AOE Awards Ceremony, with partners invited
  • Look into starting a NSBE Junior chapter
  • Look into joining or starting a monthly webinar by industry partner(s) for students
  • Business cards for our academy’s teachers
  • Consider hosting a gathering of PLTW/AOE alumni and current students
  • Invite industry partner(s) for January or April PD Day for other academy teachers
  • Create a newsletter or news email that can be used for our academy, sent out to our school, to our industry partners, to the media, and to our community

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A few weeks ago we held our first Industry Partners Breakfast. We invited some engineers from industry and higher education whom we had worked closely with in the past. We also extended the invitation to acquaintances that we thought might be interested in becoming more involved. And we asked each partner to bring a “friend/colleague (from a different company) who might have an interest in working with students in a high school engineering program.”

The goal of the breakfast was to accomplish three things: recognize our partners for their prior support, increase the level of involvement of our current partners, and increase the numbers of new partners.

We had breakfast of bagels & cream cheese, fresh fruit, pastries, coffee, and juice. We showed a presentation about our program and our goals for this year that our partners could help with. We had a general discussion time where everyone introduced themselves and talked about their interests related to educational support. We gave everyone a Patterson High School mug, a PHS Project Lead the Way pencil, and a copy of our updated brochure (pdf) for our Academy of Engineering. And then we recognized, with a plaque and thanks, some of our strongest partners who have been part of our advisory board.

We put a ton of work into organizing the breakfast. It led to a couple of those twelve-hour days I’ve been mentioning. But it was a great success!

As I talked about here, I’ve been working this year more than ever on marketing the program, our academy, and our school. One of our mentor teachers, who helped with the breakfast, wrote up this press release (pdf) about the breakfast.

From here, we plan to reach out to our partners based on where they said they might be able to help us (we had a list of possible areas of support). Some will be coming to the school in less than two weeks to help us judge the annual STEM Competition. Some volunteered to sit on our advisory board and attend monthly meetings guiding the progress of Baltimore City Schools’ PLTW engineering programs. Others expressed a strong interest in mentoring our students; and we hope to set up a mentoring program with multiple levels (industry partners mentoring students, our seniors mentoring our incoming 9th and 10th graders).

A great breakfast, kicking off what we hope will shape up to be a great year!


Oh, and once again please check out my compatriots in Baltimore education blogging who are also participating in NaBloPoMo:

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Bombs Away!

Over the last several weeks before spring break, our integrated unit on projectiles came together [see this post for original description]. The week right before break, we displayed in our classrooms and throughout our academy student work relating to the unit. From flyers advertising effective ballistic weapons, to flyers advertising services that help people recover from war, to discussions about groupthink, to posters about the biological effects of bombs, to actual catapults constructed by the students.

Bombs Away - Biology

On March 31st, we had the big culminating event of the integrated unit: a game / competition of Catapult Battleship, where students from three classes (Principles of Engineering and Foundations of Technology) squared off in battle across four “oceans”. The day before, we marked off sections of the tiled hallway with tape, naming each after an ocean (Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic). We issued passes to students to come down to the competition at 9:00am the next day. We made sure teachers, resource officers, and academy principals knew we were taking over the hallway. And we made sure we had judges and assistants trained in the rules (the teachers of each of the three classes, a school resource officer, and a few senior and junior students not competing). Rules are described in this earlier post, and are listed in full detail in this document at Scribd.

Two projectile launchers built by students. The goal is a repeatable variety of ranges when adjusted to different angles.

On the day of the event, four teams of students competed in each ocean, until one by one each ship was “sunk” by two direct artillery hits (two direct hits anywhere on the ship by a catapult-launched ping-pong ball). Each team took turns, with certain rules of movement on each turn. Finally, the victors from each ocean gathered in the Arctic Ocean for a championship single-elimination round, until one team had survived the longest and sunk all opponents.

Several teams' catapult ships, all lined up in a row.

It was a great event! Students enjoyed the competition, and we all enjoyed commandeering the hallway. About fifty students were involved directly in the competition, from all five of our school’s academies. Plus, some teachers (including me) brought our classes down to watch. And, although they shouldn’t have been there, we also likely picked up a few spectators who were wandering the halls. All in all, probably ninety people experienced the epic Battle of the Four Oceans.


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Brainstorming an Integrated Unit: Projectile Motion

As we go through our Year of Planning to become an Academy of Engineering, we are working on plans to try out an integrated unit. An integrated unit is where students are learning about a common topic across all their classes. The topic needs to be rich enough that it can tie together parts of the curriculum from math, science, literature, language arts, social studies, and engineering.

This idea is not new, and it has gone by other names (“interdisciplinary learning” among them). On a smaller scale, most of the engineering projects that I teach in the Project Lead the Way curriculum bring together a large subset of these subjects. For example, our Introduction to Manufacturing Project in CIM brought together writing and presenting skills (English), research into topics in the history of manufacturing (social studies), calculating costs and striving for efficiency (math), as well as constructing and programming an elevator that can be called to any of three floors (engineering).  But that was all in one course, instead of bringing in all those different classes. Our collaborative art-geometry fractals project is another example of small-scale building of units in different courses that spiral together around a common theme.

CIM Freight Elevator

CIM Freight Elevator

Next year, as part of the Academy of Engineering model, we may have interdisciplinary teams of teachers who teach the same groups (“cohorts”) of students. That will make integrated unit planning much easier, since the teachers on the team can get together during a common planning period, discuss the concepts, skills, and standards that are coming up in each course, and tailor the integrated unit to address those concepts/skills/standards for that particular group of students. Timewise, that will allow integrated units to be done more frequently (monthly?). And students will get to see connections between disparate subjects when the same topic/project is driving instruction in all four of their classes! This year, though, since we don’t have teachers who teach the same groups of students, we want to give it a try by having all teachers in our academy integrate a common theme into their lessons, sometime between now and the end of the semester. And we hope to try again in spring, improving our implementation of integrated instruction in the interim.

One possibility for our late-autumn integrated unit is the Bombs Away unit, developed by ConnectEd and posted on the NAF website (login required to see NAF curriculum). It takes a lesson on catapults and projectile motion, from the Principles of Engineering course, and ties it together with other academic subjects. For example: discussing parabolas in algebra, while learning about bombings in World War II in history, and debating the morality of bombings in English class. However, not all subjects have a lesson plan in the integrated unit (it was developed for California 10th grade courses, I believe).

So I hoped to do some brainstorming here with the help of my Personal Learning Network. Listed below are the courses being taught in our academy this semester (I hope I haven’t left any out). My goal is to get one or more lesson ideas for each subject that will connect to projectile motion or bombing. Can you suggest one or two?

  • 10th grade English
  • Chemistry
  • American Government
  • Geometry
  • 11th grade English
  • Biology
  • World History
  • Algebra II
  • Spanish
  • 12th grade English
  • Precalculus
  • Principles of Engineering
  • Computer Integrated Manufacturing
  • Digital Electronics
  • Design Technology / CAD
  • Leadership Education / JROTC
  • Art
  • Psychology
  • Economics
  • African-American Literature
  • Creative Writing
  • Robotics


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