Tag Archives: STEM

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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Roots of Unity Final Projects

 

These are the results created last November for the art/math integration project described here.

 

By the way, happy pi week everyone!

Pi Week

Pi Week

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Teamwork: The POE House

This was an assignment I just wrote for a course I’m taking: to describe a day in my classroom from a journalistic third-person perspective. I figured I’d post it here as well. This is a slightly-fictionalized version of what occurred in my Principles of Engineering class on and around March 25th, 2014.

POE House Lighting

POE House Lighting

Upon walking into Nick Yates’s engineering classroom at Patterson High School in east Baltimore, the first thing one notices is students gathered together working on a project at the center of the room. Walking closer, the project reveals itself to be a large structure, roughly eight cubic feet, which the students explain is a model house. Each wall has a different truss design, built out of coffee stirrers that form triangles that fit together into a square wall, two feet on a side. The students are collaborating in teams, each team responsible today for lighting up a wall of the house.

The students are a diverse group. Six countries of origin are represented here in this one room: United States, Nepal, Mexico, Congo, Nigeria, and China. Among students born in the US, the majority are black, but some are white and some are Latino. Boys outnumber the girls in this engineering class, as they do in the engineering field, but the girls tell of after-school mentoring programs and field trips that have helped encourage them to stick with their engineering classes and to pursue a STEM career.

As one boy positions a light emitting diode (LED) on the wall, his partner pulls off electrical tape and hands it to him to secure it in position. Another partner reads off of a circuit diagram in her engineering notebook, where they have designed the electrical circuit, instructing her teammates how to connect the wires in between LEDs. And the fourth team member is using alligator clips to join three solar panels together to make this wall’s lights powered by environmentally sustainable source.

After a while, the team steps back to admire their handiwork. They bring over a lamp to simulate the Sun’s rays hitting the solar panels, and flip the light switch to on. But the LEDs do not light up. They are daunted for just a moment, but soon start troubleshooting the problem to try and fix their electrical system. One student suggests they check all the wire connections, to make sure they are all twisted together properly, and two members of the team immediately start to do that. Another suggests getting a multimeter to check if the solar panels are even generating electricity. As others check every place where two wires meet manually, she goes to get a multimeter from the teacher’s desk. She asks one of her partners to hold the multimeter’s leads to the wires while she operates the device. Each solar panel is reading about 1.83 volts of electricity, but the lights are still not lit. Another team member suggests checking the plan, to make sure the solar panels are wired in series so that their voltages add up. The team consults their notebooks, verifying that their actual work reflects their design; it does. Some of the team is beginning to lose hope, and one suggests calling the teacher over for help. But one student, remembering the time he held an LED to a nine-volt battery too long and the bulb blew out, suggests making sure each LED is working. His teammate asks how they should test the LEDs, perhaps by holding each one to a battery to see if it lights up? He grumbles a little about this, thinking of all the work they had just done to tie the LEDs together with wires into a circuit, only to have to undo it all. But at this point the girl with the multimeter steps in, saying they could use the multimeter to figure out which if any bulb was dead. The team works together and finds they did have a non-working LED. They replace it with a new one, and the lights come on. Success!

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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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White House Science Fair Today

Tune in to the White House Science Fair if you get the chance today: http://www.whitehouse.gov/science-fair

Five of my students will be there, showcasing their Solar-Powered Toy Hovercraft that they designed and created last year. Their project won first place in the Constellation Energy Challenge last spring, which was a collaboration between NFTE (Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship) and Maryland MESA (Math, Engineering, and Science Achievement), to have students design a product using alternative energy, engineer a working prototype of that product, and create a business plan for marketing the product to consumers. Thanks and credit also go to my amazing colleague who also advised them, and to two Morgan State University engineering students who mentored the team on their project.

A video of an early prototype (not yet using solar energy) can be found here.

The students did an amazing job with both their project and their presentation of it to a panel of judges last May, and received a special invitation earlier this month to be a part of President Obama’s annual White House Science Fair.

In addition to this invitation to the White House being tribute to the creativity, talent, and teamwork of the specific students, I think this team of five students, born in five different countries, also represents the great potential of my school’s (and America’s) diversity to create learning experiences and spark innovation. As well as providing a counter-narrative to the usual news of only bad things happening in Baltimore City Schools.

Wish them luck, and watch along!

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BWI Airport

Very awesome trip last week. The Baltimore chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) took the students who have been participating all year in WTS’s Transportation You mentoring program to the airport!

BWI Airport

Transportation You is all about increasing the number of girls interested in transportation, engineering, and other STEM careers. At Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) we learned about aviation, the infrastructure of the airport itself, and some of the jobs performed by women in those areas.

Introductions at BWI

Introductions at BWI

Of course, I knew it was going to be a great trip when we walked in and saw all these trusses in the ceiling!

Trusses Trusses Everywhere!

Trusses Trusses Everywhere!

Among many interesting parts of the visit, they took us up to the Operations Control room.

The Operations Control Center!

The Operations Control Center!

And then out onto the roof!

View from the Roof of BWI

View from the Roof of BWI

A fun day it was!

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STEM Eve

Tomorrow is our sixth annual STEM Day Competition! [I’m sure you all know by now that STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math.]

As such, we stayed in the building today until 8:15pm. A lot of time, work, effort, and money goes every year into our annual STEM Competition. We’ve been working toward this for weeks now. I do definitely believe it is worth it, as it is one of the most memorable events of the students’ year. Each year when we come back in August, one of the students’ first questions is “When is the STEM Competition this year?”. Moreover, it is an event focused around academics, application of students’ learning in their S,T,E, & M courses, and being able to think creatively in a team setting.

We actually have six alumni of our program coming back tomorrow to help run the day and help judge some of the events (in addition to our usual industry judges and teachers who give a half hour out of their planning period to help judge). One of the six is making the trek (with help from some of the others, who are local) all the way from a college campus three hours away!

Four of those six alumni were actually at our school yesterday and helped sort out kits for each event, which is usually one of those last-minute things we are doing the night before. So that was great — with their help we were able to get that sorted and spend today on other plans! Here is a sample of what we did this year on STEM Eve, with the help of our MESA students and two other teachers:

  • Have students help carry & set up tables for each event
  • Have students help cut up materials, as well as make nametags & certificates
  • Run through the roster to check all our teams, the spelling of names, and whether they had gotten their STEM registration forms signed
  • Check each event materials, fill in a few missing supplies, & load them onto a cart
  • Form an assembly line to fill material kits for one event that our alumni helpers didn’t get to finish yesterday
  • Make a checklist of other equipment needed for each event
  • Send emails to provide additional info to industry partners who are coming to judge
  • Make reminder calls to our food suppliers about tomorrow’s orders
  • Run through each event to solidify it in our minds — tomorrow Ms. Ball and I need to run the show, knowing all details and being able to give directions about any event as well as how the day will run
  • Make copies of the events, other relevant information, and the schedules
  • Walk through the STEM Area to create a mental map of where each event will be & to hang up event signs

I’m excited & can’t wait for tomorrow!

Have a good night all,

Nick Yates

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