Saturday, July 13, 2019

STEM gym offers local robotics teams space to practice

From Williamburg Yorktown Daily

"Peninsula STEM gym offers local robotics teams space to practice

The Peninsula STEM Gym opened last fall in Newport News (WYDaily/ Courtesy of the Intentional Innovation Foundation)
The Peninsula STEM Gym opened last fall in Newport News.
(WYDaily/ Courtesy of the Intentional Innovation Foundation)
NEWPORT NEWS — During the school year, hundreds of students practice their passions in after-school clubs such as art, sports and STEM programs.

But where do some of these teams like robotics, meet to practice for the upcoming season?
The Peninsula STEM Gym, of course.

The 2,500-square-foot practice area is a warehouse behind Burl & Knotted, off Jefferson Avenue across from Deer Park.

Nate Laverdure, president of the Intentional Innovation Foundation and head coach of the Menchville High School’s robotics team, founded the gym last fall with a $4,000 grant from the Community Knights.

“We had to step up and do it ourselves,” Laverdure said in regards to creating a year-round space for his team and other robotics teams to practice.

Thanks to a couple of sponsors, like NASA, the team has roughly $11,000 to run the facility per year.
“The reason we have the STEM Gym is to build the area the size of a basketball court,” he said.
Laverdure plans to add a scrimmage area, Lego robotics, underwater robotics and even drone racing.
Laverdure is an engineer at Jefferson Lab.

“We get to partner up students with professional –– real mentors,” he said. “I do this program because I get to replicate this experience with my students.”

“I get to do as much engineering problem solving as I do in my day jobs as a mechanical engineer,” he added.

So why not practice in the team’s respective schools?

Laverdure said generally the schools are not open during the summer months.
“Our school, for example, does some maintenance over the summer,” he said, adding there have been instances where if a team were to use the school to practice, it would cost money for janitorial staff and other expenses.
The school district said otherwise.
Tami Byron, STEM supervisor at NNPS, said she is not aware of the school charging any of the robotics teams to use the school facilities.

“These are our teams, because it is their home school, oh definitely, they would not be charged a fee,” she said.

Bryon added she is not sure if teams would have to pay a fee to use the school after-hours and is unaware of teams not having any space.

When asked why the school did not provide a STEM for the robotics team, she replied “quite frankly, we just don’t have the space,” adding most teams practice at their respective schools but other teams, like Triple Helix, “are different robotics teams and require more space.”

While the school does give the robotics team access to operate out of a workshop at Menchville, it is not really equipped for the large-scale robotics the team does.

“Before they even started –– we were trying to think of anything,” Bryon said. “We didn’t have a capacity at our current existing schools.”

Bryon noted the school district currently has 11 robotics teams now and is projected to have 15 teams this year.

“Our robotics team is growing ten-fold especially over the last year.”

Read the full article at its source: STEM gym offers local robotics teams space to practice

Friday, July 12, 2019

Robots Bring Technology to Life in the Classroom

From EdTech K-12

Sphero, LittleBits and Other Robots Bring Technology to Life

Hands-on activities teach coding, engineering and other STEM essentials at classrooms throughout the country.
Josh Stumpenhorst got hooked on robotics three years ago when his son showed him the Sphero BB-8, a baseball-sized, self-propelled robot based on the Star Wars droid. Now Stumpenhorst, director of the learning commons at Lincoln Junior High in Naperville, Ill., is a certified Sphero Hero.

Sphero, a programmable robot, can be found in more than 20,000 schools around the globe, including the math and science classrooms at Stumpenhorst’s school, about an hour west of Chicago.
He bought the school’s first three or four Spheros out of his own pocket. Now the school has about 20 models, along with apps students can use on their tablets or Chromebooks to learn the basics of programming.

Sixth-graders get acquainted with the Sphero at the library during lunch or after school. By eighth grade, they’re incorporating the device into classroom science and math experiments, such as learning how to plot linear equations.

“The kids can code Sphero to move up a ramp for a certain amount of time at a certain speed,” Stumpenhorst says. “The Sphero Edu app will pump out an actual linear equation of the bot’s movements. Then we’ll challenge the kids by physically drawing a slope and have them code the robot to mimic that movement. That’s pretty difficult, but some of our honors kids are able to do it.”
The beauty of Sphero is its simplicity, he says.

“Literally, all you need is a tablet or Chromebook, then just plug it in and charge it,” he says. “There’s nothing that our IT department had to do. You don’t need to buy or build anything. It comes out of the box, you turn on the app, and you’re ready to code. And the app has so many tutorials and instruction pieces that even if I knew nothing about it, I could give it to kids and they’d be running with it in no time.”

Hands-On Work with Robots Teaches Progressive Coding Skill

Though robotics is massively popular as an after-school program, it’s only now starting to be integrated into regular classroom curricula, says Mark Gura, former director of the Office of Instructional Technology for the New York City Board of Education and author of Getting Started with LEGO Robotics: A Guide for K–12 Educators.

That’s a good thing, because robotics instruction can fill a gap many schools have in their STEM and STEAM initiatives, he adds.

“When I speak to principals, I sometimes get the impression that they think if they have science, technology, art and math classes, they have a STEAM program,” says Gura. “The idea is to integrate these subjects, which happens through engineering. But engineering’s been given short shrift because it’s difficult to teach. Student robotics is the perfect instructional approach to get at the engineering part.” These efforts can’t start too early.

At Nathaniel Morton Elementary in Plymouth, Mass., for example, robotics education begins when kids start their schooling, says Technology Integration Specialist Carmella Hughes.

530,000 - The number of students who compete annually in FIRST competitions

Source: FIRST, “How Robotics Competitions Close the STEM Skills Gap and Build a Diverse Workforce,” July 2018

For her kindergarten students, there’s Bee-Bot, a bee-shaped toy with directional arrows that kids use to control its motion. First graders get to explore the KinderLab Robotics KIBO robot kit, second graders use LEGO WeDo construction sets, and in third grade, students learn Wonder Workshop’s Dash and Dot.

For grades four and five, it’s littleBits, a kit with modular electronics pieces that snap together to form different machines, which can be programmed to follow instructions.
“By the time they reach fifth grade, they should be ready to start experimenting with more sophisticated programming languages,” says Hughes. “The goal is to get them to understand how the technology can solve real-world problems.”

Hughes, who initially funded the program with a grant from Massachusetts Computer Using Educators (MassCUE) in 2016, has gradually added enough devices so that no more than three kids have to share one at any time.

“Hands-on experience is very important,” she says. “Everyone needs to be heard and to participate. And having students work in groups of two or three encourages collaboration, a critical skill in preparing for today’s workforce.”

Robots Give New Ways to Teach Persistence, Problem-Solving

At Hoboken Charter School, a K–12 program in northern New Jersey, students can choose from a range of educational robotic kits, including Dash and Dot, LEGO Mindstorms and littleBits.
“In middle school, we primarily use littleBits to teach engineering,” says Chris Kunkel, a math teacher and STEM coordinator. “They’re great for prototyping. We give the kids design challenges they have to complete using littleBits and other materials. We also use littleBits Code Kit, which is like a programmable mini microcomputer.”

Kunkel also coaches the school’s robotics team, Roboken, which was recently a division finalist at a state robotics contest.

The school participates in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Tech Challenge, a global competition for which middle and high school students build robots and program them to compete head to head. (Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey and Texas all recognize robotics as an official extracurricular high school sport, according to FIRST.)
As with many schools, the biggest challenge at Hoboken Charter School is getting enough robots for all the students who want one.

“We don’t have an infinite number of robot kits,” says Kunkel. “Figuring out ways that every kid can be hands-on touching a robot is hard when you have five or six robots and 20-something kids in the class. You want to make sure every kid is getting a quality experience while reaching as many of them as possible.”

That investment can pay huge dividends. Aside from being an exciting introduction to science and technology, working with robots can reach students who might otherwise struggle in traditional classroom settings, says Kunkel.

“As a math teacher, I often see students who have a bit of a closed mindset,” he says. “If they don’t immediately get a problem, they throw up their hands and say, ‘This is too hard for me.’ But when they’re doing the engineering stuff, you almost never see that. They try, and try again, and try a third time until they get the robot to do whatever it is they want it to do.”

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Code Mat for Classroom Robotics Activities

I found this in my In Box recently... I think that robotics providers offering easy to use instructional environments for student robots is a great simple, economic extension of the robotics materials... a smart way to add structure and foster learning to the robotics experience! The mat form seems to be something that a number of providers are offering, currently.

Subject: The Sphero Code Mat is ready for class!

Sphero Logo
The Sphero Code Mat is a versatile, two-sided activity mat you can use to practice your block-based coding skills. One side of the mat is a golf course, the other side is a city -- use either side to explore with your Sphero robots, learn to code, and play games.

Ready to floor your students?
Make the Sphero Code Mat part of your STEAM curriculum today.
One side of the mat is a golf course, the other side is a city -- students can use either Side to explore, create, and learn. The possibilities are endless but to get you started, each mat comes with pre-planned ready-to-go STEAM activities so you can roll it out and get rolling.
Sphero Logo

Monday, May 27, 2019

Kinazium Student Robotics Environment

Don't know that I think this is a gamer changer, but having kids construct environments in which to run their robots and test out their capacity to handle barriers and physical challenges is definitely a part of the richness of Student Robotics. This appears to be a low cost way for teachers (and others who guide student roboticists) to standardize those environments and get some control over what students create them from, how they store them, etc. Could be a nice addition to  a classroom robotics set up.Good idea!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Minnesota Student Robotics Team Invited to White House

Interesting piece from Center for Digital Education:

Minnesota Robotics Students Invited to White House

Farmington High School’s team of robotic students modified a wheelchair to fit the needs of a disabled child and the project caught the attention of aides organizing first lady Melania Trump’s “Be Best” event.

(TNS) — Farmington High School’s Rogue Robotics team is on a roll.
The media buzz from the team’s Project Cillian — they built a modified wheelchair for a disabled Farmington boy — grew so loud it reached the White House.
Earlier this week, coach Spencer Elvebak got a call from aides organizing first lady Melania Trump’s “Be Best” event, asking if he could come to Washington on Tuesday to be recognized for the project.
Elvebak was floored.
“The kids are all ecstatic about it,” he said.
“I cried,” said Cami Schachtele, 17, who builds field elements for the team’s robot competition. “It’s been a running joke with the team saying, ‘What if we get invited to the White House?’ When they told us we were, it was the most surreal thing.”
Equally stunned is Kynde Zachow-Archibald, 39, of Burnsville. Just four weeks ago she and husband Jeremy Archibald were trying to patch together a wheelchair from a store-bought Power Wheels toy that would allow her 5-year-old son Rocco Zachow-Rodriguez to play in the backyard with his siblings. Rocco was born with a form of dwarfism called Diastrophic dysplasia, a bone and cartilage disorder.
His arms were too short to work a regular Power Wheel car, and his parents weren’t able to modify one for him.
Around that time, Farmington’s robotic team was getting famous. A few TV interviews launched them into the national spotlight. A KARE-TV spot by Boyd Huppert posted on Facebook caught Zachow-Archibald’s attention. Desperate, she posted in the comments about her struggle with Rocco.
“One of the students reached out,” she said. “Now Rocco’s getting a cool chair out of the deal.”
And a trip to the White House where the team will present the chair to Rocco.
“I was blown away when Spencer called,” she said about learning they were invited to Washington. “I would never have imagined that. I was on board immediately.”

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Hero Student, Kendrick Castillo, Honored by Student Robotics World

Kendrick Castillo, Senior at the STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado, rushed 2 gunmen and  prevented  a widespread mass shooting by giving his classmates time to escape. He was shot and died in the process. The hero student was known for his interest in Engineering and Robotics, being a member of the school's FIRST Robotics Team, IMPULSE (team # 4418). FIRST “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science & Technology”) is the international organization that has popularized Student Robotics globally. Beyond Robotics, its goals focus on student character and professional behavior. Through core values like Gracious Professionalism, FIRST fosters selfless dedication to group effort and community well being.

The tragic but inspiring incident has caught the attention of young people everywhere.

For instance, Gary Israel, Director of the FIRST team titled 2TRAIN ROBOTICS (New York City) sent out the following email to team members and members of the very large community that supports it, this morning:

"It is with great sadness that we have learned that a fellow FIRST student, Kendrick Castillo, was killed in the attack on the STEM School Highlands Ranch this week; his quick action saved lives.  As many of you have probably heard, Kendrick was on a path to pursue his love of mechanical engineering, and he was just days away from graduating. 

Perhaps the best way to remember him is by practicing acts of kindness and to contributing, in any amount, to the memorial fund that his team set up. 

Kendrick was selfless to his last moments, and a true hero."

Additional information about team #4418, IMPULSE, Kendrick's team:

- ​About Team STEM IMPULSE / Varsity Robotics

More about FIRST Robotics

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

BRONX Student Robotics Team Honored by Yankees

In my In Box this morning... Sent by Gary Israel, Team Director... 

2 Train Robotics Team Honored by Yankees for Twenty Years

2Train Robotics was on the field before Friday night’s Yankee game in recognition of their 20 years of excellence (Photo: Gary Israel)

by Gary Axelbank and Samuel Allan

May 7, 2019
2Train, a robotics team constituted of New York City high school students that began twenty years ago at Morris high School, was honored at Yankee Stadium Friday night. It was the 18th year in a row that the multi-award-winning team was recognized during pre-game festivities at the stadium.
The ceremony included a video of the team’s highlights over the past year as an announcer detailed their various achievements.
The following afternoon, the team was recognized at a luncheon at Columbia University. The keynote speaker was  Dr. Woodie Flowers, founder of FIRST (For Recognition of Science and Technology) who talked about the importance of inspiration and innovation.
(From Left) Adam Cohen former robotics student and member of the GIMRF (Gary Israel Morris Robotics Foundation) board of directors, First Founder Dr. Woodie Flowers, 2Train Robotics Founder Gary Israel, and long time 2Train mentor Wayne Penn celebrate 20 years of robotics (photo: thisistheBronX)
The event was emceed by thisistheBronX publisher Gary Axelbank.
Check out this incredible list of awards and achievements by this team that was launched two decades ago in the south Bronx
  • New Jersey FIRST Regional 2000 Judges Award
  • FIRST Robotics Presidential Classroom Scholarship 2000
  • NASA / FIRST Robotics Grant 2001
  • NASA/ FIRST Robotics Grant 2002
  • NASA/VCU South Atlantic FIRST 2003 Robotics Regional Winner
  • NASA/VCU South Atlantic FIRST 2003 Imagery Winner
  • New York City FIRST 2002 Robotics Xerox Creativity
  • New York City FIRST 2003 Robotics Engineering and Inspiration Winner
  • New York City FIRST 2004 Robotics Chairman’s Award Winner
  • New York City FIRST 2004 Robotics Regional Finalist
  • New York City FIRST 2005 Robotics Regional Winner
  • New York City FIRST 2005 Judges Award
  • New York City FIRST 2006 Robotics Regional Winner
  • New York City FIRST 2006 Judges Award
  • New York City FIRST 2007 Quarterfinalists
  • New York City FIRST 2008 Semifinalists
  • New York City FIRST 2008 General Motors Industrial Design Award
  • New York City FIRST 2008 FIRST Outstanding Volunteer Award 
  • New York City FIRST 2009 Semifinalists
  • New York City FIRST 2010 Quarterfinalists
  • New York City FIRST 2011 Robotics Regional Winner
  • New York City FIRST 2011 Robotics Xerox Creativity
  • New York City FIRST 2011 Woodie Flowers Award
  • New York City FIRST 2015 Woodie Flowers Award
  • New York City FIRST 2017 Woodie Flowers Award
  • Pittsburgh FIRST 2005 Robotics Regional Winner
  • Pittsburgh FIRST 2005 Judges Award
  • Pittsburgh FIRST 2006 Robotics Regional Winner
  • Pittsburgh FIRST 2006 Robotics Engineering and Inspiration Winner
  • Pittsburgh FIRST 2007 Quarterfinalists
  • Florida FIRST 2008 Semifinalists
  • Philadelphia FIRST 2009 Robotics Regional Winner
  • Philadelphia FIRST 2010 Semifinalists
  • Philadelphia FIRST 2011 Quarterfinalists
  • Philadelphia FIRST 2011 Team Spirit Award
  • FIRST Robotics Championship competition Houston Texas 2003
  • FIRST Robotics Championship competition Atlanta Georgia 2004
  • FIRST Robotics Championship competition Atlanta Georgia 2005
  • FIRST Robotics Championship competition Atlanta Georgia 2006
  • FIRST Robotics Championship competition Atlanta Georgia 2007
  • FIRST Robotics Championship competition Atlanta Georgia 2008
  • FIRST Robotics Championship competition Atlanta Georgia 2009
  • FIRST Robotics Championship competition St. Louis 2011
  • Tribute March 17, 2003 to the Morris Robotics Team on the Floor of The House of Representatives in Washington D.C
  • Bronx Borough proclaims March 26, 2003 Morris High School Robotics Day
  • Team Presented with Medal by Secretary Colin L. Powell September 2002
  • Robotics team honored on the Floor of the State Assembly in Albany 2003,2004
  • The New York Yankees honor the Morris team on the field at Yankee Stadium 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
  • The New York Yankees honor the Morris team at the groundbreaking ceremony at the new Yankee Stadium August 2006
  • Represented all New York City Robotics teams in the Bronx Day Parade 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011
  • Appearances at the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey 2003, 2004
  • Saluted on radio as “Hometown Heroes” on WINS 1010 June, 2003
    Featured in a 2003 award winning FIRST Robotics Showtime Documentary
    Top prize at the Bronx Business & Technology Expo 2003
    Featured in a 2004 Documentary on National Cable TECH TV
  • Appearance with Dean Kamen at the 2004 Annual New York Times Talk Series
    Appearances on Good Morning America, BronxTalk Prime Time Live, Bronx Talk AM, News 12 Bronxnet, NY 1, Fox News, Telemundo and WNBC
    Articles written about the team in New York Times, Amsterdam News, New York Daily News, Bronx Times, Richmond Times, Uptown Express, Columbia Engineering, United Federation of Teacher’s newspaper, FIRST Robotics Newsletter and Bronx Beat
    Team captain participated in 2003 Antarctica expedition
    Team member selected to participate in 2004 Antarctica expedition
    Team featured in July 2005 article in Popular Mechanics
    Team appears on Telemundo Television program June 2006
    Team appears at Sony Wonder Technology Lab in 2006
    Team participates at the NextFest Conference Javits Center Sept. 2006
    Team captain participated in 2006 Antarctica expedition
    Team participates at Gagetoff at Liberty Science Center Sept. 2007
    Team featured in Imagine it! Documentary 2008
    Team featured in Forbes Magazine article 2009
    Team featured in Popular Science article 2009
    Team featured in Neal Bascomb Book “The New Cool” 2009
    Team appears at Sony Wonder Technology Lab in 2011
    Team featured in NY Daily News article 2011
    Team featured in ESPN the Magazine 2011
    Team appeared on Channel 5 Teen News September 2011
    Team appeared at the NY Maker Faire September 2011
    Team appeared at the NY Maker Faire September 2014
    Team appeared at the NY Maker Faire September 2015
    Team appeared at College Fair Coop City October 2016
    Team appeared at the NY Maker Faire September 2017

Friday, April 26, 2019

Get a FREE Copy of the 20th Anniversay Yearbook for 2 Train Robotics, Illustrious Student Robotics Team - Bronx, NYC

From my In Box - from Gary Israel, mentor and guardian angel of 2 Train Robotics team...
Subject: A 1999-2019 Photo Retrospective of 2Train Robotics


PS- Importantly, Gary has given me permission to make this rich publication available to all who'd like to learn about his team and the extraordinary experiences all students may have with a student robotics team of their own:
Click here to download a copy of
"Inside the Journey of 2Train Robotics: Through the Years" 


Dear Friends of 2Train, Below are some of the team's highlights over the last two decades.

Message from Ponytail Posse, an all-girls Robotics Team - FIRST® LEGO® League

From my In Box...
From: FIRST Tech Challenge
To: markgura

Subject: Mark, here’s Rose’s FIRST story

"We don’t build robots – the robots build us.” - FIRST founder Dean Kamen

FIRST® programs impact hundreds of thousands of students each year by engaging them in hands-on, project-based STEM challenges. We’re excited to share Rose’s experience with you!
The following is an excerpt from the team blog for the Ponytail Posse, an all-girls FIRST® LEGO® League team that progressed to FIRST® Tech Challenge from St. Paul, Minnesota. Rose explains the massive head start she and her teammates received from their years in FIRST, beginning as a FIRST LEGO League team. 

"People are usually able to understand the depth of how participating in robotics affects lives. They understand that it helps us gain experiences which help us become better engineers, problem solvers, and collaborators. But while they understand the depth, these people often fail to recognize the breadth of how being part of a robotics team can shape a young person. It’s not just a path toward a successful STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) career, but a gateway to self-expression, confidence, critical thinking, and empathy.

But as we got older, we began to realize how our robotics experiences were influencing how we thought about the future. We could see ourselves going to college and starting a career in engineering, entrepreneurship, and other fields we had never considered before. These were tangible destinations that we had already been pursuing for years without realizing it — in other words, we were giving ourselves a massive head start...."

Read the full post at: The team's blog

Click on book cover for information

Click on book cover for information
Getting Started with LEGO Robotics. Anyone who works with kids can do LEGO Robotics, a rich and highly motivating platform for important STEM Learning! (surprisingly affordable, too) This books explains it all!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

New York Yankees Honor the Morris High School FIRST Robotics team

In my in box this morning...
Dear Friends of 2Train Robotics,

The NY Yankees will honor the Morris High School FIRST Robotics team on Friday May 3rd at 6:45pm on the field during a pregame ceremony prior to the 7:05pm ball game against the Minnesota Twins. This will be the 18th year in a row that the team has been honored on the field at Yankee Stadium. Of course, this year is very special as we and Yankees celebrate the team's 20th Anniversary.

For 2Train, this game will be our first Old-Timers Day with students returning to attend the 20th Anniversary Luncheon the following day. Members representing every year (1999-2019) will attend the celebration.

This will be our 11th consecutive year on the field at the new Stadium (2009-2019)
In the old Yankee Stadium, the team was honored for seven consecutive years (2002-2008)

During this year's pregame ceremony the stadium's public address announcer will share with the crowd that 2Train Robotics won the Central NY FIRST Robotics Regional Competition in Utica NY last month. During that competition, Demetrius Weathers, a junior, was chosen as a Dean's List Finalist.

In April at the New York City FIRST Robotics Competition, 2Train reached the Quarterfinals in the team's 19th consecutive year participating in the New York City competition. The robotics team also received the Autonomous Award: Sponsored by Ford.

On a personal note I am proud to join 2Train mentors Bob Stark (2011), Reuben Bridges (2015), and Paul Lucien (2017) as the NYC 2019 Woodie Flowers Finalist Award. The award is presented to one adult Mentor at each regional competition, "who best leads, inspires, teaches and empowers their team using excellent communication skills."

Warm regards,

2Train Robotics | 166th Street and Boston Road, Bronx, NY 10456