1. Brett Slezak
  2. http://remakelearning.org/person/slezak-brett/
  3. Health and Physical Education Teacher
  4. Creative Robotics
  5. Allegheny Valley School District, Carnegie Mellon University
  1. Sue Mellon
  2. Coordinator
  3. Creative Robotics
  4. Allegheny Valley School District, Carnegie Mellon University
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Brett Slezak

    Brett Slezak

    Presenter
    May 16, 2016 | 10:00 a.m.

    In our Arts & Bots program, we aim to infuse the basics of coding and robotics in non-traditional content areas to expose more students to the joys of computer science (CS). How do you think we can better create cross-curricular CS projects in schools while still helping students become creators through technology instead of consumers of technology?

  • Icon for: Katie Rich

    Katie Rich

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2016 | 10:03 p.m.

    Hi Brett and Sue,
    I like the model of having teachers come up with CS-related projects in their content area. Who better to identify CS connections to other subjects than teachers who teach those other subjects?

    How do interested teachers get the necessary materials to implement an Arts & Bots project in their classrooms?

    Also, is there any kind of online platform for teachers to share the projects they’ve implemented? It seems to me that if teachers could see examples of what has been done, more new ideas for cross-curricular projects might be sparked. Teachers could also share stories about specific implementations.

  • Icon for: Brett Slezak

    Brett Slezak

    Presenter
    May 17, 2016 | 07:54 a.m.

    Katie, I agree! As a non-CS teacher, I love having the creative outlet to explore new areas and methods of engaging my students in learning. It also gives me the opportunity to use my unique Health and Physical Education perspective to look for STEM talent traits that might go unnoticed by other subject areas.

    To attempt to not sound like a sales-man, teachers can easily get involved in an Arts & Bots projects by getting their hands on some Hummingbird kits at http://www.hummingbirdkit.com/. The kits are affordable, durable, and reusable, which is pretty essential to long term implementation of a project like this. We use these kits because they are a local company that was actually developed through CMU. As an aside, one of the great things about being an educator in Pittsburgh, PA right now is how connected public ed, informal ed, higher ed and local businesses/foundations are. So local involvement has been one of the key success to our project.

    As far as a sharing platform goes, the same website above has lessons and projects online that they curate to spark the creative flame for educators.

  • Icon for: Irene Lee

    Irene Lee

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2016 | 08:20 a.m.

    Hi Presenters, I loved how the dioramas integrated paper engineering and set design in addition to the computational components. Over what time period were the student projects made? Was there ?any evidence of deeper content learning as a result of the integration of CT

  • Icon for: Brett Slezak

    Brett Slezak

    Presenter
    May 17, 2016 | 09:12 a.m.

    I can speak for my my Health and PE (HPE) class, Sue might be able to shed more light on the ELA and Social Studies classes. In 7th grade HPE class, we build robotic joints to learn biomechanics. Given some of the extras we do for our NSF research we spend about 8 to 9, 45 minute class periods on the project. Without some of our research components, we could probably shave off a period. We spend 1 day explaining the project and biomechanics, another 1-2 days researching and drawing up a schematics for the projects, The remaining time is spent building, breaking, rebuilding and finalizing their prototypes. At the end of the project we spend 1 day presenting to the class. It is fast paced and crazy.

    Anecdotally, I have noticed a much stronger understanding of biomechanics from our 7th grade students after completing their projects. The joints have to be biomechanically correct (or as close as they can get) in order for them to be successful. We have been doing the project for 3 years now, and when we used to teach biomechanics in the abstract we would have a pretty low success rate of students understanding “complementary muscle movement.” Now that they can create a a concrete example or the abstract idea, I see much deeper and stronger learning happening.

    I know that with the Poetry units in ELA class, the repetition of reading the poem has really shown deeper understanding of symbolism. However, I will let Sue speak more about it.

  • Small default profile

    Emily Hamner

    Guest
    May 17, 2016 | 03:27 p.m.

    We also see positive student outcomes around Technological Fluency (technical learning, confidence with technology, and breaking of technology stereotypes) as well as complementary non-technical skills such as teamwork. If you want to read more, we have a publication from the work that preceded this project: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/articleDetails.j...

  • Icon for: Sue Mellon

    Sue Mellon

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2016 | 04:21 p.m.

    In response to Irene’s question, we spend one week of double period (42 minutes a period for a total of 84 daily minutes) English Language Arts on the poetry and Shakespeare projects. Some of this time is very ELA core content time in which a planning document is completed. The planning document requires analysis of literature with brainstorming ways to symbolize the words using art and robotics. Some of the time is very much a journey into the engineering process as students encounter difficulties in making their ideas operational. Finally, some of the time is CS related as the students work to program their robotic creation’s LEDs and motors to accompany a recorded reading of the literature. The timing element of the programming can be quite a challenge for middle school students. We use Audacity to program the readings.

    With our 7th grade social studies projects (two of my favorites—-Greek Gods and Natural Wonders/Man-made Wonders of the World), the amount of time is very similar. In place of a poem or a scene from Romeo & Juliet, the students are assigned a topic. The social studies planning document has a place to put research notes and requires a written narrative. The narrative is then recorded with Audacity. As the diorama operates, the recorded narrative is played documentary like with LEDs and various motors moving in a planned fashion.

    A final note on our projects is that the students work in teams. We find that a team of three works the best.

    I love project based work with students and I believe that the Arts & Bots projects in ELA can be a means for greater understanding of the literature. For the social studies projects, I find the Arts & Bots can serve as a welcome change to posters and PowerPoint for displaying research. Additionally, I believe that hands-on learning meets the needs of active middle school students. However, I do find some teachers believe these projects are a departure from curriculum. I am interested in learning other’s thoughts about project based/hands-on work and core content curriculum.

  • Icon for: Katie Rich

    Katie Rich

    Facilitator
    May 18, 2016 | 10:26 a.m.

    Brett,
    Your example of using robotics to help kids understand complementary muscle movement is so interesting! Do you think that building the 3D model, rather than programming a 2D simulation on screen, is an important factor?

    What do others think about this issue in general? What are the advantages and costs of building 3D models like those in this project versus programming simulations in something like Scratch?

  • Icon for: Brett Slezak

    Brett Slezak

    Presenter
    May 18, 2016 | 12:45 p.m.

    Katie, I do think the 3D manipulation of parts plays a crucial role for some learners who are a bit more tactile and kinesthetic. While I think that a 2D simulation is great, I do not think that it engages quite as many content areas as the 3D version. For example, when the students have to fabricate their own parts, physically feel the weight of the mechanism as they try to move a knee joint, or physically place a motor at a muscle origin, they start to engage a more practical and applicable sense of engineering.

    When it comes down to cost, the only real costs we have into the robots is the cost of the reusable kits, and hot glue guns. My joint project also has a little bit of an environmentally friendly twist. All of the robots have to be made from 95% recycled materials. I tell the students that the 5% of new materials is hot glue. So not only is the cost super cheap once the kits are purchased, I get to see the students take materials and transform them into something completely different.

  • Icon for: Sue Mellon

    Sue Mellon

    Co-Presenter
    May 18, 2016 | 04:07 p.m.

    Just to add to Brett’s answer, we build our dioramas in ELA and social studies from donated materials or things that are usually discarded. The randomness of the supplies seems to spark creativity.

    In ELA and social studies, we see elaborate ideas for building robotic systems in our planning documents. The actual attempt to make their design a reality gives many students a greater appreciation for the design process. It is one thing to write that a motor will spool a fishing line to pull an object and quite another to make it happen exactly as planned.

  • Icon for: Evan Korth

    Evan Korth

    Facilitator
    May 19, 2016 | 01:07 a.m.

    This looks like so much fun — I love the variety of projects.

    What does the PD look like for teachers? Is this something you hope to scale? Assuming yes, how do you go about doing so?

  • Icon for: Sue Mellon

    Sue Mellon

    Co-Presenter
    May 19, 2016 | 02:55 p.m.

    Thanks for the question, Evan. We have been involved in a variety of professional development endeavors as both presenters and attendees. The most important aspect of professional development is giving teachers the opportunity to use the kits to build and to program.

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.