C-STEM Studio — A Great Way to Blend Math and Robotics
C-STEM Studio is a California A-G approved curriculum and turn-key solution for teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics through computing and robotics. This web-based scalable program is available for elementary through high school students and can last anywhere from four weeks to a year. As Professor Harry Cheng, Director of the UC Davis Center for Computing and STEM Education who offers this program, states simply: “Our goal is to get kids interested in math and robotics through hands-on computing and robotics.” In fact, the C-STEM Studio algebra curriculum is fully aligned with Common Core state standards in mathematics.
Programs that run through the Studio are:
- Linkbot–students write a simple program to complete a function that is then uploaded to a robot–in this case, a Linkbot. One feature I found in this program which I rarely saw in others: It’ll point out syntax errors in programming. This is well-suited to younger students.
- RoboSim–students program a virtual robot of their choice (by picking from among Lego Mindstorm and others) in a virtual environment.
- RoboBlockly–a web-based robot simulation using a drag-and-drop interface to program virtual Linkbot and Lego robots. The RoboBlockly curriculum includes a student self-guided Hour of Code activity as well as teacher-led math activities that meet Common Core state standards for fourth to ninth grade.
- ChArduino–students use Ch programming (kind of a simplified, easier-to-learn C+) and an Arduino board.
To assist teachers, UC Davis offers professional development that lasts between two days and a week on how to roll out the lessons and/or curriculum in their classrooms as well as a C-STEM Conference to share ideas and stories with other educators. For students, there are CSTEM camps and competitions to showcase the robot wizardry of programmers from elementary through high school.
To evaluate C-STEM Studio, let’s look at three questions:
- so what
- who cares
- why bother
One of the most pressing and timely issues facing the education community nationally is how we can address teaching math, science, and engineering concepts to the K-12 population. C-STEM Studio does that with a compelling and thorough software program which trains both students and teachers to use robotics as a superior vehicle for learning math.
Bring Experts to Your Class Easily with Nepris
Statistically, almost half of school dropouts do so because they don’t see the relevance. Teachers have long-known the positive effect industry experts have on students, but the complications of finding the speaker, arranging the event, and preparing the class have made this a daunting task. Nepris, a cloud-based platform that connects STEAM subject experts (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) with teachers and classes, wants to turn that around. Its intuitive options, step-by-step guidance, and commitment to making the experience positive for both teachers and students helps to not only bridge the gap between classroom and career as students meet those who have applied school knowledge authentically to their jobs, it levels the education playing field across rural and urban landscapes, between schools with vast resource budgets and those who struggle to stay out of the red year-to-year.
Here’s how it works:
How to Interest the Next Generation of Great Minds to Work in STEM Fields
I’ve had a lot of questions in the last few months about STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math) in the classroom. Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Sara Stringer, has a great article that will help demystify this topic:
STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and covers an immense range of subject areas. Across the nation, STEM is of the greatest significance due to the function these particular topic areas perform along with the extraordinary influence they possess at many levels of society.
Scientific research thrives off the exploration of chemistry and biology, in addition to climatic initiatives such as sustainable and nuclear power. It is hard to come across an area of contemporary society not connected to these themes in some way.
Labs Lost to Educational Rigidity
Businesses such as Pacific BioStorage specialize in providing support to pharmaceutical companies, universities, federal research labs, and hospitals across the nation. The niche has grown in response to the needs of the laboratory industry.
Redefining the lab tasks that high schoolers conduct can be a significantly helpful response to the lack of interest in science in some schools. Revamping lab work can raise the affinity for scientific investigation and learning.
High school lab studies typically concentrate on solely the scientific method. A scientific, logical progression of procedures brings the student to the findings and engages them. Illustrating the complexities and logistics of science and research is a stronger approach to bringing students into the scientific community.
Given that a great many of these STEM business sectors link themselves to our federal and state governments to some degree, it is safe to assert that our country depends on them to keep running. Schools across the nation are making an effort to develop a more robust curriculum based in these subject areas.
Keyboarding and the Scientific Method
Convincing students–and teachers–of the importance of keyboarding can be daunting. Youngers find it painful (trying to find those 26 alphabet keys) and olders think their hunt-and-peck approach is just fine. Explaining why keyboarding is critical to their long-range goals is often an exercise in futility if they haven’t yet experienced it authentically so I’ve resorted to showing–let them see for themselves why they want to become fast and accurate typists. To do this, I rely on a system they already know (or will be learning): the Scientific Method.
Let me stop here and point out that there are many versions of the scientific method. Use the one popular at your school. The upcoming steps easily adapt to the pedagogy your science teacher recommends.
I start with a general discussion of this well-accepted approach to decision making and problem-solving. If students have discussed it in class, I have them share their thoughts. We will use it to address the question:
Is handwriting or keyboarding faster?
I post each step on the Smartscreen or whiteboard and show students how our experiment will work:
- Ask a question: Is handwriting or keyboarding faster?
- Do background research: Discuss why students think they handwrite faster/slower than they type. Curious students might even research the topic by Googling, Is keyboarding faster than handwriting?
- Construct a hypothesis: Following the research, student states her/his informed conclusion: i.e.: Fifth graders in Mr. X’s class handwrite faster than they type.
- Test hypothesis: Do an experiment to see if handwriting or typing is faster. Pass out a printed page from a book students are reading in class. Have them 1) handwrite it for three minutes, and then 2) type it for the same length of time. Each time, calculate the speed in words-per-minute.
- Analyze data: Compare student personal handwriting speed to their typing speed. Which is faster? Discuss data. Why do some students type faster than they write and others slower? Or the reverse? What problems were faced in handwriting for three-five minutes:
- pencil lead broke
- eraser was missing
- hand got tired
- it got boring
Each student compares their results to classmates and to other grade levels. What was different? Or the same?
- Draw conclusions: Each student determines what can be decided based on their personal test results. Did they type faster or slower? Did this change from last year’s results? Did some classmates type faster than they handwrote? Did most students by a certain grade level type faster than they write?
- Communicate results: Share results with other classes and other grade levels. At what grade level do students consistently type faster than they handwrite? In my classes, fourth graders write and type at about the same speed (22-28 wpm) and fifth graders generally type faster than they write. Are students surprised by the answer?
The Maker Movement In Education
Eduporium‘s Andy Larmand is the newest contributor to Ask a Tech Teacher. He graduated from Suffolk University with a Bachelor’s degree in Print Journalism. His knowledge of and interest in both the EdTech world and the importance of a STEM education highlight the importance of inquiry-based education, DIY cultures and technology for enhanced learning as crucial 21st century activities. Here are his thoughts on ‘the Maker Movement’:
With so much of the emphasis in today’s education world focusing on the need for education reform, it can be easy to forget just what this means. True, it has long since been time to transform the classroom from a boring place of black and white textbooks to a virtual experience filled with 21st century tools and projects. Education used to be thought of as the 8-2 in a child’s day with maybe an hour or so of homework. Now, because of modern educational technology and the emergence of afterschool clubs and supplemental activities, the demand for acquiring a full-circle education is able to be met for students everywhere.
What do you do when Little Johnny wants career, not college?
Common Core promises college and career, either/or, but what if you as a parent have been thinking ‘college’ so long, that you’re unprepared when your darling selects ‘career’? Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Sara Stringer, has some ideas for you. I think you’ll like this:
Every year, our school holds a Career Day, when people in our small-town community come and talk to our students about their careers. The trouble is, every year the careers represented are the same four or five careers that show up, like in a Richard Scarry book: teacher, banker, supermarket cashier. It’s no wonder that our kids grow up wanting to be movie stars and professional athletes, if these are the only other potential careers they see in person.
How can you teach your students about becoming a web developer if they’ve never met one? How can you teach your students about STEM careers in petroleum engineering — recently ranked on NPR as the college major that leads to the highest income — when there are no petroleum engineers within a 300-mile radius and, to be honest, you’re not quite sure what a petroleum engineer does?
Well, you’re a teacher. You have to think creatively.
Start by identifying interests, not careers
Common Core: A Lesson Plan for STEM (on Bridges)
Here’s a free lesson plan from the newest Ask a Tech Teacher book, How to Achieve Common Core with Tech–the Math Strand. This covers K-8, 114 Standards, and has 20 projects.
BTW, the lines at the front of each step are to check off the skill–track progress in case you don’t complete it in one class period. Feel free to print out for your classroom use:
How can I use practical and theoretical knowledge to solve a problem?
Students virtually construct a viable, affordable bridge and submit it (if age limits met) to a national competition. They use theoretical knowledge in a practical application. When done, they reflect on importance of both theoretical and practical in problem solving.
This lesson contributes to the rigor of your school’s math program, defined by Common Core: … Use of technology differentiates for student learning styles by providing an alternative method of achieving conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and applying to authentic circumstances.
By the end of this unit, middle school students will review all eight Standards for Mathematical Procedures, 3 W and 3 RST standards, as well as embrace an authentic experience in problem solving and the practical applications of math knowledge.