Colin's Sandbox

A Noble Conference Embiggens the Smallest Man

by on Oct.21, 2013, under ramblings, stem

I was privileged to take part in the Anchorage Math and Science Conference this past weekend, appearing with Dr. Chip McMillan, Dr. Megan Buzby, and Lori Sowa, PE, all professors at UAS, presenting ideas on how to incorporate STEM in the K-8 classroom.  The presentations went really well!  My portion of the presentations was an overview on how Minecraft (and MinecraftEdu) has been implemented to engage students constructively and how it may be used in their own classroom.

Outside of the presentation I took part in a few sessions that were particularly “embiggening”: an overview of elements of “Project Lead the Way“, incorporating STEM into curriculum.  When it comes to proprietary curriculum (or proprietary anything for that matter) I’m admittedly a little biased.  What I took away from it though was the necessary concept of a vertically aligned curriculum, with one course building upon another, from principles of engineering on up to a final design project.  Some students from Dimond High School presented their work and thoughts on their efforts and they did a great job.  Communication is key to being a good engineer – the ability to describe your efforts and needs to others is crucial to good teamwork.

Earlier, I took part in a quick ArcGIS Online walk through, making our own maps.  I’m currently trying to figure out how to do a time-enabled map showing increase in temperature in Alaska over time.  I haven’t yet figured out which layer I need to add to get that data, or how to adjust it over time, but below is an example of an interesting layer, that of permafrost extent.

View Larger Map

One of the most interesting experiences for me however was the digital circuits presentation that I sat in.  While in college I used Motorola microcontrollers as part of digital design classes and I loved them.  I can remember the the “a HA!” moments while programming the units (in assembly) along with many hours of debugging wiring and improving the various projects.  Now to the outsider it might not be that exciting to see lights blink on and off and LED / LCD displays flickering different words across the screen but let me tell you – very exciting while you’re doing it.  Today’s kits featuring Arduino processors make it _lot_ easier.  The programming language is C (and I believe C++, although I didn’t code up any classes objects to check), which is a huge step up from assembly when it comes to readability.  I would like to see additional languages such as python, but that might be a lot easier to use on a system-on-a-chip (SOC) implementation such as the Raspberry Pi.

I heard a great phrase this weekend that I’ll take with me: “Don’t be a sage on the stage, be a guide on the side.”

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