3D Printed Fidget Spinner STEM Lesson
Any time I happen to notice that a significant portion of my students are incredibly engaged with something, I want to know what it is. Once I know about it, I want to come up with a way to turn it into a lesson. When I worked in sales we called this borrowed rapport. Essentially, if you referred me to your friend they automatically have a bit higher level of trust in me because they already trust you.  In education the same holds true. It is far easier to get kids more excited about something they're already excited about, than to create excitement from the ether. I also prefer whenever possible, to trick my students into learning while they think they are having fun…

Creating Coding Lessons Reflection – Iteration One
As and Engineering teacher I strongly believe in the power of iteration, and reflection. Everything I ask my students to do, I ask them to do more than once. This gives them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Iteration is how real design works, so we should teach accordingly. I am such a fan of the concept that I apply it to my teaching practice. What follows is my coding lesson reflection for my first iteration.…

Top 5 STEM Funding Sources – Make It Rain
There are three reasons I think it's wise to develop fund raising skills. First, if I can fund my program outside of my allocated budget, my ability to teach is not determined by others. Second, if I can self fund I am more valuable than someone who cannot. Third, if I can self fund I have the ability to expand my program unhindered by the political process. In short, my ability to fund my own program means that I have more freedom in my teaching practice.…

Creating Coding Lessons – Grade 6-8: Part 2
Any time I try something new I get some unexpected results. Often I learn something new. Usually I tweak something. Sometimes I find a connection to something else. My students find the lesson easier or harder than I expected. I've even discovered that some of my basic assumptions were faulty before. This time is no different. This coding lessons reflection will be of dubious use to you without having read this post. Don't let me dissuade you though, read away. What follows is an outline, and reflection on what I have done for the coding lesson I am working on so far.…

Advanced Ev3 Robotics Lesson For Superstars – Problem Solving
My first year teaching STEM was relatively simple from a curriculum design perspective. I knew that grades 5 & 6 would be robotics, and 7 & 8 would be 3D printing (Grade 4 Was a mystery, but I knew I'd figure it out eventually). As none of my students had previous exposure to Robots or 3D printing I could just give my grades 5 & 6 the same lesson, and give my grades 7 & 8 the same lesson. After they had the basics, I would go advanced the next year. The problem was that though I found some basic Ev3 lessons, there didn't seem to be an Advanced Ev3 Robotics Lesson to look at anywhere.…

Creating Coding Lessons – Grades 6-8: Part 1
As a STEM teacher I am continually taking workshops, and courses to get better at my job. As a public school teacher I am always on the lookout for those who are willing to donate equipment to my program. When I was on a follow-up call for a coding PD I took last summer, and was asked what I would need to implement coding fully into my curriculum my answer was simple: "I need 9 new Android tablets". I was half joking, but you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. When the response was: "Okay we should be able to get those to you in January". I realized I needed to begin Creating Coding Lessons for my grade 8 students, and the idea fore this post was born.…

Makerbot Tips & Tricks: Get the Best From Your Tech
As I've mentioned in other posts, I didn't come to STEM education via the traditional routes. I mention this now because the post that follows is the culmination of three years of working with the Makerbot Replicator 5th Generation in my classroom. It showed up in a box, fully assembled, without anything resembling a manual. It had a quick start guide. That's it. As such I really could have used a post covering Makerbot Tips. Aren't you lucky that I'm here to give you some tips and tricks to make this incredibly expensive, powerful, learning tool work well for you, and your students. …

Ev3 Robotics Lesson for Superstars: #2 – Turning
Just like any other lesson, once students have mastered the basic form it is time to add complication. This Ev3 Robotics Lesson is designed to pick up where the last one left off. If you haven't checked out Lesson 1, you should do so before starting this one. Go ahead, we'll wait. Great, glad you're back! Here we expand on the basics of moving forward, and backwards given distances, and add the turning complication. To begin with we will be turning 90 degrees in either direction with the Lava Challenge. Once we have mastered the 90 degree turn we can move on to turns of different angles. We are also continuing our exploration of the big ideas that computers execute commands in a sequence, and that computers are precise. Additionally, we are introducing annotation, and discussing how to grade the computer programs written by our students.…

Coding Lesson : Intro To Block Based Programming
I love Lego Mindstorms Ev3 for teaching a coding lesson, but the price to get started is tough to swallow. Enough kits to teach a coding lesson to a class of 16 is 4, which translates to over $1,550.00. Even after getting the kits, you still need 4 computers (not Chromebooks) to run the software. The unfortunate financial reality of Public Education in America is that we are constantly in a state of near starvation. As such, it is not easy to get funds for unproven curricular tools. Stories from other teachers about STEM with robots is not enough to get you the money you need. Typically you need to demonstrate some major benefit in order to get extra money. How then, do you prove that learning coding has a positive impact on your students without breaking your budget?…

Lesson: SuperStar Rocketry 2 – 3D Printing Lesson
When I first started teaching I got offered an incredible budget to set up my STEM program. The only caveat was that I buy a 3D printer with some of the money. The challenge however, was that I'd never heard 3D printing before, let alone how to design a 3D Printing Lesson. What I needed was something simple, engaging, adaptable, and quick to learn. I did internet research, and though there are some good resources now, at the time there really weren't. Instead I designed my own curriculum for grade 7 & 8. After twelve or so refinements I came up with the 3D Printing Lesson you're about to read.…