Saturday, February 1st, eighteen middle and high school teams will be at NIST competing in the Battle in Bangkok 2020 – Thailand VRC National Championship. The teams come from Thailand and Indonesia this year. Teams are vying for a variety of awards on the day, as well as the chance to qualify to go to the Worlds VEX Robotics Competition in Lousiville, Kentucky this April. Teams will compete in matches where teams ally with other teams to manipulate objects on the fields to score more points than the other team. Our students will compete in both driver skills and programming skills. They will also be judged on design, teamwork, and documentation of their process. The highest achievement at the tournament is the Excellence Award, which goes to the team with the highest overall performance in all of the above categories.
Awards aside, the awesome part of robotics is the growth that happens during the months that go into teams developing strategies, designing the pieces, building the robot, then testing to see if it works. This process happens over and over as the students iterate to improve the robot. Practicing real skills and teamwork like “engineers and product designers” provide our students with real-world experiences. Students grow accustomed to using tools and creating machines that were just in their imagination which fuels self-confidence. it’s truly rewarding to watch the perseverance of our young teams! It is commendable that students work for so long towards this goal while having fun. We love having robotics both as an Extracurricular Activity (ECA) at NIST and as part of the curriculum in some year levels, and we are looking to expand into further year levels next year.
Students have had some amazing experiences this week with computer science at many different year levels. Every year at this time, Code.org promotes Computer Science Education Week around the world in order to raise awareness about computer science. Classes from the elementary school and the secondary school have participated in a number of activities. Our hope is that with some exposure that some students will understand that they can succeed in this valuable area. Our students are learning to code both online and offline and are developing the skills needed for the future of work in 2030, such as effective communication, creative and critical thinking, problem-solving and people skills.
Try your own Hour of Code activity. Better yet, create something as a family.
Do you remember trying this out last year?
During the month of August NIST has distributed nearly 800 new MacBook Airs to students as we refreshed our MacBooks. The new machines are smaller yet have great battery life. We hope the students enjoy the enhanced display, audio, and TouchID security. More important than new machines is the reason that we use them. NIST teachers and students use technology as a tool to enhance and deepen their learning. We wanted to take this opportunity to remind our community of this vision. We feel that it is also a great time to point to a few resources which we have to help parents understand more about our laptop provision. Click this link to view Devices for Learning – Frequently Asked Questions.
We started the 2018-2019 school year with some beliefs about how we will use data (or evidence) to enhance student learning. A few key beliefs were that:
- learning is deepened when educators and learners act responsively to a variety of evidence,
- in using agreed, school-wide protocols and processes to collect, analyze, take action, and reflect, and
- teachers and students should be empowered to engage meaningfully with evidence.
To help make progress in this area, a voluntary Evidence-based Learning Committee was formed (click to see the members) which met a number of times and collaborated with many teams around the school using a new, school-wide protocol for looking at evidence objectively to decide upon next actions. The committee also developed some goals and action steps towards these goals for the 2019-2020 school year.
- Trial a clear evidence-based framework, that students, teachers & leadership use for learning and decision making processes.
- For teachers and students to use and interpret data from formative assessment to evaluate learning objectively and inform the next steps of learning.
- To understand and support students (learning and wellbeing), we will utilize structures and processes (e.g. the Evidence to Action protocol) to make informed decisions.
- Developing a shared culture of evidence-based conversations.
The committee is very much looking forward to making even more progress next year.
Year Five students are involved in a “How the World Works” unit where the central idea was “Exploration and innovation in robotics is changing society and the environment.” Students are inquiring along these lines: exploring and investigating robotics, impact of robotics on society and the environment, and creativity and innovation in robotics.
One theme we see in student thinking is how robotic innovation can solve problems. One of the tasks of the unit is to have students design something to solve a problem. They do this by prototyping with physical materials together with SAM Labs wireless electronic ‘blocks’ such as buttons, light sensors, motors, and LED lights. Solutions involve inputs, processing, and outputs. This is one of the fundamental parts of computational thinking. Students are also learning problem-solving by decomposing big problems into smaller parts in order to create a solution for each of the parts. They also find that iteration helps to reach a solution and that it is best to change only one thing at a time to see the effect.