Speck Monitor Empowers Citizen Scientists

The Speck air quality monitor was mentioned in a recent article by NPR's StateImpact series. The article focuses on citizen scientists and the impact their data can have on scientific research and activism. Part of the article covered the Citizen Sense project from the University of London. As part of the project, researchers gave Speck monitors to people living near natural gas development in Pennsylvania's Susquehanna county. The main interest of the project is not the air quality readings but what the residents do with the data.

The full article can be found here.

Website for the project can be found here.

Hear Me in Philadelphia for Fair Education Funding

On December 2nd and 3rd the Hear Me team traveled to Philadelphia to interview students for the Campaign for School Funding. This campaign is in partnership with the Education Law Center, and is part of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, a statewide effort of 40 organizations to ensure students’ access to quality education.

The team’s first stop was the Education Law Center's Philadelphia office, where Hear Me interviewed nine young people from various Philadelphia High Schools.

(Photo credit: Jay Frye)

The students discussed closing schools, adjusting to school mergers, budget cuts, class size, and the benefits of well-funded schools. Listen to these stories here. The night concluded with a group conversation over pizza, where students talked about empty classrooms, transportation, and school administration. 

19-year-old filmmaker Jay Frye, who visited Pittsburgh for last year’s Hear Me 101 screening to showcase his own documentary, photographed the visit and shared his stories.

(Photo credit: Jay Frye)

The following morning, the team split up to go to Palumbo High School and Lingelbach Elementary. At Palumbo, Ryan met with Eileen Duffy, a school nurse and a member of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools. Eileen shared Media Mobilizing Project's video, "Our Schools Are Not For Sale," which documents the schools funding crisis in Philly. 


The three students interviewed at Palumbo echoed the view of the documentary - Something must be done to save public education in Philadelphia.  

Jess and Alex interviewed eight students at Lingelbach Elementary about the effects of budget cuts on their education.  Lingelbach had recently been in the news for having an annual discretionary budget of only $160 for the 2014-2015 school year, which equals about 40 cents per student.

The Hear Me team regrouped in the afternoon at South Philadelphia High School to interview 11 students about resources and funding at their school.  Throughout the interviews, many students talked about the importance of their guidance counselor and stressed the need for additional counselors. At SPHS, there is only one guidance counselor appointed to both the junior and senior classes. 

In total, Hear Me covered over 600 miles and visited four collection sites in just over 36 hours.  Look for all of the stories to be on the Hear Me website soon.

We would like to extend a big thanks to our partners at the Education Law Center and Philadelphia Public Schools for making the trip possible and a special thank you to all of the young people who shared their stories in an effort to ensure fair funding in education.

To sponsor a kiosk on Fair Education Funding, email kiosk@hear-me.net and help support these young people.

- Ryan, Hear Me Project Coordinator

Borrow Finch Robots for Your Classroom or Library

In the past year, BirdBrain Technologies has sent sets of 50 Finch robots to over 70 schools to use for one month. The program has allowed tens of thousands of students to learn programming and robotics.

They are pleased to announce that they are re-opening the school loan program for 2015. 

More information for schools can be found here.


This year they are excited to expand the loan program to include libraries. Libraries can apply to receive 6 or more Finches for 3 to 9 months, with possibility of converting the loan into a permanent donation. 

More information for libraries can be found here.

Application deadline is January 19th, 2015.

Please consider The CREATE Lab as you think about Year-End or New-Year giving!

We would love to have your support to continue empowering a technology fluent generation in rural and urban areas, and creating tools such as the newly launched Breathe Cam, for everyday citizens and scientists.

Next year we look forward to presenting our first annual CONTEXT tech fluency conference, and to empowering communities with visual evidence of pollution through our eCam project.

To donate, please visit: http://give.cmucreatelab.org

Thank you for your time and consideration!

Best wishes for a wonderful Holiday Season!

~ The CREATE Lab Team

Hummingbird and Finch at TRETC

There's still time to register for the Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference on Nov. 17th & 18th. TRETC is the premier K-16 educational technology conference in Western Pennsylvania. Over 350 educators from K-12 schools, higher education and non-profits come to the event. In addition, each year over 30 vendors showcase their new technologies.

CREATE Lab has been featured in the past at TRETC and this year, the Hummingbird and Finch will be part of the Maker Space and will be part of Breakout Session B: Featured Presentation – Ball Room – 11:10 am – 12:10 pm

Presenter: Zee Poerio, K-8 Computer Teacher, St. Louise de Marillac Catholic School

Presentation Title: EdTech Takes the Runway at TRETC: Trends to Rock your Classroom Style

Description: This session will present trending APPS and tools in a fast-paced, fashion show format. Learn how to engage your students, stimulate creativity, foster collaboration, and encourage deeper learning while putting your teaching style in a class of its own.

Watch "TRETC invite 2014" on TouchCast
(Watch to the end to see the Hummingbird t-shirt and the Finch which will be in the fashion show.)

Hope to see you there!


Post submitted by Zee Poerio, St. Louise de Marillac Catholic School

First Summer of The Lemonade Project


The mission of the project was and continues to be—to enlighten and empower youth through the tools of science and art. By researching, designing and constructing site specific, action art projects, which were driven by digital data collected with CREATE Lab tools like the CATTFish, The Lemonade Project aims to not only brew citizen scientists, but cultivates future environmental leaders and educators.
 
The CATTFish is a digital apparatus that is used to measure the quality of water. 7 to 10 year olds measured the output of the CATTFish in six Allegheny neighborhoods: Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, North Side, Aspinwall, Braddock and Friendship/Garfield. 
 
Research was publicized via neighborhood Lemonade Stands and Facebook, where the participants shared their comparative findings. The first “stand” and recruiting session took place at The Three Rivers Arts Festival. After that, sessions ran out of the Alloy Studios and the Earthen Vessel summer camp in the East End. From there, the kids designed the stands and they learned to use the CATTFish tool to measure the quality of the water. Lemonade stands then broke out into city parks and local neighborhood streets to spread The Lemonade Project word! Each stand was visited by anywhere from 50 to 100 people.

If you didn't get a chance to stop by the stand this summer, The Lemonade Project plans to be back next summer at a park or neighborhood street near you!

Remarks to the WV Board of Education

Last year we attended the West Virginia Board of Education meeting to introduce them to the Satellite Network. This September we returned to to update them on the Network's activities in West Virginia over the last year

The people in the group photo, from left to right, are: Karen Savitz ASSET STEM Education, Jeffrey Carver West Virginia University, Jessica Meyers ASSET STEM Education, Rachel Hite CREATE Lab, Lou Karas West Liberty University, Dror Yaron CREATE Lab, Carrie Beth Dean Marshall University, Stan Maynard Marshall University


I’m Lou Karas, Director of the Center for Arts & Education at West Liberty University. I’m here today with my colleagues from the CREATE Lab Satellite Network. With me are Dror Yaron and Rachel Hite from the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University; Stan Maynard and Carrie Beth Dean from the Harless Center at Marshall University; Jeffrey Carver from the College of Education and Human Services at West Virginia University and Jessica Meyers and Karen Savitz from ASSET STEM Education.

Last fall, professor Illah Nourbakhsh the Director of CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute shared with the you the story and vision of the CREATE Lab and its Satellite Network.

We’re here today to give you a brief update on the work of the CREATE Satellite Network in West Virginia.


Update on the work of the CREATE Satellite Network in West Virginia

Over the past year, the satellite partners have worked, throughout WV with over 1,200 children, Pre-K through 12th grade and more than 700 educators, both teachers in the field and pre-service students at the three universities.

We are empowering a technologically fluent generation through experiential learning opportunities in and outside of school. The technology is the raw material, a tool for a child to use to explore and address real world issues, to learn - and communicate - about their own environment and perspective.

We’ve been able to take new technology tools from the desk of an engineer at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute to the hands of a child in rural West Virginia, making them among the first to gain access to these innovations.  Each of the Satellites not only provides training on the use of these technology tools but also, in many instances, is also able to lend the tools to teachers throughout the state.

Over the past three years the CREATE Lab Satellite Network has grown from a partnership between the CREATE Lab and the school of education at Marshall University, to a network including Marshall, West Liberty, West Virginia University, and Carlow University as well as ASSET STEM Education. Each Satellite team adapts and uses the CREATE Lab innovations in a locally meaningful way with the educators and future educators they support. Similarly, working closely with the CREATE Lab, the Satellites bring their communities’ needs to bear on the technology innovation process.

As the Satellite Network model of outreach is gaining traction and in light of its rapid growth, we recognize now is an appropriate time to invite more perspectives and stakeholders to the table, as we consider how to meaningfully direct and leverage the momentum and resources at hand. This has resulted in the formation of an advisory board that will meet for the first time later this fall at West Liberty.


Our work with children has focused on using four of the CREATE Lab technologies:


Message from Me

Message from Me enables young children to better communicate with their significant adults about their daytime activities at early childhood programs through the use of digital cameras, microphones, e-mail, phone messaging and other technologies. Originally developed using adapted computer kiosks, the program now uses an app developed for the i-Pad.

The Harless Center has been at the forefront of using Message from Me in their Pre-K classroom and sharing their experiences with others around the state.


The Children’s Innovation Project

The Children’s Innovation Project takes a broad interdisciplinary and integrated learning approach, focusing on creative exploration, expression and innovation with technology. Children explore and learn about electricity through hands-on engagement with a kit of components designed for young hands. Utilizing this learning, children disassemble toys, identify components and then repurpose and reconfigure these internal components into new circuits, empowering them with new relationships and understandings of their world.

The Harless Center has also taken the lead in the use of the Children’s Innovation Project in West Virginia schools. In addition ASSET and Carlow University are developing professional development programs, which will be shared with the Satellite partners for their use.


Arts & Bots

The third program is Arts & Bots. The Hummingbird robotics kit is designed to enable engineering and robotics activities for ages 10 and up that involve the making of robots and kinetic sculptures built out of a combination of kit parts and craft materials. Hummingbird provides a great way to introduce kids to robotics and engineering with construction materials that they are already familiar with. Hummingbirds have been used in nearly every aspect of the curriculum: teachers and students have completed Hummingbird units in science, art, math, history, english, drama, poetry, and character education classes. The kits have also been used in numerous summer camps, after-school programs and other community-based environments.

The CREATE Lab had been awarded a three-year $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant to support the “Creative Robotics” project, an innovative program that introduces robotic technology into non-technical middle school classes. It is the intent of the research project is to identify and nurture students with an affinity for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

All 7th and 8th grade students at Springdale Junior-Senior High School in the Allegheny Valley School District outside of Pittsburgh and all 6th, 7th and 8th grade students in the Mingo County Schools — a total of 900 children annually — are using the robotic kits developed at Carnegie Mellon University. They will use the kits to complete at least one project or assignment each year in required courses such as health, earth science and language arts.

The project also includes faculty members and pre-service educators in the schools of education at Marshall and West Liberty universities. We are working with CMU researchers to develop the curriculum and integrate the project into both existing and new courses for our students.


GigaPan

GigaPan is an earthly adaptation of NASA’s Mars Rover imaging technology - GigaPan helps bring distant communities and peoples together through images that have so much detail that they are, themselves, the objects of exploration, discovery, and wonder. Using a small robotic device, point and shoot camera, stitching software, interactive online platforms and large-scale prints, GigaPan is enabling people to explore, experience, and share each other's world.

West Virginia University is working with North Elementary School in Morgantown, to train the teacher to both use gigpan images as well as generating their own gigapan images.  The technology integration of Gigpan is being conducted in and around the Garden Based Learning project at the school.  The ability to take super high resolution images during the garden growing season and then utilizing those images during the non-growing months in the winter allows teachers to extend the garden based learning curriculum through the non-gardening months.

At West Liberty, we have incorporated learning how to use the GigaPan images and technology into several courses in the professional education program. We are also working with the art teachers in Ohio County Schools supporting them in the integration of GigaPan into their classrooms.


A key focus of the Satellite Network is to provide professional development opportunities for both teachers in Pre-K through 12th grade settings around the state –and- for our pre-service students

We have presented at conferences throughout the state included the West Virginia Technology conference and the West Virginia Art Education Association conference. The partners have provided opportunities ranging from GigaPan workshops lasting a few hours to weeklong Creative Robotics programs. It is important to note, that these programs are only the beginning of our work with teachers. Each Satellite provides on-going support to the teachers.

We are emphasizing the integration of the CREATE Lab resources into pre-service education because we believe it is important for our future teachers to learn these skills and technologies throughout their undergraduate years so they will be fully prepared to integrate them into their classrooms. ASSET, as our newest partner, will be involved in the expansion of this work.


Acknowledgements

I would like to acknowledge the amazing work done by Debbie Workman, Carrie-Meghan Quick Blanco and Cathy Walker. They devoted countless hours building the programs and services of the first Satellite site at the Harless Center. Over the summer, Debbie and Cathy retired and Carrie-Meghan moved on to another position. Their enthusiastic support has helped the other two Satellite sites get off the ground.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the support of Benedum Foundation and Jim Denova.  Jim has not only provided financial support for our work but has also shared connections and given us guidance as we expand the Network’s programs and services.


Looking ahead

next spring, The CREATE Lab Satellite Network and The Sprout Fund are partnering to present the first annual Creative Tech Conference: Best Practices of Creative Technology in Education on April 21 through the 23 in Pittsburgh. The Creative Tech Conference will ignite productive dialogue and spur the exchange of ideas about the use of creative technologies (or creative use of technologies) in education, teaching, and learning.  

The conference will feature two tracks of programming: Practice and Ecosystems. The Practice track will feature educators sharing ideas and stories around their methods and experiences with integrating technology creatively and successfully into their classrooms and programs. The Ecosystems track will focus on discussions about the networks and conditions that support and empower meaningful technology practice in education. We hope you will consider joining us for the conference.

In the mean time, we also invite you to visit us at Marshall, West Liberty and WVU to see the work of the CREATE Lab Satellite Network in action this school year.


Thank you,

Lou Karas, Director of the Center for Arts & Education at West Liberty University.

STEAM Learning in the Locomotion Lab

Art is a Catalyst in the Locomotion Lab

The Locomotion Lab is a STEAM lab in Chartiers Valley Intermediate School. It was set up through a 2013 STEAM grant that was sponsored by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit's Center for Creativity. The Locomotion Lab is a learning environment that centers on art to provide hands-on experiences and a creative means to teach science, technology, and above all creativity to elementary level students. Students have the opportunity to make do-it-yourself projects in screen printing, graphic design, robotics and recycled art. Each facet of the Locomotion Lab can be explored individually or combined depending on the depth of the project. 

A major component of the Locomotion Lab is Arts & Bots. Students in third, fourth, and fifth grade have used Hummingbird kits to unleash their inner maker through robotics. Students made robots to welcome spring, recycle materials, and animate animal habitats. During the upcoming school year all fifth grade students at Chartiers Valley Intermediate School will work in collaborative teams to design robots that can make art.

The Locomotion Lab was designed and run by the art teacher at Chartiers Valley Intermediate School, Mrs. Mary Mastren-Williams. The premise for using art as a catalyst in STEAM learning was an answer to a call from employers for a need of creativity in their employees. Using art to design and solve problems in a STEAM lab prepares our students for 21st century skills at an early age.

“What I love about Arts & Bots is that not only are we incorporating 21st century skills such as robotics and coding into all curricular areas, visual art is and the design process are being incorporated as well. Open any education book and you will read art and making are a catalyst in learning.”


-Blog post submitted by Mary Mastren-Williams, art teacher from Chartiers Valley Intermediate School

BirdBrain Technologies Hiring Educational Content Developer

Our friends at BirdBrain Technologies are hiring! Check out the job description below. 

Title: BirdBrain Technologies Educational Content Developer

Position Description
BirdBrain Technologies seeks a technical writer to develop tutorials and documentation for users of its upcoming Hummingbird Duo product. The Hummingbird Duo is an electronics kit designed to allow users of any age or experience level to build and program interactive, robotic artifacts. The predecessor to Hummingbird Duo, the Hummingbird Robotics kit, is in use in hundreds of classrooms and homes. Find out more about Hummingbird Duo on our Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/938274194/hummingbird-duo-a-robotics-kit-for-ages-10-to-110

Responsibilities:
Document and create tutorials that describe to a novice user how to program Hummingbird Duo with a number of different programming environments. These tutorials will include:
1. A large written component with appropriately designed graphics.
2. For most tutorials, screencasts and video tutorials.

Required Skills and Experience:
1. Technical writing or related degree (or significant progress towards completion).
2. Experience developing screencasts or other online video tutorials. 
3. Familiarity with editing websites using a content management system. Direct knowledge of Drupal websites a plus.
4. Some ability to design graphics or edit images using Photoshop or similar software packages.

Time Commitment:
This is a consulting position expected to require 10-20 hours of weekly work for three months. 

Perks:
Highly flexible hours, a free robotics kit, and your work will be appreciated by thousands of students and teachers.

Contact:
Please send a resume and portfolio to tom@hummingbirdkit.com if interested.

About us:
BirdBrain Technologies was founded in 2010 to commercialize robots and robotics kits developed at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute. Our products include the Finch and the Hummingbird. The Finch is a small robot designed to promote an engaging introduction to the art of programming. Hummingbird is a kit of parts that allows students to create and program robots built from kit components and craft materials. Together these products are in use in more than one thousand classrooms. as well as in libraries, museums, and homes. Learn more at www.birdbraintechnologies.com

More than a Number

An Open Essay by 16-year-old Denis McCormick

“People like to say we need to prepare students for real life, and what I counter that with is why don’t we make schools like real life itself-bring experiences outside of school into the school environment.”

This is a powerful quote from young education activist Nikhil Goyal (pictured above),who inspired me to further question standardized testing. As a student, I understand the importance of tests to track the progress of schools and individuals, but students shouldn’t be ranked based on test scores. The multiple-choice format of testing is a simplistic and inefficient way of assessment. It doesn’t show who the students are.

For example, students shouldn’t be labeled as “advanced,” “proficient” or “basic,” based on their answers to test questions. Coming from a low ranked school, I’ve seen students score poorly on these tests; meanwhile they have valuable real-life problem solving skills. I know that some of the things we learn are useful, but when will I be challenged in real life to fill in bubbles?

Schools put so much emphasis on the multiple choice section of standardized tests, but in the real world nothing will be given to us on a Scantron sheet with a packet full of multiple choice questions. As students, we struggle to find value in the state assessment system.

When I found out that our school district ranking was 437 out of 500, I felt that the Pittsburgh Business Times article was wrong and other students had mixed emotions. Some people agreed with the ranking, while others were mad, hurt and disappointed. We took action to make people realize that we are more than a number ranked by a system that fails to measure our real qualities. We all asked, ”Does this really define us? Are we really this bad?” We quickly shot down this thought and said, “We are more complex than what a test says about us. We are more than a number.” Then we decided as a collective group (The Future is Mine) to interview people on this topic and see how they felt about being labeled as “437”

Watch my documentary "437" here.

The state should provide more than just numbers about the students and the school district. The writers at the Pittsburgh Business Times were given the statistics and they were doing what they were supposed to do.  The numbers don’t show anything about the students’ character or their community.

It is difficult to measure creativity and social involvement, but we should be ranked and defined by more than our test scores. We never get a chance to tell the true stories about our community and the quality of the people who live there. We are all held back by the statistics and we need to break the shackles of the “standardization” of our community and tell the real stories.

Denis McCormick is a junior at Steel Valley High School