Sunday, February 7, 2016

Robot C Coding Language Powers Vex Competion Robot

Students in the US Vex Robotics program have been busy designing and testing their prototype for this years Vex competitions.  Their robot collects and throws balls, powered by Robot C a specialized coding language for robotics applications. Diane Goldstein, US Engineering and physics teacher has been working with Matt Frank in the Technology Department, along with faculty Bill Kingsbury  and Mike Rheam to develop the Vex student team. Competitions are upcoming so check back here for more information on the GA Vex Robotics team.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Squishy Curcuits: A KTK Engineering Project

In the most recent KTK session, kindergarten and Upper School students gathered in the Beard Center for Innovation’s Maker Space to build “Squishy Circuits.” “Squishy Circuits” were developed at the Playful Learning Lab at the University of St. Thomas. The objective is to allow kids to create circuits and explore electronics using play dough. Commercial play dough contains salt that allows it to conduct electricity, and thus be part of the circuit.

The kindergarten students designed a play dough insect that could ride on top the vibrating buzzer, then connected the circuit, and delighted in watching their bug buzz around. “By combining a little bit of art, science and technology, building ‘Squishy Circuits’ helps these young learners understand how electrical connections work,” explained Mrs. Martin, Lower School Science Specialist and faculty advisor of KTK.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Alumni Spotlight: Katelyn Koons

As a senior at Johns Hopkins University, Germantown Academy alumna Katelyn Koons '12 has plenty of experience with the design process of bringing a product to life. Koons is majoring in both Mechanical Engineering and Applied Math, and while home on winter break she recently presented her senior Mechanical Engineering design project to GA’s Honor Engineering course in the makerspace of the Beard Center for Innovation.

Koons and her college teammates are currently making a prosthetic ankle with an infinitely adjustable heel height for female veterans who want to wear high heel shoes between 0-4 inches.
"We had a fall design day where we presented in front of seven judges who are part of the American Society for Mechanical Engineering and we had to show our final prototype and where we're going to take it; how we're going to test it and what sort of adjustments we might make in the future," said Koons, who will finish her innovative product with her teammates during the second semester.
During the course of her presentation, Koons offered important insight into the design process and encouraged students to battle through any frustration they might feel at times during the prototyping stages of a project.

"Just build," she said. "Who cares if it fails? You’ll find another way." Koons also noted how important it is to have experience working in groups before college, and she’s certainly excited for students at GA who have the opportunity to practice teamwork and go through the design thinking process on a regular basis. "I think that's great,” noted Koons in regards to GA’s design thinking and project-based learning initiatives. "It's a lot to go from reading everything in a textbook, having everything all in theory, and going from that to building something that works. I think it's a very good idea to have a lot of projects."

After graduation, Koons has plans to complete a one-year post baccalaureate premedical program at Thomas Jefferson University and then plans to attend medical school. (posted on Today at GA)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Save Humpty Dumpty: A PreK Design Thinking Challenge

Rhyming is an important pre literacy skill for young children.  At Germantown Academy, PreK children learn many Mother Goose nursery rhymes and perform them for an audience in the Spring. 

To complement this work, PreK students are participating in a series of nursery rhyme design thinking challenges.  Their first challenge was to help Humpty Dumpty.  Could they design something to keep Humpty Dumpty safe if he fell off the wall?  The children first thought about ways that they keep themselves safe: seat belts, helmets, etc.  They then made representational drawings of their ideas to protect Humpty Dumpty.  

PreK children were given a variety of recycled materials to build models of their designs in the Tinker Lab.  Students’ creations varied from soft beds for Humpty to car seats with seat belts. Some children wrapped Humpty Dumpty in masking tape while others created a slide so Humpty Dumpty could get down safely.  

They built a wall of blocks and children were given their own Humpty Dumpty egg for testing.  Some cracked and some stayed in tact.  In either case, children were encouraged to go back and revise their designs so Humpty Dumpty would be safer for the next fall.    

Design thinking challenges like this one ask students to be reflective, to solve problems creatively, and to try again if something doesn’t work the first time.  When young children engage in design thinking projects, we give them an opportunity to internalize these habits as they begin their journey into lifelong learning.     

Sunday, December 13, 2015

5th Grade Baking in the Tinker Lab

In 5th Grade Social Studies, students have been studying the Great Depression, WWI and WWII.  During these times people had to “make do”, finding ways of baking without eggs, butter, milk, and such.  Students also explored rationing, an unfamiliar concept today, in reading the novel, Stepping on the Cracks, which also serve as a springboard for discussions on the topic of homelessness. 

In an attempt to bring all these strands of learning together students took over the Tinkering Lab for a day and made chocolate cakes using a recipe that didn’t use eggs, butter, or milk.  These were then donated to a fundraiser for the Interfaith Hospitality Network, an organization dedicated to providing temporary housing and support for those who would otherwise be homeless. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Engineering Students Prototype for VEX Robotics Competition

Most periods of the day, you will find GAs engineering and robotics team hunkered down in the maker space, tweaking designs and prototyping for this year's Vex Competition.  Faculty from different areas of the school with specialties in fields related to robotics work help students with their projects from design to coding, from building skills to test sessions.