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Ev3 Robots Learning Tools Lesson Resources SuperTopic Update

Ev3 Robotics Lesson for Superstars: Lesson 1

ev3 robotics lesson

I came to STEM education by way of working in an after school program where I taught an Ev3 Robotics Lesson to students in grades 4-8. At the time, I was beginning my career in education, working on an MA in English, and hadn’t programmed a computer since college in the late 1990’s. The after school program director handed me an Ev3 education kit, and had me learn how to use it over Christmas break. I had a little more than a week (crammed full of holiday stuff) to not only learn an Ev3 Robotics Lesson myself, but to also create a lesson to teach twelve students. This series of posts is designed to help you avoid the brain damage I suffered at my own hands by giving you a good place to start, and some resources for further exploration.

First, it’s important to note that I am writing this with the assumption that you already know how to program in the Ev3 language, or are at least familiar with blockly. If neither of these things are true, DON’T PANIC help is here. Still with me? Good. If you have absolutely no computer programming experience go to Code.org, and run through their hour of code. After running through the exercises you will know significantly more than your students do. If you have some programming experience, things are easier. You can get familiar with the Ev3 programming environment by going to the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy web site, and running yourself through their free intro to programming with Ev3 Robotics Lesson. That lesson in particular is so good, I will be referring back to it periodically throughout my Ev3 posts.

Notes:

It’s important to note that this will be the first of many posts about my Ev3 Curriculum. If I tried to write out the entire curriculum here it would be a novel length post. This is the first part of the greater unit. As the first lesson in a large series I will cover the materials, what to teach, and how to teach the first lesson. I will also outline the standards applicable to the lesson in this post specifically. As I post each subsequent lesson, I will add the standards appropriate to that lesson at the end of the article.

If you’ve already read my Intro to Rocketry lesson post you will know this already, but in case you haven’t (yet). I do lesson plans a bit differently than you may be used to. I write out the plan in a manner that is meaningful to me as a teacher. The first thing I typically need to know is what materials I need, followed by what to teach, followed by how to teach it, and finally the applicable standards. Here we go!

Ev3 Robotics Lesson Materials

  • 1 LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 Core Set (5003400) for every 2-4 students.
  • 1 Laptop or Desktop Computer for each kit (Chromebooks do not work well).
  • Paper, Pencils
  • A safe area to test robots – I built a 4 foot by 4 foot table top from some 2×4’s and plywood, then I painted it all white, and made a square sumo ring out of black gorilla tape. If there appears to be interest in one I can make an instructable, but its super simple to build.  I also have large shop tables in my classroom.

 

What to Teach

  • General Knowledge

    • First you need to go over the basic truths of computing: For this I work some “Big Ideas” into my lessons, many of which can be found from ISTE here.
    • Next you need to discus basic truths of computer programming: Again, I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here. I use these “Big Ideas” to teach them. Essentially, you are trying to get to the following concepts:
      • Computers do exactly what you tell them too.
      • Computers need incredibly specific instructions in order to operate.
      • Computer programs execute commands in sequence.
      • Computers & Computer Programs encompass much more than games.
      • Computers are capable to incredible precision & repetition.
      • Problems of any type are best solved by breaking them down into smaller pieces.
  • Ev3 Robotics Lesson Specific Information

    • Movemant
      • Forward & Backward
      • How far
      • Turning
    • Loops
      • Count
      • Infinity
    • Sensors & Arm Control
      • Touch
      • Color
      • Ultrasonic
    • Logic
      • Wait
      • Switch

 

The above is typically all I have time for in a given section of my Ev3 Robotics Lesson basics class. Now that we have our tools in place, and know what we intend to teach it’s time to get into how to teach it. The actual Robot I use for my lessons is the standard Edubot to get the build you can follow the link, or find instructions in the Ev3 for education software. There are also other platforms out there for this lesson. My favorite is RileyRover, designed by Damien Key for use with his book which I review as part of my Top 5 STEM teaching books post.

How to teach the basic Ev3 Robotics Lesson

General knowledge:

There are three main ways I teach this portion of my lesson depending on the grade level, and capability of my students. This first way is to simply work these topics into my discussions with the kids about each challenge I assign them. This is the most common way I get this information across to my students. Essentially, their engagement skyrockets the moment they start working with the robots so I try to make that happen as soon as possible. The other ways I have done it in the past is to assign the general info as  a research project, or use guided class discussion.

Ev3 Robotics Lesson Specific Content:

This information is delivered through modeling & problem solving challenges. As you will see below, I go over how to do a given programming task then assign a challenge similar to what I went over, but with additional complications. My goal is to have the kids get a very basic understanding from me before learning experimentally in their groups. What follows will give you how I teach the content. If you don’t know how to solve these problems, and are uncomfortable with not knowing the answers take the time to go through the full Carnegie Mellon curriculum yourself.

Before moving on to the programming challenges below, make certain all of the robots are properly constructed, and that your students can do the following with minimal guidance:

  • Turn the robot on.
  • Turn the Robot off.
  • Select a program (I use the Demo program built into the Ev3 brick)
  • Run a program.

 

Movement Challenge:

movetankblockresize1-20percent

Prior to assigning the below challenge, I walk my students through the various parts of the Move Tank Block (shown above). They are given a worksheet with a picture of the move tank block, and we walk through the various parts of the block talking about the manner of movement (rotations, seconds, degrees, on, off), the speed/direction of movement (power settings for each motor, and what positive & negative numbers do), and the amount of movement in a guided mini discussion. They go back to their computers, and I walk them through writing a program that makes the robot move forward 4 rotations. Students then download, and run the program. Finally I present them with the challenge:

Ev3 Robotics Lesson Challenge 1: How Far (2-4 Class Periods)
  • Students will write a computer program that moves the Edubot forward 3 rotations, then moves backward 3 rotations.
    • Students will run the program 3 times, and write down the distance the robot travels in inches.
  • Next, students will change the manner of movement in their program to seconds.
    • Students will run the program 3 times, and write down the distance the robot travels in inches.
  • The class then gathers, and goes over the recorded data together finding the mean, median, mode, and range of the numbers they collected. They may also be asked to convert these numbers to Metric depending on your math lesson.
  • Once everyone agrees on what the average distance of all of the tests was, they are asked to construct a mathematical model illustrating how far Edubot will go in 1 rotation, 1 second, 0.5 rotations, and 0.5 seconds (they may not use the robot to figure this out).
  • Next, ask your students to prove their model on their robots by posing time & distance questions. You can give them as many or as few time & distance questions as you want.
  • Finally, ask your students to reflect on how the power setting would effect distance if rotations, or seconds are the manner of movement.

 

Final Notes On How To Teach This Lesson:

This lesson is designed to introduce students to the Ev3 environment, and programming in general. It has been written with grade 5 students in mind. The best places to expand this lesson are in the areas of math, and technology. One expansion I have done is data operations in a spreadsheet program. This expands both the math & technology aspects of this lesson. Expanding the math into more advanced concepts such as circumference of a circle is also an option. I do this by having my students take radius measurements of the wheels and apply the circumference of a circle equation.

You may have noticed that there really isn’t much science in this lesson. The lack of science content here is because this lesson is designed to be a part of a greater lesson about planet science. In my classroom we talk a lot about the Mars Rover programs. Throughout my robotics curriculum we apply what we are doing to the science performed by the Rovers. I have also considered making parallels between Ev3 programming and electricity, but I haven’t implemented it yet.

Standards:

Technology:

The main technology standards here involve the use, and exposure to robotics. Students are also learning some computer science, and transportation technology in addition to the ISTE standards above.

NGSS Science/Engineering:

The science standards here will depend greatly on the science content you present alongside the lesson. My lesson focuses loosely on the Space Systems standard, but your doesn’t need to. Regardless of weather you decide to make this part of a science lesson or not, you are certainly giving the students an engineering performance task.

Common Core Math:

 

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Learning Tools Lesson Rockets SuperTopic Update

Lesson: SuperStar Rocketry 1 – Intro to Rocketry & Data

lesson:rocketryintro

 

5…4…2…1…LAUNCH, LAUNCH, LAUNCH! Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for; an actual lesson plan for rocketry! Without a solid foundation of common vocabulary, data use, aerodynamics, and science any other lesson in rocketry will fail to launch (Sorry, I couldn’t resist), as such we need to begin at the beginning. Don’t worry, this isn’t rocket science. Wait, it IS rocket science (Last one, I promise)! Still, don’t worry even if you don’t have any experience teaching a rocketry lesson. After reading this post I am certain you’ll be able to guide your students to learn everything they need to know to get started. Also, rockets are fun!

This particular lesson is designed for middle school (Grades 6-8) with solid fuel model rockets in mind, but with a little creativity you could easily adapt it to Bottle Rockets, or perhaps even Stomp Rockets. I teach this lesson as part of any rocketry unit I do. Whether the kids have been given this info before or not, they get it again. The purpose for the repetition is that often, my students won’t see me for a year or more. In that instance their brains have been stuffed so full of other stuff that the likelihood of them remembering Newton’s Laws, The Parts of a Model Rocket, Safe Launch Procedures, How to Collect Launch Data, or How to Use an Electronic Spreadsheet are exceptionally low.

It is also worth noting that my style of writing a lesson plan isn’t what you may be used to. I write out the plan in a manner that is meaningful to me as a teacher. The first thing I typically need to know is what materials I need, followed by what to teach, followed by how to teach it, and finally the applicable standards. Here we go!

Lesson Materials:

  • A Rocket Launch System: This would include the launch platform, and the launcher itself. There are many, many options. I recommend a launch system that requires two buttons to be pressed before the rocket fires. That way the teacher can control one button, and the student rocketeer the other. That said, any rocket launch system will have a safety switch, so don’t break the bank.
  • An educator bulk pack of model rocket kits (along with whatever additional materials the kit recommends): You are looking for enough kits for each student to have a rocket, and you want them to be on the heavier side (between .8 and 1 ounce is ideal). The reason for this is that  most schools are launching on sports fields so, you want a relatively low altitude which will result in a smaller potential landing area. Alternatively, you can scratch build rockets by a wide variety of methods. I will eventually cover how to scratch build a rocket while only ordering a few pieces I haven;t figured out how to fabricate yet, but this isn’t that post.
  • An educator bulk pack of Model Rocket Engines. You are looking for the A8-3 sized engine. Again, this is a low power engine which will limit your altitude.
  • Altitude tracking system: I use the one here (starting on page 109), but I found plans for this one while looking for a link to the one I use, and may be moving to it in the near future. You could also buy this one. You will need three systems that are exactly the same.
  • Three Stop Watches
  • Three Clipboards
  • Paper & Pencils
  • Video Recording Device that can record in Slow Motion & Take high quality photos.

 

What to Teach:

 

  • Parts of a Model Rocket (Technology): If you later do any design units you will want to revisit this topic. Rocket design with 3D printing will be covered in another post.
  • How to build a Model Rocket (Technology)
  • Newtons Laws of Motion (Science): You can get math heavy or math light with this topic depending on what your students can manage.
  • Aerodynamics (Science)
  • Model Rocket Safety Code (Technology)
  • Using spreadsheet software (Technology)
  • Collecting & Using Data (Math)
  • Engineering Documentation (Engineering)

 

How to Teach:

 

  • Parts of a Model Rocket: I have taught this bit before as a lecture, and as a research project. I have found that for my particular program lecture works best because I combine this unit with a study of how Nose Cone shape effects altitude. As such I have more pieces to discuss than are found on kit based rockets. Whether you have the kids research it first or not, make sure you have a discussion about it, that way you can be certain you’re all on the same page in terms of vocab.
  • How to build a Model Rocket: Depending on the age level you work with, and the ability of your students you can either go through the instructions step by step, or have the kids try to read the instructions that come with the kits. I have done kits with 4th graders and gone through all the steps, 6th graders and let the kids figure it out, and 8th graders where I went through each step. You know your students best, and should make the determination about how much hand holding to give them.
  • Newton’s Laws of Motion/Aerodynamics: I really love these topics as research tasks. My school happens to be a google school so we have access to google classroom. This is one of those instances where google classroom is fantastic. For this lesson, students do online research about Newton’s Laws, define them, and detail how they apply to model rocketry in the classroom. Students cite their sources by providing links to their research after the body of their post.  Aerodynamics is taught similarly, and ask them to detail how aerodynamics will effect the altitude of a model rocket. I prefer to do it this way because my class time is better spent building rockets than lecturing. This method also shows me exactly what each student knows, as opposed to a lecture where I have no immediate feedback.
  • Data Collection/Using Data/Spreadsheet Software: These topics we work through as a class. On Launch day I have the students collect altitude data using the altimeters, and flight time data with the stop watches. I also have them write down if the recovery device deployed or not as well as any other observations they want to make. You can make up a worksheet for this or just have the kids write it out. I have had them write it out thus far, but plan on using a worksheet moving forward. After the launch, we put the data into a spreadsheet, and find averages. We also attempt to determine why any variation occurred in our data by recalling observations. With google classroom I can give my students each a copy of a spreadsheet with the basic structure, but no data. This saves a lot of time.
  • Engineering Documentation: As the students are building their rockets, I try to have them take build in progress pictures. Students are not the designers of this build, but I want to teach them about documentation because later units are design focused. For me, efficiency is critical, and as such I teach as many skills a possible in a unified manner. I also have them digitize any notes they take by photographing them. Again, I am prepping them for design units later on.
  • Model Rocket Safety Code: This portion is always done by modeling. We discuss the safety code generally then go through launch procedures several times before we go out to the launch area. Safety is absolutely crucial to model rocketry. Part of that is developing good launch procedures and sticking too them. There is a ton of information on the National Association of Rocketry web site about what good launch procedures look like.

 

(Protip: Make certain you put together a kit, and launch a rocket yourself before doing it with the kids. Sometimes strange instructions are given,and you will want to be prepared. You will also find likely trouble spots during your own build where you will want to give extra instruction. Don’t be afraid of not knowing the answer, but make sure you are setting reasonable expectations with your students.)

 

Applicable Standards:

 

NGSS Middle School:

 

Forces and Interactions

Energy

Common Core Math Grade 7:

The below standards are just what I have come up with. You apply math standards in how you present, and analyze the data. The great thing about rocketry is that since it is so data heavy, you can use whatever math you want to in order to present that data.

The Number System

Expressions & Equations

Geometry

Engineering & Technology:

There really isn’t a design task with this unit, but it is prep for some major design lessons. The best I would say for engineering is that you make an argument for teaching engineering mindset. We teach engineering mindset through the collection of data, and taking build in progress pictures. Again, as no national standards exist teachers need to see what they can fit in, and where to fit it in. The same with technology, this unit is all about transportation technology, and uses a lot of information technology as vehicles to teach the science & math.

Teaching Technology & Engineering in this manner is perfectly fine, these subjects should be integrated in everything we do in Science & Math. We need to make certain however, that we have other lessons where our students can actually make something.  For those occasions where they can’t, a good thing to do is to find away to integrate the Engineering Habits of Mind into your lessons.

That about covers the first rocketry lesson. This could be the beginning of a unit, or a stand alone event. It could build to design tasks using 3D prionters, or fabricating rockets from found materials. In any case you always need to start somewhere, in terms of rocketry as a vehicle for SuperStar STEM integration this is a perfect place to start. Thanks for your time, and don’t forget to sign up for updates in the footer below.

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Books Classroom Management Learning Tools Opinion Resources Top 5 Update

Books as SuperStar STEM Teaching Resources: Top 5

top five stem teaching books

 

Despite the massive tonnage of information available on the internet from places like this little ‘ol blog I found that when I started my STEM teaching journey I really didn’t even know what to look for. Couple that with my lifelong love of reading (including a Masters in English), and it’s only natural that I’d turn to books. Specifically, books on Amazon, and ideally books that I could pop onto my kindle reading app with nothing more than a click of a button. Even with the incredible ease of purchase, there was still the matter of finding the right book, and reading it of course.

If you do a search for STEM on Amazon (or anywhere else for that matter) you get a pile of stuff that you don’t really know is applicable, genuine, good, or even useful for what you are doing. It is my humble hope here to give you some incite about what books I have found to be good investments to increase my effectiveness as a STEM teacher.

In the list below I have linked the Amazon listing where possible. I have linked the actual physical book even in cases where there is a Kindle option to give you the choice of what format to buy it in. Unless noted otherwise, I have actually read the books listed below and applied some or all of what they contain to my actual classroom practice. In the interest of full disclosure I want you to know that if you buy one of these books after clicking on the link provided below I will get a small commission from Amazon. Buying in this manner will help to keep the site up and running while keeping me motivated to create more free content for you to enjoy.

First, lets discuss classroom management. I put this first because without a solid classroom management system in place you won’t be able to effectively teach anything, let alone project based STEM. The very best resource on classroom management that I have ever seen is:

Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids: (and the rest of your class, too!)

by Chris Biffle

books:wholebrainteachingcover

 

I use the advice in the book above many times per day every day. It teaches teachers how to set, and enforce classroom expectations while at the same time keeping the classroom environment light, and conducive to engaged learning. I recommend this book to literally every single teacher I meet.

Next, I want to recommend a book on STEM as a generalized topic of education. Regardless of the specific STEM content you are working with, there is a general way I feel professional educators should go about teaching it. We need to be encouraging a few specific traits in our students that STEM lends itself well to. Traits such as problem solving, growth mindset, creativity, and grit are crucial not only to real world STEM endeavors, but to life in general. As such we should be developing our curriculum as a set of design challenges. In order to figure out the best way to do this I found this book:

Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom

by Sylvia Libow Martinez, and Gary S. Stager 

 

books:inventtolearncover

 

I have read this book several times, and am always inspired to make my lessons better when I do. It talks about the history of Project Based Learning, and gives STEM teachers some valuable advice about how to teach the engineering design process. Just by absorbing this book you will become a more effective STEM educator.

We started out here with classroom management, and moved into STEM generally. Now it’s time to dive into some specific content areas. For me, one of the most effective content tools for STEM Education is model rocketry. In fact, I have written a whole post on why I think its effective, what national standards apply to it, and why you should have it as one of your units. That post can be found here. If you are going to dive into rocketry in your classroom, whether your dive is shallow or deep, there is one definitive book out there that will cover everything you need to know to get started. It has been revised seven times to keep up with advancing understanding, and was initially written by one of the founders of the model rocketry hobby. This book is literally, THE resource for model rocketry.

 

books:handbookofmodelrocketrycover

 

This book is not only a fantastic read, but covers the subject in such incredible detail that it’s hard not to be able to teach rocketry well after reading it. I have been doing rockets with my students in one form or another for the past three years, and still refer to this text at least once per week. If you are going to do rocketry you need this book.

The two main systems I work with in my classroom are rockets & robots. Specifically, in terms of robots I use Lego Mindstorms Ev3 for Education. I have already outlined general rocketry in a post, and will do the same with robots in the future (though as of this posting my next post is going to be a rocketry lesson plan) Books on Ev3 for educaiton are few, and far between, at least when I was looking so most of my lesson ideas have come from a collection of web based portals (which I will outline in another post), but there is one book I have found to be indispensable to my teaching practice.  When I had 1 week to figure out how to teach robotics this book saved my bacon.

 

books:classroomactivitiesforthebusyteacherev3cover

This particular book is a bit on the spendy side at almost $55.00, and only comes in print, but it really is a fantastic resource. I encourage anyone who is just starting an Ev3 curriculum, or even seasoned pros to give it a read. When I was starting it really helped me get through the sticky bits of this stupendous learning tool.

Finally, I would be remiss in a Top 5 STEM Teaching Books post if I didn’t have a Raspberry Pi book. I mention the Pi in my Top Five STEM Learning Tools post, and fully intend to spend a good deal of time on the blog writing about projects, lessons, and uses for the Pi. As such I wanted to make sure I listed a book. Unfortunately, unlike the Lego Ev3 book challenges there are just so many great Raspberry Pi books that picking just one is tough to do. What I had to do is narrow down my selection by focusing on a book that will fit into my own curriculum. Here’s what I came up with:

 

books:programmingtheraspberrypicover

 

Again, in the interest of full disclosure I actually have the First Edition of this book, and though I have read it, I haven’t applied it in my classroom yet. Programming with Python, which is actual coding is a bit of a sticky wicket for the grade levels I teach. I have done some Linux & Python work with some of my more advanced grade 7 & 8 students, but hesitate to add coding into my curriculum as an actually unit. As I have learned in the past three years, there are some concepts that even I can’t teach to every single 7th or 8th grader in 21, 45 Minutes sessions (the average number of days in a standard quarter which is all I get them for). That said, if I ever move to High School, or ever feel bold enough to try it in grade 8, this book would be the basis of my unit.

That wraps up our Top 5 Books post, but stay tuned to the site for more Top 5 posts, Lesson Plans, product evaluations, and general discussion about STEM education. The very best way to do that is to sign up for my newsletter in the lower right hand corner of this page. Thanks for stopping by!

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Learning Tools Rockets SuperTopic Update

Rocketry as a SuperStar STEM Super Topic

why teach STEM with rocketry

To place a man in a multi-stage rocket and project him into the controlling gravitational field of the moon where the passengers can make scientific observations, perhaps land alive, and then return to earth – all that constitutes a wild dream worthy of Jules Verne.

Lee De Forest

There are very few topics I have found that so naturally lend themselves to STEM as model rocketry. I had the privilege to be named the very first Certified Rocketry Educator by the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) , and am such a huge advocate of it that I use it for two years of curriculum in my classroom. I have also developed teacher workshops around model rocketry, and mention it as part of my teacher training on 3D printing. There are loads of free resources on the internet, a couple solid books on the topic, and piles of info and resources from the NAR, Apogee, Estes, NASA, and YouTube.

In subsequent posts I will go into great detail on two of my own Rocketry Units, but this is a general “Why Bother With Rockets” sort if post. As with other “Super Topic” general posts I will outline a few of the many areas in which a STEM category can be applied to Model Rocketry. (Note: The below standards info is intended to cover all types of rocketry including Stomp Rockets, Water Rockets, and Solid Fuel Model Rockets. Different types of rocketry are appropriate for different age groups. Use your discretion, and remember that safety is everyone’s job 1.)

Science/Engineering Standards NGSS:

 

Math Standards Common Core Math:

As this post refers to rocketry in general as a STEM Super Topic it is more effective to think of rocketry in terms of the design problems, and data operations as opposed to grabbing specific standards for each grade. In your design assignments with rocketry, no matter the grade level you will always be able to come up with points where you can insert Counting & Cardinality, Operations & Algebraic Thinking, and Ratios & Proportional Relationships. When you begin to collect flight data you begin delving into both Geometry, and Measurement & Data. In fact, I’d wager to say that ion lesson design you can come up with just about any math lesson you need using rocketry. Rocketry, after all is pure science, and Math is the language of science.

Technology Education Standards:

As of right now there is no national technology education set of standards in America. Some states have adopted state based standards around technology, and you can check with your own state board of education to see if the below will apply. In the State of NH (Where I teach) we have Tech Ed standards broken out into several different topics including engineering. I have detailed above what engineering education looks like from the NGSS perspective, and those standards seem to jive well with our state engineering standards so I won’t dive into them again.

However, if you develop a design task that fits the NGSS Engineering standard for your particular grade level you should be fine. Additionally, Rockets are  form of transportation, and in their construction students need to use tools. Students also needs to use a variety of materials to produce rockets, and can use computers (information technology) to design them. A great technology tag team for rocketry is a piece of free web based software called TinkerCad, and a 3D printer if you need emergent technology or drafting. (Note: Tinkercad requires, and email address to sign up, and parental permission if a student is under 14)

That about covers the general STEM standards that I use with rocketry (Feel free to do further research, and come up with your own).  I will be writing a series of specific lesson plans for Model Rocketry in the future that will cover specific standards at the grade level the lesson is designed for, so stay tuned to the blog by signing up for our mailing list. Sign up widgets are at both the top of the home page, and bottom of the every page (Including this one). Thanks for stopping by.

 

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Learning Tools Opinion Top 5 Update

Top Five STEM Learning Tools Wishlist

top five stem learning tools

One of my greatest mentors in STEM told me a learning tools story soon after we met. He told me about his first teaching position, and one of his own mentors. The head of his department took him into the storage room, and showed him a set of 30 Microscopes. When my mentor said “How did you get all these?” his mentor replied “One or two at a time over the course of a 20 year career”.

Education is a marathon, not a sprint, don’t be afraid to take your time. The learning tools below are fantastic! They are also expensive, and if you read this post not necessary for a strong STEM lesson.

Below is a “Wishlist” of the top STEM learning tools as of the date of this posting. These are the tools to aim for when you ask for extra money, or run a Donors Choose Campaign. If you are exceptionally lucky, and get a lot of funding to start or improve a STEM program you can get several at once. However, if you didn’t win the funding lottery try to buy a little each year.

Some of what I mention below I currently use in my classroom, some I have plans to get in the future, and still others are “dream” tools. Regardless of whether I have it now, am working towards getting it, or simply wish for it, I have a plan for how it will be used. As I mentioned in another article Content Drives Technology.

1)  3D Printer

A 3D printer is hands down the best STEM tool ever invented. It allows educators to customize their curriculum by adding design, and engineering components seamlessly. Almost regardless of the lesson you are teaching, you can integrate 3D printing technology seamlessly. In this blog I will be detailing my own lessons that utilize 3D printing, and design to give you inspiration.

Just check under 3D Printing Lessons (As of this post I haven’t added any yet, but plan on it within the next several days). Depending on your specific needs, skills, and budget these can be purchased for anywhere form $500.00 TO $5,000.00 (or more) so, make sure you research 3D printers very well before buying. I will post some articles about 3D printers, and specifically the ones I have used under the category Product Evaluations (again, I haven’t posted any yet).

2) Lego Mindstorms Ev3

Though there are several platforms available in the marketplace I recommend this one for two reasons. First, it’s the only one I have personal experience with. Second, they allow for data collection, and analysis  with their education version. Though other platforms are similar in that you can program them with a block based language, and have click together hardware for building, I haven’t seen any other that come native with data tools. Lego is also the oldest, and as such there are a ton more resources available than I have seen for other robotics platforms. I use them to teach intro programming, intro mechanical engineering, and advanced programming.

AS the blog progresses I will be posting my lessons, as well as the resources I have used to the blog eventually under the Ev3 Lessons category, but haven’t yet. There will also be posts on here about how to use Ev3 because it can be a bit daunting at first. It is also important to note that you don’t need to shoot for the moon right away. Try starting out your purchasing with an idea of a 4 to 1 ratio of students to kits, you can work over time to reduce that to 2 to 1, but I wouldn’t go down to 1 to 1 with grade 5 and 6 which is where my robotics program is offered. Core kits are around $400.00, and Expansion Kits are around $100.00 each.

3) Raspberry Pi

These little computers can do so much for your STEM curriculum. Not only can you teach coding, physical programming, Linux, and circuitry, but you can use the Pi itself for a wide variety of design tasks. I have seen them used as a controller  for everything from weather stations to cafeteria signage, web servers, and even Minecraft Servers. Really, anything that requires some manner of electronic control can use a Pi as its brain. It is also a fantastic next step after getting your students comfortable with block based programming like the programming found in Lego Mindstorms Ev3, App Inventor 2, or Scratch.

I will be posting lessons for this under the Rapsberry Pi Lessons category, but haven’t yet. The big advantage to using the Pi is that the computer itself is under $40.00. You will need keyboards, monitors, mice, and peripherals, but with a lot of these extras can be found in storage closets in most public schools.

4) Andriod Tablets/Smart Phones

I love this tool for many reasons. The first, and best reason is MIT App Inventor 2. This tool alone (which is free) allows your students to be able to apply their school work directly to their lives by making fully functioning Android Apps. The most common question I get from students in my school since I started has been “Mr. T, can you show me how to make Apps?”. After discovering MIT App Inventor 2 I can finally tell them that I can. App Inventor 2 is so amazing that there are even a whole curriculum worth of video tutorials that teach you (and your students) how to use it. Since it’s free there are also a TON of online resources for project ideas, and help using it.

As if that weren’t enough of a reason I have also been using tablets in my classroom to document my students work. Again, I will go into exactly how I have done this in a later post, but haven’t gotten to it yet. Android tablets seem to start at around $100.00 if you can’t get phones or tablets donated.

5) LASER Cutter

This is the only STEM learning tool listed in this article that I don’t currently have in my classroom. I list it here because it it almost as amazing as a 3D printer, and if you can combine the two you can do just about anything. These also seem to start at about $5,000.00 as of the time of this writing.

LASER cutters are computer controlled, and are used to cut flat objects. Depending on the specifications of the machine you have they can cut anything from cardboard to wood, metal, and plastic. I like them because they are a natural compliment to my 3D printer.

 

I hope you have found the above list useful in your purchase planning. If you have other ideas of fantastic STEM learning tools, or how you use them please feel free to pop on over to the Contact page, and let me know!