Preparing for Robotics

Preparing for Robotics
Students at DC's Whittier Educational Campus with ReSET Volunteer Peter Mehrevari

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Brighter Future?

Do you think your elementary school students are starting to think of their long-term financial and lifestyle prospects?  The information below may be of use to supplement ReSET volunteers' discussions of what sparked their interest in science and math, their educational background and what they do on the job.  Maybe the students could make a bar chart of salary levels with a bar representing minimum wage salaries as well?   

It can be pretty frustrating for anyone who is hitting the pavement in search of work these days. But it can be particularly daunting for new grads who are inexperienced, burdened with debt, and confronting less than stellar starting salaries in their first jobs.

Take heart.

Not all college graduates face these grim prospects. PayScale’s College Salary Report indicates that engineering degree holders are the top salary earners, offering the quickest return on their educational investment. This spring, a Georgetown University study also gave highest honors to engineering degrees after ranking median salaries by major. In addition, the study revealed that many students in the top-earning majors went on to work within their fields, suggesting that not only will graduates with science and engineering degrees find a job, they will find one that interests them and pays well.  

Below are the 10 college degrees found by PayScale to lead to the highest starting and mid-career salaries:

• Petroleum Engineering
(Median starting salary: $97,000)

• Chemical Engineering
(Median starting salary: $64,500)

• Electrical Engineering
(Median starting salary: $61,300)

• Materials Science and Engineering
(Median starting salary: $60,400)

• Aerospace Engineering
(Median starting salary: $60,700)

• Computer Engineering
(Median starting salary: $61,000)

• Physics
(Median starting salary: $49,800)

• Applied Mathematics
(Median starting salary: $52,600)

• Computer Science
(Median starting salary: $56,600)

• Nuclear Engineering
(Median starting salary: $65,100)

Learn more about these high-paying fields

ReSET in action! Chemical Engineer Clarence Wade makes polymer chemistry come alive for 4th-graders. []

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Amazing Pendulum

ReSET Volunteer George Pick sent the following message.  It could be hard to persuade our students it's not magic...   

Hello everyone; Somebody sent this fascinating video. It is worth watching:

Science on YouTube

ReSET Volunteer George Pick sent the following message.  It could be hard to persuade our students it's not magic...   

Hello everyone;
Somebody sent this fascinating U-tube video. It is worth watching.
George Pick



 Hello everyone;
Somebody sent this fascinating U-tube video. It is worth wathing.
George Pick

Monday, July 11, 2011

ReSET Volunteer Ed Rock's Take on Pre-K

 “You almost always leave the pre-school with students telling you they LOVE you.  This is pretty life affirming, especially if you’re having a bad day!”

Edward Rock may not have volunteered with ReSET for very long, but he’s already feeling the love. The last six months, Rock, who has a background in science education publishing, has been teaching General Science to NSF preschoolers at the National Science Foundation’s Bright Horizons Child Care Center.

His first sessions with the children, who are between 2 and 4 years of age, have focused on magnets and the concepts of attract and repel. “We built ‘magnetic visualizers’ ” shared Rock, “so that the children could actually visualize some of the magnetic force lines in three dimensions. We used re-purposed clear 12 oz. soda bottles with iron fillings and mineral oil and cow magnets to allow the students to ‘see’ the magnetic fields generated by permanent magnets.  Lots of oohs and ahs.”

Rock is one of the first volunteers to join ReSET’s new Pre-K program that is being delivered through a partnership with D.C.-area Bright Horizons Day Care Centers. This innovative scientist-in-the-classroom program for “Two to to Four” learners supports ReSET’s mission of engaging children at an early age in science and math through positive and creative hands-on experiences.

Interested in learning more about ReSET’s Pre-K program? Send a message to Harold Sharlin:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

ReSET Volunteer Feedback Sought

Mike Mouly of Charlottesville, Virginia is exploring a program in which students would generate ideas for innovations in science and engineering, and professional scientists and engineers would provide them feedback.  The objective is to encourage students to undertake studies in math and science that will enable them to pursue their ideas.  Mike contacted me and said he thought that the feedback from ReSET volunteers could be very helpful to him.  If you would like to provide reactions to his proposal (see below), please post a reply on the ReSET blog or e-mail Mike at
Virtually every teacher desires to improve student motivation. Research has consistently shown that if students develop a personal interest in a subject they will be much more likely to assimilate content and desire mastery in the domain. Because each student is unique, they will have different interests.
One form of intelligence that leads to personal interest is creativity. As students come up with novel ideas they feel a sense of being special since (as far as they know) they were the first to come up with the idea. If they get feedback from experts that the idea has great promise and will meet some societal need, their personal interest in the idea is further intensified.
Abraham Maslow felt that fostering creativity is perhaps the best way of meeting self-actualization needs and is therefore a great motivator. Interestingly, he agrees with other researchers that virtually everyone has creative potential. If students are allowed to use their creative intelligence as they learn in school, they will be able to supplement their analytic reasoning ability (the typical focus of most schools) and do well on SOL tests. Creativity acts as a kind of catalyst that both speeds up the learning and in some cases allows learning that otherwise would not occur.
How can professionals in the STEM disciplines help? By given feedback to students as they come up with ideas. The feedback is two-fold. First, it comments on the originality of the ideas while keeping in mind the age of the student. Ideas that are original to the student even though they are known to the discipline should be considered original. Second, the students need to receive feedback as the usefulness their idea to others. Ideas that are original but which do not benefit or would not be accepted by the culture are not as valuable as ideas that do.
The feedback can be in person or over a web interface but either way the student ideas become a driving force for their learning. Part of the feedback includes subject areas that the student should master if they are to pursue their idea. For instance, for the STEM disciplines, the feedback may be to "take all the math you can".
Additional feedback might include obstacles that must be overcome if the ideas will come to fruition. As the student ponders how to overcome the obstacle, they will be bouncing ideas in their mind. Brain research shows that this is an excellent way to retain learning and to become a critical thinker even if the student never has a breakthrough.
COMMENTS? Many of you are very creative. Does this ring true in your life? How did you combine creative and analytic intelligence to become successful in your profession? How can you help foster student creativity and learning?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Need Ideas for Classroom Sessions?

ReSET volunteer John Emler recently attended a science teaching session at the Greenbelt, MD Community Center.  Additional sessions are scheduled:
June 22nd & 23rd: Chemistry: Introduce the basic concepts of chemistry and show how chemical reactions can be controlled.
July 27th & 28th: Fluids: Introduce the concepts of viscosity, lift, drag and entrainment.

John reports that the program:
  1.  Is sponsored and paid for by the City of Greenbelt
  2.  Covers one topic each month, repeated at two different facilities in Greenbelt, , 7:00 to 8:30 pm.
  3.  Children 8 to 16 are welcome – free.  Parents usually stay – also free.
  4.  Teacher is a Physics graduate student at MD U. – He has access to equipment similar to what would be in a high school physics class.
  5.  Teacher is paid – amount not determined and does a very good job.
  6. Class room is large and suited for 15 + students.  However, only two students came.
  7. They are advertising the program in the City of Greenbelt newsletter of planning. 

      Good program that needs a lot more students

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

All Hands on the Poop Deck

Mike Fritz, who helped me in the classroom this term, shared his experience 
with his co-workers at the US Environmental Protection Agency: 

As I strode to the front of Ms. Molly Moran's second grade class at 
Annapolis Elementary School one June morning in downtown Annapolis, I 
was confident in my lesson plan, so elegantly simple that I didn't even 
need the 3X5 index card in my shirt pocket on which I had it drawn out. 
My former boss at EPA's Wetlands Division, John Meagher (now retired), 
had invited me to talk about what I do in my work.  He would do his 
lesson first.  I had scoped out his topic and had identified a 
meaningful connection between his talk and mine.  He was going to teach 
a hands-on, desk-top laboratory lesson about buoyancy, including a key 
vocabulary word "gravity."  (Did you know that a lacrosse ball sinks in 
fresh water but floats in salt water?)  "Gravity", I decided, was my 
link.  The audience would be primed.  I had decided on the audience 
participation approach, to put the pen into their little hands.  It was 
my turn. 
On the flip chart I drew a hillside, a single black line, with wavy blue 
water at the bottom of the hill, the Bay, just like right outside the 
classroom window.  A stick-figure person.  A lolli-pop green tree.  A 
cloud.  A fish in the water.  A swimmer.  Rain.  "Where does the water 
go when it rains?"  "Down to the Bay" "Why?"  One smart kid:  "Gravity" 
"How many of you have or know people who have dogs?"  All the hands went 
up.  Another volunteer drew a red dog on the hillside.  Then the 
clincher: "What do dogs do when you take them out to walk in the 
morning?"  The entire chorus:  "THEY POOP!"  Ms. Moran interrupted: 
"Oh, Mr. Mike, you just got them to say their favorite word!"  The 
audience, giggling, was rapt.  "Wait!" I said, fumbling around the 
front desk, "There's no brown marker!"  Ms. Moran stopped the lesson 
until she could find one.  There was no shortage of volunteers to draw 
the little brown pile behind the dog.  It was not exactly to scale. 
"Where does that poop go when it rains?"  "To the Bay"  "Why?"  " 
Gravity!"  "How do you think the fish and the swimmer feel about that?" 
"Yech!"  "What do you think you can do about that?"  And they knew that 
answer too.  And the lesson was over.  I haven't had that much fun since 
the last time I caught a steelhead on a fly rod in a snowstorm. 
Seriously, if you like kids half as much as I do and care about the 
future of the world, combine the two by volunteering with John in the 
ReSet program.  John has the lesson plans; you and the kids have the 
ReSET is a D.C.-based non-profit volunteer organization that partners 
working and retired scientists, engineers, and technicians with 
elementary school teachers to improve science motivation and literacy. 
ReSET's goal is to introduce children in the classroom to science, 
engineering and technology as being enjoyable and exciting (i.e., fun!). 
Find them at 

Monday, June 6, 2011

ReSet - Ahead of The Game

Look at those smiles!
ReSET finds creative ways to make science and math fun!

“We’ve got to lift our game up when it comes to technology, and math, and science,” said President Obama in April 2011 at a town hall event held on Facebook’s Palo Alto, Calif. campus.

President Obama’s remarks underscored his intention to make STEM education a national priority. Last year he challenged scientists and business leaders to think of creative ways to engage young people in math and science. All across the country companies and nonprofits have been joining forces to replicate successful science programs.

ReSET is one of those innovative STEM programs that has answered the call—and has been answering the call—for nearly 25 years.

Every year ReSET collects information from students on how they feel about science and math after participating in a ReSET program. Students respond to questions that are used by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in preparing "The Nation's Report Card." The questions measure attitudes toward science and aptly reflect ReSET's mission to show students that science learning is exciting and enjoyable. The results, compiled from ReSET students, are compared with those of the 7,305 fourth-grade students nationwide who have completed the NCES assessment. 

362 ReSET students were surveyed in school year 2009-10, and the results clearly demonstrated the positive impact that ReSET volunteers have on students. Nationally, 67% of students agree with the statement "I like science," whereas 92% of ReSET students agree.  In the Nation's Report Card, 70% of students disagree with the statement "Science is boring;" 91% of ReSET students disagree with that statement. 

ReSET’s simple equation is working . . . get students engaged, and then show them that science need not be intimidating or too difficult. In fact, it can be fun.

Learn more. 

ReSET in action!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Article on post-grad salaries

The Washington Post on may 24 ran an article comparing average annual income of graduates with various majors.  It included the joke:
The scientist asks, “Why does it work?”
The engineer asks, “How does it work?”
The English major asks, “Would you like fries with that?
Check it out: scientist asks, “Why does it work?”

The engineer asks, “How does it work?”

The English major asks, “Would you like fries with that?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Feedback from Bailey's Elementary School in Falls Church, VA

Bailey Elementary's Science Coordinator Lynn Riggs sent the note below on this term's ReSET program 
by Volunteer Kojo Opoku:   
We had a great experience with Kojo.  He worked very well with me as well as the 
classroom teacher.  He was very dedicated, designing and preparing interesting 
experiments in electricity for the 4th grade students.  It was wonderful to have 
an engineer-in-residence.  He helped me out in the science lab by developing a 
demonstration generator that I've been able to use with all my classes, along 
with trouble shooting some of the equipment and experiments for me.  I know the 
4th grade teacher really appreciated having Kojo work in her classroom. 
 Many thanks to you for setting this up! 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Beverly Yett's Adaptive Evolution Experiment

The two things the students seemed to be most excited  about were the facial reconstruction and what they called the bird beak experiment.  This was a bit of a diversion for me but I wanted to demonstrate both biodiversity and adaptive changes to the environment.
The students made "cootie catchers" a simple origami form that you may remember  as a fortune telling thing or a color guessing game or some such (I'll show you how if you don't remember them, in two sizes.  I distributed different sized  squares of paper-large and small.
There were two types of "food"  ( I used large and small wrapped candies-you can use pebbles, M&Ms  etc.)
The idea was that when food was plentiful, the large beaked and the small beaked birds got enough to eat so they could reproduce.  (we did timed food gathering several times and averaged the results)
 After a drought on one Island, the "small" food disappeared since the plants died.  The small birds didn't get enough food to reproduce and pretty much died out in that area. On a neighboring Island, there were floods and the "large" food producing plants drowned. The large beaked birds couldn't reproduce because they did not have  enough food.  
Fast forward 200 years and you can see that the populations on the two Islands are different and if they come together, they occupy different ecological niches.
That was very popular with the teacher and the students.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fall 2010 Student Assessment Results

In Fall 2010 97% of student responses to ReSET's Student Assessments indicated they enjoyed the classes (The percentage for school year 2009-2010 was 99%).  Yet the percentage of students who disagreed with the statement "Science is boring" declined from 91% last year to 81% in fall of 2010.  Please post a comment if you have any thoughts or insights about these results.  

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Report From ReSET Pre-K

        I teach science to two, three and four year olds at the NSF Child  
Development Center in Ballston, VA. 
 Last Tuesday when I was working with my two year old day care  
children I learned something about teacher involvement.  I had  
brought some small bar magnets for them to play with and discover  
what magnets can do.  When one boy found that he could not make a  
North pole attract a North pole, I realized that he did not know his  
letters (he was two after all) so I just turned the magnet around and  
he was satisfied. 
 Then I heard laughter and looked at the end of the table where a  
teacher was playing with three two year old girls and some magnets.   
The teacher had never seen a bar magnet and was finding out what they  
could do in attraction and repulsion.  She and the girls were having  
a grand old time  learning the basics about magnets. 
 Isn't that what ReSET is about showing that science is fun? 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Is there a Ben Carson in your ReSET classroom?

ReSET Volunteer Bob Williams writes: 
I'm sure that this is not new for many, but at out meeting I spoke to a 
couple of people who did not know the Ben Carson story, so here is a 
Ben Carson rose from poverty and inner city chaos to become a world-famous 
pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins.  I found his story to be 
inspirational for teachers, volunteers, parents and children.  Here is an 
excerpt from an interview: 
My fifth grade science teacher, Mr. Jake, was really the first teacher to 
express confidence in my academic abilities because I was the only person 
who could identify a rock, which was obsidian, and it was because of the 
reading that I had been doing because after I got through with the animal 
books, I went to plants, and when I finished all the plant books, I went to 
rocks because we lived on the railroad tracks and there were a lot of rocks, 
so I became an expert in geology, and this was while I was still a dummy in 
the class. So, it was like the first time that I had an opportunity to raise 
my hand and demonstrate my knowledge because nobody else knew the answer. 
Everybody was absolutely flabbergasted, but Mr. Jake said to me, "Benjamin, 
that's incredible." He said, "Why don't you come by the laboratory after 
school and we can talk about starting a rock collection for you." And, from 
there I started going to the laboratory every day, getting involved with 
feeding the squirrel, a red squirrel named Maynard. There was a tarantula, 
crayfish, a Jack Dempsey fish and I got involved in all this stuff. There 
was a microscope and I started looking at water specimens and learned all 
about paramecium and volvox and amoebas, and it was just incredible. That 
really was what started me on my way. 
His story "Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story" is available in book form 
(adult and children versions) and also a DVD (although the richness of the 
book is not to be missed). 

Monday, January 31, 2011

Volunteer Bob Blumberg's Field Trip

Bob works with third and fourth graders at Orr Elementary in Anacostia. His report on his recent field trip to the Navy Yard in Southeast DC: 

The field trip to the Navy Museum was wonderful. The program was  called 
the Straw Rocket Program. There was a young woman who took charge of the 
class lecturing, demonstrating and even demanding good behavior. We had 
21 students. There were all kinds of prepared parts and materials so the 
students could put a rocket together with a straw, paper fins, clay nose 
cone, and clear tape to hold it all together. And then she had them do a 
test firing in the main Hall of the Museum, go back to the work shop, 
change the rocket. and go bock to a final firing of each rocket. A boy 
and a girl were given a prize for the longest flight of their rockets. 
Both Ms Trowell and I were really impressed and pleased that it came out 
so well. I am sure that the students had a good time and probably will 
remember it for a long while . They might even have gotten a life lesson 
out of it. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Participant Feedback ReSET’s 1/15/11 Volunteer Meeting

Things that worked well:

-  Overall, I think that was a very good meeting. Having elementary school teachers at the meeting and on the ReSET Board is an excellent idea. Their remarks at the meeting were quite insightful. Keeping the meeting to a 2 hour limit is also a good idea, but you may have to cut off some discussion if you are going to cover all Agenda items.

- The panel with the teachers and volunteers was helpful

- Particularly helpful were the ideas for
            o          How to keep the attention of the students
            o          How to manage the progress of the activity
            o          How to better work with the teacher and help meet his/her needs

- The presentation about the demographics of the student body most of us see was
very helpful.  Maybe next time we could get some additional pointers on how to
deal with such a student population.

-  I thought the meeting went quite well.  It was good having the teachers there for their input

- Great meeting. It is important to meet with others to get a better idea how to proceed in our role in the school.  I took away many good ideas.  

- I felt great to see my colleagues at this meeting. It was the first time for me to see most of them.  I enjoyed the discussion panel and break time which gave us the chance to talk freely and listen to teaching experiences and encounters from one another as ReSET volunteers.  Podium speakers further gave me some inspirational ideas by telling their volunteering experiences and thoughts.  The meeting location is convenient and the room is very comfortable.  Refreshment was great.

-   I really enjoyed the meeting and learned from the panel.

-  Having DCPS teachers there to tell us what they need. Additionally they had a
chance to hear our side too, and become aware of things they might not have
recognized about volunteering.  Since we and the teachers work together, it makes total sense to have open discussions outside the pressure of the classroom. The arrangement is very positive for everyone, and it's another step forward for ReSET. Another thing is that there seemed to be at least as many volunteers present as I've ever seen at a meeting. It's possible that the teachers were a draw that brought in more volunteers.

- The panel and the extended discussion in place of the small groups.

- This is the best ReSET meeting I've attended. The discussions were spirited and informative after each speaker. I suspect there could have been more time allotted for the fruitful discussion. I am strongly supportive of involving teachers at every meeting. We can learn a lot from them to guide our presentations. So, the meeting format and topics
worked very well.

- I believe the agenda was helpful in attracting a larger number of ReSET
volunteers, which made for richer discussions.

- Since most of don’t get to see other volunteers, hearing what worked for others was effective. On the whole, I think it was a productive meeting.  I liked some of the sharing because it presented a variety of ideas for follow on.

- Your move to cancel the next agenda item was excellent.

Things that didn’t work so well:

- The brief presentations went well but but some of us had trouble sticking to the subject matter and the questions being discussed.

- More time could have been more time allotted for the discussion as
they were still fruitful.

- I don't know of anything.

- Location might have been more accessible.

- This meeting didn’t summarize what we were looking for as common goals for science volunteering at ReSET. 

- It might be better to separate the volunteers and teachers into two different
panels.  I think the questions for each might be different

- Introductions are good, but take a lot of time in such a big group.  Maybe
there’s a way to streamline this part.

-  At this meeting, we couldn't get to your final Agenda item; while I don't know exactly what you had planned there, it sounded like an exercise to plan some sample classroom sessions. If so, that could have been very useful for the newcomers who were probably trying to figure out how you keep a group of kids engaged for an hour.

Recommendations for future meetings:

-  It would be great to show a video of one of us in the classroom.  

- More open discussions are productive.

- How about including tent name cards so we can get to know peoples' names?

-  Always have at least 3 DCPS teachers present. I suggest that this type of
meeting replace the ones we had in the past, where volunteers demonstrated their
experiments. I think it's much more important for us and the teachers to talk to
each other.

- Another panel with a principal, two teachers and a scientist discussing their views of what is age appropriate science at the  3rd and 5th grade level. Of course some follow-up discussion after each presenter is nice. Include two short presentations of ReSET volunteer lessons. Discussion could then focus on if it’s age appropriate and if and
how it could be adapted to other grades where the subject is in the science curriculum.

- Debriefings of recent experiences for different grade levels.

- First, I hope more teachers from schools ReSET is serving would come to the meeting to share their thoughts.  Second, it would be great  that in the future meeting the list of experimental tools and resources ReSET currently owns can be officially announced. In this way, we can keep good awareness of their availability and make use of them in our classes.  Last, but not the least,  I want to see if it is possible to include some statistics of students’ academic performance and hands-on related community services in the future meeting. In this way, we can better visualize our volunteering efforts.

-  1) What to do if the teacher is not in the room to maintain discipline.  I had a substitute teacher leave the room and two kids were unruly so I had the stand at the back of the room.  I also ask the kids if they want to hear what I have to say - or should I go home. But our policy is the teacher should (must) be present in the classroom at all times.
2) Do you do your presentation if the teacher has a substitute? I've had good experiences and bad experiences with substitutes (mainly with class discipline).
3) The responsibility of the teacher to notify you if the class will not be held or the class will return to the room late. More than once I have come to the classroom and found it vacant.  Either the kids are on a field trip, or there is a program in the auditorium the teacher failed to tell me about. And many times I have had to wait 10 to 20 minutes for the class to appear from another activity.  The teacher needs to know that our time is valuable. Also I have a 40 minute drive so it is an additional expense to me if the teacher is not there. 
I know these are gripes but, they are common problems we face and can lead
to the loss of volunteers.

- A separate focus would be on the various activities. 
            - Who has had success with which experiments? 
            - Which experiments are good (easy) for “not my field but I’m willing to try”
            - Maybe start collecting helpful hints/clarifications for the ones we already

- The Q&A session was helpful, with volunteers using their experience to answer
questions of others.  I’d recommend this as part of a future session.

- As for recommendations for future meetings, it might be useful (especially for newcomers or potential newcomers) to devote 15-20 minutes to an example of a class session that a volunteer thinks went over well. I wouldn't suggest multiple examples because then there wouldn't be enough time to get into detail----just one example with a fair amount of detail.
How often should we schedule sessions like these?

- Suggest we meet on a quarterly basis to keep up the excellent momentum.  

- 2x per year

- Three of these extended meetings a year would seem about right.

- At least every 6 months. Personally, I would like them every 4 months

- Perhaps at the beginning and end of terms, to help prepare and to do "lessons learned".

- I would like to have this type of meeting held twice every school semester. The first one
should happen before the semester starts, and the second one after the semester ends.

-  Once a semester, at or before the beginning of the semester.  The session helped
get me focused as I think about heading back into the classroom.

- As for the frequency of these meetings, I suggest not more than 2.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Recruiting Idea

From Rich Repplier:
Today I posted ReSET ads at these places in Centreville: 
2 Giants (3 X 5s) 
1 Shoppers (8-1/2 X 11) 
1 Starbucks (8-1/2 X 11) 
The Goddard School (8-1/2 X 11) 
You can cover lots of places in a short time - you just pick a  
shopping center and once you're there, you have many possibilities  
close together. I have a lot more prospects waiting for me to get to  
Please send me 5 more 3X5 ads. They are very useful for boards that  
are jammed with ads.