Preparing for Robotics

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

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!