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Blogs

Where in the world is Mr. Robot?

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Have you met Mr. Robot? He’s made from TETRIX® parts and is kind of a big deal. He’s danced with will.i.am in the past. And already this year, he’s auditioned on stage for America’s Got Talent in Kansas City. I hear he’s a frequent flyer (or roller, as the case may be!), so I tried to track him down. Just where has Mr. Robot been in the past year?

MrRobot2_0216In January 2015, he hopped a plane to sunny Florida for the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC). I wonder how he made it through the metal detector.

He was next spotted in Austin, Texas, in February, where he continued to brush up on the latest technology at the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) conference.

March found Mr. Robot in the Windy City for a regional National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) event. That month, he kept on rolling until he hit Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he took in the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA) convention.

We were glad to have him back on the Pitsco campus in April to shake hands with a local sixth-grade class that visited our Research & Development division.
I looked high and low for Mr. Robot in May, but I couldn’t find him. Did the lucky guy take a vacation? If you saw him on a beach, let me know.

His schedule picked up again in June when he landed in Seattle for the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference. Then, he was off again to check out the projects and competitions at SkillsUSA® in Louisville, Kentucky.

July was a hot one, but Mr. Robot didn’t waver. He started the month off with a bang at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in Philly. Did you know that he enjoys a good Philly cheesesteak just as much as the next robot? I heard that he made an attempt at the "Rocky steps," but I can’t confirm that.

MrRobot3_0216After his time in Philly, Mr. Robot was home in Kansas again to meet with some of his good friends at the Teacher Advisory Group (TAG) Summit. They had a few meetings and took a few photos, and it might have been Mr. Robot’s idea to lead the group on an adventure into Harvey’s office while he was out to lunch.

In October, he made a lot of new friends at the International STEM Education Association (ISEA) conference in Branson, Missouri. If you search for #TETRIXMrRobot on Twitter, you can find many pictures of him hanging out with his new ISEA peeps.

Finally, Mr. Robot closed the year out with his Pitsco family in December at our Breakfast with Santa event. He was a good sport, posing for silly photos in our photo booth and allowing small children to tug on his arms.

He might be something of a celebrity now, but we’re glad he always comes home for Christmas.

What’s new in your classroom?

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We asked a couple of TAG members about what's new in their classrooms and how they are preparing for the changes. The feedback we received is exciting for students and interesting to reflect on. They also provided some tidbits to help new teachers.

In Trudi Lawless’s engineering class at Lakeside Junior High School in Orange Park, FL, there is a big project called the Furniture Design Project in which students have to create a piece of furniture using the design process they are learning in class.

This project is great for practicing and reinforcing the plan and design stages of the process but weak on the test and evaluate and improve design stages of the process. They don't actually build the furniture, as that would be impractical. Trudi was looking for a way students could engage in those final stages more fully and found straw rockets.

They begin by exploring some websites on fin and cone shapes, and then they build and test their straw rockets. At first they use a kind of guess-and-check method for improving their design but gradually go back to their research to try to find better shapes to use. It's a great supplement to Trudi’s Furniture Design Project, and the students love it.
This year, Life Christian School in Aloha, OR, has changed to trimesters, and Holly Neill says they are loving it.

According to Holly, it took a week to get everyone settled, but she loves having more time with her students, focusing more on fewer classes, and having less-stressed students. Holly said, “As a teacher, it is always a rush each new school year to update syllabi, get the right supplies, and find where I put stuff from the last year!”

LearnPractice_0216Holly is also working a lot more modeling into her science classes. In Biology, they have been using modeling materials from 3D Molecular Designs. Holly’s students model things such as enzymes, water bonding, and membranes in a hands-on way. The kids learn it better and Holly finds that modeling helps the information from lectures and reading to stick better. “Students need to see the science come alive and not just write it out on the page. It also helps them know why they’re learning it,” says Holly.

“When I was a new teacher, it always looked like the other teachers just had everything together and I was so clueless. I would come home exhausted and sure I had wasted my students’ time. However, as I got more practice, I realized teaching is just like learning; it takes practice. It’s the same reason we go over concepts multiple times and assign homework. With time, I knew I would get better and sure enough, I did. Though I always recommend getting involved with science peers, going to as much science PD as possible to learn new things, and having a network that can help support you like the Pitsco TAG team,” says Holly.

Finding the right curriculum for you

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Did you ever wish you could see a sample of what you are buying before you buy it? We know this is very important for homeschool families who need to get the most out of their school budget.
Included under the online description of each teacher’s guide or homeschool pack with a guide is a link to a PDF with the table of contents, a sample activity, and standards addressed by that activity. This is a great way to get an idea of the layout and type of content in each guide.

Also, along those same lines, knowing that some people prefer to go paperless these days, we now offer several of our most popular teacher’s guides, such as Straw Rockets, Balsa Bridges, SunEzoon cars, T-Bot® II, and many more as PDF downloads, which are less expensive than the paper version. You also have the option to download individual lessons if you are looking only to cover a specific topic.

For the homeschool packs, we bundle the paper teacher’s guide with the kit, but you can always purchase the kit and the electronic download of the guide separately. The teacher’s guides are great resources that provide a guided curriculum that allows you to teach with the kit after it is built. Having the option to purchase the guide as a paper copy or as an electronic download (if you can’t wait a few days to get your hands on it) is definitely a plus!

Related links:
Teacher's Guides
Homeschool Packs

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