Day 31: 525,600 minutes

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Today was an odd day: one class wanted to understand how it is we perceive color. Meanwhile, the other wanted to know how big a light year is. So…

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 9.00.54 PM

“The mantis shrimp is Genghis Khan bathed in sherbet ice cream.” –Oatmeal

From Why the mantis shrimp is my new favorite animal by The Oatmeal


(incidentally, we did this on nearly the same day two years ago)

Day 29: Optics Beginning

Monday, 28 September 2015


Step 1: group the kids for the new unit. I have tables of 4 desks each and would love to hear your ideas for further grouping strategies. I gave out cards that read fly, spider, cat, dog. Kids had to figure out the grouping strategy. Not as good as Frank’s subversive lab groupings, I gotta say.


Step 2: leave out a mixture of concave and convex mirrors and lenses. Ask the kids to describe similarities and differences. Notice that the concave mirrors magnify when you’re all up in them. Take photos and share the funny:

This felt like a great inquiry start to the unit which is mostly optics. Kids asked a number of questions that got us talking about stuff we’ll learn over the next few weeks.

Day 22: Building Instruments

Thursday, 17 September 2015


Spent a considerable amount of time today working on musical instruments with students. The above modification came after school when a student from last year worked with me to get the best sound I’ve ever heard from a tubulum (inspired by this guy). #teach180 #180blog

Fun fact: this post was created automatically using a recipe I programmed on IFTTT. It grabs all my Instagrams hashtagged with #180blog and auto-publishes them.

Day 18: Adafruit and Sweet New Years

Friday, 11 September 2015


See that giant burn blister on my ring finger? I hate that it’s so tiny because, dang!, it hurts and I want your sympathies.

Nothing exciting in class today (though I’m increasingly happy with how I’m building up to resonance in open and closed pipes), so let me tell you about the two best parts of my day: 1) Apples & Honey and 2) after school tinkering with Adafruit.

My school is Christian with a non-trivial Jewish student population. I like to observe Rosh Hashanah by bringing in apples and honey and inviting the Jewish kids to join me. Today, I saw about a dozen kids (maybe a third of all the Jews) during their lunch period. We ate 8 apples, a round loaf of Rosh Hashanah challah, and a ton of cherry honey blondies.

After school, I tinkered with the Techno Tiki RGB LED Torch project. My JanTerm colleague* and I started earlier in the week but we hit frustrating roadblocks over soldering to the tiny NeoPixel strips. Today, I had better luck but don’tcha know it I burned myself with the soldering iron. Been tinkering with getting the Arduino sketch to download to the Gemma controller board but my computer is giving me hassles over the USB connection. So, I’m gonna call it a night and look at it again when I’m better rested.

*JanTerm: a 3 week intensive course taught mostly in teams at our school. This year, I’m teaching a Maker class. My colleague and I wanted to practice with a small-ish project that would demonstrate Arduino, soldering, and the like.

Day 16: Stand Up Meetings

Wednesday, 9 September 2015


How many 15 year olds do you think are familiar with project management methodologies like Waterfall, Agile, and SCRUM?

We took the robotics kids to a local technology startup company to learn from Maanav, the project manager. In the above picture the students are learning how a standup meeting works by role playing.

The young woman in the foreground is bored to death and not paying attention to the meeting. The young woman in the lower left has just received a phone call, also distracting her from the meeting. One member shared completely off topic events in their life while another vaguely reported stuff was rolling along ok. The Scrum Master (yellow shirt) is learning how to handle these distractions and bring everybody back on task.

One major point we learned that the meeting is that a standup meeting consists of three reporting elements from every member present: what you did yesterday, what you’re doing today, and any roadblocks standing in your way.

Short-term mentoring (Maanav worked with us on three separate days) is an excellent way that people crunched for time can help out FRC robotics teams.


Learning about the tech during our project management workshop.

Day 12: Best Ever Standing Wave Intro

Wednesday, 2 Sept 2015


Above, volunteers demonstrate the third harmonic standing wave on a snakey.

I developed standing waves on a string as a pattern and think it went better than ever before. I’m still not doing a great job at explaining why the standing wave forms in the first place, though. I feel like a good animation would help immensely (that one almost works).


We spent a lot of time today moving to and from our wave generator, pictured. As a result, most kids understand that harmonics appear at multiples of the fundamental frequency. Not all see the wavelength vs string length thing yet.