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AIMS Scholars Engineer Festively!

The AIMS Center for Math and Science Education, the working arm of the AIMS Education Foundation, has committed to helping teachers in the greater Central Valley of California pursue their Master’s degrees at Fresno Pacific University. To this end, funds have been set aside to scholarship teachers interested in earning one of the two MA degrees offered by FPU in Math or STEM Education. I would like to tell you about what the STEM Education Master’s candidates are doing during the week of June 19th, 2017, but first I need to give you some history.

Throughout the 1970s, ’80s, and into the ‘90s, FPU Grad Math Science put on a series of summer Festivals. There were festivals in Mathematics, Science, and Technology. Hundreds of teachers would come to the Fresno campus in June for a two-week, day-long collection of courses taught by a variety of experts in their fields. To say that these festivals were life changing would be an understatement, and I can say this because I attended two of them myself in 1989 and 1990. These altered my professional trajectory for the rest of my life. I was not alone, just ask Lori Hamada, the Executive Director of the AIMS Center herself, she had a very similar experience. We were permanently changed by the hot, sweaty hours we spent solving problems for Father Stanley Bezuska, Lola May, Margaret (Peg) Kinney, Wil Reimer, and Jim Wilson, to name the most familiar names.

Unfortunately, these festivals have gone away in recent years. However, through the support of AIMS, FPU’s Master of Arts in STEM Education is once again offering something similar. This year is the second offering of the Engineering in the Classroom Festival. While we do not serve hundreds of teachers like those earlier festivals, we still have a strong and committed group of over 50 K-8th grade teachers who come early in the morning, stay late into the VERY hot afternoons, and they work hard to come to grips with the applications of the mathematical and scientific concepts they have been studying. In my next post I will go into greater detail on what sorts of things they are doing, but to give you a taste, these students are studying the simple machines that humans have discovered, how they can be used to create more complex machines that do the work our backs would prefer not to do. Furthermore, they are designing, modeling, bench testing, and re-designing apparatus to be attached to rockets to slow their descent (see video for one of the rocket engines being used with a car to discover Baseline data for their experiments). To top it off, they are also studying the physics and mathematics of intricate paper-folding techniques that allow such apparatus to be deployed in small volumes on these same rockets. All this amidst a very collegial and collaborative environment to boot.

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What Will You Read?

Children ran from school buses with shrieks of excitement and expectations of what the next two and a half months might bring, the telltale sign that school is out for the summer in my town. Teachers have left their classrooms for a well-deserved break. Over the next two and half months they will imagine, think… Continue Reading

Partners in Education

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Toothpick Puzzles

The Goalpost Puzzle

The Goalpost Puzzle

The Puzzle Corner activity this week is an adaptation of a classical matchstick puzzle from recreational mathematics. As has been noted before in this column, these puzzles date back to the nineteenth century when matches were first manufactured and began to proliferate. Most matchstick puzzles can be broken into two general categories: those that are geometric in… Continue Reading

Arrow Arrangements

Arrow Arrangements

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Toothpick Puzzlers

Toothpick Puzzlers

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The Three-to-Five Triangle Puzzle

The Three-to-Five Triangle Puzzle

This week’s Puzzle Corner activity comes out of a rich historical tradition that dates back to the 19th century when matches were first manufactured. Invented in 1827 by the British chemist John Walker, matches soon replaced the tinderboxes that people had formerly used to light fires. As matches grew in popularity and became ubiquitous later… Continue Reading

Reducing Squares

Reducing Squares

Reducing Squares belongs to a category of puzzles called “matchstick puzzles” which were very popular in America during the last century. Most adults in those days carried small boxes of matches with them to light the many candles or lamps in their homes. Many of these same people had a favorite repertoire of matchstick puzzles… Continue Reading

Flipping Fish

Flipping Fish

This puzzle has been around in various forms for a number of years. All forms begin with eight toothpicks or matches arranged in the shape of a fish. One version challenges you to move exactly three toothpicks to make the fish face the opposite direction. Another version challenges you to move just two toothpicks to… Continue Reading