AIMS Scholars Engineer Part 2

Engineering Week. It’s a lot like Shark Week, but with the kind of interaction where you learn to make the Miura fold instead of losing an arm.

Before going much further, watch the video at the top of my earlier blog post on this topic: AIMS Scholars Engineer Festively! From June 23, 2017. In it, you will see a rocket cart with no “recovery apparatus” attached. Note how far it travels.

During the week of June 19, 2017, a good portion of the present AIMS Scholars attended FPU’s Engineering in the Classroom Festival. It is a required course for those working on a MA in STEM Education and an option for a few other degrees. This year’s focus was on Mechanical Engineering. The participants, all of whom are teachers in the Central or Southern San Joaquin Valley of California, were provided instruction in several areas related to this theme. They passed through a rotation of classes with Mr. Daniel Loewen, Dr. Steve Pauls, and Ms. Aileen Rizo.

Dan’s section focused on the mechanics of slowing a rocket sled, and the mathematics needed to calculate precisely how much slowing could be accomplished with various apparatus. Of course, it’s easy to make a sled stop, just strap a big brick to the back of it that has too much mass for it to go anywhere. This was not the goal though. Instead, these teachers were to model, using mathematics, a few designs that met some very specific mass and volume limits and maximize slowing within those parameters.

Steve’s section focused upon the use of what are known as “Simple Machines” (internet hunt quiz time: what are those five machines, and are there examples of each of them within your muscular-skeletal system?). The teachers performed numerous physics experiments upon each of these machines to understand and communicate that understanding to students the properties at work.

Curiously Folded PaperAileen’s section was the most eclectic. For this session, the teachers were investigating the physics and mechanics of paper-folding, its applications, and methods to model it within a virtual medium like a computer program. They folded paper to create rigid-structures that could withstand compression (a topic from last year’s Engineering Festival) in order to increase reference area for deployment in rocket systems. Then, they examined some very interesting fold patterns that occur in sudden compression. For example, what happens when a piece of paper is wrapped around two cylinders that are separated by a ¾” gap, then the two cylinders are twisted in opposite directions and pushed together to close the gap? Try it for yourself and see.

Now watch this video. In it, you will see AIMS Scholars who have mathematically modeled a particular paper fold and parachute volume that is designed to slow the rocket sled within a predicted distance. The fold came from the lessons learned within Aileen’s class, the use of machines was analyzed in Steve’s, and the modeling and application was accomplished in Dan’s. What do you suppose could come from this experience in the classrooms of these teachers? We are AIMSing (pun intended) for great things.


What Part Does Technology have to Play in the Future of Education? (Part I)

The major theme of the Jean Piaget Society annual conference in June was Technology and Human Development. Since attending the conference, I have been part of several fascinating discussions that I would like to explore concerning the future advance of technology within education. In his book Singularity, Ray Kurtzweil talks about how human beings are… Continue Reading

Attending a Jean Piaget Society (JPS) Conference

A few weeks ago, I was privileged to attend the 47th Jean Piaget Society (JPS) Conference held in San Francisco. This annual conference brings together an intriguingly diverse group of individuals interested in the psychologist Jean Piaget and his prolific work in the area of constructivism and childhood cognitive development. At this conference, you can… Continue Reading

Personal Perception of Reality

Teaching science I often wonder how my students perceive the physical world as they delve deeply into science concepts. It is often assumed that our personal perception of the world around us is the same from one person to the next. Yet current cognitive research indicates that we have far more “senses” than the five… Continue Reading

Musings on the 2017 NARST Conference

Last week I attended the conference of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching or NARST in San Antonio, Texas. This is an annual conference that brings together researchers in science education from around the world. I am always surprised at the international aspect of this conference. A person is just as likely to… Continue Reading

Piaget’s Water Level Task

While it might seem obvious that living in a three-dimensional world would require a certain amount of innate spatial abilities, it is less obvious in how this spatial ability informs science and math learning. Current research in visuospatial ability does show that children who have an understanding of how shapes fit together, and can see… Continue Reading

Technology and its Relationship to Education

As humans, we tend to think of change as slow and plodding within a historic context. We can look back at our history and see the culmination of events over time and from that infer systemic cultural change. Pick a topic, it doesn’t matter which, history will show us the inevitable change that marks it… Continue Reading