Thursday, December 21, 2017

Weekly overview - week of 12/11/17

At our middle school meeting on Monday morning, we welcomed Jenny and Tyler from Spinning Dot Theatre Company. In only twenty five minutes, we talked about the upcoming middle school play, played games, and had a great discussion about the value of learning stories from around the world. Auditions for the play will be held January 8 and 9 at 3:30pm. Students will sign up for auditions at next Monday’s middle school meeting (on 12/18). If students have questions, they can ask their teacher or Walter.

This week, in addition to continuing to learn about the Arduinos through a set of exercises, students also started a small research project to learn about a specific electronic component. With a partner, they’ll be presenting both the science and the application of the component to their peers next week. In science, Sam has been teaching students about parallel and series circuits.

On Wednesday, we left SK at 7:15am for a trip to Lansing for our culminating Michigan Student Caucus activity. Three of our students presented their final proposals to a panel of elected officials and agency heads. We also got to hear from some of the high school and university caucus participants who presented their proposals to the panel, too. Students returned to school and did their final reflections on their student caucus work.

Students continue to read and annotate Player Piano. When we return from break, we’ll have an opportunity to wrestle with the fundamental questions of the novel and begin writing a creative response that aims to answer some of these questions.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Weekly overview - week of 12/4/17

The eighth graders started off the week with an afternoon at Early College Alliance (ECA) at Eastern Michigan University. This was our sixth high school visit so far this year. On Friday, eighth graders visited Washtenaw International High School (WIHI), concluding our high school visits for 2017. In February, we’ll head to Huron High.

We’ve continued to be busy exploring with the Arduinos in science class. In addition to working with the Arduinos (and related components, such as sensors and motors), Sam has also been teaching the students about electricity, circuits, voltage, resistance, current, and Ohm’s law. On Thursday, we visited the UM School of Engineering Design Expo, where SK students spent the afternoon learning about a wide variety of UM engineering students’ projects and engaging in conversations with the UM student presenters. The 7-8s were excited to see that many of the UM students’ projects used Arduinos, too.

Three of our students’ proposals were selected to be part of the Michigan Student Caucus platform. As such, they will present their proposals at a special hearing in Lansing next week with a committee of state legislators. They’ll also be sharing their proposals at next Friday’s morning meeting (12/15).

Students are also making their way into Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano. The themes of the novel, including the role of technology in society, the future of an automated world, and the tension between humans and the machines they create and use, are becoming even more relevant as we delve into our current project on autonomous vehicles.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Weekly overview - week of 11/27/17

This week, we started wrapping up our Michigan Student Caucus work by posting proposals on the site and rating the proposals of others. For the next few days, students will read through and comment on one another’s proposals in order to determine the top proposals that will make up the Michigan Student Caucus platform. On December 13, we’ll head to Lansing (with other MSC participants) to present the platform to an ad hoc committee of legislators invested in civic engagement.

The culmination of one project also signals the beginning of the next project. Under Sam’s direction, students started working through a set of introductory Arduino exercises in order to get comfortable with the programming environment and learn about the functionality of both the microcontrollers themselves and the additional components (resistors, LEDs, sensors, etc.) that we’ll be using in the next few weeks. Students worked through the exercises and documented all of their successes, challenges, and observations in their engineering notebooks. Eventually, students will work in design teams to build autonomous vehicles that complete different tasks.

In that vein, we welcomed three engineers into our class to talk about their work and the role of documentation in their work. Thanks to Charles Hardin, Sarah Kingham, and Jean-Marie Rouillard for sharing their experiences and stories with us.

We also started reading Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano, which will ask students to think deeply about the potential implications of automation.

On Friday, the eighth graders continued their high school visits with a trip to Washtenaw Technical Middle College (WTMC), located on the campus of Washtenaw Community College.