On February 22, 2016 County Prep Science teacher, Tim O’Donnell and his five-year-old daughter Bridget were killed in a tragic car accident on the New Jersey Turnpike Hudson County Extension. Immediately following this event, there was a tremendous and very generous outpouring of donations from County Prep High School, High Tech High School and Explorer 2000 staff, students, and their families. As a result, a 529 College Savings Plan with Franklin Templeton was opened for Allessandra O’Donnell in the amount of $11,590.00. Tim would occasionally joke about not retiring until he had enough money saved for college. It is with his wishes in mind that the account was opened. On behalf of County Prep High School, we want to thank everyone who helped to bring this to fruition. Mr. O’ Donnell and Bridie were very much loved and are greatly missed. As Tim and Bridie’s one year anniversary approaches, it is with sadness but also some comfort that we thank everyone for their generosity and thoughtfulness in helping to pave the way for Allessandra O’Donnell’s future education and success.
Explore 2000 prides itself on being New Jersey’s first S.T.E.A.M. vocational middle school, to which the students embody in their hands-on learning environment, which has produced some impressive projects. Explore 2000 delves into three thematic units per year, one in each respective trimester. In their first trimester for the 2016-2017 school year, “Oceans” were explored in many creative ways, as facilitators provided students with essential questions to guide the learning process while leaving room for student driven learning to occur. The infusion of technology within the curriculum allows students to attain technical skills and knowledge, the application of which, in conjunction with the rigorous curriculum, has resulted in some of the most technology rich projects to date at the middle school level. The students have access to an array of modern technologies such as the Stratasys 3D Printer and the Adobe CADD Software Suite, Vex Robotics kits supported by the Project Lead the Way curriculum, Hi-Definition digital recording cameras and movie making software, Hi-Definition audio recording and editing software, a Canon 36” banner printer, 85” Samsung Smart Boards, the one-to-one laptop initiative, and iPads just to name a few.
Some of the student projects that were a result of the aforementioned technologies was the water filtration system designed by Henrik using TinkerCad, and 3D printed with the Stratasys printer. Henrik stated the following, “My experience with TinkerCAD is that it is a good beginner CAD designer with a surprising amount of features for free. My personal experience is nothing but good. To make my models I usually use geometric shapes and holes for simple models, and for more complicated models, I source part files from Thingiverse.com. Thingiverse is a maker community that allows makers to share files for laser engravers, CNC mills, and 3D printers. TinkerCAD allows you to create files for all of those things. The interface is super simple and with a few tutorials, most can pick up the skills very easily.”
Forgoing traditional building materials, students choose to 3D print sea creatures to include in their Showcase. The realism of the objects brought to life the work that the students did, and provided a way for students to demonstrate the observations and connections they formed from the many field experiences related to the Oceans unit.
The banner printer has been used extensively to promote student activities throughout the school year, however the pupils began to use the printer in creative ways to reinforce their presentations and projects. One such use was the creation of a life size “Wheel of Jeopardy” game board, presented to the guests of the first trimester showcase. The contestants were immersed with the thrilling categories and mind-boggling questions.
For the annual Science fair, we saw in almost every experiment some form of technology utilized to solve the unanswered questions of the young minds. Roxy employed the use of the robotics program to demonstrate how a robotic arm would function when grasping objects. This required building and programming skills, of which she demonstrated advanced proficiency, a sure representation of her successful experiment. To complement, her peers choose to further their understanding of how a 3D printed prosthesis would function. The students in this group designed a model which they created using materials found around the home, and 3D printed a hand that required assembly and was capable of grasping objects as well.
Lastly, the craze of hoverboards were still on the minds of some of Explore 2000 students so they decided to build and code their own. “Lithium Ion batteries have a sensor in it that gets damaged easily, and when this happens the fires occur. We wanted to find an alternative to the previous generation hoverboards with our Science experiment,” stated Patrick.
WowWee MiP Robot Review
Mr. Sonny Dave, president of ExtremeKids LLC, provided Explore 2000 Middle School with the WowWee MiP Robot to enhance the learning experience of the students and introduce them to computer programming. The students were very excited to unbox their new learning tool which was presented in a very appealing package with informative highlights of the MiPs ease of use. Students quickly found the apps which are available for Android and iOS, and linked their “Explore Bot” to their iPad using Bluetooth. Taking control of the bot with the control pad was the natural inclination of the children, however the facilitator chose to present the students with the Coder MiP app which allowed the students to use block-based programming to code the movement, sounds and LED lights of the MiP Robot. The application has templates for students to see examples of how the code controls all the functions of the bot, additionally, there are pre-programmed modes that range from drive, cans, dance, battle, box, path, and stack. The students found the graphical user interface of the coding app easy to use, as they created obstacle courses to test the variables within their code. Mr. Kiran Aziz, educational technologist and facilitator at Explore 2000 Middle School finds the WowWee MiP Robot to be an essential S.T.E.M. resource to get students interested in computer coding. Mr. Aziz states, “21st Century learners demonstrate proficiency using computers and common applications, the MiP provides a way to create engaging learning experiences and allow students to develop crucial S.T.E.M, problem solving, and coding skills… the package presentation of the MiP and the ease of use USB charging, included accessories, and the availability of accompanying applications for coding the robot and navigating makes this the perfect item to introduce students to robotics, and lay the foundation for coding in higher level languages.” Hudson County Schools of Technology and Explore 2000 Middle School would like to thank Mr. Dave and ExtremeKids.com for providing this amazing resource for the students to enhance their learning. The following is written by the respective students after they used the MiP in class.
Kimonye, 6th Grade:
I have a MiP Robot at home, so I have experience with the app and using the different modes, my favorite is the dancing mode. I think it’s cool that you could put on your own music for MiP to dance to. It’s fun to see how other students used the MiP, I plan on bringing mine in so we can use the battle mode to compete.
Tatiana, 6th Grade:
The MiP was very fun, I was amazed at how easy it was to use the coding app. All I did was drag and drop the commands and the robot did exactly what I expected it to do. The pre-programmed modes leave you with so many crazy possibilities! I loved using the drive mode because it let me navigate the robot freely around the room without having it bump into anything. Learning about how the MiP works was almost like controlling a car! The MiP leaves me feeling excited and I am thinking about getting one of my very own. The MiP in my experience was just an amazing roller coaster and not in a bad way!
Malena, 5th Grade
I used the MiP before when I was younger with my friend and it was really fun and entertaining to play with. My current experience with the MiP was pretty interesting. I think it’s great that we can use it as a group. I really enjoyed the MiP robot because I get to do fun stuff with it. There were different modes I used and they were really funny. My favorite mode was dancing because my partner Kimonye did the moonwalk as our Explore Bot followed along. I also like the MiP robot because it feels like a regular person being with you and you get to have fun with it. I also got to draw a path for the MiP to walk on, but I had some difficulties because there were obstacles in the way so I had to change some of the commands in my code.