fischertechnik (& Spider-Man) Visit Hour of Code

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fischertechnik (and Spider-Man) Make a Guest Appearance at the Wasatch Institute of Technology’s “Hour of Code” Event hosted by Adobe. It’s always interesting to see how fischertechnik is used to help introduce students to technology and STEM related concepts. Recently, Annika Boudwin with “Wasatch Inventors and Explorers” in Utah, (one of our fischertechnik family of resellers) shared some photos with us from an event held in her area.

Hour of Code – STEM Related Fun

Hour-of-codeThe event was the Wasatch Institute of Technology’s “Hour of Code”, which was hosted at the Adobe Lehi Campus building at WIT on Saturday, May 17th. The event, billed as a fun day of learning, games activities and presentations, was free and open to all of Utah’s K-12s students and their families. A wide variety of Utah based companies, nonprofits, and government agencies were present to show firsthand how technology plays a key role in their industry. Of course, the bigger goal was to spark the interest of students in the STEM centric careers that will so desperately need skilled workers in the future, careers theses students will hopefully begin exploring, and skills they will hopefully begin acquiring, as early as possible.

As Annika Boudwin, with Wasatch Inventors and Explorers, recently wrote,

Part of my goal in reselling fischertechnik is to expose children to technology and STEM concepts and help them make informed decisions about their careers as they approach adulthood. Personally, I am disappointed that the ratio of women to men in technical fields is becoming even more imbalanced in spite of much discussion regarding gender equality. In particular, I want girls to feel comfortable and capable with STEM subjects before deciding to pursue another career instead of shying away from technical fields because they do not feel capable.”

Besides fischertechnik, the event featured something for everyone…from face painting and a bounce house, a chance to meet Marvel’s  the Amazing Spider-Man , to numerous exhibits where students could explore game design, music technology, animation, robotics and much more, up close and personal.

From all accounts, it was a hugely successful (and fun!) event , and one we hope will be repeated, not only in Utah, but all over the US. If you’re involved with an “Hour of Code”, or similar “STEM” focused event in your area, please share details (and photos) with us, so that we can share them with our readers.

 

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STEM in Action: Robotics and Controls Hardware Course

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STEMgraphicEarlier this summer, Information Communications Technology (ICT) Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) students from Heart Lake Secondary School attended a Robotics and Controls Hardware Interfacing Course at Studica Limited in Mississauga, Ontario. Studica Limited provided the students with fishertechnik, National Instruments myDAQ and mySTEM hardware products. The students were then asked to program and control a system of components and drive motors that they built and designed themselves.

Evolving STEM Education

Heart Lake Secondary School is part of the Peel school district, serving the municipality of Caledon, Brampton and Mississauga, Ontario. It is one of many schools that participate in Ontario’s education initiative, Specialist High Skills Major. This program allows students to focus on a career path that matches their skills and interests, while also meeting the requirements for the Ontario Secondary School Diploma. SHSM is available to students in 11th and 12th grade and is intended to help them gain relevant career skills and qualifications. The Information Communications Technology major is not unlike Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) programs found in high schools throughout the United States. Both stress the value in trade skills and technology development.

Terry Wadowski, an educator at Heart Lake Secondary School, attended the course hosted by Studica Limited and stated, “Students thoroughly enjoyed the interactive hands-on training session and found it very relevant to their SHSM program. Studica Limited was very helpful in providing ideas for creative ways to deliver Technological Studies curriculum.”

The Importance of STEM Education

STEM Education is an important topic worldwide. In terms of education, these programs often address the issues students face when entering the workforce. No matter what industry they choose to pursue, technological advancement has drastically changed workflow. STEM also addresses the concern that these subjects are taught separate, instead of as an integrated curriculum. Studica has dedicated itself to providing relevant education solutions. Whether it is from one of our educational consultants or our onDemand STEM Education Resources, we seek to expand education outside the classroom and support engaging students in gaining the skills required for a successful future. The Robotics and Controls Hardware Interfacing Course was a lot of fun for our representatives and for the students that participated. Studica Limited was very happy to host the SHSM students from Heart Lake Secondary, and we encourage fellow educators to reach out to STEM experts and create an interactive curriculum for their students.

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Westfield Update: fischertechnik STEM Lab Program

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FT STEM Lab 1When we last looked in on the students at Westfield Vocational Technical High School in Westfield MA, they had just completed the second project in the fischertechnik High School STEM Lab Program.  Recently they have just completed the module focusing on basic electricity. As you probably know from past blog postings, and from our webinars on the fischertechnik STEM Lab Program (one of which you can view a recording of by clicking here: http://youtu.be/-YCtX6abxKo ), each unit of the program presents the students with a real-world scenario. The scenario will typically present some sort of engineering/design related problem, which working in groups, the students must solve and then build a prototype which shows how this problem is actually addressed. In this particular case, here is the scenario they were presented with:

You are in head engineer in charge of wiring a new factory that is being built. It is very important to the workers that will be there that they have plenty of bright lights in the ceiling so they can see their work. There will be large manufacturing equipment on the factory floor running all day long. We do not want the lights and the machines interfering with each other. If wired incorrectly, the lights could become too dim or the machines might slow down. This situation could cause accidents to workers or damage to machines. It is your job to make sure the building is wired correctly.

You will conduct internet research to discover electrical theory. Then we will test this theory by building prototype circuits.  All work should be documented in the engineering notebook. Students will create a schematic to wire three lights to maximize the lights and to connect one motor so it will not slow down.  Students will create a prototype wiring of the schematic. A small presentation on PowerPoint including the schematic and digital photo will be submitted at the conclusion to the teacher.”

fischertechnik STEM Lab Projects in Action:

What follows are a selection of videos showing some of the ways the students at Westfield solved this problem. First off, here is group # 10, featuring Tim, Andre and Kyle:

Our next selection is from group #9, featuring Constantin, Ned, Jim, and Justin. They initially encountered some problems with the project. As they wrote in their group paper:

“One of our problems was during construction; we had a pretty hard time figuring out the wiring to make it into a parallel circuit. Every time we turned on all the lights and motors with the switches it wouldn’t run separately, therefore making it a series circuit. We kept rewiring it until we got the right setup. After we successfully set it up in a series circuit we had to draw a schematic diagram of all of our materials and how we set them up. We have 1 switch for the 3 light bulbs and another switch for the 2 motors so we were able to turn them on and off without interruption from one another. At first, when we had it in a series circuit, when you pressed the motor switch on or off it would also turn the light bulbs on or off. We had to (work) with the wiring to figure out what was wrong and eventually we realized it was in a series and not a parallel circuit.”

You can see their results here:

Once again, we thank teacher Dave Roberts and his students for sharing these updates with us so that we can follow along as they move through the program. We look forward to picking up on their progress once again in the fall. As always, if you have any questions about the fischertechnik STEM Lab Program, we’d love to hear from you. Please email us at STEMLab@studica.com.

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Unity Technologies: Best Engine Award & New Updates

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Unity Technologies Best EngineEvery July, the European-based magazine Develop hosts the biggest awards night in the game development industry. On July 9th in Brighton, England, the Develop Awards honored accomplishments in game development with a focus on creativity, teamwork and inspiring innovation.  Over 175 companies were in attendance with more than 500 representatives from around the world. Unity Technologies was one of twenty companies to take home prizes from this year’s awards ceremony. It is no surprise to us that Unity accepted the Best Engine Award for its powerful, versatile and valuable game development system.

The company announced the release of Unity 5 earlier this year at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. For those that want to get their hands on the world’s best game development engine sooner rather than later, you can pre-order Unity 5 now and get Unity 4 while you wait. Upon Unity’s nomination Develop noted, “No other engine supports more desktop, web, mobile and console platforms.” [1] True to its customer-friendly reputation, the company is continuing to make updates and bug fixes to Unity 4.5.

What’s Next for Unity Technologies?

The latest update, Unity 4.5.2, addresses many of the issues developers have come across. This collection of bug fixes responds to a wide range of issues from documentation and editing to graphics and scripting. Game developers can always count on Unity to take their feedback seriously and adapt software to meet their demands. Check out the sneak peek of Unity 4.6, which explores the upcoming user interface tools that help developers create a 3D canvas using World Space canvas mode. This award-winning engine is truly made to help build design development, whether it’s in the gaming industry, in the classroom or beyond.

Unity has inspired numerous recent hits from developers of all sizes, including:

  • The Room 2 – Fireproof Games
  • Rust – Facepunch Studios
  • Hearthstone – Blizzard Entertainment
  • Max: The Curse of Brotherhood  – Press Play

The Next Generation of Developers

Studica offers education discounts on Unity software for studentsteachers and schools. It is a win, win for both students and educators. Game development is proven to engage students in STEM education. Unity has a unique ability to build upon the excitement they have for interactive design, while providing them with professional tools that builds on real-world experience. Don’t just expose students to technology. Prepare them for the future by introducing Unity’s interactive designs and virtual solutions.

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GameSalad Curriculum & Training for High School Educators

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GameSalad is an innovative company that provides a code-free, 2D game development platform, which is an incredible tool for learning and teaching game design and the theories of project based STEM Education.  Research shows, “70% of teachers agree that using digital games increases motivation and engagement with content/curriculum.”[1] Curriculum that is able to use engaging activities makes it easier for educators to address the various learning abilities of the students in their classes. It allows teachers to develop learning experiences that incorporate the use and development of practices associated with mobile media at a pace regulated by the student. Due to the distinct advantages of courses like these, GameSalad is being offered in classrooms across the country.

GameSalad curriculumMrs. Denise Jackson is a Career and Technical Education (CTE) Teacher at Wimberley High School in Wimberley, Texas. Years previously, Jackson held a senior role in a Fortune 500 company and when she found her way back to the classroom she wanted to make sure she taught a class that would engage students and prepare them for the competitive workforce. In 2012, Wimberley High began a Game Design program, which planned to give students a basic level of programming and game design concepts and then progress to game development toolkits.

It wasn’t until the program introduced students to GameSalad that they began to comprehend the real potential of programming. Jackson stated, “All students play games but few realized the effort behind creating them. We went from a full year of Javascript and small classes to tremendously increasing the enrollment and allowing students to create as they learn. GameSalad opened their eyes to what they could accomplish.” [2]

The Genesis of GameSalad Curriculum

Since GameSalad’s introduction, Jackson has restructured the program. Student’s in her class are now developing mobile applications and games as they learn. The games they are assigned to build are education based with a target audience of elementary level students in their school district. Not only are they engaging in STEM oriented activities, but these students are also actively participating in teaching younger students Common Core Standards through their projects.

GameSalad in the ClassroomPrograms like Wimberley High’s Game Design are just a start to the possibilities of incorporating a curriculum that focuses on mobile project design. GameSalad provides educators with a comprehensive suite of tools and resources that make teaching game development, programming and interactive design simple and entertaining. Developing games challenges students to collaborate and creatively design solutions to complex problems. They are able to learn how to think like a programmer without stumbling over coding systems. Building confidence in students and providing them with new skill sets allows them to advance in their education and meet their career goals.

GameSalad Training for Educators

Studica will be hosting a live GameSalad training session for educators via webinar on August 27th from 12 noon- 4pm EST. The game design training for GameSalad Creator enables you to build and teach mobile video games and apps design using GameSalad Creator, the only drag-and-drop, “no coding required” video game design platform. In this 4-hour webinar, you will learn how to create your own side-scrolling video game using GameSalad Creator and be exposed to core elements of the GameSalad mobile game design curriculum. The webinar will cover installing and using GameSalad Creator, core game design and logic, art and sound, player controls, interactive scenes, user interface, menu design and presentation polish. In addition, this webinar will provide examples of how GameSalad Creator is used every day in STEM Education. This package includes an exam credit to sit for the forthcoming GCAD+i (GameSalad Certified Associate Developer + instructor) certification exam. This exam will launch in Q2 2014 and the credit will be good for one year from the date of the launch of the examination platform.

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Impero Addresses Classroom IT Management at ISTE

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Impero & Studica at ISTEStudica partnered with Impero this year at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) 2014 Conference to bring forth a real solution to the concerns educators and parents have when confronted with digital learning in the classroom. The conference is being held in Atlanta, GA from June 28th through July 1st, 2014. For over three decades, this conference has been a gathering place where attendees and industry representatives can exchange ideas and consider various changes in education technology.

It is the perfect opportunity to discuss the real-life challenges educators face in managing their classroom network. In today’s modern classroom students are exposed to technology and digital devices as early as Kindergarten. And why shouldn’t they be? Technology is one of the fastest growing industries in the global economy. It is critical for the future that students are immersed in the digital world. As budgets and teachers get up to speed on these developments, it is also very important that there is an IT program ready for implementation.

While no one denies the major advancements digital technology has made in the past ten years, the practicalities of computer-based learning bring forth a lot of concerns for educators and parents alike. Are teachers able to monitor the online behavior of a classroom full of students? How will they handle the risks associated with introducing young students to an online environment? Will students stay on task? These management issues are very important to the transformation modern classrooms are undergoing.

Impero for Network & Classroom Management

Impero Portraits-35Studica and Impero are both dedicated to making sure schools have the appropriate resources to support digital learning. Impero began in 2002 with a single software solution to address network and classroom management. With its initial success, Impero received a lot of feedback and continued to revise and revolutionize its software. Twelve years later, it is offering Impero Education Pro, a software package that is designed to save money and time, reduce carbon footprints, focus student learning and offer security in an online environment.

Acceptable boundaries are defined and enforced with Impero Education Pro, allowing educators to prevent students from viewing unsuitable content, releasing personal information, accessing indecent images, cyberbullying and/or identity theft. Whether monitoring real-time assignments or compiling a report of students’ online behavior, Impero Education Pro equips teaching staff with tools they need to manage their classroom effectively and efficiently. Administrators are able to manage computers, licenses, inventory, printing and even power from their desktops. In the classroom or in the district offices, this software benefits students, faculty and staff.

We’ve received tremendous feedback from ITSE so far and look forward to hearing from more of you in regards to your network solutions and/or challenges. Please feel free to check out some very interesting Impero Education Pro case studies and don’t forget to follow us on social media for more conference updates. At this time, Studica only offers Impero Software for our USA and Canadian stores.

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Lumion Visualization Competition with $30,000 Prize

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Lumion, the well-known Architectural 3D software company, has announced its upcoming design competition aimed at the next generation of architects and designers. As they point out with the popularity on Minecraft it is crystal clear upcoming generations like to design and build. Starting today – July 1st, 2014, the company launched a visualization software competition in hopes of inspiring creativity among young people looking to pursue a career in design fields. Kids and teens can win $30,000 in this creative competition. Not a bad payday! :) The Architecture industry, like most industries, is in the midst of a revolution as technology advances. Lumion is at the forefront of these innovations. It seeks to encourage young people to embrace new possibilities and harness the power that the latest technology can offer them.

Lumion CompetitionLumion is an ideal tool to demonstrate the future of architectural visualization. This software simplifies the traditional challenges of using visualization software and allows designers to simply create without the hassle of complicated digital tools. Those familiar with game development will find Lumion software even more easy to use, as it uses a similar accessible interface. Make flythrough videos, create grand scenes and add animation with a click of a button to breathe life into your designs. This software system is self-contained, fast, convenient, fun and aesthetically beautiful.

Last year, Lumion was the focus of ‘The Museum/Lumion Challenge’ that was sponsored by Act-3D, Designconnected and 3D World Magazine. This contest featured the New National Gallery in Berlin and asked designers to showcase the museum and its surroundings during an event of their choice. Similar to the company’s upcoming competition, this challenge demonstrated the potential and originality Lumion real-time visualizations and animations can bring to architectural design. Check out the winning design and video here to get an idea of the emotive, realistic qualities of this amazing work. This year, Lumion visualization competition 2014 will promote youth interest in the architecture and design industries worldwide.

Lumion Visualization Competition Information

Lumion-visualization-competitionLumion Visualization Competition 2014 will focus on the next generation of architects and what they are capable of. The competition will start on July 1st and the deadline for entries is September 21st, 2014. The winners will then be announced in October. The contest will be comprised of three age categories: A (6-9 years old), B (10-14 years old) and C (15-20 years old). Participants can access a specially designed button on the competition page to see if their computer is able to run the free Lumion 4.5 Competition version software, made specifically for this competition.  For age categories A and B, 3D models of buildings are provided for participants to upload. Competitors in category C may use these models, but they also have to import a design of their own in addition. With the prize-pot worth a total of $75,000 and a top individual prize of $30,000, those hoping to pursue a career in architecture can certainly get a head start on tuition.

 

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littleBits Celebrated Robot Week in a Big Way

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We’re a little behind the times in celebrating Robot Week, but we HAD to share some of the awesome projects littleBits came up with for their celebration. These projects include some of everyone’s favorite robots and are made entirely of littleBits. Wait, you haven’t heard of littleBits? Not sure why are we so excited to be featuring them on our blog? Well, let us tell you! littleBits is a company specializing in electronic modules that snap together with tiny magnets for prototyping, learning and fun. The products themselves consist of tiny circuit-boards with specific functions engineered to snap together with magnets. In an academic community searching for ways to stimulate and engage STEM education, littleBits provide a great solution. Each “bit” has a specific function (light, sound, sensors, buttons, pulse, motors, etc.) and entire modules can even snap together to make larger circuits.

littleBits Make Technology Easier to Understand

Our everyday lives are packed with technological devices and most of us don’t even understand how they function. As devices become more and more interactive, it is important that we teach students not to limit themselves to passive consumption of technology. littleBits was developed to break down the barrier between products we consume and our ability to make and understand them. Everyone can be an inventor. littleBits is an open source community that shares its designs and creativity online and through its products.

We are very excited to provide littleBits modules.

Look at what they were able to do for Robot Week. With the littleBits Space Kit, the team was able to build their very own Rover. This kit was developed with NASA Scientists and Engineers. It includes 12 modules, 5 NASA lesson plans and 10 STEM activities.

littleBits rover

Check out this Terminator-esque animatronic Hand, created with 21 individual bits.

littleBits terminator hand

Whether it’s cleaning your house or serving you breakfast, this Robot Butler was created with fun innovation in mind. This little guy was built with only 12 bits.

littleBits Butler

 

 

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What is Additive Manufacturing?

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Additive Manufacturing (AM) is being applied to a wide range of industries, such as the automotive industry, the medical field and even aerospace manufacturing. The name is very appropriate, since Additive Manufacturing is described as any technology that builds a 3D object by adding layer-upon-layer of material. This material can range from plastic, metal, concrete and perhaps one day even human tissue.

Requirements for Additive Manufacturing

AM technologies often require the use of a computer, 3D modeling software (particular for Computer Aided Design or CAD), machinery to construct the object, and the layering material responsible for the object’s composition. Take a look at the chart below to see how these elements come together to form basic Additive Manufacturing.

Additive Manufacturing Chart

Examples of Additive Manufacturing

The application of AM is limitless. One of the most common examples of AM is 3D Printing. Additive Manufacturing is often referred to as 3D Printing, but it actually refers to the production technique that can be utilized by many different materials. 3D Printing, on the other hand, is limited by its fabrication process and material. Most 3D printers today use Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) or Stereolithography (SLA) technology.  XYZprinting’s da Vinci 2.0 is an FFF 3D printer that uses thermoplastic material to form objects, while SLA employs laser technology to cure photopolymer resin. Both of these procedures illustrate the basic process behind Additive Manufacturing. Companies like XYZprinting and Autodesk are slated to release their SLA printers later this year.

This technology is neat, but why is it so important for manufacturing? Additive Manufacturing benefits every industry in terms of efficiency, cost effectiveness, design freedom and overall convenience. Without the need to build a mold or employ dies, AM allows companies to make parts and prototypes on demand. This quick production time also decreases costs since there is no need for a mold and any design changes can be implemented right away. Additive Manufacturing also opens up design possibilities, since the constraints of tooling and machining are eliminated. All of the challenges presented by design and production can be met in-house and on a single company’s production schedule. This all adds up to offering customers and professionals the ability to create, customize and/or repair products, while simultaneously redefining current production technology.

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fischertechnik Fun News Flash

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fischertechnik RoboRaveAs I ran a bit long in the last fischertechnik blog post (what else is new?), I was unable to mention a couple of cool snippets of fischertechnik news that I want to share with you now. The first bit of news concerns RoboRAVE International 2014, which was held in Bernalillo, New Mexico at the beginning of May.  RoboRAVE, for those whom may not be familiar, is an international robot competition for teams of 2 to 4, ages 8 and up, who design, build, and program a robot. Among the many platforms that can be used in RoboRAVE competitions is fischertechnik. Earlier this week we received  a photo from Beverly Belkova showing the members of  the team representing the Czech Republic, along with their fischertechnik robot, which they used in a Fire Fighting Competition. The competition involved extinguishing the flame on a number of candles in a three minute time period. 46 different teams from 8 different countries participated, and the Czech team placed 5th-8th in this category.  Hopefully next year they, and their fischertechnik robot, can bring home a victory.

fischertechnik Awarded by Dr. Toy

PrintSpeaking of winning, fischertechnik was also the proud recipient of a big honor this past month, courtesy of Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D., aka ‘Dr. Toy’.  Dr. Toy selected the fischertechnik Oeco Energy set (#520400) as one of their “Best Green Products for 2014”. The Oeco Energy set, which focuses on showing how ecological electrical energy can be generated from sources such as wind, water and sun, was one of only a very small group of products to receive this recognition. To quote the press release “The award winning Green Products are made by companies striving to inspire children to appreciate the environment and help them learn to take better care of our natural resources. These companies are making products to teach children more about our planet and producing playthings that are based on Green Principles. These are excellent examples of playthings that are made safely, are healthy to use, and have plenty of other special play and learning values.” Thank you Dr. Toy, for this great award! As I said before, we are indeed honored.

On that note, until next time, if you have any questions to ask, comments, or perhaps even your own fischertechnik related news and photos, please feel free to contact us at STEMLab@studica.com

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