Milwaukee Montessori School student Shireen Z. was one of only 12 students in the country to win President Obama's 2011 National STEM Video Game Challenge.
Read more about Shireen's game here.
Interested in playing the STEM-challenge-winning game yourself? Click here to try your hand at "Discover..."
littleBits and Arduino Prototyping
June 18th, 2014 marked the first annual White House Maker’s Faire, celebrating the cottage efforts of professionals and tinkerers alike of the ever growing Maker Movement, a cultural convergence of designers, programmers, hackers, inventors, dreamers, and creative types of every ilk leveraging the power and accessibility of technology and software to shape our future. With the potential of breakthrough technologies like 3D printing and open source software, literally anyone can bring to life their vision to create the next great technological innovation.
Our students are taught to be innovators, and the MMS Technology program is very excited to begin working with littleBits and the power of Arduino to take their capabilities to the next level and allow them to take their rightful place within the ranks of the Maker Movement.
LittleBits are open sourced, modular circuit boards of varying and specific functions designed to snap together with magnets, so that complex electronic mechanisms can be created without arduous bread boarding and soldering.
Arduino is an open source prototyping platform based on a simple microcontroller board that can receive input and send output from both digital and analog sources. Using an Arduino board, one can create and program computers that can sense and interact with the physical world.
Using an Arduino board and littleBits together, with the added power of our 3D printer, our students will have the power to create and program completely original prototype computing machines and robotics.
We are extremely excited to begin working with students this fall with these fantastic new tools. Stay tuned for updates on their creations!
More about Arduino
More about littleBits
TED talk by Ayah Bdeir - founder of littleBits
Technology at MMS: Constantly Evolving
Technology at MMS is not ‘a subject.’ We don’t use textbooks. If we did, they would have to be rewritten every few weeks to keep up with the constant influx of new tools and applications. We consider technology and programming to be a necessary new literacy, a language that unlocks potential. Working together we learn ethical, safe, and efficient communication in the digital world. We get things done. At MMS, technology is a love of learning about the tools of the future.
A NEW LITERACY. Our approach is not for students to attain expert skill levels using a specific set of applications because we know all applications are destined to become obsolete. Instead, we seek to instill the skills that allow our students to attain proficiency in any technological application available now or in the future.
ETHICAL AND SAFE COMMUNICATION. Communication and information have never been more fluid, and our digital identities are becoming indistinguishable from actual identities. In many ways, our behavior within the digital realm can affect our lives faster than our behavior outside of the digital realm. Our aim is to give students the tools and knowledge to leverage the enormous potential of safe and ethical online citizenship.
GETTING THINGS DONE. It is no longer a novelty to be technically savvy in the professional environment, but a true necessity for staying informed and getting ahead. How students use technology in the classroom sets the stage for how they will use it in the future, and new research shows that only 5% of U.S. high schools provide students with technology training that will enable them to excel in the workplace. At MMS, technology is the avenue for vibrant and dynamic demonstrations of content across the curriculum, and our program teaches students programming, and how to learn to use the new tools that constantly become available to enrich classroom learning.
TOOLS OF THE FUTURE. Code is the language of computer programming. It drives nearly all systems we interact with, yet 90% of schools do not teach programming. Those who are code literate will drive the markets of tomorrow, just as 3D modeling and printing will drive the future of manufacturing and engineering. A firm grounding in technology science provides a launch pad for students entering a wide variety of professional fields, and our goal is to provide students with the skills needed to use real-world technology today and tomorrow.
Latest Happenings in the Tech Lair
3D Models that Move!
During the school year, students completed a unit where they learned how to create 3D models to be printed on the 3D printer that have moving parts.
3D printing as a new technology stands poised to revolutionize manufacturing, as it has the ability to mass produce preassembled machines with complex moving parts that don’t require assemblage or welds. Having an understanding of this potential, and the ability to replicate it themselves within a school project, is unique to MMS’s technology curriculum.
Students achieved this by creating atomic models that can move. First they selected a particular element, then created the model digitally, generating a nucleus with the correct number of protons and neutrons, and the rings to accommodate the electrons. Students created their models using Blender, an advanced open source 3D modeling and animation software. Students then modeled a central spindle on which the nucleus and rings can swivel. Absolute precision is required in the engineering of these models, as the slightest miscalculation in proportion, angle, or position within the 3D space will result in a model which either does not move, fails to print all together, or crumples after printing is complete. A successful model comes off of the build plate fully formed with all movement points swiveling freely and no assembly required.
The principles and techniques used in the creation of this project give students their first experience in 3D digital engineering, something we here at MMS take pride in being able to offer to all students at such a young age.
The Etiquette Game
(posted November 2013)
The MMS Technology curriculum’s Game Design unit is in full swing, with the first crop of original coded video games easing into fruition.
Students from 5th through 8th grade have been programming original video games using Scratch, a web based programming language developed by the MIT. Following lessons in Game Design Theory, students were challenged with creating learning games based on an ascribed topic.
In the case of our Junior High, the topic was table manners and dining etiquette.
The topic of etiquette was chosen for two reasons:
- It would provide a unique challenge in terms of designing a game, as not many video games exist on this topic.
- Knowledge of proper etiquette is often neglected despite how crucially valuable it can be to secure opportunities in the adult world
Check out a few examples of the game produced by our Junior High students below!
Recreating History from Scratch
(posted September 2013)
Junior High tech students are currently finishing up an assignment using Scratch, a programming language developed at MIT (http://scratch.mit.edu/), to program a simple animation of an historical figure of their choice. Once they've finished their simple animation, students will use the program Audacity to record and edit a historical speech or dialogue from that figure. The students began by finding an image of their figure, cutting that image out and then drawing the body using vector graphics within Scratch rather than using a bitmap image.
The next step is to animate their figure as it recites a piece of historical dialogue. To do this, the student uses his or her own voice and then edits it to sound similar to what their historical figure sounded like or may have sounded like.
The reasoning behind this lesson is to not only give our students practice in animation, but to allow them to creatively express their research and demonstrate their knowledge in history. By introducing Scratch as another means to present information learned, students will be equipped to use the technology for an upcoming assignment on the life and presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. The project also serves to provide practice in programming syntax, which will be integral as they progress into game design.
Watch some examples of these historical Scratch animations below!
Click here to see Jackson S.'s animation of Isaac Newton.
Learn who really pioneered the moonwalk through Madison K.'s animation here.
Click here to see Elyse C.'s hard-hitting creation.
Visit a young heroine by watching Olivia E.'s animation here
3D Printing at MMS
Last year, MMS received a grant to purchase a 3D printer to be used in conjunction with MinecraftEdu (read more about how we use MinecraftEdu at MMS) and the World Peace Game, a hands-on political simulation that allows players to explore the connectedness of the global community. Starting with MinecraftEdu, students will design virtual game pieces to use while playing the World Peace Game. The students will then see these virtual designs come to life using our 3D printer to create actual, plastic game pieces.
The printer works by melting down plastic threadlike material and printing layer by layer until the 3D object has been fully formed. Right now, we are experimenting printing a form of a human hand with simple joint that we will eventually program to move. We look forward to using the 3D printer so students can immerse themselves in industrial design, manufacturing real models designed using 3D modeling and animation software, building simple machines, custom lines of jewelry or household objects and even working parts to assemble their own robot.
3D Zoology Alert
Another way students are using the Makerbot Printer is in their study of reptile physiology. Using Digimorph.org, a National Science Foundation Digital Libraries Initiative that documents 2D and 3D models of various animals and other organisms both living and extinct, students transpose the skeletal portion of their studied reptiles and use the Makerbot 3D printer to enhance their diagramming and labeling projects.
For 2D diagrams, students use a vast array of software tools, including Art Rage, Animationish, Sketchup, 3D Crafter, Blender, or they may opt to draw their diagrams by hand on electronic or actual paper. We no longer dictate which software our students should use to complete assignments; after receiving the criteria for their projects, they decide which tools will best lead them to the results they want to achieve.
Right: Crocodile skull printed by student who, in an animal anatomy lesson, learned to determine the difference between an alligator and a crocodile based on the features of their skeleton.
Recreating Ancient Greece
(posted November 2013)
By studying student curriculum in Ancient Greece, and identifying the social and cultural values of the civilization, MMS 6th grade students set out to design their own Spartan School in MinecraftEdu as it might appear in Ancient Greece. Replete with sections specialized for the teaching of combat and physical fitness, the Spartan School also included spaces for teaching philosophy and music.