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Pine Glen’s Bridge Engineers February 3, 2017

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“Twenty One Elephants and Still Standing” by April Jones Prince

Second graders at Pine Glen have been ‘building’ an understanding of how engineers select materials for specific purposes through their new “bridge engineering challenge.” Before being introduced to the challenge teachers read the core book, “Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing” a picture book documenting how P.T. Barnum seized the attention and awe of New York City by marching  his circus star elephants across the newly constructed Brooklyn Bridge, proving to the masses the bridge was safe and his circus was in fact, “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Using the pictures in the book and images from other bridges around the world, students discuss what materials bridges are made of and why learning that this “research” will be handy before they get to work building their own model bridges!

We used wood because it was strong and rigid! We used cups to lift the bridge over the gap. #bpschat

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The criteria for a successful bridge is simple: The bridge must be 45cm long and hold the load of 5 circus elephants. All groups use the same type and quantity of materials before engaging in the challenge.

Pine Glen engineers sharing the properties of their bridge! #bpschat

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More successful bridge building in Mrs. B's room! #bpschat

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Along the way, teachers assess student understanding of the thinking engineers need to do before partaking in construction projects like bridges by asking them to share their thinking about which materials they chose to use and why. Students later evaluate whether or not the bridge meets the expected “engineering solution criteria” (Was it long enough? Did it hold the animals?) before documenting their bridges and learning in their Explain Everything digital notebooks.

Successful bridge, documented with Explain Everything! #bpschat

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The Science Center is excited to see students engaging in this kind of learning being built into each and every new science unit across our K-5 schools and classrooms. Keep an eye on this blog for future updates on what new investigations and challenges our students are embarking on!

BHS HelpDesk and Science Center partner to build “Augmented Reality Sandbox” December 9, 2016

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Students, Eddie Reis and Jinzhen “Hugo” Hu have been furiously working to bring a Science Center BEF grant vision to reality. As the holidays approach we checked in with these students to see how far they had come with the future Science Center crown jewel, the Augmented Reality Sandbox!

As you can see, the kinks are still being worked out and the entire project is not yet mobile, but we are confident this project will come to full fruition in the coming months as the technical and structural glitches get worked out. Eddie and Hugo also plan to add in the watershed and precipitation features to the software. The AR Sandbox will be on display and available for students to explore during the Hour of Code week scheduled for the week of December 12th.

MSMS Robotics Team Wraps Up First Year, Sends “Savage 6” to State Competition November 23, 2016

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The MSMS Devilbotz have (almost) finished their introductory year to the FIRST Lego League circuit, with one of four teams moving on to the state championships next month. Twenty-seven middle school students participated in the “Animal Allies” challenge put forth by FIRST, (For Inspirtation and Recognition in Science and Technology) and LEGO to provide students the opportunity to “design, program, and construct their own intelligent inventions.”

Guided by Mr. Marino, Mrs. Lynch, and several BHS Devilbotz mentors, the students met twice a week after school (and in some cases more) to prepare for the competition. Participants were required to create and program a robot capable of completing a multitude of challenges on what can best be described as a LEGO obstacle course. Participants also were judged on the technical engineering and efficiency of their robot and its programming, how well they lived up to the core values of the FIRST Lego League program, and the communication of their research on the relationships between animals and humans.

Dueling Devilbotz! #bpschat #firstlegoleague

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With over 100 “games” played and presentations performed, the teams waited anxiously through the entire results presentation at the conclusion of the regional competition on November 19th. Their patience was rewarded when one of the four teams, “The Savage 6” earned enough points to qualify for the state competition! While only a quarter of the team’s participants are moving on everyone felt satisfied with their results and experience at the conclusion of the competition and are already eager to participate again next year.

Shark attack!

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The Burlington Science Center would like to thank Mrs. Jane Lynch and Mr. Jourdan Marino again for their service to the team and Mr. John Carroll and Miss Elizabeth Normandin for volunteering their time over the weekend as well to help manage the teams during the competition day. We are excited to continue to grow the robotics program throughout all of the Burlington schools!

Pig practice! #bpschat #firstlegoleague

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Using Models to Investigate Forces & Motion September 27, 2016

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Students at Memorial using force and motion simulations! #bpschat

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In anticipation of Rocket Day 2016, fourth graders all over Burlington have been exploring forces and their effect on an objects motion. In a new twist on a tried and true “Tug-of-War” lesson, Mr. Musselman introduced PhET models to classrooms at the Francis Wyman and Memorial schools. Using their iPads, students were able to access the free models and explore the cause and effect relationship between the forces being applied by the tug-of-war participants and the effect on the large cart of candy in the middle. Check out these student pictures and videos to see how students constructed their own understanding of forces and motion through this very cool simulation!

Constructing explanations for how different forces effect the cart's motion. #bpschat #ngsschat

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Summer Robotics Students Launch into a World of Programming and Engineering July 29, 2016

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The Burlington Science Center’s summer robotics program has found its rhythm in its third year of operation. A mix of incoming third, fourth, and fifth graders joined the second session of summer programs at the Memorial Elementary School from July 18th – 28th.

Day 1 of our summer robotics program. Assembling the bot to NASA specifications! #bpschat

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During the first week, students engaged in a series of challenges as NASA Jet Propulsion Lab engineers charged with constructing the next Mars rover. Robots were built to exact “NASA specifications” before being programmed to travel precise distances, take tight corners, use touch and ultrasonic sensors to navigate unexplored terrain and light sensors to detect signs of valuable minerals or follow pre-constructed paths on the colony grounds. Each challenge was scaffolded to challenge the engineers to design robots and programs of increased levels of sophistication.

Team Red: Nick and Alan complete the Red Line Challenge! #devilbotz2876 #bpschat

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Along the way our students engaged in questions about what roles could and should robots play in our world both now and in the future. Students created and shared Explain Everything presentations illustrating their imagined worlds in which robots completed chores and cleaned up the environment, expressing both the benefits of a robotized society and the challenges (such as jobs and “money loss” that would be faced as a result.)

Mrs. Snyder's robotics crew taking in a quick read on the variety of ways robots play a role in our lives. #devilbotz2876 #bpschat

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Our students’ progress and accomplished feats were documented along the way on the Burlington Science Center instagram page. Check it out directly to see all of the fabulous work captured by our students!

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Kindergarteners “Protect the Popsicle” in Engineering Challenge June 14, 2016

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Mrs. Duncan and Mrs. Parnell are wrapped up their year long investigation of weather and temperature with a challenge putting students engineering skills to the test! Our newly developed “Protect the Popsicle” challenge pits students love for these summer treats against the ultimate source of light and heat energy, the sun!

Students in both classes investigated how heat causes many kinds of matter to melt before investigating the many kinds of shade shelters humans already use to stay cool, particularly in the summer sun!

Protecting the popsicle with our shade structures. What materials do we need? #elNGSSchat

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Students then designed and constructed solutions to the challenge of keeping a popsicle frozen in the sun with the help of a shade shelter. Students then considered how to test the shelters, ultimately deciding it would be best to put them out in a sunny spot outside because “we want to be challenged.”

Finally have a nice day for Mrs Duncan's students to test their shade shelters and protect the popsicles!

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The results were analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively. Teachers poured what had melted after roughly 10 minutes into a graduated cylinder and kept the frozen contents in the plastic sleeve before asking students to consider how they could tell which shade shelters worked the best. Students were able to determine that their shelters worked well because “more freezepop was left in the plastic” than Mr. Musselman’s control popsicle left out in the sun. Then students counted up from their amount of melted popsicle to Mr. Musselman’s with the help of unifix cubes and other counters to determine the difference between the sunny and shaded popsicle!

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Thanks to Mrs. Duncan and Mrs. Parnell for working on developing and piloting this new kindergarten engineering challenge! We are excited to share it with all of the Kindergarten teachers next year! Check out Mrs. Duncan’s blog post for even more information and pictures on how the challenge went.

Shadow Show at the Burlington Early Childhood Center April 15, 2016

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Is Mr. Musselman’s hand really this big???

Mr. Musselman recently brought the Science Center’s shadow theater to the Burlington Early Childhood Center for a morning of exploring how shadows form, how shadows can change in size, and where we can find shadows both indoors and out. Students wrapped up their light and shadow explorations by working together to trace and illustrate one another’s shadows! Check out the fantastic work done by these Cub Cadets and Kinderstars!

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Working together to trace our shadows!

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Taking our time to trace our shadows just right!

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Time to add my features!

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Robotics Summer Program: A Great Success! August 4, 2015

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Dr. Conti stopped by to see some of our awesome prospecting robots in action! #bpschat

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For the second year in a row the Burlington Science Center has conducted a summer robotics programs through Burlington’s annual summer school programs. Incoming fourth and fifth grade students of roughly equal amounts attended, some with previous robotics experience but many with none at all! To help guide our “roboteers” on their journey a number of high school and middle school volunteers were enlisted to support the camp’s efforts. Perennial summer science teachers, Christine Sheppard and Elana Snyder were also back to assist with much of the logistics and to learn more about the basics behind robots for themselves! The theme of the camp was to construct a robot that could undertake several different kinds of challenges on the mysterious exo-planet, “Taboor-3.” In several cases the goals for our robots could be seen in some of the jobs of NASA’s own Spirit and Opportunity robots on Mars. Students were introduced to the idea that robots have historically been designed to perform tasks that fit under at least one of the 3Ds: “Dull, Dirty, and Dangerous.”

Morning Robotics Club meeting where students are captivated by video from recent FIRST Challenge.

A photo posted by Burlington Science Center (@burlingtonsciencecenter) on Jul 23, 2015 at 5:25am PDT

The first two days presented steep learning curve’s as students navigated their way around the LEGO Mindstorms programming software and learned how to use and manipulate the block code system to get the robot to do what they wanted it to. Students recognized the importance to detail in programming as small differences in code or robot wiring inevitably had dramatic impacts on robot behavior in their field tests. By the middle of the first week though students were able to start putting together some impressive bots capable of meeting robust challenges initially many considered to be unobtainable. Using the sensors on the Lego EV3 sets students were able to automate robot behavior, developing “Roomba-like robots” that traversed the oddly shaped foire of the MSMS 2nd floor without bumping into walls or falling down stairs.

These ladies are doing a great job completing their roomba challenge! Anusha from @bhsrobotix has been a big help! #OMGrobots A video posted by Burlington Science Center (@burlingtonsciencecenter) on Jul 23, 2015 at 8:04am PDT

Robotics Camp: To the edge and back! Yikes!!! #bpschat

A video posted by Burlington Science Center (@burlingtonsciencecenter) on Jul 27, 2015 at 9:56am PDT

Later students added light sensors capable of detecting “valuable green minerals” on the floor and alerting robot operators by sending alert signals to their users.

  A video posted by Burlington Science Center (@burlingtonsciencecenter) on Jul 27, 2015 at 6:13am PDT

Students learned the basics behind binary code, learning how to right their name through a series of on/off switches. Once this skill was mastered a guest engineer (Mr. Snyder!) joined us to talk about his work with semiconductors (the switch systems of robots) in wearable technology like Fitbits and Apple watches. He was even kind enough to bring in a prototype to explore along with several other circuit boards.

Engineer Steve sharing our robotics club how a gyroscope and accelerometer work in real time. #askascientist A video posted by Burlington Science Center (@burlingtonsciencecenter) on Jul 28, 2015 at 5:37am PDT

  Examining circuit boards and a wearable prototype!   A photo posted by Burlington Science Center (@burlingtonsciencecenter) on Jul 28, 2015 at 5:50am PDT

In the final two days students were given the choice to participate in one of three “MEGA Challenges.” Some students chose to participate in the “Mini-Golf challenge” where robots were designed to automate the striking and/or dropping of a marble placed in various different positions to simulate “tees” onto a small target (the hole) for points.

Surprise twist on this golf shot! A video posted by Burlington Science Center (@burlingtonsciencecenter) on Jul 30, 2015 at 9:18am PDT

Other students selected the “Butler-Bot challenge,” a technically difficult scenario where students were asked to build a robot that would travel from a “bedroom to kitchen” and use some sort of capture device to pick up a bottle of water and return it to the bedroom.

  Mission accomplished! So impressive!!!   A video posted by Burlington Science Center (@burlingtonsciencecenter) on Jul 30, 2015 at 9:38am PDT

The third and final challenge rested more on student ability to collaborate and work together to construct a robotic “dance team.” In this scenario, students had to first select and choreograph a dance before coding the robot to get them to dance synchronously with one another.

Getting closer! A video posted by Burlington Science Center (@burlingtonsciencecenter) on Jul 30, 2015 at 8:04am PDT

As you can see, not all challenges were fully accomplished… But that’s ok! From day 1 students were reminded that failure is a big part of the design process, and that we learn and grow the most by paying attention to our failures and finding ways to improve on them. By camp’s end we could see that this message had been fully understood as all of our students left with smiles and a sense of pride and accomplishment, no matter what the final results of their robots!

The Scientists Behind Science Education: Our Teachers! May 28, 2015

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Teachers are well known to be life-long learners, so it should be no surprise that a number of teachers in the Burlington schools are working with organizations like the Museum of Science to improve their practice and the state of science education as a whole! At Fox Hill, Mrs. Jaffe and Mrs. Snyder have been participating in an experiment being conducted by the Museum of Science’s Engineering is Elementary division. Over the past two years their classrooms have acted as “guinea pigs” using materials and curriculum provided by the MOS for one of their science units. In Mrs. Snyder’s class students have been studying structural engineering as a part of their Rock & Minerals unit while Mrs. Jaffe’s classes have been acting as electrical engineers as a part of their Electricity unit.

In both cases the teachers have been collecting pre and post curriculum data on student understanding and sending their results to the MOS to be more carefully analyzed for the effectiveness of their units. The real-life science experiment has been a win-win, as Mrs. Jaffe and Mrs. Snyder have both enjoyed modifying their curriculums to include the application of the engineering design process.

The Science Center is proud to support these teachers with the extra preparation needed for some of the engineering activities. We have also been watching with earnest at the wonderful work students have been doing and hope to include units and lessons like these in our coming curriculum changes over the next few years. More details to come on that!

Investigating Light and Sound at Francis Wyman January 20, 2015

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Before holiday break, all the first graders at Francis Wyman were busy investigating light and sound energy.

All along Ms. Farmer was good enough to take photographs of the students experiments, observations, data records, and science diagrams. Thank you so much Ms. Farmer! Her blog with all of her unit photos can be found here.

There was lots of fascinating science phenomena on hand as students explored how sound waves traveled through different types of matter and observed how objects of different shapes and sizes created different sounds.

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While exploring light, students used special glasses to decode hidden messages in the scramble of letters. This led students to realize that some light flows through objects better than others, which led us to experiment with even more materials to determine which ones blocked light, bounced light, or allow light to pass through the best.

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