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Lego League Bootcamp Full of Success (and Meaningful Failures!) July 31, 2017

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Over thirty students from all four Burlington elementary schools participated in the Science Center’s FIRST Lego League Bootcamp session as a part of the Burlington Public Schools summer programming. Students took on the robotics challenges from last year’s FIRST Lego League Challenge, “Animal Allies” using the board, challenges, and LEGO elements used by the MSMS Robotics team in the fall of 2016, Also on board were three volunteers from the team as well as a mentor from the BHS Devilbotz. Mrs. Sheppard and Mrs. Anderson co-operated the camp with Mr. Musselman and hope to use some of the elements and LEGO kits themselves in the coming academic year in their classrooms or after-school clubs.

About to begin scoring round 1 of our FLL boot camp!

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A look through the Burlington Science Center instagram feed over the past two weeks will reveal all of the great fun students had succeeding (and failing!) at their challenges. Students learned the importance of using sensors to guide robots toward their goals and experienced first-hand the challenges of cooperating with peers to coming to a consensus on how to approach a challenge with many possible solutions!

Working on our pollinator challenge at the @burlingtonsummerprogram

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Mr. Musselman is also pleased to announce that next year the Science Center will be expanding its role in the community by developing a EV3 LEGO Robotics library loan program, available to all Burlington students. Contact Mr. Musselman after September 15th to schedule a loan of one of the center’s EV3 LEGO kits.

Scenes from FLL boot camp @burlingtonsummerprogram

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The Science Center would also like to thank the BEF for their continued support of Burlington Public Schools robotics programs and the Science Center specifically. Thank you for all that you do!

Our great robotics programs would not be possible without the support from the @burlingtonedfoundation. Thank you!

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Engineering Earthquake Resistant Structures June 8, 2017

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Mrs. Weinberg’s 4th graders got a sneak-peak at next year’s earthquake curriculum as pilots for a future “Quake Shake Engineering” challenge put together by Mr. Musselman. Students learned about the kinds of seismic waves earthquakes form before learning about the substructures commonly put into place by construction companies to reduce the impact of an earthquake on a building or piece of city infrastructure.

Students planned, constructed, tested, and compared results with fellow classmates to determine which structures held up to the seismic tests (performed by student power and the help of a metronome). At the conclusion of the challenge 3 of the 5 structures managed to hold their own to the model earthquake. The “winner” of the bid for construction eeked by their second closest competitor by saving such slightly more on their design’s cost and weight (secondary objectives to the most important goal!)

Mr. Musselman would like to thank Mrs. Weinberg’s class for being such great “guinea pigs” and structural engineers! Hard hats off to you!

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 “Gearing Up” – Register Now! April 14, 2015

Posted by MrMusselman in Burlington Community, Science Center.
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Students entering grades 4 and 5 for the 2015/2016 school year may participate in this new program spun from the popular “Robotics Clubs” that are being run for the first time in several of our elementary schools this year. Students will primarily learn how to construct and program robots constructed from the LEGO robotics EV3 kits and complete challenges that will explore the basics behind robot design and programming. Along the way students will also have an opportunity to meet professionals in STEM careers volunteering their time to introduce important ideas around robotics design and may also discuss simple ethical dilemmas faced by inventors using robots not previously used.

Burlington is offering its students the opportunity to attend a two-week session (Monday through Thursday). Tuition is $250. To register for this camp complete the following registration and emergency form and send to Rosemary Desousa at 123 Cambridge Street, Burlington.

Dates: July 20, 2015 – July 30, 2015, (8 five-hour weekday sessions)

Time: 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Place: Memorial Elementary School

Transportation to and from camp: Arranged by parents

SummerSTEM: Engaging Students through Programming and Robotics July 18, 2014

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Today marks the end of a wildly successful pilot of the Burlington Programming/Robotics SummerSTEM camp, spawned after the well received “hour of code” earlier this year by me and Francis Wyman’s IT Specialist, Ben Schersten. With the focus on learning basic strategies and methods applied by computer programmers and robotics engineers, our two-week course primarily utilized “Hopscotch,” an iPad app using “Blockly” computer language, and a dozen Lego NXT kits funded through a grant a few years ago at the Francis Wyman Elementary.


Mr. Schersten sharing the html code of his website.

With relatively little direct instruction students went from being relative novices in computer language and coding concepts, to mechanical and software “engineers”, problem solving everything from coding miscues to optimal gear placement on the robots axles. Many students integrated the use of sensors to build robots that avoided walls while attempting to maneuver balls from one side of the room to the other. Receiving only rough, open-ended guidelines for much of the camp, students seemed to work tirelessly on their projects, some even groaning when recess or snack brought a “mandatory” break and in some cases coming to camp 10 to 15 minutes early to get a little “extra time” with their Hopscotch program.

To emphasize the importance of robotics and computer science in their community, we spent one day on the second week on a field trip to two robot companies in the area, Harvest AI and iRobot. Their kids were wowed as the Harvest prototypes, “Shaq” and “Skip” endlessly carted potted plants to their watering and sunlight destinations. Our hosts were kind enough to show us the electrical wiring inside one of their other bots and the display sharing the hundreds of lines of commands being used by the bots as they made their way around the warehouse. At iRobot we received a historical tour sharing the evolution of iRobot’s most popular models and learned about how robots were best used when doing jobs people classified under the “Three D’s: Dull, Dirty, or Dangerous.”

Along the way students also dabbled in Scratch, exploring how different coding platforms still use the same skills and concepts. During the first week students also participated in a few Computer Science Unplugged activities, teaching students about how computers use binary numbers to compute numbers, compress image files, and debug programs where the code is translated in error.

With the Burlington school system further investing into its LEGO Robotics infrastructure, Ben and I are looking forward to expanding the robotics camp and programming opportunities available to our students in the future!

Mr. Musselman and Mr. Schersten would like to thank Harvest AI and iRobot for graciously hosting us, and our student volunteers from the high school and middle school who volunteered their time and talents to share and work with our students!

Exploring Changes in Matter January 30, 2014

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Mrs. Visocchi’s fourth graders took on an ambitious new challenge from the Science Center over the past week. Students were asked to explore a variety of physical and chemical changes and determine if new substances of matter had been created or whether the matter there had simply changed form.


Students were first challenged to share what they knew about changes in matter around their home and school. From there, investigations were underway as students observed what happened when different types of matter such as ice, chocolate, salt water, and kool-aid were heated up. Many students realized these changes did not create new substances, but others were less sure and curious about the mysterious gases rising from some of the different pans of melting material.


More investigations were run the next day as groups of students moved from station to station exploring the changes in color between cabbage juice and many home cleaning fluids, the “reaction” between alka-seltzer and water in a rapidly expanding plastic baggie, and the observable decomposition of an apple left out for several days.

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All the while students recorded their observations and shared evidence with one another of whether new substances had been made or not. For a grand finale, students observed the change in sodium polyaclorate and water to form “instant-snow” and designed experiment to see if a new substance had been made or if the water could somehow be extracted from the powder again. A few experiments were put to the test, with some powder left out by the window sill over the weekend and others put to the test by Mr. Musselman and his closed system of pipes and graduated cylinders designed to capture the mysterious gases rising from the snow (which were discovered to be water!)



All in all the week long investigation was a huge success, with student performing hands-on investigations, using persuasive evidence to support their claims of new substances being made (or not) and digging deeper into matter, its forms, and its properties. We thank Mrs. Visocchi for allowing her class to be a “guinea-pig” for new lessons from the Science Center we hope to bring to other schools in the future!

Rocket Day 2011 November 21, 2011

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Despite the wild weather Burlington experienced in October, our “Rocket Day” programs, sponsored once again by the Air Force Communication and Electronics Association were spectacular sights to see!

At every school students experienced an impressive showing of the forces of flight from Ms. Pavlicek and Mr. Musselman. A newly polished Rocket Car was on display to demonstarte Newton’s third law of motion. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction!

The assistance of Amanda Gustafson, Chip Grueter, Kristina Deer, and Kim Matthews was indispensable to the experience of our students as they assisted us with the safe firing of over three hundred rockets over the course of four Rocket Days. In addition, the RC plane demonstrations performed by Amanda and Chip were an incredible thrill, leaving all the Memorial students “ooh-ing and ahh-ing” at the impressive display of acrobatics performed by their aircrafts.

A number of our fourth grade teachers and parents took some great photos of the event. Check out their blog pages listed at the bottom for great photos. Also special thanks to Mrs. Weinberg for the wonderful animoto slideshow she made embedded below!

Thanks again to the Air Force Communication and Electronics Association for their generous support.

Related Links:
Miss Hayes’ Classroom Blog
Mrs. Visocchi’s “Peanuts Gang” Blog