Piedmont Makers

To Support & Inspire K-12 S.T.E.A.M. Education


School Maker Faire April 23!

January 2017 News


Posted on Jan 9, 2017

Lights! Tech Social - Friday 1/20 6:30pm: Please join us for a Lights-themed Tech Social at Ellen Driscoll Auditorium at Havens.  Beach parent Maria Topete will be discussing the qualities and importance of light in our lives as well as the latest light technologies.  Ms. Topete is currently Director of Applications Engineering at Bridgelux — a light technology company that helps people experience the power and possibility of light. Bring your light and glow toys!  Social time with your tech friends, a pizza dinner, milk, and cookies for only $5 ticket per person!  Please make sure to buy tickets in advance so we can buy enough pizza!

New FIRST LEGO League for 4th/5th Graders - Piedmont Makers is considering organizing FIRST Lego League teams for 4th and 5th graders for the Fall 2017 season.  FIRST Lego League is a Lego Mindstorms-based robotics competition.  Like a sports team, each team would meet 1-2 times per week with weekend scrimmages and tournaments.  The season would run from August to November and if the teams qualify, they would advance to California regional and national competitions in 2018.  If there is sufficient interest, we will hold an info session and registration in the Spring.  Please complete our survey if you are interested!   

4th annual Piedmont School Maker Faire - Sunday 4/23 11am-3pm -Piedmont High School: Save the Date!  Piedmont Makers is proud to join PAINTS and CHIME in co-presenting this year’s School Maker Faire celebrating Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math & Music education inPiedmont.  Stay tuned later this month as we open our Call for Makers!

More S.T.E.A.M. Grants awarded: Because of your generosity, PiedmontMakers has now donated $8050 in grants to support S.T.E.A.M. education for the 2016-2017 academic year to teachers in the Piedmont Unified School District.   Additional grant recipients include:

  • Ms. Feiger – Wildwood 5th Grade ($300) - Ms. Feiger will purchase a 30 pack of solar car kits / 15 per class in 5th grade to complement Bridges Math Unit 8 constructing solar houses.
  • Mr. Kessler - Piedmont Middle School ($200) - Mr. Kessler will construct an earthquake shake table to simulate the types of waves produced by earthquakes that could potentially damage a building. This structure will be used to evaluate students’ simulated earthquake-safe building designs which students will research and construct using the engineering design process.
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Piedmont Post – December 2016


Posted on Dec 14, 2016

Helping Our Kids Find Their Place in the Digital Revolution Through Robotics

by Sally Aldridge

The accelerating pace of technology has got many of us worried about our kids’ future. We wonder what skills will they need?  Will they have jobs? What will machines do ? What will be left for people to do?

Above all we ask, how can public high school and college education keep up with this rapid change?

Based on my work in the technology industry and as an advocate for STEAM education the answer is, with difficulty. Our education systems move slowly and are still more oriented towards educating for the industrial revolution than the digital revolution. They can’t change fast enough to keep pace. Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards are heading in the right direction by moving our kids’ education away from rote memorization to a problem solving framework.  Still, the time it takes to implement these changes is just too long in an underfunded and often struggling education system.

Meanwhile, technology continues its onward march.  Machines can already do most mechanical tasks that humans can do.  And now with artificial intelligence, their brains are just as good, or even better than ours. The job displacement we have seen so far is just a start.

So where does that leave our kids in Piedmont? What do we do as parents?

My hypothesis is that people will still be better at creative problem solving and collaborating than machines. Like many parents and educators, I wondered how could we teach our kids those skills?

To find out, I first got involved with Piedmont Makers.  Then, I worked on the District’s facilities steering committee to get our H1 bond approved, a process which involved seeking input from Bay Area thought leaders on project based learning.  To better understand where students and teachers are, I organized a 21st century learning workshop with a team of designers and the District. With the Makers board, I helped get grants to science and maker teachers this fall.  Besides all of this, I became Vice President of a Parents Club and launched a middle school robotics team.

The activity with the most immediate impact so far has been the robotics team. We are doing the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) competition this season www.firstinspires.org, entered as the Piedmont Pioneers, an all Middle School Team. We have been involved for three months and I’ve seen that it is the most effective path for teaching engineering excellence to kids. Along the way, they learn mechanics, software, 3D printing, problem solving, collaboration, time management, organization, and more. My son is completely hooked and he can’t wait to get to the work sessions. Some weeks the kids volunteer to spend ten to fifteen hours outside of school working on the robot. The kids involved all now see themselves as STEM-focused and pursuing a STEM path.

Now, I wonder if we could expand this activity into the Piedmont community to impact more kids? Piedmont Makers is considering helping to guide such an expansion. We could field multiple teams next season and easily share resources like workshops, tools, mentors and parts.  Piedmont Makers is a 501(c)(3), so all monies going through will be tax deductible. We already have two FTC teams (Piedmont Pioneers and Scotbotics) in Piedmont and there is gathering interest for expanding with an all-girls team as well as elementary school teams.  At the high school level, Scotbotics has been around for a while, but they have been independent with no involvement of the school district or an outside organization. What would happen if we all combined under a common umbrella and committed resources to these teams? We could even host competitions here in Piedmont.  Imagine a Maker league similar in size and scope to sports leagues in Piedmont!

Piedmont parents are great at coming together to make a difference and this is one actionable thing we can do today to make a real impact. If you are interested in putting your name on an email list or getting more involved, please contact me at sally.aldridge@mac.com.  Stay tuned for more articles as this program develops.

Save the date for the next Tech Social on January 20! Theme to be announced in after the New Year.

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November 2016 News


Posted on Nov 6, 2016

Vote for Measure H1!  The Piedmont Makers Board proudly endorses Measure H1.  Measure H1 is on the ballot to permit repairs, renovations and upgrades to all of our schools. In particular, the funds will help provide modern classrooms, science labs and equipment to support advanced courses in math, engineering, science, and technology.  Please join us in voting YES on Measure H1.

Wreck-It Makerspace - Sunday 11/13 1pm-3pm: Learn to make by taking things apart!  Toys, gadgets, and machines will be available for disassembly and discovery at this Makerspace. We will have basic tools on hand. Feel free to bring your own things to break. We will try to take things apart in a way that can be reused as new toys/inventions/gifts.  If you are wondering why we feel making by breaking is a worthwhile activity, read this. There are a limited number of spaces so purchase your $5 tickets today!

“Screenagers” Education Speaker Series - Tuesday 11/15 7:30pm - PHS Alan Harvey Theater: Join ESS for a screening of the award-winning 2016 documentary by physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston, who takes a deeply personal approach as she probes the vulnerable corners of family life, including her own, to explore struggles over social media, video games, academics, and internet addiction. The one-hour viewing will be followed by a panel discussion led by Piedmont Unified School District Wellness Center Clinical Supervisor of Interns, Alisa Crovetti.  Free for Series subscribers; $15 at the door.

S.T.E.A.M. Grants Announced: Piedmont Makers is excited to award $7550 in grants to support S.T.E.A.M. education for the 2016-2017 academic year to teachers in the Piedmont Unified School District.   Thanks to all our donors for making our 1st grants cycle possible!

  • Tracy Broback – Tri-school Elementary ($2550) - Engineering Supply Kit for each elementary school site that includes a stock of readily used supplies for teachers to teach engineering and science projects. We liked Ms. Broback’s proposal because her list of materials is gathered with the input of teachers at each of the elementary schools. We really appreciate the collaboration and hope that these resources are useful to a wide range of projects
  • Dan Kessler - Piedmont Middle School  ($2000) - Water Filtration Project for 7th Graders.  We are excited about Mr. Kessler’s project because it will integrate engineering into lessons about earth sciences using experts and materials to gain further understanding about a fundamental resource to life – water. We decided to exceed our grant budget for this project because we are hoping to fund more projects like this going forward.
  • Adam Saville - Piedmont Middle School ($1500) - Hummingbird Classroom Robotics Kit to allow students in our Makers Elective Class to participate in a Robotics Unit.  We are excited about this project because student will learn many STEAM skills as they build their own interactive robot, including programming, electronics, physical prototyping, and design thinking.
  • Ted Greenebaum - Piedmont Middle School ($1000) - 20 tubs of maker materials for Middle School classrooms.  We liked Mr. Greenbaum’s proposal because it would provide teachers with basic resources for STEAM projects at the Middle School to a large number of students
  • Shelley Seto-Rosen - Piedmont High School ($500) - Handheld Microscope to study blood borne diseases for PHS Biology students.
    We are excited about Ms. Seto-Rosen’s project because students will be adding new design elements to their handheld microscopes in this project. This project-based lesson integrates science and engineering together in a way that exemplifies 21st century learning.

November Board Meeting - Thursday 11/17 7pm - Havens Library - If you are interested in helping support S.T.E.A.M. education in Piedmont schools, please come to our next board meeting.  RSVP to info@piedmontmakers.org.

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Piedmont Post – November 2016


Posted on Nov 2, 2016

by Larraine Seiden and Dion Lim

On November 15, the Education Speaker Series will host the film Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age by physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston. Piedmont Makers has eagerly anticipated a community screening of this award-winning 2016 documentary and the opportunity to develop common language around our kids’ screen time. It seems the perfect time to revisit Piedmont Maker and NextLesson CEO Dion Lim’s article What Do I Do About Screentime? that originally ran in the Huffington Post in December 2014. Here’s his article in its entirety:

What Do I Do About Screentime?

Parents worldwide struggle with how much screen time to allow children. To hit this ever-moving target, I have found questions to ponder more helpful than rules to follow. Here is a list of ones I hope will be useful for your family to discuss together.

10 Questions to Guide Your Family’s Technology Usage

#10 How are we leveraging technology?

Technology is a force multiplier. Whatever you strive to do, you can do it faster, better and cheaper with technology. By evaluating your use of technology through the lens of leverage, your family can become more purposeful about its use. If a technology is not generating leverage, question whether you should be using it.

#9 What’s our use of technology?

Not all screen time is created equal. Most people treat all screen time as the same when its uses are actually quite varied:

CREATIONAL is when you
1) create something you are envisioning or
2) cultivate skills to enable your vision

FUNCTIONAL is where you typically spend the most time when you
1) connect with friends,
2) communicate with the world or
3) carry out research or tasks

RECREATIONAL is probably the most controversial and includes when you
1) consume media, apps, games, etc…
2) (de)compress — it is basically consumption with a relaxation goal

Creational is the best way to prepare your kids for the future.  Brainstorm how to do more of it!

#8 How am I fostering the use of creational technology?

Culture is more powerful than specific interventions. 15 minutes of night-time reading to your child doesn’t compare to a house full of books, discussion of new books and authors, fluency using literary terminology, book clubs and regular family reading times.

Similarly, don’t just buy technology for children to use. Immerse them and your family in the broader technology culture.  Analyze trends and the impact technology is having on the world. Discuss ideas from thought leaders, meet like-minded folk, and create things using technology as a regular part of life.

#7 Is our technology use building or hurting relationships?

Teach kids that their network is their safety net and their ladder. While Facebook and Instagram occasionally get a bad rap, recognize that relationships and networks are critical to future success. When using social media, encourage them to think beyond themselves: “How is what I’m doing likely to create enjoyment or suffering for those around me?” They should pay special attention to how they might be triggering or encouraging cyberbullying.

#6 Are we collaborating on our use of and approach to technology?

Your character is who you are when no one is looking. Households with strict controls of technology in their home have a couple of challenges:

1.Teenagers have the will and resourcefulness to evade parental authority. I have heard of teens putting second “stand-in” phones outside their rooms at night or logging onto a neighbor’s wifi.

2.Children enjoy life more with fully developed self-regulation skills. How are they going to learn to manage their technology if mom and dad are always doing it for them? Collaborate with them on general principles. If the kids feel like they need a rule, then have them come up with it. The cliché “people support what they help build” is both true and self-regulation building.

#5 Are we cultivating mindfulness about the use of technology?

Accept what’s natural. Work towards what’s desirable. Combine mindfulness of their current emotions and needs with self-awareness of their desired values and goals. With these anchoring points, talk about current choices they face and how each option relates to the person they aspire to be.

Minimize stigmatization of your child’s feelings and needs. Of course, validating emotions and feelings doesn’t mean permissiveness, but anonymous websites such as whisper and ask.fm thrive upon students who feel judged.

#4 When is privacy appropriate?

Sunshine is the best disinfectant. While everyone respects the privacy of a child’s journal, we also agree a child cocooned in their room doing something illegal is unacceptable. Your family will have to delineate for itself the space between these two extremes. In general, however, increase privacy as children get older.

A sound bite my son approves is to “Be mindful that if you’re hiding your screen, it’s likely you’re doing something that’s inconsistent with who you’re trying to be.”

Germs die when exposed to sunlight, so do inappropriate activities.

#3 Is our use of technology a privilege, entitlement or responsibility?

All privileges come with responsibilities. This guideline gives your family a mutual framework for evaluating a child’s use of technology. While there is some technology to which they are entitled for schoolwork, most technology use is a privilege. If the responsibilities for a given privilege are too onerous, parents can take away the privilege or as I like to say “help you simplify your life.”

#2 Are we modeling a growth mindset towards technology?

You can do it! Many parents wonder “How do I teach children to be technical when I am not technical?” — like illiterate parents wanting their children to be literate. The good news is that technical literacy is becoming more and more democratized. Check out code.org or Codecademy for programming, DIY.org for making, Stanford’s D.School to learn design thinking, the list goes on.

#1 Are we modeling technology usage?

Be the person you want your children to be … at least until they go to bed.
Are you present when you are with your children, or are you checking email all the time? How much recreational technology are you using? Model the usage you want to see in your children as well as the ratios between creational, functional and recreational technology that you want for your children.

One final thought… as we cross these primal rubicons of technology usage together, hand-in-hand, guided by nothing more than reason, intuition and good intentions, let’s support each other as fellow sojourners on the edge of civilization and cut ourselves some slack!

Wreck It!  Makerspace coming up on November 13, 1-3pm at the PMS makerspace for a day of reverse engineering as we take apart and reassemble old toys.  Bring toys and stuffies you are intrigued to reconfigure and reimagine new possibilities for old things!

We are still looking for volunteers to help with this makerspace, so if you are interested, contact wendi sue at wendiellensue@gmail.com

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S.T.E.A.M. Grants Announced!


Posted on Oct 29, 2016

The Piedmont Makers Board met on October 17 to review and vote on the grant applications we received in response to our first call for grants. We were excited and pleased to see so many applications and greatly appreciate the effort and time it takes to apply. We said we would give out $5000 and were requested a little over twice that amount. We ended up funding $6050 in total for this first round. For each of the applications we could not immediately fulfill at this time, we brainstormed different strategies for funding which we plan to implement soon. The grant program has just begun and we are hoping to grow our ability to fund projects on an as-needed basis in the future.

Congratulations to the grant winners!!

Tracy Broback – Tri-school Elementary ($2550)

Engineering Supply Kit for each elementary school site that includes a stock of readily used supplies for teachers to teach engineering and science projects.We liked Ms. Broback’s proposal because her list of materials is gathered with the input of teachers at each of the elementary schools. We really appreciate the collaboration and hope that these resources are useful to a wide range of projects.

Ted Greenebaum – Piedmont Middle School ($1000)

20 tubs of maker materials for Middle School classrooms.

We liked Mr. Greenbaum’s proposal because it would provide teachers with basic resources for STEAM projects at the Middle School to a large number of students.

Shelley Seto-Rosen – Piedmont High School ($500)

Handheld Microscope to study blood borne diseases for PHS Biology students.

We are excited about Ms. Seto-Rosen’s project because students will be adding new design elements to their handheld microscopes in this project. This project-based lesson integrates science and engineering together in a way that exemplifies 21st century learning.

Dan Kessler – Piedmont Middle School ($2000)

Water Filtration Project for 7th Graders at Piedmont Middle School

We are excited about Mr. Kessler’s project because it will integrate engineering into lessons about earth sciences using experts and materials to gain further understanding about a fundamental resource to life – water. We decided to exceed our grant budget for this project because we are hoping to fund more projects like this going forward.

We hope our grant winners will be able to share as much as you can about the projects that result from the grant program at the School Maker Faire in April and at any time along the way. We are curious about your process and love hearing about your project ideas. We were very encouraged to see so many amazing projects proposed and wished we could fulfill them all immediately.

We are hoping to use an online donation site like Donor’s Choose or Crowd Tilt connected to the Piedmont Makers website and email list. We will be campaigning at all our events (which we hold at least once a month, including Tech Socials, Makerspace Meetups, and special events) for all remaining projects. We will be contacting the remaining applicants with our strategies for getting projects funded.

Our intention is to support our teachers at PUSD with the resources to develop high quality STEAM education. Not only can we offer to raise funds, we can likely be your expert resource. We are big community of highly educated and invested parents that are excited to share the STEAM skills we use in our careers and hobbies with our students. Please reach out to the Piedmont Makers with ideas and requests. We would be happy to help support you as much as we can to make high quality STEAM curriculum and teaching possible at PUSD.

Thank you!

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October 2016 News


Posted on Oct 8, 2016

Gaming! Tech Social - Friday 10/14 6:30pm: Tech Social is back!  Join us for a Gaming Tech Social on Friday at 6:30 pm in the Ellen Driscoll Auditorium at Havens. Seppo Helava (designer) and Ei-Nyung Choi (engineer) from Wonderspark will speak about their current mobile game design projects.  We will have a server available for Minecraft players to use.  During the gaming time, there will be a talk on Minecraft Basics for parents in the Havens Library.  All of this, a pizza dinner, milk, and cookies for only $5!  Buy your tickets.

East Bay Mini Maker Faire - Sunday 10/23 10am-5pm: East Bay Mini Maker Faire is a family-friendly celebration featuring rockets and robots, digital fabrication, DIY science and technology, urban farming and sustainability, alternative energy, bicycles, unique hand-made crafts, music and local food, and educational workshops and installations.  if you have never been to a Maker Faire, this is a great entry.  Not as large as the “big” San Mateo Faire, and larger scale than our Piedmont School Maker Faire.  Get a 15% discount with PIEDMONT15 code here.

Next Generation Science Standards Board Workshop – Monday 10/109:30-12pm: It is an exciting time in the world of science education!  California has adopted new science standards that align with 21st century teaching and learning, referred to as NGSS: Next Generation Science Standards, andPiedmont teachers in grades K-12 are working on the transition to teaching these new standards.  This Monday, there will be a Board Workshop held in Ellen Driscoll Theater to provide a deeper dive into what is referred to NGSS and 3-dimensional science learning. Four of our secondary science teachers will lead the School Board members through a NGSS physical science lesson. After, we will discuss the key shifts in science instruction and the various models for middle school and high school science courses.  Parents welcome!

S.T.E.A.M. Grant Applications Due - Monday 10/17: Piedmont Makers is excited to award grants to support S.T.E.A.M. education for the 2016-2017 academic year to teachers in the Piedmont Unified School District. Applications are due on October 17 for grants to be awarded in October.  Teachers – please submit your grant application today!

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Piedmont Post – October 2016


Posted on Oct 5, 2016

by Larraine Seiden

Every presidential election we hear from candidates and pundits that this is “the most important election in history!”  This time it rings true and it filters down to the local level. Among the many voting decisions here in Piedmont is Measure H1, the bond which seeks funding primarily to modernize our high school and middle school.

If you follow this column and our other activities, it’s no surprise that the Piedmont Makers board strongly endorses Measure H1.

Our current secondary school facilities require us to throw good money at badly outdated mechanical infrastructure and they also inadvertently support outdated educational models. Classrooms that look familiar to we adults of a certain age actually grew out of the industrial era well over a century ago.

If you haven’t been in a classroom for a while, you’d be pretty surprised at how different it looks and feels. Desks usually appear as table groups to facilitate small group work and discussion. Students may be working at differentiated “centers” throughout the room with the teacher moving from group to group. While there are still teacher-led lectures and instruction, you would be just as likely to see students working at longer projects that they got to choose from a menu of options. The students may be the ones who are up front presenting to the class.

These de-centralized classroom methods, among others, have been increasingly in practice in Piedmont for several years. With new Common Core aligned curricula, a robust technology infrastructure, and variations of block scheduling at the K-8 level, teachers have many tools to support this kind of instructional growth.

Yet our high school, arguably our crown jewel, is housed in dated facilities from another time. In this era of cross-disciplinary fertilization in colleges and in the professional world, our academic departments are housed in separate buildings. Science and math are separate and they are across campus from technology and the arts classes. There are no small group work spaces; no modular furniture; and few presentation or display spaces.

Besides this rigid separation of subjects, the classrooms are very insular and don’t invite interaction from the school community beyond its walls.  In a recent New York Times article called The Innovation Campus: Building Better Ideas, author Alexandra Lange quotes Cornell Tech’s founding dean Dan Huttenlocher who said “Being in bigger interactive spaces encourages expansive thinking, while being in a box of a room encourages box thinking.”

The article goes on to discuss current thinking at several college campuses about building to support growing S.T.E.A.M. and other cross-disciplinary, project-based courses.  It describes the influence of the architectural philosophies of Bay Area tech companies such as Google and Facebook that are nearly office-less and also of Pixar, which features a mix of individual offices and many small and large group meeting spaces.

It’s a credit to Superintendent Randy Booker and Piedmont Unified’s administration that they held several opportunities for community input early in the facilities discussion last year. When they offered a conservative solution that only addressed mechanical upgrades and classroom sizes they heard back that given the big investment, the community wanted them to be more forward thinking.

We’re hopeful that Measure H1 will pass and then we can really drill down to what makes sense for Piedmont. Unlike colleges, tech companies, or private schools, we are not a self-selected population.  We should look to industry and surrounding schools, while keeping in mind our public school mission of serving all learners very well.

Community members need to participate and we need to keep teachers in the loop. Does anyone remember the “open classroom” of the late 1960’s? It featured no walls between “pods” of elementary classrooms. Some are still in use in San Francisco. I’m confident the designers (and administrators) never talked to an elementary teacher before they came up with that idea.

To make sure that eventual design proposals well serve the “users,” in this case students, teachers, and the community, Piedmont Maker Sally Aldridge has been participating in a couple of task forces. One, the Facilities Steering Committee, led by Superintendent Randy Booker, is facilities-focused and draws together experts from facilities, education and innovation industries. The Steering Committee supports Measure H1 and will continue to meet once the bill has passed and the design process begins.  For more information you can see:

http://www.piedmont.k12.ca.us/facilities/pusd-facilities-master-planning/#Facilities_Steering_Committee

The other, the 21st century learning in Piedmont group, led by Sally and Jason Meil, Piedmont Maker and Design Executive, is using a design-thinking process that is focused on students, educators, and parents. Stay tuned–there will be more details about that group’s work and findings in an upcoming column.

There’s so much great work going on in Piedmont schools. Help support our teachers and students as they adopt best 21st century learning practices—vote YES on Measure H1 and then attend community meetings to give your input on building proposals. If you’re still not sure why the secondary schools need modernizing, join Director of Facilities Pete Palmer for one last secondary facilities tour on October 18, 6-7:30pm.

Tech Social is back!  Join us for a Gaming Tech Social on Friday, October 14th at 6:30 pm in the Ellen Driscoll Auditorium at Havens. Seppo Helava and Ei-Nyung Choi from Wonderspark will speak about their current mobile game design projects.  We will have a server available for Minecraft players to use.  During the gaming time, there will be a talk on Minecraft Basics for parents in the Havens Library.  All of this, a pizza dinner, milk, and cookies for only $5!  As usual, bring whatever else you’d like to share!

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