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March 2017 News

Posted on Mar 2, 2017

FIRST Robotics Info Session - Tuesday 3/7 7:30pm – Beach Library: Please come to the FIRST Robotics info session to learn more about the new FIRST Lego League teams for rising 4th through 5th graders and FIRST Tech Challenge teams for 6th through 8th graders organized by Piedmont Makersfor the fall season (all-girls, all-boys, co-ed).  FIRST Lego League is a Lego Mindstorms-based robotics competition.  FIRST Tech Challenge is a more advanced robotics competition.  Like a sports team, each team will meet for weekly practices with weekend scrimmages and tournaments.  The season will run from August to November and. if the teams qualify, will continue to California regional and national competitions in 2018.

Call for Makers! – 4th annual Piedmont School Maker Faire - Sunday 4/23 11am-3pmSubmit your School Maker Faire project today — it can be a school project, STEAM Expo project, or your own project. Piedmont K-12 students and community welcome!  Deadline March 31.  Piedmont Makers is proud to join PAINTS and CHIME in presenting this year’s School Maker Faire celebrating Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math & Music education inPiedmont. We will feature over 100 S.T.E.A.M. projects from Beach, Havens, Wildwood, Piedmont Middle School, and Piedmont High School students along with hands-on projects from community makers, live music from student musicians & bands, student art, and food trucks!

Food Science! Tech Social - Friday 3/17 6:30pm - Ellen Driscoll Playhouse: Save the date for the first Tech Social potluck featuring a Food Science theme!

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Piedmont Post – February 2017

Posted on Feb 16, 2017

Robots are coming to Piedmont!

Building upon the success of the FIRST Tech Challenge robotics teams at Piedmont Middle School and Piedmont High School, Piedmont Makers is excited to announce new robotics teams for the Fall 2017 season.  Our goal is to form two teams for rising 4th and 5th graders and two teams for Piedmont Middle School students.

The elementary school teams will be FIRST Lego League teams. FIRST Lego League is a Lego Mindstorms-based robotics competition.  Like a sports team, FIRST Lego League teams would meet 1-2 times per week with weekend scrimmages and tournaments.  The Middle School teams will either be Lego League or FIRST Tech Challenge. FIRST Tech Challenge is a more advanced robotics competition and requires a more significant commitment.  Both the Piedmont Pioneers and Scotbotics are at this level.  Prerequisites include a keen interest and demonstrated follow through by taking school electives e.g. Maker, Artbotics, doing independent projects and after school programs.  The season would run from August to November and if the teams qualify, they would advance to California regional and national competitions in 2018.  You can learn more at www.firstinspires.org

Piedmont Makers is developing a FIRST Robotics infrastructure in Piedmont to encourage the pursuit of S.T.E.A.M. excellence.  By building the pipeline of interested girls and boys at the elementary level, we can field more diverse teams at the middle school and high schools.  The ultimate goal in two years is to start a team at the most advanced level, FIRST Robotics Competition at the high school, which will require a much bigger team and a bigger budget.  It will all add up to a comprehensive program at various age levels whereby we can develop talent, foster mentors, pool resources, host competitions and be a real contender in regional and national competitions against the best from Silicon Valley and beyond.

Another key goal is to encourage girls to participate. Despite a concerted effort at the Piedmont Middle School level, we have not been successful in recruiting girls to the existing teams.  We believe by capturing girls interest earlier at the elementary school level in a fun environment with friends, excellence and interest in S.T.E.A.M. topics among our girls will be expected and encouraged by peers.

We are working with the school district and after school providers to provide lead-in programs to teach basic skills in programming, design, mechanics and 3D Printing.  We are also currently applying for grants and sponsorships to support these teams.  With the success of current Piedmont robotics teams and the passage of Measure H1 with a specific emphasis on S.T.E.A.M. facilities, momentum is on our side in Piedmont!

Interested to learn more?  Piedmont Makers is hosting an info session on Tuesday March 7 at 7:30pm in the Beach library.  Expect registration to go live in March with teams formed by the end of the school year.  We need parent volunteers to help coach and organize teams — if you have coached youth sports and/or have a S.T.E.A.M. background, please consider volunteering.  Help continue to transform Piedmont into Makerville!


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February 2017 News

Posted on Feb 10, 2017

Mini-Golf! Makerspace - Sunday 2/12 1-3pm - Piedmont Middle School Rm. 125: Please join us in the Piedmont Makerspace for a Mini-Golf Design Session!  Our goal is to have 18 holes of mini-golf ready for the 2017 PiedmontSchool Maker Faire.  This Makerspace session will include brainstorming and creating simple mock ups — think windmills, Rube Goldberg, and roller coaster tracks… Tracy Broback, Tri-School Science Specialist will also be on-hand to introduce the STEAM Expo process – a process which will be very relevant to mini-golf hole design! FORE!!  Seating is limited so please get your FREE tickets today.

Call for Makers! – 4th annual Piedmont School Maker Faire - Sunday 4/23 11am-3pmSubmit your School Maker Faire project today — it can be a school project, STEAM Expo project, or your own project. Piedmont K-12 students and community welcome!  Deadline March 31.  Piedmont Makers is proud to join PAINTS and CHIME in co-presenting this year’s School MakerFaire celebrating Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math & Music education in Piedmont.

FIRST LEGO League / FIRST Tech Challenge Info Session - Tuesday 3/7 7:30: Thank you for the great response to last month’s FIRST LEGO League interest survey.  Piedmont Makers is moving forward organizing FIRST Lego League teams for 4th and 5th graders and additional FIRST Tech Challenge middle school teams for the Fall 2017 season.  FIRST Lego League is a Lego Mindstorms-based robotics competition.  FIRST Tech Challenge is a more advanced robotics competition.  Come to the info session to hear from this year’s PMS Pioneers team and learn more!

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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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