Rigs & Gigs along with other Events in January Update of STEM happenings around the state

Have you heard about FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL) competitions for 9-14 year olds?  This is usually an after-school activity where teams build and program small robots for specific challenges.  Read about Kellie Taylor’s experience as a first year FLL coach from West Ada School District at Elementary Engineering blogspot and check out Idaho ROKS at University of Idaho for statewide competition details as well as information for other age levels.

The Idaho National Lab gave out big grants for STEM programs and equipment in Idaho Falls and Bonneville school districts.  Educator jumps for joy after STEM grant announcement  Bonneville district will use their grant to fund equipment for its “Future Technologies for Future Jobs Project” to teach robotics and programming skills for the middle grades.  Idaho Falls is spreading its grant to several schools including providing more lab equipment for physics classes and a video production lab at a magnet school.

Hour of Code barnstormed thru Idaho during December with over 200 events listed at schools and elsewhere in communities across the state.  Some events were as simple as having library computers dedicated to the Hour of Code site for the week but over 80 schools decided to go to the max and did “whole-school” events where every student got a chance to participate with the help of community and business volunteers who led many of the lessons. Twin Fall high school kids Magic Valley News attended two assemblies presented by students from their programming classes on Monday and followed up later that week with hands on lessons.       KMVT TV Video 

Sampling of Upcoming Events

January 27: The Dennis Technical Education Center will host its annual Rigs and Gigs Event from 8:20 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.  Ninth grade students from across the Boise District have been invited to interact with professional-technical program areas that they can enroll in for their sophomore year.  The center will also host an Open House January 29 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., 8201 W. Victory Rd., Boise, for current and future students and their families. All students interested in professional-technical programs are encouraged to attend. Click here for more information.

February 2-4: Many teachers will be attending the Idaho Educational Technology Association (IETA) Conference to learn about new technology, software programs, and websites that are being used throughout Idaho to enhance student learning.

February 7: The annual free family STEM Exploration Day at Boise State University will be held on Saturday Feburary 7, 2015 from 9:00am – 4:00pm. Make sure to click on the drop down links on the web page to get an idea of the large variety of activities.  Most activities are suitable for Kindergarten on up.  This is hosted by the College of Engineering and they are also putting together a list of activities most suited to Junior High and High School students.

February 27 & 28: Boise location – Project WILD workshops are 15 hours in length. They are held at various locations throughout the state. Participants become very involved in learning about wildlife and wildlife management concepts. Through a series of activities, educators learn fun and exciting ways to teach wildlife conservation in the classroom.

For more events find the age level desired at the Idaho STEM Pipeline then click into your region and you can find programs etc by time of year offered.


POTUS Visits Idaho

President Obama tours New Product Development Lab in the Micron Engineering Center at Boise State University

Budding mechanical engineers get hands-on learning in class projects and also work as technicians for local businesses. The lab can inexpensively build and test ideas using 3-D printers and other rapid prototyping tools.


The lab is “a really innovative program,” Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday. “You have a lot of students from Idaho getting the kinds of good engineering skills that will be critical to finding a good middle-class job, but also critical to ensuring that our nation has the kind of economy that produces things in an innovative way.

Idaho Statesman story



With Dean of the College of Engineering, Amy Moll

Stephanie Zepelin ‏@KTVBStephanie

“Did you go to engineering school?”-Amy Moll “No but I know this stuff I’m fascinated by this stuff.”-BO


STEM Idaho Contact

STEM Idaho is working on increasing social media exposure for all STEM programs in Idaho. If you haven’t already, please join us on our LinkedIn Group STEM Idaho Network for Education for more in-depth discussion of STEM programs and opportunities in Idaho. And visit our resource pages at .

Bookmark our Twitter page @STEMIdaho to get a running overview and links to daily events around the state. Don’t like Twitter? Check out our magazine which puts all of the links in our tweets in a nice readable format.   STrEaMing in Idaho It’s published once a week and keeps archives so you can go back in time easily.


Hour of Code is coming Next Week– Idaho style Dec 8-12, 2014

This is the 2nd year of Hour of Code, an event which last year drew 22 million student participants from around the world.  Many students and schools in Idaho participated and even more this year are eagerly anticipating next week’s events. currently has 177 registered Idaho events and of the 73 registered so far as going “whole school” I’m sure that the event at Twin Falls High School will be one of the great ones.  Members of the Google Developer Group Southern Idaho (GDGSI) will be working with 1100 students in the schools computer labs over a two day period, making sure everyone gets to code for an hour.  Twin Falls has a bit of an “in” with the Google Developer’s Group as it’s headed up by teacher Jason Torgrimson who has a bit of a history of doing fun projects.  Check out this Google Glass Class kids came in on a Saturday to attend earlier this year .

In Boise, South Junior High is planning on using 6 classrooms and doing the whole school in one day.  Coach Newton with has been asked to head up this effort which will also feature community members assisting in the computer labs. The last I heard they were still looking for extra community volunteers so check in if you can give half a day, no prior coding experience necessary.  If you have a kid whose school isn’t participating itself then Pauncation will be hosting Hour of Code at the Boise Library on the weekend.

Samples of Activities Around the State:

Wood River Middle School in Hailey will have lunch activities in the library during the week. Buhl is going school-wide this year after having 150 participants last year. Gizmo, an educational maker space in Coeur d’Alene is hosting some elementary classes.

Students at Meridian Technical Charter High School will be coding during their tech classes all week.  And also in Meridian will be an Hour of Code Block Party on Saturday the 13th at the Meridian Parks and Rec. Community Center.

The Future:

The organization which originated Hour of Code is going to be even more highly profiled in Idaho following next week as they start a statewide teacher development effort spearheaded by the Idaho Tech Council.  This is a first-of-its-kind partnership between a whole state and and we are eagerly awaiting more details from the Council.

  Participate Now:

In the meantime,check out the list of participating schools and volunteer to help and also have your own kids do an hour at home.  The site has easy lessons for all abilities that can be accessed on computer, tablet, and/or phone, which if your kids can play Angry Birds then they’ll have no trouble at all figuring out how to use.

 2014 Hour of Code Events registered in Idaho Dec 1

2014 Hour of Code Events registered in Idaho Dec 1

 Live map at



Gender Diversity in STEM or Girls, girls, Idaho Girls in STEM – check out my mind map for “girls only” STEM programs in Idaho.

Have I mentioned that I’m on the Leadership Team for the Pacific Northwest Girls Collaborative Project?  No?  Well then…

Back a few months ago I listened to a webcast about “Million Women Mentors”.  Well one thing led to another and I’m currently the Idaho representative for the Collaborative.  The Collaborative is also a STEM organization and specifically works on getting organizations to work together to offer programs to girls and women.  So as I’ve gone through all the programs on our resource list I’ve also tried to make an effort to track those that have separate programs geared especially for girls.

Here is the current mind map version (click to view larger):

Girls MindMap Idaho

Just a reminder that I’m sure this is not a complete list and I don’t have the resource page updated with all of them just yet.  Gives me more reasons for additional blog posts.  I also haven’t figured out how to draw links yet between programs that aren’t already related so there are more intertwining relationships between programs, sponsors, locations than are shown so you’ll have to imagine a whole spiderweb of connections especially from INL and Micron.

If you are the contact for one of these programs I’ll probably be in touch with you to get the information loaded up on the Girls Collaborative website or to check with you on the ones that are already there.  It’s a similar process to the STEM Idaho Pipeline in that you register the group yourself so that you can update as needed online but I can also get help behind the scenes with the database itself if needed.

If you have need of this graphic you are welcome to use it, I also have a pdf version here.  Girls STEM Idaho

And in case you are wondering, I created this with SimpleMind Mind Maps.   It’s a program that one of the teacher blogs I read talked about and I decided to try out.  They have a free Android & iOS versions but the PC version will cost me about thirty bucks if I decide to keep it.

Let me know what I’ve missed and if possible give me a web page or a facebook page that focuses on the program.




HS girls and teachers – Apply for Computing Award for Nat Center for Women & Information Technology by Nov 2 – State winners awarded BSU Scholarship $$$

Calling All Creative Coders, Hackers, Designers, and Technical Young Women and Teachers!

The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is sponsoring an Award for Aspirations in Computing which honors young women at the high-school level for their computing-related achievements and interests as well as great teachers! The Award offers both national and local “affiliate” competitions for students and a national program for educators. There are just 3 weeks left to apply for either NCWIT Award! Applications are being accepted online only at until November 2nd!

Student National Awardees receive:
• $500
• A laptop computer
• 2 engraved trophies–one to take home and one for the school’s trophy case
• a trip for the student & one parent attend the National Award ceremony in Charlotte, North Carolina on March 14-16

Student Idaho Awardees receive:
• $500-$1000 scholarships to study computer science at Boise State (for up to 4 years)
• 2 engraved trophies- one to take home and one for the school
• invitation for student, parents and teacher to attend an award ceremony at Boise State University on Tuesday March 3rd from 4-6 pm.
• lots of cool computer science swag!

Eduactor Awardees receive:
• $1000 for participation in a computing-related professional development activity
• engraved trophy
• invitation to attend an award ceremony at Boise State on Tuesday March 3rd from 4-6 pm.

NCWIT scholarshipNCWIT teacher

 (click on images to view larger)

Boise State gave out 12 state student awards and 1 teacher award in each of the last two years.

2013 Winners

2014 Winners

Contact Lynn Olson or 208-426-2686.

(Thank you Lynn for providing this information)


I will be STEAMing at Art in the Park

Looking at all the artists types who will be in this weekend’s Art in the Park in Boise and it’s clear that science has a big, especially historical, context in art creation.  A whole slew of scientific questions could arise after a quick gander around the exhibits.

  •  At what temperature does glass melt?
  • What ingredient when added to glaze will make it crackle when pottery is fired?
  • How long does it take paint to dry? Is this a ratio consistent with only water content or dependent upon chemical mixture?
  • In what type of geological formation is clay found?
  • What method dries flowers best for color preservation?
  • Which tree species make the best cutting boards and why don’t others work as well?
  • Is the silver in a ring pure or is it mixed with another element?  Why?
  • Why does some metal oxidate?
  • How many pounds of pressure does it take to bend a spoon? A knife?
  • What mathematical expression is used to create fractals?

Some artistic endeavors have changed so rapidly during recent years that the questions one generation would ask would completely baffle a younger generation.  Since I’m more familiar with it, I’ll use photography as an example.

  • It was, What chemical process and procedure will create images on a film strip after it has been exposed to light?
  • Is there a different chemical bath and wash for enlarged color prints than there is for black and white?
  • Now it’s, How many pixels will fit on a sensor chip?
  • What’s the computer algorithm that will intelligently fill in pixels as the print size in scaled up in Photoshop?
  • What are the storage space needs for RAW files compared to TIFF, JPEGS, or GIFs and does it matter if the original photo was taken by a 10 megapixel camera or by one with 21 megapixels?

At least some things haven’t changed in the slightest.  Like the physics of telephoto lenses vs. wide angle and how aperture settings effect depth of field or how shutter settings can freeze or blur moving images. Well, unless the kid you are expecting to ask and answer all these questions has a cell phone.

I’m going to send you to a photography site where you can see science of another kind.  The science of animal behavior.  Knowing not to pack up your tripod and head for the car when it seems like the wolves have disappeared for the day or of sitting in one spot waiting because that looks like a great place for a black bear to come down to drink.  Up early in the morning and late at night with the slanting sun at your back.  But is it all science?  Or is it art?  You be the judge.

PS – The photographer is a retired Idaho science and photography K-12 educator and he’s also my dad.  So I’ll be spending my weekend STEAMing in the park.  Hope to see you at there, stop by and say “Hi”, booth 252, over in the corner by the zoo and the river.



Robotics & Computer Science (FIRST, Zero, VEX, Skills USA) Idaho teams compete at the top levels.

Community mentors and event helpers are always needed

The Robotic competitions are heating up going into September. Check out all the action below with the four different programs below. The first two tend to be used as afterschool club type events and the last two are suited for in-classroom situations. I have links to the national organizations as they tend to explain things and then links to the state group if there is one. You’ll also find several news articles from the summer competitions.

Many of the events have either a middle school or a high school component so teams compete against their own age levels. Community mentors and event helpers are always needed and I can help you with contacts if the websites are not clear.


–1) Find out what the FIRST® Robotics Leagues are about and how to participate or start a team. These are described as an engineering experience with some programming.

*** The challenge parameters for the middle school program FIRST® LEGO® League will be release on Tuesday August 26th

From University of Idaho’s 4H Robotics page Kick off events below, check U of I’s FLL and FTC pages for other deadlines and tournaments. FLL (ages 9-14) FTC (ages 12-18)
Aug. 30 – Ada County Library, Victory Rd. Branch, Boise – 12:00 noon – 5:00 pm (FLL)
Sept. 3 – Weiser Vendome, Weiser – 5:00 – 6:30 pm (FLL)
Sept. 6 – Hepworth Building Room 108, College of Southern Idaho, Twin Falls, 9:30-2:00 pm (FTC)
Sept. 8 – Trade & Technology Building, Building 51, 2nd floor, Idaho State University, Pocatello, 4:00 pm (FLL)
Sept. 9 – SEL Event Center, Pullman, WA – 5:30 – 8:00 pm (FLL/FTC)
Sept. 11 – North Idaho Christian School, Hayden, ID – 6:00 – 8:00 pm (FLL/FTC)

The best-kept secret in robotics: the kids! Coeur d’Alene Press


–2) ZERO Robotics – This one has more programming

Based on the FIRST challenges but instead of engineering the experience is programming (in C) space robots aboard the International Space Station. The very first pilot competition was between two north Idaho high schools in 2009 and organized by Discover Technology founder Dr. Lorna Finman. The high school competition now even includes schools in the European Space Agency nations.

This summer Barbara Morgan, NASA/BSU, was instrumental in getting three Meridian teams in the middle school competition, one of which made it all the way to the finals where they got to watch on live cast as the space station robots ran their code.

The high school ZERO Robitics competition kicks off on September 6th with a live webcast from MIT. Training provided via webinars. Find a team, find a mentor, create a name and register your team of 5-20 students by September 24th to participate.



3) VEX Robotics – This summer we had a Burley team travel to Hawaii and win the Vex International Summer Championship. The high school and middle school VEX competitions and a few others can be found on this site Early season tournaments are coming up this fall in Wood River and in Caldwell.


4) SKillsUSA

Idaho’s Professional Technical Education department
has several robotics competitions available in the SKillsUSA program including humanform, mobile, automation, and search and rescue.

My Day at West Ada Tech Expo looking at how Idaho teachers use @PrepDog, GeoGebra, & MineCraft – lots of roller coaster activities

I was able to attend the very exciting, for me anyway, Tech Expo put on last week by West Ada (Meridian) School District as part of the teacher development training the district provides.  Besides hundreds of West Ada teachers attending there were also many  charter school teachers and a large variety of educational and technology vendors with displays.

My interest lay in attending the various sessions led by teachers and vendors discussing what they were doing in their classrooms.

First up was PrepDog.  Developed and ran by current and former Boise school district junior high teachers, PrepDog started out as just a helpful and fun test practice site and you’ll find links to the free version of this in school blogs across the nation.  To help individual and groups of teachers plan, prepare, and save lessons from year to year, the teacher version of the program was created, which helps teachers use, develop, and share on-line student quizzes and lessons geared to common core and other standards.  The quiz format can be from multiple choice to drag & drop graphic labeling. Teachers can store documents, audio recordings, and video in their lesson plans and write assignment instructions and provide web links in the lesson editor. Students progress thru the graded quizzes and assignments the teacher selects and the program provides messaging between students and teachers.

Brian Hunicke, one of PrepDogs co-founders, has also been working on project based learning lessons suitable for every age level using inexpensive and easily created marble rollercoasters made out of foam pvc pipe insulation, tape and cardboard.  All kids seem to like the building aspect of it and the teacher gets to work in math concepts making it a win for everyone.

I followed up with a session on GeoGebra presented by Margo Gore, one of West Ada’s online teachers.  GeoGebra , a word play on Geometry and Algebra is a free graphing program, (bye bye TI graphing calculator), that works on almost all devices.  Plug in a formula and it graphs it for you.  Draw points or lines on the screen, it writes the formula for you.  Import Excel data and ask the program to draw you a trend line.  Change the formula or move a point and, you guessed it, the program updates and reflects the changes.  Nothing special so far?  Did I mention you can create animations?  Make a line-drawn duck out of angles and curves and have it walk across the screen.  Place a sliding point at the top of a curve and let it whoosh down and up the other side.  She’s going to have her algebra kids work on rollercoasters this year.

Now if that wasn’t exciting enough then I got to go to a MineCraft session.  MineCraft is described as a virtual “sandbox” game.  In real life at the beach we’d use wet sand, drift wood, stones, etc and make castles and moats and have fights with the enemy hordes and knock everything down before starting over, virtually it’s the same concept.  Last year was Ashley McDowell’s first year using Minecraft in her elementary class and she felt she had really good results with it.  Kids were most engaged when they were able to work in groups on the same building project and she used it for her Language Arts units with students recreating scenes from the books they were reading.

Of course with all the sessions the stress was not on letting kids go and play but to use the tool with a purpose often with a plan or theorize here, test there dichotomy.  I liked the insight I got into STEM activities taking place in Idaho classrooms and the anticipation of all the teachers getting ready to head back into the classroom was palpable.

Lakeland Treats Science as the Backbone of Elementary Education Instead of an Afterthought #IDstem @uidaho

I had the pleasure of listening to a presentation about an iSTEM from Excellence program at last week’s University of Idaho STEM Innovations conference in Boise.  In this program elementary students in Lakeland School District (Rathdrum Idaho) are participating in an exciting and engrossing new way to integrate science into their elementary school years.  As Idaho has increased it’s math and English instruction time to combat low scores in the era of No Child Left Behind other subjects have been left out with Idaho elementary schools averaging just 2 hours of science activities each week which puts us in the bottom five when compared to other states. *  The Lakeland District, thanks to a grant from the Micron Foundation and assistance from the University of Idaho, is working with teachers to design grade level plans that incorporate math and English (reading/writing) into a science centered curriculum.  This inverts the classroom so that science is now a central component instead of getting squeezed in after teaching English and math for specific time blocks every day.

The new method being introduced by Jill Halsted, Lakeland’s Program Director of the iSTEM from Excellence program, is putting the focus on increasing the excitement and engagement of students through experiential learning.  In this case the district is taking advantage of one of the resources they have in abundance, water.  With help from Jim Ekins of the University of Idaho’s Extension Water Education program the iSTEM from Excellence program is first developing a fourth grade curriculum where students learn about their watershed.

iSTEM from Excellence from Sarah Halsted on Vimeo.

The program ties educational goals into the NextGen science standards and then also identifies which Common Core math and English standard can be met with each activity.  To design the curriculum and to help the teachers transition to the new methodology, the curriculum is first developed as an after-school activity.   Six teachers received a stipend to spend their first year facilitating the after-school activities and then starting in their second year they will integrate the curriculum in their regular classroom.  The after-school program works as a lengthy professional development lab for the teacher, grounding them in the experiential process and procedures.

To enhance the parents participation, the district also developed a web site,  just for them that kept them informed of the activities in the after-school program and provided links to additional Bill Nye the science guy videos and other websites for family discussion. First year results have parents highly rating the after-school program and indicating that it makes them more interested in having their children pursue college degrees.


*  What Is the Impact of Decline in Science Instructional Time in Elementary School?

 *  Choices,Changes, and Challenges: Curriculum and Instruction in the NCLB Era


For a bit more background here is the presentation abstract from the STEM Innovations Conference –

Lakeland School District iSTEM from Excellence

Jim Ekins, University of Idaho; Sarah Halsted, Lakeland School District 
Lakeland School District and University of Idaho Extension Water Education program successfully submitted a Micron STEM Education Research Initiative Pilot Project proposal. The project entails four prongs: professional teacher development and sustained job-embedded support in NextGen- and CC- tied STEM content and inquiry-based learning pedagogies; after school programming for 4-6th grade students; development of online parent resources; and developing a support network with STEM professionals as a form of community-wide STEM education. Research is designed to assess whether the content and skills are retained by teachers over time, and to capture teachers’ attitudes and confidence levels regarding NextGen standards, CC ELA and math standards.
The end goal is to increase student capability and desire to complete STEM degrees or certifications and to become engaged thinkers, invested citizens and holistic problem solvers. The parent support provided on the student/parent website engages them with links to animations, videos, interactive websites, and content taught in-class, so that parents are co-learners with their students. 
Longitudinal survey design consists of four survey instruments. First is identical to Micron parent survey given to district parents; second survey given anonymously to all K-12 teachers District-wide; third online survey was given anonymously to 3rd – 6th grade teachers District-wide; fourth survey given only to iSTEM professional development course participants as pre-, post-, and dual delayed-post content retention tests. Parents are re-surveyed at years end, to capture changes in attitudes about STEM ed. Preliminary data analysis indicates an average of 41% increase in teacher content knowledge (range = 21 – 60% increase) in cohort teachers as assessed in the teacher cohort assessment survey. Parent surveys indicate strong initial approval of the program and desire for their student to complete a college/post-graduate degree. 
Next steps include continued program operation and completion of survey series and student, parent, and teacher assessments of the program. Two NSF grants were written (DRK-12 and AISL) to continue the program into the next 3-5 years. Expansion plans into the Coeur d’Alene School District’s Fernan Elementary are under way. An iSTEM Summer Institute Strand is planned for Coeur d’Alene for Summer 2014, under the heading “A Walk in the Watershed” based on the fourth grade thematic arc developed for iSTEM from Excellence.

Common Core Testing vs the ISAT – What do the Math questions look like?

A quick look at some of the changes to the Math questions that students in Idaho will see this year.  After taking the sample tests I feel the new Smarter Balance consortium testing will have a bit of a game feel to it.  I’ve included links below the video where you can take the sample tests also.  I suggest doing so as you will see that while one of the main talking points has been that “students will have to explain their answers” it appears that they will not have to explain every answer.   Those questions that do require an explanation will be graded by Idaho teachers at a later date while the questions that the computer can figure out will help determine the difficulty level of the next question the student is asked to answer during the test.

ISAT Math 5
SBAC Math 5

More ISAT questions  –

More Smarter Balanced Math questions (no grade level given)-

This video is from teacher training put on by the  Idaho Leads Project and discusses the differences between ISAT vs Common Core (Smarter Balance) testing.  The questions I’ve pulled out of the sample above are some of the ones discussed in this video.




Computer Science Education – #CS10K NSF course outlines, resources, and teacher community

If you have been tasked to create a high school Computer Education course or perhaps an Intro to Programming course you may not know where to start and that can be overwhelming. A teacher community that is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and is part of the US Dept of Education’s Connected Educators initiative may be the place to begin your search and to bookmark for ongoing reference.

The web site is and they have two main course they are working on: Exploring Computer Science & Computer Science Principles. Each course is divided into Units and various resources are available for each unit including links to YouTube videos, PDFs, PowerPoint slides, lab outlines, project descriptions, and even some videos with clicker questions embedded in them. Members of the community can add links to other resources and comment on them while the website software links the new resources to each associated unit by using tags and filters.

From the main “resource book” a lesson plan for final day of presentation of projects created by programming in Scratch might look like this

The unit on Robots gives us this link to prototyping – be sure to check the slideshow

Classroom Volunteers can use this site too especially if a classroom is following the course outlines as it will help guide them to appropriate resources

The site itself has just been up a year and participation seems to be varied but hopefully it will continue to grow and provide additional resources.

January Calendar of Idaho STEM Events

We’ve been working on our calendar this month and there are lots of events coming up.  Many of the LEGO robot leagues (there are several age levels) have competitions this month and the Idaho Legislature goes into session this month.  A link to more information about the event is included in most cases if you go to our calendar page.

 Here are some of the events occurring in the next 45 days.  Keep checking back to the calendar as we will continue to add events as they come in.


Saturday, January 4

Robot Lab – Reuseum

Monday, January 6

ID Legislature Starts

Friday, January 10


Saturday, January 11

HS First Robotics Kickoff – IDF

North Idaho FIRST LEGO League Championship Tournament


Tuesday, January 14

Great Ideas for Teaching and Learning Symposium

Saturday, January 18

Robot Lab – Reuseum

Tuesday, January 21

Boise Code Club for Teens – Open House

Saturday, January 25

Future City Competition – BSU

School Garden Workshop – Boise


South Idaho FIRST LEGO League Championship Tournament

Saturday, February 1

HS Science Competition Day – BSU

STEM Exploration Day – BSU

Robot Lab – Reuseum

Monday, February 3

 Idaho Education Technology Association – Conference

Tuesday, February 4

Idaho Education Technology Association – Conference

Wednesday, February 5

Idaho Education Technology Association – Conference

Saturday, February 8

Middle School National Science Bowl – BSU

Deconstruction Lab – Reuseum

Friday, February 14

Teams (Technology Sudent Assoc) Competition – BSU

Saturday, February 15

Idaho FIRST Tech Challenge Championship Tournament

Robot Lab – Reuseum


Using PBS STEM Resources – there is a lot available for school or home, and it’s easy to organize.

The Public Broadcasting Service has an extensive resource library of videos and online activities that are subject and grade level based. You can view some things without logging in but you and/or your children will get more resources if you register.  This way you’ll be able to favorite specific videos.  This is a really nice addition to the teacher-specific resources as it allows you to view videos and immediately write your own notes which are visible as you scan your favorites, organize resources into folders/units and add outside links to other web sites or youtube videos etc.  You can post to facebook, twitter, or pinterest too.  All in something you have long term control over which isn’t always possible with school based teacher portals.

I would suggest setting the STEM Education Resource Center as your jumping off page as it is best organized for STEM.

If you are interested in general education, reading, teacher support/training, etc. then the PBS main teacher page and the link to 10,000 resources is at .

Idaho’s Dialogue for Kids (now renamed Science Trek) will provide you with more local content videos with this created in Idaho series.   The next show airs January 21st, 2014 and is on Simple Machines.

An if you are incorporating the maker movement into any of your elementary age lessons start with the PBS Design Squad at  (For older kids and engineering topics you probably want to type “design squad” into the search area on the regular teacher page instead.)

For other shows like Outdoor Idaho or Nature (or Sid the Science Kid for pre-schoolers) be sure to check out Idaho’s PBS station at

Common Core isn’t just about what you learn but also how you learn.  To see this in action you can see some math classes at which showcase some teaching techniques that help students think and not just regurgitate math facts.  While these techniques have always been part of good teaching many earlier educational “reforms” did much to discourage their use.  Common Core Math for example now has the requirement that students know how to “construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others”.  This is a soft skill much in demand from employers.

Did you know K-12 teachers can get some of your PD (Professional Development) credits thru PBS classes?


Making Connections thru Twitter– Where to find other Idahoans discussing STEM education.

Sometimes you can feel all alone in the wilderness and be asking yourself if you are the only one who thinks that xyz would be a good idea.  In this era of online-social-media finding someone of like mind is fairly easy but it still helps to be pointed the right direction.

Twitter – You do not have to have a twitter account in order to find good information.  What you can’t do is go to twitter’s main page because there is no search area there.  Instead go to somebody else’s twitter page, for example go to ours.  You can find a link to our twitter page in the sidebar along with our latest tweets or in the twitter link (a blue “t”) up at the top right of every page on our web site.

Now you can go clicking on people, look at their tweets, or click on who they are following and look at those people’s tweets but without a Twitter account yourself or even with one, maybe you don’t want to follow all these people around and try to figure out who was tweeting who and what did so and so say to make this person say this in reply.  Twitter used that way is more like a bowl of spaghetti than a ball of yarn.

So what do you do?  You use the search button and hashtags which begs the question, “What are hashtags?”  Hashtags are character strings proceeded by a # sign.  Some to search for include #idedu, #idedchat, #stem, #edtech, #hourofcode, and even just “Idaho education” without a # sign.  (I’ve made these searches clickable so they will take you right to the most recent tweets)

For more national chats here is a great list of 11 educator chats and times including #scichat, #stemchat, #mathchat and if that is not enough diversity for you look at all the chats you can find here  .

Another thing to do once you’ve entered the search and it’s brought back tweets is to tell it to show All tweets.  It always defaults to just showing the Top tweets which means it doesn’t show you much of anything.  So click All so that everything shows up.  You’ll note that all the tweets found have the hashtag typed in as part of the message.  (I’ve include a image below to show you the button)

Teachers have been some of the early adopters of the #hashtag movement as it allows you to follow just the conversations that have that hashtag.  If you get yourself a twitter account, or already have one, you can join the conversation simply by typing the appropriate #hashtag as part of your message.

twitter search

Happy tweeting.

Kerbal Space Programs school-friendly version officially launches December 18 | PC Gamer

Kerbal Space Programs school-friendly version officially launches December 18 | PC Gamer.

It’s not surprising that the same company that is offering is doing the same thing for Kerbal.  At least in my household they appeal to the same “customer”.  If you haven’t tried Kerbal I suggest looking around YouTube.  Part of the crazy fun is seeing rockets blow up.

The edu version looks like it might solve one of the main hurdles for students that aren’t willing or who don’t have the time to persevere in creating a viable rocket during the design phase.  Getting up into space is difficult so the edu version has some built in help that the regular Kerbal does not.

I’d love to hear from Idaho schools that try Kerbal or who have been using MineCraft.

Computer Science Education Week Dec 9-15, 2013 & #hourofcode activities

Activities planned for the week include lots of free coding (alice, scratch, javascript, python, iphone and others) tutorials that can be completed in one hour at and as part of that has developed a free 20 hour course (lesson plans/videos) for Elementary and Middle Schools teachers/students.  Over 2 million students worldwide are already signed up and the week has yet to begin.  The tutorials and associated websites and/or downloadable programs will be available all year so teachers/parents can continue to use them into spring semester and summer school.  Many of the web-based tutorials can be completed on tablets.

This is a yearly event centered around the birthdate (December 9th) of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992).  A role model for women and men in computing & mathematics she was credited with popularizing the term “debugging”, wrote the first computer language compiler, and was instrumental in the development of the COBAL programming language (based in part upon the compiler she had invented).  See more at:

If you are a teacher they gave away some prizes for signing your classes up.  If you are a parent and want to introduce programming this is a great way to start and older students can take classes on their own.  Most of the tutorials are available now and the site provides links to other free and appropriate learning sites.  For example has just released a programmable Garfield (cat comic) animation creator for middle and high school students to complement their programmable SIMs characters geared to the university setting.

I’ve been looking at coding sites for several years now and this  or (they are the same) has the best variety and links.  The tutorials so far look great.  Make this your top stop if you are looking for coding training.