Dancing Drones

Last term our 8.1 students were involved in a STEM project that had as its driving question, ‘How can people and technology improve society?’. The focus for the students was on drone technology and how it has impacted society over the past few years.

In implementing the project we ran into some difficulties in programming the drones to work effectively outside the classroom. We had planned to code our Parrot Mambo drones to navigate their way through the front garden of the College to replicate the way drones are being used in agriculture. Unfortunately these small drones do not like any type of breeze and they quickly became uncontrollable. A great lesson for all of us!

The students have been determined to learn how to control the drones effectively using code and so we have tried again, this time we are using the drones inside the College Hall. This has proved much more effective and to allow the students to familiarise themselves with the drones and how various coding options impact we set them a task of creating a ‘drone dance’ within a two cubic metre space.

The students embraced the task and started creating some interesting moves with their drone. This task was done within their Maths class as part of the ‘rich tasks’ we use with the Maths Pathway program. The ‘rich tasks’ are when students apply the foundational skills they have developed in their modules. Using Maths Pathway has enabled us to be more flexible in the delivery of many of our STEM projects.

The final products will be posted separately but here are the students developing their ‘drone dance’.

Alice Bowman UNSW Visit

A group of our 7.1 students was invited to present at a very special Space event at UNSW this week. The event involved was the visit to UNSW by Alice Bowman, Mission Operations Manager for the New Horizons Project. The New Horizons Project is part of NASA’s space exploration program to Pluto.

Prior to Alice speaking our students had the chance to explain their project to the various distinguished guests, including Alice. The students had already participated in a conference call with Alice last week so she was familiar with what they had done as part of the Space STEM Project in Term 2.

Alice then gave a keynote speech about the New Horizons Project and the amazing discoveries the spacecraft had revealed as it travelled through our solar system. She also spoke about how they overcame numerous obstacles along the way. Once Alice finished speaking it was time for our students to take centre stage and they were incredible. 

Elena Georgievska, Jessica Cooper, Grace de Diesbach and Jasmine Parsons walked the audience through their plan to establish a human colony on Mars. Their knowledge of the many technical aspects of completing such a mission impressed all the guests. We are very proud of them and the wonderful way they presented themselves and the fantastic project they were involved in. Special thanks also to Tia Browner who was part of the team but was unable to attend the event.

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Newman Symposium Update

It is worth reflecting on the work done by our students at the Newman Symposium last week. All five teams performed brilliantly and impressed everyone with their knowledge of the many different components that would be required to send humans to Mars.

The presentations were required to follow a set format, starting from the introduction of each member of the mission team, explaining how to get to Mars and the issues surrounding such a trip, surviving on the planet and what a Mars base might look like. Each team was also required to include an advertisement that was designed to sell a trip to Mars.

Once the presentations were finished each team had to demonstrate how they would incorporate autonomous machines on the planet by programming a drone, a Sphero and a robot to move around their Mars base.

This was a great way to finish our STEM project that the students had worked on throughout Term 2. This project will now be refined to implement across all Year 7 in Term 2, 2020.

Here is a compilation of excerpts from each of the five presentations.

Newman Symposium

The first St Clare’s College Newman Symposium was held on Wednesday afternoon prior to the Open Evening. The purpose of the symposium was to showcase some of the outstanding learning that had been taking place in our Year 7 Newman class during the first half of the year.

The focus of the symposium was on the recent Space STEM project the students had been working on throughout last term. The class was divided into five ‘mission’ teams and each team was responsible for creating a visual presentation that demonstrated how they responded to the driving question, ‘Can we live on Mars?’.

Each team was also required to construct a prototype of their planned Mars base and code a drone, a robot and a Sphero to move autonomously around the space. There was an added dimension with a time limit being imposed on the students, much in the style of the ‘Masterchef’ pressure tests!

The symposium was a wonderful way of showcasing the incredible learning opportunities the students had been exposed to over the term. The quality of visual and oral presentations across all five teams was exceptional, while the ability to code a drone, a robot and a Sphero to move around the Mars bases was very impressive.

We will share the individual presentations at a later date but here is a collection of video and images from the preparation through to the final presentation.

Drone STEM Project

Our Year 8.1 students began their second STEM unit for the year at the start of this term. The driving question for the unit is, “How can people and technology improve society?’ The students will be using our Parrot Mambo drones and drone technology in general to investigate this question.

The project was launched last week in their Science class with the students working with their teacher, Miss Ruan, and our technical guru, Mr Ben Johnson. Miss Ruan led the students through the process of unpacking the driving question, while Mr Johnson took the girls through the basics of the Parrot Mambo.

In Maths the students will be developing their skills in using and analysing data. They will look at how different companies use drones to gather and analyse data as well as making comparisons between drone companies based on available data. Companies like PrecisionHawk are leading the world in using AI to make analysing data more efficient.

In Science it will be all about ecosystems and how drone technology is enabling society to monitor and manage ecosystems more efficiently. The students will be required to program their drone to map out the ecosystem that exists within our magnificent front garden. They will also look at drone companies like DroneSeed that are emerging in the agriculture industry.

In Technology all Year 8 students are involved in using the drones through their unit, ‘Engineered Systems’. This unit will run until the end of 2019, so there will be opportunities for all Year 8 students to learn to code the drones and explore how drones are humans are changing the way we view our world.

Initially we had planned for this project to be purely a STEM project, however, with the vast amount of innovation happening with drone mapping, Mrs King was keen to get the students exploring this question in their Geography class.

We are looking forward to sharing more of this project as it develops over the coming weeks.

Space STEM Update

Our Year 7 Newman class members have been busily preparing for next week’s inaugural Newman Symposium. The symposium will be a showcase of some of the amazing learning that has been happening across all their subjects so far this year.

The current Space STEM project will be one of the features of the symposium with each of the ‘mission teams’ presenting their response to the driving question, ‘Can we live on Mars?’

Each team will be required to create a model of their proposed Mars base within a 2.6 metre by 3.6 metre space. They also need to incorporate a working drone, robot and Sphero to simulate the various activities which could possibly take place on Mars in those initial years of inhabitation. Each device needs to be coded to work autonomously!

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Each team will also be required to have a visual presentation that outlines exactly how humans could survive on Mars and how they would overcome the obvious challenges that humans would face.

It has been fascinating to watch the conversations as the deadline comes closer. It is crucial each team works as a unit to ensure their presentations reflect the time and effort they have put in. Working in this way replicates what happens in the modern workforce and allows some great lessons to be learnt along the way.

The symposium takes place on Wednesday 31st July from 5-6pm and will be followed by the Open Evening from 6-7:30pm.

Space STEM Project

Coding was the order of the day in today’s Space STEM project. Our Year 7 Newman girls had all three devices on the go as they worked out how to code each device to work within the given space.

There were some interesting problems that the students encountered that required some creative thinking. The Sphero devices do not replicate a circuit very well when coded due so there was a lot of discussion around how this would play out during the final presentations.

Another student found that her robot had traction issues on the surface they will be given to present on so she went about changing the robot into a form that would be better able to deal with the conditions.

It is this creative problem solving that we need to exposing our students to regularly. It was certainly amazing to see so much happening in one lesson!


Coding Drones

Our Year 7 Newman class have been busy exploring the possibility of living on Mars as part of their Space STEM project. As part of the project each mission team has to incorporate a robot, a Sphero and a drone into their final presentation with each device working autonomously.

This has required the students to learn to code each of the devices to work within the given space. Each team will be required to work in a space 2.6m x 3.6m and each of the devices need to work autonomously throughout the final presentation. What a challenge!

Last Friday the ‘drone controllers’ spent time working with their drones and the code they had created to get some valuable feedback. It was fascinating watching them make the required calculations in order for the drone to complete its task successfully.

This is where our STEM project complement the work we are doing in Maths Pathway. The project is the practical application for the skills developed in the Maths Pathway program.