By Tammy Richards, P.E.
Executive Director, The Infinity Project
|Tammy Richards, Executive Director
The start of a new school year is always exciting and gives us a lot to look forward to. More students than ever are starting the year off with an introduction to engineering. Whether it’s building a loudspeaker out of a salad bowl, programming a robotic rover, creating a prosthetic limb or developing sustainable environmental solutions – middle school and high school students have a lot to look forward to this year!
The Infinity Project continued expansion into more schools across the country, hosted four professional development institutes, added a new curriculum to the high school program and upgraded the technology kit.
We are particularly excited about our recent expansion into Chicago Public Schools. Six high schools in Area 26 will implement The Infinity Project this fall. Funding for this pilot was made possible through the work of Susan Brauer, dean of academic affairs with DeVry University and co-chair of the Educational Committee for the Chicago Council on Science and Technology. DeVry University hosted Infinity Project professional development for area teachers this summer in preparation for implementing the curriculum.
Development of additional curriculum for high school students is nearing completion. “Math for Innovators” will be available for implementation in fall 2012. This exciting new course will help students learn and apply mathematics to the concepts behind biomedical, mechanical, environmental, and electrical engineering. Professional development will be held in the summer of 2012.
We encourage educators to preview the “Math for Innovators” curriculum this fall. The Infinity Project will host an educator conference on Wednesday, October 26, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at SMU in Dallas to review this exciting new curriculum, lab activities, and capstone projects. If you are unable to attend on Oct. 26, then please request sample copies for review.
Providing instructors and students with enhanced, leading-edge technology is a commitment of both The Infinity Project and its partners. To meet this commitment, National Instruments is pleased to introduce a new Infinity Project Technology Kit. This kit will provide schools and students with the most up-to-date equipment they need for high-tech engineering.
The year is off to a great start with an increased number of Infinity schools and students, trained educators, and program enhancements. We look forward to hearing how The Infinity Project is making a difference in your classroom and the lives of your students this school year!
By Dianna McAtee
Director, Academic Relations, The Infinity Project
High school is off to a great start for students in Chicago Public Schools. Six schools in Area 26 are implementing The Infinity Project’s high-tech engineering curriculum to help students build a solid foundation and prepare them for college-level work.
Dean of Academic Affairs
“The Infinity Project pilot gives Chicago Public High School students the opportunity to experience firsthand what it is like to work in engineering technology,” said Susan Brauer – dean of academic affairs at DeVry University and co-chair of the Educational Committee for the Chicago Council on Science and Technology – who played a key role in the adoption process. “DeVry University’s proud partnership with Magellan Corporation and Chicago Public Schools furthers our commitment to preparing students for career success, ensuring that more than 1,000 students over the next five years will have the opportunity to explore one of the nation’s most in-demand career fields.”
DeVry hosted Infinity Project professional development for area teachers this summer in preparation for implementing the curriculum. Infinity Math, Science, and Technology High School was the first of the six schools to implement the program this fall. Math and science instructor, Sarah Schneider, shares her thoughts about the program during an interview:
Why did you choose to implement The Infinity Project?
“Beyond sharing the name “Infinity” with the project, we strive to implement a curriculum that emphasizes mathematics, science, and technology. Therefore, the choice to implement a course that did just this was an easy decision for us to make. In addition, many of our students have expressed a strong interest in various engineering fields over the years. This elective course seemed like an excellent opportunity for these students.”
What do you think of the curriculum?
“We just finished our sixth week of the school year, and we are beginning Chapter 2 of the textbook. Chapter 1 of the textbook provided a great foundation for the students in terms of what engineering is and how engineers think. We used it as a springboard for various competitions, investigations, and discussions, which is why we ended up spending so long on that chapter. I look forward to focusing the energy of the class on specific electrical engineering tasks from here on out with the support of this curriculum. I look forward to getting the students onto the computers and working with the LabView software, because I think that it is then that they will really start to get what specific things engineers do in the terms of the electronics we use on a daily basis. Overall, the curriculum has a solid foundation in the textbook that is complemented by the hands-on labs and investigations in the workbooks. I am very excited to see where my students and I can take this curriculum throughout the course of the year.”
How did you benefit from the professional development training?
“At the professional development training, I appreciated the opportunity to meet other teachers, both from Chicago and from out-of –state, that would be implementing this curriculum for the first time this year. We were able to help plan and troubleshoot for our year together. I intend to use this network of teachers for support throughout this school year. We were also given valuable opportunities to utilize the software. This practice time gave way to great dialogue about classroom implementation of the labs and investigations.”
What do you hope to achieve with your students?
“As mentioned above, we have now completed six weeks of school. We were able to run two rounds of a bridge building competition, as well as investigate the various fields of engineering. The students also had the opportunity to hear from structural engineers working in Chicago about their jobs and their college experiences.
I plan to continue having guest speakers visit the classroom, with a goal of one per month. I also plan on continuing various engineering competitions throughout the year as we work through the curriculum. I am working on developing these competitions as I prepare to teach the curriculum. Above all, I am hoping to achieve in my students both an appreciation for, and a foundational knowledge of, electrical engineering over the course of this year.”
What do your students think of the course?
“I have received nothing but excellent feedback from my students thus far. They come into class excited about the content, and they work hard on a daily basis to understand this content. They appreciate the chance to have an exciting elective that is so relevant to their daily lives. They are also very excited about the exposure they are getting to the engineering field now, with high hopes of this aiding them in college and beyond. They are beginning to realize just how much one can do within the fields of engineering, and how integral engineers are in our society.”
Any other information you would like to supply?
“I had been attempting to maintain a website for this course, but unfortunately I have not found the time to update it since the first week or so of school. I intend to do some work on it over fall break (the first two weeks of October), so feel free to check it for updates after then. The link for this website is: http://mssarahjschneider-engdesign1.wikispaces.com. (There is a course syllabus currently posted on this website, among other items.)”
Infinity is off to a great start in Chicago Public Schools! We would love to hear how it is going in your classroom. Email us today at email@example.com and we will feature your school in an upcoming newsletter!
Excerpts from an article by Jonathan Cannon/Herald Democrat
|Students work on their prosthetic leg design.
The science of prosthesis is a mystery to most, but not to Infinity Project students at B. McDaniel Middle School in Denison ISD.
Eighth grade students in Jo Ann Bilderback’s pre-AP science class followed the engineering design process to understand the science behind development of a lower-leg prosthetic.
Students were given four days to construct a prosthetic out of cardboard, rubber bands, wire, duct tape, pen cylinders and sandpaper.
“They had to come up with a brainstormed idea, look at what type of measurements they had to take, what angles are there,” said Bilderback.
She said it was a way for the students to learn more than just the medical science of prosthetics. Students learned about the engineering design process and got a taste of what a real-world work environment would be like by working in assigned groups.
“We don’t want them to just go through school thinking life works like a textbook,” Bilderback said. “We want to give them an experience that would mirror what a real job is going to look like.”
And that means working in teams that are chosen for them and overcoming challenges like how to troubleshoot a design that didn’t work exactly as intended. “When something doesn’t work, what do you do next?” Bilderback said.
Students had to design a prosthetic that would bend at the ankle and the toe and support the weight of four filled water bottles. Some were successful in all areas. Others weren’t, but the grade didn’t seem to be about having the perfect design.
“If you had to do this over, what would you do differently?” Bilderback asked one of the groups whose design didn’t work perfectly. Answers from the groups included things like discussing how a better place rubber band — often in the same location as a tendon or muscle — would have solved the problem. And even without perfect designs, students still developed some prototypes that were similar to what the industry actually uses.
Brenda Spense, an employee of Hanger Prosthetics & Orthotics who spoke about the industry and the process on design, pointed out two instances where students’ designs mirrored that of actual prosthetic technology. Bilderback said students did little research into how actual prosthetics are designed and instead used their own knowledge and ideas.
“When you have them actually do something, they have to apply what they know,” Bilderback said. “It’s coming out of their head, their knowledge, not necessarily relying on what a teacher or textbook would say."
The Infinity Project is pleased to announce completion of curriculum for Engineering Mathematics, a TEA-approved course that meets the Texas 4th year math requirement for graduation. Curriculum directors, career and technology education directors, and instructional primes are invited to participate in a hands-on review of this program and other programs designed for 6th – 12th grade students.
Featured guest speaker, Dr. Nathan Huntoon, Director Innovation Gymnasium at SMU Caruth Institute for Engineering Education, will provide educators with a detailed review of the new “Math for Innovators” curriculum and projects. Dr. Huntoon will lead participants through hands-on activities focused on the math behind engineering concepts involving digital music, robotics, biological systems and the environment.
In addition to learning about engineering curricula for high school students, educators will also have the opportunity to explore middle school curricula. Special guest, Ms. Jo Ann Bilderback, middle school Science Instructor with Denison ISD, will review curricula, lab activities and her experience with implementing engineering into grades 6-8.
This interactive conference will expose educators to relevant hands-on activities that increase student interest and performance in science, technology, engineering and math. Educators will receive sample curricula materials that include daily lesson plan guides, presentation slides, and instructor text for three impactful engineering programs.
The Engineering Education Conference will take place as follows:
: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
: 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
: Southern Methodist University - Lyle School of Engineering, Dallas, Texas
To register, please contact the Lindsey Weldon at 214-768-4038 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional details about the conference will be provided upon receipt of your registration.
As a leading partner of The Infinity Project, National Instruments is commit ed to enhancing engineering and science education by collaborating with K-12 and higher education to meet the changing needs of today’s students and educators.
To meet this commitment, National Instruments is pleased to introduce a new Infinity Project Technology Kit, featuring NI myDAQ hardware and LabVIEW for Education software, the latest NI technology for education. This will replace the current kit containing Speedy 33 hardware and LabVIEW 8.2 software and provide instructors with enhanced, leading-edge functionality.
The New Infinity Project Technology Kit Includes:
- Cutting-edge NI myDAQ Hardware: Turns a computer into a suite of scientific measurement instruments capable of analyzing signal data and controlling simple processes - just like the pros do.
- LabVIEW for Education Software: Provides a graphical design environment that is easy for students to learn and powerful for them to use.
- Multimedia Peripherals: Digital web camera, speakers, microphone and all the cables needed to connect up to a standard PC.
The new Infinity Project Technology Kit will be available for purchase through Studica, a National Instruments distributor. Kits are currently available and may be purchased by completing the appropriate order forms located on The Infinity Project website.
The Infinity Project and National Instruments will continue to support LabVIEW 8.2 software and Speedy 33 hardware for a period of two years.