I think today was the best day of camp yet. It was exciting to see the kids mastering LEGO robotics in the Green City Challenge. Many of the groups have completed the first 5 challenges and only have one challenge remaining to complete. Tomorrow there will be the final competition and the students will be scored for their complete run.
Our presentation today was by Dr. Robin Cooper from the Biology Department. The students visited the laboratory and were able to work with crayfish, fruit flies, and fruit fly larvae. They monitored behaviors of these organisms and recorded their results as a group. There were some good discussions that took place about why different organisms react differently to the same stimuli. Check out all the pictures of the students in the lab!
Pictures have been updated on the website. Check out the videos below to see the kids in action!
We had another wonderful day and the weather was great as well. We were able to view the sun today through the clear sky thanks to Dr. Knauer bringing over his telescope during lunch. We got out on campus and walked to the Minining and Mineral Resources Building for this viewing.
For our daily presentation Dr. Christa Jackson worked on spatial reasoning through several activities. She had the students blindly draw pictures based on their partner’s directions, make a 3-dimensional object from several 2-dimensional pictures, and design a bridge out of limited materials and describe their design to their classmates. We had lots of great bridge designs out of straws and pipe cleaners.
In LEGO the students worked on the first three challenges for the Green City board. This involved closing a dam and also raising a new clean energy smoke stack. The students had to build upon their previous days work to program the robot to complete all of these tasks.
Tomorrow robotics will get more difficult in terms of challenges. The students will have to navigate around objects in order to complete their tasks. Dr. Robin Cooper from the Biology Department will be presenting on neurobiology in crayfish. The students will be visiting his lab and working with his graduate students tomorrow. We’ll be sure to take a lot of pictures!
We had another fun, enjoyable day today. The weather was much better and we had a great presentation from Dr. Bruce Walcott in the College of Engineering. The students worked on engineering design and worked in pairs to build motors. He finished his session off with a trip to the Environmental Engineering building and a tour of some of its neat features. I am jealous as I haven’t been able to get over there myself!
In robotics the students worked on programming the robot to move forward in the “close shave” challenge in which then need to shave a lego placed at a given distance. They also programmed for the maze in which the robot must follow a maze to end up in a box. The challenge is they must program it forward and backward.
The weather forecast looks good for tomorrow at noon, so we are trying to work in a short visit to the observatory for a daytime viewing. Dr. Christa Jackson will be working with the students tomorrow on 3-dimensional figures and spatial reasoning. She does a great job of transitioning between 2-dimensional drawings and 3-dimensional models. In robotics they will be starting the Green City Challenge. They will take all they have learned and program the robot to complete many challenges on the board. Each has a point value and it will culminate in a competition on Friday.
What a wonderful first day! We were excited to see everyone and we had a great time working with LEGO robotics and exploring some astronomy. The students built a spectrometer with Dr. Tim Knauer, Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. One group was able to visit the observatory, but it was raining during the other session so we had to adjust our plans. In robotics they learned the basics of building and programming the robot. Tomorrow they will delve into some more difficult programming challenges like following a determined path on the mat.
At my senate committee meeting yesterday, our group debated about online courses, programs, and learning for nearly 1 1/2 hours. It was very interesting to see and listen to the various perspectives out there on online learning. There were definitely a lot of misconceptions stated, most notably “students take online courses because they are easy” or “students want to take the easy way out” or even “students can’t REALLY learn online”. IMHO, if online courses are done correctly, they can be pedagogically equivalent or even richer than face-to-face learning.
We also discussed the big push for online learning course and modules because of budget issues and constraints. Let’s face it, universities make more money through offering courses online than they do face-to-face. Why is this? It was purported that this was the case because of the extra charges for each student. I don’t buy this though because while $10 per credit hour per student DOES generate extra revenue, it would not make THAT much of a difference for a University. I think the more important thing is the reach of the audience. Simply put, if you offer an online course, you are inevitably going to be able to reach a wider audience than you would face-to-face. As a land grant institution, IMHO I believe that the university should continue to look into and explore pedagogically sound strategies for offering a variety of online courses in order to help reach a wider audience.
I think the other comparisons in this blog post are interesting…will higher education (as we know it) really “go away” and come back as something different? Is that possible?
The student debt is absolutely appalling. As someone who is still paying on their student loans (and I pay ahead!!) 10 years later, I agree that something does need to be done. However, is it really the university’s fault that they are charging more and more for tuition? At our recent university senate meeting, lots of numbers were shared with us, one of which what was the cost to the university for a student to attend. Even after tuition/loans were accounted for, it still cost the university almost $1500 a student. With over 28,000 students a year attending, this number becomes obscene. As a mathematician, this does not even make sense! Can and should universities be making cuts? Absolutely. Where? I’m not sure. Whatever it is, it cannot be at the cost of a quality education for the students and the communities we serve.