Friday, November 7, 2014

Stratasys Extreme Redesign Marketing Kit

One of my former students, Brayden, entered the 2014 Stratasys Extreme Redesign 3D Printing Challenge. His entry was a top ten finalist. While he didn't end up winning the contest, I did just receive some great news. The FANTASTAKICK is being used in a national advertising campaign for this year's contest. If you didn't catch my blog post about his project you can read about it here. 

Our vendor is visiting me in a week or so and plans to bring a few marketing kits with him. Here is a picture he sent me: 

Can you see the mini FANTASTAKICK?

Brayden is currently studying Aerospace Engineering at the Air Force Academy. I'm sure he will be excited to hear about this and I look forward to sharing this news with him. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

2015 Robotics Team Applications

It's that time again! Position listing can be found here and the application can be found here.

Keep in mind that being on a certain sub-system doesn’t limit your participation in any way. Your position defines your specialization and your general role; by no means does it mean you can’t be involved in other areas. In fact, as members of Team 3556, you are expected to juggle many responsibilities. Our competition season runs from the first week of January through the beginning of April. Being on the team requires dedication and long hours during this time. It is a very taxing, yet rewarding, experience. We also have various outreach and fundraising events throughout the year that require member participation. Only students who feel they can devote the time and energy required need apply.

Return completed application to room 812 no later than Wednesday, November 12, 2014.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Help Name Hayley's Race

Help us name Hayley’s benefit race. We are planning a 5k benefit for Hayley Lewis to be held in March of 2015. This run/walk event will be a fundraiser to benefit Hayley’s recovery and a community campaign to bring awareness to traumatic brain injury(TBI) and the need to wear helmets. March also happens to be TBI awareness month. Please help us create a catchy name for this event by submitting your ideas through the link below until October 15th. If we use your name, you will receive one free registration for the race.

Stay tuned for more details!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Why not?

I just returned from the 2015 Florida Department of Education Macy's Teacher of the Year program in Orlando. I have so much to process and so much to share and that will take some time. But ... there's one thing I need to get out there before anything else. This is for you Dorina. Thanks for the inspiration. ;)

What do I do? I teach.
How do I do it? Like a champion.
Why do I do it? Because teachers make all other careers possible and I want to inspire my students to realize their dreams.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

2014 Media & Technology Innovation Award

Something very exciting happened here yesterday. We received a letter from Comcast and NBCUniversal letting us know that we were among the top four finalists for the 2014 Media & Technology Innovation Award. Our high school from the small, rural town of Lake City made it to the top four out of 150+ worldwide teams. Let that sink in for a minute ...

When we started this FIRST adventure four years ago, we did not even own a laptop. The technology policy at the time did not allow us to bring a laptop onto campus yet the security settings on my one classroom computer did not allow us the ability to load the computer code we wrote onto our robot. It was a problem, to say the least. We were operating on a $6,500 grant from JCPenney that got us into the program. I had recently started teaching here and somehow ended up in charge of this "building a robot" thing. I WAS NOT going to let us fail. So I did what needed to be done and we brought a laptop onto campus. The bad news is that I was called into the principal's office because someone in technology saw the laptop and decided that we would be "looking at porn or trying to take down the entire network." I kid you not.

My principal was great and let me explain. I took full responsibility for teaching my students how to appropriately use technology and explained how we could follow the policy and not bring a working robot to competition or we could be allowed a slight deviation and learn computer programming. My programmer at the time, by the way, was a freshman. How amazing is that? A freshman in high school learning LabVIEW and programming a 120 pound robot. That's what we were doing. Not cyber-bullying, not looking at inappropriate content, not attempting to take down the network or any of those other things someone was worried about.

Fast forward four years and we now have a cart of 30 laptops, a fantastic desktop with a huge monitor for computer-aided design, site licenses for AutoCAD, SolidWorks, and LabVIEW, and an industry-grade 3D printer. We've had 11 students become industry certified in AutoCAD and two in SolidWorks. We are an award winning FIRST robotics team and made it to the top four for the Media & Technology Innovation Award. This might actually mean more to me than any other honor or award we've accomplished. We've worked so hard to get here and I am so proud of my students for their entry.

Don't get me wrong, great things are happening in our district and there are folks working to improve our level of technology every day. I am very grateful for them and look forward to seeing the continued advancement in our district. I hope this award serves as a great piece of evidence for the positive impact social media and technology can have. I think it is important to let the world know what great things are going on here. That's part of the reason I maintain this blog as well as a presence on Facebook and Twitter. That's why I get written permission from all of my student's parents to use their photos on the internet. If we don't tell the world how far we've come and what great things we are accomplishing then we leave our public image up to the naysayers, and that will simply not do.

See below for a copy of the letter we received and our award submission.

ETA: Congratulations to the winners - The Holy Cows.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day!

Have you practiced your random act of environmental kindness today? I've challenged my students to do so and report back to me on Thursday. We came up with a list of ideas.

  1. take a shorter shower
  2. take a cold shower
  3. pick up litter
  4. remind others not to litter
  5. plant a tree
  6. challenge others to commit a random act of environmental kindness
  7. help your family start a plan to recycle
  8. find a new use for a "disposable" food container

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Columbia County Teacher of the Year

Something amazing happened in my life this school year. I've thought a lot about this and what I want to post about. There are so many things that it will have to come in parts. The first step for me is putting this out there. It's been a great ride so far full of plenty of self-reflection, growth, and of course some celebration.

It started in November when I was named Teacher of the Year for Columbia High School. Thankfully Tabatha McMahon, our journalism teacher, was there to snap a photo for me when they presented this during an early morning faculty meeting.

The Lake City Reporter came for a visit and captured this picture in one of my engineering classes. 

 After essays, interviews, a video and a lot of thought and consideration ... this happened. Columbia County Teacher of the Year. I still have a little disbelief every time I hear it mentioned. There was an amazing group of educators up for this honor and, as you can tell from the picture below, I got a little emotional about the whole thing.

Thanks to the Lake City Reporter for the wonderful article. 

Banners in the commons and a parade too!

Having the support of my students at the reception meant a lot to me. I was told this has never happened before, which is just crazy. We really need to support our teachers more and I hope to start a trend of students attending in support of their teachers. 

2014 Orlando Regional

It was another successful build season for GET SMART. We now have our fourth regional under our belt. CHIEF performed very well, as did our drivers. We seeded in the top 8 to become alliance captains for the finals. We teamed up with Chaos (1421) and Octopirates (3502) and enjoyed working with both teams. Gracious professionalism all around. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, I'll leave you with some photo highlights of competition.

Team Spirit

Mayken & Dr. Westra, ready for day 1

Check out alliance #7

Botley came to the Orlando Regional

Display of our awesome graphic design work over the years

Pit at competition

Bumper Captain awaiting his turn with the bot

Tim & Shawn putting bumpers on in preparation for our first match

Saturday, March 29, 2014

2014 Extreme Redesign 3D Printing Challenge Finalist

What happens when sports and engineering join forces? Good things, my friends, good things. Brayden worked very hard on his entry for the Extreme Redesign 3D Printing Challenge. We recently received notification that his design, The FANTASTAKICK, was selected as a top 10 finalist. 

In this challenge, students are tasked to find a design and improve it. Brayden is the kicker for the Columbia High School football team and, with the help of his coach, decided his kicking tee could use some improvement. After redesigning his tee on paper he took to SolidWorks, learned the program and drew up his new design. We printed his first redesign in our 3D printer and took it to the football field for some testing. Brayden decided it could use a bit more improvement so back to SolidWorks he went. His final design, The FANTASTAKICK, was ready for submitting. 

This contest gives students the option of presenting their design through either writing or a video. We had some good footage and decided a video would be the way to go. Brayden and I talked about his options and the idea of a cheesy infomercial was born. Brayden took off with this idea and did a great job. 

Top ten finalists receive a $50 gift card and have their design printed and sent to them. His final design was a little larger than our 3D printer can handle so he is pretty excited about receiving his printed tee. The contest says scholarship winners will be announced in early April so we should soon find out if he made the top 3. 

Regardless of the outcome, Brayden is already a winner. I've watched him grow in many ways over the past three years. He's contributed a lot of time and effort to our robotics program and is part of the very first group of students set to complete my Engineering Technology program this school year. As a level three student, he will sit for SolidWorks certification in May. He also recently signed with the Air Force Academy and will head to Colorado to play football and pursue a degree in aerospace engineering. (Yay!!)

And this is why we teach ... not for the pay (which is never enough), not for the recognition (not what we're about), but for the impact we make on future generations. We give them wings so they can fly.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

2014 Chairman's Video

Check out our Chairman's Award video. I think it's our best one yet. Fantastic job by Carlos and Allison!
Watch it on our YouTube channel here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

CTE Newsletter

Yours truly is featured in the CTE newsletter. Check it out here.

Stacking Layers @ FSU

A couple weeks ago I took seven of my seniors to Stacking Layers, a 3D printing symposium at Florida State University. It was a fantastic day for us all. We learned about the different areas of study 3D printing is impacting and how it is changing the world. There were quite a few printers working away while we were there and we were able to see them in action. The presenters were dynamic and kept us on the edge of our seats. We even shed a few tears when we learned of a little girl and her 3d printed "magic arms." We learned about the software programs Rhino and Grasshopper and were all drooling over them by the end of the session.

Harris from Lulzbot was very informative and we enjoyed talking with him.
I enjoyed watching my students interact with the exhibitors and presenters. They were great representatives of Columbia High School and were actively engaged the entire time. We brought many new ideas back to school with us and I'm sure this trip will have a lasting impression on us all. In fact, the organizers were so excited to see high school students at this event that they pulled me aside and gave me a bit of fantastic news: they were going to send us a Cube 3D printer. Then, after the Rhino presentation, they decided to give us that software as well. They were so entertained by my students' reaction to the Rhino demonstration they worked out a way to give us that too.

I was surprised and entertained by the artistic side of 3D printing. We saw toys and even pottery being printed before our eyes. The wide variety of printing material was also interesting.

3D Printed Pottery ... who knew?

Bendable Wood

It was an amazing day with some awesome students and I'm so glad my principal supported my idea of taking this group to Stacking Layers. I hope this event becomes an annual thing so I can take another group next year. I love seeing the faces of my students light up with possibilities when they learn about new technology and applications. This is a great group with a bright future and I hope this day will stand out for them when they think back to their senior year. I'm pretty sure I saw sparks of the "I know what I want to do with my life" variety.

You can see a video montage Rhino Fab Studio put together here. Look for the GET SMART shirts near the end. :)
We visited the stadium after the event.
3D Printed Brain Gear

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Well folks, we did it again. I'm so proud of this team. This is definitely our best machine yet. We finished the bot early enough to get some decent driving practice in and we are hoping that pays off at competition.


We had a little fun after bag & tag. Can you see what we spelled?