NSTA Takeover 2015

Based on our behavior in previous years we should not be allowed back, but here we come.

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SparkFun's Department of Education attends a lot of events every year, and we always have a good time, but some seem to inspire more...memorable moments. Educational Outreach Coordinator Jeff has some particularly eventful recollections of the 2014 National Science Teacher's Association (NSTA) Conference:

Last year at NSTA we tested just how far the the Boston Convention Center was willing to go in the name of science.

We were told from the onset that helium wasn't allowed in the convention center – the fear was that if a balloon got loose then the service staff would have to retrieve it. Well, we really like weather balloons, and so do a lot of people who take our workshops. We decided to bring this "contraband" element into our meeting room and carefully monitor our workshop participants' conduct in relation to this noble gas.

Much to our dismay, the first thing an attendee did was to let go of a balloon. We finished the workshop and I decided to try and pop the offending balloon with a quadcoptor (in retrospect, I've had better ideas). After several very close calls in the twenty-plus foot rafters of the meeting room, I went in for the kill. The balloon was lodged in a cornice moulding and with a delicate touch, I felt I could pop it. As I gingerly maneuvered the Quad into position, the onrush of air in the cornice moulding caused the quad to crash into the inner wall, wedging it twenty feet off the ground and leaving the balloon completely unscathed. The ensuing rescue brought in a full team of union labor with a scissor lift, and I received a very severe talking-to from the powers that be, not to mention a fine. Needless to say we'll be back at it in Chicago in mid-March.

You heard right, folks. Despite our flagrant disregard for regulations concerning drone and helium usage in public spaces, we'll be sneaking back into NSTA again this year to teach SEVEN workshops. Here's what's doing:

Workshop Description Date/Time
Program or Programmed: Integrating Electronics and Code in the Science Classroom The Hour of Code and programming know-how are key components to 21st-century learning. Processing is a simple, easy‑to‑learn open‑source programming language used by artists and scientists alike. Integrating this tool and real-time data enables students to creatively build their own visualizations for interpreting data of varying scales, while exploring the Internet of Things. This workshop aims at being an immersive experience. March 12, 2015, 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM McCormick Place, W193a
Scratch for the Science Classroom: Introducing Coding as a Tool Earlier in Learning Scratch is an open-source graphical programming environment developed at MIT to teach young students to program using drag and drop blocks. Students can quickly create interactive animations, games, or presentations. We will uncover a widely overlooked feature of Scratch, integrating sensors and inputs through PicoBoard to investigate areas in science. Learn to build data collection, graphing, and visualization tools with your students in Scratch! March 12, 2015, 12:00 PM - 01:30 PM McCormick Place, W193a
Breaking the Rules: Hacking the Science Classroom with Arduino and Open-source Electronics This workshop employs free Arduino software to explore classroom materials in an iterative, highly affordable framework. By combining everyday materials like cardboard with the Arduino electronics hardware, we will build instruments and experiments for classroom use. In this setting, we’ll explore motion, forces, data-logging, and graphing tools to increase student engagement. March 13, 2015, 08:00 AM - 09:30 AM McCormick Place, W193a
Bringing Science Home: Integrating the Science Classroom with the Internet of Things Do you want your students to have access to their experiments from home? With a few open-source tools and electronics, a computer, and an internet connection, your students can take their experiments and data into the web where they can access it from anywhere, anytime. We will demonstrate tools and techniques to allow students to become citizen scientists! March 13, 2015, 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM McCormick Place, W193a
Physics and Open-Source Robotics: The Opera of Math and Science Position, velocity, acceleration, torque, and rotation—these are all key concepts in both physics and robotics. Why not integrate these things together? We use arduino, a simple robotics platform, and a little math to introduce students to kinematics concepts in physics. Integrate STEM and engineering into your physics class! March 14, 2015, 08:00 AM - 09:30 AM McCormick Place, W193a
Seeing the Sky with High Altitude Weather Balloons and Data Collection Design and build a high altitude balloon with SparkFun Electronics. This engaging project introduces tools for real-world science and data collection. We will build a balloon, add instrumentation, and launch it (tethered, for safety, of course) in Chicago to characterize temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure as a function of altitude. March 14, 2015, 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM McCormick Place, W193a
Circuit Scribe: Joining Art and Science with Conductive Gel Pens Circuit Scribe is a conductive gel pen that saw a huge reception on Kickstarter. We see Circuit Scribe as an easy way to integrate electronics and art into the science classroom. With a pen, paper, and some basic components, students can start exploring the magic of electricity and at the same time create beautifully creative pieces of art. March 14, 2015, 12:00 PM - 01:30 PM McCormick Place, W193a

These are just a few of the many awesome workshops happening at NSTA, and it promises to be another great conference, so if you'll find yourself in Chicago between March 12-15, please sign up and join us! You never know what we'll get fined for this year.


Comments 3 comments

  • I refuse to believe that no one at NSTA had a green laser on their person. Sure, there may have been a small explosion when the laser breached the surface of the balloon, but it would have garnered less disdain than the wrath of eight IATSE workers.

  • SparkFun - The rock stars of STEM education. :P

  • They specifically had a rule against helium? I'm disappointed in you! Why didn't you just use hydrogen?

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