Increasing Engagement Through Effective Teaching and Learning: Representations and Fluency

Central Arkansas K-12 math educators participating in “Increasing Engagement Through Effective Teaching and Learning:Representations and Fluency ” PD.  On Tuesday, June 26 UCA STEM Institute partnered with Arch Ford Cooperative to support teachers in their work with Fraction Concepts and connect their instructional practices  to NCTM’s Principles to Actions Essential Teaching and Learning Practices. Team solving the classic sand problem: ¾ of the sand went through a sand timer in 18 minutes. If the rest of the sand goes through at the same rate, how long does it take all the sand to go through the sand timer?

Increasing Engagement Through Effective Teaching and Learning: Establishing Goals and Implementing Task

Central Arkansas K-12 math educators participating in “Increasing Engagement Through Effective Teaching and Learning: Establishing Goals and Implementing Task” PD.  On Monday, June 25, UCA STEM Institute partnered with Arch Ford Cooperative to support teachers in their work with Fraction Concepts and connect their instructional practices  to NCTM’s Principles to Actions Essential Teaching and Learning Practices. Great day working with this team!

Hubble detects helium in the atmosphere of an exoplanet for the first time

Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have detected helium in the atmosphere of the exoplanet WASP-107b. This is the first time this element has been detected in the atmosphere of a planet outside the Solar System. The discovery demonstrates the ability to use infrared spectra to study exoplanet extended atmospheres.

The international team of astronomers, led by Jessica Spake, a PhD student at the University of Exeter in the UK, used Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 to discover helium in the atmosphere of the exoplanet WASP-107b This is the first detection of its kind.

Spake explains the importance of the discovery: “Helium is the second-most common element in the Universe after hydrogen. It is also one of the main constituents of the planets Jupiter and Saturn in our Solar System. However, up until now helium had not been detected on exoplanets — despite searches for it.”

The team made the detection by analysing the infrared spectrum of the atmosphere of WASP-107b. Previous detections of extended exoplanet atmospheres have been made by studying the spectrum at ultraviolet and optical wavelengths; this detection therefore demonstrates that exoplanet atmospheres can also be studied at longer wavelengths.

“The strong signal from helium we measured demonstrates a new technique to study upper layers of exoplanet atmospheres in a wider range of planets,” says Spake “Current methods, which use ultraviolet light, are limited to the closest exoplanets. We know there is helium in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and this new technique may help us to detect atmospheres around Earth-sized exoplanets — which is very difficult with current technology.”

WASP-107b is one of the lowest density planets known: While the planet is about the same size as Jupiter, it has only 12% of Jupiter’s mass. The exoplanet is about 200 light-years from Earth and takes less than six days to orbit its host star.

The amount of helium detected in the atmosphere of WASP-107b is so large that its upper atmosphere must extend tens of thousands of kilometres out into space. This also makes it the first time that an extended atmosphere has been discovered at infrared wavelengths.

Since its atmosphere is so extended, the planet is losing a significant amount of its atmospheric gases into space — between ~0.1-4% of its atmosphere’s total mass every billion years [2].

As far back as the year 2000, it was predicted that helium would be one of the most readily-detectable gases on giant exoplanets, but until now, searches were unsuccessful.

David Sing, co-author of the study also from the University of Exeter, concludes: “Our new method, along with future telescopes such as the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope/, will allow us to analyse atmospheres of exoplanets in far greater detail than ever before.”


[1] The measurement of an exoplanet’s atmosphere is performed when the planet passes in front of its host star. A tiny portion of the star’s light passes through the exoplanet’s atmosphere, leaving detectable fingerprints in the spectrum of the star. The larger the amount of an element present in the atmosphere, the easier the detection becomes.

[2] Stellar radiation has a significant effect on the rate at which a planet’s atmosphere escapes. The star WASP-107 is highly active, supporting the atmospheric loss. As the atmosphere absorbs radiation it heats up, so the gas rapidly expands and escapes more quickly into space.

Story Source:

Materials provided by ESA/Hubble Information Centre. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Why a robot can’t yet outjump a flea

When it comes to things that are ultrafast and lightweight, robots can’t hold a candle to the fastest-jumping insects and other small-but-powerful creatures.

New research could help explain why nature still beats robots, and describes how machines might take the lead.

Take the smashing mantis shrimp, a small crustacean not much bigger than a thumb. Its hammer-like mouthparts can repeatedly deliver 69-mile-per-hour wallops more than 100 times faster than the blink of an eye to break open hard snail shells.

Or the unassuming trap-jaw ant: In a zero-to-60 matchup, even the fastest dragster would have little chance against its snapping mandibles, which reach speeds of more than 140 miles per hour in less than a millisecond to nab their prey.

One of the fastest accelerations known on Earth is the hydra’s sting. These soft-bodied aquatic creatures defend themselves with help from capsules along their tentacles that act like pressurized balloons. When triggered, they fire a barrage of microscopic poison spears that briefly accelerate 100 times faster than a bullet.

In a study to appear April 27 in the journal Science, researchers describe a new mathematical model that could help explain how these and other tiny organisms generate their powerful strikes, chomps, jumps and punches. The model could also suggest ways to design small, nature-inspired robots that come closer to their biological counterparts in terms of power or speed.

The secret to these organisms’ explosive movements isn’t powerful muscles, but rather spring-loaded parts they can cock and release like an archer’s bow, said Sheila Patek, associate professor of biology at Duke University.

Tough yet flexible tendons, cuticles and other elastic structures stretch and release like slingshots, powering their jumps and snaps.

A short-legged insect called the froghopper, for example, has a bow-like structure called the pleural arch that acts like a spring. Latch-like protrusions on their legs control its release, allowing them to leap more than 100 times their body length despite their short legs. A person with that much power could jump nearly two football fields.

However, it’s not clear how these mechanisms work together to enhance power, said Mark Ilton, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

While traditional mathematical models of performance take into account the inherent physical tradeoffs of muscle — which can contract forcefully, or quickly, but not both — they fail to factor in the tradeoffs inherent to springs and latch-like mechanisms as well. In other words, nothing can be faster, stronger, and more powerful at the same time.

“Until now these other components have been mostly black-boxed,” Patek said.

The researchers developed a mathematical model of fast motion at small scales that incorporates constraints on springs and latches.

“Part of our goal was to try to develop a model that is equally generalizable to biological or engineered systems,” said Manny Azizi, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Irvine who studies jumping frogs.

First, they compiled data on the size and top speeds and accelerations for 104 species of elite plant and animal athletes. They compared the data to similar measurements for miniature robots inspired by ultrafast movements such as unfurling chameleon tongues, snapping Venus fly traps and hopping insects.

By incorporating the performance tradeoffs of biological and synthetic springs and latches, the researchers hope to better understand how variables such as spring mass, stiffness, material composition and latch geometry work together with muscles or motors to influence power.

The model allows researchers to input a set of spring, latch and muscle or motor parameters and get back details about an individual’s theoretical maximum speed, acceleration, and other aspects of performance at a given weight.

The model has major implications for engineers. It suggests that robots can’t yet outjump a flea in part because such quick, repeatable movements require components to be exquisitely fine-tuned to each other.

But the model gives researchers a tool to design small, fast-moving robots with more precisely matched components that work better together to enhance performance, said Sarah Bergbreiter, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland who makes jumping robots the size of an ant.

“If you have a particular size robot that you want to design, for example, it would allow you to better explore what kind of spring you want, what kind of motor you want, what kind of latch you need to get the best performance at that size scale, and understand the consequences of those design choices,” Bergbreiter said.

For biologists, the model can also be used to pinpoint the upper and lower weight limits of different groups of spring-powered organisms, given variables such as which elastic materials their bodies are made of, Azizi said.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Duke University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

STEM Enrichment activities have no impact on exam results

Enrichment activities to encourage pupils to study science and technology subjects have made no difference to their performance in mathematics exams, new research shows.

Data shows children who didn’t take part in the activities, run and funded by various governments, private companies and charities, did just as well in GCSE tests.

The STEM enrichment activities have been running to encourage more children to develop science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills, which are vital to the economic growth of the UK. There have long been concerns not enough children are studying these subjects, in contrast to pupils in other nations.

The activities include hands-on fun sessions in laboratories, teacher mentoring and inspiring talks for young people by STEM ambassadors. Their objective is to give young people a better understanding of science and maths; to link science and maths as done in the classroom to STEM done in the real world; and to break the myth held by young people that STEM subjects are only for the “brainy.”

Dr Pallavi Amitava Banerjee, from the University of Exeter’s Graduate School of Education, used the National Pupil Database, government statistics about each school and pupil, to assess the impact of STEM enrichment schemes on how well students performed in mathematics. By looking at five years of data she found that among the 300 schools who participated there was no impact on maths GCSE results.

Dr Banerjee compared GCSE results in 300 state schools where all pupils had participated in STEM enrichment activities since 2007 to a comparator group of all other secondary schools. A grade of C or above in maths was considered a success. Comparator schools had a slightly lower figure of students doing well at mathematics at first, but results soon caught up with those at schools who were taking part in intervention activities.

The comparator group had a slightly higher proportion of pupils with free school meals, and the study did not find evidence that STEM interventions improved outcomes for less advantaged students.

“Of course attainment is only one indication of the success of these programmes, but it important because students are more likely to continue to study STEM subjects when they get higher grades. Good attainment in mathematics is also a pre-requisite for admission to STEM degree courses,” Dr Banerjee said.

All the activities considered as part of the study were delivered as after-school clubs, competitions, or out-reach programmes, and were run during Key Stage 3 and 4. Activities run by ten providers were considered for the study, and children took part from the beginning of year 7 until they took their GCSEs. Eight of these were government organisations, one was an educational charity, and one received public funding.

National Pupil Database data from 2007 to 2011/12 for GCSEs and 2013/14 for A-levels was used in the study. All special schools, pupil referral units, and independent schools were excluded from the study. State maintained schools included were academies, city technology colleges, voluntary aided, voluntary controlled, and foundation schools.

Dr Banerjee said: “It is important to state that these enrichment activities can be fantastic, but the study did not find a direct impact on results and further research should be carried out to find out why.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Exeter. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

UCA STEM Institute at the National Council for History Education (NCHE) –  April 18-21, 2018

UCA STEM Institute at the National Council for History Education (NCHE) –  April 18-21, 2018

Working with Library of Congress (LC) Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) Midwest Regional program, UCA STEM Institute was invited for a poster presentation at the NCHE National Conference in San Antonio, TX.

As a past project director from the Midwest regions, Dr Garimella presented the project titled “This is Our Town: Using Geocaching as a Portal to Cross-curriculum Teaching in the Classroom” and participated in collaboration, networking, & grant writing workshop.


Women’s Foundation of Arkansas Girls of Promise Conference – 2018

The STEM institute participated in the 2018 Women’s Foundation of Arkansas Girls of Promise Conference on April 13th. Girls of Promise is an annual conference held in Little Rock, Arkansas for 150 eighth-grade girls from across the state designed to provide, equip, and empower those who attend to continue pursuing and exploring careers in STEM fields. A table of interactive components was displayed in our exhibit space where students actively participated as they explored different aspects of STEM careers.  Some of the favorite activities the girls explored together were electrical in nature, working with the Little Bits circuitry and Energy Sticks. They enjoyed competing to find solutions to a toothpick mathematical equation puzzle. The young ladies were eager to remind their teachers to check out classroom manipulatives at their local STEM Centers.

Company Leaders Look to Kids for STEM Workforce

Encouraging STEM education at a younger age will build the skill sets needed in an increasingly tech-savvy world. 

TO FILL THE TECH JOBS of the future, company and nonprofit leaders advise employers to train ’em while they’re young.

At a panel about filling future science, technology, engineering and math job needs during the U.S. News & World Report STEM Solutions: Workforce of Tomorrow conference on Friday, Vince Bertram, president and CEO of nonprofit Project Lead the Way, said as more and more companies become tech-enabled, businesses need to support measures that will encourage students early on to pursue STEM-related studies – and later STEM careers – so that they will have a supply of workers to fill ever-growing job demands.

“As we think of STEM education … STEM is the foundation of our economy – it connects to everything. It’s not these discrete subjects, but a more integrative approach to education,” Bertram said during the session, which was moderated by Potoula Gjidija, associate director of corporate citizenship for biotech company Regeneron. “We have to make learning relevant to students … It’s not enough to make math worksheets.”

Bertram was joined on the panel by Patrick Barnes, program director for John Deere’s Global Youth Education program; Jon Chapman, co-founder and president of global partnerships for EVERFI, an education technology company; and Jennifer Taylor, vice president of U.S. Jobs for the Consumer Technology Association.

Taylor, pointing toward tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google, echoed Bertram and said promoting STEM education now will go toward filling the gap between the thousands of STEM-related job opportunities and the relatively small supply of skilled candidates.

“We don’t even know what jobs are about to present themselves, and we also know that … it is imperative that we are teaching our youth how to be digitally savvy and have the tech skills that they need so that they have those critical thinking skills,” Taylor said.

And, Barnes pointed out, the idea of businesses promoting or supporting STEM education doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to support students through a four-year college program. At John Deere, for example, Barnes said they offer some training programs, and graduates who complete the curriculum successfully are offered a job interview with the company.

“Welders, electricians – it’s so hard to fill those jobs today,” said Barnes.

As for addressing the opportunity gaps for underrepresented students, all four panelists agreed that, to make the fields more approachable for everyone, they have to offer training and education programs consistently across America, including in areas with low expectations for students. This would help to encourage a growth mindset – the concept that you continue to learn, and failure is OK – to break down those barriers.

Women in STEM: ‘Change the World Like a Girl’

Although progress has been made for women in the STEM fields, more can be done to increase their presence.

MARY ADAMS WANTS YOU TO “Change the world like a girl.” Adams, the co-founder and program manager of Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative, is just one woman leading the way in the field of science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM.

Adams, along with other influential women leaders in STEM, spoke at the Bringing More Women into the Fold in STEM session during the U.S. News & World Report STEM Solutions: Workforce of Tomorrow conference in Washington, D.C., on Friday.

GPS for Physical Science/Chemistry: Navigating from Standards to Instruction

Come experience the vision for the high school science!  *NEW LESSON EXPERIENCES & PHENOMENA*
During this three-day opportunity, educators will engage in phenomenon-based investigation aligned to the new Physical Science-Integrated and Chemistry-Integrated courses. Student-focused learning through the application of science, math and literacy skills will be highlighted.

  • Two follow-up PD days will be offered along with opportunities for classroom-level support.
  • Participation in all three days of this session meets the ADE requirement for Pre-Advanced Placement Science (Pre-AP) teacher certification or recertification.
  • TESS components addressed for this workshop include:  1a, 1d, 1e, 3a-e, 4a, 4e

GPS for Physical Science/Chemistry: Navigating from Standards to Instruction
Tuesday, June 26, 2018 – Thursday, June 28, 2018
8:30 am -3:30 pm
Grades 9 – 12
Cost:  FREE

Click here to register for 3 days GPS PS/Chem Workshop