A Tale of Two Projects: Week 1 IPE Emerging Tech (NSF) Project

This blog entry is the partner entry to this story: Week 1 Algebra 2 blog entry.  During the short week between Wed, 1/18, and Fri, 1/20, we launched two projects in my main preps: the Emerging Technology (or NSF) project in Integrated Physics and Engineering and the Sports Science Video project in Algebra 2.   The events in this article occurred concurrently with the events in this article.  To get links to accounts of earlier and later phases of this project go this page: A Tale of 2+ Projects.


Integrated Physics & Engineering, Day 1 NSF Project , 1/18

Students in IPE were greeted with this visual when they arrived in class in Day 1 of the Emerging Tech project.  The branding on this agenda slide shows the icon from the previous project with a bandaid over it.  This reinforced the warmup for the day which was a reflection on their past report scores and their plans to use report feedback to raise their scores that week.  In the IPE class, student work is graded once a week: notebooks are graded on Friday’s and major products submitted online are graded on Sundays.  Students have up to 2 weeks to revise their work: after 1 week, they can earn up to a 90% on late or resubmitted work and after 2 weeks, they can earn up to 70% on this work.  After 2 weeks, my co-teacher and I no longer accept the work.

After the students completed the report reflection warmup, we held our once-a-6-weeks Class Officer Elections.  Nominated students gave speeches to earn student votes in elections for 3 officer positions: Facilitator, Time Manager, and Grade Manager.  The facilitator goes over the daily agenda at the start of class each day.  The time manager tracks the time left in class activities and class periods and provides periodic time announcements describing the amounts of time left for activities and left in class.  The grade manager uses a weekly task completion chart to follow-up with students who did not turn in assignments.  All 3 officers support the class when I’m sick.  Subs who have taken over my classes are usually just adults on record who take attendance and watch while my 3 officers lead students through the day’s activities.  Three of my Algebra 2 officers that were elected earlier in the morning during 1st period managed to get elected in the same positions in their IPE class periods. I allowed them to run for office again because I enjoy having experienced and committed class officers.

After the officer elections, we announced teams.  The teams claimed new team tables to serve as headquarters for their new teams.  They used the visual below to set up their notebooks for the next project.

We explained to them that we were going to do a project in “Advanced” Physics and Science topics.  We explained that “advanced” in this context did not necessarily mean more difficult.   What it really means is that it involves science discovered “later” than much of the science we had studied throughout the year.  We also explained that the National Science Foundation (NSF) has a very large budget (order of billions) which it allocates to science and engineering proposals with the power to advance our understanding of science (intellectual merit) and to improve our society (broad impact).  We explained that the goal of the project was to create an NSF proposal that involves emerging technology that has intellectual merit and broad impact.  To give them an idea of some the problems they could address in their proposals, we watched a video about the NEA Grand Challenges in Engineering.


After we watched the video, students working in teams dissected the project design brief and created a chart listing their Content Knows and Need-to-Knows and their Project Logistics Knows and Need-to-Knows.  For the final activity of the day, the facilitator in each class period led a class discussion to consolidate all the students’ Knows and Need-to-Knows:

 While they shared their prior content knowledge in their Content Knows, I appreciate how the 4th Period students gave me a brief summary of what they remembered about atomic theory and what they knew of GMO’s.


Later in the day, I prepped for activities later in the week by continue to conduct research and to draft visuals and question prompts for my first workshop on Nuclear Physics for Day 3 of the project.  While reviewing the nuclear material I decided that the way to chunk the Nuclear Physics was into 2 parts.  Part 1 would focus on the strong force, energy-mass equivalence, fission, and fusion and its applications.  Part 2 would focus on radioactive decays (alpha, gamma, and beta), the weak force, the idea of half life  and applications of radioactivity.


I also prepped a Test Correction assignment because trimester exams are in 5 weeks.  In this activity, students use a key to correct their test using a colored pen or pencil different from the color they used in the test.  The color contrast helps students know what concepts they need to revisit when they study for their trimester exams.


Integrated Physics & Engineering, Day 2 NSF Project , 1/19



On day 2 of the NSF project, students did a warmup that reviewed Laws  of Exponents.  I designed the warm-up problems to take on the same form as the energy-mass equivalence (E = mc^2) problems we would introduce the following day.  This warm-up gave us the opportunity to review laws of exponents and putting final results into scientific notation.


After the warmup, the students created their team norms and agreements and documented these in a team contract using this template.    They also set up their Google folders and shared them with their teammates.  On this day, we started the useful practice of adding the team number to the name of the Google folder.  We linked their Google folder links to the project rubric chart:


The rubric chart is our one-stop-shop for all the electronic work students submit for the project.  It also contains text from all the project rubrics (see left column) and has column boxes which we populate with yellow (partial credit) and green (full credit) stamps as each team completes parts of the rubrics in their products.  After the students set-up their team folders and team contracts, we gave them time to work on their test and report corrections to wrap up class Day 2 of the NSF project.


Later in the day, I prepared for Day 3 by finalizing my lesson outline, lesson visuals and lesson handout for Nuclear Physics (1 of 2).  To really focus the lesson, I referred back to my analysis of a test bank aligned to my target TEKS.  This analysis led me to focus my lesson on binding energy, mass defect and how these relate to fission, fusion and mass-energy equivalence.  In addition I found this great gif that illustrates the chain reaction that occurs with uranium-235:



Integrated Physics & Engineering, Day 3 NSF Project , 1/20

On Day 3, I facilitated part 1 of 2 of a workshop on Nuclear Physics.  Because our previous project had focused on conservation of energy and momentum, I integrated questions in the workshop that tied the new forces (strong forces) and new energies (binding energies) in nuclear physics to concepts we had already learned in previous projects: energy transformations, Coulomb forces, potential energy, and kinetic energy.  We learned about the role of the strong force in the stability of atomic nuclei.  We learned how to calculate the mass defect and the binding energy using E = mc^2 where E is energy, m is mass, and c is the speed of light.  We learned about fission and fusion, their connections to the strong force, and technological applications of each.


Later in the day, I graded all the Week 19 assignments in students notebooks.  I also learned how to install a TI-83 emulator unto my laptop so I could model how to do calculations with very large and very small numbers in our class set of scientific calculators.


Integrated Physics & Engineering, Week 2 Prep NSF Project , 1/20

Over the weekend, I prepared for Week 2 of the NSF project by setting up a rubric, research questions and suggested sources for presentations students would give on nuclear and quantum physicists.

#Edublogsclub Prompt 5: Free Web Tools

Here are the free web tools I’m currently using most to manage my life and teach my students:

All the Google Apps (Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Sheets,  Google Slides, Google Keep):  My favorite features include:

  • Explore (in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides): I use this feature to search for Creative Commons images and drag these directly into documents and presentations.  Many of the images have clear (as opposed to white backgrounds) so they are easier to layer on top of other objects.
  • Pivot Tables (in Google Sheets): I use this very powerful tool to summarize complicated data sets.  For example, if students fill out a Google form to provide collaboration scores on their teammates they will generate several rows of data for each student.  Pivot tables will consolidate that data for each student and will give several options for how to combine the data (via averaging, summing, finding max/min, etc)
  • Conditional Formatting (in Google Sheets): I set conditions in conditional formatting that automatically change the text/cell background colors.  One use of this is to set up rubric charts with hidden scores.  Yellow squares denote partial credit and Green squares denote full credit.  Hidden under the conditional formatting are actual scores that I can use later to calculate their project grades.

  • Alternating Colors Formatting (NEW in Google Sheets):  I use this to make my grade sheets easier on the eyes.  I like how the alternating colors of each row are preserved even after I sort the data in my grade sheets.
  • Sharing (in all Google drive apps).  All docs I co-create with my co-teachers are made in shared Google drive apps.  I have no idea how we produced collaborative docs before this feature.  I know we used to live without it but I’ve blocked those dark times from my mind already.
  • Shared To Do lists (in Google keep):  When I’m collaborating with several people on a project, I’ll sometimes setup a checklist in Google keep and share it with them.  This app works in web browsers and also has a mobile version.


  • I use this app because it allows me to update several notebooks which are accessible online and off-line on all my devices.  The interface is very simple and user friendly.
  • I draft most of my blog posts in here.  I also maintain my 2017 Daily Resolution To Do Lists in here.


Desmos:  This is the iPad graphing calculator that my students use the most.  It also works in web browsers.  Some cool features include:


Coach my Video:

  • We use the free version of this app to advance videos frame by frame and gather timestamps at each frame.  My students and I used this to analyze the motion of runners on a 100 meter track and the motion of marbles moving through a Rube Goldberg dervice.  For more about that, go here.


PhET Interactive Simulations:

  • Dozens of simulations featuring concepts in physics, biology, chemistry, earth science and math.
  • Each simulation is linked to a bank of lesson plans.
  • Some of the simulations are starting to become available in HTML5 format which makes them accessible to my students iPads.  If I ever won the lottery, my first selfish act of philanthropy would be to make a large donation to the UC Boulder program that maintains the PhET’s so they could convert all the sims into HTML5.
  • Some of my favorite sims for teaching Physics include: The Moving Man, Wave on a String, Energy Skate Park, and the Circuit Construction Kit.


BONUS TOOL: Tweetdeck

  • I use Tweetdeck to organize tweets into columns dedicated to specific handles and hashtags.  This helps me to participate in Twitter Education Chats with other teachers.  The schedule for these is posted here.  Without the column organization, I would be too confused by the mad jumble of tweets in my Home page to participate effectively in the Twitter chats.
  • I also use this tool to schedule future tweets.  Last year I undertook this hobby project to tweet a blog article related to my notes on various teacher books everyday for an entire school year.  I used Tweetdeck to schedule a long series of these book notes tweets in advance.  For the complete list of book notes articles, you can go here.