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4 Critical Fellowships Highlight the Future of Energy

The three largest industries in our region are healthcare, advanced manufacturing and energy. A number of our fellowships deal with energy and I have spent the last year reading as many resources as I could get my hands on. The issues are complex, we have much to consider as we make the transition, but the primary message is “Political dynamics will change when the world transitions to electric power generated primarily through wind and solar. ”

But wind and solar, unlike coal and gas power plants, are intermittent. The only way to make the transition is with better electrical storage capacity. That is exactly the concern of the Charging Into the Future fellowship. Check out Gavin’s video below.

Battery Storage

Rare Earth Elements

Every country has access to wind and sun. However, you still need to mine the minerals and metals needed to make the solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries. These minerals are not distributed evenly. All of our high tech electronics are made of what are called rare earth elements. These are things like neodymium (Nd), cerium (Ce), dysprosium (Dy), erbium (Er), (my favorite!) promethium (Pm), and about a dozen others that have a variety of very important industrial uses. Fortunately, they’re not as rare as their name implies, but they’re also not geographically distributed evenly. China happens to have the good fortune to end up with about 3/4 of the world’s deposits of these powerful elements, which puts it in a strong trade position in the future. Countries who are developing technology for wind and solar will also be in a strong position. That knowledge should affect our educational goals.

While they are just at the beginning of their research, our Rare Earth Elements Fellowship team will be bringing you news and great information on these elements.

Small Modular Reactors in Future Cities

The Baden Academy Future City Competition Team used Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) in their Future City design for a more resilient energy future. SMRs can fit on the back of a trailer truck, provide energy for a small city/industrial center and offer distinct safeguards, security and nonproliferation advantages. The team was able to visit Westinghouse and hear a brief presentation on their eVinci Micro Reactor. Their tradition will continue with this year’s team.

The Baden Academy Future City Competition team won, last year, “The Best Use of Nuclear Science.”

A Digital Tour of a Nuclear Plant

We wanted to start students even younger thinking about nuclear power. This year we started a new project to archive our history and demonstrate basic nuclear science concepts. A team of students is making a Minecraft model of the Shippensport Nuclear Plant, the world’s first full-scale atomic electric power plant. I’ll keep you up to date on the progress and future plans!

Local Teachers investing in Energy Resources

Fourth grade teachers at Baden Academy have used solar cars to teach the engineering design process. Recently, solar energy educators came to the school with panels and solar power testing equipment. Teachers continue to use the material as the students learn more about this form of energy.

Fifth grade Baden Academy teacher and Houston Solution research fellow Melanie Houston has been receiving curriculum support from The NEED Project.

A Few Projects from the Past

Summer Hartman was a 6th grade Baden Academy student who competed in the Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair.
She was honored with multiple awards, the most prestigious was the Carnegie Science Award.
Miss Emily Rosati, English Teacher at Seton LaSalle and 2018 Grow a Generation Distinguished Educator, partnered with her students and a science teacher to write a children’s book. The Boy, the Bird, and the Turbine is a story of a Western Pennsylvanian boy befriending a hawk and discovering more about the new wind turbines that are scattered into their landscape. Their investigations included partnering with American Wind Wildlife Institute, visiting a wind farm and meeting with experts at St. Francis University Institute for Energy and the Pittsburgh Energy Innovation Center. Purchase the book at http://bit.ly/JohnandBeamer

Reading List

These are the resources I felt most useful!

The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future Gretchen Bakke (Author)

The Science of Energy: Resources and Power Explained Audible Audiobook – Original recording Michael E. Wysession (Narrator, Author)

Energy and Civilization: A History Audible Audiobook – Unabridged Vaclav Smil (Author),

Permanent link to this article: https://growageneration.com/2019/11/16/future-of-energy/

Clean Drinking Water: An Engineering Challenge for 4 Fellowships

Future City Competition Model

“Choose a threat to your city’s water supply and design a resilient system to maintain a reliable supply of clean drinking water.”  That is the challenge of this year’s Future City Competition. While Future City is focused on a hypothetical scenario in planning for a city 50 years in the future, we have fellowships working with partners today to identify threats and help design resilient clean water systems.

River Robots

Meet Titan from River Robots.  He is hoping to develop more partnerships as he works on the design and specifications for robotic assistance in cleaning up the Ohio River. 

Baden Academy Sustainable Water Team

Part of his data and decision making have come from the incredible work the Baden Academy Sustainable Water Team has already done.  Through research, they uncovered that the Ohio River is one of the most polluted in our nation, and yet it is the source of drinking water for three million people.  The Sustainable Water Team starting looking into their own drinking water and discovered the amazing operations at the Ambridge Water Authority.

Aquatic Robotics

Our Aquatic Robotics team was on hand for the tour of the Ambridge Water Authority. Our aquatic robotics team was very sad and frustrated to learn that the robot that travels the bottom of the pool to clean up all the floc is not a favorite machine on the campus.  Maybe they can help design a better one!

Well, we got an invitation to collect the robot as the system was replaced earlier this month. Now, the three aquatic robotics are eager to meet up later this month in a parent’s garage. They will disassemble the 8-foot long robot and figure out how it is designed.

Check out how excited this team is to dismantle a robot! Seriously, I love that a group of kids are this excited!

Baden Academy Future City Competition Team

This brings us back to the Future City competition team. Students from Baden Academy have been going to this competition for four years. Each year, a new team (grade 6 only) builds a city in the future, patterned on Beaver County along the river. They design it in a virtual environment of Sim City. The 6th-grade teacher, Chelsey Reinheimer, has the entire class research resources from the National Academy of Engineering, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Environmental Protection Agency, Water Environment Federation, and others.

I am honored and thrilled to be one of the coaches and mentors. Together we are helping the kids of today value the contributions of engineers of yesterday and work alongside the leaders of today making a sustainable future. May good luck be with this year’s team.

Permanent link to this article: https://growageneration.com/2019/11/09/clean-drinking-water-an-engineering-challenge-for-river-robots-sustainable-water-team-aquatic-robotics-and-the-future-city-competition-team/

Organized Kids at NAPO

On  Thursday, October 10, three 6th grade girls traveled to the Crown Plaza Suites to attend the NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals) Pittsburgh’s 3rd Annual Organizing Seminar“Release & Renew” Organizing Tips and Tricks from the Pros.

Sofia, Hamari, and Destiney were able to present some of their research and the resource posters they have created, inviting participants to visit their website, organizedkids.weebly.com, to watch some of their videos.

The girls received a standing ovation. They were humbled by the enthusiastic embrace of so many professionals. They came back from the day all a buzz about what they learned, the tools they discovered, and the people they met.

One of the other professional organizers marveled that a school would embrace a program like this, knowing how learning organizational skills are crucial for healthy human flourishing, yet rarely taught. 

The Organized Kids would not have flourished without the expert guidance and support of their mentor, Dorothy Clear. Dorothy generously sets aside two or three days a month to stop in the classroom and work directly with the girls as they set their goals for the year and work hard to achieve them.

Their plans this year include the Hamari’s one on one consultation and weekly intervention with a 2nd-grade ‘client’ who struggles with organization and the classroom tour of “The Pipe Cleaner Pencil.”  Evidently, lost pencils are a constant source of stress and drama in the classroom. The Organized Kids (one of the Baden Academy Research Fellowship Programs) are visiting select classrooms with glue guns and pipe cleaners to help make wearable unique pencils that students can hold onto that express their individual artistic creativity.  Follow-through will be the mathematics of analyzing if this organizational intervention was truly effective.

I encourage you to visit their website, like their videos, buy their posters, and send a comment to these amazing young girls and their mentor. 

Permanent link to this article: https://growageneration.com/2019/10/20/organized-kids-at-napo/

Baden Academy Research Fellows 2019-20

We are honored and thrilled to again lead an amazing group of research fellows at the Baden Academy Charter school. This program is available to students who apply, with references, and spend their enrichment/intervention periods in the media lab working collaboratively with academics and professionals around the globe.

Permanent link to this article: https://growageneration.com/2019/10/06/baden-academy-research-fellows-2019-20/

Inspiring Hope

I was at the Harvest Festival this weekend supporting many of our Fellows. One quiet moment allowed me to share some news with Alyssa Westrom, there to promote the book she co-authored “Engineering Wings to the Sun.” Alyssa, now in 7th grade at Lincoln Park, had received a letter addressed to our school to her attention.

Before sharing the letter with her, I asked what she knew of the Challenger disaster. The Challenger had been one of the United States Space Shuttles, meant to fly people from the earth to beyond our atmosphere, delivering astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) and repairing satellites. Alyssa and co-authors even have a page in their book where they are holding a Space Shuttle Tile from Mrs. Houston’s (our amazing 5th grade math and science teacher) classroom.

At one point in the mid-1980s, President Reagan announced a new Teacher in Space program. A teacher would have the opportunity to fly above Earth’s atmosphere in a space shuttle to the ISS and teach his or her students from this amazing orbiting laboratory where astronauts are still living.

Christa McAuliffe was eventually chosen from among 11,000 applicants. She trained, had a lot of photos taken, and there was a lot of excitement. On January 28, 1986, millions of kids and teachers were shocked and horrified by the news that the Space Shuttle Challenger, with the first teacher in space Christa McAuliffe and six other astronauts, broke apart in flight killing all aboard.

I told Alyssa this story before handing her a letter from a woman she had met several weeks earlier at the Beaver County Book Fest. The woman wrote to say that she had been one of the applicants for the Teacher in Space program, that she wanted to thank Alyssa for the hope she instilled and to encourage her to continue to reach beyond the Earth into exploring new worlds. She included a generous donation for the American Ceramics Society (the charity that benefits from the book).

If I can get some student interested in science, if I can show members of the general public what’s going on up there in the space program, then my job’s been done. – Christa McAuliffe

Permanent link to this article: https://growageneration.com/2019/09/29/inspiring-hope/

Passionate About Bridges

Charlie and Mohammed were some of the first Fellows in our STEM Leadership Center. While Mohammed stepped back for a while, Charlie has moved ahead on his explorations of cutting edge technology fixing the problem in the world he most wants to solve. Check out his latest video!

If you know of any other area 6th-10th graders interested in looking at new technologies in the field of bridge repair, construction, and re-construction, invite them to our STEM Leadership Center to join Charlie’s fellowship!

Visit his website at BridgeBuildersofTomorrow.Weebly.com

Visit the STEM Leadership Center for ways to join Charlie’s and other fellowships!

Permanent link to this article: https://growageneration.com/2019/09/20/passionate-about-bridges/

Come to the Beaver BookFest Sat. Sept. 7!

Come meet some of the authors from Baden Academy at the Beaver County BookFest 2019 taking place Saturday, September 7th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the charming and historic town of Beaver, PA.

The Main Event on Saturday is free and features our main Authors’ Tent (with 60+ authors!), our popular Children’s Tent with plenty of activities for the little ones, music on the street, and of course, a variety of food and retail vendors.

Come meet local authors and get your books autographed. We can’t wait to see you in September! 

Baden Academy authors wrote 5 new books this year, including one with the Beaver County Historical Society and 5 area geologist, another with scientists from Tel Aviv studying bats and RFID, a third celebrating ceramics partnered with Swindell Dressler and Harbison Walker, another book by the Kids vs. Addiction team with addiction specialists from the ASAM, and Mrs. Keriotis’s kindergarten class again produced a masterpiece of Van Gogh, hedgehogs and smiling kids.

Search for any book title on Lulu.com to purchase it.

Over the last seven years, Grow a Generation has helped over 30 authors produce 15 books alongside phenomenal mentors from all fields of science. Click on the links to learn how to purchase the books. All royalties are sent directly to charities.

Permanent link to this article: https://growageneration.com/2019/09/01/come-to-the-beaver-bookfest-sat-sept-7/

Robot Kittens, Computer Vision, and Chance Encounters

This is a picture of one of our research fellows, Eugene Haley, using computer vision to control the movements of a robotic kitten. The story of how we got here is amazing!

One of the fellowships at the STEM Leadership Center started with Elise Propst, a long time amazing student with a love of four-legged pets (including horses!). Elise started the fellowship to play with 4 legged robots.

(officially… ”  investigate robotics engineers who are working to solve problems inherent in four-legged robots (balance, strength, resilience, sensory function, and adaptability). We want to discover if solutions informed by the biomimetic study of mammalian quadrupeds (cats and horses) would be better. This involves studying the evolution, biology, and physics of how horses, dogs, and other four-legged creatures utilize their legs, hooves, and center of mass. “)

She and her friend Jamison did some research and made their logo, website, and first video for 4StepRobotics.weebly.com

While Jamison stepped back from the project, Elise welcomed a new project fellow Eugene Haley to work on a 4-legged robot for the upcoming Pittsburgh Science and Engineering Fair. They went in search of one they could build and modify inexpensively and found a kitten then could make from 3D printed parts and about $100 of electronic supplies.

Their kitten was based on an open-source project created by Petoi, the makers of the world’s cutest robotic kitten Nybble. (Open-source means that the complicated programming behind the project is available for the fellows to download and experiment with!)

Zaigham Abbas Randhawa from Petoi with Nybble the Robotic Kitten

So I was invited by friend and prototype wizard Joel Cilli to a networking event called Build 412 Tech. The particular evening included the presentations of competing tech startups for the Rivers Agile $1000 prize and the awesome Pittsburgh Tech Championship Belt. Guess who I met! Last year’s winner Petoi with their software developer, Zaigham Randhawa.

I was able to show him Elise and Eugene’s project and he was eager to meet them. With six days we had an interview set up and filmed. The day included meeting some other computer science students at work on summer projects at CMU and filming an extended interview about the kitten.

Eugene and Elise are back in the STEM Leadership Center editing the interview footage and finishing their original prototype for testing. They are thrilled to have the support of Zaigham and Petoi founder Rongzhong Li to call upon for software help. Their kitten (Orabelle) is being created for the Alzheimers and Dementia patients at Villa St. Joseph, hoping it will create laughter, bring joy, and ward off isolation. Follow news of their project on their website 4steprobotics.weebly.com.

Do you know a 6th-10th grader who is a potential STEM Leader and Odyssey Fellow? Nominate them today for a special free tour and interview at our STEM Leadership Center evening facility located at Baden Academy in Baden, PA. NOMINATION FORM

Permanent link to this article: https://growageneration.com/2019/08/24/robot-kittens-computer-vision-and-chance-encounters/

Play NYC

This past weekend I was given a great opportunity by the Games for Change organization to be able to visit the Play NYC event put together by Playcrafting. While there are many conferences for the games industry every year, Play NYC had a feel very few can reproduce. Unlike your every year E3, Comic Con‘s, and frequent PAX events, Play NYC felt like it was truly about the industry and love for gaming rather than just a place to go to play games from big studios flexing their influence. Many of the developers there were smaller independent studios and groups that had a love and a knack for game creation and innovation, leading to wild wacky games that no big studio would ever dare make. Breathing life and wonder into the games they make, these devs really show why gaming is so popular in today’s climate and important in every artistic sense. Come with me as I outline a few of the beautiful games I was able to experience, and portray what it takes for these devs to bring these masterpieces to life.

Most of the games that were shown off at this event were still in development and still had some work to be done. Although the concepts were solid and inspired, execution for most of these projects is well done yet ongoing. This concept is exemplified in a game by GrahamOfLegend called “Super Space Club,” which is a top-down space shooter reminiscent of classic games such as the old Atari game “Asteroids.” Graham had given me the opportunity to talk with him about his game as well as his inspirations for the game while I was waiting to give it a try myself. Inspired by games in the space genre, Graham had set out to create a new game that had a truly classic feel but with a modern twist that would push the game to new heights while keeping the controls simple and accessible for all. 

Although the game was an early version, there were so many tiny details that showed the passion and skill of the dev. Outside in the game looks beautiful yet a little simpler when watching someone play, but these looks can be deceiving. With only two buttons (boost and fire) and a control stick, the controls are easy to learn but take some time to master as you can’t fire and boost at the same time. On its own, this wouldn’t be all that challenging in concept, but the real kicker here is that everything you do uses your health, meaning every time you shoot or use boost your health is reduced. Mentally the game is challenging as you are balancing your attacks and defenses as you play, weighing if destroying one more enemy is worth the risk during a fast-paced firefight. “Super Space Club” was originally made with a traditional black and white space color scheme but Graham was fed up with the idea that these space games had to all be the same drab dark colors, and because of this, the game is now a beautiful array of colors that change as you play. Musically it holds up a fun and relaxing vibe that perfectly matches the visuals allowing a great gameplay experience. 

As I talked to Graham, it became very apparent how much he really cared about his creation, which is refreshing in an industry that has become filled to the brim with remakes and reboots that seem relatively passionless from the outside in. While he has taken some inspiration from classic games and some of his favorites such as StarFox, “Super Space Club” is truly a game of it’s own that when completed will be loved by all who play.

Now I would be remiss if I did not mention Games for Change. Not only did they give me the ability to go check this event out but their intentions fall in line with ours here at Grow-a-Generation. We take pride in allowing kids to create truly meaningful projects that allow them to make a positive difference in the world while also expanding on what they love. Games for Change creates and distributes games that serve as critical tools in humanitarian and educational efforts, as well as encourage others to use gaming as a positive impact in the world. After seeing what they showed off at Play NYC, it couldn’t be more clear that they are serious about their mission, and with so many people gathered around their booth, others were just as excited to see what they had to offer.

On the track of games with purpose, there were many creators there who all want to make positive impacts through the medium of games. “Spywatch Lex” by Scholarcade was an outstanding example of the positive possibilities of game creation as it is meant to teach you a language as you play. You play as a spy trying to take down an evil organization by visiting foreign cities to gain insider intelligence to take down the organization from the inside. Unlike other language learning tools, “Spywatch Lex” focuses on gameplay and fun in an exciting RPG rather than creating a language tool and creating a game as an afterthought. One of the biggest problems with how these games are normally done is that the games aren’t engaging or fun but a game like Spywatch Lex is what can change that and really make a difference in the language learning industry.

Play NYC isn’t the biggest event out there, at times it had seemed a little tight even, but it was well worth the trip are really displayed what is to come in games and the passionate people behind them. Playing a lot of games can skew our perspective of the simple yet greatly fun games that come out all the time, keeping us under the allusion that, because they are easy to understand and easy pick up and play, they must be easy to design and make, but the nuances of game creation is easily lost on those who don’t make them. These creators pour their heart and soul into making these games. Whether they make an impact on the world through messages or meaning, helping us learn, or just brightening our days through fun times and competition, the art form is growing at a rapid pace bringing a little something for everyone. Although in the media today you may see a negative connotation of gaming from time to time, these creators are doing what they love and are making our lives better and more enjoyable in the process. I, for one, am excited to see where these creators will go with their talents and games as they grow and learn. 

And for those interested in some of my favorite games that I think we should all be excited about, I will give a small list of games and developers, some that I’ve already mentioned and some I haven’t, who deserve some love.

Kung Fu Kickball – WhaleFood Games

Super Space Club – GrahamOfLegend

Spywatch Lex – Scholarcade

DogFight – Petricore 

Chromavaders – Corundum Games 

Groove Catcher – Vizmoo

Tendar – Tender Claws

Spencer D’Hondt is a computer science major at Penn State Behrend and a game development intern at Grow a Generation. He also serves as a mentor to the Pa Distance video game Odyssey Fellowship Terms of Service.

Permanent link to this article: https://growageneration.com/2019/08/13/play-nyc/

3 Reasons I Love Games For Change!

A photo from the exhibit floor of the Play NYC Conference going on the weekend! (Aug 10-11 2019)

Ten days ago I received a wonderful surprise in my inbox. Games For Change wrote

“Thank you so much for participating in the Games for Change Student Challenge last year. As a token of our appreciation, we would like to offer you a free ticket to Play NYC next weekend, hosted by Playcrafting. ”

Spencer D’Hondt Programmer and Game Design Intern

This extraordinary organization empowers game creators and social innovators to drive real-world change using games that help people to learn, improve their communities, and contribute to make the world a better place. This invitation empowered one of my summer interns to travel to New York and represent Grow a Generation at the Play NYC event. Thank you, Games for Change! Keep a lookout for his upcoming blog about his experience.

The second reason that I love Games for Change is that they make available all of the keynote talks from their annual conference online for free for me to watch. Those talks have inspired me to go on to inspire my students to create even more spectacular ideas with them. I’ve used them for reference. I’ve used them for knowledge. I’ve shared them with other teachers and with students. Thank you, Games for Change.

The third reason that I love Games for Change is the actual games that they have inspired me to work with our students on. We have two fellowships that are currently working on games; Terms of Service and Endangered.

Term of Service is a group of middle/elementary school students at PA Distance creating a game that teaches kids about those pesky legal agreements (that hold up in court!) that we sign every time we download a game or app. They are partnered with the director of the Privacy Lab at Yale Law School, Sean O’Brien. Spencer, our summer intern, has been working hard trying to debug a scrolling platform issue in the game.

The second game is being created by two elementary students at Baden Academy, partnered with the PA Fish and Boat Commission and PA Wildlife Commission. The kids are producing all the elements for a downloadable board game to introduce students to our state’s endangered fish, amphibian, bird, and mammals with action provoking ideas to help all our state’s living resources not merely survive but thrive.

You can check out their links below as well as the links to other games and apps that Grow a Generation fellowships and camps have helped produce! Games are the largest growing segment of the entertainment industry ($180 billion in revenue last year). Inspiring our students to be creators and not consumers is a big part of our mission!

Permanent link to this article: https://growageneration.com/2019/08/11/3-reasons-i-love-games-for-change/