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A New Literacy: The Language of Computers

YMCA Campers stopping by the STEM Leadership Center to learn some coding skills.

The skill of coding is not just about a career in programming, it is a necessary literacy for our future. I am so impressed that the YMCA is taking a lead in Beaver County to make coding education a priority!

Friday was our last YMCA Summer Camp coding field trip. For our final day, we introduced students to a new programming language called “Scratch”. We created logins, placed them on index cards, and sent the kids home inspired to create more. If you look closely, you’ll see one of the leaders, the mentor, the ACSL coach and the Programming club coach in the picture. Check out what the Baden Academy Dragon Tag Programming club accomplished this year…

You can find out more at their website .

We ask each of our Odyssey Fellows in the STEM Leadership Lab to be enrolled in an online programming class. Many start with but often quickly move onto specific challenges. Anthony working on Kryptocurreny Kids is learning C++, Gavin working on solid state batteries in Charging into the Future is focused on Java. Several are working on learning Arduino C++ including 4 Step Robotics and Catching Wave Project Fellows .

I recently attended a #CSforInslusion event sponsored by ReMake Learning. Inviting our students to become literate in computer programming is an urgency causing a groundswell of support. Take a moment to listen to LeTrenda’s recap…

I continue to advocate for better access to computer science opportunities at the Beaver County Quality Education Council. Efforts have not yet met with much success. One superintendent responded to my again raising the issue with the statement “Not everyone wants to become a programmer.” I wonder if, when mandatory education to teach students to read entered the dialog 150 years ago, it was met with the same skepticism.

Our Beaver County CTC was ready to embrace the possibility of a three-year computer science vocational training for any area public school students. The area superintendents unanimously voted it down. Please, advocate for computer science education. Until it is offered in the schools, afterschool programming is the key to getting our students ready!

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Meaningful Projects in 3D Printing

Two young girls stepped up three years ago when they were in 4th grade to lead the Baden Academy Future Engineers club. They were joined by two more this year to lead over 20 kids in meaningful 3-D printed projects. Wow! They have created an amazing legacy. Check out their video and get their book Engineering Wings to the Sun that celebrates 3-D printing ceramics.  I want to include a special shout out to the American Ceramics Society who donated a Materials Science Teaching Curriculum to our school as a thank you for the book.  Piezoelectrics here we come!

Engineering Wings to the Sun Book Cover
Click to purchase

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Learning Leadership with a Chess Club

I received an email earlier this year from one of the first Baden Academy Research Fellows. She is attending a great high school in another state and went to show off the great work she had done starting a chess club at Baden Academy. Oh no! Her information from the chess club site was gone! The new leaders, eager to follow the way too vague instructions “clean up the website,” had deleted all old content. The omission has since been fixed, Skylar is now prominently displayed on the About page of, and her video from 2014 reposted to the website. It is always great to hear from a past student (and I love the occasional glimpses of them growing up on Facebook). The episode reinforced for me how lessons of leadership at a young age stay with you.

The current leaders of our Chess Club received the position by applying to the research fellowship program. They are responsible for designing the flyer and online sign up forms at the beginning of the year, speaking personally to past members with an invitation, promoting their club in classrooms, designing lesson plans that include attendance, sharing news of chess in technology, leading the after-school group through end game scenarios, promoting and celebrating participation in area tournaments and reflecting on their roles as leaders. They also manage the clubs website and design the t-shirt club members can order from the product catalog on their website.

I must admit, I was a bit hesitant to include an afterschool chess club in the middle of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math programs. I was quickly swayed. The connections to mathematics are evident (and the content of some fascinating Numberphile episodes and science fairs). Even learning about programming a computer to beat chess masters is a journey into the history and future of STEM.

The kids are encouraged to practice on their own with That program uses brute force to beat humans. It calculates the millions of moves that 32 pieces on an 8-by-8 board can make and run every possibility of a problem until the program finds the best solution. This was the method of the computer Deep Blue, the IBM supercomputer used to beat Garry Kasparov, the Russian Chess Grandmaster, in 1997. (I am not the only one who names their computers!)

This year we were able to learn about artificial intelligence, the training of a computer to teach itself. Google’s AlphaZero AI computer soundly defeated Stockfish, the world’s best brute force chess program. The difference between the two machines: AlphaZero taught itself how to play like a human.

Lessons of chess, we learned, go far beyond mathematics, far beyond technology, they even teach us about the testing and evaluation of intelligence. Malcolm Gladwell, the New Yorker author, often visits the topic of chess to uncover some new insight into the human condition. His most recent podcast, Puzzle Rush compared the “finish quickly” measure of intelligence to the “take your time” measure of intelligence. The “finish quickly” includes standardized tests like the LSATs, most classroom tests, and playing chess in a program called Puzzle Rush (on online blitz chess program allowing only 5 minutes for the whole game). The “take your time” measure of intelligence that is a take-home test or the way a classical chess tournament. There is still a time limit, but there is time for calculation, working through possible scenarios, time to prioritize and organize your thoughts. I encourage you to listen! It seems the two different types of measures allow different individuals to rise to the top.

[Side note to parents: If you are traveling this summer, short or long distances, consider playing podcasts like Revisionist History or Science Friday in the car, pausing often to discuss with the kids. Podcasts are a great way to feed their brains all summer long!]

Mr. Jake, our Baden Academy chess coach, (and Mr. Wolf, his predecessor and founder of a chess culture at the school), have pointed out to me that many of the kids who are successful in chess are kids not traditionally held up as the smartest in PSSA standardized tests and benchmarks. Classical chess allows for a different type of intelligence to rise to the top. Our leaders have grown in their awareness of how fragile the self-concepts of “smart” and “intelligent” are in their club members and in themselves.

Our fellowships open up the possibility of cultivating early important lessons in leadership, lessons of collaboration, of managing diverse groups of people, of risking failure, and of having the vision to create a worthy legacy. Thank you, Skylar, for reminding me how these lessons live on!

2014 Baden Academy Chess Club Advertisement

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Build, Solder, and Program an LED Cube

Mon-Tue-Wed July 15-17

from 9 am to 3 pm

at the STEM Leadership Center @ Baden Academy

Participants will be introduced to electronics and the Arduino microcircuit board, learn how to solder, and begin to program light patterns with Java. They will take home their Cubes and Arduinos. They need to bring their own soldering iron (which they can keep!) and lunches. Cost for the 3-day workshop is $145. 

Questions: Dr. Ellen Cavanaugh at 724-266-1498 or drellen@growageneration

Register online at:

Download Mail-In Registration

Questions: Dr. Ellen Cavanaugh at 724-266-1498 or drellen@growageneration

Check out some of our programmers playing with an LED Cube

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Four Teachers named Grow a Generation Distinguished Educators at Baden Academy

Four teachers at Baden Academy Charter School have been named 2019 Grow a Generation Distinguished Educators.  Each volunteered to work hard in a year-long fellowship project that helped hone their craft of teaching. Each project expanded knowledge of content and pedagogy, involved the students in their own learning, empowered students to act in new ways, and sought out other education professionals working on similar problems.


Melanie Houston project inspired fearless scientific explorers with a Space Shuttle Tile.  The Houston Solution presented students with problems encountered in the vast expanse of space, the beginnings of knowledge to solve them, and the inspiration from successful space-themed STEM projects.  
You can find out more on her website


Kenisha Page celebrated  Beaver County underground railroad sites and stories that served thousands of escaping slaves.  The Beaver County Black History project leads ​students of Beaver County to discover the rich history of our community’s active fight against racial inequality, particularly our role in the Underground Railroad. 
You can find out more at her website


Kassandra Smith burst through barricades in her lip sync directorial debut.  Her project required her to storyboard, choreograph, develop a shooting schedule, operate cameras, shoot footage, supervise editorial processes and produce a lip sync video involving every member of the school community. The project’s purpose was to explore how film can add dimension to learning, aid in the analyses of the expressive elements of music, increase the ability to explain particular elements of music within the song selection, and motivation to improve performance.


Chelsey Reinheimer taught mindfulness to increase comprehension, creativity, and focus in an English language arts class.
You can find out more at her website

All of these wonderful teachers went above and beyond what was simply required in the classroom, above and beyond honing their craft as teachers.  They rose to the heights of demonstrating their love for learning by fearlessly demonstrating to their students their commitment to life long learning, their willingness to risk mistakes, and their high expectations that what is happening is important and it is essential to get it right.

View our Playlist of
21 Distinguished Educators

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Celebrating STEM in a K-6 school

Our company, Grow a Generation, has had the distinct pleasure to contract with a wonderful public charter school in Western Pennsylvania for the last seven years. We provide research fellowships to teams of 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th graders as they develop meaningful projects using science, technology, engineering and math.

This week we celebrate our annual STEM Family night where each of these fellowship groups lead a different activity for area children and adults. If you are in the area on Thursday, May 30, 2019, from 6 pm to 8 pm at Baden Academy, come join us. Check out below some of the projects and their websites and videos!

Students are making the far section of the multi-purpose room a mini-solar system. Meet up with a tour guide at planet Earth as the Sun Superheroes transform you into the Parker Solar Probe as you become the fastest moving human-made object and go to investigate the sun!

Stop along the way for a gravity assist with the planet Venus and learn from our Baden Academy Robotics team (with the help of some of their robots) the difficulties of programming a robot to execute a slingshot-shaped turn.

Coming Soon!

Return to Earth for your second mission, the long journey to Saturn’s moon Titan. You become the Huygen’s probe and travel aboard the Cassini spacecraft to become the farthest robotic outpost that humanity had ever established around the Sun.

The Aquatic Robotics will greet you before you descend to the methane lakes of Titan to discuss all the precautions of entering an alien atmosphere.

You’ll want to stop by the Nerd Battalion table where our youngest nerds will be demonstrating how they hooked up breadboards to their Piper Kit computers and use minecraft to power an LED! While it is not quite the nuclear fusion that powers our sun, these second graders are beginning to understand light and energy!

You should have worked up an appetite leaving the solar system. Enter the kitchens of our MG (Molecular Gastronomy) kids. The 6th grade boys are whipping up a square watermelon surprise. Our 3rd grade “Flour Girls” are whipping up some Strawberry Foam.

Step into the Breezeway of our Authors Gallery, talk to the latest published research fellows about the incredible scientists they partnered with to complete these incredible tales of discovery. Signed copies of each book is $10 each.

Leaving the breezeway you find an even larger venue with our gymnasium and two classrooms for even more amazing research fellows projects.

Stop by Sophie and Kylie’s Logstown table to pose for a picture and be included in a green-screened group shot in their upcoming book about George Washington’s visit to a local Native American town.

Step into Mrs. Holl’s kindergarten room to join our in-house marketing and entrepreneurship training team – Baden Dreams – for some carnival lessons on marketing and A/B Testing.

In the same room, have fun with the Faces Project game show. See what they’ve learned about human facial expressions and how they are being used in robotics, animations, and facial recognition software.

Our Kids Vs. Addiction team has been hard at work on their third book. They are partnered with addiction specialists from the ASAM and plan to release “What Do You Mean He’s Addicted to Alcohol?” in the fall. Stop by their table near the mats in the gym to try on Fatal Vision Goggles — also called drunk goggles — to learn in a safe way how much alcohol impairs your balance, vision, reaction time and judgment.

Stop into Mrs. Cvitcovish’s room and discover Amaya with her Children’s Heart Surgery project. Control the blood flow in a model of the heart and measure the oxygen being delivered throughout your body with each beat of your heart.

Felicity and Madison will help you make some life preservers and leave you with very concrete ways to work this summer to prevent childhood drowning.

Step back into the gym and meet our Future Engineers leaders as they operate their 3D printers and discuss their recent book, Engineering Wings to the Sun, about 3D printing ceramics. They will be shipping the prothetic hand on display on Friday to be used by

Stop by the table of our Stained Glass Club leaders to learn about how to use a template, cut glass, grind glass, line it with metal, add flux, and solder.

Be ready to catch a pig at our Dragon Tag Programming Table. Be careful of wrong turns, they could be explosive!

Buoyancy will be explored by our Heroes of Math group. Come learn about Archimedes and try not to get wet!

Our Future City Competition Team needs your input. Where will we get our clean water in 100 years? Can you envision a Beaver County in 2119? What does our river, our creeks, our watershed, and our water supplies look like?

Our Sustainable Water Team continues the question with their model of our local watershed and concerns about sound dangerous poisons we put into the water without knowing it.

Our Take Action club is helping to raise money for Africa through the Talmudine Foundation. Buy a baked good and help build wells in Zambia, Africa where three of the Baden Academy teachers have traveled to volunteer.

Our Baden Academy Chess Club has a short game to teach you some basic moves!

Weiland and Sadie are partnered with the Fish and Game Commission and the PA Wildlife Department in creating a new board game (and eventually augmented reality!) about the endangered species of Pennsylvania and the efforts being made to protect them. Help them create pieces for the game.

Our Give a Kid a Compliment team will be on hand to equip you and your kids with stickers to pay compliments to the various fellow’s project.

Our Organized Kids helped create the map and program. They’ll greet you as you come in and help you plan a path to meet all the fellows you are interested in meeting!

I want to say how privileged I feel to work with so many incredible students. Baden Academy has provided us a great space and time allowance to make this growth possible. Thank you!

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Tagging Bats: A Book Celebrating Bats, Technology, and Sixth Grade Girls Glee

Three sixth grade girls from Baden Academy came across a news alert about a scientist in Israel who was studying bats. That wasn’t so unusual, but then the girls realized the scientist was using the same type of RFID technology to track the bats that Baden Academy uses to help electronically match students to their correct buses. What a coincidence!

The students—Kennedi Emery, Kaitlyn Desrochers, and Brynn Burnsworth—reached out to Dr. Yossi Yovel at Tel Aviv University to find out more, and they eventually turned their fascinating research into a book called Tagging Bats. The girls were excited about every step of the project, from seeing the Hebrew characters in the correspondence from Dr. Yovel, to learning more about Tel Aviv, to understanding how technological advancements can help humans learn more about bats by tracking them.

Kaitlyn and Kennedi had already worked with Penn State’s Biology professor Dr. Miller-Butterworth on a book called Bats in Danger, so they were glad to learn the disease that has been killing so many bats in Pennsylvania wasn’t found in all parts of the world. They also learned how bats were helping scientists at the University learn about how the environment (ecology) affects the brain (neurology). The Yovel Bat Lab website and Dr. Yovel’s staff helped the girls understand the important work the scientists are conducting to better know and protect bats.

Brynn also built on her experiences running Baden Academy’s programming club and making a TED Talk about radio waves. Dr. Yovel and an Israeli technology company had to invent a new type of RFID (radio frequency ID) tag that was light enough and quick enough to record the bats. Dr. Yovel then got a company from Boston to help make a sensor backpack that could record bat voices, map where the bats flew, and measure their heartbeats.

The girls gained so much by trying to figure out each small piece of equipment and what it can teach us about bats and about ourselves. Their biggest hope with the book is to inspire other kids to love technology—and bats! You can get your copy today and enjoy their story of discovery. Profits from the sale of the book go to the Bat Conservation Fund.

Visit the girls’ website at

To purchase the book, please visit

A book trailer was created and can be found at

The girls will be doing several public book signings:

  1. Wednesday, May 22, 4:00 to 6:00 pm: Literary and Visual Arts Festival, Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center (1 Lincoln Park, Midland)
  1. Thursday, May 30, 6:00 to 8:00 pm: STEM Family Night, Baden Academy (1016 W. State Street, Baden)

Kennedi, Kaitlyn, and Brynn would be thrilled to visit your classroom, library, or community event to share their story and read their book aloud. Please contact Dr. Ellen Cavanaugh at Baden Academy for information.

About Baden Academy

This public charter school in Beaver County, Western Pennsylvania, works to inspire personal excellence. It cultivates the inherent gifts and talents present in all children by providing a curriculum that integrates the arts and sciences in a highly interactive, hands-on environment.

About Grow a Generation

Do you know a child with curiosity who is ready to work hard on a meaningful project? Sixth-Tenth graders are invited to apply for a fellowship opportunity at the STEM Leadership Center. Register here…

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Beaver County History Weekend May 4-5 2019

Come find Anya, Charlotte and Ziva at their book signing booth at Old Economy Village during the Hands-on History event!

This weekend every one of historical museums and sites is open free! Explore history. Find descriptions and details at…

This video was made by author Anya Martin of The Mystery of the Economy Borough Silver Mine. Find out more about their book at

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Enter the Future Engineers Competition through the STEM Leadership Center

Future Engineers 3D Design Challenge “Name That Molecule”

Choose and four Monday or Wednesday evenings
in May or June
to work with a coach and prepare your challenge entry.

Brush up on (or start to learn) 3D design skills. Work with our mentors and create an entry for the Future Engineers contest.   Create a digital 3D model of a molecule that you see or interact with every day. We will help you submit your 3D model, an image of your entry, and a text explanation of your molecule including its molecular composition, properties, and/or relevance in our world.  Cost is $90 for four evening pass to either Monday or Wednesday evenings at the STEM Leadership Center. Open to grades 6 to 10.

Questions: Dr. Ellen Cavanaugh at 724-266-1498 or drellen@growageneration

Register online at:

Mondays or Wednesdays in May and June
6:00 pm to 7:30 pm at the Baden Academy SLC Lab

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Play with Your Food

Play With Your Food

Four years ago, two third graders walked into the Media Lab applying to be research fellows. They wanted to write a cookbook. As Anthony tells it, “Dr. Ellen pointed us toward molecular gastronomy – you know, using physics and chemistry to make food even more amazing. and biology of food. Fifteen videos and four years later it is still amazing!” Those two boys have inspired five more students to become “MG Kids” and explore the science of food.

Check out their latest video with Chef Jason at the incredible Latin restaurant in Beaver, Biba.

The MG Kids are a great example of what a fellowship can become. The boys have worked with chefs and chemistry professors. They have given a TED Talk. They have stood in the lab examining a map of the world to find the address of the molecular gastronomist in the United Arab Emirates who retweeted their video. They’ve inspired three 3rd grade girls to become MG Kids. You can check out their first video below and wait with bated breath for their episode with Dr. Rodney Austin at Geneva University on Sour Dough Bread and their upcoming film on Shortening!

Their explorations have been such fun and an amazing journey. I hate having to say goodbye to them when they graduate from Baden Academy in 6th grade. It is the joy of working with amazing kids like these that inspired me to open the STEM Leadership Center.

The Center has been opened since November are we are thrilled to have five new fellowship projects. Each one is open to more fellows if you have a 7th-10th grader looking for a challenge in these areas, please have them apply. We have moved our hours to Mondays and Wednesdays from 6 pm to 8 pm. We meet at the Baden Academy Media Lab. Look over the list and consider signing up for a free orientation to come in an talk!

+ One Step at a Time is studying quadrupedal robotics in biomimicry and explaining to connections between four-legged animals, and the construction of hoofs, leg joints, and the movement of four-legged robots.

+ Bridge Builders of Tomorrow is looking to partner with engineers working to come up with economically viable solutions to repair and build new bridges with a shrinking tax base.

+ Charging Into the Future is examining solid state batteries in electric cars.

+ RFID Technology, Big Data Meets Healthcare, and Going Nuclear are in the works.

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