PD That's Out of This World

By Adam Skobodzinski

A note from littleBits: STEM/STEAM in schools has evolved in a big way, and educators are learning right alongside their students. So, we want to shine a spotlight on educator Michele D. Evans and her school district’s commitment to giving educators professional development that's out-of-this-word via a partnership with NASA Glenn Research Center. And, Michele found a way to incorporate littleBits into the experience to up the excitement and innovation. 

Our district, the Wadsworth City Schools in northeastern Ohio, has a strong STEM focus. We have been working with the NASA Glenn Research Center for the past three years, training teachers, creating our district design cycle, and creating grade level design challenges for our kids.

All photos are compliments of NASA

In December 2016, the Education Professional Development Specialist we work with at Glenn, Susan Kohler, sent us an email about a competition opportunity at Johnson Space Center. Twelve teams of educators would be selected to travel to the Johnson Space Center after submitting winning designs for a Satellite Launching Experimental Device (SLED) that would launch a simulated satellite in a microgravity environment (the NASA Microgravity University for Educators). Winning teams would get to build their launcher and travel to JSC to test them. We submitted a proposal and were accepted!

Then, the work began…

We got a kit from the Johnson Space Center with materials to build with, but teams were also allowed to use 10% of materials gathered beyond the kit. We added an electromagnet to our SLED, but we needed some type of electronics to engage and release the electromagnet. So, we thought of littleBits right away and tried several set-ups, including the Bluetooth Low Energy Bit and a smartphone.

We ended up using the wireless transmitter and receiver Bits because they did exactly what we needed them to do consistently, and our setup worked flawlessly. While other teams had issues with their release mechanisms, our littleBits setup never failed! The SLED was attached to a 9-foot arm that pulled away from a target in an arc. The task was really challenging, but it was awesome to hit the target and accomplish our mission!

Honestly, knowing that our electronics would work and were dependable made a huge difference in our design. We were one of three teams of the six teams attending our week (and one of seven of the twelve teams attending over the two weeks) with winning SLEDS.

littleBits is so engaging and amazing. These Bits let us succeed in tackling challenging tasks because they are so easy, reliable, and fun to experiment with in design work.

Michele D. Evans, Ph.D.
Director of Instruction and Professional Development
Wadsworth City Schools


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