Tag Archive | "innovation lab @ross"

Ross School Students Test Exploration Challenge for National Geographic Kids

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Jeong Ho Ha, Harrison Rowen, Caio Garcia, Sunny Gou work on the National Geographic challenge at the Innovation Lab @Ross. Wil Weiss photo.

Ross School students Jeong Ho Ha, Harrison Rowen, Caio Garcia and Sunny Gou work on the National Geographic Kids Engineering Exploration Challenge at the Innovation Lab @Ross. Wil Weiss photo.

By Tessa Raebeck

Building a camera that can withstand a tiger’s attack, another that can be raised and lowered into a forest canopy and a wearable power system that can charge devices for explorers in the field, students at the Ross School recently tested three tasks for the National Geographic Kids Engineering Exploration Challenge.

For a week in February, students at the Innovation Lab @Ross, an academy within the school that seeks to develop entrepreneurship in science, mathematics, engineering, media and technology for advanced students, tackled real-world problems faced by explorers. The Ross students served as the official testers of the challenge for National Geographic, which publicly released the guidelines to the rest of the world in a launch March 6 in the April issue of National Geographic Kids magazine.

“Since they found out about the Innovation Lab and the sort of hands-on project-based stuff that we do, they got the idea that it would be good to have a school to sort of test these engineering challenges before they went live,” Dr. David Morgan, dean of science and director of the Innovation Lab, said.

“The education review has always been a key part of our process at National Geographic before we launch new programs,” Kathleen Schwille, vice president, education design and development of Education Programs at National Geographic, said in a statement. “We asked Ross School to participate in the assessment of this project because we recognize a great deal of synergy between our philosophies, which is specifically evident in programs like the Innovation Lab @Ross.”

Some 20 students in grades four, six and high school participated in the test challenge. The younger students are part of the Junior Innovation Lab, an after-school program for grades four through eight that is also academic and for which students receive grades.

“The challenge gives budding engineers worldwide the opportunity to try to solve some of the technical problems that National Geographic explorers face in the field every day,” a press release issued by the company stated.

The challenge had three different levels, so students could participate in their respective test based on their age and ability.

The first challenge, tested by the youngest students, asked them to design, build and test a camera that can withstand an attack from wild animals in the field. In “Eye in the Sky,” the second challenge, students created a system that can raise a camera at least 10 feet in the air and safely lower it back down. The third and most challenging of the tasks was “Wearable Power,” in which high school students were asked to design, build and test a wearable way to generate at least 1 watt of electricity without the help of an electrical outlet, to enable those in the field to charge their cameras, equipment and other devices.

For the most part, fourth grade students undertook the animal-proof camera challenge, sixth graders tested “Eye in the Sky” and high school students constructed wearable devices for generating power, although Dr. Morgan said there was some overlap.

“They were actually able to create working prototypes [in a] nice range of levels and projects and the students came up with some really, really interesting ideas,” he said.

In addition to testing the actual tasks of the challenge, Ross students explored different means of doing so. Some students completed the project in a “day-long hack-a-thon,” working straight through from noon until 5 p.m. from beginning to end, designing, building and testing all at once. Other groups completed their projects by working on them for an hour a day for five days.

“One of the things we try to do in Innovation Lab in general,” explained Dr. Morgan, “is to give students big blocks of time to work on something. And the students accomplished way more in that big block of time, where you don’t have to pack things up and put them away at the end of every class. You can really do the whole thing at once and not interrupt your train of thought, so it was actually really successful.”

In the challenge to develop a wearable power system that can generate electricity to charge devices in the field without using an outlet, one group of high school students at Ross made a device resembling an orthopedic knee brace. They outfitted it with an electric motor, so that every time the person wearing it flexes their knees, electricity is generated, effectively creating power just by walking. Another group used hand-cranked electric flashlights embedded in the heel of a shoe, to generate electricity every time the wearer steps down and their heel hits the ground.

Through its participation in the challenge, the school was able to test several different formats at once, seeing how students worked in small groups versus big groups, the hour of time versus the hack-a-thon, and how the different age groups related to the challenge. Feedback on both the challenges and the Ross experience was provided to National Geographic and that guidance was incorporated into the public challenge.

Students enjoyed the projects so much that many hope to also participate in the public, worldwide competition, Dr. Morgan said.

After entering their designs online, along with a short description, video and photographs, students in the actual competition are judged “not just on which one works the best, but they’ll be judged on their creativity and their perseverance and their imagination,” he said. “So it’s not just about who’s generating the most volts of electricity, it’s about who has approached the engineering process with the right mindset…the challenge isn’t so much about winning, as it is about getting students to be creative and use their imaginations.”

During the official launch event of the public challenge, Ross students were invited to Skype with the personnel at National Geographic, to share their feedback and solutions.

National Geographic’s mission is to inspire people to care about the planet,” said Ms. Schwille in a statement, “and we firmly believe that today’s most pressing global issues will be solved by tomorrow’s engineers.”

Innovation Lab to Immerse Students in Science

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DSCF7621 adjusted

By Claire Walla

The jobs of tomorrow might not be here today, but a new program at the Ross School is aiming to help high school students prepare for them.

That’s the concept behind the school’s new science academy, Innovation Lab @Ross, which was announced this month and is now accepting applications for the coming academic year.

According to David Morgan, who is returning to Ross after 10 years teaching undergraduate science courses at The New School, the program is being developed for those students who have already demonstrated an early passion for scientific innovation. Primary fields of study will include mathematics, engineering, media and technology; though within those realms Morgan said instruction and lab work will ultimately be attuned to students’ particular interests.

“The idea is that students will come with an interest in one of these fields,” he said. They might not be absolutely sure precisely what they want to pursue, he added, “but they’ve identified that this [path] is what they want.”

Ross has also announced a scholarship for local students hoping to be part of the Innovation Lab.  The deadline for the award is Tuesday, June 12, and information can be found at www.ross.org/scholarship.

Like the Ross tennis academy, the innovation lab students will take the same core courses as students in the regular school for the first half of the day. During the second half of the day, however, instead of playing tennis, students in the Innovation Lab will have hours to devote to science, focusing on “in-depth projects, independent research and labs that are two- to three-hour blocks,” Morgan explained.

“There’s a huge desire in today’s world for students to be connected to these fields,” added Patty Lein, Ross’ Director of Academics and Professional Development (also former chair of the science department). “A lot of professors are jazzed about the idea of bringing that innovative thinking into Ross; these students will be leaders in the field at some point.”

Morgan further impressed that the Innovation Lab would not only foster an environment where scientific exploration would be supported, it would give students a certain business sense, teaching them how to bring their ideas into the marketplace. The idea is for students to learn how to write grants, and even apply for science grants during their time at Ross.

“What we need to do is give students the skills to do independent research and be able to work with a mentor,” Morgan explained.

The Innovation Lab will tap into a list of well-established science researchers who will be available to consult with students throughout their time at Ross. These mentors include professors Morgan himself already has working relationships with, as well as professors from around the world.

These resources include mathematics professor Dr. Ralph Abraham of the University of California — Santa Cruz; professor of neuroscience Dr. Antonio Damasio of the University of Southern California; Dr. Kurt W. Fischer of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, mathematics professor Dr. Victor Katz of the University of the District of Columbia; and researcher Dr. Hideaki Koizumi of Tokyo, Japan, among others.

Of course, local scientists, like famed environmentalist Carl Safina, have agreed to participate on a consulting basis as well.

Ross is currently accepting ninth and tenth grade applicants ($49,850 base fee for day students, $66,150 for boarding students) with what both Morgan and Lein referred to as a demonstrated passion for science.

“The most important thing is an indication that the student is passionate and curious about something,” Morgan said. Although a track record of high achievement and good test scores will be considered as well, Morgan emphasized, “We want students whose eyes light up when they find out that they’ll get to spend part of their day with free time [to research, or conduct lab work].”

Morgan said the focus of the program is still evolving, and will continue to morph based on students’ interests. However, he anticipates putting a lot of energy into robotics and engineering, as well as 3D design and fabrication. (The school will be purchasing a 3D printer and scanner, which will allow students to create a digital prototype of a part — a robot claw, for instance — and the “printer” will essentially create it.)

“It’s a pioneering program,” Lein continued. “We want the voice of the first student body to help design the program’s next steps.”

Morgan agreed, adding that he’s excited to see how the program evolves over time.

“My greatest hope is that three years from now there will be students doing what I can’t even imagine now,” he stated. “My job is to make sure I can make that possible.”