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2021 Grant Winners


Physical Computing: Foundations to Robotics

Christina O'Malley

Akron Central Middle School

Project will further strengthen their foundational understanding of CS by coaching them to understand that computers function through the controlling of basic electrical circuits at a microscopic level: To do this, students will work collaboratively with their Turing Tumble kits to solve puzzles that demystify what goes on within the microscopic circuitry within the computer’s chips.  Students can discover how computers work, practice computational thinking and start coding and designing algorithms by completing hands-on, scaffolded puzzles (7-8.NSD.3).

Students will explore various inputs and outputs by coding a microcontroller on, a web based code editor for physical computing (7-8.DL.2).  Students will be given a series of mini creative coding challenges where they will drag and drop blocks or type JavaScript.  This platform allows students to easily transition to text based coding at their own pace, flip back and forth, and see their code come alive in a simulator (7-8.CT.1).  Students will transfer this knowledge into programming and constructing robots with the Adafruit Circuit Playground Express and the CRICKit add on (Creative Robotics & Interactive Construction Kit) (7-8.NSD.2). Students will go through the engineering design process (NYSSLS MS-ETS1-1-4) to construct and program an autonomous robotic animal with recycled materials that will respond to various inputs with sound, light, and motor outputs (7-8.CT.4-10).

Programming with both blocks and Javascrip in will prepare students for a later unit and project with the Vidcode (Javascript) platform (7-8.DL.5).


Drone Inspections & Agricultural Land Management

Aaron Straus

Salamanca City CSD

Small Drones/UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Systems) are employed in agriculture for crop observation, crop monitoring, field analysis, and map generation through aerial surveys. With the software and 'mission planning tools' available on the market, there is a growing demand for knowledge and understanding of its usage and limitations.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021), skilled agricultural or "ag" pilots typically make from $60,000 to $100,000 a year, and those who own spraying businesses can earn much more.

We created a (COVID-friendly) online program consisting of fourteen units of study to help students gain the knowledge and skills relevant to Agricultural Landscaping with a specialization in drone and GIS Technology.  Classes will cover landscape ecology, plants, soils, erosion prevention, GIS-drone mapping, and crop inspection technology, as well as landscape modeling and construction, with a particular emphasis on agricultural farm management.  Practical, hands-on experience will be cultivated with commercial drone flight experience, ArcGIS data collection and mapping labs, remote sensing data interpretation, field crop inspection drones, and a capstone community needs project.  For the automated and manual flight labs, we will provide a browser-based drone flight simulator and a physical drone for outdoor practice.  Additionally, students will be able to utilize a commercial-grade inspection drone for capstone fieldwork, which is why we are applying for this grant.

The grant money will go towards purchasing a Phantom 4 Multispectral Drone--which can be used to map various vegetative indexes suitable in a specific crop or research scenario. 

Students who complete this program will secure SUNY college credit (paid for through another funding source) in Geographic Information Systems.  Students will be qualified to take an industry-standard GIS exam (offered by Esri), which will confirm the technician's ability to perform entry-level mapping, visualization, editing, and file geodatabase tasks, the Landscape Industry Certified Technician Exam (LICT), required for landscaping technician work and the FAA Commercial Drone Pilot Part 107 exam, which is necessary to fly drones commercially.  Once finished, students will be prepared to work as drone & landscape technologists for agricultural operations. 

Mount Markham

Using Technology to Understand the Universe

Sarah Robinson

Mount Markham CSD

This project is aimed at providing students with the ability to obtain firsthand observational knowledge of concepts they are learning about in Earth Science and the Astronomy science elective. Research has shown that students learn science best through firsthand observations of phenomena. In these two science classes, this can be achieved through the use of a quality telescope with a solar filter, a camera, a Moon filter, and an oxygen III filter. Few schools have access to such technology, but this can greatly impact teaching and student learning. By having a tool to provide students with firsthand observations of phenomena being studied, including the lunar and solar surfaces, as well as specific stars and nebulae, teaching can shift toward a more student-centered approach. By allowing students to safely view solar prominences and sunspots, they can track solar activity, coming to their own conclusions about such phenomena. By using a Moon filter to better view the surface of the Moon, students can directly observe the lunar mare and highlands. Using an oxygen III filter will allow students to observe nebulae in a specific wavelength of light to understand the characteristics of these stellar nurseries. Lastly, the use of a quality telescope camera to capture all of these observations can lend itself to the creation of various digital projects in which students can track the phenomena they observe and showcase their learning.

Mount Pleasant

Empowering Girls: Females Face the Future

Janet Matthews & Mary Knopp

Mount Pleasant CSD

Research suggests that an attributing factor to the deficit of females in the STEM field is a lack of exposure to advanced math, science and computer courses in school and underrepresented role models. Recognizing the urgent need to create spaces to increase girls’ engagement with STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) activities, the purpose of this grant is twofold: First, to enable girls to gain confidence, skills, and awareness of STEM opportunities through workshops using the Sphero Bolt, an app-enabled robot which allows users to code in three separate ways: generate drawings that the robot executes, drag and drop blocks of code to create programs, or write JavaScript programs for execution; and secondly, to create partnerships with female STEM professionals at Pace University who will serve as mentors. This project is designed to provide girls in grade 6 (approximately 150) with a series of workshops throughout the year using the Sphero Bolt that will introduce them to coding and robotics in an exploratory way. By implementing lessons from the Sphero Course 1 and 2, the students will have the ability to write their own codes to make the Spheros perform tasks while integrating relevant science and math concepts. This gaming format provides an opportunity for our female students to have hands-on experiences with coding and engineering. In addition, university partnerships will enhance the learning experiences within the school day and beyond by creating networking opportunities through Pace University’s Cybersecurity Cam and Cyber Club.


Rubik's Cubes to Build Community for Remote and Hybrid Students

Amy Balling

Lancaster Central School District

With remote learning it can be easy to get frustrated due to the lack of human contact, the absence of a teacher, and an inability to discuss problems with classmates. Sometimes, the online world, no matter how enriching it may be, can become too small and you need a physical space where you can resolve your queries and practice with real tools. Remote students are struggling with a lack of self confidence and need to build relationships with peers to find success.

With the resources from this grant Lancaster High School students will be able to learn to master The Rubik’s Cube. They will learn to work in in-person and online groups to support, problem solve, design, and teach others to also solve the cube. With 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 (forty-three quintillion, two hundred fifty-two quadrillion, three trillion, two hundred seventy-four billion, four hundred eighty-nine million, eight hundred fifty-six thousand) different combinations, no matter how a Rubik’s Cube is arranged, it can be solved in 20 moves or less. Using hands-on learning, promoting teamwork, and ending in a product to be proud of Rubik’s Cubes can be used to facilitate camaraderie, teach focus, following directions, memorization, sequencing, problem solving, critical thinking, and perseverance. The Rubik’s cubes will also be used in Biology, Earth Science, and Geometry lessons in a transformative way to improve teaching and learning.


Stop Motion Storytellers

Heather Bermingham

Lockport City School District

As a part of their English Language Arts (ELA) writing workshop, sixth grade students will work in groups of 3 to storyboard a 1-2-page small moment story featuring dialogue, pacing, and visual elements to develop experiences, events, and/or characters. During their rotation in the library, students will learn about stop motion animation and use their iPads, iPad stands/tripods, and USB LED lights to turn those storyboards into a short, high-quality stop motion movie. Final movies will be shared at a film festival that classmates, teachers, administrators, and families will be invited to attend as well as hosted on a student-created website for future and long-term viewing.

Wappingers Falls

Cultivating Curiosity Through Digital Design

Barbara Procario

Wappingers Central School District

The purpose of this grant project is to provide students with the tools they need to design and print models that can then be used to solve problems during inquiry science investigations. Students already have the creative ability to design; I am requesting the funds to purchase two Makerbot digital printers so they can test their designs. The eighth grade curriculum includes the study of Physics and Earth Science. As part of physics, students need to understand factors that affect motion. Students will hypothesize on factors that would affect the ability for a boat to float, carry cargo, and move quickly in the water. They will then design that boat on the website, Tinkercad, print it using the 3D printers, and test it in class. Earth Science includes the study of Energy Resources. Students will investigate the factors that affect a wind turbine's ability to produce electricity by designing turbine blades, and then printing and testing them with a fan and voltmeter.  They will also design and print their own version of the "Pelton Wheel," to model how mechanical energy is used to produce electricity in a water wheel and generator. The printers will be used throughout the year as a vehicle to encourage student engagement and inquiry.