Previous month:
March 2011
Next month:
May 2011

April 2011

Robotic Team

We won.

“Official” Press Release:


The Hillcrest High School Robotics Team competed in their second FIRST FTC event.  It was in Tyler, at the University of Texas at Tyler on April 30.  Hillcrest Panthers were the captains of the Winning Alliance of a statewide qualifier.    Steele Haspel and Nun Cung were drivers, Sydney Pedigo was the Team Captain.  Because of transportation difficulties the rest of the team were not able to attend.  Those members are: Jackson Stein, Danniel Cabrera, Brian Lopez, Meco Mehmeti, Jacok Mock, Micheal Mukasa, Alfonso Escorza, D'Quan Cage, and Casey Jones.

To become part of the Winning Alliance, the team had to compete in an series of qualifying matches.  Hillcrest won 5 of their 6 matches.  The top four teams ranked in the qualifying matches become the team captains of four Alliance teams who then compete in a series of matches.  The Winning Alliance Team must win a series of matches between the four Alliance Teams.

The Hillcrest Panthers Robot team are hoping to compete in Lubbock on May 21st.

Robotics team

We are in Tyler competing.

We came in third in the elimination matches and are the second alliance team. 

We are waiting to compete. Its been a good day so far. End of February, we had 5 boxes of parts.

Sent from my Windows Phone

Problem Solving For All Times - Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson - Site Home - MSDN Blogs

Quoted from

Problem Solving For All Times - Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson - Site Home - MSDN Blogs

One is that understanding the problem is the first step towards solving it.


Alfred talks about how CS helps him do DYI projects, but I get to go a step further.

I have been participating in Robotics with my students since February.  Now I have no formal training in robotics, but the team I am sponsoring has been successful.

Why? Computer Science gives us the tools to solve any problem.  It also helps that they ask me after they are unsuccessful and I've seen them try all the wrong ways.  If I didn't see, I ask them to show me what they have tried. That leaves only the right way to do things.

The first thing I have been doing is breaking down the problem in small steps for the students -- I am hoping NOT to have to do that next year, and that they will be able to do it themselves.

For example, our first problem was taking a bunch of small parts and turning them into a chassis we could drive. Few students were interested until they saw something that ran and did things.  That also brought in a bunch more minds to solve the problem. 

In fact, each stage of solving problems brought more people in help us solve the problem.

Having the proper tools helps also -- I need to get them a long handled Phillips Head Screw Driver so they can get the horn off the servo.  Since it isn't an immediate need, I haven't done that.

Summer gig

Summer gigs and workshops, especially free ones are had to find this year . Wonder why?

However, TI,my favorite Dallas employer is putting on a project based learning program. Got the email fairly late and signed up after I checked my calendar.

TI brought me to Dallas, and I worked for the oil unit in the 80s. Spent over 10 years with them. I am one of the first TI teaching fellows and have benefitted from their various education programs through the years.

Will be happy to get another paycheck from them.

Sent from my Windows Phone

Robotics Club Future

If we can compete in Tyler. I will make it happen but otherwise I want to put the robot up for a couple of weeks.

I also want to organize it better.

Formal training

I want a point system to determine who competes.

Probably a point for each dollar raised. 100 points for each "hour" of driving, programming, or building but only if recorded in the engineering notebook.

I also need to get them on the moodle and use it for point gathering.

FIRST FRC Robot competition

Four kids showed up this morning. We passed all inspections on first try.

We did pretty good in matches and even balanced with another team. 

We came in 8th after match play and got into an alliance for the elimination matches.

We lost in autonomous mode each time.

I am so proud of these kids. They have never this and neither have I.

We have had a blast and the kids want to try again in Tyler.

Sent from my Windows Phone


I am having fun and meeting lots of students I didn't know before. I think we have been working for five weeks.

I have had to pull two kids aside and teach them better behavior nut that is a hood thing. 

One just gets carried away and his friends deal with it by ignoring him bit he drove kids he didn't know nuts, me too. He is finitely better.

The other kid honestly didn't know how to build things and after showing him he is fine.

I have not taught kids hardware before and that has been a growth experience for me and I am enjoying. I cam still dig them out of holes even with that.

The programming language we are using is robotc which very similar to Java which helps both myself and the students. We can drive the robot and are learning how to manipulate the arm.

Sent from my Windows Phone

Traditional Classes Aren't More Engaging - Room for Debate -


High school and middle school students are easily distracted, which is precisely why I do think they can benefit from online classes.

Traditional Classes Aren't More Engaging - Room for Debate -

Which is precisely WHY online classes aren’t for High School and Middle School.  I have taught online classes to high school students and I have had 1 out of 10 literally be successful.  The student that was successful wasn’t easily distracted.  The others were and got so distracted, they couldn’t keep up.

I do know that credit recovery with online courses can be effective as we do it with something called Reconnect.  The students check into a room, have supervision, and have someone who can help them when they get stuck.  BUT remember, these students have already been in a traditional classroom, but were not successful, usually due to attendance issues.  Those kids are pretty easy to teach, as they have seen the material but didn’t get it (I’ve worked with them face to face).  They do need the personal attention and someone to make them stick to it.

I do know that the most effective way to do online courses is to mix the online experience with face-to-face experiences.  I got my master’s degree in CECS from UNT that way.  I still think it takes a very mature student.

TELPAS Testing

I hate TELPAS testing.  I have to send my kids to the library with a sub, with a research assignment.  Yes, those are assignments we would do anyway, BUT….

Apparently TELPAS is higher stakes this year, as administration is rabid about getting kids here and testing. 

The good news, it is going smoother than it EVER has.  No computers crashing (yet), no losing answers, and no having to waits hours to reload questions.

They gave us a specific image with a specific login for testing (which prompted our move to Windows 7)

Can’t wait until I get my kids back!