Teacher Success Stories

Many of our RET Site attendees have brought their students to the mechatronics laboratory on field trips. Moreover, many have borrowed projects developed under this effort to conduct demos in their classrooms. Our RET Site alumni also visit the new RET attendees during the summer program to present their research projects and to share their approaches to raising funds, integrating project activities in lessons and laboratories, and creating new programs.

2011 RET Site Attendees:

Below we provide illustrative examples of how the participants from the 2011 summer workshop have integrated their RET Site experiences in their classroom activities.

Jeffrey Bernhardt has created an 8 week section on iPhone/Arduino development. Students wired a model home with an Arduino, Wi-Fly, lights, and a servo (acting as a garage door opener). They then worked on developing an iPhone App to open and close the garage door and turn lights on and off. He also created an 8 week course Lego Robotics and RobotC for his Introduction to Computers class. His Game Programming course now develops games for iPhone and Androids in addition to web-based games. The Lynbrook School District also approved a full year Robotics course for next year. The course includes both Lego and Tetrix robots to be programmed in RobotC.

By using the smart permeameter developed during the RET project, Ryan Cain has conducted hands-on investigations with 60 second graders from three classes to measure permeability of a variety of soil samples and characterize their appropriate use. In addition, Ryan Cain engaged 99 second graders from five classes in a culminating project on “River Erosion Model” to conclude a second grade unit on Earth materials. A Makerbot 3D printer was utilized to fabricate scaled-models of residential and commercial buildings that were installed on a river bank, modeled on a table-top using a variety of clay and sand. The river model demonstrates water’s ability to change the surface of the Earth and students could visualize the impact of erosion on their built environment. The setup can also enable students to investigate the effects of foundation-types, foundation material, etc., to withstand a flood event.

Rebecca Cruz created and conducted an introductory course on Mechatronics in fall 2011. The class met five times a week for 50 minutes per session and it was taken by 23 high school students who earned 1.5 credits. Students completed five units of study consisting of 37 lessons and have completed hands-on activities including programming and controlling a robot to perform various maneuvers. Rebecca’s school, Forsyth Satellite Academy, is member of the NY Performance Standards Consortium of alternative schools. A school mentor from the consortium attended her class thrice to examine the possibility of incorporating STEM in regular classes offered by the consortium schools which use PBAT (performance based assessment tasks) instead of Regents-based assessment.

Mangapathi Rao Donthini used his newly acquired knowledge and mechatronics materials to conduct activities on magnetism and electricity in an eleventh grade class of 18 students. In particular, he created an experimental setup using a dc motor and a Basic Stamp 2 microcontroller to illustrate the concept and calculation of centripetal force.

Russell Holstein had a general sixth grade class of 33 students that incorporated general basic computer skills class with specialized topics that examine and explore scientific concepts ranging from machines using LEGO robotics to smart sensors such as the smart permeameter developed during the 2011 RET summer program. This class also examined the relationship of soil to the processes of industrialization to better understand sustainable agriculture and its importance in global and local health. Moreover, in a sixth grade shop class, 29 students studied introduction to engineering and design with focus on designing for sustainability and created physical models using the MakerBot 3D printer. Mr. Holstein also had a seventh grade shop class composed of 19 students that covered a full year of mechatronics leading up to rapid prototyping that integrates the study of the Parallax Basic stamp with motor controls and the MakerBot 3D printer. Another seventh grade talent class composed of 19 students exclusively studied Lego Robotics. Along with all of this, Mr. Holstein installed a 125 gallon fish tank in his room that is expected to serve as a playground for 25 after school robotics students to explore underwater automated vehicles and further integrate 3D printing using the MakerBot 3D printer.

In an eleventh grade Physics class of 34 students, Seth Guinals-Kupperman devoted 10 hours in a series of laboratory investigations focused on the material properties of flexible food. Specifically, students used digital force probes and rulers to measure bulk modulus, Young's modulus of elasticity, and effective spring constant for such elastic foods as Jell-O and Chinese gelatin, modeling them as soft tissue.

Mingyu Li taught General Science to five sections of mixed level 9-12th graders, with 34 students in each section. She integrated her mechatronics knowledge when presenting lessons on mechanical wave, sound and light, units of measurement, measuring spring constant, and the Young’s modulus of elasticity for soft materials. Her students also performed 10 hours of projects on science career search, food nutrition of teens, and robotics in bioengineering. Finally, she was extensively involved in mentoring eight FIRST Tech Challenge and one FIRST Robotics Challenge teams at her school. She helped these teams with mechanical design of robot and programming.

Under an Introduction to Computer Science class consisting of 32 high school students, Hilary Mallar created and conducted a sequence of six lessons on mechatronics and robotics.

Noam Pillischer, an 11th grade physics teacher and middle school robotics coach, designed hands-on lessons that covered the New York State Physics curriculum and integrated the use of mechatronic design. Sixty-six eleventh graders designed, built, and programmed a robot to study kinematics and force concepts. Twenty 6-8th graders studied mechatronic principles and circuit design to create a robotic garden that could communicate with an iPad app.

Finally, we provide illustrative examples of academic year interactions between project teachers and project personnel.

  • On February 27 and 28, 2012, Dr. Vittoria Flamini visited the school of teacher Seth Guinals-Kupperman. She discussed following topics with the students: Bioengineering, Sports, and Ethics.

  • On March 9, 2012, Dr. Vittoria Flamini visited the school of teacher Mingyu Li. She discussed following topics with the students: Bioengineering, Movement, and Robots.

  • On March 29, 2012, Prof. Nikhil Gupta visited the school of teacher Mangapathi Rao Donthini. He interacted with Mr. Donthini’s Physics class. The class conducted a Centripetal Force experiment using the experimental testbed developed by Mr. Donthini in summer 2011.

  • On April 2, 2012, Jared Alan Frank visited the school of teacher Hilary Mallar. He demonstrated to students iPad Apps for Robotics and explained the overarching theme of his research.
  • On March 15, 2012, Prof. Magued Iskander visited the school of teacher Ryan Cain. He gave an interactive presentation to second grade students titled “What do Engineers Do? Example: Geotechnical Engineering.” He discussed the various roles that he plays as a teacher, researcher, engineer, and expert. He used a variety of physical models to illustrate important concepts in geotechnical engineering.

  • On May 31, 2012, Prof. Magued Iskander visited the school of teacher Russell Holstein. He gave a Powerpoint presentation to 5-7 graders about geotechnical engineering and its role in society. Next, he discussed the roles of research and design in influencing construction. He ended with a presentation about how to rebuild the Manhattan waterfront using recycled polymeric piling and the research that his team is conducting to make polymeric piling a suitable replacement to timber piling.

  • Teacher Jeffrey Bernhardt visited the Mechatronics Lab approximately 6 times after the end of the 2011 summer research program. His return visits were focused on: (a) working on refining an iPhone app for a fish robot; (b) seeking support from graduate researchers on the development of an iPad app to control a variety of functions in a table-top scaled model home; and (3) collaborating on a technical paper which he co-authored with project personnel.

  • Four teachers from the 2011 RET Site (Ryan Cain, Russell Holstein, Lindrick Outerbridge, and Noam Pillischer) are currently collaborating with the project team on an NSF-funded GK-12 Fellows project. As participants of our GK-12 Fellows project, these four teachers host NYU-Poly GK-12 Fellows in their classroom throughout the academic year. Moreover, they visit for project meetings to NYU-Poly once every month. Therefore, through the synergistic GK-12 Fellows roject we have a deep and sustained collaboration with these four teachers of the 2011 RET Site.


2010 RET Site Attendees:

Mr. Jason Farina participated in the project with two of his high school students who conducted all structured learning activities and collaborated with Jason on his research even delivering the final technical presentation. Because of this experience, one of his students has decided to become an engineer and is currently assisting in the live teaching of an online calculus course.

Mr. Horace E. Walcott is mentoring four teams of students at the Brooklyn Technical High School to exploit mechatronics and solar-hydrogen-electric-bio-mimetic energetic (sHe-BioME) for developing and testing following projects: a solar hydrogen electric rocket aerosol sampling sail plane (sHeRASP), a solar hydrogen electrical bio-mechanical Portuguese Man-o-war (sHeBPM); a solar hydrogen electrical particulate sampling bio-mechanical manta ray (sHeBMR) and; a solar hydrogen electrical model drone craft carrier or sHeDARK.

Ms. Donna Gobin has created a FIRST Lego League robotics team in a middle school class of 30 students. Donna and her summer workshop partner Robert Calungsod, a high school teacher, have created a mentoring program between their two schools. Students from Robert's school support Donna's students and provide guidance based on their prior experience in the competitions. These students will receive community service credit towards their high school diploma.

Mr. Russell J. Holstein is introducing technology and engineering to a 7th grade class of 21 students, 13 of whom are girls, by discussing engineering as a profession and using a scaffolding approach to programming, which gradually builds-up from Microworlds, Scratch, and Chipmunk BASIC to the Basic Stamp microcontroller. His class is also studying power system and is scheduled for a trip to the Brooklyn Navy Yard Cogeneration Plant.

Mr. Matthew Fisher has implemented a unit on robotics and electronics in his modern technology class. His students have designed wooden robotic arms that can perform tasks such as simple drawing, page turning, and ping-pong ball manipulation, among others.


2009 RET Site Attendees:

Mr. John Schineller received a mini grant from the Port Washington Teacher Center to embed lab investigation of the photoelectric effect with light emitting diodes and photoelectric sensors in the optics and modern physics units of high school physics curriculum, allowing students to connect with pervasive applications of this technology in alarm systems and remote control devices.

Mr. Robert Gandolfo is starting an introduction to robotics class using LEGO Mindstorms.

Mr. Jason Farina is encouraging his math students to "think like a researcher." Thus, instead of having students rely on the teacher as the arbiter of truth, he is providing them tools to convince themselves whether they are right or wrong. These efforts have elevated mathematical discourse and given students new control over math.


2005 RET Site Attendees:

Mr. Tom Byrne of New Rochelle High School, New Rochelle, NY, has used robots in his Physics classes and as an introduction to Physics in general. He has also demonstrated robots to the parents at “Meet the Teacher Night” when explaining his summer activities.

Mr. Michael Francesco of Tappan Zee High School, Orangeburg, NY, received a $3,800 grant from the South Orangetown Central School District to acquire robotics kits. He is using these kits in his Active Physics (grade 9), Regents Physics (grades 11 and 12) and AP Physics B classes.

Ms. Joy Hinds of Abraham Lincoln High School, Brooklyn, NY, has written an article in Lincoln Log.

Mr. Robert Morris of Clarkstown North High School, New City, NY, has designed a robotics course which has been approved by his school board for an offering in 2006.

Mr. Joseph Rodichok of Smithtown High School, Smithtown, NY, is using robots in his Physics classes to demonstrate different mechanics related concepts. He has disseminated his project activities to his colleagues during department meetings where he also presented a video demonstration of his experimental apparatus in action.

Mr. Rodolfo Vera of IS 125 Woodside, Woodside, NY, has established an after school robotics club that meets every Wednesday and has 10 student members. In addition, he has conducted several professional development sessions for teachers to expose them to mechatronics and the SMARTER-type activities.


2004 RET Site Attendees:

Mr. Ed Gruber of Eastchester High School, Eastchester, NY, teaches Science Research and Physics. SMARTER gave Ed the electrical and mechanical engineering experience he never gained as a physics major in college. The Parallax Boebot has become a regular classroom mascot, appearing in class when teaching vectors and kinematics as a constant velocity vehicle, when teaching waves and optics because of its IR sensing ability, and when teaching electricity when circuitry is being taught. He borrowed several SMARTER projects, including a cleverly designed Newton's third law experiment and a fascinating Bohr model energy calculator. He is also attempting to push more of his advanced students into doing robotic design projects.

Ms. Amanda Gunning of North Rockland High School has mentored students in her school’s science club to conduct exercises in “What’s a Microcontroller?” In addition, she has brought her students on a field trip to the Mechatronics laboratory @ Poly. Finally, in fall 2004 and spring 2005, she borrowed various mechatronics-enabled science experiments from the laboratory.

Mr. Michael Koumoullos of the Aviation High School, NY, submitted the following to us.

Robotics Take Flight: The effect of the SMARTER program on Aviation High School

Aviation High School students and staff have embraced robotics. Robotics has flourished inside and outside the classroom. Last year, student participated in two robotics competitions: The FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition and a regional Lego competition. Also, twenty sophomores enrolled in a pre-engineering class taught by Michael Koumoullos, a 2004 RET Site program participant at Polytechnic University.

Led by Laurie Nearon, Assistant Principal of Science, and teachers Samantha Gian and Michael Koumoullos, Aviation High School students participated in the FIRST Robotics Long Island Regional Competition and won two awards: Highest Seeded Rookie and Rookie Inspiration Award. Michael Koumoullos, the technical mentor, learned much of what he knew because he was a participant of the RET Site program at Polytechnic University. The team will compete again this year. This past spring marked the inception of a pre-engineering course targeting sophomores. Developed by LaGuardia Community College’s College Now staff and Aviation High School teacher Michael Koumoullos the class explored mechanical and electrical engineering and culminated in a robotics design project. The class was taught by Michael Koumoullos.

Aviation High School also entered the world of Lego Robotics by hosting and participating in a regional Lego competition. In early May 2005, Aviation High School hosted a Lego competition run by New York City Department of Education Region 4 Lead Technology Specialist Teresa Bader and her assistants Stephen Shapinsky and Norm Scott. Aviation High School participated in the competition by entering a team mentored by Michael Koumoullos.

Principal Eileen Taylor, Assistant Principal Mario Cotumaccio and Career and Technical Education Liaison for Region 4 Marilyn Scher provided continued support of the school’s robotics endeavors. Mark Peress of DeVry University was a key liaison for the FIRST robotics team. A donation of $6,000 was provided by DeVry University.

Ms. Denise McNamara of High School for Health Professions and Human Services, New York, NY, obtained approx. $1,800 from her school to purchase one Lego Robotics Educator Startup Kit and 5 “What’s a Microcontroller?” kits. She worked with 15 of the brightest students in a “research club” environment.

Dr. Ron Occhiogrosso of HAFTR High and Middle School, New York, presented a poster on his RET work at the 2004 INSPIRE Conference. He has used the Newton’s Third Law experiment and the SMARTER Weather Balloon, among others, to conduct show-n-tell sessions for his students.

Dr. Vincent Pereira of New Explorations into Science, Technology and Mathematics, a science magnet school in Manhattan, NY gave a talk at the Second Annual RET Pre-Conference at the NSTA National Convention, Dallas, TX, 2005. In fall 2005, he began teaching a class “Introduction to Robotics and Engineering.” It has 15 students and meets for 45 minutes, 3 times a week, for the full year. In this class he is doing experiments on “What’s a Microcontroller” and “Robotics.” Through his school’s support, he obtained 5 kits each of “What’s a Microcontroller” and “Robotics” (approx. $1,100). Finally, Dr. Pereira and his students have participated in the JWOD/JETS National Engineering Design Challenge Competition in which they designed a device to fold sleeping bags into compact bundles.


2003 RET Site Attendees

Mr. Richard Balsamel of Science High School, Newark, NJ, raised over $4,000 from his school district for mechatronics kits and supplies, and began a mechatronics research club. In addition, he is introducing mechatronics in his physics classes by integrating four sample activities for students.

Mr. David Deutsch of Manhattan Center for Science and Math High School, New York, NY, has raised over $3,000 from his school and the Children’s Aid Society for mechatronics and robotics kits. He is training students in an after-school mechatronics club. Dave's students have visited the mechatronics laboratory @ Poly and he has borrowed various mechatronics-enabled science experiments from the laboratory.

Mr. Paul Friedman of Seward Park High School, New York, NY, has raised over $1,500 from his school’s alumni association for robotics kits. He has partnered with a colleague to train students in an after-school program. Paul's students have visited the mechatronics laboratory @ Poly and he has borrowed various mechatronics-enabled science experiments from the laboratory.

Mr. Robert Gandolfo of Plainedge High School, North Massapequa, NY, reported on his SMARTER experience in his school district newspaper. In fall 2004, through his school’s support, Robert obtained 6 Robotics, 6 Board of Education, and 6 Basic Analog and Digital kits from Parallax Inc. In spring 2005, in his Introduction to Engineering class, he began using this material to introduce mechatronics to 20 students over a period of 10 weeks. He has borrowed various mechatronics-enabled science experiments from the laboratory.

Mr. William Leacock of W. C. Mepham High School, Bellmore, NY, received a $1,500 mini-grant from his school district for mechatronics kits. Every other day, during a single class period of AP Physics, he teaches a short lesson introducing his students to a hands-on activity planned for a double class period the following day. Mr. Leacock wrote the following to us: “The students are enjoying it so much that, even though I allow them a break in between the double periods, almost all of them stay and work right through the break. It is wonderful to see them learn and enjoy themselves so much.” He has borrowed various mechatronics-enabled science experiments from the laboratory.

Mr. Michael McDonnell of Midwood High School, Brooklyn, NY, used over $5,000 funding from his school to obtain robotics kits and taught robotics to over 200 students in fall 2003 and spring 2004 through Robotics and Advanced Robotics courses. Furthermore, with colleagues, he applied for and received a 3 year $300,000 grant from his school district under the Vocational and Technical Education Act (VATEA). The VATEA grant is enabling him to develop and implement a four year robotics curriculum in his school.

Ms. Marlene McGarrity of the Christa McAuliffe School, Brooklyn, NY, raised over $1,500 for a project titled, “Young Engineers are Made in Brooklyn through Robotics and Mechatronics,” through an online grant agency. From this grant, she obtained wheeled robots and Mars rover kits, and is using these in her seventh grade classroom. She also wrote an article on her SMARTER experience.