Using a laser cutter to create moving models

I wonder if these models could inspire our students to design, engineer and create their own moving models. The only materials needed are rubber bands and wood (and a laser cutter).

The following models were created by Ugears a company formed in 2014 in the Ukraine. The company has an online presence in Australia – to find out more click here. Amazingly I found out about these these models through a local shop in the main street of Moonta just recently.

Sphero Edu App

Thanks to Jackie and Kelly for introducing us to the Sphero robots last Wednesday. As a follow up here is an overview of what is available on the Sphero Edu app. Currently the filtering at PBAS does not allow content from the Sphero website to appear on the app but I have requested that the filtering be changed to allow the content. So be aware that at this point in time you cannot access the following but very soon will be able to.

Home – Feed

This shows the Twitter feed for Sphero Education.

Home – 3D Models

This section allows you to see an exploded view of the Sphero.


Home – Settings

The settings section gives you a variety of options including links to the Sphero blog and JavaScript Wiki. So if you are keen to learn about JavaScript (written code) this may be useful.

Programs – My Programs

This is where the programs that you or your students make will be saved.

Programs – Sphero

This is where you can access programs created by the employees of Sphero. When you click on a program you get a written explanation of the program and a video to watch. There will be a link to open the code that has been written. The code will open in the Sphero Edu app and can be used by you or your students. This option allows students to invsetigate and analyse detailed coding. I have included a video below of the Animal Origami program.

Programs – Community

These are programs provided by the community of Sphero users who have submitted their programs to the website. Again you get a written explanation, a video and a link to download the code. To access the community programs you need to sign in with an account. It is a simple process to create an account for yourself.

Activities – Sphero

This section provides activities for teachers to do with their students. You need an account to access these in full. A great source of ideas!

Activities – Community

A huge range of STEM based activities created by the Sphero community. An excellent resource for teachers. I recommend signing in and and having a look at these. They provide step by step lesson plans and extra resources like videos and web links to support the lesson. I have added a video below that briefly shows the K’nex Chariot Challenge. While the video is not brilliant it gives you an idea of what you can expect to find when you access this content.

Robotics at PBAS

As our STEM redevelopment gradually reaches completion we have been able to update our robotics kits to more current technology, reinvigorating our robotics program.

To cater for R – 12 and provide at least two different platforms for students we have purchased the following two robotics kits:

The Mindstorm kits will replace the old Lego RCX programmable robotics kits while the Sphero’s will provide a flexible robotics platform that can be used R-12.

Why Robotics?

The company Tactile Theory explains through their website the following reasons why robotics is beneficial for student learning:

  1. It’s a fun and hands on activity.
  2. Robotics can be taught at any level. The Sphero Sprk robots can be programmed using three different methods – 1. Drawing a line in the app that a robot will then follow. 2. Drag and drop blocks that contain code and 3. Use text coding like Javascript.
  3. Using robotics kits can assist with developing fine motor skills. Children are involved in manually manipulating sensors, motors, blocks, remote controls, gears, joints, switches, and axels (Lego Robotics).
  4. Robotics provides a base for teaching programming. A physical robot allows students to test out what works, and what doesn’t and have a better understanding of the importance of precise instructions.  Research also indicates that by starting children early in robotics, the gender bias in STEM subjects is decreased significantly.
  5. The teaching of robotics allows schools to address a variety of Government and education department initiatives including of the The National STEM School Education Strategy, the Australian Curriculum and the DECD STEM Learning Strategy.
  6. Robotics can assist students to learn skills that are applicable to future employment. Involving children in quality robotics programs can provide students with opportunities to be critical thinkers, innovators, collaborators and leaders while applying scientific, technological, engineering and mathematical principals.
  7. Teaching robotics assists with computational thinking. Recognising aspects of computation in the world and being able to think logically, algorithmically and abstractly.  Robotics can help develop computational thinking by teaching children how to “think like a computer” and use concepts of computer science to solve problems.
  8. Allows students to be creative. By allowing students to explore, experiment and investigate with robotics they can create their own programs, load them onto the robots and watch them perform the programmed tasks before their very eyes.

During our first days back in 2018 Jackie and Kelly are going to talk about the STEM training they undertook in 2017 (continuing in 2018) and take us through some activities using the Sphero Sprk robotics kit.

iOS 11 What’s new (and useful)?

iOS 11 has just been released and it offers many new features some of which I have commented on at the end of this post. The main aim of this post though is to focus on two of the more significant alterations to the previous iOS. These are the ability to screen record and Apple’s new ARKit (augmented reality).

Apple’s new operating system iOS 11 for iPhone and iPad can be downloaded to the following devices (source – MacRumors):

Screen Recording

Being able to record what is happening on the iPhone/iPad screen is a great addition to the latest operating system. As teachers this function could assist us to make short instructional videos, for example showing students how to use an app or how to effectively search on Safari. These videos could be Airdropped across the class set of iPads ready for students to access during the lesson. It also allows students another way to present their learning, for example completing a presentation using Keynote and then creating a video of that presentation with audio.


“iOS 11 introduces ARKit, a new framework that allows you to easily create unparalleled augmented reality experiences for iPhone and iPad. By blending digital objects and information with the environment around you, ARKit takes apps beyond the screen, freeing them to interact with the real world in entirely new ways.” Apple, 2017

The ARKit which is part of iOS 11 provides a platform for augmented reality apps to be downloaded from the app store and used with the iPhone or iPad. It is worth noting that to get the full functionality  of ARKit you require a device which uses an A9 or larger processor. This means you have to have one of the following models: iPhone 6s, iPhone SE, iPhone 7, iPhone 8, iPhone X, all iPad Pro models and iPad Air 2017 (5th Generation). For most of us we will be consumers of the augmented reality apps developed to use with ARKit as opposed to creating and developing apps.

The following videos are examples of applications created to take advantage of Apples ARKit.

IKEA Place app

The new IKEA Place app lets you select items from the company’s vast product catalogue and drag them into your own home. Source

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

My Very Hungry Caterpillar AR by Touch Press, the company behind the award winning iOSAndroid and Windows apps based on the book, will see you nurturing your very own adorable caterpillar, playing with it and helping it grow a garden. Source

Shot Pro

For budding CGI blockbuster moviemakers, 3D film visualisation tool ShotPro is taking advantage of the ARKit platform to make embedding dragons and dinosaurs into real locations a simple drag and drop affair. Source

AR Measurekit

Using Apple’s AR framework and the nothing more than the camera sensor in your iPhone or iPad,  the FREE MeasureKit  App can measure just about anything without hunting down a ruler or tape measure. However, unlike a ruler, MeasureKit provides precise dimensions not just for height and width, but also measurements of distance, angle, trajectory, level, square, and more. Source


Other cool features

Note: The following information is taken directly from

Do not disturb while driving

The Do Not Disturb feature is known for being useful by preventing notification noises while you are sleeping. Apple enhanced the Do Not Disturb feature by providing an option so that you do not get distracted while driving. When you start driving, your iPhone will be able to sense that you are in transit so it can prevent you from being disturbed with phone calls, text messages and notifications. People that try to reach you while Do Not Disturb While Driving is activated will be notified that you are not available right now. Source

Files App

iOS 11 is bringing a new app to the iPad called Files. The Files app allows users to search, browse and organise all of your cloud and locally stored files. This includes files stored in cloud services such as Apple iCloud Drive, Box and Dropbox. You can also bookmark your favourite files in a folder on the sidebar called “Favourites.” The Files app on the iPad now feels more like a computer desktop. Source

New Control Centre

The Control Centre has been completely redesigned in iOS 11. And now you can customise it with different shortcuts and preferences. For example, you can add the ability to dim the lights, control Voice memos and place a shortcut for Low Power Mode. And applying 3D Touch (long hold instead of tap) to the Control Centre presents additional controls. Source

Speaker support for multiple rooms

AirPlay 2 support is integrated in the Home app for iOS 11. And with the AirPlay 2 integration, you can control the volume and playlists for the smart speakers in each individual room from the Home app. This allows different music to be played at different volumes from the one device. Source

Indoor Maps

One of the best new features coming to iOS 11 is Indoor Maps in the Maps app. With this feature, you can view the indoor maps of hundreds of shopping centres and major airports. Now you can see which restaurants are beyond security at airports and the stores that are on each level of the mall. Source

Document scanning in notes

The Notes app now has a Document Scanner function that can automatically detect when a photo of a document is taken. And then the Notes app automatically crops the edges and removes tilts and glares. Plus you can fill in the blanks or sign it with the Apple Pencil. Once you are done editing the document, then you can export it as a PDF or document file. Source

Connecting with Parents at PBAS

There are significant benefits to communicating a child’s learning to parents outside of the traditional term report, take home book and parent teacher interview. This post looks at two ways to engage parents and caregivers beyond the traditional structures schools put in place to connect student learning with home.

The following are benefits resulting from increasing parent involvement in a child’s learning:

  • Children tend to achieve more, regardless of ethnic or racial background, socioeconomic status, or parents’ education level.
  • Children generally achieve better grades, test scores, and attendance.
  • Parents have a better understanding of the teacher’s job and school curriculum.
  • Parents’ perceptions of the school are improved and there are stronger ties and commitment to the school.
  • When schools have a high percentage of involved parents, teachers and principals are more likely to experience higher morale.
  • Teachers and principals report an increase in job satisfaction.
  • Schools that actively involve parents and the community tend to establish better reputations in the community.

To see another 16 reasons why engaging parents with their child’s learning is important click on the following link: Excerpt from Home-School Relations: Working Successfully with Parents and Families, by G. Olsen, M.L. Fuller, 2008 edition, p. 129-130.

The following two communication methods are practical examples of how classroom teachers can connect with parents. Both methods have been successfully used this year by Kelly and Ange.

Kelly uses the Seesaw app  (available on Apple and Android devices) which allows moments in time to be captured via image or video along with student or teacher comments and made available instantly to the parent of that child. If time does not allow for sharing instantly then video, images and comments can be uploaded later at a more convenient time. It allows Kelly to create portfolios of work for each child with control over what is posted, who can see it and when it is posted. These portfolios can be divided into subject folders.

The benefits that Kelly has found by using Seesaw over traditional take home books include:

  • The ease at which information can be sent home.
  • An instant connection with parents. Parents will often comment on their child’s work the same day it is sent.
  • It provides parents with a more regular up date of their child’s progress as opposed to a take home book that only goes home at the end of each term.
  • The regular nature of sharing student learning allows parents to have better informed conversations around their child’s learning at home.
  • Seesaw allows video to be used which is much more powerful (at times) than static work samples or images found in a take home book.
  • Kelly no longer has to store and keep track of a take home book for each child.
  • Kelly no longer has to spend time cutting and gluing work samples into a take home book.
  • NIT teachers for Kelly’s class can be connected to the account and add to student portfolios.


On Thursday of week 10, term 3 Ange invited parents in for the last lesson of the day to have her students show parents some of their learning. This began by showing parents Mindset videos students had made around the topic of maths. This was very powerful as not only was it reinforcing the importance of mindset to students but it was educating parents at the same time. This means that a certain level of consistency has been created between what students are learning and what parents understand to be happening in the classroom. Students then took parents out into the wet area and demonstrated their coding skills with the Bee Bots. The students final task was to show their parents two Keynote presentations which had been made on the iPads. Students had to go through their presentations explaining the content they had created. One presentation was on spiders and the other on a country of the students choice.

Ange’s classroom was packed with parents and caregivers all keen to see what their child had been doing. Every child had an adult attend.

Having had conversations with the parents and teachers involved in these communications methods it is clear there has been some significant upside including improved parent understanding of the curriculum and the teacher’s role, improved parent perception of the school, improved parental engagement in student learning and a sense of job satisfaction felt by the teacher.

Makers Empire – 3D Printing in South Australian Schools

Makers Empire are an Adelaide company that produce software and programs for schools in the area of 3D printing. During Feb – June of 2017 Makers Empire partnered with DECD to roll out 3D printing programs in 50 primary schools. The program, titled Makers Empire learning by design involved a 20 hour professional learning program which culminated in schools presenting their completed projects at Grange Primary School. To read more about this click here. To see a list of schools involved in the project click here.

Makers Empire does not supply or sell 3D printers but supplies the training, software, programs and lessons for teachers to use 3D printing in the classroom.

See how the Makers Empire software works


Here are some examples of how schools have used the Makers Empire software.

To see more videos from schools and how they used Makers Empire click here.

Parrot Airborne Cargo Mars Mini Drone

Daniel has made a demonstration video using the Parrot Airborne Cargo Mars drone. The video demonstrates some of its features as well as explaining the app Tynker which can be used to program and control the drone. This app is on our class set of iPads. While the app allows you to control Parrot brand vehicles it is also a coding app that teachers may find useful as alternatives to Daisy the Dinosaur, Kodable and Hopscotch.

Please note: I have only recently put the app onto the iPads and did not 
realise extra content had to be downloaded into the app (all the Tynker 
projects). This cannot be done through our filtering. So I will need some 
time to download the programs at home (15 programs per iPad x 30 iPads). 
Once these programs are downloaded they will work without the need to 
access the Internet so our school system will not be a problem. I have 
tried this process with the program Daniel used to run the Parrot Drone 
and it worked. Students can also be save their coding locally to the app.

To find out more about Parrots mini drones click here.

To read a review click here.

To find out a price click here.


Five classroom ready STEM projects

The following is taken directly from the Power Anchor website.

“The Power Anchor is a smart way of delivering power to car, ground effect vehicles and aircraft deign projects. The beauty of this is the vehicles aren¹t weighed down by batteries. You don¹t have to worry about any steering either because the vehicles are pulled around the Power Anchor by the same cable that delivers the current. The vehicle designs can be kept simple and when it comes to testing, results can be reliable because many of the variables are removed.

  • It is portable with the four 6V batteries fully enclosed in the base, there is no need to plug it in.
  • It is sturdy, made from tough materials.
  • It is easy enough to use that even young students can work independently.
  • And it looks great which adds to the classroom excitement when doing project work.”

The Power Anchor comes with five classroom ready STEM projects which all use the Power Anchor to control and test the project.

What is the Power Anchor?

Power Anchor includes tether cables and hand controls (4 x 6V batteries not included) $950

Full set of 5 Teaching Resource Packs $450 ($185 each if bought separately)


Power Anchor STEM Project 1- Race Chase (Year 4 and up)

Equipment: Scissors, screwdriver, Power Anchor, teacher resource pack $185, Class pack 30 students $390.

Concepts: speed, acceleration, velocity ratio, power, terminal velocity.

Power Anchor STEM Project 2- Helicar (Year 6 and up)

Equipment: Rasping file, hot glue, soldering iron, Power Anchor, teacher resource pack $185, Class pack parts 25 students $240, class pack modelling foam 25 pieces $95.

Concepts: speed, acceleration, aerodynamics, terminal velocity.

Power Anchor STEM Project 3 – Protocar (Year 8 and up)

Equipment: Scissors, hot glue, soldering iron, Power Anchor, teacher resource pack $185, Class pack 25 students $255.

Concepts: lift, ground effect.

Power Anchor STEM Project 4 – Skylab (Year 7 and up)

Equipment: Scissors, hot glue, soldering iron, Power Anchor, teacher resource pack $185, Class pack 25 students balsa sticks and sheets $185, class pack of parts 25 students wheels/axels/motors/propellers $195.

Concepts: lift, drag, centre of mass, control surfaces, thrust.

Power Anchor STEM Project 5 – Downforce Racer (Year 8 and up)

Equipment: Screwdriver, hot glue, soldering iron, Power Anchor, teacher resource pack $185, Class pack 25 students Forex car parts cut to size (or templates for schools with CNC or Laser Cutter technology) $165, class pack of parts 25 students wheels/axels/motors/gears, gear box, spares $345.

Concepts: friction, power, gear ratio, acceleration, down force, drag.


Team Shake App

This is a great app for creating teams in PE lessons or learning groups in your classroom. One of the powerful functions of this app is the ability to group students based on strengths. It can also be set up so that:

  • certain students will never be in the same group
  • certain students will always be in the same group
  • groups can be all male, all female or a mix
  • the teacher can randomly select one student.

These two videos provide a good overview of the app and its functions.

PBAS STEM 10 – What are other schools doing?

This post highlights some of the resources and approaches being taken by the NSW Education Department in the area of STEM. Click on the links provided to be taken to a variety of resources including: planning for STEM (primary & secondary settings), how schools are embedding STEM, Maitland Grossmann High School’s iSTEM curriculum (now used in over 135 schools in NSW), STEM resources page and STEM in industry (agriculture).


Planning for STEM

What thinking is required to plan for and implement STEM in schools? STEM learning experiences involve explicit learning and teaching of syllabus content which is applied in project, problem or inquiry-based learning situations that are authentic and contextual.

How are schools embedding STEM Stage 3 (Year 5 & 6)

The Stage 3  Integrated STEM Project involves teachers from 35 schools working either as individual schools or communities of schools. Schools will document their journey in STEM education, highlighting their processes for embedding STEM in their school culture and in classroom teaching and learning practices.

How are schools embedding STEM Stage 4 (Year 7 & 8)

The Stage 4 Integrated STEM Project promotes an interdisciplinary approach to teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics in Stage4. Teachers engaged in cross-curriculum planning with a major focus on aligning syllabus outcomes, promoting higher order thinking through authentic project-based tasks.

iSTEM Curriculum (Years 9 & 10)

In 2013 Regional Development Australia – Hunter’s ME Program Director Dr Scott Sleap, in collaboration with local industry and STEM teachers at Maitland Grossmann High School developed the iSTEM curriculum. iSTEM is a student centred subject for students in Years 9 and 10 that delivers Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in an integrated way.

This page also provides resources associated with the iSTEM program including syllabus documents.

STEM Resources

A broad range of links are provided on this page including links to the following:

  • University of New South Wales – Girls do the maths
  • Scientists and Mathematicians in schools
  • F1 in schools
  • Australian STEM Video Game Challenge
  • Science Bootcamp
  • FIRST® Robotics Australia

STEM in the agricultural industry 

Three videos discussing the science, technology, tools and techniques used in cattle breeding, dairy farming and cotton farming.