WonderWorks Syracuse Holds WonderKids Event and School Visits with Astronaut

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SYRACUSE, New York – On June 16, 2018, WonderWorks Syracuse held an out-of-this-world WonderKids event, featuring a special guest and awarding students who had been nominated from area schools for their achievements. The event gave nominees who were picked for the WonderKids award and the public the chance to meet and greet with Dr. Donald Thomas, an astronaut who shared his experiences with the group of having completed four missions to space.

“This was a great event. Everyone who attended had a wonderful time, it was very exciting to meet Dr. Thomas and learn about  his missions to space,” says Nicole Montgomery, director of operations at WonderWorks Destiny. “We also get to recognize students in our area. We are very proud of their accomplishments and happy to honor them.”

Wonder Kids is an event that allows educators to recognize their students’ achievements throughout the year. Teachers were asked to nominate students who show extraordinary characteristics in and outside of the classroom.  All attendees receive prizes and free admissions to WonderWorks the day of the event, and are two grand prize winners selected for each category; the following were the winners of each category:

Academic Excellence:

Grade range 1st – 5th grades – Grace Mclean

Grade range 6th – 12th  – grades – Grace O’Neil

Service to Community:

Grade range 1st – 5th grades – Caitlyn Cook

Grade range 6th – 12th grades – Jose Mateo

Future Scientist:

Grade range 1st – 5th grades – Jacquelyn Gangemi

Grade range 6th – 12th grades – Tristan Ellerbruch

The WonderKids Program is held each year, honoring kids from the WonderWorks Destinycommunity who have been nominated by their teacher for various areas of  student achievement. There are three areas where kids will be honored, including academic excellence, service to community, and future scientist. All students receive a certificate for their achievements and bags of goodies from businesses that partner with WonderWorks. All nominees alsoget  free entrance into the WonderWorks the day of the event. Grand prize winners received large prize packages including items such WonderWorks annual passes, Destiny Day Passes, Comic-Con passes, Bears from Build-a-Bear, Dave & Busters prize packs, and more.

Dr. Thomas, who was the guest speaker at the event, also spent time visiting local schools on Thursday and Friday, June 14-15, 2018. He visited Huntington, Syracuse Academy of Sciences, Bellevue Elementary, Roberts, Delaware, and Syracuse Latin. His mission is to share his out-of-this-world experiences and inspire kids to learn more about STEM-related topics (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Selected by NASA in January 1990, he became an astronaut in July 1991. During his career there he spent time in the Safety, Operations, and Payloads Branches of the Astronaut Offices. He was also a spacecraft communicator for several shuttle missions, spent time in various other key roles, and went on four space flights.

“Lots of people got to meet Dr. Thomas and get their picture taken with him,” added Montgomery. “We are already looking forward to our  next WonderKids event.”

WonderWorks offers a variety of fun family friendly interactive activities to engage in, including a laser tag arena, 4D XD Motion Theater, Canyon Climb Adventure, and WonderZones – offering a variety of areas to explore, such as natural disasters, physical challenges, light and sound zones, imagination lab, and space discovery. They also offer a Sky Tykes ropes course. WonderWorks’ trademark is “I think, therefore I STEM.” They are focused on providing visitors with a variety of hands-on STEM-related activities.

WonderWorks DestinyAbout WonderWorks WonderWorks, a science-focused indoor amusement park located in Destiny USA, combines education and entertainment with over 100 hands-on exhibits. There is something unique and challenging for all ages. Adventures include: The Hurricane Shack, feel the power of 71 mph hurricane–force winds, The Bubble Lab, make huge, life–sized bubbles, The Astronaut Training Gyro, get the NASA treatment and experience zero gravity, Nail it by lying on the death–defying Bed of Nails. WonderWorks is also home to two indoor ropes courses, Canyon Climb, which is the world’s largest suspended indoor ropes course, and Sky Tykes, which is a confidence booster climb for small children. WonderWorks also hosts birthday parties and special events seasonally. Opens daily at 10 a.m. wonderworksdestiny.com.

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Backed By Arielle Zuckerberg, Juni Learning’s 20-Something Female Founders Are Teaching Kids To Code

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Ruby Lee, 26, and Vivian Shen, 25, believe that their one-year-old startup, Juni Learning, can succeed in the crowded field of online coding instruction for kids. Last week Juni announced a roster of angel investors who contributed to a $790,000 funding round. They include Mark Zuckerberg’s youngest sister, Arielle, a partner at venture firm Kleiner Perkins, where Lee used to work.

Lee and Shen, who met as classmates at Stanford, are modeling Juni on VIPKIDS, the China-based startup recently valued at $3 billion. VIPKIDS pays an army of 60,000 American teachers to moonlight as online English instructors for students in China.

Lee and Shen rely on computer science students at schools like Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, Harvard and MIT, whom they recruit through Facebook groups and through word-of-mouth. Juni pays its instructors $20 to $25 an hour to teach private and semiprivate online coding classes to students who range in age from kindergarten through high school. It charges a monthly subscription fee of $250 for weekly private one-hour lessons and $160 for semiprivate sessions. So far Juni has more than 300 students in 10 countries and 27 states, many of whom have signed on for six months or more.

Juni is competing with established live-instruction coding schools like CodeWizardsHQ and Tekkie Uni. But Shen said that most of them teach students in large groups. The majority of Juni’s courses are one-on-one, and Shen said she and Lee have put together a sequenced curriculum, starting with instruction in the Python computer language, that prepares students for most college computer science programs. “When we talked to high schools,” she said, “we found that they struggled to find a standardized curriculum.”

Shen was in Manhattan this week to visit friends. She also met with Randi Zuckerberg and talked about signing Zuckerberg’s 8-year-old up for Juni classes. And she appeared on Zuckerberg’s Sirius XM radio show and discussed entrepreneurship.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

Sharon Caples McDougle is somewhat of a “hidden figure”

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Sharon McDougle with Mae Jamison

Everyone knows that Dr. Mae Jemison was the first African American woman to travel into space – but many don’t know that an African American woman “suited her up”. McDougle was Jemison’s suit tech for the historic mission STS-47 aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor September 12, 1992.

McDougle worked closely with her during her training leading up to launch, as well as actual launch day and landing of the space shuttle – taking care of all of her assigned crew escape equipment – her suit, helmet, writing utensils, even her diaper.

McDougle joined the NASA family through Boeing Aerospace Operations in 1990 where she worked as a Flight Equipment Processing Contract team member in the Space Shuttle Crew Escape Equipment (CEE) department. She began her career as a CEE Suit Technician and was responsible for processing the orange launch and entry suit (LES) assemblies worn by all NASA space shuttle astronauts. She was assigned to her first mission STS-37 within a year. McDougle was one of only two women CEE Suit Technicians and the only African American technician when she began her career.

In 1994 McDougle was promoted to the position of Crew Chief making her the first female and first African American Crew Chief in CEE. In her new position she was responsible for leading a team of technicians to suit up astronaut crews. She was responsible for leading her team and ensuring the astronaut crews were provided with outstanding support during suited astronaut training, launch, and landing events. In 1998, United Space Alliance (USA) absorbed the Boeing Aerospace Operations contract and McDougle continued in her position as a CEE Crew Chief employed by USA. She traveled to Kennedy Space Center quite often where she worked in support of many space shuttle launches. As Crew Chief McDougle had the honor of leading the first and only all-female suit tech crew supporting space shuttle mission STS-78.

In 2004 McDougle became the first female and first African American promoted to the position of Manager of the CEE Processing department. In this position, she managed the team of 25+ employees responsible for processing the Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES) and related equipment worn by the astronaut crews aboard the space shuttle. Her team assisted the astronaut Sharon McDougle and Lt. Uhuracrews in donning/doffing the suit, testing the equipment, strapping the astronauts into the space shuttle before launch, and recovering the crew upon landing. She held this position until the Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011. Sharon continued working until 2012 to help close-out the program, ending an illustrious 22 year career with the space shuttle program.

Other notable African-American astronauts McDougle has suited up: Charles Bolden, Frederick Gregory, and Dr. Bernard Harris.

During her career she was recognized with the Astronaut “Silver Snoopy” Award, Space Flight Awareness Honoree Award, USA Employee of the Month Teamwork Award, USA Employee of the Month Community Service Award, and the coveted Women of Color in Flight Award from Dr. Mae Jemison recognizing her career as the first and only African American woman suit tech/crew chief in her field. She absolutely loved her job and is proud to have been a part of our nation’s historic Space Shuttle Program.

McDougle was recognized by her home state as a 2018 Mississippi Trailblazer at the 16th Annual Mississippi Trailblazers Awards Ceremony and Black Tie Gala where she received two awards: the Calvin “Buck” Buchanan “FIRST” Award named for Mississippi’s first United States Attorney for the Northern District – honoring a Mississippian who holds the distinction of being the “first” in their profession and the Dr. Cindy Ayers “Legacy” Award honoring a Trailblazer whose singular work and contributions will leave a legacy long after their life has ended.

Most recently, McDougle received the Lifetime Achievement award from the Moss Point Visionary Circle during their 6th Annual Living Legends Ball for her military service and NASA career.

McDougle is also a United States Air Force (USAF) veteran, which is where she began her aerospace career in 1982 after graduating from high school. She served proudly in the Strategic Air Command (SAC) as an Aerospace Physiology Specialist at Beale Air Force Base, CA (1982-1990), reaching the rank of Sergeant (E-4).

During her enlistment she was a member of the Physiological Support Division (PSD). McDougle was responsible for training the SR-71 and U-2/TR-1 (“spy planes”) reconnaissance aircraft pilots on high altitude operations. She performed hazardous duty as an inside observer chamber technician and as a chamber operations team member during hypobaric (altitude) and hyperbaric (dive) chamber operations. During the hypobaric chamber flights crewmembers learned firsthand how hypoxia affects their judgment while flying an aircraft. The crewmembers were taught and practiced how they would handle these types of situations and the importance of wearing all equipment correctly.

McDougle also inspected and maintained flight equipment used for the SR-71 and U-2/TR-1 missions. The equipment included full pressure suit ensembles (helmet, gloves, boots, etc.), harness assemblies, and survival equipment (seat kits and parachutes, and emergency oxygen systems). She sized and fitted crewmembers’ pressure suits, assisted crewmembers in donning and doffing their suits, and performed functional tests before takeoff. She also loaded the survival seat kits and parachutes into the aircraft, strapped-in the crewmembers before take-off, and recovered the crew upon landing.

• 1982 – Graduated from Moss Point High School (Moss Point, MS)
• 1982-1990 – served in the United States Air Force as an Aerospace Physiology Specialist
• 1990 – Joined Boeing Aerospace Operations/Space Shuttle Crew Escape Equipment (CEE), becoming the first African American CEE Suit Technician
• 1992 – Suited up Dr. Mae Jemison, the first woman of color to travel into space (STS-47)
• 1994 – Promoted to Crew Chief, becoming first African American (male or female) CEE Crew Chief
• 1996 – Led the first and only all-female suit tech crew (STS-78)
• 2004 – First and only African American (male or female) promoted to the position of Manager of the CEE department

McDougle spent much of her enlistment on temporary assignment traveling abroad to Greece, Korea, Japan, and England, as well as stateside locations, in support of the SR-71 and U-2/TR-1 reconnaissance aircraft missions. She separated from the Air Force in 1990 with an honorable discharge. During her enlistment she was awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (2 devices), Good Conduct Medal (1 oak leaf cluster), Training Ribbon, NCO Professional Military Education Ribbon, Longevity Service Award, and was also recognized as Airman of the Month.

Remembering Robert Lawrence, The First African-American Astronaut

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On June 30, 1967, the U.S. Air Force selected the first African-American astronaut, Major Robert Lawrence, to train for a highly secretive mission to spy on the Soviet Union from space.

Lawrence, an accomplished jet pilot with a doctorate in physical chemistry, was selected for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program the day after he graduate from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot school in 1967. Publicly, the goal of the joint Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office project was to study whether crewed spaceflight could be useful for the military. Behind the scenes, however, MOL’s real goal was to keep an eye on the Soviet Union from low polar orbit.

From a series of small orbiting stations, two-man crews – composed entirely of Air Force officers – would spent 30 days at a time photographing Soviet operations around the world. Polar orbits are perfect for reconnaissance, because they can take advantage of the fact that the Earth rotates beneath the orbital path, giving a satellite the chance to view the entire planet at least once a day. A series of satellites, like those planned for MOL, would have even better coverage. The crews would launch and return to Earth in a modified version of the Gemini capsule that carried pairs of NASA astronauts into orbit in 1965 and 1966.

MOL astronauts trained to operate their orbital stations and take reconnaissance photographs, to work in pressure suits in case of an emergency in space, and to survive launch and re-entry in the cramped capsules. They practiced desert, jungle, and Arctic survival, but water survival was the most vital component of training. At the end of a mission, the capsule would splash down in the ocean, and the crew would have to survive at sea while they awaited pickup – which could take several days, according to astronaut Donald H. Peterson, who was part of the MOL program before transferring to NASA as a Space Shuttle astronaut.

The partially classified nature of the program meant that the Air Force announced its astronaut selections publicly, but the officers often travelled incognito for training. That presented some challenges when Lawrence’s status as the first African-American astronaut caught the attention of the public and the media.

“The rest of us were unknown, and we could travel on false I.D., and nobody knew – had any idea who I was. But they worried because the press learned to recognize [Lawrence]. In other words, they knew him on sight,” Peterson recalled in a 2002 NASA oral history interview. “And it becomes much harder to run a secret program when one of your guys is, a high interest to the media, and he really was for a while. He kind of shunned that, obviously to try to shut some of that down. We always worried that we’d show up at some place and somebody would recognize him and make a big to-do about it.” The Air Force and the NRO fully declassified the MOL program in 2015, releasing a massive archive of documents, video, and photos.

Lawrence was the perfect astronaut candidate. He’d been a cadet officer in the Air Force ROTC program during his undergraduate years at Bradley University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. At Ohio State University, he completed a doctorate in physical chemistry with a dissertation entitled The Mechanism of the Tritium Beta Ray Induced Exchange Reaction of Deuterium with Methane and Ethane in the Gas Phase. That made him the only MOL astronaut with a PhD.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

Crime Museum Offers Visitors Rare Look Inside Surveillance Van, Joins Other Overlooked Gems at Alcatraz East

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People looking at exhibit

There’s a new artifact on display at Alcatraz East, but since its focus is on undercover work it might be hard to spot. The crime museum in Pigeon Forge is giving visitors a look inside the workings of law enforcement surveillance, with a van formerly used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a Georgia police department.

Beginning July 17, 2018, visitors can see how for agents on a stakeout, spending time in the cramped quarters of a van is not nearly as glamorous as made out to be on television.

“It’s not often that something like this comes along, that was actually used by federal and local law enforcement on criminal cases,” says Rachael Penman, director of artifacts and exhibits. “And it has not been stripped of its equipment, giving visitors a real insider look at how it all works.”

Surprising to most people is the close quarters for the agents to work. In fact, the van doesn’t even allow the undercover officers enough room to stand up straight. It also offers little privacy using the toilet inside. Officers could monitor suspects from four different camera angles, and would often spend hours in the tight space during a stakeout.

According to Lilburn, Georgia Police Chief Bruce Hedley, the van was used for several years in active criminal investigations, including drug crimes and burglary stake outs, such as in a neighborhood where there was a rash of car break-ins. From the Getaway Cars Gallery in the museum, guests will be able to see the camera perspective of a detective on a stakeout inside the van, viewing in real time as visitors come and go from the museum.

“I am very proud that the public can look at a very important piece of law enforcement equipment that we used to keep our community safe,” says Chief Hedley.

The surveillance van is not the only artifact in the museum that hides interesting details unseen from the public. The car belonging to the bank robber John Dillinger was involved in a shootout, and although the car was restored by a later owner, they kept one of the bullets visible, but only from inside of the car.

In the over twenty galleries in Alcatraz East, it can be easy to miss some of the most fascinating details of the hundreds of artifacts on view. For instance, the initial “ZT” carved in the brass railgun in the Pirates Gallery or the handwritten notes on the side of the Unabomber’s scale about its calibration. In the Mob Gallery hidden behind Mickey Cohen’s custom suit is his shirt, embroidered with his name. On the end of the sniper rifle used by the University of Texas Sniper are small numbers on a piece of tape, settings for the scope. There are other examples of objects that were designed to be hidden, like the dye pack inside a stack of $20 bills to ward against bank robberies.

Also going on display this week are the winners of Alcatraz East’s Graffiti Art Contest on June 2nd. First, second, and third place winners can now be seen on display, that is, if you’re paying attention. “The exhibit is a bit off the normal museum tour,” says Penman, “a reflection of where you often are when you see graffiti in real life, in alleys, abandon lots, by train tracks and other neglected spaces. We thought it was fitting to maximize our limited space and beautify our own “alleys.”

The museum is always adding to their collection and has a star-studded panel of experts who make up the Advisory Board, including those in law enforcement, collectors, a medical examiner, crime scene investigators, and others. The board includes Jim Willett, a retired prison warden, Anthony Rivera, a combat veteran and Navy SEAL chief, and Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., who is best known for the Casey Anthony trial. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: alcatrazeast.com.

About Alcatraz East
Alcatraz East is the most arresting crime museum in the United States. Guests of all ages can encounter a unique journey into the history of American crime, crime solving, and our justice system. Through interactive exhibits and original artifacts, Alcatraz East is an entertaining and educational experience for all ages – so much fun it’s a crime! This family attraction is located at the entrance of The Island, located at 2757 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN. General admission tickets are $14.95 for children, $24.95 for adults. Group ticket sales are available. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., with the last ticket sold 60 minutes before closing. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: alcatrazeast.com.

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How to prepare your kids for jobs that don’t exist yet

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Artificial Intelligence will rule the jobs of the future, so learning how to work with it will be key. But the skills needed might not be what you expect.

With total robot domination seemingly impending, preparing the next generation for the future of work can feel like a lost cause. But fear not, the future may be brighter than expected.

“There’s three job opportunities coming in the future,” says Avi Goldfarb, coauthor of Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial IntelligenceHe divides them up into people who build artificial intelligence, people who tell the machines what to do and determine what to do with their output, and, finally, celebrities. This last category comprises actors, sports players, artists, writers, and other such luminaries surrounding the entertainment industry.

2017 report from Gartner concludes that artificial intelligence will create more jobs than it kills. In particular, the report singles out healthcare and education as areas ripe for growth. But the handling of artificial intelligence is where Goldfarb thinks an overwhelming number of those new jobs will be created. He thinks even human-centric positions in nursing and education will require a proficient understanding of artificially intelligent tools as the technology becomes a more routine facet of those jobs. For example, to assist with home healthcare for elderly populations, little robots have emerged to help patients remember to take their medications or go for a walk. These bots are still nascent, but it’s not hard to imagine a world in which nurses have to understand how to help patients set reminders or even be able to communicate with these devices remotely as a way of checking in on a patient as part of their jobs.

“The most valuable combinations of skills are going to be people who both have good training in computer science, who know how the machines work, but also understand the needs of society and the organization, and so have an understanding of humanities and social sciences,” he says. “That combination, already in the market, is where the biggest opportunities are.”

HUMANITIES

So how does one prepare to lead these artificially intelligent machines into the new world? Oddly enough, a liberal arts education might be the best antidote to automation, says Goldfarb. While he believes that most people will need a basic understanding of computer science, he thinks that studying art, philosophy, history, sociology, psychology, and neuroscience could be key to preparing for the future. These studies will help young people to have a broad range of knowledge that they can use to put artificial intelligence to its best use.

Experts who study the future of work agree that our ability to make sense of the world is our biggest asset in the wake of automation. While artificial intelligence is good at narrow, repetitive tasks, humans are good at coming up with creative solutions. Anything you can do to get your child thinking creatively will no doubt help prepare her for joining the working world.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

Tips for Parents to Help their Kids Avoid Summer Brain Drain

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Alcatraz Museum

PIGEON FORGE, Tennessee—Some people call it summer brain drain, others call it the summer learning loss. No matter what you call it, experts tend to agree that most kids tend to lose some of what they have learned over summer break.

In fact, the Brookings Institution reports that a child loses around a month’s worth of school year learning over the course of the summer. When school starts back, the backslide may become a challenge for some kids because their classes haven’t accounted for the loss in learning. The good news is there are things parents can do to help their kids avoid the summer brain drain!

“Keeping kids actively learning over the summer months is important so that their minds stays sharp and they remain in learning mode,” says Janine Vaccarello, chief operating officer for Alcatraz East. “We get many parents who bring their kids into the museum as a way to sneak in some learning in a fun environment during vacation.”

Here are some ways that Alcatraz East helps keep kids learning all summer long:
•  Safety – Being at home over the summer, kids often have more unsupervised time on their hands. The safety stops in the museum are sponsored by the National Crime Prevention Council and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and help kids learn about Internet safety, cyberbullying, and interacting with strangers on the phone or at home.
•  History – While it may not seem like history, kids and teenagers have little or no memory of the events of 9/11. The 9/11 Gallery at the museum gives parents the opportunity to share their first-hand accounts of this historic and life-changing event. Adults and children alike have been sharing their memories on the museum’s 9/11 remembrance wall, and you can, too.
•  Science – Did you know that the fingerprints of children are chemically different than those of adults which causes them to disappear faster? Kids can explore the world of forensic science and scan their fingerprint to see if they are a loop, arch, or whorl.
•  Careers in Service – The Law Enforcement Gallery covers the different jobs in law enforcement and the tools used to keep our communities safe. Kids can learn about what it takes to join the force and try their hand at driving a police car driving simulator. Displays also include Neighborhood Watch and the origins of 911 call centers.
•  Fun – Don’t forget just straight up fun is important too! Kids and adults alike love The Heist laser maze, where you see who in your family is best able to slip past a security system.
•  Additional learning – Once you visit the museum, take note of the things your child takes an interest in. Then stop off at the local library and find books and movies on those topics. This will help them continue the learning once they get home, by giving them a chance to explore the topics more. You can also give them projects to do based on the things they have chosen to learn more about, that include writing, reading, art, and creating crafts and models. If they’re in the Boy or Girl Scouts, check out the Alcatraz East website for when forensic workshops for badges are offered.

“Kids often thrive when they are exposed to new experiences, which creates great learning opportunities,” added Vaccarello. “This summer, be sure to expose your kids to new things. Bring them into the museum, giving them a chance to have fun as they continue learning, and avoid the summer learning setback.”

At the Alcatraz East Crime Museum, children can learn about pirates, legends of the old west, famous cold cases, what a police lineup is like, how to solve crimes, and what it takes to be a police officer.

The Alcatraz East Crime Museum is located at the entrance to The Island, at 2757 Parkway in Pigeon Forge. They are located near the Margaritaville Hotel and Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen. The museum offers a wide array of crime information, including notorious crimes and criminals, historic artifacts, interactive exhibits, crime scene investigation, crime detection and fighting, and information on how help avoid being a victim of crime. There are also many activities that are kid friendly, such as learning to tie knots and how to crack a safe. Items currently on display include the O.J. Simpson white Bronco from the infamous police chase, and outlaw Jesse James’ holster.

General admission tickets are $14.95 for children, $24.95 for adults. Group ticket sales are available. The museum will be open 365 days per year, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., with the last ticket sold 60 minutes before closing. For more information and to purchase tickets, log online: alcatrazeast.com.

About Alcatraz East
Alcatraz East is the most arresting crime museum in the United States. Guests of all ages can encounter a unique journey into the history of American crime, crime solving, and our justice system. Through interactive exhibits and original artifacts, Alcatraz East is an entertaining and educational experience for all ages – so much fun it’s a crime! This family attraction is located at the entrance of The Island, located at 2757 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN. For more information, visit alcatrazeast.com.

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Source:
Brookings Institution. Summer learning loss. brookings.edu/research/summer-learning-loss-what-is-it-and-what-can-we-do-about-it/

STEM: K-8 Engineering

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STEM-for-kids

As more K-8 programs focus on science, technology, engineering, and math, teachers are finding that chaos creates learning opportunities.

The project was not exactly going as planned—Carrie Allen had a classroom overrun with fruit flies. Her first graders were studying composting, and they were getting more of an ecology lesson than they’d expected. But at Richfield STEM School, an inquiry-based K–5 school in Richfield, Minnesota, both teachers and students take fruit-fly invasions in stride.

“The kids came up with the idea that we should make traps for the fruit flies,” explains Allen. Students then tested to see which traps worked the best—giving them a chance to incorporate the classic engineering-design process (ask, imagine, plan, create, improve).

“I can’t imagine not teaching like this anymore,” says Allen. “It just opens up so many other possibilities for the kids.”

STEM has been a hot topic lately, as politicians and business leaders worry over the lack of qualified workers in the sciences and engineering. Though much public discussion focuses on higher education and high school curriculum, educators and others are realizing that for students to really get hooked on the sciences, STEM instruction has to start early. That’s where Richfield STEM and other newly minted K–8 programs come into play. Elementary educators need not fear the shift in emphasis. In fact, as generalists, they are uniquely qualified to lead inquiry-based STEM lessons.

Blur the Lines

As the head of the National Center for STEM Elementary Education at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, Yvonne Ng is used to taking the intimidation factor out of STEM. She has found that one of the main challenges for teachers new to the curriculum is overcoming their discomfort with math, science, and, especially, engineering. The best STEM instruction is open-ended and inquiry-based, but this format, she says, can seem chaotic to elementary teachers.

Monica Foss advises that teachers embrace the chaos. “It’s always messy in here,” says Foss, an engineering specialist at Cedar Park Elementary STEM School in Apple Valley, Minnesota.

Teachers need to let go of the idea that they always have to have the answer, says Foss. “They have to be willing to live with mess and muddiness.”

Good STEM instruction blurs the lines between subject areas. As a consequence, STEM projects can be integrated into lessons in language arts, culture, and history.

In the Richfield district, all students are required to go through a unit on Duke Ellington; the STEM school adds another level, explains Principal Joey Page. After listening to Ellington’s music, students answer questions such as “How does sound work?” or “How did they make that instrument?” Page says the school is hoping to have students take apart one of its decommissioned pianos as part of the unit.

Hilburn Academy, in Raleigh, North Carolina, is in its second year of making the transition from a traditional curriculum to a STEAM school (the A is for arts). Elements of the traditional classroom remain, says Principal Gregory Ford, but the engineering-design process is used for all subjects. For example, guided reading groups may be tasked with coming up with solutions for a problem posed in their informational texts.

The biggest challenge for Ford’s teachers is finding time for open-ended learning. So they, like their students, work in groups to find solutions.

“It requires lots and lots of planning and collaboration with your teammates,” Ford says. “There’s really no existing inventory of these highly integrated STEAM lessons.”

And how does Hilburn Academy define STEAM?

“STEAM is a philosophy of education, not a program,” Ford says. “It is not the ‘what’ of curriculum; it is actually the ‘how.’”

Look Outside the iPad

It takes work to develop a STEM program. But districts don’t have to be flush with cash and expensive digital technology to implement it.

“Pretty much anything around us is technology,” says Richfield’s Allen. “That’s one thing we’re teaching the kids, too: Everything around us was created or engineered to solve a problem.”

Sophisticated STEM projects can be built around a simple tool such as a temperature probe, says David Carter, coauthor of a number of lab manuals, including Elementary Science With Vernier. For example, third graders could set out to create a vessel that keeps water as warm as possible. The science part comes into play as students learn the concept of heat transfer; the engineering side involves designing the best thermos. The temperature sensor itself allows students to record data, track their experiments, and improve their designs.

The motion-sensor project is another favorite of Carter’s. “They get the concept that this graph is telling a story,” he says. “They’re seeing this mathematical concept.” That, he explains, gets to the real advantage of STEM: “It’s easy because kids love it.”

At Dr. Albert Einstein Academy in Elizabeth, New Jersey, technology can be as simple as a doorstop. Teachers often struggled to prop open heavy classroom doors, so they tasked students to design a better way to do it. (One early version was a sand-filled water bottle flattened in the middle. Another version made use of a cork-and-magnet device.) Tracy Espiritu, a science coach at the K–8 STEAM school, says a lot of teachers start with the question: “What is technology?”
The school has three criteria for teaching STEAM (here, the A is for architecture): Projects should be about solving a problem; students must apply the engineering-­design process; and technology should be considered a resource, not a subject.

Perhaps the most important lesson they learn along the way: Failure is part of the process.

Rethink Failure

The key to STEM (or STEAM) education is reinforcing the engineering-design process, says Espiritu, who worked in aerospace engineering before teaching middle school science. “Engineers, they don’t get it right the first time,” she says.

The learning process is a cycle. With each iteration, the design improves, says Espiritu. “Students get frustrated because they want the answer right away. You need that frustration. That’s how you learn.”

It took Allen a while to grasp the necessity of letting her kids fail. You want students to feel good about the experience, she says, but it’s okay for them to feel the discomfort that comes when something is not working.

Students at Minnesota’s Cedar Park Elementary face their first design challenge in kindergarten by building a boat out of clay, says Foss, the engineering specialist. Introducing kids to the engineering process—having them start again and fix the mistakes—at that age is much easier because they haven’t yet developed a fear of failure.

“We definitely need more scientists and engineers,” says Foss, but more than that, “we need a population that understands science and the engineering process.”

“This Is What We Need to Do Today”

STEM is continuing to gain steam, but will it sustain momentum?

Ng has seen increasing demand for her organization’s elementary STEM teacher certification program, which is offered through St. Catherine University, but still, she says, “whether it’s here to stay is a really good question.”

As with any new approach, challenges remain.

Public education needs STEM to remain relevant, says Ford, of Hilburn Academy. And students immediately grasp that relevance. He recalls one second-grade teacher remarking that students used to come into class and ask, “What are we doing today?” Now they say, “This is what we need to do today.”

STEM Resources

Start with the basics. You don’t need a cartload of iPads to teach STEM. Begin by looking out your front door. Does your school have a courtyard? Start a garden. Try a “tech take-apart” lesson by disassembling old TVs or VCRs. Students can build bridges out of manila folders or boats out of clay (see above); they can incorporate the engineering-design process (ask, imagine, plan, create, improve) into a variety of art projects.

Reach out to local institutions. Whether there’s a nature center or a tech company next door to your school, your neighbors are the best folks to start with when you’re seeking resources for STEM initiatives. And be sure to cultivate partnerships with local businesses and colleges, too.

See what the state offers. Many state education departments have set up websites with STEM resources. Visit stemconnector.org and click on “State by State” to find links to organizations in your area. The site serves as a clearinghouse of resources offered by corporations, nonprofits, and professional organizations.

From the Math Magazine, Scholastic.

Why Parents Should Help Kids Focus On Turning Their Dreams Into Reality

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Toymakerz

REIDSVILLE, NC –  Each year there are kids who hang up what they love and walk away. They leave the sports behind, stop playing their favorite games, quit drawing, building, and more. They are led to believe that unless what they are doing is seen as constructive and fits into the boxes that have been set for them that they are simply wasting their time. Many of those kids are walking away from what they are passionate about, rather than being taught to follow their dreams. One celebrity, David Ankin, who followed his passion and dreams has set out on a mission to inspire kids to do the same.

“There is a reason why we all have things we are passionate about. Those are your calling and you should do anything but turn your back on them,” says David Ankin, inventor and star of the hit show ToyMakerz. “I’ve met with many kids around the nation and I try to inspire them to follow those passions. I want them to turn their dreams into a reality. The rest of the world is waiting for what it is that they have to offer. Only when they embrace it will they be able to bring it to the forefront for everyone else to enjoy.”

Ankin doesn’t just talk the talk. He’s a living example of turning a dream into a reality and the importance of following one’s passion. Having a passion for creating one-of-a-kind custom hot rods and cars, considered to be adult toys that are built for fun or speed, he took his love for these machines and built an empire. That dream turned into a reality when he started a company called ToyMakerz, where the adult toys are made, and has also been turned into a hit television show, where people can tune in and see him work his magic.

Committed to giving back, Ankin routinely gives talks to kids and their parents, with the theme focused on inspiring them to follow their dreams. Whether giving these talks at city events or at schools, his mission remains the same. He wants to let kids and their parents know that it’s OK to have a passion and that they don’t have to give it up simply because they become adults. Rather, they should embrace it and see where it will take them.

Here are 6 reasons why Ankin believes that parents should help kids focus on turning their dreams into reality:

  • Happiness. We are happiest when we are following our passion and doing things that excite us. By getting kids to follow their passion, they will have more joy in their life.
  • Creativity. Those who follow their passion will find their own way in the world. They can’t be told that what they want to do isn’t possible. They will use their creativity to navigate the way, even if it means clearing a new path.
  • Support. The world has a way of trying to hold people back from reaching their dreams. Parents who support their kids in pursuing theirs will help to create confident kids who won’t be held back by limitations.
  • Work ethic. No matter what a child’s passion may be, it will take hard work to turn it into a career. Teaching kids to work hard for what they want is a great way to build a strong work ethic.
  • Adventure. Many adults find themselves at a standstill and wish there was something more. Kids who are taught to follow their dreams will feel as though they have been given a ticket to adventure. They are more likely to grow up to be adults who have passion for what they do.
  • Exploration. By letting kids follow their dreams they will dive into exploring a topic they are interested in. Giving them the ability to learn more about whatever field it is they are interested in can go a long way toward sparking their creativity and expanding their education. Places like WonderWorks (a science focused indoor amusement park) is a great place for exploring STEM education and letting the imagination run wild.

“If I hadn’t followed my passion and turned my dream into a reality, I’d not be where I am today,” added Ankin. “I know the importance of following your dreams and it feels so good to do so. I’m committed to helping parents see the importance of supporting their child’s dreams and encouraging them to dream big. This is what I teach my son and hope that I’m able to inspire others.”

ToyMakerz was founded by David Ankin, who is a former stuntman WonderWorks_ToyMakerzwho used to do stunts with motorcycles, racecars, and also at Universal Studios for their Batman and Water World shows. Watching his father use metal to build things when he was growing up inspired him to go on to do the same. Today, he has earned praise for the eccentric one-of-kind street machines that he’s built. There is nothing idle about his work. Ankin has surrounded himself with a top-notch team, starting with David Young, who is his business partner. Young manages the business side of ToyMakerz and serves as its President and CFO.

ToyMakerz partnered with Source Digital to develop an app, which is helping fans connect with the show. Enhancing the viewer experience with new digital brand integrations, the ToyMakerz app lets fans connect with the cast, score exclusive deals on anything they see on the screen while they are watching the show live, and share pictures of their own rides!

The ToyMakerz TV show is currently re-airing episodes from season 2 On Demand on Velocity. ToyMakerz season one is also available on iTunes and Amazon. ToyMakerz is produced by Los Angeles based production company, Lucky13Cinematic. For more information about ToyMakerz, visit the site at: http://toymakerz.com.

# # #

About ToyMakerz

ToyMakerz is a company that makes adult toys built for fun and speed. Some of their creations can be seen on the ToyMakerz hit television show focusing on the life and creations of Dave Ankin, a former stuntman who now makes toys for big boys. The show features the one-of-a-kind street machines that he builds. ToyMakerz is currently being aired weekly on Velocity. For more information about ToyMakerz, visit the site at: http://toymakerz.com.

About Source Digital
Source Digital (www.sourcedigital.net) specializes in content monetization strategies letting viewers dive deeper into their favorite programs. Industry-leading experts developed the Source Digital platform, offering a data driven, cloud-based engagement platform connecting a new generation of content viewers. The platform allows content owners to design and fulfill personalization and monetization strategies against their broadcast or streamed programs directly connecting to viewers, allowing them to instantly access and discover related experiences from their favorite device – smart phone, tablet, computer and TV.

Disney Donates $1 Million to Youth STEM Program in Celebration of ‘Black Panther’

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In celebration of the record-breaking success of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, The Walt Disney Company is donating $1 million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA).   The donation will help expand Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s youth STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs, supporting the high-tech skills that were a major theme in the plot of Black Panther and are essential in helping youth succeed.

“Marvel Studios’ Black Panther is a masterpiece of movie making and has become an instant cultural phenomenon, sparking discussion, inspiring people young and old, and breaking down age-old industry myths,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. “It is thrilling to see how inspired young audiences were by the spectacular technology in the film, so it’s fitting that we show our appreciation by helping advance STEM programs for youth, especially in underserved areas of the country, to give them the knowledge and tools to build the future they want.”

Boys & Girls Clubs of America will use this one-time grant to further develop its existing national STEM curriculum, and establish new STEM Centers of Innovation in 12 communities across the country. The curriculum and new centers will serve and inspire kids and teens, with an emphasis in the following communities: Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Chicago, IL; Harlem, NY; Hartford, CT; Memphis, TN; New Orleans, LA; Oakland, CA; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA; Washington, DC; Watts, CA.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Centers of Innovation provide youth with hands-on, advanced technologies that stimulate creative approaches to STEM exploration, including 3-D printers, robotics, high-definition video production and conferencing equipment. In addition, a fully dedicated STEM expert will offer individual and group support, using real-world applications to help Club members develop their STEM skills and critical thinking.

“From hands-on interactive programs to critical thinking, Boys & Girls Clubs of America is committed to providing thousands of young people with the tools they need to prepare for a great future,” said Jim Clark, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “Thanks to Disney’s support, we can expand our outreach and allow more youth to find their passions and discover STEM careers.”

Continue onto The Walt Disney Company to read the complete article.

Student Recycles to Save Money for College

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Ryan Hickman earning the funds through his business, Ryan’s Recycling

Eight-year-old Ryan Hickman is an entrepreneur with a strong personality and a passion for recycling. He’s got years of experience, too—he’s been in the business since he was just three years old! To date, Hickman has saved more than $33,000 for his college education. Through his business, Ryan’s Recycling, Hickman has recycled an estimated 265,000 bottles and cans.

Every week for years, he and his family have sorted through bags of recyclables. As of mid-December 2016, he had earned $10K by recycling cans and bottles from his customers—friends, family, and neighbors. Once he reached that milestone, the mainstream media began to take notice. After first being mentioned on a website called One Green Planet, the story behind Ryan’s Recycling went viral. Since then, Ryan’s story has been seen by over 140 million people on social media channels.

Hickman has since been featured on just about every major news station in the United States and several around the world. He appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where he was presented with a check for $10,000, as well as a battery-operated vehicle to use in his work. His story has run in various newspapers, including USA TODAY and the Orange County Register, as well as on ABC World News and other social and mainstream media sites.

His father Damion says Ryan got started recycling when he took him along to a local rePlanet, the largest recycling collection network in the country. At just 3-1/2 years old, Damion says Ryan “really enjoyed going, and I gave him the money from the plastic bottles.” He says it didn’t take long for Ryan to connect the dots: recycled bottles and cans = money. “He asked all our neighbors to start saving for him. He then enlisted people in his grandparents’ neighborhood, and it just grew from there.”

Hickman has regular customers that call every month for a local pickup, and friends and family drop off regularly. Every three weeks, his biggest customer, El Niguel Country Club, fills up the family truck with cans and bottles. Ryan and his dad take it all home and begin sorting the glass, plastic and aluminum cans. “Everything is bagged up, and then we head off to the recycle center,” says Damion. “A typical trip for us takes about an hour, and Ryan usually makes around $200+ each trip.”

Damion reports that Ryan is involved in every step of his business, from collecting the cans and bottles from his customers to picking up the bags and gloves to do the work. “He even handles depositing his money in the bank, where they all know him as Ryan, the president of Ryan’s Recycling.” Early last year, Hickman sold T-shirts to friends, family, and customers and donated the profits to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, California, where he serves as a junior ambassador. Ryan has donated over $5000 to their efforts.

Ryan continues to recycle and educate others through interview appearances. His father reports that he’s recently begun preparing his parents for the day that he’ll need to buy himself a real trash truck.

“I’m not sure where he plans to park it,” says Damion, “but I have a feeling I would lose my spot in the driveway!”

Ryan has received thousands of emails around the world with people that have been inspired to start recycling after seeing his story.

Recently Ryan started a new ten week recycling campaign to try to get everyone around the world involved with recycling 300,000 cans and bottles.  Follow Ryan below to catch weekly videos with updates and announcing new corporate involvement:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ryans_recycling/status/949807967733452800

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEMYY5SlyV8&feature=share

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ryansrecycling/videos/773804682828029/