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URSA Week 15

  June 9th, 2022

This is it. The last week of URSA here at OSU. This has been a wonderful journey that I am very happy that I was lucky enough to take. I have learned so much about myself and about research. I also have learned that I truly do love teaching, and I have added the education minor to my degree because of that. For my last post I will be going over all of the lessons and all of the research that I did during the 2022 URSA program.

This program has shown me so much, and I have grown as a person and as a scholar through my time with URSA and my wonderful mentor Victor. I did not previously know what real research was. I thought it meant being in a lab and looking at statistics and numbers, which I was not very excited about. I know now that research is so many things. A large part of my research was pure observation and taking in information about people. Funnily enough that part of my research led me to discover a passion that I had kept hidden for a long time. I have always enjoyed helping people, especially with schoolwork or something that I really understand and it always makes me so happy to see someone figure out a problem or when you can see the lightbulb go off in their head. I got more of that with my research, and I loved telling my friends about it even more. I realized that teaching was what made me so happy during that so I declared my minor as teaching. I love helping people learn and I loved learning about how different brains work, so it only seemed natural that I go after that passion.

Another thing that I have really taken from this experience is courage. When I was debating whether or not to sign up for URSA I was fighting with myself on my cowardice. I was scared that I wouldn’t be cut out for research and that I would hate it. I was also scared of people and meeting new faces, as I have always had terrible social anxiety. I pushed myself, however, and I am so happy that I did. Now I can put on a brave face and meet new people and even have conversations with complete strangers about life goals and philosophy. I learned how to get over my fears and do what I needed to do because my mentor pushed me and had me reach out to professionals to learn about their job and day-to-day lives. I was able to get my foot in the metaphorical door of the professional world. Now I even have high-up contacts and access to professionals that I couldn’t even dream of having a year ago. Really this program helped me get some of my life back from my anxiety. Before URSA it was crippling, and I struggled with even a single phone call to a friend. I can say now that I have overcome that and I can begin my professional and career life.

Some other things that I took away from this experience are time management, professional soft skills, and a deeper understanding of my own brain, and how others process and use information, which will help me in my field of engineering and in my teaching career if I choose that route with my minor. Time management was something that I usually struggled with, especially in regards to studying and learning new information. I would either always go all in and study all at once which didn’t work very well with me and my learning style. After studying different teaching techniques for neurodivergent students, I realized how I was studying was wrong for my brain, so I switched to time based studying and making up a mock schedule of my day/time for learning and relaxing. I started writing out reminders in my room, which improved my intake of information. I started to learn in the way that my brain works best, and I have all A’s and high B’s from this term to show that.

I learned many soft skills that I will need to use in my professional career and really in my adult life as well. I already spoke on overcoming my social anxiety, but there is more to it than that. I learned how to communicate in a professional manner and I learned how to reach out to people I don’t know and make a connection. I had to reach out to many people I don’t know/didn’t know previously and schedule out a meeting, write up an interview and go through with it and interview someone on their life and work. It forced me to step outside my comfort zone and now I have a much easier time navigating the professional side of things.

Lastly, I learned about myself and others’ brains and how we all work a little differently and how to work around those differences in all sorts of different settings. This is such a useful skill because if I was ever in a teamwork setting, I would be able to pick out what part of the work would be best for my brain and others. I can delegate work out to people for what suits them best and lead them in a manner that is helpful for all people involved. This will be very useful if I choose to teach or when I get to go into schools and work as an aide or otherwise. I will be able to help students understand the material better and I can be their ally and voice for what they need/want in their education. I could even be an advocate for neurodivergent students everywhere because I know this information and I researched it so deeply.

Overall, I learned a lot of things from my time in the URSA program. I wish so much that my research could continue and I would be able to keep working on this for the rest of my college career, but all good things must come to an end. As unfortunate as that fact is, it makes me happy knowing that I came out of this experience as a better learner, a better communicator, and a more informed person on a large part of our community here at OSU. I am so happy that I got to do this research and that I am a better person because of it.


URSA Week 14

  May 25th, 2022

This week I wanted to get a full lesson plan out for one of the first four lessons that I have drafted. I wanted to go over the design lesson (lesson 2) because there are easy and fun activities for all of the students to understand and have some fun with after the lesson. This lesson goes over the design processes engineers go through in their jobs and how products and technology are created. The lesson also goes over the evolution of a design.

Lesson 2: What is Design?

Objective: Learn about all parts of design and how engineers create products and technology. Learn about the different mediums of design and the use of different tools to help engineers design their projects. Students will be able to describe different techniques and their uses. Students will learn the basics of CAD modeling and will practice their skills. Students will be able to talk and know about the process and the steps for design. Students will practice the engineering design process and come up with their own design using the process and present their design and talk about its features, etc.

Learning Activities: Quick lecture on different modeling and design techniques and what uses design has in the engineering world. The lecture will cover different techniques of design and how engineers use them. Slides will be used as visual aids with print-outs for accessible learning. Students will then work on two separate worksheets on the engineering design process and work in the CAD modeling program TinkerCAD.

Student Evaluation: Students will be evaluated by their worksheets and the TinkerCAD build they make on the site after the lesson. The students can make whatever they want but what they make will have to fit into certain requirements such as: the build must have 3 or more components, the build must be less than 3ft in length, the build must have a function, etc. The worksheets will be graded on completion, not correctness.

Timeline: The lesson all together will be 30 minutes. A typical class period is in between 45-60 minutes, so the rest of the class will be spent working on the student practice and the fun activity of basic CAD modelling through TinkerCAD online where the student can build what they want. The lecture itself will be about 15-20 minutes with some breathing room for questions and deeper explanation on certain topics if necessary. The rest of the time on the lesson will be used with either videos of engineers explaining the process further with examples or will be used with a Kahoot quiz on the process and other bits of engineering design.

Student Practice: Students will practice content with design worksheets. The first worksheet is a simple write-in-the-answer practice on design and the design methodology engineers follow. The worksheet will also have a short answer piece where they can explore their own design and follow the engineering design process like an engineer. They can choose what topic they want to use the process on. An example of what this would look like is here. The second worksheet will be where they draw out their design and explain what it is and how it works and what problem it solves. The worksheet will again ask them about the engineering design process and would like something like this. The students will also get some practice with the CAD program TinkerCAD, which is a great introduction to CAD modeling and is relatively simple to use. The students can attempt to make their design on TinkerCAD but are free to choose whatever they would like to model.

That is my lesson plan for that day, later I will add the other lessons when I have time. This is the second to last week of URSA. It has been a long and wonderful journey that I am greatly appreciative for. I have learned so much, and I am so happy that I did this research. It has also helped me confirm one of my passions-teaching. So in light of that, I added the education minor to my degree, and I will eventually receive my teaching certificate and be able to actually be a teacher and maybe even teach this class.

More to come next week,


URSA Week 13

  May 18th, 2022

This week I got a couple of things in terms of work. I finished reading Dr. Temple Grandin’s “Navigating Autism: 9 Mindsets for Helping Kids on the Spectrum”, which is all about looking at a child for who they are and removing the stigma and labels that we put on autistic children. I also was able to put together a lesson plan for a week of my class. I decided to go for the robotic and engineering week, with the project being building ‘robotic’ hands out of cardboard, straws, string, and tape. I chose this specific project because it is easy to set up, easy to teach, and a fun introduction to engineering and design.

First, let’s go over the last chapters of “Navigating Autism”. Last week we went over the first three chapters of the book, which included removing the label of ‘autistic’, understanding a child, getting together a team of professionals and informing everyone, and keeping the team updated on any changes to a child’s medical changes or otherwise. The next two chapters were very similar in the fact that they went over what conditions a child might have in conjunction with ASD. Some of these might be GI issues, ADHD, insomnia, and mood disorders such as depression. Children with ASD also might develop PTSD due to bullying or other stressors in their life. It is very important to catch the signs early on with any of these conditions and luckily most symptoms are easy to spot and recognize. The next chapter goes over preparing children for success in the real world. This means teaching children with ASD more social skills, and safety skills, and teaching them hobbies or leisure skills. Hobbies and other ‘unnecessary’ skills are often looked over and most attention is on other skills for the child’s success. However it is important to be balanced and have something you enjoy doing, and this is always going to be the same for a child with ASD. Hobbies can also let a child gain more motor skills depending on the activity. The chapter also says that teaching kids awareness skills and self-advocacy are extremely important, so they can communicate their needs and recognize others as well.

The next chapter goes over-focusing on the strengths of a child rather than their weaknesses. This also includes trying to limit a child’s weaknesses that might affect their ability to do well in life, such as a lack of physical comfort, lack of trust and awareness, and lack of communication skills. The chapter also mentions using a child’s interests to deter and minimize negative behavior. By making something they enjoy a part of their life or using those interests to distract or take focus away from negative things the child can function much better. The last part of the chapter goes over refocusing what may seem like a negative trait into a positive one. The chapter uses the example of Andre, a child with ASD who is extremely interested in the space shuttle. Instead of seeing how focused he is on the shuttle, a teacher can use his strength of knowledge on this topic and form learning to that trait. The other example with Andre is that he has poor handwriting, but instead of looking at this as his fault or that he is sloppy/not trying hard enough, we can look at it as that he may not have enough fine motor skills and then he can be referred to physical therapy to resolve this.

The next chapter goes over what Temple calls ‘the growth zone’. This means helping the child become a functioning person and making sure they have the necessary help and support they need in any part of their life. This also means getting a child out of ‘the fear zone’ where they cannot function happily and healthily. The other zones before the growth zone are the comfort zone and the learning zone. These two may sound good, but a child could very easily get stuck in the same routine and never progress in their comfort zone if everything around them is easy and the same. The learning zone is when a child is learning and adapting to new things or new skills. A child can get to the growth zone when they are able to learn new things and aren’t overwhelmed or distracted by internal or external stressors. This chapter also talks about teaching a child in the way that they think, which they went over briefly before, and is what all of my research so far has suggested. The very last chapter is all about envisioning a successful adulthood for a child with ASD. This basically means getting them to where they need to be for them to be contributing members of society and that they can hold their own and be successful in everything that they do. This also means using all of the mindsets from before and helping a child reach their full potential. The chapter didn’t go over anything that wasn’t mentioned or talked about before, but just wrapped everything up in a neat bow.

Next, let’s look at the lesson plan that I have drafted for the Robotics and Design segment of our class. In this plan, I have tried to draft out all pieces of the multiple lessons that would be taught during the two weeks that the class would theoretically take to finish this topic. I planned out 3 days of lessons and videos on the topic of design and engineering practices, with an extra day afterwards for just careers that are related to engineering and the field in general. The lessons get more in depth each day, but each one lasts no longer than 30 minutes, with extra time at the end of the class period for questions, work, or other activities if a child is all caught up in the classwork (which will be minimal).

DayLearning ObjectiveMaterialsAssigned Work
1What is Engineering? Students will learn about what engineers do, applications of the work, and begin to learn about design process.Note-taking materials No assigned work
2What is Design? Students will continue to learn about design process/scientific method and will start learning about engineering processes.Note-taking materials Design methods worksheet
3How, do Engineers do their job? Students will have in-depth look at engineering processes, including; design methods, road-mapping projects, and manufacturing products. Note-taking materialsRoad-mapping/planning worksheet
4What are Engineering careers? Students will look at applications of the work, and look at different types of jobs about engineering and how to become an engineer. Note-taking materialsEngineering careers connect worksheet

As I mentioned before, the first day will just be purely an introduction to the world of engineering. Students will have very minimal notes to take and the majority of the lesson will focus on videos and famous engineering projects and engineers from history. There will be no assigned work on the first day. The second day will focus on design only, with a look ahead piece at the end of the lesson for the next day. The lesson will show the different medias of design, different applications of design, and a small design method worksheet, with the different ways that professionals model and produce ideas for products or otherwise. The next day will have engineering methods as a focus, with videos and information on how products are made, different engineering processes, and the scientific/engineering method. The worksheet for this day will be on road-mapping and designing a product. The students can design a product of their choice and will have to explain in written word what their product is, how it works, and how they designed it. The final fourth day of lessons for this week will be on engineering careers. Now that the students know what goes into engineering and design, they will watch and learn about the different types of engineers, what their job is, and how they got there. The worksheet for this day will be on careers and connecting the job title to the engineer and vice versa. The worksheet will also have a section on what their dream engineering job would look like, and what they learned from this week in the class.

That’s all for this week, and as always, more to come soon.


URSA Week 12

  May 11th, 2022

This week I decided to read and review Dr. Temple Grandin’s book, “Navigating Autism: 9 Mindsets to Help Kids on the Spectrum”. I began reading this book instead of the others that I got also written by her because I thought it would be immediate help to both my research and my own way of learning and my outlook on life right now.

As you may know, Dr. Grandin is a celebrated animal science researcher and animal advocate who has written over 60 scientific articles/papers on the humane treatment of livestock and farm animals. She is a very successful person and also has ASD. Her book resonated with me greatly, and I will be taking her advice in my own life, especially when I am thinking about and writing up my lesson plans and my curriculum going forward. The chapters of this book are each of the mindsets that we should use and consider in terms of ASD. The first chapter is all about removing the label of ‘autistic’ from a child. This chapter goes over the harm of thinking of the label of autistic first before thinking of the child. We tend to group symptoms and a child’s personality traits to their ASD, and when we do that we forget that this child is not just ASD. We overlook other things about the child and attribute all of their traits to their condition and we then look at them very critically which leads us to leave out important things. Another tendency that is listed in this first chapter was that we try to explain away data or traits that make us uncomfortable or that are difficult to understand. If a child acts out or does something out of the ordinary, a parent or teacher may tend to group that to something completely unrelated like sugar intake or stress, when the symptom is actually attributed to their environment or something else completely. Removing these ideas and looking at who the child really is will be so much more beneficial. This whole chapter was about recognizing that labels can lead to perceptual errors, and what we see is maybe not the full picture.

The second chapter is about looking at a whole child and their environment. This chapter also looks at making sure a child is healthy and looking at any other possible medical problems. This can include physical and observing them in a natural and comfortable environment. We also should consider how the child presents themselves to you, and how do they talk to you? How are they dressed? Does the child have other tics or vocal abnormalities? Does the child understand gestures? Do they look comfortable? What relaxes them? Are they easily distracted? You should always add as much context as possible as well. Review the data that led you to your conclusions and state that clearly. Every child should have assessments customized uniquely to that child, and the child should be seen in all types of environments and data should be taken from all sources possible. Ask the parents how the child reacts to different situations or stimulants, maybe even ask and see how relatives outside of their normal family unit make the child react. Test scores and percentiles are only a piece of the entire equation, looking at a whole child and making observations on their speech and actions is going to be far more beneficial.

The third chapter goes over what steps should be taken first before an intervention or therapy can begin. Getting a team of doctors and professionals, including parents, teachers, neurologists, or whatever a child may have/need and getting all of these people on the same page and track is the first thing. Its extremely important to keep educators in the loop, and to let them know as much information about ASD and the child as possible. Most educators don’t know the ins and outs of ASD or even the different symptoms. A study in 2017 found that most people (66.7%) knew about autism through a friend or family member who knows about it, and only about a third of teachers had participated in walks and awareness activities. The most shocking number was that only 23% of teachers had obtained their knowledge through formal training or coursework/workshops, and 3.4% of teachers said they had no knowledge about autism at all. They also studied how teachers could identify symptoms and recognize characteristics, with the highest scores being in recognizing basic characteristics at 70%. With questions about interventions, almost 75% of teachers responded ‘I don’t know.

I will be back later this week with the rest of the chapters, I am very excited to see where this book goes next and to have all of these mindsets in my arsenal. I have started the next chapter and so far it is going over the other conditions that are often mixed up with or in conjunction with ASD. There are often other conditions that can mess up treatment or make it more difficult for treatment to succeed well. Some of these can include insomnia, gastrointestinal issues, epilepsy, and other sleep disorders. Because children with ASD can have a hard time communicating pain or other things that may bother them, it is important to recognize the signs that a child may be in distress or discomfort. The next chapter will go over psychological conditions that are also associated with ASD. These may include ADHD/ADD, dyslexia and depression or other mood changing conditions.

More to come soon,


URSA Week 11

  May 5th, 2022

This week I needed to further how the classroom should be run and how each section of the class should be taught and specifically what and how I can change the content to help neurodivergent students succeed in this STEAM-oriented class that I have been working on. Last Friday, I was lucky enough to go to an elementary school here in Corvallis and observe how classrooms are run today and how these kids respond to STEAM activities and notice what I could change in this system to make it better for all of the students. I was also lucky to get 4 amazing books from Dr. Temple Grandin, an extremely successful animal scientist and a person with autism. I started reading her book, ‘Navigating Autism: 9 Mindsets for Helping Kids on the Spectrum’. Her books resonated with me in a way that I haven’t had before, and her words were very inspirational to me for this week and for the rest of my time working on this project.

Let’s start with the classroom setup. The goal here is to make a comfortable and warm environment where students can learn without added stressors. A corner or separate closet if possible should be sectioned off as a relaxation area where all students can go a take a break from studying or can go to destress and relax when necessary. This is more of an area for neurodivergent students, so the area should be lit gently and have comfortable seating and toys/gadgets of all sorts for kids to pick up and just play with. This area is not made for students to go play in, however, and is made for students who need breaks. Some good examples of toys to have in the relaxing area are fidget cubes, squishmallows or soft stuffed animals, poppers, and squishy things. These will help students destress and calm down so they can succeed in a safe and comfortable way.

We briefly went over teaching in last week’s post, but let’s get further into the way content is taught. As previously stated, all class materials should be as accessible as possible. This means that any presentations or lessons should have a printed and typed transcript of the lesson. The lessons should be relatively short, lasting less than 30 minutes with extra time in the end for questions and concerns. The lessons also should be taught with as many visuals for examples as possible. Everything should be backed up with examples and whenever possible, the lesson or chapter should end with applications in the real world or career paths that are related to the topic. I found that during the presentation I helped give at the local elementary school here in Corvallis, relating the topic and the content to something tangible, something more than just the product or equation got the kids more interested and let their curiosity wander. After showing them the applications of the drones that we were talking about, they wanted to know about more careers and more things that we could do with the drones. They became utterly fascinated by it. I also found that the kids really enjoyed the example we brought to show them the motion of the forces of drones and the centripetal forces that keep the drone stable while it is in flight. All of the kids wanted to go and I noticed more than a few of them trying to get a second go at the example. While I was there I also noticed that a particular table was the most interested in what we were saying and showing. They seemed to me like they were all neurodivergent in one way or another, and that got me really excited because they were by far the most vocal and focused group out of the entire class. That told me that examples and tangible learning were very useful tools when teaching neurodivergent students. The workshop also showed me that music was also very useful. My mentor played a song on his ukulele and also played some parody songs from YouTube and this got everyone very excited, they seemed like they wanted to hear more songs and I wouldn’t be surprised if they asked their teacher after we left to play more of his songs. I can recall to my own education that music and interactive teaching made the topic, whichever one we were focusing on, much more enjoyable and most of that information that I learned through music or interactively I still remember. This tells me that this class that I am building should have more interactive lessons than anything else. This means songs, videos, tangible examples and more should be used every single day in class.

All in all, this class should feel comforting and fun. We know that play in learning is extremely useful, and we know that feeling comfortable and safe is also conducive to a perfect learning environment. Teaching kids in simple, fun and tangible ways will be better for the children and easier to teach, where there is more room for error and more room for fun for everyone involved. This will be easy for neurodivergent students to understand and get involved more, and it will help the other students have more fun in class and because of this, they will retain the information for longer.

More to come soon,


URSA Week 10

  April 28th, 2022

This week I dove further into how my curriculum that I outlined in last weeks post, and I wanted to fully clarify how this material should be taught and how the projects can be modified so all students can fully participate in every aspect of this class. All of these projects are simple in nature so modifications shouldn’t have to be super extreme, and I would personally recommend holding off on making large modifications for just one student so they do not feel lesser than and they can be equal with their peers. If you are seeing that your students are not understanding one of the topics very well and you have neurodivergent students failing, there is a pattern that most likely leads to improper teaching techniques or miscommunication between your students. 

For each week there are different accommodations that teachers can provide to students in need of some modifications or help with the topic. The baseline accommodations are usually provided through the school through a form submitted by the child’s parents. These accommodations are typically something simple, such as extra time on tests and separate testing rooms, so the basic modifications won’t be listed in the table below with each week. 

Week Possible Modifications Standards
1Sitting close to teacher, accessible materials
2Same as the week before, plus one on one teaching and help with building egg drop
6.AEE.A, 6.DR.A-D, MS-PS3-3-5
3Help with building egg drop
6.AEE.A, 6.DR.A-D, MS-PS3-3-5
4Accessible materials, help with building and lower standards/requirements for mechanical hands, possible group project if the student cannot build on their ownMS-ETS1-1-4
5No competition for student unless they agree to it.MS-ETS1-1-4
6Accessible materials, help with chemistry activities and lab work, one on one teachingMS-PS3-3-5, MS-PS1-1-6
7Help with volcano and lab work, one on one teaching and help with essay write up, or alternative assignment talking one on one with teacher about what they learnedMS-PS3-3-5, MS-PS1-1-6
8Accessible materials, help with geology work, one on one teaching, MS-ESS3-3-5, MS-ESS2-1-3
9Assigned teacher aide during field trip, shorter field trip, different location for field trip, or bring in geodes for student to examine, alternative essay/assignment one on one conversation or group presentationMS-ESS3-3-5, MS-ESS2-1-3
10One on one teaching, accessible materials, help with building, possible group project if student cannot/does not want to build own carMA.1.CR1.6-8 MA.2.CR2.6-8, MS-PS3-3-5
11Modified requirements for derby car, race/compete with others only if student wants to/agrees toMA.1.CR1.6-8 MA.2.CR2.6-8, MS-PS3-3-5
12One on one teaching, accessible materials, help with building, possible group project, or alternative assignment on natural disasters
MS-ESS2-4-6, MS-ESS3-3-5
13Testing/competing with other students only if students agree to, or alternative assignment
MS-ESS2-4-6, MS-ESS3-3-5
14One on one teaching, accessible materials
15Help with building, alternative assignment with circuits

Note: Weeks 16 and 17 are not listed in this table because the last two weeks are for the final project. The final project shouldn’t require too many modifications since it is a group project that will allow all students to be comfortable and shine in their strengths. Week 14 and 15 in this table are listed as the optional two weeks with the electricity unit. These two weeks will cover electricity basics and circuits and the project for this unit will be building a potato clock or potato/lemon battery. There are no standards that fit this project very well, but they can vary depending on the project that the students pick for this unit.

Let’s go over all of the modifications and go more into depth on each. Alternative assignments can include one on one talks about the content covered in the specific unit, or write-ups can be done instead o essays, which would have shorter word requirements. Accessible materials include different printouts instead of presentations, softer materials when working on projects, and specialized worksheets if necessary. Help with building or one on one teaching would just be a teacher or aide helping the student singularly so they can get extra help and understanding on the topic. All of these modifications are meant to help the student, but if the student can do the topics as they were written then try to limit the modifications taken for each unit. Modifications should also be renewed and considered with the turn over of each new unit. The ultimate goal is to make sure the student feels comfortable and gets a fun and enriching experience.

More to come soon,


URSA Week 9

  April 22nd, 2022

This week I took all of the background information I have been researching and studying and finally start our STEAM Neurodivergent-friendly curriculum. With these past two weeks of what I wanted the curriculum to be shaped like, it is time to get some baselines down and get everything set in place for a possible test round. I made the curriculum adaptable to most if not all grades, but more specifically I made it for middle school-age children. Hopefully I will be able to test out this curriculum in the coming months, and make revisions to this curriculum as needed. I wanted to cover a variety of fun and engaging STEAM field topics, such as aviation/rockets, physics, car derby, and other projects that have a little bit of math, science, engineering but still get the kids thinking creatively and solving solutions outside of the box.

Note: This curriculum doesn’t follow a typical class and can be formed into any class that uses STEAM topics, but it is specifically designed for a class-based solely on STEAM projects. This is also just a baseline, and I will go further into details later on each topic covered in the class to further engage students, and this curriculum can be adapted to other classes/topics because of how I have designed it thus far with the ways that it is taught and the project based learning.

WeekLearning ObjectiveTime Assessment Standards Applied
1What is STEM/STEAM? STEAM careers, overview of class5 daysNo assessmentN/A
2Physics basics (Newton’s Laws, gravity), preparing for egg drop/water balloon drop5 daysWeekly Quiz6.AEE.A, 6.DR.A-D, MS-PS3-3-5
3Egg/balloon drop project, final test on Friday with multiple levels5 daysProject and write up6.AEE.A, 6.DR.A-D, MS-PS3-3-5
4Engineering basics, make ‘robotic’ hands5 daysWeekly quizMS-ETS1-1-4
5Test hands for class competition2 daysProject write upMS-ETS1-1-4
6chemistry basics, start diy volcano project5 daysWeekly quizMS-PS3-3-5, MS-PS1-1-6
7test diy volcanoes, do write up/essay3 daysEssayMS-PS3-3-5, MS-PS1-1-6
8geology basics, start homemade geode project and finish5 daysWeekly quizMS-ESS3-3-5, MS-ESS2-1-3
9prepare for possible field trip to find real geodes, or finish project 4 daysEssay/presentationMS-ESS3-3-5, MS-ESS2-1-3
10design basics, start car derby project5 daysNo assessmentMA.1.CR1.6-8 MA.2.CR2.6-8, MS-PS3-3-5
11car derby competition5 daysNo assessmentMA.1.CR1.6-8 MA.2.CR2.6-8, MS-PS3-3-5
12earthquakes/natural disasters basics, start pasta tower project5 daysWeekly quizMS-ESS2-4-6, MS-ESS3-3-5
13test pasta buildings with earthquake table2 daysPresentationMS-ESS2-4-6, MS-ESS3-3-5
14final project of their choice, based on STEAM and uses all aspects5 daysNo assessmentVarying on Project
15present project, wrap up class5 daysPresentationVarying on Project

If there is extra time in the semester at the school this is class is taught, the other week or two weeks available in class can be spent doing an electricity unit, comprising of teaching the basics of circuits and electricity, and then using that information to then build a low voltage potato clock or lemon battery, by the choice of the students in the class. This unit would be in accordance with many of the standards that I listed above.

When teaching these units, the main focus is always going to be understanding by the students of the material and teamwork and participation from the students. Almost all of the units listed above are group-based projects and are meant to be completed by a group of 3 or more students to foster a team environment where everyone’s strengths are highlighted, and weaknesses are worked further on to improve. Lectures would be kept short and direct, with not too much information all at once and a ‘nobody left behind’ attitude in the class. This means that the class would function much more smoothly if there were teachers’ aides or helpers in the class to make sure that everyone is in understanding and knows how to work with the material or do the assignment.

Here is a rundown of each unit and what the content would entail:

  • Unit 1: Physics and Eggs: Covering the basics of physics, including but not limited to, Newton’s laws of gravity, gravity and gravitational pull, mass vs weight, energy and inertia, and motion.
  • Unit 2: Beginning Engineering: Covering basic engineering terms and including applications and types of engineering. This unit will also cover therbligs and engineering techniques such as modeling and design aspects.
  • Unit 3: Chemistry 101: Covering the fundamentals of chemistry and the beginnings of chemical equations and balancing. The unit will also cover molar mass, the different types of reactions, and chemistry safety.
  • Unit 4: Geology and You: Covering the creation of the Earth, different types of rocks, identifying different crystals, and how geologists conduct their research. The field trip option includes taking students out to a beach/rock wall and having them identify 5 different types of rocks with extra credit if they find a real geode that can be later cracked in class.
  • Unit 5: How to Design and the Scientific Method: This unit will cover the scientific method and will go over all of the steps and how to conduct research successfully. The unit will also cover design methods and prototyping.
  • Unit 6: Earthquakes and Natural Disasters: This unit will cover the basic facts of natural disasters and their causes. The unit will also take an in-depth look at how natural disasters have shaped our planet, and how these disasters are now predicted.
  • Optional Unit 7: Electrifying!: This optional unit (if time allows) will cover the basics of electricity. Circuits and breadboards will be covered as the applications of electricity.
  • Final Unit: The student/group chooses a STEAM-related project to finish out the semester. As long as the topic covers all of the letters in the acronym (but can be more lenient depending on the project or the student). At the end of the semester, the student/group presents their project.

I will write more on these topics and how they can be taught and modified for students as needed in my next post. All of these topics can and will be adapted to the student instead of the students needing to adapt to the material. The main way that this will be achieved will be through teachers aides and helpers in class or students who understand the topics well are encouraged to help their fellow students and are rewarded for doing so.

More to come soon,


URSA Week 8

  April 15th, 2022

This week I worked further on the curriculum that I am building to better education for neurodivergent students. The main thing I looked at this week was grades and content. I had mentioned grades briefly in my last post, but I felt it needed more explanation and further examination on my part. I also want to cover more on how teachers should conduct class in a way that all students can follow along and how the new curriculum can cater to students at all levels so students who are at the top of the field can still be engaged in a challenging and fun way, while students who at lower levels of understanding can still learn and be engaged.

Let’s start with the grading aspect. I mentioned before that removing grades would be difficult for a couple of different reasons. For those reasons, the biggest issue with removing grading is assessing students in their understanding of the material. Seeing where students are in the content and showing how much they understand is very crucial to their education, but putting values on their understanding is the issue we see here with this process. A’s, B’s, and C’s are all passing, so why categorize them differently? There are already some schools that have removed the F grade, so why haven’t we removed the rest altogether? The main argument from people against this movement says that removing grades would result in lower expectations in classrooms and rigor in classrooms. This notion is ridiculous, seeing that with this new way of educating students, difficulty and rigor would be customizable in a sense, and students at all levels could still learn with that added difficulty to push them as needed. Another thing people bring up often with the cons of removing grades is that grading this way makes students responsible for their work and therefore their grades. With this thinking, the topic of risk is also brought up often, stating that without the risk of getting a low grade, effort in work will decrease and students will become lazy. This also is ridiculous, as there shouldn’t be risks when speaking about education. Students should not have to be afraid of school or anything having to do with school. As we know, learning happens in all sorts of ways and everyone learns differently and at different paces. Pushing grades on students is almost a sort of punishment for them if they do not learn as fast as other students, and with this mindset, it only pits students against each other makes learning a competition when it is not. This competitive attitude makes students feel as though they have to get an A or 100% on an assignment and to achieve that students feel the need to cheat. Eliminating the grading system would put an end to students feeling the need to cheat to get ahead. There are other pros and cons to this debate, but needless to say, abolishing this system will only help both neurodivergent students and neurotypical students alike.

Content in today’s schools is highly regulated. Most parts of education are controlled heavily by the government, locking teachers in core curriculums that simply just do not fit what students today need in education. To solve this, content should not be regulated, but the way of teaching should. Let me explain further. Teaching neurodivergent students requires teachers to adjust the format of lessons and be more clear and precise with how they teach. This should be the case for all classes. Teaching in a simplified format will help all students understand better, and for students that need the extra challenge/are more ahead in the topic, teachers can provide challenging questions or extra credit opportunities for prizes so students are pushed healthily. Making learning fun and enjoyable is also a crucial part of this new curriculum, and pushing students healthily and engagingly through positive reinforcement will only better students’ education. Negative reinforcement should be as removed as possible from this new curriculum, as associating school with something negative puts the competition aspect back in and also makes the student feel less than if they are told they are not good enough or are not as smart as others.

Next week I will officially build the first pieces of this curriculum, and as always, there will be more to come soon,


URSA Week 7

  April 8th, 2022

This week I started researching and putting together a curriculum that could be used to better teaching for neurodivergent students. I’ve studied and done my research on common types of neurodiversity and I used that knowledge while starting this curriculum. The research done on neurodivergent curriculum is very little compared to the other research done on neurodiversity. During my initial first research stage for this week I couldn’t find very much in this topic. It was increasingly hard to find anything on neurodiversity curriculum as I went on, and any studies I found were only covering extremely specific bits. An example that I found a lot of was teaching students with autism spectrum disorder social skills. As I read them, the same thought kept popping into my head, why should we try to bend students to the will of these core curriculums and social constructs when these students are just simply built and made differently? I tried to keep in mind that this new curriculum that I am trying to build needs to be flexible so instead of making students adapt to the curriculum, the curriculum can adapt to the student.

To start, I looked at the current way that schools teach neurodivergent students. I looked up my High School’s methods and even looked at their specific details and guidebook on their policies for special education. Unfortunately, it seems like they are very black and white with their methods and they don’t try to adapt the curriculum in any way except for extra time on assessments. They don’t have a very long list of possible accommodations either. It seems like this is almost the standard, and that special education kids are just supposed to change and adapt to the rest of the students.

When I finally found some good information on the new curriculum, I started off with what the students want and need in school and in teaching. With what I know from my research, many people with mental disabilities need down time. They need to relax, take a breath and be comfortable sometimes. Lots of people tend to have repetitive behaviors or specific routines that they want to follow so they can be comfortable, so with this I knew that making room for ‘me-time’ or just a break even for just 15 minutes every few hours can make all of the difference. Through my research I also learned that making all of the classroom items accessible and in different formats- especially in terms of slideshows and lectures in printed or audio format can be extremely helpful for someone who doesn’t work well with the ‘regular’ format.

I also realized that my own education could have been much improved if the stress of school had been removed. When I say stress I mean more than just daily struggle with homework or upcoming tests, but I mean all of that plus the social stress, the stress of grades, the stress of the competition-like structure that school has become. Dealing with all of these stressors daily for 8+ hours a day is not just overwhelming, but also exhausting. I realize that removing most of these stressors is difficult, but it should be worked towards as much as possible so that we don’t push students too far and burn them out. The first of these that is very easy to remove is testing and homework. I don’t mean removing all of it, but instead of long multi-hour midterms and finals, short weekly quizzes that go along with the current topic/content in the class can reduce the stress from the test but still get the assessment needed for the teacher. Another stressor that we can reduce is grades and competition. The way grading is now, can make the school environment quite the rivalry between students. To change this system making the grades not something of value, and basing grading more evenly instead of basing more than half of the grading on tests.

These are just beginning steps yes, but it is crucial to make sure that this new curriculum is friendly to everyone and is adaptable to students. In regards to how teachers conduct lessons, the rules should be more lenient, as many teachers complain about how strict the current core curriculum is in this manner. The new curriculum should only have baseline rules on how instructions are given and that all materials are provided in multiple formats so all students can participate easily.

More to come soon,


Robotic Entertainment and Advances in Robot-Human Interaction

  April 8th, 2022

Last week I was very lucky to meet and interview Naomi Fitter of Oregon State’s Share Lab, where they are using robotics in a very unexpected way. Professor Fitter and her team are working to create different and positive human-robot interactions in all sorts of ways. Her main project now is working with a robotic comedian, who does stand up comedy and actually programs and responds to the crowds. I asked her all about her work and her background as well and what she would tell to prospective engineers like myself who want to further robotics.

I first asked Prof. Fitter about how she got involved and interested in robotics and in teaching. She had started off as a Spanish/Mechanical Engineering dual degree, and then joined a robotics team where she learned how much potential there is in the robotic field. She talked a lot about her goals of both being able to conduct ground-breaking research and also teach. It was very interesting to talk to her because I saw a lot of my own goals and aspirations in what she was saying. Next I asked her about her research and projects, specifically her favorite and her least favorite. Prof. Fitter said that her robot comedy was her favorite and she enjoyed that it was a real world project, but still meaningful. She said the hardest part of working with the robotic entertainer was testing and learning how to better the program. The robot in early stages had trouble reading the room and adapting the comedy set to what the crowd liked/didn’t like.

I also asked about the hard parts of being a researching professor. She said that its a handful dealing with all of the deadlines and the trade off of both having to teach, and do her projects. She said that the fun parts and the fact that she can do research that’s out of the ordinary and be a part of the potential for robotics makes up for all of the negative bits of her job.

Towards the last part of our interview I asked Prof. Fitter about any advice she would give to people wanting to join the robotics field. She said that getting involved in research as an undergrad and building experiences and building network is key. Making yourself known and getting experience while still in the early years of your career can make all the difference. She also said that going into grad school and doing more research is extremely important and can really boost your career. She said that as a professor and researcher she had to learn to apply for grants and money for her research. She also said the try different things and maybe try the industry to see what is best for you.

The last question I had for her was related to the research I’m conducting now. I asked specifically how robotics could possibly be used to help neurodivergent people or people with ASD. She doesn’t conduct specific research on this, but she said that there is some studies on how robotics could help teach children with ASD social skills, and that the early stages show that robots might be more effective at teaching social skills than humans. This could be novelty effect though, as the children might engage more with the robots because they’re more interesting to look at and are something very different than what these children are used to. To say the least, there are many open ended questions and many options to explore with robotics and neurodiversity.

More to come soon,