Celebrating Undergraduate Excellence

Kelly Kiel and I presented our research at the Celebrating Undergraduate Excellence symposium on May 27th and 28th.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the presentation was held over Canvas where the presentations were pre-recorded videos. Kelly and I recorded our presentation video over Zoom on Thursday May 20th.

The experience of recording our presentation went well. After writing a script of what we were both going to say, it only took a few tries before we had the one.

On the day of the presentations, we were instructed to read and comment on five other presentations. It was really interesting to hear about what students from every college at Oregon State have been working on.

A few attendees left us questions about our presentation. They were all good questions. We were asked about the value of STEAM, how we could use other forms of art, and about the things that motivated us for this project.

I feel that there are pros and cons to the CUE symposium being online. It would have felt better to present in person, however, since all of the presentations were avaliable on the canvas page I was able to watch more presentations than I think I would have gotten to had this been in person.

There is a Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium in September of 2021. I am hoping to adjust my lesson plans and get more comfortable with using the Optron Mini and its software so that I can present at that symposium in the fall.


Analysis of STEAM resources

I have been analyzing a variety of articles, journals, and videos for my research. This week I decided to write my blog post about a few sources I have analyzed.

When I was researching sources to use, I began by looking up “STEAM Education” on the Oregon State University library website. I found articles that could be useful, but I didn’t find much that was specific enough to my topic. This led me to change my keywords slightly. I found out that I couldn’t have too specific of a search either. In the end, to find my sources I had to search for something in between those two. Those two being something extremely specific to what I’m interested in, and just a broad key term. The library website is an excellent place to get resources because there are so many free PDFs on useful information for any field of research.

The article titled Designing STEAM Education: Fostering Relationality through Design-Led Disruption is about how and why educators can implement STEAM concepts. The article begins with the idea that integrating art with STEAM can be rewarding because “teachers that can see the evidence that supports change and can learn how to teach alternative approaches” (MacDonald et al. 229). An advantage of teachers knowing how to teach alternative approaches is that “(they) can start to get a sense of how confusion creates problems, and problems provide opportunity for reimagining and innovation. It is at this point that the arts and the sciences are on common ground.” (MacDonald et al. 230). The author’s theory of the education field enhancing with more STEAM implementation is extremely useful because it sheds light on the difficult problem of students not being properly engaged and equipped for real-world experiences.

Many critics of STEAM will argue that there is no room for art in STEM because the topics are too conflicting and have different priority levels. The author of this article thinks that claim is false because the data “reflects the very essence of powerful transformative teaching and learning experiences and, in turn, meaningful research”(MacDonald et al. 237). I believe that STEAM education tactics lead to the emergence of more meaningful research and it is shown through what was written in the article.

Later on in the article, the author explained how the modern STEAM classroom is “precisely the risky, messy, disrupted place from which twenty-first-century skills – in teaching and learning, industry and life – evolve.” (MacDonald et al. 237). Those unfamiliar with this school of thought may be interested to know that it basically boils down to the idea that it can be messy when interdisciplinary methods are used when teaching STEM, but that’s how growth occurs.

In the article, Exploring the Explicit Teaching Strategies in STEAM Program of Climate Change (2020), Young Shin Park and Jo Hoon Park claim that specific teaching strategies are extremely vital to having a successful education environment. They support their claim by analyzing a 10-lesson climate change STEAM program conducted, then concluded that activities relating to STEAM need to express the world we live in and finally explain why it is important to educate others in a trial and error type of way. The author’s purpose is to convince educators that to inspire more opportunities for students to learn the skills needed to solve real problems, it’s necessary to include STEAM lessons that include understanding context presentation, performing creative design, and experiencing emotional touch. They establish an educational tone for teaching and convincing educators to follow what they’ve learned.

Cathérine Conradty and Franz Xaver Bogner in the article, STEAM teaching professional development works: effects on students’ creativity and motivation (2020), argue that the inclusion of creativity and social skills that STEAM brings into the classroom leads to more student success in the classroom and beyond. They develop their claim by analyzing studies that compare creativity to motivation, establish a strong correlation, and finally conclude that attitude towards learning and teaching improves. The author’s purpose is to recommend that educators integrate STEAM activities in the classroom to better accomplish educational goals. They adopt a professional tone to appeal to those in the education field.

Conradty Cathérine, and Franz Xaver Bogner. “Steam Teaching Professional Development Works: Effects on Students’ Creativity and Motivation.” Smart Learning Environments, vol. 7, no. 1, 2020, doi:10.1186/s40561-020-00132-9.

MacDonald, Abbey, et al. “Designing STEAM Education: Fostering Relationality through Design-Led Disruption.” International Journal of Art & Design Education, vol. 39, no. 1, 2020, p. 227+. Gale Academic OneFile, Accessed 25 Apr. 2021.

Park, Young Shin, and Jo Hoon Park. “Exploring the Explicit Teaching Strategies in STEAM Program of Climate Change.” Asia-Pacific Science Education, vol. 6, no. 1, 2020, pp. 116–151., doi:10.1163/23641177-bja00002.


Terms and descriptions

This week I did research on different musical terms and notation. It’s important for me to brush up on these terms so that I can create an effective lesson plan. I started off by creating a glossary list of music and technology terms. These are useful to know when teaching beginner music and technology concepts. After that, I dug a little deeper and watched a few videos on some key terms. Here are some explanation videos I find helpful:

I found these videos, along with other videos by the same channel, very useful. This is because they are all short, simple, and meaningful.

Also, this website was a good resource to use for various coding term descriptions:


Making a music activity sheet

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to create a template for a simple music sheet that corresponds with the Optron mini. My goal is to create an activity sheet that students can use to learn or make songs. I initially used my iPad to create my first draft of what I would like my activity sheet to be. With it, I was having trouble with what I should make the notes look like. Here is the first draft:

After my meeting with Dr. Chet Udell on Monday, April 19th, I gained a better idea of what I want my next draft to look like. He showed me excerpts from a children’s piano teaching book as a resource that I could reference off of. He also showed me a website I could use to better organize my activity sheet, a link to more resources to reference, and a song sheet he had created.

I used the website to create a scale for the activity sheet. Next, I made a music sheet for a song. An issue I encountered while making it was that I didn’t know what I should do about including rests. Dr. Chet Udell recommended leaving space in between the circles to indicate a rest, so I did that. Because I wanted to keep the activity simple and for a beginner, and because of the song that I chose, I did not worry about notating any sounds that lasted longer than one beat.

Take a guess at what song this is!

Getting an idea for a lesson plan

Narrowing down my ideas to lessons that are simple, fuel curiosity, and can include relatable stories led me to create a list of potential lessons with the Optron Mini.

Some ideas included:

  • How LED lights work and relating them to the Optron Mini with its LED lights.
  • What an IMU and electronic gyro is and how it works, relating it to math topics such as the X, Y, and Z-axis.
  • An introduction to music and notes through the changing colors of the Optron Mini that correspond to the notes played.
  • Examining how the Optron Mini is constructed and coming up with ways that the instrument could be more efficient to fuel curiosity.

Oregon Department of Eduation Learning Standards

The Oregon Department of Education Standards helped me pick out which idea I wanted to go with. The engineering and technology cluster section fits best with what I want to teach with the Optron Mini. Below is a file that includes the learning objectives I looked into.

These are some of the standards that gave me ideas on what I want my lesson to cover:

EN08.01.05: Develop an understanding of how software is used as a tool to aid in the solution and then the communication of a project.

EN09.09.01: Understand the role creativity plays in the design process.

ENES09: Communicate using symbols, measurements, conventions, icons, and graphic images.

ENES03.01.09: Understand fundamentals of electronic circuit and device concepts.

ENES09.01.02: Use graphical symbols on electronics drawings, diagrams, and charts.

Choosing what to write my lesson plan about

I’m choosing to write about what an IMU is and how the IMU on the Optron Mini can be related to mathematics and technology.

An inertial measurement unit (IMU) is a system that measures linear and angular motion, sometimes with gyroscopes and accelerometers. The accelerometers sense and react to changes in velocity, and gyroscopes react to changes in orientation.

How does an IMU relate to the Optron Mini?

The Optron Mini contains a 6-DoF IMU breakout board. This IMU board can tell you which way is down through measuring gravity, measure spin and twist through the 3 axes, and measure how fast the board is accelerating.

On the Max 8 application, you can see the various motion measurements that the IMU board is sensing.

In the Accessing Sensor Control window under the Optron Basic Tutorials menu is a key on what the measurements mean.


The relationship between STEM and the arts

Both artists and scientists are driven to observe and create. This is shown through the historical coexistence of science and art. The successful integration of art and science was prominent during the Renaissance era. Leonardo Da Vinci was a painter, sculptor, engineer, botanist, and scientist. Before cameras, detailed sketches of plants, human anatomy, and stars were a method of communicating their observations with the world. 

When people of different specialties are able to work and learn from each other, collaboration succeeds. Whether it’s using scientific data to create art or using art as a tool to help make sense of STEM questions, the idea of integrating art and STEM is still just as relevant today. 

Examples of careers in STEAM

Architecture has a deep connection to art by connecting graphics and drawings to engineering.

Medical illustrators connect medicine, science, communication and media technology by creating detailed drawings for textbooks and other publications used by those in the medical field.

Sound Engineering includes using the technical side of recording by editing, mixing, and mastering a recording or live performance combined with the creativity of music.

Every career and discipline in art and STEM overlap with one another. This is why teaching through STEAM is essential.


Notes from Dr. Shawn Rowe’s seminar

On February 25th, I attended an HMSC Research Seminar led by Dr. Shawn Rowe. The seminar covered public science communication in a virtual world. Dr. Rowe did an excellent job explaining various tools that educators can use in their transition from face-to-face learning to a virtual classroom. Here’s what I learned:

In general, science communication and teaching have a trend of decontextualization. What makes it even more difficult is when the teaching isn’t being done face-to-face. This is dangerous because it makes science and technology difficult to use in the world, and seen as unrelatable and unachievable. 

What works in the traditional face-to-face classroom?

People orienting going from their own world to yours. For example, the setup of a science lab classroom gives students contextualization of real-life applications of what’s being taught. The arrangement of furniture in a traditional classroom serves as a resource for focusing and making sense of the content. It creates an artificial world for focusing and learning something which is heavily relied upon.

What isn’t working in virtual teaching?

Virtual teaching leaves room for much more decontextualization in education. It’s a challenge for students to remember only what they hear or see on a screen when compared to objects they can touch or feel in a lesson. Auditory stimulation does not lead to students remembering a topic as opposed to reading, touching, seeing, or writing something. 

What can we do to become successful presenters?

Use stories and storytelling, it is a very good human characteristic. It leads students to create meaning and make a connection. When you have a template ready for what you are going to teach, less is more. For example, use one big idea related to the moral of the story, two to three supporting ideas, and accessible visual evidence. Another resource that can be used is a concept map. A content map includes the main idea, what’s important about it, and helps students figure out how different ideas can relate to each other. A concept map prevents you from going down a rabbit hole.

It’s important to note that experts interact with and make sense from visualizations of data differently than non-experts. You need to learn how to teach without sounding like you are talking down to students. A way to support this is by incorporating activities that are hands-on, problem-solving, and open-ended. Along with data visualization, you need to use culturally relevant colors and images. Tables and graphs can’t stand on their own, they need to be recontextualized with images and guides. 

The public needs to have trust in you to be able to listen to you. You need to be talking for yourself and not from an organization. For example, when on Zoom you don’t want to have a company background. They need to know that you are a trustworthy storyteller. They need the perception that the story is being authentic to themselves, have integrity, and the perception that the data and tools presented in the story are authentic.

Overall, teaching is not only about giving information. It’s about interpretation. Interpretation gets the audience excited and curious about something they want to learn more about, which leads to provocation and inspiration.

You can find more information about Dr. Shawn Rowe at the link below:


An interview with Cyra Sadowl

Cyra Sadowl began her career in education as a school teacher, then later went on to become a school librarian. Realizing that there was a big challenge in the parameters of formal education, she was ready for a meaningful change. That mixed with her having a passion for guiding students toward the resources they need to find their paths in life led her to meet somebody who was developing a nonprofit based in aerospace education. They teamed up and formed the nonprofit VECTORS.

VECTORS was acquired by Airway Science for Kids in 2020. Sadowl currently works as the education director for Airway Science for Kids. There she works with multi-age education, integrated and differentiated learning, and project-based program development. Sadowl also goes into the classrooms at Airway Science for Kids and teaches some of their fifth-grade students. 

I really enjoyed having a conversation with her, learning more about what she does, and talking about the importance of STEAM education. A piece of advice she had for anybody going into the education field is to not forget your purpose. Teaching can be a hard thankless job, and it’s easy to get sidetracked in day-to-day activities. It’s always important to constantly remember that you are working to benefit the lives of children and do not work too hard about the wrong things. A way she recommended to combat this is to find your people and support network and develop a connection with them.

There are many underrepresented students who aren’t aware of what all of their options are for a career. Sadowl brought up how one of the biggest missions in her career is to help kids figure out what they’re interested in by letting them explore all of the options that are out there. She is successful in this. and it is shown by all of the work she has done in the classroom and beyond.


Airway Science for Kids

Bob Strickland, a retired Air Force veteran, founded Airway Science for Kids in 1992 to teach at-risk boys and girls to fly airplanes via computer simulator in his garage. By teaching them how to fly and develop airplanes, Strickland was able to have the students learning math and science, reading, and study skills. Airway Science for Kids is currently a nonprofit based in Portland, Oregon. The areas of focus of Airway Science for Kids are Space, Science/Aerospace/Rocketry, Robotics, Invention Education, General Science, and Technology. They are able to teach these through their four levels of programs offered. 

All of the programs at Airway Science for Kids involve teaching critical thinking, problem solving, and creative and collaborative skills. Their main mission is to serve those who have been historically and systemically excluded in STEM fields of aviation. By engaging youth of color and youth who are living on low-incomes through their programs, they are working on closing the opportunity gap for under-served children.

Take Flight is their elementary school level program. Currently, instructors are meeting virtually with fifth-grade classes and teaching science curriculum through 6 project-based modules.

InFlight is their middle school level program. This involves an afterschool program that teaches STEAM topics through flight simulators, the Kerbal space program, robotics, drones, and model plane flying.

TeenFlight is their high school level program. In this program, they collaborate to build a VANS RV-12 airplane. Afterward, they get to fly it. TeenFlight teaches students base knowledge that gets them ready for a career, such as learning how to read diagrams and learning the electronics side of aviation.

Lastly, there is a program made for anybody aged 14-21 who is behind in credits or struggling with school formats. 

You can find more information regarding Airway Science for Kids at their website.


Troubleshooting an audio error with the Optron Mini

Upon receiving my Optron Mini, I went to the My Optron YouTube channel. There, I was able to find videos of the Optron Mini in use to follow along with. The “Optron Mini App, Getting Started” video helped me set up the instrument, and following along with the “Optron Mini DPAK Session #1” video helped me realize what to do to begin making sounds.

Next, I clicked the “Make Sounds” button under the “Optron Basic Tutorials” menu. In this window, I was able to make my first sound.

I encountered a challenge when I tried to make sounds under any other of the tutorials. Every time I went to click the volume button under one of the tutorials, I would get this error:

I was able to solve this by going into the audio status window under the options tab. There were no input or output locations present, so I selected the ones on my computer.

Afterward, I was able to go on to explore and make sounds with the other tutorials.