Monthly Archives: January 2011

Twas the Night before Kickoff

Twas the night before kickoff, when all through the school
Not a creature was stirring not even a ghoul;
The manuals were downloaded on the computer with care,
In hopes that decryption keys soon would be there;
The students were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of drive systems danced in their heads;
And I in my safety glasses with a three-quarter inch wrench,
Had just settled down with some parts on my bench –
When out in the parking lot there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my stool to see what was the matter.
Away to the desk, I flew to my Mac,
Opened my browser, is security slack?
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Was pixelated by the camera we have there below
When, what see my tiring eyes with their gaze,
But an extra large crate, and eight tiny Segways
With a little old driver, so lively and keen,
I knew in a moment it must our Dean.
More rapid than the ship date his sponsors they came
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now! Boeing, now! DEKA, now! FedEx and Delphi,
“On! NASA, on! Baxter, on! GM and NI;
As game pieces before the matches reside,
When they meet with a robot, no longer can hide;
So up to the loading dock the Segways they flew,
With the crate full of parts – and Dean Kamen too.
And then in a twinkling, I heard on the dock
The door rolling open, what of the lock?
As I quit my browser, and was turning around,
In the workshop Dean Kamen came in with a bound.
He was dressed all in denim, to his ankles at least,
And his clothes were all tarnished with solder and grease.
A bundle of parts was flung on his back,
And he looked like a MechE getting ready to hack:
The gears – how they twinkled! The motors: how many?
The wire was like candy, the encoders, a penny;
The number thirty-five chain was drawn up like a bow,
And the tread of the wheels was as white as the snow;
The soldering iron he held tight in his teeth,
And the fumes they encircled his head like a wreath.
He built a square frame, and a Mecanum drive
That rolled back and forth like something alive:
It was lightweight and sleek, with pneumatics to boot,
And I smiled when I saw it attempting to shoot;
A click of a relay and a turn of its tread
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to the code,
Wired all the VIs; the cRIO did load,
And bringing his smartphone alongside his ear
And giving a nod, out the doorway he veered.
He sprang to his Segway, to his team gave a shout,
And away they all sped, I thought they’d wipe out.
But I heard him exclaim, as he drove without fear –
Gracious Professionalism to all, and to all a great year!

*Naperville, Illinois*
*7 January 2011*

Why Standards-Based Grading?

On Tuesday, the spring semester will begin and most of my students will be new to me and I new to them since classes get all scrambled between semesters. While everyone on my team structures their class according to our shared Standards-Based Grading (SBG) philosophy, I decided it would be important to share why I use SBG in my classes. I came up with five points:

* I want you to focus on learning.

Points and grades often get in the way of this.

* I want you to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills.

This requires you to take risks, make mistakes, and try again. You should be rewarded for this and not penalized.

* I want to know what you understand. I want you to know what you understand.

This requires frequent, useful feedback. 8/10 is not useful feedback.

* I want you to be responsible for your own learning.

This requires you to have the information, tools, and freedom to do so.

* I want your final grade to reflect your understanding of the standards for this course.

This requires grades to be associated with standards and you to have multiple opportunities to demonstrate your understanding.

What is important are these goals, not SBG. I have embraced a SBG philosophy only because it helps me and you achieve the above goals.