NJ School Board Association – So, You Want to Go Full STEAM Ahead?

NJ School Boards Association
October 26, 2016
So, You Want to Go Full STEAM Ahead?


Trustees Propose Super-acronym School Program

A recent convening of the National Board of Governors of Education (NBGE) resulted in the adoption of a new interdisciplinary school program concept called TEAMSCHMEB-D. 

The concept of TEAMSCHMEB-D is broad and all encompassing. It stands for Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics, Science, Computers, History, Music, English, Business, and Dance.  

“We were getting a little tired of hearing from all these people about all their STEM and STEAM and such,” said James Wallace, chair of the NBGE ad-hoc committee that proposed the concept. “These folks have just served to devalue all of the other school subjects.” 

Every school will now be required to incorporate an all-encompassing TEAMSCHMEB-D activity during TEAMSCHMEB-D Awareness Week. When asked if that would be enough time to cover everything, Larry Feinstein, Superintendent of Springfield Schools, said, “It’s a bit of a conundrum since that’s the same week we usually cover study skills, but we’ll be able to pack it in there. We always find creative ways to deal with unfunded mandates.”

Despite lobbying efforts, some school programs are still left feeling like they’re on the outside. “We can appreciate that kids love to do cool projects like make rockets and code new apps, but the fact that we’d do anything in school that’s doesn’t include sports is kind of ridiculous,” said Tom Butler, head of the Alliance for Sports in Schools. “I mean, would it be so hard to just slide another “S” into the acronym? It would still sound the same.”

Mr. Butler made suggestions for new projects that might make that connection. “Line a kid up in goal and shoot the rocket at him. That would be just tremendous.”

Ana Wallace, director of the Foreign Language Teachers Association said, “We really wracked our brains for hours in there, but we just couldn’t find a way to include Spanish, French, Korean, Latin, German, Japanese, Mandarin, and Swahili. We strive for cultural diversity, but it’s real tough to incorporate SFKLGJMS without having the advantage of at least a few other vowels.”

The president of the Home Economics Teachers Association could not be reached for comment. 


Future City Competition NJ Regional 2016 Videos

Videos from the Future City Competition New Jersey Regional held at Rutgers University on January 16, 2016 are now posted!

Congratulations to the First Place Team “Nazif” from Valley View School in Watchung, New Jersey!

2016 Future City NJ Regional Highlights

Third Place Team Presentation

Second Place Team Presentation

First Place Team Presentation


Laser Cutters in Schools: Safety Tips

lasercuttersafetyLaser cutters are great! These devices can easily cut flat materials including wood, cardboard, and acrylic for rapid prototyping and manufacturing. They can even inscribe or engrave those and more such as wood, metal, stone, and others.

The price of very capable laser cutting is still dropping way down, to the point that many models are attractive options for schools. But, school officials and others may not know all they should about these shiny (quite literally) objects that they might learn about at a conference or in a magazine article. So, if you’re thinking about introducing a laser cutter into your school’s maker space or STEM lab, make sure that you understand all of the important safety considerations in your planning and maintenance. Here are some basic tips for the layperson that need to be considered:

1. Know Your Laser – for the peace of mind of your users, laser cutters are generally classified as ANSI Class 1 lasers, meaning that they are generally not hazardous to the eyes nor skin. However, any and all maintenance should be performed by a professional since many models contain more powerful lasers.

2. Plan for Filtration and Exhaust – This is an absolute must in planning since many materials that might be cut may release harmful gases and particulate. Most late models have filtration and exhaust blowers built in for fumes caused by the material being cut. However, you need to have a plan for your exhaust, which in most models needs to be ducted through 6” pipe to somewhere. A quick side story – I once saw a large laser cutter ducted through a 6” hole that was cut into the space that a window air conditioner accordion side panel would take, meaning that when both the laser cutter and air conditioner were both turned on, the fumes were being pumped directly back into the room – no bueno! So, acquaint yourself with the manufacturer’s spec for how often to replace any filters and for proper ducting. If you’re in a school, ducting into an area in which children or others may be working or playing outside is not going to be up to code.

3. Beware of Fire Hazards – The high intensity beam of laser light produces high temperatures, and certain materials may be caused to unintentionally ignite under certain conditions. For fire safety, keep the area in and around the laser cutter free of debris and flammable materials and vacuum regularly. Also keep a properly maintained and inspected fire extinguisher in the area.

4. Know what Can or Can’t Be Cut – Make sure that users know the difference between safe and unsafe materials for use with the laser cutter. Widths of materials that can be cut will vary based upon the machine, so follow manufacturers’ advice. Nevertheless, here are a few yes’s, no’s and maybe’s for materials for laser cutting:

Yes – wood, acrylic, cardboard, cork (all of a certain thickness – check manufacturer’s specs)

No – PVC/Vinyl (produces lethal chlorine gas), teflon, nylon, polyethylene, Lexan/polycarbonate (be careful, this can be easily mistaken for acrylic), foam, Fiberglas, carbon fiber

Maybe – plywood (check for certain glues), MDF (smells bad and known to gunk up filters), paper and tissue (may be flammable – check power settings)

Others – metals, stone, and glass and other ceramics won’t cut, but might be engrave-able, always research other materials and check to be sure

Finally, as with any specialty equipment in any area of the school, make sure the staff and students are properly trained in the use of the equipment. Send a teacher to a workshop or training program, and develop safety rules and a safety test that students need to pass in order to be able to use the machine. Make sure everyone understands the rules and procedures and you’ll then have a great and powerful tool on hand to make ingenious designs!


Future City Competition NJ Regional 2016 Photos

Photos from the Future City Competition New Jersey Regional held at Rutgers University on January 16, 2016 are now posted.

Below are a few favorites. For the complete album, please click to:


Future City Competition NJ Regional 2016


Education Tech Site or “Website for Grownups?” Take the Quiz!

If you work in education these days, you HAVE to have heard of dozens of new instructional tech products with funny sounding names! Do you use a Goobric, Flubaroo, or Doctopus for that? Can really make you feel like you’re out of the know if you don’t recognize them, doesn’t it! But be careful, these Ed Tech Web 2.0 tools names sometimes sound an awful lot like names of “websites for grownups,” if you know what I mean… Think you can tell the difference? Take this quiz to find out!


Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  



Snarky Common Core Test Answers

The states are about to finally release the results of their first round of Common Core tests. These snarky and sometimes just innocent and funny responses to test questions will crack you up.



STEM League NVOT - October 27, 2015

Photos from the STEM League meet held at Northern Valley Regional High School – Old Tappan on October 27, 2015 are now posted.

Below are a few favorites. For the complete album, please click to:


STEM League NVOT - October 27, 2015

Below is a link to brief video highlights from the competition.

Congratulations to the First Place Team from Fair Lawn High School!

STEM League NVOT – October 27, 2015 – Video Highlights



STEM League Northern Highlands - April 14, 2015

Photos from the STEM League meet held at Northern Highlands Regional HS on April 14, 2015 are now posted.

Below are a few favorites. For the complete album, please click to:


STEM League Northern Highlands - April 14, 2015


App Review: Tinkerplay

Cost: Free
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Age Levels: 6 and up
iPad App Link 

Autodesk keeps going away from its old tradition of expensive desktop software with this free app aimed at kids that not only takes full advantage of a touch interface, but also adds the capability of 3D printing. 

At first I was frustrated by the interface, but I eventually attributed my frustration to being far older than the intedended user who will likely have no problem navigating the 3D space. A little patience paid off and I was drawn in, imagining the possibilities for younger users as they put their imagination and ingenuity to work. Building from scratch or beginning with pre made designs, users can build their own robots from three dimensional stock parts that are modular in nature. Add color, texture, and backgrounds to customize your design. Then, here’s the clincher – you can output your design to a URL and download the set of parts to 3D print them, bringing your design to life in the physical world. The app will even tell you the estimated print time based on your, parts, settings, and popular 3D printers. 

I ended up fiddling around with it some more, output a series of images, then pieced them together in the Stop Motion Studio app to make this little stop motion vid.