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Kathy Wirtanen
Administrative, Facility
& Conference Assistant

P:  (540) 464-7361
F: (540) 464-7396

Center for Leadership & Ethics
VMI, Marshall Hall
500 Anderson Drive
Lexington, VA  24450

Please check back regularly for more information on workshops at the 2014 VMI STEM Education Conference. 

Workshop sign-ups will begin on September 2, 2014.

Pre-Conference Workshop

Making Waves: Easy Demonstrations and Experiments - Col. Jim Squire
Our most important senses, sight and hearing, are entirely wave-based, and yet the abstract nature of waves can make them difficult to teach.  In this pre-conference workshop we will examine several simple demonstrations, both computer-based and physical, that will make understanding wave properties fun and intuitive, as well as directly address the Virginia Grade 5 SOL science requirements.  You will also experience how our senses can be electronically enhanced to explore, for instance, the radio signature of lightning strikes on the other side of the earth, view sound waves using Ooblik and oscilloscopes, or view the thermal images we leave behind as we walk down a carpet, and discuss ways to attract guest speakers to your classroom that can provide these types of more complex demonstrations.   Workshop attendees will be given a USB key with all computer software used, as well as sources and instructions to build the more complex demonstrations.

Conference Workshops

Algebra for Engineers - Col. Michael Hardin
Please check back soon for a detailed workshop summary.
An enLIGHTENING Experience: The Electromagnetic Spectrum - Lt. Col. George Brooke
Please check back soon for a detailed workshop summary.
Building Bridges - John Tychan
Participants will receive a brief introduction and supporting information, and then build their own mini bridge from popsicles.
Building a LEGO® Clock - Maj. Joyce Blandino
Please check back soon for a more detailed workshop summary.
Building Truss Bridges - Lt. Col. Chuck Newhouse and Maj. Matthew Swenty
Truss bridges are one of the oldest and most recognizable forms of bridges. They have a rich history and continue to be used in transportation systems today. This activity will introduce the background on what makes trusses unique and the engineering behind them. Numerous demonstrations will be shown ranging in cost and difficulty level. The session will culminate in two practical activities that are cost effective: one using a readily available, free computer program and one using household materials.
Concrete for Kids - Maj. Matthew Swenty and Dr. Kacie D'Alessandro
Concrete is one of the most common building materials in the world. We use it on a daily basis in our bridges and roads, but the question remains: do we really know anything about this highly engineered material? Concrete for Kids is a basic set of lessons that allows students to learn more about why concrete is important, where it is used, and how it is made. Included are demonstrations and activities that can be used in a classroom.  Students can design, build, and even test their very own concrete for a minimal cost. The lessons can be easily arranged for a lab or classroom setting, single or multiple lessons, and various age groups.
Developing and Leading a Trebuchet Project - Col. Grigg Mullen, Col. Willard Neel, Mr. Grigg Mullen III

Will include trebuchet demonstration.

Please check back soon for a more detailed workshop summary.

Enhancing the Science Classroom through Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing in Middle Schools - Robbie Munsey & Eric Bredder
In this workshop we would like to bring in random supplies (cardboard, scissors, glue, markers, other craft supplies) for teachers to generate ideas for their curriculum and what students can make with them (ex: use the linear motor to shot the magnets onto targets, open and close cards, etc). We will talk about electromagnetism and how to create unique projects around this particular topic and giving the students choice in how they describe and use materials in a classroom.
Engineering is Elementary: Integrating Elementary Science and Engineering into the Elementary Curriculum - Ms. Judy Fitzpatrick
Using the Engineering is Elementary unit “Hand Pollinators” as a model, teachers will engage in project-based engineering activities that integrate with science instruction and all areas of the curriculum. Through the use of storybooks and design challenges, participants will use the engineering design loop (ask, imagine, plan, create, improve) to solve a real-world problem. Participants will go through the steps to successfully introduce engineering activities into the classroom.
Engineering Our Way with Math and Science - Ms. Diane Leighty

Grades 3 - 5

This workshop will stress the importance of encouraging creative thinking, problem solving, and working collaboratively. Simple design/build activities will be undertaken, including creating a cube out of a cereal box while keeping the same volume as the box itself, and activities including measurement and geometry. Throughout the workshop, assisting students with reasoning through problem and applying math in practical ways will be stressed.

Engineering Our Way Through Middle School Mathematics - Ms. Diane Leighty

Grades 6 - 8

This workshop will stress the importance of encouraging creative thinking, problem solving, and working collaboratively. Simple design/build activities will be undertaken, including creating a cube out of a cereal box while keeping the same volume as the box itself, and activities including measurement and geometry. Throughout the workshop, assisting students with reasoning through problem and applying math in practical ways will be stressed.

Exploring Chaos Through Games - Maj. Meagan Herald
Participants will begin to explore the mathematical theory of chaos through physical and mental experiments and determine if seemingly random events can lead to well-defined patterns. The goal is to motivate students to look for mathematics outside the classroom and to better understand the interaction between mathematics and engineering.
Harnessing the Wind - Ms. Kim Dye
Participants will explore energy as they build their own generators to do work. Using the book "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind," teachers will leave with literature connections to science and engineering through the story of William Kamkwamba from Malawi, which will no doubt inspire students as they explore his story to see how reading a book on windmills gave William the idea to build one in his village which struggled from the effects of drought and hunger. Participants should be prepared to build, make connections and imagine the possibilities for upper elementary students.
Introduction to Electrical Engineering - Col. Shawn Addington
Please check back soon for a more detailed workshop summary.
Introduction to Physical Computing & Arduino - Col. David Livingston
Please check back soon for a more detailed workshop summary.
Introduction to Programming - Lt. Col. Chuck Newhouse
Please check back soon for a more detailed workshop summary.
Introduction to Robots - Col. David Livingston & Mrs. Barbara Livingston
This workshop will define the term “robot” and explore the components that make up a robot: sensors (senses), computer (brain), actuators (arms and legs), chassis (body), and power supply (digestive system).  Examples of how robots can be used in the classroom to reinforce mathematics and physical principles will be discussed. The experiences of coaching a FIRST Lego League (FLL) robotics team will also be presented.  To get hands-on experience, workshop participants will program a Lego Mindstorms robot to perform simple actions.
Kicking Machines: Force and Motion - Ms. Tina Coffey and Ms. Lynda Graves
Participants will explore the physics behind force, motion, and energy through designing, building, and testing a kicking machine.  Once the machine is built, a technology twist will be added. Participants will use iPads to film their machines working in slow motion, which will then be displayed via Augmented Reality posters created by participants. (iPads will be provided.) While this session focuses on designing and building a compound machine, tips for using digital technology in any children’s engineering lesson are included, as well as a variety of ways to use technology for displaying student progress/process throughout engineering projects.  Mrs. Graves and Ms. Coffey will also share their experiences of doing this activity with a fourth grade class.
Lego Workshop - Nick Swayne
This workshop will provide a brief hands-on experience with LEGO’s latest robot – the EV3.  You’ll get program a robot and learn just how easy it is to add applied to your existing curriculum.  You’ll get examples of how to tie basic LEGO robotics to mandatory lessons and extend those lessons to engaging opportunities that deepen student’s understanding in several content areas.  We’ll include a brief overview of the FIRST LEGO League which is a great way to create a sport-like competition to STEM content areas.
Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream - Dr. Cindy Klevickis
Students of all ages are fascinated about liquid nitrogen and its lessons about heat capacity, heat transfer, gas laws, density and transitions between gasses, liquids and solids. In this demonstration, we will make ice cream with liquid nitrogen. Participants can taste the results.
Materials Engineering: Hockey Puck - Mrs. Suzanne Bevans, Mrs. Corinne Doerr and Ms. Lisa Jacobsmeyer
Materials engineering involves studying materials and relating them to their properties. Participants will explore the use of different materials to create a hockey puck and analyze how the material affects the distance travelled.  They will utilize their creativity and problem solving skills to collaboratively design a hockey puck and then test the distance traveled when a force is applied. The design brief will focus on force, motion, and energy concepts and integrate math objectives into the evaluation process. The session will also address how language arts objectives and English language development strategies can be integrated into children’s engineering (STEM) challenges.
Observing the Night Sky from the VMI Observatory - Lt. Col. Gregory Topasna & Lt. Col. Daniela Topasna

Come join us for an open-house observing session at the VMI Observatory. After an introduction to the night sky we will use the observatory’s telescopes to observe some of the visible planets, nebulae and galaxies that are in the night sky this time of year.  Lt. Col. Gregory Topasna and LTC Daniela Topasna will lead the visit.  Each session is limited to 12 participants.

Transportation – Trips will originate at the VMI  Marshall Hall parking lot, and travel to the observatory which is located in McKethan Park, 3.8 miles, or a ten-minute drive.   A VMI Shuttle will transport the first group at 7:15 pm and return by 8:45 pm.  The second group will depart VMI at 8:15 pm and return by 9:45 pm.


Perchance to Dream: Engineering The Mathematics of Hamlet - Maj. Randall E. Cone, Ph.D.
Please check back soon for a more detailed workshop summary.
Rockets to Racecars: Drag Race to Mars - Mrs. Marilé Colón Robles and Mrs. Tracy Proffitt
Does Mars have an atmosphere? Why does it matter? Accept the challenge to learn more about Mars and build a capsule that could land safely on the surface of the Red planet just as NASA engineers did with the Curiosity rover. As the capsule went rushing through the atmosphere it was speeding toward the Martian surface, headed for a crash landing.

In this hands-on workshop, participants will put on their engineering hard hat and design an apparatus that uses drag to slow down the capsule and allow for a safe landing. Then they will learn how racing engineers use those same principles to hold cars tight to the racetrack as they travel at amazing speeds. Mrs. Tracy Proffitt will share her experiences of doing this activity in her fourth grade classroom.
Scuba Divers, Not Snorkelers! How Engineering-Based Lessons Promote Deeper Thinking in STEM - Dr. John Almarode

This highly engaging session explores the necessary steps for implementing effective integrated STEM education. Building on the latest research in STEM education and how the student brain learns, participants will experience an environment most conducive to the development of STEM literacy, interest and engagement in STEM, and smart thinking.

  • Participants will understand the connection between engaging environments and the development of STEM literacy, interest, and engagement in STEM.
  • Participants will be able to identify the essential components of an effective integrated STEM education.
  • Participants will be able to apply these components to specific teaching and learning strategies in STEM.
  • Participants will be able to develop an action plan for implementing these specific teaching and learning strategies.
Teaching Electrical Circuits is a "Snap"! - Col. Shawn Addington
This hands-on workshop will introduce educators to the “Electronic Snap Circuits” product as a tool to teach basic electricity and electronics to students in grades three through eight.

Electricity and electronics education often presents numerous challenges to the educator, and can be frustrating to the student – small parts and wires, confusing schematics, expensive components, boring simulations, etc. However, through the use of “Electronic Snap Circuits,” students can quickly and easily construct a variety of circuits, and educators can customize course content to suit the grade and size of the class.
Teaching the Basics of Computer Programming Using SCRATCH - Lt. Col. Chuck Newhouse
Learn why it is important that all engineers should learn some computer programming. During this hands-on session participants will learn the how to do some basic computer programming using the free software SCRATCH. Some of the Computer Mathematics SOLs will be addressed.
Tetrahedral Kite - Clifton W. Jones, Jr. & Alisa Rushing
In this hands-on workshop participants will learn to build a tetrahedral kite using inexpensive materials.  This lesson incorporates all areas of STEM and 21st century skills.  Workshop will cover the forces of flight, gravity, Newton’s laws and the history of the kite.
The High School Library MakerSpace: School Libraries for this Century - Chad Ratliff, Joan Ackroyd, Melissa Techman, & Ira David Socol
In this workshop we will present examples of radically converted libraries while helping participants engage in “Zero-Based-Design-Thinking” where we join together to reimagine how a traditional space in your school becomes a cross-curricular MakerSpace which puts creation, collaboration, and the building of contemporary skills at the center of your learning community.
The Maker Movement: Expanding Access to STEM Education Through Making - Chad Ratliff & Ira David Socol
The Maker Movement, which allows students to become designers and architects of products and knowledge, instead of just consumers, is evident across Albemarle County Public Schools from elementary to high school, and from art to science class. This session will trace the history of the maker movement, discuss how we embedded these concepts across our division, and tie the Maker Movement into the development of essential lifelong learning standards in our students. Participants will learn how the art and science of Making can improve educational experiences in their own divisions.
The Sun, Earth, Moon Connection - Lt. Col. Daniela Topasna and Lt. Col. Gregory Topasna
This workshop discusses the interplay between the Sun, the Earth and the Moon. Topics covered include the phases of the moon, eclipses, tides, the seasons and climate. Part discussion and part hands-on activities, this workshop melds the two together for a total learning experience. Activities and resources to help students understand these topics will be presented.
The Thinking 3rd Grade Classroom: Beyond Hands-on Stem - Karen Heathcock & Melissa Techman
This team will show how a wide variety of open-ended science, math and engineering activities regularly implemented in a 3rd grade classroom supports the development of key skills needed for higher-level thinking, creative problem solving, and successful collaboration. We will give steps for teaching the inquiry and discussion skills that yield a curious and productive class culture. A list of weekly STEM activities and resources will help you connect curricular areas (including writing) and standards in meaningful ways. Attendees will be able to experiment with some electronics activities that can be readily used in upper elementary and beyond. One big benefit of this approach is the level of support from excited parents and community members. This past year, parents have guided projects ranging from homopolar motor exploration to hands-on biome tableaux that became the topic of student poems.
Urban Agriculture - Scott Barnes, Greg Donovan, & Ted Rosiak
The US Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as a place “without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food” and that the “lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases”1. Teaching middle school students how to identify and produce their own fresh, healthy, and affordable food is a necessity anywhere, but particularly in areas with high populations of economically disadvantaged students. In the Urban Agriculture program at Potomac Middle School, we provide an emphasis in educating our students on how to identify healthy foods as well as how to produce them, hoping that they will take their knowledge back to the community. In this workshop, we will highlight the hands-on strategies and lessons that we have utilized to achieve success with the students at Potomac Middle School so that you can help to eliminate any food deserts in your community.
Wind Turbine Blade Design Challenge - Ms. Remy Pangle
Teachers will participate in a design challenge involving wind turbine blade design. Participants will work through the research phase and then brainstorm design ideas and create a prototype to be tested. Other wind energy resources will be reviewed and the session will end with a discussion on how the design challenge can be integrated into the classrooms.