Combine LEGOs, Simple Machines, Scratch and Raspberry Pi to make dynamic, programmable art

Latin 7th Grade Girls featured on Raspberry Pi Blog

We are on today. Here are the very nice comments from Liz Upton:

I met Tom Dubick about a year ago at Hackerspace Charlotte, NC. He teaches engineering to the girls at Charlotte Latin School, and we believe his class was the first to be using the Raspberry Pi in the United States.

He and a group of his 13-year-old pupils have just given a TEDx talk called How Girls Should Serve Raspberry Pi. The girls here are presenting the projects they’ve made with Raspberry Pi over this semester, but there’s another important message here: we know that STEM subjects are not just for boys, but we should recognise that not all girls are the same, so our teaching approach is doomed if we decide that the only way to get girls into engineering subjects is to “shrink it and pink it”.

Keep watching — the projects get better and better. (Rolling backpack indicator lights FTW!)

READ: Charlotte Latin girls give a TEDx talk (via Raspberry Pi)

Great discussion about education and work — college degree does not necessarily mean a job

Check out this On Point broadcast about college and jobs. Maybe it is about time to give Community Colleges more respect. I have said for several years that our local community college (Central Piedmont Community College) is the largest graduate school in the state. Over 70% students attending the school already have a four year degree.

LISTEN: Jobs and New Graduates — On Point with Tom Ashbrook

Building Future Engineers

A goal of this blog is to promote teaching young people the engineering method. I have spent over twenty years teaching middle and high school students engineering. I think the best way to teach engineering is by doing engineering with a minimum of lecture time and and a maximum lab time. The labs or projects need to be interesting and relevant to kids. We try to create labs where students use math as a tool that saves them time when doing the engineering project. We explain the underlying science ideas or better yet we try to get the students to rediscover these concepts. The sweet spot is a class that is both engaging and academically rigorous.

I will provide tips and trick for teaching kids engineering as well as news that you might find interesting. Here are some of the topics I will cover:

  • Aviation featuring Fly To Learn
  • Bridges featuring West Point Bridge Designer
  • Programming including Scratch,Python and C++
  • Physical computing — think Arduino
  • Raspberry Pi Computing
  • Robotics featuring LEGO EV3, NXT and Tetrix

I have linked a local TEDx talk I did in Charlotte last year. It explains my views on teaching children. I am very curious what you think and I hope you will share your ideas.

WATCH: STEM teacher sit down! Socrates is dead.

Opportunity for students to build a real airplane

Build A Plane and GAMA Look for High School Students to Build a Real Airplane

Build A Plane and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association are holding a nationwide competition to select 4 kids for a free trip to Glasair Aviation facilities in Arlington, Washington.  Students will build a Sportsman 2+2 aircraft from June 17th through June 29th, 2013, after which the professionally test flown with the goal of displaying the Sportsman at this year’s AirVenture 2013 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

To participate in this competition, your high school class will complete a computer program called Fly to Learn, which teaches STEM by using aviation.

  • Fly to Learn software is provided free of charge.
  • Teachers can participate in one or several free webinar sessions should they require assistance in learning the Fly to Learn program. The webinars are scheduled for March 6, March 13, March 20,  9 PM Eastern.
  • The curriculum in this software typically takes about a month to complete.
  • The last step in the Fly To Learn program is for your kids to each build a virtual airplane, then fly it in a predesigned challenge included in the program.
  • The software records parameters like time, distance, fuel efficiency and more.
  • Data from across the country will be analyzed by a team of aviation engineers and the wining high school will be eligible to send 4 students, plus a teacher and a chaperone on an all-expenses paid trip to Glasair to build a flying Sportsman 2+2 airplane.

Winning students get:

  • Round trip airfare from their hometown to Seattle, June 16–June 30, 2013
  • One teacher from the winning school will accompany their 4 students at no charge
  • Hotel room (double occupancy)
  • All meals
  • All ground transportation
  • Supervision by their teacher and chaperone 24/7.
  • Guided tour of the Boeing Museum and/or the Boeing factory
  • Young Eagles airplane rides
  • Star status during live webcasts
  • All participants are invited to attend a special awards ceremony at AirVenture on Tuesday, July 30th, 2013.


For more information, call 804-843-3321, or log onto or

Go to Fly to Learn »

Why the Raspberry Pi computer is a game changer.

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi

The $35 Raspberry Pi computer (yeah, the card above is actually a computer) can be a game changer is for the following reasons:

  • GPIO: General Purpose Input Output Pin means you can do physical computing including robotics on the cheap.
  • Scratch and Python are freely distributed programming languages. Scratch is hugely successful now married to a $35 computer. Please remind me again why every 11 year old can’t be exposed to programming.
  • Linux: free operating system — don’t worry it has a very friendly user interface
  • Small size: easier to store in your classroom or home
  • Price: not really just $35. You will need to have used equipment to keep the price at $35. However, at twice price it still pretty darn cheap when you consider that you have no software costs.

7th Grade Girls know how to serve Raspberry Pi or how girls do physical computing

Recently, my seventh grade girls engineering class participated at a local TEDx talk. It features girls who used Raspberry Pi in their technology projects. One young lady made a room alarm to alert her when her little sister snuck into her room. Another girl added turn signals to her rolling backpack. (Not bad for seventh graders.) We are now teaching kids both physically and virtually about programming and physical computing using the Raspberry Pi, I guess I have taught more than 150 kids so far. I know this is small compared to Britain, but it is a start. We have some curricular materials if anyone is interested. The materials included traditional programming and physical computing. We are now developing a network security unit for middle school children.

Here is the link to the TEDx talk:

WATCH: How Girls Should Serve Raspberry Pi