Blog Relocated

Hi Everyone,

The Sacred Heart Greenwich Middle School Parent Blog has moved.  Here’s the new address:

http://schoolpress.cshgreenwich.org/cshmsparents/

Thanks, Dave

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Is pink Lego deterring girls from science?

The Telegraph

Lego’s range of pink toys for girls helps enforce a gender divide that sees boys performing better in science, a BBC television presenter and scientist has claimed.

Lego Friends.

Lego Friends

10 Mar 2013

Professor Alice Roberts, who has fronted programmes including Coast, Secrets from the Ice and Digging for Britain, lambasted sexist attitudes for deterring women from pursuing the subject and suggested the Danish toy was part of the problem.

Since girls are better represented in science elsewhere in the world, the reason why they lag behind in Britain must be “cultural”, she argued.

“The gender divide seems to be getting worse to me,” she told teachers and school leaders at an Education Innovation summit in Manchester.

“Lego has always been a good toy which teaches children about engineering. But Lego is now producing a range which it is says is for girls, which is completely pink and is about creating cakes.

“I think the problem is happening at a very young age, when the idea is instilled that there is a big difference between girls and boys, rather than at age 15.”

She attacked suggestions by education experts that schools could adopt “shopping-based” problems to encourage girls in maths and said the idea of using shopping and the colour pink to interest girls in science was “outrageous”.

“It goes back to a 1950s idea of what women should be like,” she said.

The Lego Friends range, to which Prof Roberts was believed to be referring, was criticized last year for fuelling gender stereotypes.

The line includes a set for girls with figures in pink, purple and green settings, a dream house, a splash pool and a beauty shop.

Lego said it was developed following requests from parents and girls for more realistic and detailed sets with brighter colours and role-playing opportunities.

A spokesman said: “We’ve always had Lego bricks that are pink and we’ve got a wide variety of different sets.

“We don’t say ‘this is for girls’. It’s up to the child or the parent to make the choice.”

Prof Roberts, an anatomist, physical anthropologist and science writer, said women also struggled to progress in scientific careers because of childcare.

“If you have a career break, it has an amazingly bad effect on people’s career,” she said.

3-D Printer Helps Save Dying Baby

From CNN

By Stephanie Smith, CNN
Wed May 22, 2013
Kaiba Gionfriddo as a newborn, before he experienced breathing problems.Kaiba Gionfriddo as a newborn, before he experienced breathing problems.
A second chance for Kaiba

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kaiba Gionfriddo stopped breathing daily and had to receive CPR
  • Doctors tried the equivalent of a “Hail Mary” pass
  • They created a splint on a 3-D printer to enable him to breathe

Editor’s note: “Life’s Work” features innovators and pioneers who are making a difference in the world of medicine.

(CNN) — When he was 6 weeks old, Kaiba Gionfriddo lay flat on a restaurant table, his skin turning blue. He had stopped breathing.

His father, Bryan, was furiously pumping his chest, trying to get air into his son’s lungs.

Within 30 minutes, Kaiba was admitted to a local hospital. Doctors concluded that he had probably breathed food or liquid into his lungs and eventually released him.

But two days later, it happened again. It was the beginning of an ordeal for the Youngstown, Ohio, family that continued day after agonizing day.

“They had to do CPR on him every day,” said April Gionfriddo, Kaiba’s mother, who later found out her son had a rare obstruction in his lungs called bronchial malacia. “I didn’t think he was going to leave the hospital alive.”

With hopes dimming that Kaiba would survive, doctors tried the medical equivalent of a “Hail Mary” pass. Using an experimental technique never before tried on a human, they created a splint made out of biological material that effectively carved a path through Kaiba’s blocked airway.

What makes this a medical feat straight out of science fiction: The splint was created on a three-dimensional printer.

“It’s magical to me,” said Dr. Glenn Green, an associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology at the University of Michigan who implanted the splint in Kaiba. “We’re talking about taking dust and using it to build body parts.”

Kaiba’s procedure was described in a letter published in the most recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

“It was pretty nifty that (doctors) were able to make something for Kaiba on a printer like that,” April Gionfriddo said. “But we really weren’t so worried about that. We were more worried about our son.”

Green, who has been practicing for two decades, and a UM colleague, biomedical engineer Scott Hollister, had been working for years toward a clinical trial to test the splint in children with pulmonary issues when they got a phone call from a physician in Ohio who was aware of their research.

“He said, ‘I’ve got a child who needs (a splint) now,’ ” referring to Kaiba, said Green. “He said that this child is not going to live unless something is done.”

Green and Hollister got emergency clearance from their hospital and the Food and Drug Administration to try the experimental treatment — which had been used only on animals — on Kaiba. The child was airlifted from Akron Children’s Hospital to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at UM.

“It was a mixture of elation and, for lack of a better word, terror,” said Hollister, a professor of biomedical and mechanical engineering who has been studying tissue regeneration for more than 15 years. “When someone drops something like this in your lap and says, ‘Look, this might be this kid’s only chance’ … it’s a big step.”

The next big step was getting a CT scan of Kaiba’s lungs so that the splint could be fitted to his organs’ exact dimensions. Hollister used the results of the scan to generate a computer model of the splint.

The model was fed into a 3-D printer that can engineer structures using a powder called polycaprolactone, or PCL.

PCL is malleable; it can be fashioned into all kinds of intricate structures. When a splint is created using PCL, it becomes a sort of biological placeholder, propping up structures while the body heals around it.

PCL has been used for years to fill holes left behind in the skull after brain surgery, according to Hollister. As time passes, PCL degrades and is excreted out of the body, hopefully leaving behind a healed organ.

What followed in Kaiba’s case was a painstaking process of creating the splint on the printer in layers. Information about each layer is transmitted from the computer to a laser beam, which melts the PCL into a 3-D structure.

“We can put together a complete copy of a body part on the 3-D printer within a day,” Green said. “So we can make something very specific for a patient very quickly.”

Green then took the splint, measuring just a few centimeters long and 8 millimeters wide, and surgically attached it to Kaiba’s collapsed bronchus. It was only moments before he saw the results.

“When the stitches were put in, we started seeing the lung inflate and deflate,” Green said. “It was so fabulous. There were people in the operating room cheering.”

“This case is a wonderful example that regenerative technologies are no longer science fiction,” said Dr. Andre Terzic, director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine, who was not involved in Kaiba’s case. “We are increasingly … finding new solutions that we didn’t have before.”

The technique used by Green and Hollister is part of a burgeoning field called regenerative medicine, which involves engineering therapies — using things like stem cells, or “body parts” constructed out of biological material — to harness the body’s ability to heal itself.

Creating a part that is specific to a patient’s organ takes on even more importance with diseases like bronchial malacia, in which conventional intervention is risky and often the alternative is life on a ventilator.

But while cases like Kaiba’s are a medical boon, both Terzic and the UM researchers stress that this and other regenerative procedures must be replicated in a wider patient population.

“This gives us the opportunity to really do patient-specific and individualized medicine,” Hollister said. “So we don’t have to do one-size-fits-all. But there is still a lot of work to be done.”

While that work is being done, Kaiba’s family remains grateful that, 15 months post-surgery and at age 18 months, he is still able to breathe on his own.

“I’m just so happy he’s still here, that he was able to make it through,” April Gionfriddo said. “Hopefully (soon) he’ll be able to run around and be an even happier child.”

The splint will take three years to degrade, and in the meantime, Kaiba’s lung should continue to develop normally, said Green.

Green and Hollister hope to begin clinical trials in a larger patient population this year or next.

Sacred Heart Greenwich Sophomore Named 1 of Westchester County’s Best and Brightest Business Minds and Innovators for her Philanthropic Work

Here’s an article about Sacred Heart Sophomore Mary Grace Henry.  Mary Grace honed her philanthropic organization through her 8th grade “Making History” project.

Wunderkinds 2013: Mary Grace Henry, 16

Founder, Reverse the Course

BY ALYSON KRUEGER // PHOTO BY DARRYL ESTRINE PUBLISHED APRIL 26, 2013 AT 02:59 PM

In addition to playing two sports, completing her homework, thinking about college, and socializing with her friends, Mary Grace Henry, a 16-year-old high school sophomore who lives in Harrison, runs Reverse the Course (RTC), a successful international nonprofit organization that she founded in 2008. RTC sells reversible headbands to raise money to send girls living in impoverished countries to school.

 
From a young age, Henry was aware that girls in other countries did not have the same opportunities she did. Her school, the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Greenwich, Connecticut, had a sister school in Uganda that they raised money for through jump-rope competitions and penny wars. But she was not happy with just supporting one school; she wanted to find a way to send more girls to school so they “could be in control of their own lives” and “give back to their communities.”

 
After attending a headband-making class in 2008, Henry knew she had found her revenue source. She asked her parents for a sewing machine and quickly made 50 headbands to sell in her school’s bookstore. They sold out quickly, and she started selling more in boutiques, at sidewalk sales, and at craft fairs across Westchester. By 2010, she had raised enough money to send two girls to school in Uganda. Now, she has raised enough (more than $35,000) to send 32 girls in Uganda, Kenya, Paraguay, and Haiti to school for at least two years. (RTC also works with the girls individually to determine which institution they should attend.)

 
“It’s kind of shocking to think that I’ve lived on Earth for about 16 years, and I’ve sponsored 75 years” in tuition, she says.

 
Organizations such as Pencil for Hope, the Philanthropic Educational Organization, and the Girl Scouts have recognized Henry’s success and have asked her to speak at their events. She also received the Richard A. Berman Leadership Award for Human Rights from the Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center. But Henry knows her work is far from over. Her short-term goal is to sponsor 100 girls, and, in the long term, she hopes to keep the organization up and running as she graduates high school and goes to college to study business or journalism.

 
“I think that for the rest of my life,” Henry says, “I will in some way be connected to this organization.”

 
► For more 2013 Wunderkinds, click here.

A Presidential Pat for Young Scientists

The New York Times

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

The president helped Payton Karr, left, and Kiona Elliot of Oakland Park, Fla., with their bicycle-powered water filtration system.

By ASHLEY SOUTHALL
Published: April 22, 2013

Praising the work of young scientists and inventors at the third White House Science FairPresident Obama on Monday announced a broad plan to create and expand federal and private-sector initiatives designed to encourage children to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

After browsing the 30 or so projects on display in the White House’s public rooms and the East Garden, Mr. Obama said he was committed to giving students the resources they need to pursue education in the disciplines, collectively known as STEM. Earlier, the White House announced efforts aimed at increasing participation in those fields, particularly among female and minority students, as well as those from low-income and military families.

“This is not the time to gut investments that keep our businesses on the cutting edge, that keep our economy humming, that improve the quality of our lives,” Mr. Obama told an audience in the East Room that included 100 students from 40 states, business leaders and science-minded celebrities, among them Bill Nye, the television host and science educator, and LeVar Burton, who appeared in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

“This is the time to reach a level of research and development that we haven’t seen since the height of the space race,” he said.

According to a summary in his 2014 budget request, Mr. Obama has designated $180 million for programs to increase opportunities for participation in STEM programs, from kindergarten through graduate school, for groups historically underrepresented in those fields.

An additional $265 million would be directed to support networks of school districts, universities, science agencies, museums, businesses and other educational entities focused on STEM education, and to finance the creation of a corps of master teachers. Of that, $80 million would go toward furthering the president’s goal of adding 100,000 math and science teachers over a decade.

The White House is promoting the programs as part of an “all hands on deck” effort that includes an AmeriCorps program that places volunteers in STEM-focused nonprofit organizations; a summer camp for children to design and build projects; a corporate mentorship program; and the expansion of a program to increase access to Advanced Placement courses for students in military families.

In an effort to reach more low-income students, AmeriCorps plans to place 50 volunteers in For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or First, a nonprofit organization that sponsors robotics competitions and technology challenges. Technology companies including SanDisk and Cisco have formed the US2020 mentoring campaign with the goal of having at least 20 percent of the firms’ employees spending at least 20 hours a year mentoring or teaching by 2020.

This summer, the Maker Education Initiative will host Makers Corps for students to design and build projects that are personally meaningful.

Among the projects on display at the White House were a cloud computing program that improves cancer detection; a fully functional prosthetic arm that costs only $250 to build; an emergency water sanitation system powered by a bicycle; video game designs, which were included at the fair for the first time; and a robot shaped like an Etch A Sketch that paints with watercolors.

Sylvia Todd, 11, a sixth-grader from Auburn, Calif., who built the robot, explained to Mr. Obama and, later, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that her project had been inspired by similar robots displayed at an earlier competition.

“Everyone was using pens and pencils, and I just wanted to get really creative,” she said.

Afterward, Sylvia summed up her experience: “mind-boggling.”

A version of this article appeared in print on April 23, 2013, on page A11 of the New York edition

3-D Printing Initiative in U.S. School Attracts International Visitors

Here’s an article on how middle school students in Virginia are using 3D printers.  Sacred Heart Greenwich students have designed and Printed many items via online CAD programs and our 3D printer.  Our faculty has also learned a great deal about the technology and we look forward to including more design and engineering work, via the 3D printer as we increase our Science Technology, Engineering and Math, STEM, offerings next year.

Stephanie Thrift, 14, attaches a wire coil onto the base of a stereo speaker that she and fellow students made using 3-D printing technologies at Buford Middle School in Charlottesville, Va. An initiative there teaches advanced manufacturing skills.
—Norm Shafer for Education Week

Initiative emphasizes science, engineering

By Bryan McKenzie, The Daily Progress (MCT)
Charlottesville, Va.

With a Japanese television news crew keeping close watch on a recent school day, Buford Middle School science students crafted their own sound speakers from plastic and paper. They did it using three-dimensional printers and computer-design software to produce plastic supports, paper cones, and other pieces.

“I think it’s interesting that they’re including 3-D computerization and printing into the education program at this level and what it means for the future of job training in the U.S.,” said Takashi Yanagisawa, a correspondent with Japan’s Nippon Television. “This is what President Obama talked of in his State of the Union address, about bringing technology into schools for job training.”

Mr. Yanagisawa and his colleagues are producing a segment for Japanese TV that will feature the class at the Virginia school as an example of efforts in the United States to bring more technology into schools.

“We’re in on the ground floor of bringing manufacturing and technology into the classrooms,” said James M. Henderson, the assistant superintendent for administration services for the 3,900-student Charlottesville city school system. “We’re participating with Piedmont Virginia Community College and the University of Virginia, and we hope to make this a 7th-through-12th-grade program. This is the start.”

The start is the result of a $300,000 state grant to create a “laboratory school for advanced manufacturing technologies.”

Carter Gillaspie, 14, examines a paper cone to be used in a stereo speaker that his group designed and built using 3-D printing technologies at Buford Middle School in Charlottesville, Va.
—Norm Shafer for Education Week

The school is a collaboration between the University of Virginia and its home city to teach science and engineering in public schools and prepare students for high-tech jobs. It also provides future teachers experience combining engineering concepts and traditional science education.

University officials hope the concept is eventually picked up by schools across the country.

Costs Drop

Eventually, advanced manufacturing-technology programs will be added at Jack Jouett Middle School in neighboring Albemarle County and in Charlottesville and Albemarle County high schools. The sites each will be linked to one another and the University of Virginia via videoconferencing.

Next school year, the lab school plans to offer courses to 500 or so 8th graders at the two middle schools. Each school year, a new grade level is scheduled to be added. High school students eventually would get the chance to study advanced manufacturing through double-enrollment with Piedmont Virginia Community College.

The price of 3-D printers has dropped sharply over the past two years, with machines that once cost $20,000 now at $1,000 or cheaper, educators said. Although they don’t expect printers to replace current factories, the engineering and technology behind the software and the devices will change how goods are made in the near future.

School officials say the classes will give students a boost in technological and manufacturing training and, therefore, a leg up in the job market upon graduation.

“We are committed to educating our young people and making sure their education is not just enough to pass tests but equip them with skills that will help them after graduation in the job market and help them contribute to the economy,” said Rosa S. Atkins, the Charlottesville superintendent.

Students also get hands-on science and mathematic instruction. Rather than learning math and science as abstract concepts, students can learn about them in action.

“Having a 3-D printer doesn’t do you much good if you don’t have the knowledge and ability to design the programs or the product and make it work for you,” said Glen Bull, a professor of instructional technology and co-director of the Center for Technology and Teacher Education at the University of Virginia.

Student-Created Products

At one table on a recent school day, 8th graders Ben Sties, Ben Ralston, and Nick Givens used University of Virginia-created software to design and print in plastic the support structure for a paper cone “woofer,” a speaker that enhances the bass sound in a stereo system.

“We did this first semester, and the first time we did it, we didn’t have all of the equipment,” Mr. Sties said. “We got to do some of it and we understood it, but it didn’t work nearly as well.”

The first-semester speaker didn’t woof, they said. Neither did it tweet. It simply vibrated.

“Making it with the 3-D printer makes a big difference. Now we can make a speaker that really makes sound,” said Mr. Givens.

The 3-D-printing equipment, software, and program guidelines come from the minds of University of Virginia professors in the school of education and the school of engineering and applied science. The goal, Mr. Bull said, is to develop coursework that can be replicated in schools nationwide.

“You have a group of professors and students in the rapid-prototyping lab [at the university] who are working on the curriculum and methodology with the idea of finding out how it can be taught and work well in most classroom environments,” Mr. Bull said.

And the concept might scale up beyond the United States.

“It’s something we probably should consider in our country as well,” said Mr. Yanagisawa, the Japanese correspondent.

Copyright (c) 2013, The Daily Progress, Virginia. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

If You’ve Got the Skills, She’s Got the Job

The New York Times, OP-ED COLUMNIST

If You’ve Got the Skills, She’s Got the Job

By 
Josh Haner/The New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman

TRACI TAPANI is not your usual C.E.O. For the last 19 years, she and her sister have been co-presidents of Wyoming Machine, a sheet metal company they inherited from their father in Stacy, Minn. I met Tapani at a meeting convened by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to discuss one of its biggest challenges today: finding the skilled workers that employers need to run local businesses. I’ll let Tapani take it from here:

“About 2009,” she explained, “when the economy was collapsing and there was a lot of unemployment, we were working with a company that got a contract to armor Humvees,” so her 55-person company “had to hire a lot of people. I was in the market looking for 10 welders. I had lots and lots of applicants, but they did not have enough skill to meet the standard for armoring Humvees. Many years ago, people learned to weld in a high school shop class or in a family business or farm, and they came up through the ranks and capped out at a certain skill level. They did not know the science behind welding,” so could not meet the new standards of the U.S. military and aerospace industry.

“They could make beautiful welds,” she said, “but they did not understand metallurgy, modern cleaning and brushing techniques” and how different metals and gases, pressures and temperatures had to be combined. Moreover, in small manufacturing businesses like hers, explained Tapani, “unlike a Chinese firm that does high-volume, low-tech jobs, we do a lot of low-volume, high-tech jobs, and each one has its own design drawings. So a welder has to be able to read and understand five different design drawings in a single day.”

Tapani eventually found a welder from another firm who had passed the American Welding Society Certified Welding Inspector exam, the industry’s gold standard, and he trained her welders — some of whom took several tries to pass the exam — so she could finish the job. Since then, Tapani trained a woman from Stacy, who had originally learned welding to make ends meet as a single mom. She took on the challenge of becoming a certified welding inspector, passed the exam and Tapani made her the company’s own in-house instructor, no longer relying on the local schools.

“She knows how to read a weld code. She can write work instructions and make sure that the people on the floor can weld to that instruction,” so “we solved the problem by training our own people,” said Tapani, adding that while schools are trying hard, training your own workers is often the only way for many employers to adapt to “the quick response time” demanded for “changing skills.” But even getting the right raw recruits is not easy. Welding “is a $20-an-hour job with health care, paid vacations and full benefits,” said Tapani, but “you have to have science and math. I can’t think of any job in my sheet metal fabrication company where math is not important. If you work in a manufacturing facility, you use math every day; you need to compute angles and understand what happens to a piece of metal when it’s bent to a certain angle.”

Who knew? Welding is now a STEM job — that is, a job that requires knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math.

Employers across America will tell you similar stories. It’s one reason we have three million open jobs around the country but 8 percent unemployment. We’re in the midst of a perfect storm: a Great Recession that has caused a sharp increase in unemployment and a Great Inflection — a merger of the information technology revolution and globalization that is simultaneously wiping out many decent-wage, middle-skilled jobs, which were the foundation of our middle class, and replacing them with decent-wage, high-skilled jobs. Every decent-paying job today takes more skill and more education, but too many Americans aren’t ready. This problem awaits us after the “fiscal cliff.”

“We need to be honest; there is a big case for Keynesian-style stimulus today, but that is not going to solve all our problems,” said the Harvard University labor economist Lawrence Katz. “The main reason the unemployment rate is higher today than it was in 2007, before the Great Recession, is because we have an ongoing cyclical unemployment problem — a lack of aggregate demand for labor — initiated by the financial crisis and persisting with continued housing market problems, consumers still deleveraging, the early cessation of fiscal stimulus compounded by cutbacks by state and local governments.” This is the main reason we went from around 5 percent to 8 percent unemployment.

But what is also true, says Katz, was that even before the Great Recession we had a mounting skills problem as a result of 25 years of U.S. education failing to keep up with rising skills demands, and it’s getting worse. There was almost a doubling of the college wage premium from 1980 to 2007 — that is, the extra income you earn from getting a two- or four-year degree. This was because there was a surge in demand for higher skills, as globalization and the I.T. revolution intensified, combined with a slowdown in the growth of supply of higher skills.

Many community colleges and universities simply can’t keep pace and teach to the new skill requirements, especially with their budgets being cut. We need a new “Race to the Top” that will hugely incentivize businesses to embed workers in universities to teach — and universities to embed professors inside businesses to learn — so we get a much better match between schooling and the job markets.

“The world no longer cares about what you know; the world only cares about what you can do with what you know,” explains Tony Wagner of Harvard, the author of “Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.”

Eduardo Padrón, the president of Miami Dade College, the acclaimed pioneer in education-for-work, put it this way: “The skill shortage is real. Years ago, we started working with over 100 companies to meet their needs. Every program that we offer has an industry advisory committee that helps us with curriculum, mentorship, internships and scholarships. … Spanish-speaking immigrants used to be able to come here and get a decent job doing repetitive tasks in an office or factory and earn enough to buy a home and car and put their kids through school and enjoy middle-class status. That is no longer possible. … The big issue in America is not the fiscal deficit, but the deficit in understanding about education and the role it plays in the knowledge economy.”

The time when education — particularly the right kind of education — “could be a luxury for the few is long gone,” Padrón added.