Category Archives: STEM Education

BLOODHOUND SSC Making Progress Toward a World Land Speed Record Attempt in 2017

The BLOODHOUND Project bills itself as an international education initiative focused around a 1,000 mph World Land Speed Record attempt.

“The primary objective of the Project is to inspire the next generation to pursue careers in science, engineering, technology and math – by demonstrating how they can be harnessed to achieve the impossible, such as a jet and rocket powered car capable of setting a new World Land Speed Record.”

Since my first post in the BLOODHOUND Project on 2 March 2015, the project team has made great progress in designing, developing, constructing and testing the BLOODHOUND SSC (supersonic car) and its many components and systems.  This will be a very interesting year as the BLOODHOUND Project works up to a world land speed record attempt currently planned for November 2017 on Hakskeen Pan in South Africa.

You’ll find the BLOODHOUND website, with its many resources, at the following link:

You can subscribe to the BLOODHOUND newsletter here:

The project team has established an extensive video record of their work on YouTube. Starting at their YouTube home page at the following link, you can navigate through a very interesting video library.

On 9 January 2017, the BLOODHOUND Project announced that they had launched a new series of short video programs that will take viewers through the inner workings of the land speed record car. The first video in the Anatomy of the Car series is at the following link:


You can subscribe to the BLOODHOUND videos directly on their YouTube home page.

I hope you will share my enthusiasm for this inspirational international project and take time to understand the remarkable systems integration work being done by the BLOODHOUND Project.

The PISA 2015 Report Provides an Insightful International Comparison of U.S. High School Student Performance

In early December 2016, the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute for Educational Sciences’ (IES) National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) issued a report entitled, “Performance of U.S. 15-Year-Old Students in Science, Reading, and Mathematics Literacy in an International Context: First Look at PISA 2015.”

PISA 2015 First Look cover

The NCES describes PISA as follows:

“The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a system of international assessments that allows countries to compare outcomes of learning as students near the end of compulsory schooling. PISA core assessments measure the performance of 15-year old students in science, reading and mathematics literacy every 3 years. Coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), PISA was first implemented in 2000 in 32 countries. It has since grown to 73 educational systems in 2015. The United States has participated in every cycle of PISA since its inception in 2000. In 2015, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Puerto Rico also participated separately from the nation. Of these three, Massachusetts previously participated in PISA 2012.”

In each country, the schools participating in PISA are randomly selected, with a goal that the sample of student selected for the examination are representative of a broad range of backgrounds and abilities. About 540,000 students participated in PISA 2015, including about 5,700 students from U.S. public and private schools. All participants were rated on a 1,000 point scale.

The authors describe the contents of the PISA 2015 report as follows:

“ The report includes average scores in the three subject areas; score gaps across the three subject areas between the top (90th percentile) and low performing (10th percentile) students; the percentages of students reaching selected PISA proficiency levels; and trends in U.S. performance in the three subjects over time.”

You can download the report from the NCES website at the following link:

In the three subject areas assessed by PISA 2015, key U.S. results include the following:

  • Math:
    • U.S. students ranked 40th (out of 73) in math
    • U.S. average score was 470, which is below the international average of 490
    • 29% of U.S. students did not meet the baseline proficiency for math
    • 6% of U.S. students scored in the highest proficiency range for math
    • U.S. average math scores have been declining over the last two PISA cycles since 2009
  • Science:
    • U.S. ranked 25th in science
    • U.S. average was 496, which is very close to the international average of 493
    • 20% of U.S. students did not meet the baseline proficiency for science
    • 9% of U.S. students scored in the highest proficiency range for science
    • U.S. average science scores have been flat over the last two PISA cycles since 2009
  • Reading:
    • U.S. ranked 24th in reading
    • U.S. average was 497, which is very close to the international average of 493
    • 19% of U.S. students did not meet the baseline proficiency for reading
    • 10% of U.S. students scored in the highest proficiency range for reading
    • U.S. average reading scores have been flat over the last two PISA cycles since 2009

In comparison, students in the small nation of Singapore were the top performers in all three subject areas, recording the following results in PISA 2015:

  • Math: 564
  • Science: 556
  • Reading: 535

Japan, South Korea, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong (China), Estonia, and Netherlands were among the countries that consistently beat the U.S. in all three subject areas.

China significantly beat the U.S. in math and science and was about the same in reading. Russia significantly beat the U.S. in math, but was a bit behind in science and reading.

Numerous articles have been written on the declining math performance and only average science and reading performance of the U.S. students that participated in PISA 2015. Representative articles include:

US News: 6 December 2016 article, “Internationally, U.S. Students are Failing”

Washington Post: 6 December 2016, “On the World Stage, U.S. Students Fall Behind”

I think the authors of these articles are correct and the U.S. educational system is failing to develop students in high school that, on average, will be able to compete effectively in a knowledge-based world economy with many of their international peers.

Click the link to the PISA 2015 report (above) and read about the international test results for yourself.


ANOMALY– a Truly Impressive Augmented Reality (AR) Graphic Novel – Demonstrates how AR is Revolutionizing Printed Documents With Digital, Virtual Pop-ups

Pop-up books and cards have existed for a very long time, becoming popular in Europe in the late 1800s and in the U.S. in the early 1900s.

Old pop-up book         Source: The Harold M. Goralnick Pop-up Book Collection

You can get a good overview on the history and applications of physical pop-ups at the following Bowdoin College link:

At the above website, you’ll find a link to a short Vimeo video on the 2011 Bowdoin College exhibition: Pop-ups! They’re not JUST for Kids, which you also can access directly at the following link:

At Comic-Con 2016 in San Diego, I was introduced to a remarkable digital, virtual pop-up technology in the form of the large-scale, hard cover graphic novel ANOMALY.

Anomaly-graphic-novel  Source: Anomaly Productions Inc.

The creators of ANOMALY explain:

“ANOMALY is the longest full-color original graphic novel ever created, but that’s not all. It’s also enhanced with state-of-the-art AUGMENTED REALITY technology. Simply point your smartphone or tablet at pages in the book and watch characters come to life with 3D ANIMATION and interactivity!”

A stand-alone free app is needed on your mobile device to bring the selected pages of ANOMALY to life. Hidden AR cues on the printed pages are used to activate the corresponding AR feature in the app. When first published in 2012, there were 50 AR pages in the 370 pages of ANOMALY; now there are 60 AR pages. The capability exists to add AR features via software updates after the physical book has been published.

You can get a sense for what AR brings to a printed document in the following short ANOMALY commercial trailer:

Below are three screenshots from that video to illustrate basic capabilities:

The virtual pop-up feature enables the reader to visualize a 3D interactive model that is animated and can include audio.

Anomaly trailer screenshot 1

Touch features on the virtual page can be used to bring up more detailed written information and animations related to the selected object. This is a drill-down capability that links to information not included on the printed page.

Anomaly trailer screenshot 2


Anomaly trailer screenshot 3

I think you’ll also enjoy the following video demonstration by the co-founder of ANOMALY, Brian Haberlin:

In the above video, you’ll see that this AR technology also can be implemented on small printed items like a postcard.

Below are a few screenshots I took using my copy of the book and the book app. With an iPhone, it was easy to view the complete 3-D model of the spaceship shown below, which was flying through an animated star field. The 3D model has a relatively high level of detail, so you can move in with your mobile device to see small features on the spaceship. Mirror your mobile device to a large screen TV for a really impressive view of the virtual pop-ups.

Anomaly spaceship1Anomaly spaceship2Some objects shown in less detail in the book can be viewed as much more detailed, animated 3-D virtual objects, as shown below:Anomaly example 3-D objectPeople and creatures come to life as animated 3-D models standing on the page. The creature below growled and reacted when touched, but it didn’t bite.Anomaly example 3-D animal

ANOMALY, which was published in 2012, isn’t the first application of VR technology to a printed document. However, it is the first to demonstrate this technology on such a grand scale. James Hoare, writing for the SciFiNow website, noted:

“Marvel Comics have been similarly using (AR) to great effect across their Marvel Wow! titles – a whole world of 3D animation and 2D pop-ups, background details and more open up to you – ranging from the gimmicky, to the genuinely enriching, as critters scuttle across the page, and dossiers on planets and people make themselves available.”

Now imagine the potential applications of this AR technology in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses. Given the challenge of attracting young people to these disciplines, modern AR interactive texts and postcard-size flash cards should be able to deliver an engaging environment for both the teacher and the student. Mirroring the teacher’s mobile device to a large flat panel display is a simple means to engage even a large classroom full of students.

If you were teaching a STEM class, what do you think would be a good application of this AR technology for that class (Hint: The answer does not involve sitting in the back of the classroom reading ANOMALY with your own mobile device).





A Framework for K-12 Science Education

NAP K-12 science education Source: NAP

The National Academies Press (NAP) describes this new book as follows:

“Science, engineering, and technology permeate nearly every facet of modern life and hold the key to solving many of humanity’s most pressing current and future challenges. The United States’ position in the global economy is declining, in part because U.S. workers lack fundamental knowledge in these fields. To address the critical issues of U.S. competitiveness and to better prepare the workforce, A Framework for K-12 Science Education proposes a new approach to K-12 science education that will capture students’ interest and provide them with the necessary foundational knowledge in the field.

A Framework for K-12 Science Education outlines a broad set of expectations for students in science and engineering in grades K-12. These expectations will inform the development of new standards for K-12 science education and, subsequently, revisions to curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development for educators. This book identifies three dimensions that convey the core ideas and practices around which science and engineering education in these grades should be built. These three dimensions are: crosscutting concepts that unify the study of science through their common application across science and engineering; scientific and engineering practices; and disciplinary core ideas in the physical sciences, life sciences, and earth and space sciences and for engineering, technology, and the applications of science. The overarching goal is for all high school graduates to have sufficient knowledge of science and engineering to engage in public discussions on science-related issues, be careful consumers of scientific and technical information, and enter the careers of their choice.

A Framework for K-12 Science Education is the first step in a process that can inform state-level decisions and achieve a research-grounded basis for improving science instruction and learning across the country. The book will guide standards developers, teachers, curriculum designers, assessment developers, state and district science administrators, and educators who teach science in informal environments.”

You can download a free pdf copy of this book for free at the following link:

While you are on the NAP website, browse their other available publications and you will find two NAP publications addressing Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  These NGSS documents build on the K-12 science education framework described above.  See my 31 March 2015 post for more details on NGSS.

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for K – 12 students

Based on the National Research Council’s, “A Framework for K-12 Science Education,” the new NAP publication, “Next Generation Science Standards,” identifies “the science” all K-12 students should know. It is claimed that the NGSS present a vision of science and engineering learning designed to bring these subjects alive for all students, emphasizing the satisfaction of pursuing compelling questions and the joy of discovery and invention. You might find it interesting to review the topic-specific “Performance Expectations” at the various grade levels.

NGSS coverSource:  NAP

A separate document, “Guide to Implementing the NGSS,” is intended to provide guidance to district and school leaders and teachers charged with developing a plan and implementing the NGSS.

If you have set up a MyNAP account as described in my 14 March 2015 post, you can download pdf copies of these documents for free from NAP at the following link:

7 January 2017 Update – Infographic – science and engineering practices

In January 2017, NAP published the following infographic poster (click the image to enlarge) and a corresponding interactive version that highlight science and engineering practices that should be mastered in STEM classroom.  You can download this poster at the following link:

NAP STEM chartSource:  NAP