On April 5, 2019, The Browning School robotics team attended their first FRC competition. FRC is a robotics competition for high school students from all over the world. Our students were able to witness teams from England, China and Turkey compete in this fast-paced robotics challenge. This competition combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources, and an intense six-week time limit, teams are challenged to raise funds, design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game.
On Saturday, December 1, five Browning boys representing Lower and Middle School co-led a class at the third annual Scratch Day hosted by the Communication, Media, and Learning Technologies Design Program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Scratch Day is a fun-filled event of learning and creating with Scratch.
Recently the inaugural Lower and Middle School Robotics team took the tram to Roosevelt Island to visit the Cornell Tech campus. Why take this group of boys to visit New York City’s newest urban campus? Opened in Fall 2017, the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island is located in Browning’s backyard. It is, itself, a model for innovation that inspires and keeps our high aspirations on track. Mr. Harp’s team was hosted by Citi’s Tech Innovation Department located within the Tata Innovation Center.
Chair of the Computer Science and Engineering Department Anderson Harp provides the following report on the 2018 TEDxYouth@BrowningSchool event:
Head of School John Botti helped close our TEDxYouth@BronwingSchool event in February 2017 by remarking how play can inspire. Soon after “Innovate” wrapped, the rising executive team met with faculty advisors Melodie Ting and me to begin renewal of the TEDx license. Unanimously, the committee chose “Play” as the theme for our third annual event, which took place at Browning on May 12.
Student talent representing Forms III through VI collectively joined their skills to deliver a one-of-a-kind experience open to anyone in our community, free of charge, Nearly 100 guests gathered in the Kurani Gymnasium by 10:30 Saturday morning for the warm welcome given by executive producers Rohan Singh ’18 and Jackson Richter ’18.
My experience participating in The Fallingwater Institute’s summer residency programs in architecture, art, and design has already transformed engineering curriculum and practice in our third-grade design project.
Following consultation with Cooper Hewitt Museum and MASS, a Boston-based architecture design firm, we are working on a challenge to redesign Ms. Kehoe’s classroom for improved learning. (MASS, by the way, began in 2008 during the design and building of the Butaro District Hospital in Rwanda, a project of Partners In Health and the Rwandan Ministry of Health. Since then, MASS has expanded to work in over a dozen countries in Africa and the Americas.)
The Browning Robotics team, named "Ultro" meaning "of one's own accord" in Latin, a play off our team's mission toward autonomous programming objectives, qualified for the NYC Regional Championships today! Our team was the second team out of five to qualify for the NYC championships. Thirty teams competed for five qualifying spots in the NYC Regional Championship. This is the best performance of the Browning Robotics team yet in our three-year history.
The team won the innovation award for an elegant, unique and stable design. The team most importantly was the runner-up of the inspire award, which is awarded due to the overall robot design, community building, inclusivity, engineering notebook, business/strategic plan, innovation, and presentation. This qualified the team for the regional competition as the second team out of five to ultimately qualify. The Inspire Award placement is considered more valuable than winning the competition, as it represents the values we wish to inspire over winning in competition.
Anderson Harp and Melodie Ting served as faculty advisors to the 25 Middle and Upper School boys comprising the executive team and supporting volunteers who organized the second annual TEDxYouth@BrowningSchool event.
From September to February, a dynamic team of organized, self-managed and hard-working individuals met on Tuesday mornings before school to oversee the many requirements of hosting a TEDx event. Following approval of their 16-page application, an amalgamation of Browning’s student talent collectively joined their skills to deliver a one-of-a-kind experience open to anyone in the greater NYC community free of charge, namely, the TEDxYouth@BrowningSchool event. Nearly 100 guests gathered on February 11 in the Kurani Gymnasium for a live speaker series of profound innovators.
The Robotics team "Ultro" attended the FIRST Tech Challenge Qualifier tournament at Dalton on Saturday. After a solid 5 rounds of robot competition, the team made it to the elimination rounds, in which they confidently won the first 2 matches in a best of 3 moving them into the finals of the event. 27 teams entered the tournament and Browning was one of 6 teams to make the finals.
While we were not victorious in the finals, ultimately losing to a very strong Dalton squad, due to good fortune with qualification rules (90 page rulebook) and our quality performance during the day we slipped in as the last team to qualify for the NYC Regional next weekend at Townsend Harris High School in Queens. This is a HUGE milestone for this team and a prominent goal for this season.
Coach Ting was in attendance and will take over as lead coach next week in the regionals as I am unable to attend. This week the team will be increasing the mass of the flywheel to shoot the whiffle balls a greater distance. Adding the Science Department leadership is key in the continued teams success. Go STEM!
This year in technology class, the third grade boys focused on three goals. Learning to type was the first goal. Using a program called Learn to Type, we started this section by identifying parts of the keyboard and computer. The second goal was learning to code. We used the website, code.org, which further introduced the students to object/drag and drop base coding. The students’ final goal is to become comfortable working on Lego Mindstorm's EV3 robots. To encourage teamwork, the boys work in groups of three. Currently, the teams are designing, building and programming their robots to perform certain tasks. Please click here to view photos.
In the Kurani Gym on January 25, over 100 parents, special friends and students participated in Browning’s “Family Hour of Code.” Attendees enjoyed this special opportunity to practice computer programming (also referred to as computing or coding) together, joining what has become a national and international movement to teach all kids to code.
The two sections of the Intro to Engineering class competed in a robotics competition as a culminating activity for their engineering design project. Each student designed a robot then selected the best design to build, program, test and improve their robots in order to compete against the other section of the class. The winner of that match then went on to compete against the Advanced Robotics team. The Advanced Robotics team will compete at Dalton next month in a NYC regional competition for the First Tech Challenge. Please click here to view photos and a livestream of this exciting robotics competition.
We are working with robotics to ultimately design a robot to compete in the First Tech Challenge; an international robotics competition. Each student learned the rules of the competition, research the problem, design and sketch ideas, select an idea, build a robot, and test and evaluate the performance of the robot. Just before spring break, each student presented his robot design to the class. We then selected a student design to build a robot that will compete against the other section of this course at the Tech Expo.
Forms II and IV boys excelled in the Rube Goldberg Engineering Expo on April 3, competing against other teams to build chain-reaction machines designed to ultimately open an umbrella. Our Middle School team won third in the first-ever live competition for their age group, while the Upper School team brought home the Legacy Award presented to them by Rube Goldberg’s granddaughter and chairperson of the organizing foundation, Jennifer George!
What makes a better designer today? In Form II this year, we experimented with project-based learning. The boys examined existing chairs and reengineered a personal version using digital tools in technology classes.
Rapid prototyping with technology has become commonplace in many professional services. In this class, the boys explored pragmatic tools including Computer Aided Design, 3D printing and Virtual Reality to produce a minimum viable product. In the third iteration, students built a virtual experience using the Unity programming language and Oculus Rift. Furthermore, the boys scanned ceramic models with Mr. Davis and imported these organic structures into a VR realm where they could be displayed next to CAD models created in technologyclasses. Our class meetings often resembled a studio where boys would “learn, create and problem-solve in an unstructured environment” (MIT Admissions Office, 2013). This process was the intentional result of meaningful collaboration between the art and technology departments. Through student process, our line of inquiry offers a glimpse into the world where learning to become a better designer will include an interchangeable order of experience with computers or clay.
On Saturday, February 6, students and teachers from nine different schools along the east coast as far as Buffalo and Pittsburgh came together at Browning for the CS50 AP Hackathon led by Harvard’s computer science professor David J. Malan and his team, who led the students through different problems sets. Though students were at different spots throughout the curriculum, everyone was working together in a relaxed environment, helping each other, and having a great time. The event was full of music, candy and learning. Students left the event with lots of “swag,” including T-shirts, stickers and bags, all with the Browning name emblazoned on it. I hope we can do more collaborating like this in the future. Click here to watch a video about the computer science movement at Browning and for more details on the hackathon.
I’m pleased to report that both the Middle and Upper School excelled in a regional programming hackathon/codeathon competition held Sunday at Riverdale Country School. The Agile Youth Competition brings schools together for friendly competition and intense challenges related to computer science learned at school. Browning exceeded expectations yesterday adding to our community’s positive reputation as a leader in academic technology and computer programming.
This winter, one of the hottest tech startups littleBits found out about the Form IV Intro to Engineering class offered last spring. A West Coast publicist reached out for an interview and asked if littleBits could publish a case study on the class. Following weeks of collaboration, the final piece is live on the littleBits website for you to read and share alike at littlebits.cc/case-study-the-browning-school
Browning teachers have been utilizing the educational practice of Blended Learning, which combines online and digital learning with face-to-face instruction. Earlier this school year, we documented Browning’s summer Blended Learning Cohort in which 10 teachers participated. A new video delves into the Blended Learning model and explains how our teachers are using what they learned in the cohort to personalize the classroom experience for each boy in ways that were not possible just a decade ago.
Could your idea be the next big thing? Why work towards creating a minimum viable product? How might we invent your next job? The widely popular reality show "Shark Tank" has proven the American Dream is still alive. This introduction to engineering design course asks students to answer these questions while engaged in the invention process and its application.
William Noel famously said, “The Web of ancient manuscripts of the future isn't going to be built by institutions. It's going to be built by users … people who just want to curate their own glorious selection of beautiful things.” As users we notice problems from everyday life that are frustrating. Our objective was to isolate one problem, ideate and prototype a simple solution connected to the Internet. Bi-weekly our group worked in the lab demonstrating an ability to learn, create and problem-solve in an unstructured environment. Ideas brainstormed with pencil-paper doodles transformed rapidly to functional prototypes. Furthermore, we gathered for a round table outside the lab on alternating weeks. Each of these conversations were sparked by a relevant article related to entrepreneurship, market trends and how might we brand our inventions to succeed.
Through process and experience, students made connections with practical, analytical, creative and research-based thinking. In order to test his mettle, each boy created a succinct elevator pitch to sell his invention to a panel of some of the best advertising professionals from JUICE Pharma Worldwide.
One boy offered an accounting of his design and experience at JUICE, as follows: "My design was of a robot dog. The purpose of the dog was to help parents teach their children responsibility. The dog was upcycled to connect to the Internet using Wi-Fi signals. From these signals, anyone with a phone and the correct password could control the dog. The parent could force the dog to make a noise until a button is pressed. Throughout the course of the semester-long class, we pushed towards this independent design. Our designs were created using littleBits, modular electronics that transfer energy and stick together using small magnets and wood. The final design was taped over or colored in for the aesthetic. The presentation of the design was a culmination of all the lessons learned in the class. Presenting the final iteration of the project was a great experience in entrepreneurship and public speaking."
Most boys would agree that waiting in the green room to go on camera may have tested some nerves. However, all left with new tools young entrepreneurs and engineers agree are necessary for success.
Director of Technology Aaron Grill, Technology Integrator Anderson Harp and the entire engineering class would like to thank Browning parent Forrest King for organizing and inviting the class to JUICE Pharma. View video and photos.