Robotics competition got students pointed in the right direction
Re the Dec. 9 Viewpoint, “Letting business shape K-12 curriculum is terrible idea” :
On Dec. 8, we had a rookie team that is going to participate in the first robotics competition visit for a full day at our shop, the Kell Robotics Innovation Center in Kennesaw, Ga.
They rode a school bus 200 miles one way to get there. They thought they were coming just to learn some technical things, but a lot of time and energy was spent on personal and team development, problem solving, ownership of problems and processes, design process and other things. These are a few of the things that make a team successful and the personal skills developed are valuable to future employers.
They volunteered to come 200 miles from a Title I school on a Saturday, to learn things that engage them academically and intellectually, and move them toward becoming successful members of society. During the next few years, they will mature, and find motivation and interests that many of their peers will not find.
For some of them, Dec. 8 was the day their compass became aligned, they decided they were going to become better students and find out what they wanted to do with their careers. They found a respite from the academic treadmill and discovered they can do something exciting, relevant, important and fun.
Criticizing schools for allowing students to build a “basketball-playing robot” exposes a deep misunderstanding of what it takes to accomplish this task. It requires a high degree of critical thinking, teamwork, problem solving, and other tasks that educators strive to accomplish in the classroom through “manufactured academic exercises.”
Producing a robot to do a task like play basketball well is really tough and not unlike the challenges students will face in their career after school.
Educators work to prepare students to pursue hundreds of careers, from law, medicine, mechanics, construction, education, etc. For the most part, it is done in the classroom. Imagine that we prepared football players the same way we prepared these other students. We could teach them how to play football from a textbook, physically condition them in a gym class, and save all the cost and bother of having football programs after school. “You mean we could prepare athletes for NCAA and NFL and save all that time and money?” Unfortunately, we train students the same way for other fields.
For thousands of years there has been a student/mentor apprenticeship process. The modern world has lost this Old World process. If we are going to make progress in education, we have to reconnect students with mentors from outside the classroom, through competitions such as robotics, summer internships in business and other activities that motivate and excite students about what they are doing in the classroom.
The goal of the educational process is to help produce educated, competent members of society. Test scores are an outcome of the process, not the ultimate goal. If we do not engage students in mentor-based programs like robotics and other STEM and non-STEM programs, we will abandon millions of students to spending years looking for ways to get their careers started.
The writer is the assistant director of advance computing for Kennesaw State University and a director of the Carlton J. Kell robotics team.
Something fishy about Constitution Pipeline
Re the Constitution Pipeline project proposed in Schoharie County: Once again, the company tells us that fracking has nothing to do with the pipeline. If this is so, how come not one inch of this pipeline is running through the state of Vermont, a state that has banned fracking?
Also, the two companies supporting the project — Cabot Oil [& Gas] and Williams [Partners] — have fracking operations in Pennsylvania.
I personally believe Constitution Pipeline is being deceitful. Anyone who feels as I do, contact your senators, congressional representatives, state representatives [and] tell them as I have, that something isn’t right here. Demand an immediate investigation.
Richard E. Fisher
Christians act as if they own the season
The winter solstice (Dec. 21) is an astronomical event that has been noted, observed and celebrated by humans for thousands of years (e.g., midwinter Germanic and Nordic heathen “Yule” festivals). It is not surprising that the narratives developed by many religions assigned major events to this seasonal milestone (and its springtime counterpart).
A glance at any calendar reveals that many religions and other entities celebrate holidays clustered around the December solstice — the weeks encompassing Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Solstice, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s obviously compose a “holiday season.”
But in the Dec. 5 Gazette is yet another letter, this one from Arlene Shako, claiming for one religion sole ownership of an entire chunk of the calendar, asserting that it is somehow “disrespectful to Christians to call the city’s (seasonal) parade a ‘holiday’ parade.” Christians do not own the season.
The writer then makes the preposterous claim that “the Christmas tree originated from Christian traditions,” apparently unaware that, hundreds of years BCE [Before Common Era] — the Celtic Druids venerated evergreen trees as manifestations of deity and symbols of the universe, and decorated them at Yule with images of the things they wished the waxing year to bring, such as fruits for a successful harvest, love charms for happiness, nuts for fertility, and coins for wealth.
In Scandinavia, Yule trees were brought inside to provide a warm and festive place to coax the native faery folk to participate in Solstice rituals.
The Saxons may have been the first to place candles in the tree.
Again, it is not surprising that Christians adopted and adapted these ancient observances as they evolved their narratives and customs. It’s fine for a Christian family to call their tree a “Christmas tree,” but it’s also fine if some other person or organization chooses to call their seasonal tree a “holiday tree” or a “solstice tree” or whatever else they wish.
Christians do not own the season.
Use Curry Road Plaza land for green space
Having driven past the blight on Curry Road for decades and reading the dysfunctional Rotterdam Planning Board’s plans for more apartments, banks and ugly strip malls. I’m proposing a green commons area. If you’ve been to The Crossings in the town of Colonie, you know what I’m proposing.
What’s really needed is a commons area for seniors, working residents and children for leisure time. A place for walking, with two overlapping oval footpaths — one with a fountain, the other with a child play area. Footpaths could have donated memorial family benches and trees to enhance the beauty of a park.
The Golubs gave us this land, let’s make the most of it. There was never an open public discussion as to what the residents want to do with it. Future generations of Rotterdam residents will appreciate the beauty, as so many other communities have enjoyed for years. We, the residents of Rotterdam, deserve nothing less.
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