Digital Noses, Z-Tests, and Expansion: Week 25, Year 4, Iowa BIG

[This post is one in a larger series of posts detailing my day-to-day conversations, projects, and thoughts while running Iowa BIG; if I don’t write this stuff down I forget how amazing my students and colleagues are and I get “win creep” so bad. Iowa BIG is an initiative-based high school option in Cedar Rapids, IA and a grant winner in the XQ Superschool network.]

K, so this week was nuts. They’re all nuts, but this one especially so. Here’s the run down:

  • Helped students write image processing code to look through google maps to identify swimming pools. These students are generating physical address lists to send surveys and informational materials regarding pool safety and a prototype toddler pool alarm they’ve developed.
  • Another group got in touch with the Kurt Vonnegut museum to pitch their idea for a festival loosely based on Slaughterhouse 5. Based in the kids’ pitch, the museum committed artifacts and staffing. WIN.
  • Met at Central Iowa Power Cooperative with a team of students to discuss a grid-load simulation their writing for CIPCO that deals with adoption of electric vehicles. The partner mentor, Paul, is so awesome and has decades of experience, and still finds an hour a week to guide the team.
  • Met with team to help get an SSL certificate so their running-routes app ( will load in Chrome. Taught two sophomores basic SQL architecture.
  • Helped a student create a shot list for filming at an elementary school with regard to student misconceptions concerning heat. My student is compiling a series of videos for physics teachers to use; NOT MY IDEA, btw. She wants more people to take physics II.
  • Cybersecurity tournament team almost got cancelled, but the team lead put his foot down and shit got done! They have outlines for 4 publicly offered courses and server challenges: wireshark, SQL injection, proxy making, and encryption algorithm brewing.
  • Team met without me because I was double booked–they identified the Boys and Girls club as their target nonprofit for the physics cross-fit event their holding. (e.g. block and tackle lifts tractor tire…) NOTMYIDEAEITHERISWEAR
  • Drank coffee
  • Taught a physics seminar on vectors cause the block-and-tackle thing was going poorly.
  • Met with a student who is running our stock market simulation, he wants to integrate more advanced products and futures. The winner gets a cheese V-day basket, so the teens are taking this really seriously.
  • Taught stats seminar on Z-Tests after a climate science debate. Students learned R and R-Studio.
  • Met at a really awesome partner site to talk through a efficacy and joy survey a team is running on their employees. Stats, stats, stats-stats-stats, stats!
  • Met with our new teachers who are going to start their own “family table” as we call them. We discussed heavily the idea of nodes and networks, and how each partner, student, parent, and teacher is a node of different strength, and how this affects the ability for a teacher to know their students.
  • Algebra II seminar, womp womp. Why I teach this is complicated and involves politics, but the students and I talked at length about exp(i*pi) and why logarithms needed to be invented by Napier.
  • Student pitched me wanted to run his own TEDx. We’re letting him roll through the customer discovery and venue analysis without a team—which is really risky, but the kid is awesome.
  • Taught an Arduino seminar.
  • Ferguson Quotient Meeting! I love this team! A motley team of math-phobic and -philic students all data mining around Ferguson MO and other cities looking for unique stabilizing and destabilizing stats.
  • Exhibit designer from the Iowa Children’s Museum came up to our site in CR to talk about the ceiling design for a physics exhibit their building. We talked about vector fields, and the students left with the art direction squarely on their shoulders, so that’s cool.
  • STAFF MEETINGS ARE SO INTENSE. It’s like an 80’s style WWF smack down mixed with an unconference and a bunch of assigning interventions for students who aren’t as successfully as we want them to be.
  • Calibrated Bluetooth beacons with the pool alarm team so they can get distance sensing correct in highly ferrous or water-based situations.
  • Talked about app design with the team. They were down after their partner mycologist poo-pooed their first app. Things are better now. We also are running an experiment using digital noses methane sensors fart sensors that can tell how fast certain mycelia are breaking down hydrocarbon pollution. (Their using crude oil again!)

Here’s the really cool part: That’s only 20% of what Iowa BIG did this week.