California Teachers Association

October 2014

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Learning Shasta High Principal Milan Woollard, praising Grigsby's real-world sci- ence credentials and ease in connecting to students. "He's real, and the kids see that," Woollard says. Grigsby created the robotics class, Space Science and Engineering, three years ago. Robotic programs often take the form of a club or summer camp. Shasta High's two-period class fulfills elective and life science requirements on the college track. "The whole goal was to really emphasize these skills — programming, b u i l d i n g , e n g i n e e r i n g — where our world is headed," Grigsby says. He sets the bar high, each year issuing The Grand Chal- lenge: Create a rover that will drive itself from the classroom to the school office — mak- ing turns, avoiding walls and n e g o t i a t i n g t h r e s h o l d s i n four buildings. I t ' s y e t t o b e a c h i e v e d . That's OK. Success isn't the only way to measure success. " Fa i l u re i s n ' t a b a d t h i n g . I t l e a d s u s t o c re a t i n g n e w t h i n g s ," Grigsby says. Failure as opportunity works for teaching too. "Don't be afraid to try new things," is Grigsby's advice. "I have done so many things that have been complete flops." At the beginning of the school year, he works closely with robotics students on coding and building bots, but then backs off. " We l e a r n f r o m e a c h o t h e r," s a y s s e n i o r A l l i e Morris. "If one person figures it out, the person says: 'OK, everybody listen…'" "We are really troubleshooting the entire time," senior Sage Milestone says. "It's definitely a lot of problem-solving," says Matt Smull, an engineering undergraduate at Boise State University. Grigsby's class gave him a jump on coding in college. He also gained building skills — and a job with an after-school robotics program. For the final robotics assignment, Grigsby gives students a blank slate: Make something with the tools and knowledge gained in class. A sponge- armed fire blotter, a runaway alarm clock, and a roving magnetic claw emerge. As each bot buzzes before the class, Grigsby challenges students to think about improving the design. "What's the next version?" he asks. "If we had stuck with the original iPhone, it would be like holding a brick to your head." Laura Christman is a freelance journalist and a three-time winner of the CTA John Swett Award for public education coverage. the spark for some to pursue science careers. Students collaborate with scientists via videoconferencing to look for mineral signs of ancient water on Mars and do other research. Grigsby returned to the Shasta Union High School District in 2008. "There is something about teaching high school kids that I really missed," he says. He continues as coordina- tor of Mars Exploration Student Data Teams and Student Planetary Investigators, and uses the programs with his students. "He's got a background that's unbelievable," says Success isn't the only way to measure success. Failure as opportunity works for teaching, too. Brian Grigsby 45 V O L U M E 1 9 I S S U E 3

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