Ripper's Chatter

D. Ripollone is a STAR member of the Discovery Educator Network

Ripper's Chatter

Two Full Weeks in the Bag….NASA MiniGrant

September 22nd, 2013 · No Comments · Assessments, Environment, Flipping the Classroom, Labs, Modeling/Whiteboarding, NASA explorers school, Project, Teacher Ideas

Title says it all, we finally finished two full weeks. And wow, it has been flying by. Every time I look up at the clock at school, the day is almost over and I can never cover everything I want to cover. Oh well!

Let’s see where should I start first…Oh well we had our dedication and my creative video crew did an awesome job covering the Mass. They also did a great job interviewing the Bishop, you can see the interview on Youtube.  After dedication we then had parent/teacher night. The next day we were at the Friday Institute on NC State Campus doing a professional development. Yep I think it was a busy end of the August.

September came like a flash, I’m still trying to figure out where it all went. A couple of things that have happened, number one on the list is we received a mini grant from NES (NASA explorers school). Totally unexpected didn’t think it would happen. We applied knowing that eventually the cuts were coming and there would be no money left. (Which might still happen with gov’t shut down).  Hopefully, I say this because of the gov’t situation right now, we will be able to get our EV3’s and other Lego equipment. This year we have a room dedicated to Robotics and Science Olympiad. Its pretty awesome and at some point I will post pictures. In the room I’m hoping to have the Lego’s set up so they can be used during lunch periods etc.. With the purchase we are hoping to build an outreach with middle school children. We are incorporating the Green City sets into our Earth Day/Sustainability Day celebration and our Science Festival in January ( more on that in a later blog entry). Can’t wait to start getting this going and begin our little outreach endeavor.

I have pretty much decided to flip all of my Forensic class. It allows me to cover more material in class by doing different activities. The students are loving it. They said they like that class is made up of doing various activities and less lecture. They did however ask me to to make sure that there were worksheets to go along with the vodcasts.  And students haven’t been doing to bad on their assessments. Cool internet tool to use in Forensics is the CSI Web Adventure, it shows a variety of instruments used in the lab to analyze evidence. I gave students a work sheet that I created for the website and they dived into investigating the website.

I’ve been doing a good deal of whiteboarding in class and it has been successful. I still have to get it to a point that students are participating and getting something out of it.  I started using an exit tool, like a parking garage. Students posted their questions on post its and then posted them on poster paper. I had students do this just before the test, and went over all their questions at the beginning of class. Scores were pretty good, some did really well while others need improvement. I’m going to do this again but try a different format, maybe Padlet.

Another idea for class, is doing the Earth Science Week Photograph contest.  Still working on how I’m going to implement this. Meanwhile, this week is spirit week so we decided to do a scavenger hunt at school on Friday. We hope to have Physics and Earth Science students working together to find solutions to questions using GPS. Should be fun!

Hopefully, I have caught up on some of the happenings around my class. I haven’t done a parent newsletter in a while but hopefully that will come. Look for futures blogs on the Literacy Project, Science Festival and other happenings.






Summer Experiences

September 1st, 2013 · No Comments · Advanced Space Camp, Discovery, Siemens Research, Siemens STEM Academy, STEM

RALEIGH: Cardinal Gibbons science teacher brings research experience to classroom | Raleigh | It’s amazing that this occurred a month ago. I’m still trying digest what I did this summer. I already started showing the students my experiences.


Here we go….

August 9th, 2013 · No Comments · Advanced Space Camp, Discovery, NASA, NASA explorers school, Project, Space Camp, STEM, Teacher Workshop

Well two weeks to go and another year begins at my school. Changes have occurred throughout the school. Not bad changes. Just new changes. Mostly building changes which I know I’m excited about. New science rooms, office, lobby and media room. Yep definitely exciting this year.


science                lobby

Other then the changes in the building we have new faculty and technology this year. Again really exciting.  With cuts across the board in education we are very lucky to have had this plan approved early on. I think this really is the result of our principal and his hard work. Others also played a role in the project, but he was non stop with getting funding and the plans implemented.  Our vice principal and facilities/accountant person were really the ones getting all of this done on time.

So with all this new stuff I now have to think about all the things I learned during the summer experiences. I’m finally getting a chance to digest everything I did this summer. What I have brought back from all my experiences has been an asset to my classroom. Now its looking at how to implement this in the classroom.  I’ve already know that my experience with 2013 Siemens STARs research will fit perfectly in my geology section of class. I’m in the process of putting together a presentation using the pictures and research I did this summer. (see other posts for information) Using research information I can integrate everything into the  geological history and rock cycle sections.  Some of the websites we used during our research were excellent resources for geological history. If you are interested here is a google document with the websites. 

The other experiences will be great for electromagnetic spectrum and meteorology. Where we were at Langley we got a chance to talk to people about lasers and how they were used on satellites. In my other posts you can find all the resources I gained from this experience.  Last experience, Advanced Space Academy for Educators, and this experience showed me how I can overcome my fears with the help of others( go Team Marshall). This will be more of a story to tell students and maybe have them write something about how they have overcame some form of obstacle.

I’ve already decided to start class this year a little different, I ‘m going to continue to use the team building activities I did last year. Because as I found out this summer on all my experiences, collaboration and communication play a major role in real life STEM jobs. So I think this is important for the beginning of school. Plus this is when I put everyone into their groups, randomly.  But after this I’m going to have students do a project on the literacy principles.  Groups will be given two principles in one of the literacy components. I’m hoping to have enough groups to do all the principles so no one group is doing the same.



Ocean Literacy











I’m going to allow my students to choose how they want to present the information. I’ll give them some basics to guide them at the beginning but I want them to pretty much figure it out for themselves and be creative.  I’ll also suggest some tools such as Prezi, WeVideo,  etc.  I would use glogster but it costs money now. Actually I think students could use Microsoft publisher if need be, it would just be saved to a USB and not the cloud. I’ve found that they can pretty much create the similar presentations using word or publisher. I think you get the idea by now. Why am I doing this project is because at the NSTA I didn’t realize how important it is for our students to be aware of the different components of Earth Science and Earth Systems. I mean I knew but just didn’t know there were resources out there to help teach these topics. Plus it fits the Next Generation Standards.

I could go on with all the ideas I have for the beginning of school. But then this post would be a mile long. So I’m going to stop here and continue to discuss all the new classroom tools I obtained this summer in other posts. Since it is the beginning of school , I’m hoping to keep up with everything. So bear with me, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the experiences I had during the summer. I know my PLN really got a boost.Winking smile


Great Ending to a wonderful Experience

July 29th, 2013 · No Comments · Discovery, Siemens Research, Siemens STEM Academy, STEM, Teacher Ideas, Teacher Workshop


The final night proved to be amazing. During the day we had a luncheon with our sponsors. The two main sponsors were Siemens and the College Board. We meet both and introduced ourselves to them. It seems the College Board are the ones who pick the teachers to go to these experiences.  I guess I made an impression with my video to get picked. Actually I really don’t know why they picked me this year. But what I do know, is that this experience was amazing and wonderful.

That night we presented our research project before other STAR researchers, Siemens, College Board and PNNL. Nervous at first we did a good job and our mentor seemed very happy with our presentation. The certificate or diploma given is amazing, it’s framed and will be shipped to us.


My lab jacket is really cool, can’t wait to show that off this year. The experience was one I will never forget. Just talking to our mentors was enlightening, I learned a tremendous amount information and loved every minute of the work I did in the lab. When the night finished I know I was relieved the presentation was over with. I can’t wait to see the pictures from the presentation night. I have some already but the others should be better since we took group pictures.

The final day was Friday and we finalized our paper work. I handed in my mini-grant, I’m hoping to get the new EV3 from Lego. Vernier has a new probe called Radiation Monitor, I hope to use this and EV3 to go over climate factors. Once we handed in all our paperwork and got our lunch we were off to the airport.

So, how can I use this experience in class. Well, there are many ways that I can integrate the information I learned on this experience into my classroom. Especially the research steps. Using the STEM Student Research Handbook from NSTA and what I learned on my experience, I hope to implement the correct procedure for research projects.  Following the proper steps is very important in real life science, so it should be in class research. Another component I can use is the Geology of the Mammoth site, it fits in perfectly with the Geological Time Scale. A project that I’m thinking about is having students look over geological history of the mammoth site. There are plenty of ideas in my head right now, but I need time to digest everything we saw. It was amazing all the information I digested on this trip.


Teacher’s experience continues day 11 and counting

July 28th, 2013 · No Comments · Discovery, Project, Siemens Research, STEM, Teacher Ideas, Teacher Workshop


I’m writing this after we had finished the experience, just a bit behind. But it will have to due, I was really busy on the experience so keeping up with the entries was tough.

On Monday, we went back to the lab to finish our samples. And during that time we received data from our mentor. Using this data we started to put our presentation together for Thursday night. A very important night and I will discuss that in another entry. Once we finished our samples we had a total of 18 samples to go into the XRF (explained in an earlier blog entry). We had hoped to see it happen on Tuesday. However, bad news came our way, the XRF had to be fixed. They needed to order a part to fix it. So we ended up not getting the data from the Lab XRF to compare to the portable XRF. Our lab mentor Eirik e-mailed us to let us know he had fixed the machine on Friday, and hoped to get our samples taken care of. He worked hard to fix the machine and I know he probably worked long hours to get it done. So a big thanks to him. He said he would send the results to us, since we had leave on Friday. A teaching moment here, research does not always go the way you want it. Great point to make to the students.


Well on Tuesday and Wednesday we had tours to go on. One was to Atmospheric Lab where we meet up with scientists working on Cloud detection. We were given a tour of the facilities and learned about their projects.


Next on the list of tours was a tour of the Glass labs. This was interesting and two of the STARS researchers were assigned to this lab. This is where they are trying to experiment with different mixtures of glass to add to radioactive toxic waste and safely store this waste. Hanford site is currently holding barrels of radioactive waste from 70 years ago. So the clean up process is being improved for future use. The glass lab is playing a major role in this project. It was great to see different components of the lab.


The next two days were visiting different parts of PNNL and talking to different people. We meet with our mentor George for the last time before our presentation. This was a brief meeting talking about the results and what we had accomplished for future research. George did a great job explaining some of the data and reviewing the research. Overall, we had prepared everything for future research and hope to see some of the data at a later date. That day we went to the planetarium for dinner and a show. Saturn was viewable that night, and some people stayed to look through the awesome telescopes they had. That ended our day on the Tuesday.

Our last night for tours took place at the LIGO Hanford Observatory, here scientists are using sensitive optical equipment to search for gravitational waves from black holes.

Ultimately, LIGO is the largest sustained ultra-high vacuum in the world (8x the vacuum of space) keeping 300,000 cubic feet (about 8,500 cubic meters) at one-trillionth the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere.-obtained from LIGO website






The 4 km (a little less than 2.5 miles) of tunnel seemed to never end when we viewed it. The site was amazing and we had a brief lecture on theory of general relativity before the tour.

Well by Wednesday most research groups had finalized their projects and were preparing for the next night. This would be one of the most important nights for the STARS group.


Lab and Dig Site

July 23rd, 2013 · No Comments · Article, Discovery, Labs, Project, Siemens STEM Academy, Teacher Ideas, Teacher Workshop


On Friday we ended up in the lab for the whole day. Here we worked with Eirik Krogstad and Ian. The work started with us drying our samples in an oven for an hour. While that was taking place we measured out a recipe of flux and oxidizer (flux material was made of Lithium Borates and Lithium Bromide. Oxidizer was Ammonium Nitrate). The flux is used to bind the the sample and prepare it for fluxer (Fluxer used to prepare samples for Xray Fluorescence analysis).

DSC_0188    DSC_0191DSC_0181

Our sample was mixed with the recipe to create a material that would be inserted into a “fluxer” instrument. Here the mixture would be melted into a disc which could be used in a lab XRF. Before we could do this, we had to grind the samples into fine powder. We used a SPEX  mixer/miller. The sample was placed into a tungsten carbide mixing vial and then grinded down to a powder. There was a lot more to the procedure, but for this entry I’ll only cover the basics. In the fluxer the mixture would be melted at high temperatures. The eventual product was a clear disc that would be placed in the XRF unit for analysis. DSC_0216


DSC_0266    DSC_0392

Our research was based on the assumption that we would see an elemental change among the strata. Which we could plot in detail through use of the XRF. Our mentor hoped we would find a pattern between layers and a correlation to the pre-service teacher’s results.  I’m really trying to write this as simple as possible. I will post our presentation at a later date. We didn’t finish all our samples and had to come back on Monday to complete them. I think one of the most important things I’m learning is that there are fun and not so fun jobs (sound like a kid here), but the bottom line is you have to follow all the steps to reach a conclusion. Something many students would rather not do and skip steps. Also you need to work as a team, one person can’t do everything and it’s important that you work together to seek an answer. Collaboration! Nothing new about this, very similar to my other experiences.

The weekend came upon us a bit too fast since we had not finished every thing. On Saturday we took a tour of the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility in Ellensberg WA and the Gingko Petrified Forest. The wind farm was very interesting, we had a chance to go inside the tower of one of the wind turbines. The improvement on the wind power is amazing. There was hardly any noise from the turbines, a definite improvement on the technology. One the most amazing things was the view of the cascades and Mount Rainier.

DSC_0300            DSC_0323


The Gingko forest had some interesting species.


Sunday morning we went to the dig site to help out for a little while. It was really interesting learning how to properly dig and wash the soil. We ended up staying for a few hours and leaving the site later in the morning. DSC_0367DSC_0368


The end of the day was ours to do whatever we wanted.  To relax a group of teachers went boating on the Columbia River and it was great. We went swimming and boating on the river for about two hours. This ended the weekend and another week was upon us. 7 days down and 7 more to go. Friday the 26th we would leave so this was the last week. So the next entries would be the last.


Keep an eye on the blog for conclusion to our Siemens experience.


Dig Site, B-Reactor and I’m not glowing yet

July 20th, 2013 · No Comments · Uncategorized


Well Wednesday and Thursday of the research experience were really exciting and interesting. First, with the help of our mentor we solidified our research. Our priority is to determine the elemental component of the soil near the mammoth and determine whether mammoth originated from this area or carried in from the floods. How we are going to do this is to go into the field and collect 24 samples. Hopefully, three samples per strata layer. While taking samples we are hoping to use the portable XRF to take elemental readings. Once complete we will take the samples back to the lab and use the XRF in the lab to get elemental readings. In this instance we are hoping to cross reference the portable readings with the lab readings. Also we are hoping to compare our results with the lithographic results.


Interesting huh? Yep, we have a lot to do and that would be done on Friday, hopefully. We did get a chance to go to the dig site. Boards covered the actual bones because they were trying to protect them. But it was a great to see where we would be working.



     DSC_0126   DSC_0055

We also had a chance to talk to some of the people who had been working the site for a while. One was an ex-teacher, he is retired now and works with others about educational opportunities on the site. He is also one of the leaders of the Ice Age Flood Institute. Learned a ton of information from the volunteers. After looking over everything we headed back to PNNL to do some more training. We headed to the Geoscience building to speak with a Analytical Geochemist, Erik Krogstad. He helped us decide on the particular procedures we would need to use when testing the samples in the lab. This is where the Rad training would pay off. We were given a tour of the lab and where we would be working for part of the the day on Friday. Pretty exciting stuff since we would be doing the collecting and researching ourselves. Definitely a great teaching moment for the kids and wonderful information to bring back to the classroom. By the end of the day we knew what we needed to do to complete our assignment.

On Thursday we had a great day, we started the day touring the B-Reactor used in the Manhattan project. This was really interesting, I did not know much about the project nor the reactor. Now I’m really interested in what went on at this plant. It was an a great day of visiting the plant. Next entry will highlight the dig and lab work.

DSC_0287   DSC_0295


Research Experience Begins

July 18th, 2013 · No Comments · Labs, Siemens STEM Academy, STEM

Before I even begin these posts, a brief introduction into the the experience would be helpful for some people. The program is supported by Siemens, Discovery, DOE and others. Two experiences took place one at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the other at Pacific Northwest Laboratory. Both at different times Oak Ridge in June and PNNL in July. PNNL is the one I took part in. All the bios of all the participants are located on the Siemens Academy page.


Well it’s the second full day of the Siemens/Discovery STARs experience at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory(PNNL) and I have already learned a lot of information. We have completed 6 different training courses and a Rad test. In the end we became Rad I worker certified. The person who trained us told us that now we were trained for the year and were able to use this in any DOE(Department of Energy) location. Amazing how much we need to know to safely do our research.

Our hotel is located on the Columbia river and it’s a beautiful area for jogging. Located in Richland WA, the area is one of contrast. In one section you see green then in the other you see desert. Definitely a bit different from the East.

20130717_055146  DSC_0009

The first two days included lectures, introductions and our research assignments. The people in charge introduced themselves and gave us a brief introduction about to what to expect during the week. Pretty interesting stuff going on at PNNL right now, you can check out their news here. There are five groups of teachers each are working with a mentor at the Lab. All the groups are working on different topics. Some on CO2 capturing , microbes, radiation and then our group, we are working on the Mammoth site. During the first couple of days teachers discussed their goals in their research. One of the things that was stressed to us is that this experience was about the process of research. We were learning how research is happening in the real world. Then teach our students about that process and how to properly implement the process. One of the tools we were given was a science notebook, never had one or used one. But it is a great tool to help keep our research information.

On day two Tuesday we listened to a discussion on Biosecurity: Trends in the Global Age, by Rachel Bartholomew (she is part of research at PNNL). A bit scary about Bio terrorism and the use of genetic manipulation to create viruses. This is a bit different from my last trip when we toured Hudson Alpha and all the good things they are trying to do. Very drastic differences between the two.  After the talk we all went to see our mentors. Ours was George Last, a scientists involved with the Coyote Canyon Mammoth dig. George was awesome and really took the time out to explain what was happening at the dig and what his research was about. We talked about our research as a group and ended the day by solidifying our research hypothesis and purpose. Our goal was to obtain samples from each of the layers of strata and use XRF(X-ray Fluorescence) to identify the layer’s elements. George hoped we could prove or disprove the theory that the mammoth had been brought by the flood waters into the area. The geological history of the area was rich with floods, more specifically ice age floods. As we would learn, this area was rich in geological history.

After a long day we had dinner and listened to a discussion on Technology Tools. The days are long and we were going to get the opportunity to visit the dig site on the third day of the experience. Overall a ton of things were happening, and I have had very little time to keep up with my blog. But I will try.  See the next blog entry for our trip to the dig site and the B-Reactor (yep more glowing).


And so it Ends..

July 13th, 2013 · No Comments · Advanced Space Academy, Labs, NASA, Project, Space Camp, STEM, Teacher Ideas

Before I even get to the last day I need to talk about the Marshall Space Flight Center Tour. We did this on the second day. Things have gone very quick, and I tried to keep the entries short. But this tour was pretty cool and thought people might like to see pictures. We got to see the ISS payload operations center control room and visit the Redstone Test Area. The tour took around the center and we saw different test towers and buildings used during the Apollo missions.















With the little time I have before my next summer experience, I’m trying to catch up with my entries. The last day of the Academy was filled with information for classroom. A NASA representative introduced us to the BEST curriculum. I haven’t used this yet but the engineering design packet we used in our Lunar Egg Challenge. It worked great, we did tweak it a bit when we used the rubric.

Our design challenge in the workshop was to build a solar sail, using materials supplied. We did pretty good. There are tons of resources on the NASA website, and BEST has guides for different challenges and age groups. Check out the site to get more information. I’m already thinking about how I can change this around to suit my class. Maybe add some solar panels and integrate with alternative energy topics. Again more resources that can be used to integrate the Next Generation Science Standards in the classroom. NASA always comes through and you can pretty much implement the information in class during any part of the curriculum or find something that will fit.

After this we worked on our mission patch. An awesome treat like always. Honestly it was pretty easy to get everyone to agree on what we wanted on the patch. 14 stars 14 people. Strangers who came together and became friends through challenges, laughter and acceptance. Oh and lets not forgot meals, they were interesting to say the least (LOL).


The day continued with a presentation on the Distance Learning Network that Space Camp was offering. Something new, now you could bring space camp to your classroom or after school activity. Sounds like something I might look into for our Science Festival. We will have to see.

Another resource we obtained was the Design Squads new mission booklet. The book offers resources on NASA missions and challenges. These challenges are great STEM PBL’s. What’s really great about this resource is that it corresponds to the Next Generation Science Standards. Design Squad has been around for a while, but I believe it will get more popular as the Next Gen standards are implemented.

After a day of PD resources, we went and did some robotics. By this time of the day I will admit that I was a bit fried. But everyone had fun with the competition. We used Lego NXT Mindstorms, what was different is that they used the Kinect to control the Mindstorms. We didn’t use this for our exercise instead we used remote controls that looked like they were made for the xbox 360. Pretty Cool. Sorry no pictures completely forgot. I’ll have to look into this and figure out something it looked really cool and would be a great idea for the Science Club. I know the new EV3’s are coming out soon, because I ordered some for robotics.


Next was graduation. Bittersweet, we had made it through everything but were sorry to see it end. It had been an experience I would never trade in the world. Not only did I challenge myself as a person and teacher, I now have tons of information to bring back to the classroom and implement different projects. Scuba diving and the pamper pole will always be in top 10 items on my bucket list. And the people, they made it the best. Now I have new friends and colleagues to get ideas from and share experiences.

Special thanks to all the people at Space Camp for making this a wonderful experience.


Another Day… Another Challenge

July 12th, 2013 · No Comments · Advanced Space Academy, Space Camp, STEM, Teacher Ideas, Teacher Workshop

That’s what I labeled this day at Advanced Space Academy(I’ve been putting Camp, someone corrected me recently its Academy) for Educators.  I know I used that title already but it just seems like we were given some great challenges throughout the week. Similar to day two when we did the scuba diving activity, we had another activity  to do.  This day would prove just as challenging and rewarding.



We started the day with a tour of Hudson Alpha a Biotech company located in Huntsville. The introduction talk prior to the tour of the facilities proved interesting. Since I really don’t teach biology, I will do my best to explain this experience. First, the introduction went over basic genetic principles and then talked about the wrong way we teach genetics. This was a great discussion and we realized we have a lot to learn about genetics. A good author to read for more information about the topic is Ricki Lewis. This brought up a discussion on how textbooks have gotten some of the information wrong and teachers were teaching some genetics wrong. Interesting and I will have to pass on this topic since I am not expert. If you are reading this right now and have some information you would like to share, use the comment area.  They continued to impress us with new applications of genetics. At the end they gave us a CD and book for high school curriculum. We all agreed that the tour and talk were great.

Next on the list was the challenge. In Area 51, ropes course, there is a challenge called the “pamper pole”.  Well, there is one thing for sure, I think adults do need to wear “pampers” when doing this, just kidding. It was a challenge though but I did it. I completely ignored everyone and did what I had to do to complete the challenge. Again this is just another great story to tell the students. Overcoming your fears and team building. Great tool to use in class, and a big part of real world. Team building became a really big component of this challenge. Your team were holding the ropes that kept you from falling. Yep, trust was involved here. I can’t wait to show pictures and talk about this in class.


The day ended with our EDM training and mission. We had fun with this, but I hate to say it, I killed our crew. I was too busy getting sick (just a medical anomalies ). Ah well I had a feeling we were going to get slammed with all types of problems on our mission. But overall it was fun and pretty interesting. Tornado, medical emergencies, equipment problems etc.. yep and still had to try and help land the orbiter.



Yep this is me saying my goodbyes to the crew after killing them.


Well the day was long but again we developed our Team building skills and challenged ourselves with various activities. The end of our mission was coming, we had our last day on Wednesday and would have our graduation. Bittersweet.