Paper Towers

Paper Towers is an excellent class project that will help build teamwork, critical thinking, and problem solving. This project is suitable for a variety of ages from elementary to adult.

Goal: To build the tallest freestanding tower possible from a single sheet of construction paper.

Materials (per team):

  • 1 piece 8.5 x 11 construction paper
  • 1 piece of clear tape 12″ long
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pencil


1. Each tower must be constructed from the paper and tape supplied by the Host Center. No materials or substitutions are allowed.

2. Teams have 45 minutes to construct their towers.

3. Towers cannot be attached to any surface or structure.

4. Towers must stand for 5 seconds upon arrival of a judge.

5. Towers will be measured from the floor vertically to the highest point. Towers that curve or sag may not be straightened and then measured; they will be measured to the highest vertical point while sagging or curving.


We are all familiar with the term STEM. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. What was missing was an artistic component. Integrating Art into STEM education is very easy and a natural fit. Research suggests that engaging in creative activities improves critical thinking skills.

Here is an example that I had excellent results with and was very popular with the students. For more ideas and details about the research, I highly recommend STEM to STEAM by David Sousa and Tom Pilecki ISBN 9781452258331.

Paul Haberstroh

After taking apart some old computers to learn component level function and troubleshooting, I suggested we build a sculpture out of the disassembled components. The project was well received and fostered creative and collaborative thinking. The students named the finished sculpture “Spock” in honor of Leonard Nimoy.

Field Trip to England

I just returned from our inaugural 6th Grade field trip to England. While the purpose of the trip was World History and Social Studies, to me it was also about technology. It is no coincidence that the expansion of the British Empire paralleled their technology advances of the day.

While visiting the legendary HMS Warrior, it became clear why the British had naval superiority at that time. Technology. The design and construction, the navigation systems, the weapons systems, and the propulsion systems were ahead of anyone else at the time.

The Prime Meridian is in England. The chronometer and octant are credited to English inventors, just to mention a few technology advances.

The Industrial Revolution began in England.

The students were treated to some amazing sights, history, and culture.

Here is a slide show of some images I took during the trip.

Troubleshooting Hardware

While most computer issues are usually software related, hardware failure is a very common reality. So how do you know when the problem is hardware? Determining whether an issue is hardware or software related is very challenging as symptoms are often the same for both problems.

As you may know first hand, hard drives account for approximately 80% of hardware failures. An optical hard drive has moving parts and is a very precise and delicate component. Hard drive failure is not always the end of your data however. Often the disc itself is fine with the data intact and may be recoverable.

Hard Drive Failure accounts for 80% or Hardware Problems
As part of  IT Class a Student removes and disassembles the hard drive of a working computer.

After trying the usual software fixes and the problem persists, reboot the machine and listen carefully. Most manufacturers build in a series of audible beeps with a distinct pattern that could help determine hardware issues and point to the actual component causing the problem. This is especially helpful if the system will not completely boot up to run other diagnostics.

So how hard is it to change out a hardware component? Really not that hard and can be a lot of fun! Just ask any of my 6th Graders!

Sweetwater IT Class
Students completely disassemble desk top computers as part of their IT Class .

If it has to be a PC, I do like Dell desktops because they are easy to work on and give detailed troubleshooting support. There are many resources available online including videos on how to change out a component. If you are planning on replacing a computer or have an old one laying around, get some small screw drivers and see if you can take it apart and put it back together!

IVLP Visits My Classroom

The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is the U.S. Department of State’s professional exchange program. We were chosen as one of the schools for visiting Technology Educators representing seven different countries.

IVLP Guests Representing Seven Countries
IVLP Guests Representing Seven Countries visit my classroom

We were selected specifically because of the technology we are integrating into the classroom. The countries represented were: Armenia, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Mexico, Morocco, and The Ukraine.

When the Head of School informed me that we were going to have these visitors, I was very surprised. I mostly wondered how they found us. For a small private elementary school we really do have leading edge technology in our curriculum. BYOD, 3D Printing and 1:1 iPad use are some of the specific things they were very interested in.

As the Science and Technology Teacher, my 6th Grade Science class was first on their tour. I use technology as a matter of course and do not think about it much, but now we were hosting International EdTech leaders!

Paul Haberstroh demonstrates Nearpod for the visitors.
Paul Haberstroh demonstrates Nearpod for the visitors.

In 6th Grade we use iPads 1:1 frequently and I really like using Nearpod. Being able to push out a lesson to the class and monitor the participation is a tremendous benefit when integrating tablets into a classroom. In the photo above I am showing our IVLP guests the interface and metrics that are provided for the teacher. This particular lesson plan was Photosynthesis.

I have often been asked how 3D Printing integrates into a curriculum, and this was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate. The module we are studying for the quarter in 6th Grade Science is Cellular Biology. In addition to many excellent Apps, Khan Academy lectures and Nearpod content, there are Creative Commons 3D Files for Cell organelles. What better way to show what a mitochondrion looks like than to make a 3D Print of one?!

Paul Habertroh Demonstrating 3D Printing to IVLP Guests
Paul Haberstroh Demonstrating 3D Printing to IVLP Guests

Our guests were very gracious and honoring of our time to share with them. They were very impressed with what we were doing and very complimentary of our school. At lunch many of them shared their perspectives and challenges they face in their environments. Several of them specialized in virtual content delivery out of logistical or geographic necessity. Some were from secondary and higher education and were very impressed with what we were doing at the primary level. The students, teachers and administration felt very special and fortunate to be selected by IVLP for the visit!



New Smart WiFi System for our School

Selecting the best WiFi system for a school is one of the most important technology investment decisions you should make carefully.

With the implementation of 1:1 and BYOD initiatives increasing, more schools will require an upgrade to their current WiFi infrastructure. Nothing can be more frustrating than inadequate bandwidth when a class of 20 students is trying to connect their tablets to the WiFi. Losing class time and the enthusiasm to use the mobile devices does not serve well.

Adequate bandwidth is crucial for a school

My first technology initiative at the school was to upgrade the bandwidth to the best available to accommodate the 20 new iPads. The second initiative was to upgrade the Wifi. Any enterprise grade system would have been a significant improvement over the inadequate “G” consumer units we had around campus, but I wanted to plan for the future. My vision was a 1:1 or BYOD for every classroom. I wanted a system that would accommodate that growth.

Choosing technology hardware can be daunting given its dynamic nature and the extensive product offerings. Where do you start? Fortunately, I found out one of my student’s father was a WiFi guru. He owned a wireless ISP on a Caribbean Island and was a real expert. Having a resource like that is invaluable. Being able to get expert objective recommendations is not always easy to come by. I suggest you always reach out to the school parents when you are making any technology decisions, you may also have an expert among them.

New Ruckus WiFi
New Ruckus Smart WiFi Controller

The brand that was recommended is Ruckus®. Well regarded by those in the know. The quality and technology are outstanding. At first we did not think we could afford the system, but fortunately Ruckus® gives substantial educational discounts making it by far the best value. Many manufacturers offer significant discounts to the education market. Do not disqualify a product based on its published pricing.

In addition to the valuable advice by this parent, he also gave up a good part of a Saturday to help me with the configuration. This saved me many hours and I learned a great deal in the process. By doing the installation ourselves, we saved the school thousands of dollars.

New Wireless Access Points
New Smart Wireless Access Points

In addition to the ten wireless access points that blanket the campus, there is an outdoor access point that will reach all the way down to the lake we are on. Students can utilize the WiFi during outdoor classes on our beautiful campus!

Some of the key features of the Ruckus® Smart Wifi are: beam steering, adaptive signal control, role-based user access, integrated features to handle BYOD challenges, adaptive mesh networking and more.

The staff and students are extremely pleased and impressed with this new system.

To learn more about the key features of the Ruckus® Smart WiFi system, visit

3D Printing in the Classroom

Now that we have had the 3D Printer in the classroom for a few weeks, I am even more convinced of its relevancy and opportuneness for any STEM Curriculum.  The alignment with several ISTE-S Standards (formerly NETS-S) is very clear, specifically Creativity and innovation, and, Technology and operations concepts.

The NMC Horizon Report 2014 Higher Education Edition lists 3D Printing in the “Time-to-Adoption Horizon at two-three years”. A recent article by Luckerson, V. (2014, Sept. 22) Too Cool for School. Time 184, 16. Indicates that “MakerBot has already placed more than 5,000 3-D printers in U.S. schools”

The upcoming  FETC Conference Workshop List includes not only a 3D Bootcamp, but also a Build Your Own 3D Printer Workshop as well.

I think it is safe to say we are well into the adoption process.

MakerBot 3D Printer in Elementary School
3D Printer © Paul Haberstroh

The excitement that this device has created with students and teachers is amazing. Watching an object being created from an iPad or computer screen image creates the need for students to desire to learn about the technology and processes.

Here is a quick photo essay on the process:

1. MakerBot has an iPad app, PrintShop which is very user friendly. If you have a BYOD or 1:1 iPad program, this is an easy way to get the students involved in the initial design phase.

MakerBot PrintShop App for iPad

2. Type the text you wish to create in 3D

3D Printing
The App adjusts the kerning and line spacing

3. Select the extrusion depth and angles

3D Text Extrusion
Extrusion depth and angle are adjustable

4. Send to 3D printer wirelessly from the iPad, (one of the features that was important to me in a 3D Printer was wireless capability).

3D Printing in process through WiFi
3D Printing in process through WiFi © Paul Haberstroh
3D additive printing process
3D additive printing process layer by layer © Paul Haberstroh
3D Printed Object
The finished 3D printed object © Paul Haberstroh

The finished object created a lot of buzz with the students, teachers and administrators. It was an excellent example that demonstrated the concept and potential of a 3D Printer.







Academic discounts on software

As an educator or student, you are eligible for significant academic discounts on many types of software. Regardless of the subject you teach or study, having some proficiency in the major graphics and office productivity programs is no longer optional. With the discounts and free video tutorials available, cost and complexity should no longer be a deterrent.

One of the best values available with the most comprehensive suite of graphics programs is Adobe Creative Cloud. Currently they are offering a special for only 19.99 per month for teachers and students. This suite includes the best creative apps on the market including an app to make apps. It is a tremendous bargain at less than one half of the usual cost and includes 20 GB of cloud storage. Adobe provides many free tutorials to help get you started. Because it is a cloud application, you are able to use it from any computer. These are industry standard programs that are as important to educational technology as any hardware is. Mastering these tools will help you as an educator or student.

While most of the name brand software still has some cost for teachers and students, there are some amazing software programs for free. One program that I recently acquired at no cost for a one year license is SketchupThis is an excellent 3D modeling program that has great tutorials and is very user friendly. We recently added a 3D Printing module to our STEM Lab and having this software is an amazing tool to teach the concept of 3D modeling and printing. This software is normally priced at $590 and is extremely relevant to any STEM Curriculum. Teachers receive a one year license for free, students get a discounted price of $49. With 3D Printing coming to the classroom and the home, knowing this program will keep you ahead of the technology curve.

Knowing Excel and Powerpoint thoroughly is no longer just the domain of the business or higher education world. I teach Excel extensively in 5th Grade at my school as part of their IT class. Excel has a very relevant application to Science with its data and graphing capabilities. We start teaching Powerpoint in 2nd Grade. Microsoft offers an academic price of $79.99 for 4 years. See their web site for details and eligibility requirements. Office 365 is now compatible with iPads opening up additional educational technology options.

Software is as dynamic as hardware for education technology. Take advantage of the academic discounts to expand your knowledge and be prepared for the 21st Century Classroom.



Avoiding Obsolescence in the Classroom

After reading 14 things that are obsolete in 21st century schools by Ingvi Hrannar as part of an assignment for a graduate class, I would like to comment on each point from a private elementary school teacher’s perspective. After looking at this list, I feel extremely fortunate to teach at a small private school that has the flexibility, resources and support to provide the technology and authentic learning that allows students to thrive.

1. Computer Rooms

Perhaps it is not the computer room that is obsolete but, how it is being used? Our school has a room with twenty desktop computers that are relatively current. We do require students to take keyboarding mostly because one of the better private middle schools we feed in to requires certain documented proficiencies.

The room is mostly used for more productive learning including Microsoft Office, Internet reseach skills and graphics programs. We also have an IT class for the upper grades with a curriculum that includes website design and app building.

Not all schools can afford new hardware or software but, they should be maximizing the resources at hand.

2. Isolated classrooms

We should never isolate a classroom from knowledge or perspective and should provide an opportunity for engaging parents to actively participate in classroom activities. Every parent has a life experience that could bring value to the classroom.

3. Schools that don’t have WiFi

I will be the biggest champion for this point. A lack of WiFi contributes to the aforementioned isolation and deprives the educational process from the necessary technologies to help students learn, compete and excel in today’s world.

A quality WiFi system is the most important infrastructure investment any school can make. Most manufacturers offer substantial discounts to schools. Without a capable WiFi infrastructure, a BYOD initiative is a non starter.

4. Banning phones and tablets

As an elementary school, we do have a policy against cell phones but, we do provide tablets and this year sponsored a BYOD program for our new 6th grade curriculum. We also provide the apps and training for the teachers as well as students.

5. Tech director with an administrator access

Having a gatekeeper to technology is never a good idea. Schools should have a committee made up of the most tech savvy people on staff. Teachers should be empowered to decide what apps and resources they need for their classrooms.

6. Teachers that don’t share what they do

Schools should be communities where teachers willingly share successful ideas freely. Not doing so fosters a mediocracy.

7. Schools that don’t have Facebook or Twitter

Done properly, social media is a great way to build community and reach out to parents. Getting an update during the school day about something involving their child really makes a parent happy!

8. Unhealthy cafeteria food

We now know enough about proper nutrition that poor quality food is inexcusable regardless of resources. Children cannot be at their potential without the proper nutrients and, the childhood obesity problem in this country should be a wake up call to parents and administrators.

9. Starting school at 8 o’clock for teenagers

Since I teach elementary school, I am not experienced to speak on this. Based on my personal recollections from high school however, later would be better.

10. Buying poster-, website- and pamphlet design for the school

All creative work should be done in house. This provides an opportunity for staff and students to participate in the process and contribute creativity. As educators, if we are not creative we have no business being teachers.

11. Traditional libraries

Most books are available digitally now, so a library needs to reflect current technology.

12. All students get the same

Teaching to the lowest or average common denominator is the major flaw in many public school systems. Students will always be at different levels with different learning styles and different strengths. They all should be able to reach their potential. While not leaving any student behind may be well intentioned, mediocrity is the unintended consequence.

13. One-Professional development-workshop-fits-all

Teachers should have the flexibility to choose their continuing education.

14. Standardized tests to measure the quality of education

Standardized testing has fostered a “Teaching to the test” curriculum that has done more harm than good. Instead of creating authentic learning, these classrooms operate in the myopic bubble of a test that was obsolete in the first place.



Hrannar, I. (2014). 14 things that are obsolete in 21st century schools. Retrieved August 29, 2014, from