TOP 50 for the Global Teacher Prize by Varkey Foundation

It has been a surreal semester, a surreal month and a surreal week. Engineering Brightness has been most fortunate to win a number of awards, but this week, it was my cumulative work that short listed me in the top 50 of the Global Teacher Prize by the Varkey Foundation.

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There are so many cool connections.

Another fantastic teacher with whom I have worked in the past, Sean Robinson from BC, is the other GTP top 50 from Canada. Back a while ago, we sent his class an Engineering Brightness starter kit. They have been doing some cool things for a long time and continue to do cool things. He is heading to Uganda with some solar technology. It seems we have been on parallel paths for a long time and I am excited about this intersection.

At the Microsoft Global E2 event in Toronto, as a fellow, I was given a fantastic team of freshly minted MIEExperts. They ideated and UX prototyped a new Microsoft technology that eventually won at the Global competition. From that group, my Turkish advisee recently won the Teacher of the Year for Turkey. From the same group, my Vietnamese advisee recently won the teacher of the year for Vietnam and now is also part of this class of GTP top 50. Clearly, they were awesome for a long time, and I feel so privileged to cross their path earlier. I am looking forward to seeing her again in Dubai.

As you read the bios of the GTP top 50, there are so many connections to Microsoft. I wonder what that means?

This post needs so serious work, but my mind is still racing and hard to focus. I’ll have to find some time to come back to this later when my mind clears up.

I am so excited about this. In addition to my own efforts, there is a whole village who have invested and guided me, from my dad, to my wrestling coaches, to my principals to the teachers down the hall and the educator experts from SMART, Microsoft and Nureva.  This deserves its own blog by itself once I can wrap my brain around it.

Engineering Brightness top 10 Sustainability Projects in World by Hundred


Engineering Brightness ( is spotlighted at the HundrED Sustainability Summit as one of the top 10 Projects in the world for Sustainability in Education at the Muse School in California. What a privilege to be in the same class as the Green School in Bali and Eco Schools who are in 86 countries.

Reused sign at Muse

The MUSE school in Calabasas California is a model school for sustainability. They have pondered every aspect of the school to make sure that their walking their talk. They have reused some of the planks from the old cabins to make a fence, old windows to make beautiful signs at the entrance, fantastic solar panels shaped like sun flowers that provide the kitchen with 100% of the electrical needs.


The students are feed one meal a day, and it is 100% Plant based. Their chef is pretty fantastic. The meals were amazing! I was full and I lost 2 pounds during the 4 days I was there.


The students are very involved with the running of the school. There are no custodians, the teachers and students pick up after themselves and are responsible for taking care of their own space. The students each do a rotation in the kitchen, learning to cook sustainably.


It Is kind of cool that someone like the wife of James Cameron, with all that privilege is willing to use her time and money to conduct a positive educational experiment. What is possible? Now that they are showing success, they are starting to make inroads into the public school system, which is a slower boat to turn.

E-B and Saku at MUSE Hundred

Natalie Day and Saku introduced the findings of the HundrED search for innovative projects around the world. They talked about how the innovation was not enough. The innovation had to be going in the right direction and be scalable. Both commented on how much they liked the Engineering Brightness because it was so well thought out, and simple, yet made a tangible impact and could be scaled to any school anywhere in the world.



NPDL visits RHSScience 12

After a fantastic Day 1 at eth Anglophone East NPDL Regional Summit, I am splitting pizza, veal, and the tallest cheeze cake with Michael Fullan, at a table with Meg and Joanne from NPDL and District Office people like Pam and Gregg. It was a bit surreal for a classroom teacher to be in this situation. #very exciting.

The excitement skyrocketed when I found out that the next day, Joanne Quinn would be visiting our school and my classroom. She travels around the world looking at wonderful examples of Deeper Learning for a living and now she will be seeing my class in action. Further more, it won’t be me in the classroom running things, but rather my student teacher. I have been talking about Competencies long before we heard of 21st Century Learning and before the formation of NPDL. In fact, I created the first SMART Collaborative Classroom so that students could leverage the interactive surfaces to instigate communication, collaboration and critical thinking in group work. Now THE Joanne Quinn will be coming to see it first hand.


When she walks in the room, students had already spent 2 days designing and conducting a lab on Newton’s 2nd Law and were now gathered around SMARTBoards in groups of 3 or 4 co-writing. There were lots of conversations between students about punctuation, voice, organization, interpreting graphs and understanding the science. When asked, students talked about how using the SMARTBoards forced students to focus on the same portion of the lab report at the same time, which caused conversations that are vastly different than when students divide and conquer in isolation.


At the end of the class, I asked Joanne what she thought. I was taken a little bit aback by her comment. “You have not incorporated the competencies in any way like we had planned”.  I did not know at first that this was a compliment. She talked about how they started NPDL to help teachers embed the development of Competencies in their classrooms and it was particularly difficult to find great examples at the high school level. “I have nothing for you”, she says. Apparently, I was natural. She did not see the decade of thought and experimentation that preceded her visit.  The technology was leveraged perfectly to develop communication. “You are so much further ahead of what we have seen at high school level around the world”. Outside, I think I said something like, “thank you, you are most generous.” Inside, it was one of the best feelings I have had in a long time. Validation that the hard work on this weird idea has legs.

“A visit to the Collaborative Physics Classroom is glimpse into what learning for the 21st century should be- students highly engaged in authentic real life tasks where they can be creative, collaborative and unique. Students demonstrate a strong grasp of the foundational skills and concepts but most importantly are applying them in ways that will impact their world locally and globally.” -Joanne Quinn, Global Director, New Pedagogies for Deep Learning (NPDL).

Engineering Brightness asked to speak to NPDL and Michael Fullan

Just after Thanksgiving, Anglophone East School District hosted the Atlantic Region New Pedagogies for Deeper Learning Summit. It was so fantastic that Michael Fullan, Joanne Quinn and Meg from NPDL, along with almost 300 educators from as close as the Atlantic Region and as far as Vancouver, Virginia and Iowa gathered to talk about the potential for Deeper Learning. While there continues to be lots of excitement and fantastic examples in the k-8 sphere, it seems a desert in the realm of high school. This makes it particularly honourable that Engineering Brightness high school students were the only students invited to speak on stage to this fantastic audience.

Braeden and Beth both spoke. Beth is very comfortable on stage and did a fantastic job as per normal. She has a different cool story about how she took action to address Ellen’s Law. You can hear much more about that in the video of her speech. It is Braeden that is the topic of this story.

Beth and Braeden at NPDL

Braeden self-identifies as an extreme introvert who would not be able to do any kind of public speaking. I watched a transformation at the World Maker Faire. During the first half of the first day of the Maker Faire, Braeden sat in the background, allowing the more extroverted female students to interact at the booth. However, the girls needed a break and left Braeden and Kaleigh alone at the booth. He was put on the spot and magic happened. HE FOUND HIS VOICE! Only  48 hours later, he was volunteering to speak at the NPDL summit.

Engineering Brightness is a fantastic example of True Personalized learning where, each student finds their area of strength AND growth. While Braeden was quite comfortable with the STEM portions, for him, finding his voice was the real development. Now his voice is heard in class, with his peers all the time. Transformational.

Insert Speech text here…

We are just from Riverview, NB, Canada. What can we do? You can LEAD!

Being from small town New Brunswick, the poorest province in Canada, we are bombarded with negative stories and the mass migration out of our province. When once we were the richest province in the country, no one wants our forest, our fish, our gypsum, or grind stones, our shale gas. Students quickly develop a sense that nothing good comes from New Brunswick, including themselves. Many think they have to leave or they have given up if they stay. We cannot compete this the rest of the world.

This trip to NYC has much deeper lessons than literacy, or engineering or graphic arts or sewing. The purposeful theme is to teach lessons that fight the negative narrative that students hear every day. You are from New Brunswick and not only can you can you compete with the rest of the world, YOU CAN LEAD!

The World Maker Faire invited you to the Faire and gave you THE prime location. The NY Times spent 30 minutes with you and are quoting you for their magazine focused on learning. The Maker Faire Editors gave you an Editor’s Choice Award.

Just to drive the lesson home, We went to the broadway show, “School of Rock”, where my previous student who sat at their same desks, was the lead. Justin took us back stage and described his unique wandering path as he followed his dream backed up with lots of work, dedication, and hope. There is a whole post dedicated to Justin and the School of Rock and how his story parallels the themes in the musical. 

The lesson was received by more than just the students. In addition to my students, there were almost 40 teachers from the Maritimes also attending the MakerFaire, in large part because of the efforts of Brilliant Labs. The teachers walking also saw that NB students could compete and excel on the world scale. My students are no better and no worse than their students.

I believe that there will be many more student run booths from NB at the World Maker Faire next year.

Next year, I am hoping to show that not only can NB students compete on the world scale, but I also want to show that the Anglophone and Francophone sectors can cooperate. Can we go to the MakerFaire in the UK and Paris as a bilingual team? Can the Anglophone students coach the Francophone students at the UK MakerFaire and shortly afterwards, can the Francophone students coach the Anglophone students at the Paris MakerFaire.


The Canadians are Coming: WORLD MAKER FAIR NYC, Sept 22-23rd, 2018

We were given THE PRIME location in the young builders section of the Word Maker Faire.


Six students shared duty with 1 person out in the crowd inviting passers by, 1 person giving the elevator pitch and follow up questions and 1 person showing little kids how to solder. Communication in real life. This strategy seemed to work well because the booth was rarely empty. The invitation with elevator pitch was long enough to get the kids to sit down and learn to solder. This in turn gave an extended time for E-B students to talk with the adults while they waited for their kid to finish. A lesson in not only communication, but in group dynamics. So many more lessons than just how to 3D print cases and solder circuits.

Girls in Engineering

Everyone was impressed with the student run booth. The other booths in the Young Builders section were mostly adults catering to the young or booths with young projects, with parents running the booth and kids running around. At our booth, the adults were close by, but out of sight. I only spoke with 4 participant adults, and that is because they specifically sought me out. Three of them spoke about how well spoke the students were.

Interviewed by NY TImes

Interviewed by NY Times

Both the New York Times and one of the MakerFaire Organizers each spent about 30 min at our booth. They both mentioned that they were impressed by a few things.

#1. That we were using engineering to solve a real problem in the world. As fun as making cool robots that fight each other might be, we were doing something real.

#2. That 5 of the 6 high school students were female. That is an oddity. What is it that we are doing different? It was fantastic to see these elementary aged girls looking up to the older high school girls as mentors as they learned how to solder. One little girl with a pink NASA hat left the booth saying, “Mom, I want to be an electrical engineer for NASA.”


#3. That students were in charge of the booth. While the adults gave advice, suggestions and a few ground rules, it was the students who made decisions on who would have break when, who would fill what role etc…

As a result, we are going to form a “significant” contribution to the NY Times Sunday Magazine dedicated to Learning.

One of the Editors of the MakerFaire actually took time out of her very busy schedule, knelt down on her knees in the grass and spoke with our students. She said that Engineering Brightness booth was brought up twice in the planning meetings in a positive way in between comments about the huge Google or Digikey booths because of our “raison d’etre”. She awarded the students with an “EDITOR’s CHOICE” award. ‘

The interview with the NY Times, the Editor’s Choice Award and the meeting with Justin Collette at the School of Rock, all combined together to give a new perspective of what it means to be from New Brunswick Canada, the poorest, but yet the best province in Canada?

Group at World MakerFaire

Graphic Arts and Sewing: Preparation

In order to get ready to go to the World Maker Faire in NYC, The RHS Engineering Brightness students had to prepare a booth. That included making decisions about a table cloth, a banner, sponsor signs etc. Should we get a pop up poster? Where will people sit? Who will do what activity? Where will we put the soldering iron to teach kids how to solder? Should we purchase the table cloth or make it? What should we make it out of? Does anyone know how to sew?

They choose to omit a popup poster, purchase a perforated banner and sew their own table cloth. We sent the graphics away to a print company, but that still meant they had to learn how to sew.

They borrowed a sewing machine and brought it into the physics lab. Over 4 lunch hours, with some coaching from another student, they taught themselves how to sew, the ability to sew over pins if they are placed horizontally or vertically, the ability to rotate by keeping the needle down and folding the edges.

Learning to Sew

Some of them were good, some of them were terrible. At best, they learned that they could make their own things by sewing and at worst, they appreciate that different people are skilled at different things and that school usually only focuses on one kind of SMART.

It is more about “HOW ARE THEY SMART rather than “How Smart Are They?”