When the Pandemic Hit, We Home Delivered!

Linda Vista teachers were ready to start the Math & Science Challenge program in 2020-2021. Then the pandemic hit. We home delivered robotics kits but our model of in-class and after-school coaching to prepare students for weekend Math Science Challenge Events

is on hold while we wait for large events to be safe again. In the meantime we’re putting our energy into the STEM Stars Are Readers! online reading platform. Help us fund a classroom!

New Reading Initiative: STEM Stars Are Readers!

We have noticed through our CA Math & Science Challenge work in underserved communities that even our “STEM Stars” (the top performers in math, engineering design, coding, and problem solving: the students with a true love of the game) often struggle to reach their potential as “STEM Stars” due to poor reading skills.


Success in STEM careers is highly dependent on the ability to become an Expert Reader in your field of study (engineering, physics, medicine, computer science, mathematics, etc.). What holds many children from underserved communities back, as most teachers now realize, are:
  1. The lack of STEM books or the habit of reading STEM books at home or in the classroom
  2. The oral vocabulary gap they bring with them as kindergarteners, which is related to lack of opportunity in pre-school and which limits reading comprehension skills after 2nd grade.
    [Note: recently questions have been raised about the size or causes of a pre-school oral vocabulary gap, specifically about such findings as  the” 30,000,000 word gap”:  is it  the  result of bad methodology? (difficult to count word-interactions in home settings, etc.) That research may be flawed but this empirical gap in first grade students is based on robust research and is very real. The pre-school causes of this “opportunity gap” are not something an elementary school teacher can do anything about; but once children arrive in school, if this gap is not addressed reading comprehension cannot be improved.

To help our students overcome these two obstacles we have started an independent reading initiative called STEM STARS ARE READERS! to encourage K-8 students to get in the habit of reading  science and math books.
  • Students in Math & Science Challenge will get free log-ins for the vocabulary-powered Activated Reading Lab (see more below);
  • STEM titles** will be available for sale at our Math Science Challenge Events and our website and we will work with our sponsors to purchase them and make them available free-of-charge to classroom teachers.

**One of our first titles is by a local electrical engineering professor Pamela Cosman (UCSD) who wrote a book, The Secret Code Menace: Cold Fusion, to introduce children to binary code used in machine learning code and chip design.


Students Who Completed 5 Programming Challenges earned copies of Dr Cosman’s book.

To help our STEM stars close the Vocabulary-Reading gap, we are partnering with Activated Reader: Vocabulary Powered Reading Lab. We will make the Activated Reading Lab available to our STEM Stars through their teachers, and through after-school programs, libraries, and youth centers.

Reading Flight Simulator-iPad Version

  • Activated Reading Lab is a vocabulary-powered reading “flight simulator“ designed to help kids who arrive in kindergarten 3,000 to 4,000 words behind their peers build the word power and get the guided reading practice they need to become Expert Readers. The program is available only through school subscriptions and to select organizations helping at risk youths and fighting the high school drop out crisis.
  • Activated Reader operating principlesWe Make Tools for Teachers • Protect Student Privacy • Believe Less (Tech) is More • Conduct Rigorous Research • Believe in Accessibility &  Affordability  • Believe That Democracy & Freedom Depend on Reading!

Make a Donation to Support All CA Math & Science Reading Initiatives:
  • STEM Stars Are Readers! — Science Reading & Listening Libraries
  • Activate to Graduate! — We close the gap to help you earn your cap.
  • “Open Doors” — Activated Reading Prison Lab/Seminar Program.

#STEMStarsAreReaders

K-2 ROBOTICS • “The Power of Project Trees”

Students-Display-Completed-Projects.jpg

The Power of Project Trees

Early Learning Advantage It is well established that giving children an early introduction to music, mathematics, athletic games, or foreign languages gives them a life-long head start over those who start later in life. Two questions arose when we considered early learning robotics:

  • Can we introduce children in grades K-2 and 3-8 to such complex activities as coding, applied mathematics, and engineering design in a way that ensures they are actually learning?
  • Can we find a way to get children to fall in love with these activities, to choose to work on them, through sheer joy of learning? Becoming so absorbed in coding, troubleshooting, and problem-solving that they lose track of time and have to be reminded to go home?

The “Power of Project Trees”  The thing that allowed us to answer ‘yes’ to both questions, and to start a rigorous robotics-based Coding- Applied Math- Engineering Design curriculum at such a young age, was the  Project Challenge-Tree (a visual goal-setting & progress-tracking tool). You can learn more about Project Tree’s  revolutionary effect on the classroom— and about how to design your own Project Trees for any subject—  at this link:


#EarlyEd, #GirlsCanCode, #CSForALL

Amanda Gorman, Following in the Great Tradition • #ReadWrite4Justice

Teachers, visit Activated Reader to download three  “Word Power Needed” Seminars from the 2021 Inauguration


We  don’t know if this is her library but Amanda Gorman is definitely following in the great tradition of MLK and others, READING and WRITING for Justice. Trevor Noah does some of the best author interviews— he seems to really love books! Watch the interview here.

Daily Show Interview

#ReadWrite4Justice, #BlackHistoryMonth, #STEMStarsAreReaders

Reading and Writing for Justice • MLK Day 2021

Remembering Martin Luther King: Reading & Writing for justice: #ReadWrite4Justice


Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King

STEM Stars Are Readers! • Strong Readers for a Strong Democracy

#ReadWrite4Justice,#STEMStarsAreReaders

Happy Juneteenth! • National Society of Black Engineers

To get more diversity in STEM fields, we need to get more American children playing the “game of STEM”—coding, problem-solving, applied mathematics, and design engineering— at an early age. Let’s Get Our Kids in the Game!

New Botball Season! • Informational Meetups

San Diego Teachers and Parents, the 2020-2021 Junior (Grades 3-5) and Senior Botball (Grades 6-12) season is about to begin!


Unlike many robotics programs, Botball is coding first, building and engineering second. Every child learns to write code; every child gets hands-on time with the robots; so every child learns to troubleshoot and problem-solve without assistance from a teacher.

Come learn what it takes to start a team at your school, organization, or homeschooling group (SCHOLARSHIPS for NEW Competition Teams at Middle & High School Level are available).

If you are new to robotics, training and mentoring and this Meetup will help you build a successful team!


Hope to see you Thursday, Jan 30 at Dan Diego’s near the Clairemont Dr exit off I5.

— Jeff Major

Thank You Teachers, Students, & Volunteers for a Great End-of-Year Event

Saturday’s Event Was Stellar.
Thank you Mrs. Pham for making it all possible. Thank you teachers & students from the local elementary schools who attended!
The Team that made it all happen.


Half of the Junior Botball Programming Challenges are visible here, & the Fundraising station where parent-volunteers are raising money for new robots to meet growing program enrollment!


Thank you, Doug Arbon, San Diego Rotary Club STEM Chair


STEM Stars Are Readers!
Students who earned  5 programming challenge badges earned a free copy of The Secret Code Menace (a story of binary code by UCSD Electrical Engineering professor Pam Cosman)

Last 2018-19 Math & Science Challenge Event! • Rosa Parks Elementary, Sat June 22 8AM-1PM


Join us at the Math Science Challenge Event at  Rosa Parks Elementary this weekend. 

Cheer on the students from the Hoover High STEM Cluster as they program and re-configure their Junior Botball robots to earn badges for solving challenges in • Programming • Problem-solving • Applied (Just in Time!) Mathematics • & Design-Engineering


Support the new STEM Stars Are Readers! initiative, as we introduce students to the secret language of computers: Binary Code, in the new children’s STEM book: