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Junior Innovation Lab
FOR GRADES 5–8

Junior Innovation Lab @Ross is a program for advanced students in grades 5 through 8 who are creative, inquisitive, and eager to explore the fields of science, mathematics, engineering, media, and technology. Students extend their school day several times per week, taking part in activities that promote creative problem solving, inquiry, imagination, collaboration, and experiential learning. Junior Innovation Lab is designed to foster and develop skills in our younger students that will prepare them for Innovation Lab @Ross in their high school years.
 
EXPLORE, INQUIRE, ENGAGE
Building on the Ross School Core Curriculum and its focus on interdisciplinary connections, Junior Innovation Lab students learn by doing in a workshop setting. They develop the skills and knowledge needed for advanced studies, such as forming and asking critical questions, synthesizing ideas through investigation and research, and taking academic risks. Participating in science and math olympiads, robotics competitions, and engineering and design contests further cultivates these skills. As they interact with students in the high school Innovation Lab and mentors both within and outside of the School, Junior Innovation Lab students work on communication and presentation skills and  establish their position in a larger network of scholars and inventors. Junior Innovation Lab @Ross encourages students to answer their own questions through experimenting, documenting their ideas, and communicating their findings.

SAMPLE SYLLABUS
Fall Trimester
Becoming a Scientist: Observation, Experimentation, and Hypothesis Testing
Students begin the year with a short unit on the nature of scientific observation and engage in some activities where they build their own scientific hypotheses and models. Thought experiments help students move beyond the cookbook model of the “scientific method,” and real experiments give them some experience making precise observations and recording and handling data.

Number and Nature: A Mini Unit on Mathematics
Students explore mathematical games and puzzles that take them beyond the realm of arithmetic into more sophisticated ideas, from fractals to infinite series. Participants also get a glimpse of the unique problems that arise in “competition math,” while older students may even decide to prepare to compete in the American Mathematics Competition (AMC 8) in November.

Designing Your World: 3D Design and Fabrication
Junior Lab participants end the fall term with an introduction to the exciting new world of custom 3D fabrication. Using a combination of traditional sculpture, iPad apps, and 3D design programs, students create their own structures and creatures and then bring them to life with the Innovation Lab’s 3D printers. Along the way, the group will discuss the promises and pitfalls of this new technology, which many believe holds the power to revolutionize our notions of manufacturing.

Winter Trimester
Programming and Robotics
This unit serves as an introduction to robot-building and programming for both beginning and advanced students. Students who are new to robotics work with the Lego Mindstorms platform to create robots that drive themselves using a combination of sensors and intelligent behaviors, while students with prior robot-building and programming focus on more advanced robotics projects using the Arduino micro-controller platform and programming in C++. Participants who show exceptional promise will be encouraged to join Ross School’s team to compete in the FIRST Lego League contest.

Checkmate! A Mini Unit on Problem Solving and Critical Thinking
This unit explores chess as both a game and as an example of a complex mathematical system. Students who know the rules of the game will go beyond the basics to tackle chess puzzles as examples of problem solving and critical thinking. They also get a chance to apply creativity to the game as they design and 3D print their own custom chess pieces and invent new moves and rules.

Experiments, Investigations, and Independent Projects
Students get a taste of the high school Innovation Lab @Ross experience as they research a topic that interests them personally and develop an experiment or presentation on that topic to share with their peers. If they choose to do so, Junior Innovation Lab students can “apprentice” with one of the high school Innovation Lab projects and learn more about what might await them in a few years as members of this exciting Ross School academy.

Spring Trimester
Hands-On Universe: Telescopes and Astronomy
Students build their own simple telescopes and learn to use professional-grade instruments to observe the sky. Students also engage with citizen-science projects that make use of actual NASA data and observations and contribute to the work of professional scientists. Occasional evening and/or weekend observing sessions are required.

Making Music: A Mini Unit on Digital Music and Sound Technology
Students work with some of Innovation Lab’s exciting music technology. Working with iPad apps, loops, synthesizers, and drum machines, even students with no background in music can create their own electronic music. As they do this, students will learn about the physics of sound and some of the mathematical ideas that are required to understand the character of musical tones.

Marine Science and the Local Environment
The year ends with an exploration of the marine environment, both locally and globally. Students learn about the importance of the oceans to human life and the health of the planet, and study the coastal environment of Long Island. The unit also includes weekend excursions to explore local waters using Innovation Lab’s new remote-controlled submarine.

WHAT WILL YOU DO AT JUNIOR INNOVATION LAB @ROSS?

> Work hands-on with
   computers and technology.

> Build things and take them
   apart to learn how they work.

> Explore environmental and
   sustainability issues.

> Learn from professionals who
   share your passion and curiosity.

> Compete in contests in math,
   science, and engineering.

> Work with media and technology
   to explore questions and present
   solutions.

> Build the skills to help you succeed
   in high school and beyond.