Dan is an individual who always makes the most of any opportunity. He works to accomplish this by learning new skills to fully conceptualize and understand all aspects of a problem or situation. He believes that strong communication and teaching others are vital to making progress and helping everyone succeed. This led him to develop a variety of competencies over the years in both his professional and personal life.
One of Dan’s passions is combining the things he loves, such as science and art, together and creating visually, intellectually, and scientifically correct interactive pieces to help others learn skills they can use to achieve more than they ever thought possible. He was able to do this for six years while teaching at the Southwest Virginia Governor’s School. Although his primary job at the school was teaching, he also found time to mentor students science fair projects, develop outreach activities, write new courses, function as the schools network administrator, and teach courses as an adjunct professor at Radford University.
While Dan was at the Governor’s School, he mentored over 130 students science fair projects. These projects covered a large range of topics in the fields of physics, mechanical and electrical engineering, mathematics, computer science, and occasionally even biology or chemistry. It was always important to him that students cultivate their own creativity and come up with their own unique projects that were completable on the time scale permitted, fit with the students interests, and most importantly were fun for the students to work on. He also worked to help students create orally and visually compelling displays of their work to help them excel in competitions. Over the years with his mentorship, students won many first, second, third, and honorable mentions at local, regional, and state science fairs, including four students being eligible to compete at the international science fair level.
Teaching hands on science is fun and engaging
Dan found that community outreach and exposure to science was not only important, but fun. This lead him to create a collection of activities that were geared towards different groups. This included age level hands on activities that allowed groups of students to use manipulatives to learn new facts about complex topics such as light, waves, electricity, and magnetism. These activities were designed to scale based on the number of student participants and amount of time (ranging from 20-30 minutes). He also created longer activities such as the Math Maze that combined reasoning skills, problem solving, electronics, and math, the Secret Message soldering activity that covers electronics, programming, and mathematics, or the hiding from a thermal scanner activity where students created body shields to hide themselves from a thermal imager. The main focus of each of these projects was always to get students participating in science and figuring out how to mix fun with learning!
In addition to these group activities, Dan also worked to develop the school’s public outreach event, Young Scholars Day. This is an event that is family oriented and allows community members to come to the school to experience a variety of activities on a range of topics. The event is fully hands on and is a great place for children of all ages (two to 90 years old) to enjoy science, math, technology, engineering, and art.
Outreach is an excellent way to get students of all ages interested in science
Stepping beyond outreach, Dan also partnered with Dr. Rhett Herman to develop a field studies program where students from the Governor’s School would join Radford University students in a bi-annual research trip to Barrow, AK. The students were required to help design experiments, learn how to use industry standard geophysics equipment, and conduct field research in an extreme and beautiful environment. Over the course of his involvement Dan worked to develop and refine an Arduino based thermal experiment to estimate the sea ice thickness. By working with the research group, he mentored the students at the Governor’s School and Radford University on how the device he created worked, and the basics of thermography.
Inspiration comes in all forms, field research is a great way to teach and learn
Although Dan loves creating dynamic outreach activities, he also understands that sometimes there are jobs that just need to be done. He knows that sometimes these jobs aren’t always fun, but in the end, they can be very rewarding when his creations are used to make the work environment easier on himself and everyone around him. At the Governor’s School, this was primarily from him functioning as the schools network administrator. Although many of his skills were not learned in a classroom, but in his adolescence by destroying his parents’ computers and electronic devices, Dan was able to envision and rebuild the schools network from the ground up. The main task he accomplished was the development of a custom database driven Student Information System (SIS) and complimentary Gradebook package for his colleagues. SIS allowed teachers to spend less time maintaining their grade books and locating student records, and more time teaching content and developing projects to better inspire their students. Implementing this system streamlined the school’s operations and proved to be a cost effective alternative.
Despite holding many job titles and throwing himself into the development of intricate projects for work, he also has fun activities that he enjoys outside of work. After learning about electronics, they found a special place in his heart because they are mostly based on logic, but can be used to dramatically express creativity. In an attempt to show his own unique creativity, he incorporated them into as many projects as possible. After learning about the Arduino platform, he started using it to bring science into everyday life and making the world a more exciting, informative, and fun place. Some projects included a cat warmer using heating pads and DS18B20 sensors (no cat should be cold in the winter); an Arduino based intervalometer to shoot time lapse photography of events; a ‘MathCam’ photo booth in which students had to solve a math equation to trigger a camera to take a picture, a light up baby mobile, and LED picture frames to name a few. Some of these projects have used custom printed PCB’s designed in Eagle CAD, while others simply use batteries and a switch to operate.
Learning new skills is a great way to spend time
Dan also loves photography and graphic art. Starting at a young age, with positive influence from his mother and grandfather, he began learning the technical and artistic aspects of photography. Over the years this has expanded to include many different multimedia formats including video and design. Dan is self-starter and he learned these skills because of his strong desire to be creative and share his ideas with the world. He considers himself an amateur photographer and videographer, enjoys riding motorcycles year round (on which he does all his own maintenance), is SCUBA certified, loves to travel (especially to exotic locations like the Galapagos Islands, Fiji, Grand Cayman, and Tobago), enjoys wood working, and has done many home repair and upgrade projects (including one house flip). Dan is also an avid reader and has a collection of over 180 novels with some dating back to the 1940’s that he inherited from his grandfather. All of these activities help him continue to learn and grow as an individual, which is important to him, and to create new unique expressions of who he is.
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