Robotics: Urban Search & Rescue

SkillsUSA demonstration event helps students sharpen their robotics skills


(March 3, 2014) — The 2014 Robotics: Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) Challenge: Explosive Ordnance Disposal tasks students with creating a mobile robot like those employed by emergency service personnel such as firefighters, police, and the Robotics USAR logomilitary. Students competing in this SkillsUSA challenge design their robots so they are able to secure an area by locating, neutralizing, moving, and disposing of explosive materials.
The demand for designers, skilled technicians, and manufacturing workers who are fluent in mechanical and electrical systems and highly skilled in troubleshooting and maintenance of robotic systems is projected to continue to grow. The current generation of students is expected to take artificial intelligence and robotics into the evolving world of emergency services, finding new ways to help trained personnel react more quickly and effectively.
According to Alan Kirby, a Robotics: USAR official with Pitsco Education, the event USAR 2013has been building momentum nationally and this year has competitors from 15 states. The top team at each state’s championship competition qualifies for the SkillsUSA National Championships June 23-27, 2014, in Kansas City, MO.
“As with most competitions, the USAR teams that are the best prepared and the most professional will come out on top,” Kirby said. “What we saw last year at state events and the national finals was that students who invested a lot of time in their documentation and design as well as robot construction and modifications were the top performers.”
Each competition team is composed of two students who work together to design and build a remote-controlled robot using a TETRIX® Building System or other approved parts. The robots have an on-board camera and sensors so that students can guide them remotely, a safe distance from the simulated danger zone. Students must also complete a written test and prepare an engineering notebook, complete with designs, for the technical presentation portion of the challenge.
The majority of Robotics: USAR state championships are being contested in March and April, and the final one will be wrapped up in early May.


Pitsco Education is the leading provider of age-appropriate, student-centered K-12 STEM learning solutions. Our standards-based curriculum, products, equipment, and materials promote student success through positive and challenging learning experiences, and our hands-on solutions teach core concepts and career skills in science, technology, engineering, and math.

****************************** and Problem-Attic announce an online professional learning community on “Assessment for Learning”

PRINCETON, NJ, March 3, 2014 – Problem-Attic, the online question bank for K-12 educators, has launched a free professional learning community around Assessment for Learning on, a professional learning and social network for the education community.

The goal of this professional learning community is to provide ideas and resources for instruction and realtime formative assessment. Additionally, teachers can share ideas about using technology to improve, differentiate and personalize instruction through student assessment. Assessment for Learning is a forum for educators to come together online to engage, innovate, and discuss best practices for the classroom.

This collaborative community is free, and will host webinars and online discussions to help educators connect and collaborate on the topic of using assessments to improve student learning. The program will help educators understand how to formulate questions that develop high order thinking skills, and to provide practical knowledge in using technology to improve assessments.  The program will open with three consecutive, monthly webinars:

  • Better Math Questions for Better Answers: Teaching High Order Thinking Skills for the Common Core (Register)
  • Using Technology to Break Away from Traditional Assessments (Register)
  • Closing the Circle: Analyzing and Improving Assessments for Learning (Register)

Since 1990, EducAide Software, the team behind Problem-Attic, has been bridging the gap between instruction and assessment. Problem-Attic is a free app with one of the largest question banks in the world. The questions come from multiple sources – state released test, curriculum samplers, academic competitions – designed for every classroom use, including homework, daily warmups and group activities, and are high-level, varied and graphically rich. These questions, formulated for all major subject areas, help teachers generate effective assessments for the classroom and make it easy to tailor curriculum, challenge students and personalize learning. Teachers love that it works with existing classroom technologies, such as interactive whiteboards, laptops and handheld devices.

Dan Levin, CEO and founder of EducAide Software, says, “Problem-Attic is proud to support an edWeb community for teachers, administrators, and others that play a role in educating our students. Problem-Attic is dedicated to not only providing content that is useful for both instruction and assessment, but also enabling and supporting awareness, idea sharing, discussion, and community for K12 educators.”

Lisa Schmucki, founder and CEO of, added, “This new community builds on the efforts of educators on edWeb who are especially interested in using assessment to personalize and improve student learning.  We’re delighted that Dan Levin and the team at Problem-Attic will be helping to enrich the conversation with a series of free webinars on this topic.”

Educators can join the free Assessment for Learning community on edWeb to stay informed about upcoming webinars, join in discussions with peers and industry experts, and gain access to valuable resources.

For more information, contact: 

Jenifer Morack, Program Director,
609-439-8103 |

Dan Levin | CEO, EducAide
800-669-9405 |

About Problem-Attic
Founded in 1990, EducAide Software is one of the leading developers of question banks and related programs for alignment, formatting and delivery in the U.S. and Canada. The mission of EducAide is to bridge the gap between instruction and assessment by providing schools and districts with high-quality, standards-based materials and a publishing system that goes far beyond tests and worksheets.Problem-Attic, developed by the team at EducAide, is a free app of over 115,000 questions in all major subject areas that allows educators to create teaching materials that differentiate instruction, challenge students and create formative assessments. Follow @ProblemAttic1 on Twitter.

About is a professional social and learning network for the education community that makes it easy to connect and collaborate with colleagues, share information and best practices, and create professional learning communities. edWeb hosts free professional learning communities on key topics in education and won the 2012 Edublog Award for Best Free and Open Professional Development for Educators. edWeb reaches 3.5 million educators in the U.S. through our membership and our partnership with MCH Strategic Data. Learn more at Follow @edwebnet on Twitter.


America’s Only All-Electric School Bus Transports Students, Saving California School District Over $10,000 a Year in Fuel and Maintenance

 Powered by Motiv Power Systems and built by Trans Tech Bus, this new zero-emission school bus means students can breathe easy

Foster City, CA — March 3, 2014–Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), in California’s San Joaquin Valley, leads the nation as the only school district using an all-electric school bus to transport students. KCUSD ordered four buses from Trans Tech Bus, featuring electric powertrains from Motiv Power Systems. The new electric school bus passed all KCUSD and California Highway Patrol inspections and certifications, making it the first modern electric bus to be approved for student transportation by any state.

The new electric bus is expected to save KCUSD over $10,000 a year in fuel and maintenance costs. Called the SST-e, this electric version of Trans Tech’s popular SST model was unveiled in October 2013 and delivered last month. The SST-e utilizes a Ford E450 cutaway chassis equipped with a Motiv electric powertrain.  Motiv will feature an electric E450 cutaway chassis at The Work Truck Show in Indianapolis, IN March 5-7, at booth # 633.

“KCUSD has taken major strides to reduce diesel particulate emissions by as much as 85 percent” said Jason Flores, Transportation Director for KCUSD. “Going electric with these new green school buses is just one more important step in KCUSD’s ongoing portfolio of measures to protect our children, serve our community, and be good stewards of our environment. We hope other school districts will follow our lead to protect children from diesel particulates and protect themselves from rising diesel costs.”

Motiv’s electric Powertrain Control System (ePCS) is the only solution in the truck and bus market to make medium- to heavy-duty vehicles all-electric with a variety of commercially-available batteries and motors. The Motiv ePCS is installed on the E450 chassis and other chassis types, as a ship-through modification similar to a Compressed Natural Gas up-fit. This enables minimal changes between the fossil fuel and electric versions of the vehicles.

“In this way, we are answering the call of the transportation industry to build reliable EV’s that fit seamlessly into the existing truck and bus manufacturing and service infrastructure,” said Jim Castelaz, Founder and CEO of Motiv Power Systems. “We are absolutely thrilled to see this school bus transporting students without exposing them to diesel exhaust. I hope that by the time my daughter is old enough to go to school clean, zero-emission school buses like this one will be the industry standard.”

The first SST-e buses are partially funded by the AB 118 Air Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) administered by the California Air Resources Board. Funding support for the electric school buses was provided through AQIP’s Advanced Technology Demonstration Project and the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP).  Voucher incentive funding is available through HVIP to any California school district for offsetting the cost of these zero-emission buses. Similar programs are in place in New York City and Chicago.  When the fuel cost savings are combined with vehicle financing, these school buses are available at or below the cost of conventional buses.

“I’m proud of the accomplishment that Motiv and TransTech has made in forwarding our electric drive effort into the School Bus industry,” said John Corr, a member of the investment group that owns Trans Tech Bus.

The Trans Tech/Motiv SST-e school bus is available with 80 or 100 miles of range and holds 25 students or 18 students with a wheelchair lift and configurable track seating for up to 3 wheelchairs.

Founded in 2009 and based in Foster City, CA, Motiv Power Systems designs and builds a flexible electric Powertrain Control System (ePCS) for the commercial truck, bus and refuse industries.  Motiv’s ePCS works with a wide variety of batteries and motors. This flexibility allows traditional truck chassis OEMs to assemble electric trucks on their current diesel truck assembly lines. Motiv’s ePCS is available for medium and heavy duty commercial truck applications including box trucks, flat/stake beds, refrigerated trucks, utility/service bodies, shuttle buses, delivery vehicles and refuse trucks.



Brings Together World-Class Academics, Engaging Digital Media, Data and Analytics

(AUSTIN, Texas March 3, 2014) Today at SXSWedu, Amplify unveiled its groundbreaking digital curriculum for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade English Language Arts (ELA). The curriculum for each grade combines a year’s worth of Common Core-aligned lessons, written in collaboration with some of the world’s leading experts and intellectuals, with rich digital media from Academy Award-winning studios and stars of both stage and screen.

The curriculum will be available in classrooms at the start of the Fall 2014 school year at an introductory price of $45 per student per year. It includes an e-library stocked with more than 300 works of fiction and nonfiction. To help boost learning outside of class, the curriculum comes with more than 40 digital games from some of the world’s best independent game designers. The curriculum is built on top of an education-friendly analytics engine that is designed to help students read three times more and write three times more, as well as to help teachers provide students three times more meaningful feedback.

“This is not some old wine in a new bottle, like a digitized textbook with a few animations,” said Amplify CEO Joel Klein. “We’ve brought together world-class instructional materials, rich multimedia and a powerful analytics engine that will transform the way teachers teach and student learn.”

“Our goal was to design the most effective and engaging digital curriculum for the classroom that supports the kinds of rigorous learning goals that schools are ready for,” said Amplify Learning President Larry Berger. “I think we’ve done that.”

Today’s announcement is part of Amplify’s broader effort to produce K-12 curriculum for English, math and science. In addition to the digital ELA curriculum for sixth, seventh and eighth grades, the company will also offer a hybrid print and digital curriculum for K-5 ELA and supplemental digital curriculum in math and science in time for the start of the Fall 2014 school year.

About The Digital ELA Curriculum


The curriculum contains academic lessons authored by world-class intellectuals like Benjamin Franklin biographer Walter Isaacson, Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel and MacArthur Genius Grant winner Danielle Allen. We’ve paired their knowledge with Common Core experts to develop a full-year’s worth of scoped and sequenced curriculum for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade ELA, with lessons around personal narrative, fiction, informational texts, poetry and foundational documents. In addition to the books anchored in the lessons, each student has access to an e-library with more than 300 works of fiction and nonfiction.

Digital Media

Dramatic Readings

To help make difficult texts more interesting and accessible, Amplify has brought them to life with dramatic readings by stars of both stage and screen. Students can watch actors like Chadwick Boseman read from “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” or Elizabeth Olsen’s interpretation of “A Confederate Girl’s Diary.” School-based pilots have shown that when students watch a dramatic reading of the first chapter of a book, they’re more likely to go on and read the entire text.

Story Animations

Amplify has worked in collaboration with Academy Award-winning animators to produce visually rich, artistic renditions of some of the texts students encounter in the lessons. Captivating, high-quality depictions of “The Raven” and “The Cask of Amontillado” are tied to writing prompts and designed to help students grasp difficult literary concepts, perspectives and points of view, which are key to the Common Core.


Quests are experiential lessons that immerse students in a text through role-playing, close reading, evidence gathering, discussion and expressive writing. Students can solve Edgar Allan Poe’s murder, seek treasure as Tom Sawyer or debate signing the Declaration of Independence as a member of the Second Continental Congress, among other interactive experiences. These adventures engage students in active learning and help them develop essential Common Core skills such as critical thinking and the use of primary resources.

Vocabulary Program

Our approach to learning vocabulary is centered around hundreds of essential “reveal words” per grade. Students encounter these words in core texts and supplementary materials. Amplify’s Reveal Tool is designed to encourage students to learn a definition in context and then return to the text as seamlessly as possible. Amplify also provides ELL vocabulary activities, targeting key concrete nouns and verbs that are necessary for understanding the day’s lesson.

Teachers can use results from these diagnostic exercises to determine each student’s level of comprehension, and assign activities to meet a student where he or she is. Students can track their own progress using the analytical vocabulary tool, which tells them how many words they’ve mastered and how often they’ve used the words in their writing, empowering them to self-direct their learning goals.

Upon conclusion of Amplify’s complete ELA curriculum for middle school, students will have been exposed to 4,500 reveal words and completed more than 1,500 vocabulary practice activities.


Increased out-of-school learning is an important objective to have for all students, but particularly for those from low-income families. Decades of research has shown that learning loss during the summertime and other vacation periods significantly impacts the growing gap in test scores between children from families of high and low socioeconomic status.

In addition to extending learning time, educational games hold the potential to build “growth mindsets”—a set of beliefs and attitudes that are a key predictor of positive academic performance. Amplify Games seek to help students better understand the relationship between effort and success, to persist in the face of difficulty and to embrace (rather than fear) failure as a part of the learning process across ELA, math and science.

Lexica is an immersive world packed with characters from literature and nonfiction. The center of that virtual world is a beautiful library stocked with more than 300 classic and contemporary books catering to a broad cross section of reading interests and tastes.

The core educational goals of Lexica are to increase the amount of challenging reading that students do outside the classroom; bolster specific skills related to reading and writing; increase vocabulary; and to help students develop strong academic behaviors and habits.

Amplify’s premier English Language Arts game world brings together more than 14 embedded games, each with multiple levels and episodes.

Games embedded within Lexica include:

  • Mukashi Mukashi: A syntax and storytelling game based on Japanese folklore. The game mechanics “make failure fun” while driving students to engage in sustained exploration of the impact of word choices within longer narratives.

  • Story Cards: A collectible card game featuring authors and characters from classic and modern literature. Have C. Auguste Dupin match wits against Scheherazade!

  • W.E.L.D.E.R.: The educational version of a top-selling iOS word game. As one reviewer described it: “If Boggle, Scrabble and Hangman had a baby, the end result might come close to being as good as W.E.L.D.E.R., a word game lover’s delight…”

  • Tomes: A choose-your-own-adventure series with a focus on vocabulary, featuring characters from classic literature. Its evocative social dynamics are similar to those found in hit games such as Surviving High School.

  • Unearthed: A game teaching students the many complexities and irregularities of subject-verb agreement. Unearthed offers students an engaging way to master this usually tedious topic in an addictive arcade game format.

  • Sentence and Sensibility: An arcade-style word puzzle game that encourages students to use more varied and complex sentence structures in their own writing. It takes full advantage of the tactile game mechanics available on tablets and other mobile devices.

  • Venture!: A bundle of quick-play games focusing on spelling, conjugation of irregular verbs and overcoming homonym confusion.

  • Spelling Stone: A puzzle game that links spelling to morphology.

For the 2014-15 school year, Amplify will also have at least 15 science, math and engineering games (list available by request).


The curriculum comes with a dashboard allowing teachers to track each student’s progress and the class as a whole. Student performance on vocabulary activities, core lessons and games used after school all filter back to teachers, allowing them to determine how students are mastering the material, who is ready for more advanced work and who needs individual help.

Amplify’s Digital Curriculum for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade ELA will be available on on multiple platforms, including iPads, Chromebooks, PCs, Macs as well as the Amplify Tablet.

About Amplify

Amplify is reimagining the way teachers teach and students learn through data-driven instruction, one-to-one learning and next-generation digital curriculum. Our products and services are designed for tomorrow’s promise and today’s realities.

At Amplify, we’re creating exciting new approaches to teaching and learning that are: as immersive as the best films; as compelling as the best video games; as social as the best networking applications; as personal as the best tutors; and as analytically sophisticated as the best search engines.

We’ve helped more than 200,000 educators and 3 million students in all 50 states begin their digital transition through mobile assessment solutions, adaptive curricula and tools that harness the power of data for classroom teachers. And we’re just getting started.

Headquartered in New York City and with more than 1,000 employees across the country, Amplify is led by a team of digital education experts and has provided industry-leading instructional tools, data analytics and assessment solutions to the K-12 market for more than a decade as Wireless Generation.