Learning Bird Sweeps ‘Startup Alley’ Awards At Canadian Conference

K-12 Company’s Product Named ‘Greatest Educational Impact’ at Connect 2014


MONTREAL, May 20, 2014 — Learning Bird, an affordable online learning resource designed for K-12 student success, swept all three awards presented as part of Connect 2014, a two-day Canadian educational conference that connects educators with technology for 21st century teaching and learning.

As part of the conference’s “Startup Alley Pitch Panel Contest,” attendees voted Learning Bird first in each award category – Greatest Educational Impact, Most Promising Startup, and Best Pitch Presentation.

This is the third time in the past month that Learning Bird has been honored by its peers. The company was awarded third place inTiEQuest 2014, Canada’s largest business venture competition held in Toronto, and later was named by investors and entrepreneurs as the tech company they would “consider investing in” as part of a competition held in Cambridge, Mass., by the Consulate General of Canada in Boston and the Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England (CENE).

“It has, indeed, been a very busy period for our company; our momentum just keeps on building,” said Henry Ryan, CEO, Learning Bird. “We received a lot of great feedback at ‘Connect 2014’ and are thrilled our mission and product connects with so many people, and that the significance of how Learning Bird translates to student success comes through in presentations.”

With Learning Bird’s innovative approach to learning, students can help drive their own success. Learning Bird is a web-based resource that makes it easy for students to access a personalized range of perspectives on any topic that are aligned to their curriculum, grade and textbook. Whether it’s to help with homework, study prep, or just plain better understanding, Learning Bird is the affordable, safe and easy way for families and schools to help boost grades and confidence.

Connect 2014 was held May 8-9 at Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls, Ontario. For winning “Most Promising Startup,” Learning Bird will receive a free booth at Connect 2015.

For more information about Learning Bird, visit learningbird.com.

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About Learning Bird | learningbird.com

Learning Bird is an innovative online learning tool for K-12 student success, enabling students to learn their own way. Its proprietary learning algorithm matches digital lessons from teachers to the local curriculum, textbooks and the individual learning profile of each student. Learning Bird’s new cross-curriculum alignment engine allows students grades 7-12 to access a wider range of lesson perspectives in order to find that “A-ha” moment. When a lesson helps students understand, Learning Bird’s algorithm learns more about how they learn and also shares revenue directly with the teachers who added the lesson. With Learning Bird, students drive their own success, struggle less and understand more.


Carnegie Mellon University Spin-off BirdBrain Technologies Launches Hummingbird Duo through Engineering and Technology Education Kickstarter Project

Electronics kit is equally challenging and fun for 4th graders, high school students, and adults

Pittsburgh, PA, May 21, 2014 — BirdBrain Technologies is excited to announce that Hummingbird Duo is launching on Kickstarter. The Hummingbird Duo may be the first electronics kit that is fun and educational for a fourth grader, a high school student, a college engineering student, and an adult maker. The Hummingbird Duo provides several levels of engineering and technology learning. Instead of a steep learning curve, learners progress at increasing skill levels where mastering each level allows one to use the Hummingbird in a new and more interesting way. By participating in the Kickstarter campaign, individuals can purchase the forthcoming Hummingbird Duo at a pre-launch price for themselves or provide one to a school of their choice.

The Hummingbird Duo includes many of the features requested by BirdBrain Technologies’ core community of teachers: Tetherless operation, Arduino mode, and more minor improvements like wheels for motors, solid-ended leads, improved sound sensing, and color-coding of the connectors by function. “We are extremely excited about the Hummingbird Duo’s potential to empower positive classroom experiences and to grow with students as they learn,” said Tom Lauwers, BirdBrain Technologies founder and co-creator of the Hummingbird. “The Hummingbird Duo is an excellent kit for introducing electronics, robotics, engineering, and programming in any environment: at home, in the classroom, in summer camp, or in a club.”

The Hummingbird Duo controller will be the core of all new Hummingbird Robotics kits. Hummingbird Duo supports programming environments that range from very easy to advanced and powerful. Everything is free, open source, and runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. The Hummingbird supports CREATE Lab Visual Programmer, Scratch, Snap!, Arduino, Python, Java, and more.

The Hummingbird Robotics Kit was developed as part of Art & Bots, an ongoing research project at Carnegie Mellon University. Compatible with popular maker tools and software like Raspberry Pi, MaKey MaKey, Arduino, and Scratch, Hummingbird introduces students to engineering design, electronics, and programming through an innovative, arts and crafts-based approach that integrates well with the core subjects.

To learn more about BirdBrain Technologies’ Kickstarter campaign, visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/938274194/hummingbird-duo-a-robotics-kit-for-ages-10-to-110.

About BirdBrain Technologies

At BirdBrain Technologies, we are committed to technological excellence for students and educators. Our passion is to instill an innovative maker mentality in students and to foster a project-based learning approach in everyday classrooms. We are devoted to integrating engineering and computer science with traditional core subjects by creating robots and electronics that can foster natural interdisciplinary projects.



Across the country, millions of children attend public school every year. Their parents likely went to public school too, as do the vast majority of Americans. But attending public school, or even working in education, isn’t the same as knowing how public schools—and our nation’s education system—actually work.

How Schools Work and How to Work with Schoolsa new resource from NASBE, demystifies public education for policymakers, government officials, community members, business leaders, and others interested in partnering with schools to improve the health, safety, and well-being of all students and ensure they are successful in their academic pursuits. Inside, you’ll find:

  • Explanation of public education governance at the federal, state, local, and school levels and how national organizations influence education policymaking.
  • Ways to meaningfully and positively engage with the education sector, including examples of successful school-community partnerships and best practices.
  • Guiding principles for working with schools andpractical steps for more successful collaboration with them.
  • Answers to the most frequently asked questions about public education. For example: What is Title I and how does it support low-income students? And, how are public schools funded?
  • Reliable data sources and resources for additional information on crossover issues in education, from school crime and safety, to school nutrition and health policies and practices.
  • glossary of common education terms, acronyms, and important federal education programs.

DOWNLOAD your copy of How Schools Work and How to Work with Schools today!  or go to http://www.nasbe.org

Think you know how our education system works? Test your knowledge with our How Schools Work quiz to find out if you’re a pro!


Kristen Amundson
Executive Director


K’NEX Launches Nationwide Search for Talented Kid-Builders!

2014 K’NEXpert Search Will Award Four Creative Builders A Grand Prize Package Worth Up To $2,000


Hatfield, PA – May, 2014 – K’NEX, the only US construction toy company focused on Building Worlds Kids Love®, is excited to announce its 15th annual K’NEXpert Search, launching May 21, 2014! The nationwide K’NEXpert Search challenges young builders to design and submit a creative, original model made entirely from K’NEX® parts that will be judged on criteria such as, originality, creativity, and complexity of the model, given the age category.

The contest will have 4 Grand Prize Winners, one from each of the four different age group categories. Age groups include:  5-6 years old; 7-8 years old; 9-11 years old; and 12-14 years old.  The four imaginative Grand Prize Winners will each receive a prize package valued at approximately $2,000 (US).


This year, Grand Prize Winners will receive the coolest K’NEXpert prize package yet, which includes, among other things: $1,000, an iPad Mini™, and a $500 K’NEX credit code good toward a shopping spree at knex.com. An additional eight Finalists will each receive, among other things, a $100 K’NEX credit code good toward a shopping spree at knex.com, and a K’NEX t-shirt.


The K’NEXpert Search runs through August 29, 2014, with winners announced in October.  Children can enter using the online entry form found on the K’NEX website, www.knexperts.com.  Submissions must include up to 3 photos of the creation, and a short video or one-page summary describing how the child came up with the idea, how long the design took to build, and how many K’NEX pieces were used.  For more information, view the Official Rules here: http://bit.ly/knexpertrules


A panel of judges comprised of K’NEX employees will select the Semi-Finalists from each age category; an online vote taking place October 13-20, 2014will determine the Annual K’NEXpert winners, and Joe Smith, Chief Development Officer at K’NEX, will then select the four Grand Prize Winners.

The K’NEXpert Search is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada, except those of Puerto Rico, U.S. territories or possessions, the Province of Quebec, and where prohibited, and no purchase is necessary. For more information on K’NEX, the contest or previous winners, visitwww.knex.com/knexpert.

About K’NEX Brands

Founded in 1992, K’NEX Brands, the world’s most innovative construction toy company, was established to make and sell what has become one of the world’s leading integrated construction systems for children, and is America’s STEM building solution. Winner of over 250 international awards and recognitions, K’NEX, America’s Building Toy® company, is focused on Building Worlds Kids Love® and encourages youngsters to “imagine, build and play.”  From the living room to the classroom, K’NEX has building toys specially designed for every age group and skill level.  The K’NEX family of brands includes K’NEX Building Sets, K’NEX Thrill Rides, K’NEX Education, Lincoln Logs®, Tinkertoy®, NASCAR®, Angry Birds, Mario Kart Wii, Mario Kart 7, Super Mario, PacMan, Titanfall, Family Guy, Plants vs. Zombies, and more. Since 1992, The Rodon Group®, a subsidiary of K’NEX Brands, L.P., has manufactured over 31 billion parts for the K’NEX building toy system. Join us as we help build the leaders of tomorrow.  For more information, please visit www.knex.com or www.rodongroup.com.


New CTU report analyzes massive public school closings on one-year anniversary

“Twelve Months Later: The Impact of School Closings in Chicago” examines myriad of CPS’s Broken Promises


CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) released today a report on the state of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) one year after the Board of Education (BOE) voted to close 49 elementary schools and one high school program, the largest, one-time school closing action in U.S. history and a decision made in the wake of massive opposition and protests throughout the city of Chicago.


The study, titled “Twelve Months Later: The Impact of School Closings in Chicago,” looks at what happened as a result of the mass school closings of 2013, and answers such questions as: Were CPS promises for receiving schools kept? How much money was saved? Did resources increase at affected schools? Have services increased for special education students at consolidated schools.


On May 22, 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked BOE shuttered 50 neighborhood school communities, “turned around” five schools and co-located 17 others. Faced with widespread opposition to this action, CPS promised hundreds of millions of dollars in capital improvements and transition supports for schools receiving students from closed schools. CTU examination of the evidence has found, however, that promises made to receiving schools were hollow in many cases and only partially fulfilled in others. Among the findings:


  • Receiving schools are still disproportionately under-resourced compared to other elementary schools.
  • Students were moved to schools with libraries, but funds weren’t available to hire librarians. Just 38% of receiving schools have librarians on staff, whereas across CPS, 55% of elementary schools have librarians.
  • Computer labs were upgraded at receiving schools but only one-fifth of these schools have technology teachers.
  • CPS touted iPads for all receiving-school students, but included few related professional learning opportunities for teachers.
  • CPS spent millions on large-scale programmatic changes at 30 elementary schools, but the success and continued funding of STEM and IB programs remain to be seen.


“Shuttering our schools was touted as a hard and difficult choice by the mayor and the Board, but this was the easy, draconian choice,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “Parents, teachers, and the public demanded resources and supports for these education communities.  Sadly, by making promises that remain unfulfilled, these schools and the students they serve have been dealt yet another blow—from failed policy to broken promises.”


For this report, the CTU interviewed teachers from seven of the receiving schools to gather information about the fulfilment of CPS promises. Additionally, researchers reviewed CPS material on the school closures, operating and capital budget documents, position files, vacancy reports, class size data, and other public data.



The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools and, by extension, the students and families they serve. CTU, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, is the third largest teachers local in the country and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information visit CTU’s website at www.ctunet.com