If you're a blog fan, this page will be the attempt to reflect on the trials and tribulations of CDAT.  
This will also feed to Tweet, where you can follow us at #CDATLHS 

This week: Race cars, Autodesk, SMITE, Electric Cars

posted Oct 2, 2015, 12:14 PM by Michael Reilly

This is definitely one of those busy weeks, the kind that go by like cars on a racetrack. And probably because we had a race car on campus!

CDAT was very fortunate to have the Mazda Motorsports team on campus, and they gave a great presentation on STEM for our students!  From the obvious tech involved in cars to driver nutrition and renewable diesel fuel, a very cool show.  To top it off, the Mazda Corporation, represented by Thomas Condon, donated $2,500 to the program.  And not to be outdone, Geoff Lee, President of RoadAtlanta, gave a ticket to EVERY CDAT student to attend Petit LeMans this weekend!

That was Tuesday, just before the County video crew arrived to get footage about our cluster's receiving an Innovation Award for our vertical approach to sharing and education.

On Wednesday, we got a nice link from the Autodesk Corporation, a neat story on our ladies who have submitted their design patent.  An amazing and simple use of TinkerCAD, the free online tool for 3D work.  Reilly had done a webinar a week earlier on creative technology careers.

Thursday was fun:  we brought about 10 students to HiRez Studios to meet with their marketing and social media folks, and to learn their tips on promoting the game SMITE.  The students will be developing their own approach of online marketing and using social media tools and analytics to increase SMITE awareness and participation.  Who doesn't like video games?!

Now we're wrapping up the week, getting ready for MakerFaireATL!  In particular, the conference on Saturday, where we will be learning a lot, and sharing some of what we do.  Always fun and easy to brag on the students' accomplishments!  We're thankful for Jim Ellis Chevrolet for supporting our new electric go-kart initiative, and AZZ-WSI for the mentoring and advice!

Who knows what next week will bring...

Both Worldwide and "Old School"

posted Sep 7, 2015, 3:33 PM by Michael Reilly

A fun couple of weeks, as usual!  We started our first major project of the year, "Innovation Nation!!" with our huge group of kids.  Okay, so it's really a huge focus on Science Fair, but a couple of us that we needed a cooler name than Science Fair.  ALL of us think STEM kids should ALL do Science Fair, we just wanted to spice it up a bit for those who might not see it as a "cool" thing.  Some great ideas are forming, we'll share them as we go.

While CDAT has a reputation for doing the cutting edge work, we are doing a bit of "old school" this year:  hammers and nails!  The theater department came to us about their set:  they did not have a strong stagecraft class, so they needed some help building a fairly large set.  Let's go!  After all, it's Engineering!  This has been a fun experience for our students in so many ways, and has been a great experience for math applications.  We have been cutting trapezoid and parellelogram carts, doing lots of degrees, inches, and so many other measures, both in virtual 3D and REAL 3D.  

Of course, we're still pushing the edge, we won't leave that fun behind!  On August 25, Mr. Reilly was named to the Board of Directors of Children International (, as an Education Specialist.  This is great for CDAT, as this gives us opportunities to make worldwide connections with disadvantaged kids, and understand third-world issues and entrepreneurship.  Our kids are even closer to making a worldwide impact.

In addition, on Sept. 15, Mr. Reilly (okay, I'm typing and it's weird to refer to myself in 3rd person) will be doing a live webcast on how we use Autodesk products in various ways.  The Autodesk company has been impressed with CDAT since our first year, and when you see what our kids can do, it is no surprise.  

As always, let us know if you'd like to get involved, this is a community!

Real stuff keeps going!

posted Aug 23, 2015, 11:32 AM by Michael Reilly

One of our major principles is "authenticity".  Sure, if we were cool, it would be phrased "keepin it real", but we're STEM focused so let's use as many syllables as possible.  

How, you might ask, are we authentic?  We have had some excellent opportunities for our kids this summer, as well as already this Fall.  During the summer, we had a small crew of CDAT students working on set with Walter Biscardi, as he was hired by Gwinnett County Water to produce a cool series on the water cycle.  After all, Gwinnett is known for its recycling, and Walter is known for his movies.  Not only did some CDAT students get paid to work the set, they have mention on the credits AND we did it in our own CDAT labs.  Who knew setting up a science experiment could earn cash!

Then, as our year began, we went out on DAY 1 (!!!) of school to HiRez Studios.  They needed some of our kids to test one of their latest games, Jetpack Fighter (can't say any more, signed a non-disclosure agreement).  They had a great time, got some shirts and stuff, and we will have about 10 of them interning at HiRez to do internet evaluation and promotion of HiRez games, and those of the competition.  "Yes Mom, these video games are schoolwork".

We are SO thankful for these amazing advisors, as they help us to create these internships for our students.  Our teens are ready for authenticity, they thrive in the real challenge!

More Cool Awards

posted Aug 17, 2015, 3:24 AM by Michael Reilly

As we start the school year, we start off with a bang!!  Our project-based learning style was recognized by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) as the best example of academic assignments in their 16-state region (link here).  In addition, the direction set by CDAT, and embraced by the Lanier cluster, has earned our cluster the "Tranforming Learning" grant from the County, which gives a grant for our schools to further continue improving and sharing our work.  Finally, it was recently announced that the Technology Association of Georgia has selected CDAT as a Finalist for the STEM Certified School Outreach Award.  This is given to the school that has tried to share the excitement of STEM education, and CDAT has certainly done that!  This is our second year for the award, let's hope the second time is the charm!

Latest and Greatest

posted Jul 25, 2015, 4:41 AM by Michael Reilly   [ updated Jul 25, 2015, 4:42 AM ]

When we last left our heroes, the year was wrapping up with a frenzy.  Our year culminated with a regional "STEM Maker Fest" hosted at Lanier, with an estimated 1,500 visitors to see "makers" from LHS, but also our cluster schools and local engineers and geeky hobbyists.  It was a wonderful celebration of science combined with creativity!

On the day before the event, we also received word from our intellectual property attorney (so cool to say!) that 3 of our 10th grade girls (Savannah, Lauren, Macy) were officially "patent pending" on their makeup applicator design!!  So proud of these young ladies, proving that if you identify a problem, work hard on a solution, and persist through the details, you can do great things!  While it may have happened before, we're still not aware of another high school student in Georgia receiving a patent.  We hope to hear from the US Patent Office this Fall...

And now on to the Fall of 2015.  CDAT will be growing once again:  we anticipate 450 CDAT students this year, a  1500% increase from our wonderful original cohort of 30.  We will also be adding a new tech teacher, 2 Math teachers, a full-time Special Education teacher, and more here and there.  We have established a new system for our 12th graders, where they will be in either internships or dual enrollment for half of the day, which is so exciting.  If the purpose of high school is to get you to your post-secondary destination, we're getting it done!

Stay tuned for more exciting news, we have a few things planned already which should be astounding!!

Awards and Competitions and Next Year

posted Mar 15, 2015, 4:38 AM by Michael Reilly

Spring is traditionally awards and competitions season, the culmination of the year, and this season is no different.  We're so proud of our students and our program in general!

On March 1, we had 15 of our young ladies recognized by the National Center of Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) Georgia's division for their active participation in technology.  Emily Polanco, a CDAT 11th grade student, was a State winner AND a National runner-up for her tech work and aspirations.  All of the ladies were recognized, had a great banquet, and met folks from great companies such as Home Depot, State Farm, Georgia Tech and more.  They keynote speaker was Kathy Pham, a Georgia Tech grad, Google manager, member of the White House Digital Service Leadership, and an amazing role model for our ladies.

(about 25% of the young ladies pictured are CDAT!!)

We also had a great showing at the County Science Fair, taking home numerous 2nd and 3rd place finishes.  Of course, neither students nor teachers were happy without a first place, so we're going to try and conquer other contests like the Google Science Fair!  Ethan Shaw and Analise Rodriguez were actual presenters at the County Science Fair Symposium, one of only 9 groups chosen and the only 9th graders we've aware of EVER receiving this honor.

Our staff has also been asked to present numerous times, helping others shape PBL environments in their schools.  Mr. Reilly has presented to multiple district leadership meetings on CDAT, PBL and innovation, and a few CDAT teachers are currently planning our summer PBL training where we anticipate up to 700 teachers.

On the planning front, our estimates for the Fall of 2015 are 415 students.  Wow.  A jump of about 100 from this year, and a massive leap from our "CDAT Originals" group of 30 in the Fall of 2010.  As we grow, we hope to continue the feeling of community, the focus on rigorous work, and amazing accomplishments of our students and staff.  

Our kids continue to amaze

posted Dec 6, 2014, 6:07 AM by Michael Reilly

In our last project, we were attempting our first school-wide PBL effort.  It's not just our 300 or so kids, but all 1800 or so, with the entire staff.  But in the midst of supporting a positive school-wide exposure to PBL, we also pushed our kids even further, and they nailed it!

In our Tools for Tomorrow project, we asked the kids for their ideas on what is needed, wanted, necessary.  We really wanted to push that you don't have to have a full-blown, perfect and proven item.  Emphasizing creativity and identification of opportunity were our keys.  Lots of folks said, you mean like "Shark Tank"?  No, because those folks have revenue and product development.  It's more like "KickStarter", where there may or may not be a prototype.

You see, kids don't know that their ideas are worth money, so our challenge to them:  come up with your concepts, be ready to "pitch" them in a genuine way, and we will bring in investors, inventors and others to consider taking it to the next level.  And then something cool happened....

Our investors would like to take 4 concepts to get patented, and 1 more to get trademarked!

Yes, our kids are pursuing patents.  AND it's such a variety of kids too:  mostly female, cool engineering ideas, some at-risk kids.  We've won other great awards, but now we're on to the highest levels of authenticity in the world of intellectual property!!    As teachers, we are now dreaming of the potential "positive contagion" that this could become, a catalyst and motivator for so many, as they see what their peers have accomplished.

There's going to be a big celebration if/when these patents are approved, a celebration of so many things!!

Another milestone

posted Oct 10, 2014, 2:48 AM by Michael Reilly

Today is the day.  We started CDAT a long time ago, with the blessing of the County, to try a new way.  It wasn't solely our idea, it was a concept that could be applied, and it was already a curiosity of our district leaders.  And now it's going to be tried school-wide, starting today, for a month.  In fact, multiple high schools are trying it out this Fall in Gwinnett, so thousands of students will be giving PBL a shot, and at Lanier High it starts TODAY!

For the CDAT project, click here.

In short, we are going to genuine invention: copyrights, trademarks, patents.  And it's not "pick the best", it's something anyone can win, everyone can win.  On Nov. 7, we will have investors, inventors, creators, coming by to "shop around" and find what's worth their time and money, for real.  Our kids have one month to get their concept ready, and know every detail.  The key here:  you don't need a finished product, you need a really GREAT concept.  Check out Kickstarter:  so much committed money before anything is real.

Our other academies have some great ideas too, but I can't spoil their surprise here.  Let's just say it's so cool to see the creativity of our educators unleashed.  Not all of them, change is hard.  But some are running with it, and it's all you would hope for as we try to constantly improve education.

So here we go, should be a great experience!

From outer space to the deep sea

posted Sep 21, 2014, 1:46 PM by Michael Reilly

    It's all about people in schools: the people we serve (aka, kids), our classroom educators, our administrators, our community.  So it's pretty important to get great people whenever possible, and one of our new GREAT people is at it again!
    Janelle Wilson, our new Engineering and Chemistry teacher, hosted a wildly successful communication for our students with the International Space Station.  It was so cool to have our students literally speaking with an astronaut in space!  And now she's going out to the deep blue sea!  This trip was supposed to be this summer, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) had to change it up.  Well she ships out to sea tomorrow.
    While we will miss her, Mrs. Wilson will be blogging from sea, as she does crazy stuff like count fish and other things.  Click here for her blog, and you are encouraged to comment!  If you act fast, you can vote on which stuffed bull from Longhorn country goes on the trip too.  As you can read in her blog, she will be able to share so many science and engineering concepts with her students while at sea and when she returns.  
    Maybe next time she'll take all of us on a class trip!

Year 5 Begins

posted Sep 14, 2014, 10:50 AM by Michael Reilly

    Each year seems to begin with some type of evolution in our program, and 2014 is no different.  We were co-leaders with the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) in teaching 5 high schools about project-based learning in May, and this Fall is when it all begins.
    While constant change, mostly positive growth, can be exhausting, it's part of owning and developing a program.  That leads me to the main point of this posting: the CDAT teaching team is remarkable, amazing, inspirational.  This group is such a solution-oriented group, with so many great ideas, a wonderful level of trust and shared vision.  CDAT was intended to be great for students, but it was also built to foster the ownership of the staff, and that has really come together.
    For example, when many teachers are asked to try something different, you frequently hear something like "But I can't sacrifice that instructional time."  This is a teacher making the assumption that if THEY don't say it, the students CAN'T learn it.  And it's phrase of fear and anxiety, for the success of the kids, and it makes sense.  If the kids are going to learn, without the teacher's clear plan and timeline, then how will they?  Many teachers are clearly not used to having students do that.
    With our team, that phrase is never heard.  We have built a great level of trust, to focus on the learning, not necessarily the teaching.  We listen to each other for important and stressful events, deadlines, etc., and flex around those priorities.  Our group tries to think in the mindset of the student, from their perspective, so we can do things right.
    So as we go through this year, let's keep this crew in mind.  Their faith in each other, their faith in this team dynamic, has been a constant for years.  This team approach has been the "magic" that has made CDAT special for years, and is the spark that we share whenever asked to speak.  Way to go CDAT team, you're awesome!!

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