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 

Bridge the Adjacent Possible

posted Jan 17, 2017, 2:48 AM by Michael Reilly

Great article out of MIT recently, talking about how they have modeled the pattern of innovation.  To summarize, the term "adjacent possible" was defined by a researcher named Kaufmann in 2002, meaning that innovation is something that is considered possible, and helped when it was close to something that already existed.  MIT then developed a system of drawing colored marbles to represent the known, the unknown, and the developing probabilities.  

While this article might be a bit too mathy for some, the term itself seems so clear:  innovation can simply be something we decide is possible, with the comfort that it is adjacent to what we know.  Isn't that human nature in general?  What we have found in our program is that it takes a variety of people in a group to bridge the adjacent and possible.

We usually see our most innovative work when one of our "crazy thinkers" has an idea, or sometimes a random person has a unique thought.  The comfort in "going for it" is the bridging to what we know or consider possible, and that's where our planners and detail people come in.  Working alone, whether this be students or teachers, we tend not to get innovative due to too much focus on detail, or too much abstract thought without detail.  Only in working together through complimentary yet opposite strengths do we discover those innovative alleys.

One target that should be considered for innovation by all was set by world leaders this week:  the world economy can generate $12 TRILLION more if we pursue more social endeavors.  That is, helping the less fortunate and challenged can generate more customers!  And you don't have to go to the Sudan or something to be a part of this change.  What WE are doing is part of it: if we can lift more of our kids (38% Free/Reduced lunch at our school) out of poverty, THAT is part of it.  

So, let's get innovative, let's raise our part of the $12 trillion via "bridging the adjacent possible".

Luddites or Leaders?

posted Nov 6, 2016, 7:43 AM by Michael Reilly

A recent Elon Musk interview heard him discussing the future of our society, and how robots and artificial intelligence will be taking many of our jobs.  It is pretty unusual/cool/threatening to see how Uber is actually building a transportation company with no drivers, and how 18-wheelers and other trucks can also go driverless.  It's not someday, it's now.   

As a techie, I can easily see the cool factor.  It also helps me to embrace, and even teach the value of, dare I say it, social studies.  I had heard the term "Luddite" before, and just thought I knew what it meant, but I did not.  Near the end of the Elon Musk interview, an investor referred to the "Luddites destroying the sewing machines in England".  So, to the 'net!  Here's the Wikipedia link:

Wow, history is definitely repeating itself here, with some twists of course.  But what schools, educators, students, and families NEED to see is this inevitable influence on our future.  Will all jobs go away?  No.  Even some drivers, like bus drivers or ambulance drivers, are pretty safe (for a while) due to complexities of children, health, etc.  But cars are already driving people to the hospital based on the request of the patient...
But technology and the jobs related to it are real, and are growing.  The State of Georgia has put out numerous reports about tech job growth, and the current tech job demand.

In our world of education, it means we need to use this as a new emphasis on "hard work".  So many kids (and people) can be programmers or engineers, but this is difficult.  What does that mean?  Try harder, ask for more help, different help.  It also means that we as educators need to be much more flexible in our methods that support learning.  It is not TEACHING better, but better ways to LEARN.  And that's such a core reason for project-based learning; it is focused on LEARNING, not TEACHING.  

We did not start our PBL program with the intent of becoming a STEM program, it just happened.  But tech does not have to be hidden in a STEM program, nor does PBL.  However, we are on the edge of a period where our future workforce, our students, have to choose if they'd like to be part of the 21st creative workforce, or become a "21st Century Luddite".  They do have the power to choose, and we have the ability to support their direction.  

What is authentic?

posted Sep 23, 2016, 8:11 AM by Michael Reilly   [ updated Sep 23, 2016, 8:15 AM ]

What is authentic, or real, or genuine?  Along the lines of "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", we see it as a varying element in our space.  

In CDAT, sometimes an authentic project is just fun, because we spend so much time studying.  Combining science with parody and technology can be genuine good times!  Another authentic thing are the tests kids have to take for local and State.  While you're not supposed to teach to the test, why not?  Test companies make billions of dollars a year with their prep materials, so that's why we have had projects that focus on developing test prep materials that are more enjoyable.  Authentic is the real situation of their world.

But then, what is their world?  In 2010 we did a project about water, because the use of the local Lake Lanier for drinking water was under legal challenge by Alabama and Florida.  We also did a project when students complained about P.E. class as outdated, so they wrote proposals and grants for new facilities, wrapping together their persuasive writing, engineering and math skills.  Most 9th and 10th grade students with us are doing video projects to demonstrate their science, because they NEED to know how to make a good video, it is the primary tool for making your case.  Our 11th graders are doing the "Junior Capstone" which is a year-long project of their choosing, with quality and depth.  Senior Capstone projects are too late for college applications, doing this in 11th is much more authentic.  Our Seniors:  please leave.  We want them to be Dual Enrolled, or in an internship, that first step into their post-secondary life.

We have great relationships with local corporations, our city and more, and are so grateful for these authentic connections.  After years of doing this, we now understand the differentiation in authenticity so much more.  What's real to me is not necessarily real to you, and vice versa.  Choice is real to both of us, so let's focus on that.  Watch for our October projects, you'll see real choice then!

Welcome to CDAT 16-17!

posted Jul 18, 2016, 3:54 AM by Michael Reilly

It's about this time of year that many of our new students start peeking at the site, they're excited to get going, and that's awesome!  Also, check us out on Facebook as we try and improve our sharing there too:

As summer settles into the school year, first make sure to spend another couple of days at the pool, take a walk through the woods (not many Pokemon there, most are near things with signs), and more.  But as the school year does start, get ready to enjoy your time with us!  Yes, enjoy school.

How will our students be "doing CDAT" this year?  We are all pretty excited about the schedule we've worked out, here's a summary:

  • 9th grade - we will be together the first 3 hours of each day.  You have all elected Chemistry, Language Arts, and either Engineering or Digital Tech.  We are going to create a more efficient schedule, more like college, where you are in less "lecture time" and more "project time".  We do projects all year long, and the key is to connect the learning to what you enjoy.  Yes, even Pokemon GO if you want.  Our long term goal is to get you ready for college and/or career, so we place a massive emphasis on trust.  If we can trust your work efforts, you have more choices, so be trustworthy!  Also, we want to show you cool things in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), to inspire you to pursue what you love.  Start off right, try new things and deliver on time, and you'll have a great time in school!

  • 10th grade - You will be with us the second half of the day, and some other.  That is, your Science and Language Arts will be back-to-back, so we can use those 3 hours however we want.  You will also have project time during the first half of the day, and we expect that you will have either the second year of your elective pathway, or maybe you have started a new pathway.  Either way, you have both the project time AND elective time to use for integrating your science and language arts.  This is a big test year, as you have Milestones, Gateway, and some have AP too.  We can do this!

  • 11th grade - This year is different for you, for all of us.  We are calling this the "Junior Capstone".  Many schools have a Senior Capstone, but it's kind of too late, as we want something on your college apps, and something to intrigue internship providers.  Senior Year is too late.  This is much more independent, it's on YOU.  What cool thing do you want to do?  Win Science Fair?  Run a major event?  Invent something?  Come on, pursuing patents is not new to CDAT students anymore!  This is even more important first semester, as you know you'll want time second semester to study for AP classes, maybe take the ACT/SAT for the first time.  This should be something you are excited about, that keeps you awake at night in a good way.  If you don't know what you want to do, aim bigger!!  Most of you are in your third year of a pathway, so you can use that.  But you also might want to do Science or Math worth publishing, or create a cool short story infused with STEM.  Let's end this year with some amazing accomplishments!

  • 12th grade - are you still here?  Seriously, the point of high school is to take 8th graders and get them ready for college and/or career.  Our hope for our Seniors is to pursue Dual Enrollment or an Internship.  If we accomplish that, then we feel great about our jobs.  We also know that these are not options for some of you, due to transportation, etc.  For those who are with us, we want to make 12th grade a "Service Year".  As senioritis evolves, what is motivating?  How about leaving a legacy in some way, of giving back?  Serving others in some way is our goal for you this year.  Not only does it feel good, it could make a great college application essay!  It is a great networking opportunity for jobs!  There are all sorts of ways to serve, so make sure it is a type you love.  Don't volunteer for data analysis if you prefer to be outside and sweating.
For all joining us this year, we are so excited to get going!  Remember, CDAT is a community, it's not just teachers teaching and students responding.  We want input from all, including our parents and community.  Because we are a project-based environment, we welcome input from all, to refine our system, but also bring ideas and opportunities to our students.  Only getting better with time, this year is going to be great!!!

Relay for Life, Science Fair, State Farm

posted Nov 17, 2015, 6:13 PM by Michael Reilly

We had a busy November so far!  We've had our largest 9th grade class yet, with about 140 students, and a grand total of about 440 students in CDAT.  A long way since our first group of 30 in 2010.  With the size we both change AND stay the same.  Our group stays the same in that we're always doing some type of project, always pushing the kids to communicate, collaborate, discover their interests and be great.  We also change in that we reflect, try to improve, all the time.

For the first time in our history, we tried an Academy-wide project focused on charity: the Relay for Life "Carnaval del Dia de los Muertos - A Celebration of Life".  Kids of all ages had a great time playing carnival games, most of which were actually a math and technology project!  From human-sized Jenga to magic tricks, pneumatic guns and card games, a very cool night!  CDAT raised $1700 for Relay, a very strong first charity event!  Thanks to Lanier Middle for letting us host at your place!

You might notice the State Farm logo on our Relay logo.  That's because State Farm and CDAT are now working together!  State Farm noticed so many of the great things our kids are doing, they wanted to support it, to help nurture it, to be "a good neighbor".  On Nov. 12, they officially gave us a check for $15,000 in order to support CDAT and helping kids learn STEM.  We both look forward to working together, and the possibility of a long relationship.

State Farm officials were really blown away when they came on Nov. 12, because we were also announcing our Science Fair award winners.  We will have approximately 25 students moving onto the County Science Fair, led by our winners, 9th graders Camryn and Britney, who had an amazing project of reclaiming runoff farm water.  

Look out Gwinnett, look out Georgia, CDAT is coming!

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!!

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