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 

Great 2017, but always looking forward

posted Dec 20, 2017, 4:35 AM by Michael Reilly

We had a great year of 2017 for CDAT, with additional accolades and even more discoveries about how we work.

First cool thing was our recognition by the Partnership for 21st Century Learning as an "Exemplar" in 21st Century Learning skills.  What does that mean?  Their description states: 

P21 seeks to identify, document, promote and celebrate examples of 21st century learning initiatives that successfully prepare students for college, career and life.  

We applied for this as a cluster of schools, which they call a "district", and we are the first group of schools in Georgia (ever!) to be recognized for this high-demand skillset. (

Next up, we are a finalist at the Future of Educational Technology Conference in Orlando, Florida.  We are one of three high schools from the nation competing for the STEM Excellence Award.  According to their site, 

"The FETC STEM Excellence Awards recognize excellence and innovation in the field of STEM education at the primary, middle and high school levels, with winners selected from each level. STEM Excellence Awards applications are evaluated based on the use of Interdisciplinary Curriculum, Collaboration, Design, Problem Solving and the STEM Experiences offered."   

These opportunities are so appreciated, and a great recognition of what we do.  That was the best part:  we didn't have to do something new, just show what we do already.  We are most proud of the fact that we do all of this for ANY student who wants to join us, no filter at all.

2018 will surely bring more opportunities for our students and teachers to shine in so many areas.  Reflecting on these accomplishments is great for publicity, but even better for our motivation as we try to serve our students and teachers.  

Thanks to our supporters, from Gwinnett County Public Schools to State Farm's IT group, and so many more.

#GCPSCTE #PromiseGwinnett #StateFarmIT

The Latest and Greatest

posted Oct 20, 2017, 2:25 AM by Michael Reilly

First, there's big news about a huge, cool recognition we are going to receive, but we can't tell you!  At least, not until early November, so stay tuned!

It's a been a strong start to the school year, with some challenges and successes.  Our classes are underway, and we are seeing some amazing work by our kids, while also needing to teach some professional skills a bit better.  Each year brings a new class of 9th graders, and you can always depend on some really cool surprises from that group in terms of their creative demonstrations and projects.

We have been very fortunate to have even more local corporate involvement.  In addition to our existing relationships, especially with #StateFarmIT, we have started a program with the Macy's System and Technology ONYX group.  The IT hub of Macy's is only about 20 minutes from our school, in Duluth, and they are very interested in supporting more STEM kids.  One particular focus is diversity, and supporting that by hosting sessions at Lanier to mentor STEM students of color who are not traditionally IT candidates.  We need more diversity in our IT workforce, because we can't make products and solutions for the world if we don't have the world represented in our creators.  This has been off to a great start, and really compliments our State Farm IT involvement.

In addition, the Alcon Corporation of Johns Creek has reached out and offered a tour of their facilities, with a special focus on women in STEM.  They are one of the largest companies in the contact lens business, and have biological, chemical and mechanical engineering operations to show, so we're taking a group of girls on Nov. 1 to see all of it!  This will be led by Dr. Rohrbaugh, our Academy Lead but also a trained lab scientist herself.

We are incredibly proud of the initiatives of our current Seniors too!  Teishana Antoine, Stephanie Meneses, Marissa Sorkin, Elisa Mendez, Analisa Rodriguez and others have led a girls program at Lanier Middle School to inspire other girls to look at STEM, particularly computing.  They wrote and won over $6,000 in grants to support this effort, as we try to fix one of the biggest problems in STEM education:  girls participate in middle school, then drop off in high school.  We believe in our girls, as they mentor the middle school girls, and invite in women from local tech companies as speakers, and more!  Watch for amazing results this Spring as our STEM numbers JUMP!

Finally, we have a lot coming up.  After the Alcon trip Nov. 1, we have a FIRST Lego League Tournament on Dec. 2, Science Fair and Showcase Dec. 6, Hackathon in January, FIRST Robotics for our FRC team in January-March, and so much more!

And let's not forget about that news in November....

Here Comes 17-18!

posted Jul 21, 2017, 12:04 PM by Michael Reilly

On August 7, we start it up again!  Last year we had great results in so many ways:  State and County tests were rocked by our students in Math, Science, Language Arts and more.  You probably saw the Patent Awarded to some of our young ladies, and we had so many other great things happen.

The next year we have some great goals to refine our process, and make things like "getting a patent" become more of the norm than the exception.  We are most excited about the return to a clear block of time for our 9th and 10th graders, and we are going to build on an amazing first year of our Junior Capstone.

It was exciting to learn that we are part of a college course's curriculum:  Western Governor's University is using a chapter from the book "Deeper Learning".  We are considered a great example of how to integrate project-based learning.  This is one of 4 books that use CDAT as an example of project-based learning, but we are going to be even better than that!  After all, we have not achieved "100% Exceeds" for every student, yet.

And we are very happy to continue our relationship with State Farm IT.  They have been an amazing support for us, and our relationship is quickly becoming the goal for others in our district.

For anyone new to CDAT, we can't wait to meet you!  For those returning, bring your ideas on what to keep, what to improve, because this is a community effort!  

Finally, this is an exciting year for another reason:  our original "CDATers" should be graduating college this year!!  We hope to track them down and see who is doing what.  We know some chose other routes, and some are graduating early, but they're still our pioneers.  

A great year, and more goals to come

posted May 10, 2017, 5:16 AM by Michael Reilly

As the year comes to an end, we have so much to be grateful for, so much to be proud of.  We are still waiting for end of the year test results, which we love to use as a competition with everyone else.  It's cool to have students and teachers look forward to standardized tests as a competitive arena!

There were two other major accomplishments.  Really major!

First, we had our 3 ladies finally receive their patent!  It started in the Fall of 2014, when they were 10th graders, and the assignment was to design a solution to a problem.  They all decided that applying eyeliner was a problem, and devised an eyeliner stamp as a solution.  After patent searches and design iterations, and a LOT of waiting, the United State Patent and Trademark Office officially awarded their patent on January 17, 2017!!  We are proudly mounting it on the wall for the front lobby of our school, but even more importantly it helps us to show their peers what is possible!  Next up: who will be the first millionaire CDAT student?

Our second big thing came on May 9, 2017:  the State of Georgia's STEM Certification program officially approved our feeder middle school, Lanier Middle, as STEM Certified.  This now makes our cluster of schools the only public school cluster in the State of Georgia to have a K-12 STEM Certified group (White Oak Elementary, Lanier Middle, Lanier High).  Yes, in our group, you can have a certified STEM focus from K-12!

We are so proud of these events, but also have targets on greater accomplishments.  As our group has grown, we are leaving the adolescent stage of our program, and now need to develop even better systems.  The Partnership for 21st Century Learning has accepted our application to be reviewed as a "21st Century Exemplar District".  To be clear, we are NOT yet Exemplars, but we hope to be.  And we would possibly be the first group of schools in the State of Georgia.

There is still lots of work to be done, we're not perfect yet.  But another great year in the books, pushing our program toward higher and higher aspirations, and hoping we can always share our work with others.

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...

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