LGBT History Month: The Stonewall Rebellion

Below is the text of a presentation made by my school’s GSA leaders at school meeting in honor of October being LGBT History month.


By Daniel Case [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

This is the Stonewall Inn, one of the most recognizable landmarks of the LGBT community. It’s located in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. In June 1969, the Stonewall was a gay bar and was raided by police, touching off 3 days of rebellion and the start of the modern queer rights movement.

The Stonewall catered to mostly gay men between their upper teens and early thirties, transgender women, and butch lesbians. Patrons were about a third each white, Black, and Hispanic. Most were working class or poor.

In 1969, it was illegal for several reasons to be queer out in public — for one, bars were not allowed to serve LGBT patrons. For another, it was illegal to dress in the clothing for another gender. Under the excuse of enforcing these laws, in the early hours of June 28, police entered the bar and announced they were raiding it. Patrons found to be dressed illegally or dancing with a same sex partner were arrested, as were all the employees.


By Diana Davies, copyright owned by New York Public Library (Contact us/Photo submission) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This is the Stonewall Inn back in 1969.

Being arrested in a gay bar raid anywhere at the time was a humiliating experience because those arrested often had their names and photos published in the newspaper, which in turn got them fired from their jobs. Few LGBT people were out about their sexuality or gender identity. It was a shameful secret that caused many to seek the relative acceptance of Greenwich Village, even just for the evening.

At this point in the evening, police have escorted employees, transgender women, and lesbians dressed as men to the curb. While waiting for the police wagons to show up, those patrons who were not arrested gathered on the street out front, about 100 people in total. The crowd was uneasy.

The start of violence is a little fuzzy but three events stand out:

  • A woman in handcuffs kept breaking free of the 4 policemen escorting her.
  • Police struck a lesbian over the head with a baton after she complained that her handcuffs were too tight.
  • One of those detained looked to the crowd and shouted, “Why don’t you guys do something?”

The crowd responded. They threw coins, beer cans, and later, bricks at the police. 10 officers barricaded themselves and a few handcuffed detainees inside the bar.

Stonewall Inn nightclub raid. Crowd attempts to impede polic

New York Daily News Archive / Getty Images

Meanwhile, outside the Stonewall, the crowd included homeless, mostly gay youth, who lived in nearby Christopher Park. This is the only known photo taken the first night of the Stonewall Rebellion. It shows those youth scuffling with the police.

Writing about why the rebellion started, a contemporary account suggested the Stonewall Inn “catered largely to a group of people who are not welcome in, or cannot afford, other places of homosexual social gathering… The Stonewall became home to these kids. When it was raided, they fought for it. That, and the fact that they had nothing to lose other than the most tolerant and broadminded gay place in town, explains why.”

The rebellion continued for three nights.

Michael Fader, who was there, remembered “We all had a collective feeling like we’d had enough of this kind of shit. It wasn’t anything tangible anybody said to anyone else, it was just kind of like everything over the years had come to a head on that one particular night in the one particular place, and it was not an organized demonstration… Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back. It was like the last straw…There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we’re going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren’t going to go away. And we didn’t.”

The Stonewall Rebellion led to annual Stonewall commemorations, and later LGBT Pride Parades.


Marsha Johnson and Sylvia Rivera (The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson)

Two of the most well-known faces of the Stonewall Rebellion are Marsha P Johnson at left and Sylvia Rivera at right. They were transgender women who were at the Stonewall.

Later, both were active through the 70s and 80s LGBT rights causes. Their most notable achievement was establishing STAR House in 1972. The house functioned as both home and chosen family for gay and trans street kids.

The LGBT community owes our struggle to many transgender women of color, including Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. They are heroes to the community.

Happy LGBT History Month!

Constant Velocity Card Sort

Autumn is here one day then gone the next on campus. We’ve had this odd up/down temperature fluctuation this week, which has made for many foggy days. Monday, as I walked home, I was struck by the fog rolling in over the nearby hill and enjoyed a high of 58°F. Today, it’s 80°F and sunny. Oh, and by the way, that building on the right is the dorm where I live.


Ok, that’s enough rambling about autumn in the Pioneer Valley. Let’s look at some physics.

My colleagues and I created a card sort for our students and the results were wonderful. The students have been working with five different representations at this point and our card sort left out only the data table. Here’s one page from the sort:

Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 4.08.33 PM

While sorting today, students chose to work together in so many different ways. My favorite was this group that turned their sort into a kind of Go Fish game — each kid took all the cards for one representation and read off important details to ask for that card from the others. For instance, “do you have one with a velocity of +6 m/s and a starting point of -3 m?”


Many thanks to Kelly O’Shea and Brian Frank for sharing so many card sorts over the summer. Their work inspired us to create our own.

If you use and improve ours, would you let me know? Constant velocity card sort (on Google Slides).

A Cost-Effective Robotics Learning Platform

I’ve put together a basic two-wheeled Arduino robot platform that comes in just under $60.

I like that the chassis is aluminum so it’s reusable year-to-year. Alternatives I considered (here, here, and here) are laser cut plastic and are similarly-priced. This chassis is specifically designed to work with micro DC Motors, which are admittedly a weird size, but I love their compactness. I’m not sure how kids will attach the line sensors we’ll inevitably use at the start of the year to build a line-following robot.

The caster wheel makes for a simpler design than adding two more wheels. It’s easiest to start the kids with two-wheel drive so that the third point exists for balance only. Some robots use a swivel wheel but I find the robot sometimes get stuck with the wheel in an awkward position.

The Adafruit Motor Shield has been flexible for my entire year of robotics. We’ve also used the SparkFun Motor Driver Shield, which tops out at 2 DC motors.

Here’s the parts list:

Pololu Wheel 60×8mm Pair for FEETECH FS90R/FT90R Micro Servo – Black
Anodized Aluminum Metal Chasis for a Mini Robot Rover
Pololu Ball Caster with 3/8″ Plastic Ball
DC Motor in Micro Servo Body (x2)
Adafruit Motor/Stepper/Servo Shield for Arduino v2 Kit – v2.3
Adafruit METRO 328 Fully Assembled – Arduino IDE compatible – ATmega328

Do you have suggestions or improvements?

Most Fun Exam Ever? Robotics Class

Alternate title: Forget blue books, we’ve got heat guns

It’s time for the winter trimester exams. Given that robotics is a new prep for me, I’ve carefully considered what my exam should look like. My design goals were roughly as follows: 1) mirror the type of learning we’ve done this year, 2) but not rehash old material, 3) uphold my emphasis on deferring to the documentation, and 4) be achievable by a range of students in about 2 hours.

Below is the exam as I’ll give it to the students. At the end is a video demonstrating my thermometer (which will *not* be given to the students).


Create a thermometer that reads and displays the temperature.

Detailed requirements:

  • display the temperature on a physical scale in °C
  • distinguish temperatures to a resolution of 5°C (as in, the user should be able to tell 25°C from 30°C)
  • run a self-test on startup to show the thermometer’s possible range of values (as in, hit the lowest temp on your scale and the highest on startup)

Provided Equipment20180304_142436.jpg

  • servo motor
  • digital temperature sensor and pull-up resistor
  • breadboard with plenty of jumper wires
  • Arduino Uno compatible board with USB cable
  • paper, pen, ruler, scissors, tape
  • heat gun

Permitted Resources

  • You may use any resources of your choosing, with one exception — no consulting with live humans. This means internet searching is allowed but emailing a friend is not.
  • You may borrow sample code from the internet, so long as you cite it and link to the source.

Submission Guidelines

Please submit a Google Doc writeup of your finished product.

  • Introduction that explains the project and gives photos of the finished product (60% of the points) & a video (or link) in which you fully demonstrate the thermometer (10% of the points)
  • Describe how the digital temperature sensor works (in terms of the scientific principle it operates on) (10%)
  • Your commented code (15%)
  • Wiring diagram or description (5%)

Student Submissions

Open Thread: Teacher Pro-Tips

What’s your favorite, probably under-appreciated teacher advice?

Here’s mine:

Hole punch every paper you give students.

Copying a quiz? A class assignment? Whatever it is, put holes in it for their 3 ring binders before you hand it to the kids. Their organization will be miles better.

What’s yours? Put ’em in the comments.

hole punches.jpg

Symbols From the LGBT Movement

I led a workshop for students to highlight moments from the (US) LGBT Movement (since 1950). Students had a chance to look at protest buttons, signs, and logos as well as read a few sentences about each. We then arranged them on a timeline and discussed them — I was fortunate to be joined by several adults & students with significant experiences with the timeline. The workshop closed with students making their own modern-day-old-fashioned-protest buttons.


The 1970s section of the timeline we created during the workshop.


How is it possible that as a country, we’ve achieved virtually none of these platform points from the 1979 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights?

Make a copy or explore my slides or view the slides below.

We had amazing questions from curious kids:

  • How did it happen that lesbians, gays, and bisexuals came to work with transgender people? The first category is about sexuality and the other is about gender.
  • What does pansexual mean?
  • What happened to you if you told during Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?
  • If gays are men and lesbians are women, how come this Ellen picture says “Yep, I’m gay”?

The LGBT kids who attended told me they appreciated the chance to learn their history (my main goal). The non-LGBT kids, that they had a chance to ask some questions and generally learn something new. I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity to teach those 40 students about LGBT history.

Build a Mobile

My classes just wrapped up studying balance. Students built (metaphorical) models to describe their understanding of center-pivot balance as well as off-center and massed-beam balance.

The project I assigned them was to build a mobile with a group of three or four members that both reflects who they are as individuals and is centered on some theme that unites them. Here are a few of my favorite mobiles.


“Emoji” shown next to the mobile diagram submitted by one team member. This mobile used relatively light weights and intriguing balance points (often quite far off center) to create the most interesting looking product in class. Nice attention to detail, the end product is pleasing to the eye, and the students all could demonstrate why it balanced.



“Black and White” was a unique approach because instead of tying off masses, the team used clothes pins. The mobile was infinitely adjustable and pretty much was a rock-solid construction.


“Clay Figures” used a combination of materials, but especially clay, to share their interests. Fun fact about using clay to balance a mobile — as the clay dries, the balance can be thrown off as happened here. Two weeks later and most levels of the mobile are no longer balanced.


  • 1/4″ and 3/8″ wooden dowels
  • A variety of string/twine/small diameter rope
  • Lightweight materials that can become masses on the mobile — don’t exceed 2kg overall if you expect to hang the thing in your classroom

What order should I have done this in? I saw two options:

Math first, building second: students draw a mobile, decide on which masses and will go where. Confirm that it should balance theoretically. Then get out the materials and build.

Building first, math second: students create a balanced mobile by trial and error. Then, apply the model of balance they created earlier in the course to prove why it balances.

We did option 2 and I was partially satisfied with the results. Several students reflected afterwards that they’d have preferred option 1 because they would’ve had an easier time building (that’s debatable, I think).