Going to Maker Faire 2017! May 20th – 21st – See You There in San Mateo!

It’s that time of year again, Maker Faire Bay Area is upon us. I am not a presenter this year, so I’ll be free to take a stroll around the Faire and play with everybody else’s stuff. My friends at Obtainium Works have built yet another great machine – a Star Wars Landspeeder, which can be seen in the Steampunk Grotto. Contact me if you want to meet up at this art/science mashup of the year!

New Home


Dan Frazier Art at the How Weird Street Faire SF 2017

I made it to How Weird in San Francisco yesterday! There were many dance stages, edgy art installations, great costumes, (some no costumes…) and the opportunity to make some art of my own. Leaping into a crowd of dancing weird City faire goers in front of four of the different stages, I whipped down a white tablecloth covered table, folding chair, and classic still life of fruit and wine glasses. Too loud to talk, I gestured partying subjects into the chair and with the dancing people and cityscape background – photographed them interacting with the experience of stillness in a maelstrom. I was worried attendees wouldn’t “get it”, instead they jumped at the chance to work with my little bubble environment! Not one person I invited turned me down for a turn in the chair. It was such a fantastic experience in a crazy space. I’ll be using this material for a series of illustrations, I can’t wait to get started.  Here is a small selection of photos from Dan’s Action Art Event, enjoy!

Benicia High Wins….Everything!

Yesterday, student Stella Li – erstwhile AP 2-D student and winner of the 5th District Congressional Art Competition 2016, won Solano County regionals – and then went on to win the whole 5th Congressional District for the 2nd time in a row!! She is getting another scholarship and another trip to Washington DC and they are hanging the piece in Congress for the next year. This is the winning oil painting, “Haven”, depicting Stella’s interpretation of a Middle Eastern refugee. During the reception, the Congressman said he felt Stella had captured the essence of the subject, based on his travels to that part of the world in service to our government. It was a meaningful conversation about our common humanity, in a currently all too divided world, and we appreciated his taking the time to talk about it. 

Here is a picture of Rep. Mike Thompson (D) of the 5th District, my competing students of 2017, and me!

Benicia High’s Art Program has been named  an Exemplary Arts Program in California!!! This is a second award along with the Gold Ribbon recognition. We are winning things and taking names around here…

Frazier out –



Congressional Art Competition is Back – and My Student is in the Announcement from Rep. Mike Thompson

My AP Art Studio students have won the northern CA regional competition twice in a row, and last time we won it all and were sent to Washington DC. The Congressional Art Competition official letter has a nice reference to Stella’s win last year. We will certainly bring our A game against the best a really good arts region has to offer. Check out the letter below:

Benicia High to Receive CA Gold Ribbon Award – Art Program Leads the Way

I am excited to announce that we were recommended to the California Department of Education for this award last week! This is from the CDE’s website,”The California Department of Education (CDE) seeks to recognize outstanding educational programs and practices. The California Gold Ribbon Schools Award was created to honor public schools while the California Distinguished Schools Program is on hiatus…” Our signature program is our VAPA efforts, with our multiple wins in art shows, Maker presentations in the Maker Faire: Bay Area event, cross curricular work with other departments, excellent band, and inclusiveness of all types of students. The committee interviewed teachers, administration, and students. This is the meeting notes from the student sample.

Frazier’s AP Studio Students are Accepted into Prestigious San Jose Illustration Program, Again!

Last year I was thrilled to have a pair of my students join the Shrunken Head Man Club, the fast paced and well connected San Jose State illustrators and animator’s program. They got to meet the fantastic Sheldon Borenstein in person and are looking forward to carving out careers for themselves in the industry. This year I have already had one of my students accepted, Patricia! I think a retrospective of the work they’ve done in my AP Studio class is in order, to give new students an idea of what it takes to move up to this level.

Grace’s first pages of a full comic book rendered in a traditional and digital media blend I use for teaching a wide range of technique.

This is in the middle of the book.

This is Julie’s character Corrin. I teach character design and rendering in AP Studio classes – these often become the focus of an entire concentration later on.

Composition is crucially important – and even more so when using a limited pallette such as this.

Patricia is working with a series of folktales from the Philippines. I encourage students to use any unusual narratives or heritage they may have access to.

I love this one!


Cross Curricular – Gatobot: Combining Art and Robotics, The Rehash

I teach AP Studio 3-D, among other things (a lot of other things!). Students in this discipline generally show affinity for a particular material early on and when they get to the Concentration portion of the year, they run with it. This is a cross curricular project that literally ran away.

Rhiannon wanted to build with cardboard, and build big. 23 AP Art students helped, and the monstrous 13 foot high Gatobot was born. He had articulated arms and legs, and with three student handlers, could walk, wave his arms around, turn his head, bend down, and certainly grab the attention of the school at lunch. What else could Rhi do with the big guy? I had an idea, why not go next door to the Robotics teacher, Andreas Kaiser, and ask to work with his team? She had a robot, why not see if she could get him some electronics? Mr. Kaiser saw the potential for a fantastic learning experience right away and put a team on it. Rhi worked with them and Gatobot received a series of high tech upgrades. These were a four speaker sound system, a voice changing robotic sound unit, LED “Eyes” and “Ears”, and servo operated antenna. The inside of this thing now looked like someone had glued a series of motherboards throughout his chest, because they did. Granted, not all of it worked all of the time, but what experiment does? He was Alive!

This walking blue and gold combination of Art Department and CTE Robotics was immediately approved by the local Benicia Maker Faire as a (really tall) entry. Students ran him twice in a day, with three art students and two robotics students on the team.  The public loved him, particularly the little kids. We had to designate a student whose whole job was to keep them from being stepped on by the four foot square feet of the ‘Bot. A short time later Dale Dougherty, “the founder and Executive Chairman of Maker Media, Inc. which launched Make: magazine in 2005, and Maker Faire” (Make Magazine) told us that Gatobot needed to make an appearance in the West Coast’s biggest Maker Faire : Bay Area. We were astounded. May found Rhiannon’s project sandwiched between MIT’s robotics and Stanford, in a prime spot, being enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people. Benicia’s Art and Robotics students became presenters in this awesome venue, explaining the tech, learning public speaking, and enjoying the art and science of the Faire for free. Oh, and we won the blue ribbon Editor’s Choice Award.

Gatobot is now retired. He’s earned a rest and a passing grade in the AP 3-D exam for Rhiannon. Also, let’s not forget that Rhi and Gatobot were published in the October/November 2016 issue of Make Magazine, found in bookstores and nerdy houses across the nation! What can your Art Department make by teaming up with other disciplines?   I dare you to give it a try.

Cross Curricular – Christmas Cookies: Combining Ceramics and Foods/Home EC

Dan Frazier as Julia Child with Principal Brianna Kleinschmidt in Foods Class, Benicia High School

Ok teachers, this one is easy. If you are lucky enough to have Foods or Home EC in your school, it is likely that they bake cookies. Cookies generally come in two types, drop cookies and rolled cookies. Rolled cookies are usually formed by rolling out the dough and cutting with little cookie cutters shaped like a variety of animals, candy canes, and other holiday shapes. The materials are inexpensive and easily made, even by very inexperienced bakers. Rolled cookie dough is also used when pressing cookies out with cookie moulds. I used to watch my Norwegian grandmother make a variety of elaborate cookies every Christmas, using some traditional  ceramic moulds of her own. Ceramics is a perfect material to make these moulds from – wash them up, a little butter or spray oil, and they will release cookie dough with little or no difficulty.

I talked it over with our Foods teacher here in Benicia High, Peg Klug, and she was excited to give it a try. I put my Ceramics students on the job by teaching the creation and use of sprigging – a technique of small press mould making used to replicate detail on ceramics. Sprigging has been around for thousands of years and is an easy concept to get across to your kids. Several of mine now have two or three rattling around their supply boxes that they like to use on everything. These same moulds, washed up and greased, are perfect for pressing cookies in the same shapes! The ceramics students made three moulds each, while the Foods students made the dough and refrigerated it overnight. Two weeks later, we were ready for the big day.

The Ceramics and Foods classes combined under Peg and myself, with a lengthy visit from the principal, who just wanted to see this project for herself and snag a couple cookies. Kids had made all different designs, from magnolias to  anchors. My personal favorite was by AP Studio student Dylan, an Alien Abduction cookie mould, complete with little cow being sucked up into the flying saucer! The baking was done in 15 min. and even the failures were tasty. Moulding, baking and eating took one fun class period. You must give this one a try, Ceramics teachers!

Cross Curricular – Rocket Math: Combining Art, Robotics, and Mathematics

What is more fun than making art, putting 100 lbs. of pressure behind it and launching it hundreds of feet into the air over your school? Well how about if the launcher was built by a robotics team to drive itself out to the pad, pressurize the pneumatic device, and set off the art -missile at the push of a button? Then, of course, a team of math students triangulate the work’s top flight using self made clinometers to give you total and average heights – on a spreadsheet no less? This is how we do it at Benicia High School.

When I first approached the Math Department with the idea for a cross curricular project using this crazy contraption I had built to shoot paper rockets, a few of them were immediately intrigued with the idea. After all, it got them out of the classroom, allowed for a practical application of the maths they were teaching anyway, and offered the chance that they might see me get blown up by my own devices. The first RocketMath Day was born! Fortunately, the parts I had purchased rather cheaply from a fellow Maker Faire presenter, Rick Schertle at airrocketworks.com (who is a teacher himself in San Jose, CA) held up rather well under repeated firings. Air pressure was supplied by a conventional bicycle pump and set at 75 psi. The clinometers the math students used were made from small diameter paper tubes, string, and washers for weights. The whole setup was more than sufficient for a successful lesson and the result was a variety of B-2 bomber models, Flying Roses, Space Shuttles, and Giant Pencils to go flying through the air and be measured for height. I gave prizes for the highest and most creative entries. All in all, a great day in the sun brought to you by combining Art and Math classes in the Quad.

It was year two of RocketMath and at my invitation, Andreas Kaiser our Robotics teacher jumped in with both feet, bringing several new elements to the party. His teams upgraded the power and velocity of our rocket designs by designing multiple air chamber launchers that were supplied by regular and miniature air compressors. One of the launchers was fitted with a chassis, wheels, an electric motor, and and automated firing sequence operated by servos. This last had it’s own air compressor and was operated by remote, although the lead kid on this project assured me that it could’ve been run by an Arduino micro board and some programming. Nobody wanted to trust a rocket firing automated robot with it’s own brain in the Quad, however. Whew! Our lead Mathematics teacher on this project, Carleen Maselli, had upgraded her clinometers to allow for greater height, on account of the fantastic distance we had gotten last year. In addition, she had redesigned the resulting spreadsheets for better student output and greater clarity. The rockets made by art flew so high that every bit of Carleen’s improvements were necessary.

This cross curricular project has now become an event. Students demand to know when RocketMath will be taking off this year, and that is definitely the sign of a great lesson. Some students who are taking Sculpture are also taking Math or Robotics, even all three. These kids get the benefit of a practical and entertaining lesson from every side that day. If you are an educator, try this for yourself – the Math is available below, basic patterns for rockets are available at airrocketworks.com, and your local Robotics teacher is probably as crazy as mine is.




















Mathematics Notes: Carleen Maselli

Timeline:  2 -3 days

Day 1-2: a) Practice Calculations b) Prepare the Spreadsheet


  1. Create a Diagram on Google Draw for your rocket launch.  You will need to include a right triangle that includes the following:


  1. Representation of  the height of the rocket in the triangle from the reader’s eyes.
  2. Representation of the height up to the eyes of the person who will be holding the clinometer and tracking the rocket.
  3. The distance on the ground from the launcher to the reader.
  4. The angle of elevation, , that will be measured.
  5. The tangent equation you will use to find the vertical height of the triangle.
  6. The total height you will find of the rocket.


  1.  Group Quiz:

    Find the height  each rocket traveled for the following pieces of data.  Make sure everyone in your group

    knows  how to solve each problem.  Then bring your problems to me to check your answers.


  1. Clinometer Reader’s height to eyes:  4 ft 7 in.

Ground Distance from launcher to Clinometer Reader:  70 ft

Angle of Elevation Read from the Clinometer:


  1.  Clinometer Reader’s height to eyes:  5 ft 10 in.

Ground Distance from launcher to Clinometer Reader:  65 ft

Angle of Elevation Read from the Clinometer:


  1.  Clinometer Reader’s height to eyes:  5 ft  

         Ground Distance from launcher to Clinometer Reader:  80 ft

         Angle of Elevation Read from the Clinometer:


  1.  Clinometer Reader’s height to eyes:  5 ft. 4 in.

         Ground Distance from launcher to Clinometer Reader:  85 ft

         Angle of Elevation Read from the Clinometer:


  1. Create Your Spreadsheet
  2. Open a new Google Sheet and Label it Rocket Math – Your Team Name

    a..  Label the first column:  Names of Team Members

  1.  Add the name of each team member in the column, one person per cell.
  2.  In the 2nd column, label it Height to eyes in ft.
  3.  Measure the height up to your eyes of each team member.
  4.  Label the next column-Names of Sculpture Students
  1. Place the names of the students from the sculpture class assigned to your group. In that same cell put the student’s google school email provided to you with their names.
  1.  Label the next column:  Ground Distance.  You will fill in what distance you used on launch day.
  2.  Label the next column Angle in Degrees.
  3.  Label the next column Angle in radians.  
  1. You will need to convert the degrees you got on your clinometer to radians.  You will research how to do this and put the formula in the spreadsheet.  Every formula must start with the symbol “=”
  2. Research how to copy and paste the formula in all the cells for each student’s whose angle you measured for their rocket heights.


  1.  Label the next column:  Height from Eyes to Max Height.  Write a formula using tangent and the angle to find the vertical side of your triangle in your model you drew.  The formula must start with “=”.  Use your help button or google search if you are stuck on how to make the formula.  You will be able to click the cell for angle to use that in your formula and then copy and paste the formula down the cell.  You will need to research how to do this.


  1.  Label the last column, Total Height of Rocket.  Create a formula using the Height of the Reader + the Height from Eyes to Max Height.  Start the formula with “=” and click on columns to add .  Research how to add if you are unsure.  Copy and paste the formula down the column for all of the students in your spreadsheet from the Sculpture class.  Remember you can use the help button or do a google search.


  1.  At the end of the Total Height Column, Label a cell “Average Height”. In the cell next to it create a formula to find the average heights.  Remember to start with “=”.  You should be able to select all the cells you want to average in one action to create the formula.  


  1.  Check your spreadsheet by using the set of data from your group quiz.  If you get any errors or an average that is outside what makes sense, recheck your spreadsheet to see where you may have made a mistake.  Once you fix any mistakes, check to make sure your heights match what you found in your practice problems from the quiz.  


  1. Check with Mrs. Maselli to make sure your spreadsheet formulas are correct.  You will need to turn the document into Google Classroom for her to check your spreadsheet. She will let you know if you are good to go or need to make further adjustments.  Once you receive the ok on your spreadsheet, you may “unturn in “ your spreadsheet and delete the practice data so the spreadsheet is ready for Launch Day.


  1.  Practice tracking a pencil thrown in the air and reading the clinometer to get an angle so you are prepared for launch day.


Day 3  Rocket Launch Day!


  1. Each group will need to bring a Chromebook, or notebook to make recordings.  If you bring a notebook, make sure you write the names of the sculpture students down and bring a pencil.  You will also need to bring your team folder so the sculpture students may identify the team to go to for their launch.
  2. Before you go to the quad, assign a job to each team member present on launch day.  One person should track the rocket with the clinometer.  One person should read the angle from the string.  One person should record the angle in the notebook next to the student’s name or put it directly into the Chromebook.   One person should be designated to communicate with sculpture students to make sure everyone is ready to measure so the launch is not missed.  If there are more than 4 people in your group, make 2 people in charge of communication.  Black Widow should break up the students and use two clinometers.  
  3. Teams will go to the quad.  There will be a rocket launcher in the Red Brick Quad, one in the area by F-Wing, and possibly one by the student center.  Pick a taped off distance to stand.  2 Groups should fit comfortably at 1 taped distance.
  4. Arrange with the sculpture students assigned to you how you will communicate who is launching and when.  Create a signal so that no sculpture student launches before you are ready to measure.  You will only get one shot to measure because the rocket will most likely not be able to be launched again.
  5. Take measurements by tracking the rocket and holding at the short pause of maximum height.  The second person should be ready to read the angle and the reader and the third person should verbally help signal that the rocket has paused so the clinometer can be read.
  6. Once all of the sculpture students have launched, make sure all data is put into the spreadsheet, either outside in the quad or go back to the classroom.  
  7. After you have determined your calculations are correct (or as correct as possible), share the spreadsheet with each student in your group and Mr. Frazier.  His email is  dfrazier@beniciaunified.org.  You should have already shared it with me so I will be able to check your work and give you a grade on your work.  Since we tested your work earlier there should not be any problems with your calculations for the real lab.


          PROJECT OVERVIEW                    page 1
Name of Project: Rocket Math Duration:

2 days

Subject/Course: Mathematics/Sculpture/Robotics Teacher(s):Maselli, Frazier, Kaiser Grade Level: 9-12
Other Subject Areas to Be Included, if any: Sculpture-Dan Frazier, Computers/Robotics-Andreas Kaiser, videographer-Matt O’Reilly-Video Production Class
Project Idea

Summary of the issue, challenge, investigation, scenario, or problem:

Sculpture students will design rockets, Robotics students will build the launchers and Integrated Math 2 students will measure how high the rockets

fly using homemade clinometers and right triangle trigonometry.  Students will use the equation

Driving Question How high do the rockets fly?
CCSS to be taught and assessed: Trigonometric Functions

Prove and apply trigonometric identities.

Define trigonometric ratios and solve problems involving right triangles.

Additional Standards to be taught and assessed: engineering and design of rockets for maximum height (standards for sculpture in art will be included by Mr. Frazier).

Tech Standards:  Computational thinker-identify authentic problems, work with data, use a step by step process to automate


21st Century Competencies to be taught and assessed: Collaboration
Critical Thinking
Major Products & Performances Group: Spreadsheet that calculates the height of the launched rockets for a group of students Presentation Audience

Presentation Audience:



Individual: Experts
          PROJECT OVERVIEW                    page 2
Entry Event to

launch inquiry

and engage students:

Sample problem of how to measure the height of the Statue of Liberty using right triangle trigonometry.  Video short of Rockets being

launched with measurements recorded.  

Assessments Formative Assessments

(During Project)

Diagram of rocket launch and triangle that will be used Notes
Group quiz of sample rocket launches using their diagram to solve by hand Checklists
Preliminary Spreadsheet used to calculate heights-revisions needed to correct formatting for calculations as needed
Summative Assessments

(End of Project)

Final Spreadsheet

Diagram on Google Draw

Sharing of spreadsheet with Sculpture students and teacher
Grading Rubric will be shared with students at the beginning of the project
Resources Needed On-site people, facilities: Robotics students to assist with launchers

Math teacher, sculpture teacher to facilitate and monitor students in quad

Equipment: cones, chalk or masking tape and sharpie to mark ground distances,  measuring tape, clinometers
Materials: chromebook or spreadsheet printed out on paper, pencil/pen/eraser
Community resources: photographer/videographer  to make future video for entry event
Reflection Methods (Individual, Group, and/or Whole Class) Whole-Class Discussion

Analyze issues, what to improve, what worked well, what was fun, what was hard or not understandable

Make a shared list on Google Docs for future revisions to the project


Cross Curricular – The Escape Room: Combining Art, Mathematics, Robotics, and Film

An Escape Room, for the uninitiated, is a game wherein a series of interdisciplinary puzzles must be solved  in order to produce a final solution. The solution allows the players to escape from the room. Simple, yes? Escape rooms are creatively themed as prisons, crime scenes, a Time Vortex, and innumerable other situations. Puzzles span the gamut from the obvious to the positively inscrutable.  Escape Rooms are very popular  here in the Bay Area, and popular with us, here in the ever creative and exciting B-Wing of Benicia High.

A cursory examination of the game from a STEAM perspective reveals a thousand possibilities for an innovative group of teachers to create a powerful learning situation for their students. Rather than set a room up and feed students though it, although that is fun and can be a demonstration, designate the room and have students work in their various disciples to  create a puzzle of their own. Students must work within the theme, a piece of scaffolding that allows a bit of guidance in such an open ended lesson. This is just what we did, here in Benicia High.

The six of us involved (ensnared?) in the project took an educational field trip of our own down to a popular Escape Room in San Francisco, PanIQ’s Prison. There we were locked in a jail, with bars and everything!  Inside we were divided into two cells. The game began and we were given one hour to escape the prison, using only the materials found in the two cells. I wouldn’t want to spoil the room for other players, but I will say that if you need to escape a jail it is hard to do better than to work with a team of two mathematicians, three visual/spacial experts, and  a robotics master. We walked out of there in 36 minutes. brimming with ideas for our own escape room.

Our concept was of an art theft based in the world of Clue the board game. The six teachers of the project became the six potential villains of the game and six pieces of art found in the movies became the possible stolen items. Having worked together on my other projects, the teachers of B-Wing quickly brainstormed up several puzzles. The mathematicians Carleen and Alex designed problems based on given values that had to found in the room and applied correctly to yield further clues.  Matt the film teacher produced a film that played itself when a button on the wall was pressed, the video set up the problem and then started a countdown timer giving players 20 minutes to complete all puzzles or “the thief will get away”.  Andreas, our Robotics man, designed a Simon Says game where  only four different people working together could possibly solve it. I was not taking the lead on this one, Carleen had it this time, and was left to devise my part of the Room. My pre-AP studio class, Art 2, would be perfect for this. Students designed a series of six portraits of the six teachers combined with images of the six characters from Clue the game, and Clue the movie. The portraits had to be fairly recognizable as the teacher in question, two feet by three feet, and have an accompanying gold (painted) frame. Clues are hidden in the portraits and the frames contain secret compartments. I took the opportunity to teach grayscale values, portraiture, edge control, materials considerations, levels of finish, drawing with planes, materials safety, and a great deal more.

On the presentation of the the first iteration of the Escape Room during the Benicia High Showcase Night, it was a big hit with students and parents. A truly cross curricular , multi leveled  project, with students invested in all the different types of learning going on.

The custom Simon Module! Controller buttons are stashed around the room.

Mystery Puzzle with scale.

Each group of four students got a reference photo of a teacher and their Clue Counterpart. This is mine as Mr. Green.

Mr. Frazier as Mr. Green – painted by Art 2 students.

Mr. O’Reilly as Colonel Mustard, painted by Art 2.

Mrs. Maselli as Ms. Scarlett, painted by Art 2.

Mr. Kaiser as Prof. Plum, painted by Art 2 students.

Coach T as Mrs. White, you’ve got to hand it to him, he’s got a great sense of humor!

Mrs. Fewins as Mrs. Peacock, painted by Art 2.