Women Coders- Solution?

How do we promote full inclusion in our educational and vocational systems?

Common sense might suggest that simply encouraging more participation in certain subject areas or certain industries will fix the problem.
But does it?

Maybe not, according to UCLA faculty member Miriam Posner, who teaches in the digital humanities department.

She lays forth an interesting argument that highlights a deeper division within the computer programming industry-the rift between designers, “front end” and engineers, “back end.” Apparently, the “back end” workers have more prestige, earn higher salaries, and tend to be males-often considered the “geniuses” of the industry.

In a “Hidden Figures” style revelation, apparently women were among the earliest computer programmers, but were pushed out by market forces which propelled men to the forefront. I am curious to read Nathan Ensmenger’s, The Computer Boys Take Overwhich more fully lays out this argument.

Educators and parents interested in a thought provoking opinion piece should definitely check out Miriam Posner’s essay.

I only wish there was a simple solution.

For more on computer historian Nathan Ensmenger, check out his website

Questions for Discussion

1.”Technology has a gender problem, as everyone knows,” according to Miriam Posner-discuss this with your students-have they noticed it, what examples can they cite for this, what exceptions are there to this statement? Is it an effective lead or “grabber?”

2. What does she mean, “But in practice, when more women enter a role, its value seems to go down more.” What evidence would you look for if you wanted data to support or refute this statement?

3. What change does Coraline Ada Ehmke describe occurring in the industry?

4. What does Nathan Ensmenger highlight as ways to protect the status of an industry?

5. What does Marle Hicks identify as the real problem in the industry?

6. Miriam Posner’s essay does not end with any solutions to the problems highlighted in the essay, what solutions can your students brainstorm that would help improve the role and status of women in the “tech” sector?

 

EnableUC-Engineering Students Changing the World with 3D Printing

                                                           enableuc
EnableUC, a University of Cincinnati engineering student group, is on a mission.
Quite simply, they want to make your life better. This inspirational group, whose work on providing prosthetic limbs, created by 3-D printing to underprivileged individuals,  have taken the time to share their story with us.
Below, is an email interview primarily with Michael, member of EnableUC, edited only for clarity.
1. Can you tell Wide Open Research readers a bit about how you wanted to go into engineering and specifically how you chose to work on the prosthetics?
“For me personally, I always have wanted to help people out medically because I see it as one of the most immediate ways to improve someone’s life as well as get to work directly with the people you help.
As I explored majors and careers, however, I felt that my mind was more engineering driven. With this in mind, biomedical engineering just seemed like a perfect fit. I thought initially that a lot of BMEs do prosthetics and such, but the major is much more broad, and I never was really exposed to that world until Jacob, our president and founder, reached out to me about starting Enable UC.
I think Jacob really saw an opportunity through the larger E-nable open source site to help patients he had interacted with at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The prosthetics just seemed like a great way to provide a service that a lot of children don’t get because insurance usually only covers the cost of one prosthetic during their lifetime. Since kids are constantly growing, they don’t want to waste it at that age, but a lot of times. by the time a child is fully grown, they are so used to using their non defective hand that when they actually get a prosthetic, they don’t even use it. This helps  combat both of those issues.”

“The prosthetics just seemed like a great way to provide a service that a lot of children don’t get because insurance usually only covers the cost of one prosthetic during their lifetime.”

2.  What sort of general knowledge did you learn in high school that was foundational for your engineering success at college? Concepts, skills, facts, etc. 
“I would say the biggest thing I learned is how to solve problems. While the classes I take here can sometimes be much different than my high school classes, I would say the science and math I took began to help me find ways to solve problems, and that is really what an engineer’s job is all about. So take that physics class or that engineering foundations class. They will help you begin to turn those engineering gears in your head.”

“So take that physics class or that engineering foundations class. They will help you begin to turn those engineering gears in your head.”

3. How much time do you commit to the Enable team and how do you balance your class responsibilities? What advice would you give high school students on managing the demands of college….
“I personally work on a lot of the upfront patient relations of the enable team, so a lot of my time was spent up front finding patients for us to design solutions for.
While this takes some time, I would say the best things to do are to be realistic with your time, schedule it out, and write down the things you want to accomplish and get done with each task.
The biggest advice I would give to a high schooler transitioning into college is to establish habits early and stick to them because they will create your patterns for the rest of your career. “
4.  What are some cool science/tech things you wished you would have explored more in high school?
“I wish I would have explored more of the cutting edge devices and tech magazines out there because those can spark creativity and help you understand the trajectory of science and tech moving forward.
Things like 3D printing, unique clean energy solutions, nano-technology, and more are really cool things that show how much our world is constantly innovating and creating new solutions to the many problems we have in our world.”

“I wish I would have explored more of the cutting edge devices and tech magazines out there because those can spark creativity….”

5. Did you have any moments in high school where it really became apparent that you wanted to go into engineering? Any classes or teachers that really inspired you?
“I don’t remember their being a really strong moment for me in terms of an ah-ha moment, but I do remember absolutely loving designing both a mouse trap car and a Rube Goldberg device during my science classes in high school.
What I think I loved was figuring out how to best solve the problem and doing so in a group setting that allowed me to work with and understand a team and how each individual works within that team to solve our problem.”

6.  With the many distractions that high school students face these days, how would you recommend teachers really engage students?
“I think one really unique way to do this would be to challenge them at the beginning to tell me some cool things they might want to learn from the subject and having them outline some of what they want to get out of the class besides just an A.
I think if that could then be tied in more deeply with the lesson plans, that would help engage students because they would feel they had an active part in determining their learning.”
7. Any  luck with the crowd funded project?
“We have had some awesome luck with it. We reached our initial goal to provide funding for our first myo-electric prosthetic project, which is currently in the design process already! We think our unique organization allows students to really get hands on experience and change lives. This translates really well to people who might have a few bucks to get rid of. I think we will continue to see this success moving forward as well.”
A hand they made from 3-D printing:
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8.  I know  that Enable UC was interested in helping high school students who might not know much about engineering become exposed to the field. What sort of outreach have you been working on?
“We have done some local Cincinnati high school outreach where we are basically trying to get students exposed to what we do by showing them our organization as well as providing seminars about engineering, design, Solidworks, etc.
This fall we presented to hundreds of local high schoolers at UC to try to draw them towards engineering. We also plan to go into schools and set up those seminars that I mentioned, but we are in the early stages of our outreach.”

“This fall we presented to hundreds of local high schoolers at University of Cincinnati to try to draw them towards engineering.”

9. Any good ideas about how to help more “non-traditional” students become interested in engineering?
“I think the best way to get non-traditional students to really get interested in engineering is to relate it to their interests. For example, maybe they are an athlete. Being able to teach them about the forces their muscles provide when doing their sport could make them interested in engineering. Just finding ways to relate engineering concepts to their interests is the best way to pique someone’s interest.”
After graduation Michael is going to be working in a tech-start-up, other UCEnable members are continuing their studies in medical school, graduate school, and work in the medical device industry.
EnableUC is still seeking to serve. So, if you would like to contact them to get more information about their group or if you know someone who could benefit from their work on prosthetics please reach out to them @EnableUC.
For more reading on 3-D Printing, please read this article:

Nature, Science, Poetry-The Work of Keith Taylor

Nature, Science, Poetry-The Work of Keith Taylor

Michigan based poet Keith Taylor has been an astute and sympathetic observer of nature and the human condition for decades.

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Winter Retreats

His dedication to teaching, writing, reading, and commenting on life and nature through his work has had a profound impact on me, for sure, but I believe for all of us dedicated to the mission of understanding this world in which we live.

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I came across this wonderful post from naturechange.org featuring a brief interview with Keith Taylor by Anne-Marie Oomen, also a writer. Keith talks about his work at the University of Michigan Biological Station in Pellston, Michigan, and reads a bit of his work.

Why exactly does poetry enrich us so? Yet, why do so many find it inaccessible, alien, unwelcoming? Boring? Why do we so easily accept the fragmentation of society and of our own selves? Fostering a dialogue with those outside our areas of interest, our areas of study, our cultural moorings-why has this become so difficult, or was it always this difficult?

Keith’s work, especially, the work highlighted here at the U-M Biological Station in which he spends summers, writing as well as teaching a literature course to science students and researchers, is an effort to bridge the chasm of confusion and apathy, intolerance and exhaustion. Quite simply, to become a bit more integrated and wholly human.

Nature allows us to slow down, to pause, to contemplate, to heal- at its best poetry does that as well.

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It allows us to access that deeper part of our psyches that contains wisdom, perhaps an attribute all too often not appreciated in our age of hyper-connectivity and instantaneous, yet superficial gratification.

Science, at its best too requires a deep concentration, a sense of observation and curiosity about the natural order of things, used to help solve the world’s most pressing problems.

For those of you seeking a bit of the healing power of nature, poetry, and how poetry and science can engage in a nuanced and beneficial dialogue, please check out this wonderful post and video.

For more information about Keith Taylor, please check out his website. 

For more poetry, consider the work of Robert Fanning, click here please.

Questions for Discussion

  1. How has poetry, or a specific poem impacted you?
  2. What does Keith Taylor say about the interaction of poetry, nature and science?
  3. What does he mention about the presence of wolves in Michigan’s lower peninsula?
  4. How does Keith Taylor integrate the work of mammalogist, Dr. Phil Myers into his work?
  5. What do you think of the specificity of images in Taylor’s brief, powerful poem, “Not the Northwest Passage?”
  6. What does Keith Taylor say about optimism, especially related to E.O. Wilson’s work?
  7. Have a poem to share?

Benefits of Peer Support in Learning from Michigan State University

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As an educator, I find this new study from Michigan State University a bit troubling. Quite simply, peer feedback was more beneficial than teacher feedback in an online psychology course.

The research study, co-authored by Michigan State University associate professor of education, Carey Roseth, published recently in the International Journal of Educational Research, found that when students were given feedback to the question, “Why do I have to learn this” from a peer (a confederate posing as a peer) the student averaged a 92 percent for the entire semester long course.

The students who received the feedback from the teacher earned an 86 percent for the course.

Quite surprisingly, the control group, those that did not receive any feedback, earned a 90 percent for the course-still better than those that earned feedback from a teacher.

Professor Roseth explains,”… As a student, I can identify with my peers and imagine myself using the course material in the same way they do. This gives the material meaning and a sense of purpose that goes beyond memorization. When I hear a peer’s story, it connects to the story I am telling myself about who I want to be in the future.”

Questions for Discussion

  1. How many students were in each of the groups? (Why is it important to know the sample size?)
  2. If there was only one course instructor, what other possible explanations for this outcome could there be?
  3. Do you predict the outcomes would be the same in a face to face course?
  4. What did the script say? Why is it important to know what the script was-how could the wording of the script impact the outcome? Would the response be different with a different script?
  5. These were all introductory education students-could that have an impact on the results?
  6. How else could you extend this research-replicate, different subjects different design?
  7. How could you use this information in your own classroom?

For more information, please read Andy Henion’s article on the Michigan State University website, MSU Today.

Your Brain Never Rests-Wayne State University Research

Your Brain Never Rests (1)

Anyone interested in understanding more about that most fascinating topic-the human brain, should check out the new research by Detroit’s Wayne State University researcher Vaibhav Diwadkar, which suggests that the brain never really is at rest.

Using an fMRI, subjects were asked to perform a simple behavior-tapping their finger when they saw a visual cue. So, the researcher was able to distinguish brain activity while tapping, versus while the subject was not tapping.

The team then modeled the network signals between parts of the brain that execute motor functions and one that provided control.

In an interesting twist, when the subject’s brain was at rest- the network activity actually increased!

According to professor Diwadkar, this has long been suspected, that the brain is never truly at rest. Why? Because it always might have to be ready to act.

This is important because it highlights normal brain function, but also suggests how brain networks might function in individuals that experience severe episodes of brain activity such as those individuals suffering with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Schizophrenia.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is a an fMRI?
  2. How does it actually work?
  3. How did Dr. Diwadker conduct the study?
  4. How did Dr. Diwadker and his team create the models to understand brain behavior?
  5. Why do we sometimes perceive that our brain is “at rest” even when it might not be?
  6. How could Dr. Diwadker and the research team use this information to help individuals suffering from schizophrenia or obsessive compulsive disorder?
  7. What limitations are there with this study?

For more information, please see the article by Julie O’Connor

And a link to the PLOSone primary source material.

 

Victory for MSU- Science Gallery Lab Detroit

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This March has brought an exciting victory for  the Michigan State University Spartans, and no I am not going to make any mention of any sort of athletic events occurring during this time period! (Too late?)

Check out the Science Gallery Lab Detroit. Michigan State has created the first Science Gallery Lab in North America. It is being described as “part art gallery, part science lab, part theatre.”

According to Michigan State University associate provost, Jeff Grabill, “This research can be used to engage and catch young people at an important moment in their lives, and to shape their journey into school and careers.”

It is aimed at students 15-25 and will help provide hands-on, interdisciplinary, collaborative experiences that is focused on using their specialized training, skills, and mindset to solve challenging real world problems.

Exhibitions don’t start until Fall 2017, but if you want more info check out these resources. You can see what the other Science Gallery Labs in Dublin, London, Melbourne, Venice and Bengaluru have been up to.

For a link to a more detailed article check out, Kim Ward’s article. 

For a link to the Science Gallery Lab Detroit, please click here.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why is specialization and collaboration important?
  2. What are some interdisciplinary teams you have been involved in?
  3. What made them work or not work well?
  4. How can you create truly effective collaborative learning in your classroom?
  5. What would be a great project for the Science Gallery Lab Detroit to tackle? Perhaps something specific to Detroit, Michigan, or the Great Lakes Region?
  6. Perhaps an interdisciplinary approach to blight and abandoned houses in the neighborhoods?
  7. Perhaps an interdisciplinary approach to taking the successes of downtown development to the neighborhoods?

Celtic Resources to Enrich St. Patrick’s Day

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While many folks will be spending St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S in the traditional way, listening to the Pogues and wearing funny green hats, we here at Wide Open Research prefer to take a more scholarly approach and get lost in the many wonderful Celtic resources out there.

So, first I will likely get up and listen to the Pogues perform, “If I Should Fall From Grace From God.” Then I will eat yogurt, which is not really Celtic at all, but what I usually eat for breakfast.

Then, it’s right to work.

First, I will check out the UC Berkeley, Celtic Studies Webpage, one of the most venerable programs in the U.S. This site contains a link to an interesting story about the best cities in the U.S. to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, which uses an interesting formula, as well as a brief interview with professor Daniel Melia.

Then I will linger a bit on the website and imagine that I have an abundance of time and money and can spend time in California, taking both their courses Celtic 105A, Old and Middle Irish, as well as 173, Celtic Christianity. Having neither the time, nor the money, I will simply google onward!

Why, not take a youtube break and listen to James Joyce reading from Ulysses posted by Dor Shilton.  As I am certainly no Joycean scholar; I can only appreciate this as a fan. The sound quality is quite poor, but for me it only adds to the aching beauty and melancholy, as we must concentrate to listen through the mists of time.  The cadence and tonal quality of his voice is musical, almost meditative, and best appreciated not in an effort to comprehend, but as a balm, to soothe the soul and as a reminder that language can be beauty incarnate.

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While not specifically devoted to Celtic Studies, the University of Edinburgh, Celtic and Scottish Studies has a link to internet resources that should serve as a nice resource to bookmark.

Wow, I’m getting a bit tired now, so much learning, so little time! I think I shall end my wild St. Patrick’s Day celebration with a bit of Yeats, my entry point for Celtic beauty, way back in 11th grade English. I think it shall be of course, a lovely reading of When You Are Old, through the wonderful Poetry Foundation website.

“And I loved the sorrows of your changing face…”

Sigh.

So, how does a Wide Open Research reader integrate these themes? One of my favorite lessons from student teaching was an assignment when the students read a poem and then drew an image or scene from the poem. Their insights and acuity were wise and inspiring. I would simply say, the best way to  honor the spirit of the Celts is to honor creativity itself, especially through songs, stories, poetry, folklore, and a deep appreciation for the power of language to resonate across time, between cultures, and into the fiber of our souls.

For more great poetry, check out the work of Robert Fanning.