Category Archives: sscience education

Girls Day (Feb. 25.21) during (US) Discover Engineers Week 2021

Discover Engineers Week is being held from February 21 -27, 2021 by the (US) National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). Included in the schedule of events is a special day, February 25, 2021, dedicated to introducing engineering to girls.

There is a poster celebrating 10 female engineers on a February 18, 2021 blog posting at wetheparents.org. I’ve excerpted a few of the images and biographies,

#5 Henrietta Vansittart

Born Henrietta Lowe, a young Vansittart was raised in poverty. Her father, a machinist, studied ship propulsion and made efforts to obtain patents using connections and income from his wife’s wealthier family. His repeated failures to succeed at profiting from his patents nearly drove the family to bankruptcy, leading to a young Lowe’s marriage to Lieutenant Frederick Vansittart in 1855.

A self-taught engineer, Vansittart began the study of her father’s work shortly after marriage. The Lowe Propeller, her father’s most noteworthy invention, never successfully created income for the family due to infringement issues; after his death in 1866, Vansittart’s focus became perfecting the propeller. The Lowe-Vansittart propeller allowed ships to move faster while utilizing less fuel, earning her a patent in 1868; it was later used on many ships, including the S.S. Lusitania.

Both the inventor and her patent were awarded a number of awards for her engineering prowess, and Vansittart’s name was mentioned in The Times and other key newspapers of the era. She was the first female to read, write, and illustrate her diagrams for a scientific article, and is considered to be one of the first female engineers.

#7 Kimberly Bryant

A native of Memphis, Tennessee, electrical engineer Kimberly Bryant earned her EE degree with a minor in Computer Science at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University. There, Bryant’s studies focused on high-voltage electronics, informing her early career with Westinghouse Electric and DuPont, two leading innovators in the industry. Bryant’s focus later shifted to biotech and pharmaceutical engineering, where she worked for Genentech, Merck, Novartis, and Pfizer.

Bryant’s most recognizable achievement is the founding of the not-for-profit organization Black Girls Code. She created BGC after her daughter attended a tech summer camp, finding herself disappointed to be the only African American girl in the small handful of female attendees. Seeing a lack of coding and computing camps for underrepresented communities, Bryant encouraged Genentech colleagues to join her in the creation of a coding initiative for young girls of color.

As of late 2019, BGC has 15 chapters and is an internationally recognized not-for-profit organization. Bryant has been named a White House Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion, was the recipient of Smithsonian Magazine’s American Ingenuity Award for Social Projects, and was named one of 2013’s 25 Most Influential African-Americans in Technology by Business Insider.

#9 Judith Resnik

The daughter of Ukranian Jewish immigrants, Judy Resnik’s talents quickly became clear during childhood. Recognized for “intellectual brilliance” in kindergarten, Resnik entered elementary school a year early, remaining an outstanding student throughout high school. She graduated as high school valedictorian, and was one of only 16 women to have ever received a perfect store on the SAT at the time.

Resnik received a B.S. in electrical engineering from Carnegie Mellon, and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering with honors from the University of Maryland. She worked as a design engineer on RCA’s missile and radar projects, built custom integrated circuitry for the Navy’s radar control systems, and developed software and electronics for NASA. She qualified as a professional aircraft pilot during the completion of her Ph.D. and was ultimately recruited into NASA’s Astronaut Corps at age 28.

Resnik’s first space flight was as a mission specialist on the maiden voyage of the Space Shuttle Discovery. There, she became the first Jewish woman, second Jewish person, and second American woman in space. While Resnik enjoyed a successful first mission, she tragically lost her life in the 1986 Challenger explosion. Her life and accomplishments have been posthumously recognized by Carnegie Mellon, the University of Maryland, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, and the Society of Women Engineers, among many others.

While I encourage you to go see the other seven in the February 18, 2021 blog posting, I suggest you also double-check the information you find there and, for that matter, here on this blog, too, with other sources.

Finally, there’s an event being hosted by Westcoast Women in Engineering, Science and Technology (WWEST), which is the operating name for the 2015-2020 NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) Chair for Women in Science and Engineering (CWSE), BC and Yukon Region. Complicated, yes? Thankfully the event description is much simpler from the What’s Happening webpage (on the WWest at Simon Fraser University webspace),

The Future of Tech (All Girls) – Grade 11

February 25, 2021

As technology continues to evolve in our daily lives, we are able to leverage new technologies for new applications. The Future of Tech creates the bridge and identifies the differences between electrical and computer engineering through hands-on workshops. Engineering students [from the University of British Columbia] share ideas and perceptions bringing you closer to this exciting domain.

This event is open to all girls in grade 11. We have an inclusive view of the word ‘girl’ and we welcome trans*, genderqueer and non-binary folks interested in these workshops.

Date: Thursday, February 25
Cost: Free
Location: Online
Register: Here

Finding Ada (Lovelace) conference on Nov. 9 -11, 2020

The same folks who bring us Ada Lovelace Day in October each year also produce a conference. (For anyone unfamiliar with Ada Lovelace, a 19th century mathematician and computer scientist, there are more details here in my Oct. 13, 2014 posting.)

As for the conference, here’s more about the 2020 edition from the event page on the Finding Ada website,

The Finding Ada Conference is a fully online global conference for women in STEM and advocates for gender equality. It will be held on over 9/10/11 November, depending on your timezone, beginning at 9am on 10 November in Wellington, New Zealand, and ending 29 hours later at 5pm on the West Coast of America. Sign up for your free tickets now!

Join our headline speakers, Caroline Walker from J.P. Morgan, DeLisa Alexander from Red Hat and Chi Onwurah MP [UK], as well as over 45 other speakers from around the globe, for a fabulous day of talks, workshops, Q&As and interviews.

I found a few more details on this Finding Ada Conference (2020) webpage on the HopIn online events platform (Please special note of the times),

The Finding Ada Conference is a fully online global conference for women in STEM and advocates for gender equality. It will be held on Tuesday 10 November, beginning at 9am in Wellington, New Zealand [emphasis mine], and ending 29 hours later at 5pm on the West Coast of America [emphasis mine].

Panel discussions
Indigenous Women in STEM
Featuring:

  • Karlie Noon, astrophysicist
  • Aleisha Amohia, software developer
  • Johnnie Jae, journalist & technologist
  • Shawn Peterson of Native Girls Code
  • Eteroa Lafaele, software engineer

Our panellists will be talking about their experiences as indigenous women, how they got into STEM, the issues specific to their indigenous communities when it comes to encouraging girls into STEM, the role of organisations and institutions in supporting indigenous women in STEM and more.

Can Children’s Books Encourage More Girls into STEM?

Featuring:

  • Miriam Tocino, author Zerus & Ona
  • Kate Wilson, managing director of Nosy Crow
  • Lisa Rajan, author Tara Binns series
  • Dr Sheila Kanani, author of How to Be an Astronaut and Other Space Jobs

Our panellists will be asking what role books play in helping girls build an identity that includes STEM, whether books can really counter gender stereotypes, how we represent multiple axes of diversity, and talk a bit about how they came to write books for children.

I’ve only excerpted a portion of what’s on the page. The times are a bit confusing as this, too, is on the Hopin event webpage (directly under the title): to PST. You could try checking with the organizer here: suw@findingada.com.

Want a free course in science literacy? The University of Alberta has one for you

The folks at the University of Alberta have created a course for learning critical thinking skills where science is concerned. An Oct. 24, 2020 article by Nicole Bergot for the Edmonton Journal describes the course,

“The purpose of this course is to teach people about the process of science and how it is used to acquire knowledge,” course host Claire Scavuzzo, researcher in the Department of Psychology, said in a release. “By the end of the course, learners will be able to understand and use scientific evidence to challenge claims based on misinformation and engage the process of science to ask questions to build our knowledge.”

“With the uncertainty that comes with the current global COVID-19 pandemic we are seeing a general public distrust in science; ironically because of its self-correcting process,” said Scavuzzo.

The online course has no prerequisites, features guest lecturers, and can be completed at the learner’s own pace — roughly five weeks, with five to seven hours per week of study.

The five modules of the course are presented with practice quizzes, reflective quizzes, and interactive learning objects that are all available for free.

A University of Alberta Oct. 13, 2020 news release provides more detail,

We are often told not to believe everything we read online or see on TV—but how do we tell the difference between sensationalized statistics and a real scientific study? A new online course in Science Literacy offered by the University of Alberta is ready to help learners spot sound science—an increasingly relevant skill in today’s world of social media.

The course covers a variety of topics, Scavuzzo explained, and students will have the opportunity to learn how holistic wisdom is gained and practiced by Canadian First Nations, Indigenous, and Metis peoples, compared to the westernized process of science. They will also learn how to think critically about scientific claims from a variety of sources, learning how to differentiate science from pseudoscience.

“Students can expect to finish this course with well-polished critical thinking skills. Rather than ‘science knowledge’ students will build the skill of thinking scientifically, so they are ready to engage in the process of science,” said Scavuzzo. “It may expose some of your biases and it may also help you recognize the value of challenging your biases by being skeptical, asking questions, and evaluating evidence. It will change the way you interact with and absorb content on social media. It will make you realize that these skills can—and should—be used every day.”

Here’s the list of guest lecturers (from the University of Alberta Oct. 13, 2020 news release),

  • Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy and star of Netflix’s “A User’s Guide to Cheating Death” on pseudoscience
  • Dr. Torah Kachur, Scientist and CBC journalist on science communication (and miscommunication!)
  • Christian Nelson, citizen scientist and creator of Edmonton Weather Nerdery, on experimental design
  • Cree Elder Kokum Rose Wabasca on how traditional knowledge is used in indigenous practices.
  • Métis Elder Elmer Ghostkeeper on how indigenous knowledge informs scientific discovery.
  • Dr. David Rast, scientist and psychology expert, on uncertainty and decision making

You can get more details about this Science Literacy Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) here (scroll down to the bottom of the page for the Module Overview) and to click on the registration link. There’s one other thing, you can get certified in Science Literacy should you choose that option.

Apply for faculty positions or entry to master’s programme at Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

I think the title for this post says it all.

Faculty positions

From an Oct. 13, 2020 Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) announcement (received via email),

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics is inviting applications for tenure-track Faculty positions in Quantum Matter and Quantum Information Science. For more information please visit our website.

We would be very grateful if you would circulate this information to outstanding early career candidates who may be interested in this opportunity.

Perimeter Institute offers a dynamic, multi-disciplinary environment with maximum research freedom and opportunity to collaborate. Consideration of applications will begin on December 1, 2020; however, applications will be considered until the positions are filled.

Perimeter Scholars International (PSI) master’s programme

From an Oct. 13, 2020 Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) announcement (received via email),

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics is now accepting applications for the 2021/2022 Perimeter Scholars International (PSI) program. 

PSI is a master’s-level course in theoretical physics designed to bring highly qualified and exceptionally motivated graduate students to the cutting edge of the field in an inclusive training environment. 

This unique Master’s program, in partnership with the University of Waterloo, seeks not only students with stellar undergraduate physics and/or mathematics track records, but also those with diverse backgrounds, collaborative spirit, creativity, and other attributes that will set them apart as future innovators. 

Program features

– Removal of financial barriers: Most students who receive and accept offers of admission to PSI will receive a full scholarship. Perimeter Institute also helps with travel arrangements and any immigration arrangements necessary. 

– Students learn from many of the leading minds in theoretical physics while earning a Master’s degree from the University of Waterloo 

– Collaboration is valued over competition; deep understanding and creativity are valued over rote learning and examination 

– PSI recruits worldwide: 85 percent of students come from outside of Canada

– PSI seeks extraordinary talent who may have non-traditional academic backgrounds, but have demonstrated exceptional scientific aptitude 

Early application deadline: November 15, 2020. 
Final application deadline: February 1, 2021. 

Good luck!

Elinor Wonders Why—teaching biomimicry to children aged 3 to 6 years old

This new US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) series for children was first announced a year in advance in a May 29, 2019 PBS news release,

Today [May 29, 2019], PBS KIDS announced the animated series ELINOR WONDERS WHY, set to premiere Labor Day [September 7] 2020. ELINOR WONDERS WHY aims to encourage children to follow their curiosity, ask questions when they don’t understand and find answers using science inquiry skills. The main character Elinor, the most observant and curious bunny rabbit in Animal Town, will introduce kids ages 3-5 to science, nature and community through adventures with her friends. This new multiplatform series, created by Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson and produced in partnership with Pipeline Studios, will debut nationwide on PBS stations, the PBS KIDS 24/7 channel and PBS KIDS digital platforms. 

The stories in ELINOR WONDERS WHY center around Elinor and her friends Ari, a funny and imaginative bat, and Olive, a perceptive and warm elephant. As kids explore Animal Town, they will meet all kinds of interesting, funny, and quirky characters, each with something to teach us about respecting others, the importance of diversity, caring for the environment, and working together to solve problems. In each episode, Elinor models the foundational practices of science inquiry and engineering design — including her amazing powers of observation and willingness to ask questions and investigate. When she encounters something she doesn’t understand, like why birds have feathers or how tiny ants build massive anthills, she just can’t let it go until she figures it out. And in discovering the answers, Elinor often learns something about nature’s ingenious inventions and how they can connect to ideas in our designed world, and what it takes to live in a community. ELINOR WONDERS WHY encourages children and parents to ask their own questions and experience the joy of discovery and understanding together.

Starr Rhett Rocque’s Sept. 7, 2020 article for Fast Company offers more detail,

Elinor Wonders Why is a STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics]-based cartoon series created by Daniel Whiteson, a physicist and astronomer, and Jorge Cham, a cartoonist and robotics engineer. They’re both parents of small children, so they understand how to encourage curiosity through science and how to break down complex concepts.

Cham and Whiteson have been partners for years, working together on PhD Comics, which is a webcomic, YouTube, and podcast universe dedicated to PhD student humor. Linda Simensky, head of content for PBS Kids, had been a fan of their work, and when the opportunity to create a preschool science show that focuses on biomimicry came up, she figured they’d be great for the job.

“Biomimicry is basically taking things that you learn in nature and in the outdoors and in the natural world, and using them for inventions and for innovation science,” says Simensky. “The classic example that they use in the pilot is how Velcro was designed. Basically, it was inspired by someone getting burdock stuck to his pants, and that’s what inspired Velcro, so that’s the classic example of finding something in nature that solves a problem that you need to solve in real life.”

Elinor Wonders Why centers around Elinor (named after Cham’s daughter), a curious and observant rabbit living in Animal Town who goes on various adventures. In the upcoming premiere, Elinor plays hide-and-go-seek with her friends and finds out how animals hide in nature. …

Rocque went on to interview Cham, Whiteson, and Simensky,

FC: Describe the overall process of “dumbing down” highly sophisticated content for a younger audience. Was it harder than you thought?

JC: There was definitely a learning curve, but fortunately everyone at PBS, our team of science and education specialists have been great collaborators and guides. We don’t really believe in the phrase “dumbing down.” …

DW: Something important for us was to make each episode about a single question that a real kid would have. We looked for topics that any typical kid would think, “Huh, I do wonder why that is?” The kinds of questions they might ask when they look at their own world, like, “Why do birds have feathers?” or “Why do lizards sit in the sun?” It’s also important for us that the kids in the show play an active part in finding the answers, so we pick questions that kids could answer themselves using basic scientific thinking and simple tools, simple experiments, making observations, and comparing and contrasting. This made the questions and answers accessible, and also hopefully provides a model for them to follow at home.

LS: The part of it that’s the hardest is getting everything to work for the same age group. That’s the first thing. So, when you’re doing that, you’re doing several things at a time. You’re coming up with the idea for the show and you have to make sure that you know exactly who your age group is, and in the case of Elinor, it’s kids between the ages of 3 and 6. That’s a typical preschool group, and that includes kids who are in kindergarten, and even within 3 to 6, that’s obviously a pretty big range of kids. …

PBS does have an Elinor Wonders Why website but some of the materials (videos) are restricted to viewers based in the US. As for broadcast times, check your local PBS station, should you have one.

MIT Media Lab releases new educational site for kids K-12: it’s all about artificial intelligence (AI)

Mark Wilson announces a timely new online programme from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in his April 9, 2020 article for Fast Company (Note: Links have been removed).

Not every child will grow up to attend MIT, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get a jump start on its curriculum. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced millions of students to learn from home, MIT Media Lab associate professor Cynthia Breazeal has released [April 7, 2020] a website for K-12 students to learn about one of the most important topics in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics]: artificial intelligence.

The site provides 60 activities, lesson plans, and links to interactive AI experiments that MIT and companies like Google have developed in the past. Projects include coding robots to doodle, developing an image classifier (a tool that can identify images), writing speculative fiction to tackle the murky ethics of AI, and developing a chatbot (your grade schooler cannot possibly be worse at that task than I was). Everything is free, but schools are supposed to license lesson plans from MIT before adopting them.

Various associated MIT groups are covering a wide range of topics including the already mentioned AI ethics, as well as, cyber security and privacy issues, creativity, and more. Here’s a little something from a programme for the Girl Scouts of America, which focused on data privacy and tech policy,

The Girl Scouts awarded the Brownie (7-9) and Junior (9-11) troops with Cybersecurity badges at the end of the full event. 
Credit: Daniella DiPaola [downloaded from https://www.media.mit.edu/posts/data-privacy-policy-to-practice-with-the-girl-scouts/]

You can find MIT’s AI education website here. While the focus is largely on children, it seems they are inviting adults to participate as well. At least that’s what I infer from what one of the groups associated with this AI education website, the LifeLong Kindergarten group states on their webpage,

The Lifelong Kindergarten group develops new technologies and activities that, in the spirit of the blocks and finger paint of kindergarten, engage people in creative learning experiences. Our ultimate goal is to foster a world full of playfully creative people, who are constantly inventing new possibilities for themselves and their communities.

The website is a little challenging with regard to navigation but perhaps these links to the Research Projects page will help you get started quickly or, for those who like to investigate a little further before jumping in, this News page (which is a blog) might prove helpful.

That’s it for today. I wish everyone a peaceful long weekend while we all observe as joyfully and carefully as possible our various religious and seasonal traditions. From my tradition to yours, Joyeuses Pâques!