Category Archives: sscience education

Teaching kids to code with cultural research and embroidery machines

Caption: University of Washington researchers taught a group of high schoolers to code by combining cultural research into various embroidery traditions with “computational embroidery.” The method teaches kids to encode embroidery patterns on a computer through a coding language called Turtlestitch. Here, a student stitched plants with code, then hand-embroidered a bee. Credit: Kivuva et al./SIGCSE

Textiles and computing are more closely linked than most of us realize. It was a surprise (to me, anyway) to learn that the Jacquard loom was influential in the development of the computer (see this June 25, 2019 essay “Programming patterns: the story of the Jacquard loom” on the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester [UK] website). As for embroidery, that too has an historical link to computing (see my May 22, 2023 posting “Ada Lovelace’s skills (embroidery, languages, and more) led to her pioneering computer work in the 19th century“).

The latest embroidery link to computing was announced in a March 14, 2024 news item on phys.org, Note: A link has been removed,

Even in tech-heavy Washington state, the numbers of students with access to computer science classes aren’t higher than national averages: In the 2022–2023 school year, 48% of public high schools offered foundational CS [computer science] classes and 5% of middle school and high school students took such classes.

Those numbers have inched up, but historically marginalized populations are still less likely to attend schools teaching computer science, and certain groups—such as Latinx students and young women—are less likely than their peers to be enrolled in the classes even if the school offers them.

To reach a greater diversity of grade-school students, University of Washington researchers have taught a group of high schoolers to code by combining cultural research into various embroidery traditions—such as Mexican, Arab and Japanese—with “computational embroidery.” The method lets users encode embroidery patterns on a computer through an open-source coding language called Turtlestitch, in which they fit visual blocks together. An electronic embroidery machine then stitches the patterns into fabric.

A March 14, 2024 University of Washington news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, describes the research in more detail, Note: Links have been removed,

“We’ve come a long way as a country in offering some computer science courses in schools,” said co-lead author F. Megumi Kivuva, a UW doctoral student in the Information School. “But we’re learning that access doesn’t necessarily mean equity. It doesn’t mean underrepresented minority groups are always getting the opportunity to learn. And sometimes all it means is that if there’s one 20-student CS class, all 3,000 students at the school count as having ‘access.’ [emphases mine] Our computational embroidery class was really a way to engage diverse groups of students and show that their identities have a place in the classroom.”

In designing the course, the researchers aimed to make coding accessible to a demographically diverse group of 12 students. To make space for them to explore their curiosities, the team used a method called “co-construction” where the students had a say each week in what they learned and how they’d be assessed.

“We wanted to dispel the myth that a coder is someone sitting in a corner, not being very social, typing on their computer,” Kivuva said.

Before delving into Turtlestitch, students spent a week exploring cultural traditions in embroidery — whether those connected to their own cultures or those they were curious about. For one student, bringing his identity into the work meant taking inspiration from his Mexican heritage; for others, it meant embroidering an image of bubble tea because it’s her favorite drink, or stitching a corgi.

Students also spent a week learning to embroider by hand. The craft is an easy fit for coding because both rely on structures of repetition. But embroidery is tactile, so students were able to see their code move from the screen into the physical world. They were also able to augment what they coded with hand stitching, letting them distinguish what the human and the machine were good at. For instance, one student decided to code the design for a flower, then add a bee by hand.

“There’s a long history of overlooking crafts that have traditionally been perceived as feminized,” said co-lead author Jayne Everson, a UW doctoral student in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. “So combining this overlooked art that is deeply technical with computing was really fun, because I don’t see computing as more or less technical than embroidery.”

The class ran for six weeks over the summer, and researchers were impressed by the interest it elicited. In fact, one of the main drawbacks researchers found was that six weeks felt too short, given the curiosity the students showed. Since the technology is affordable — the embroidery machine is $400 and the software is free — Kivuva plans to tailor the course to be approachable for kindergarteners to 5th-grade refugee students. Since they were so pleased with the high student engagement, Kivuva and Everson will also run a workshop on their method at the Computer Science Teachers Association [CSTA] conference this summer.

“I was constantly blown away by the way students were engaging when they were given freedom. Some were staying after class to keep working,” said Everson. “I come from a math and science teaching background. To get students to stick around after class is kind of like, ‘Alright, we’ve done it. That’s all I want.’”

Additional co-authors on the paper were Camilo Montes De Haro, a UW undergraduate researcher in the iSchool, and Amy J. Ko, a UW professor in the iSchool. This research was funded by the National Science Foundation, Micorosoft, Adobe and Google.

I wanted to know a little more about equity and access and found this in the introduction to the paper (link to and citation for the paper follow or there’s the PDF of the paper),

Efforts to broaden participation in computing at the K-12 level have
led to an increasing number of schools (53%) offering CS, however,
participation is low. Code.org reports that 6% of high school, 3.9%
of middle school, and 7.3% of primary school students are enrolled
[ 4]. Furthermore, historically marginalized populations are also
underrepresented in K-12 CS [4 , 9]. Prior work suggests that there
are systemic barriers like sexism, racism, and classism that lead to
inequities in primary and secondary computing education [9].

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Cultural-Centric Computational Embroidery by F. Megumi Kivuva, Jayne Everson, Camilo Montes De Haro, and Amy J. Ko. SIGCSE 2024: Proceedings of the 55th ACM [Association of Computing Machinery] Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education V. 1March 2024Pages 673–679 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3626252.3630818 Published: 07 March 2024

This paper is open access.

The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) 2024 conference mentioned in the news release is being held in Las Vegas, Nevada, July 16 -19, 2024.

Latest Canadian students’ math and reading scores drop, the 2022 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment]) scorecard

It took a while (until December 2023) for the OECD’s (Organization for Economic Cooperation Development) to release its latest (2022) PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) scores.

Where Canada is concerned the scores seem to be a case of ‘the same old same old as per my October 9, 2013 posting about Canada’s then latest PISA scores, “What happened? 2009 report says Canadian students are leaders in reading, math, and science; 2013 report says Canadian students are dropping out of maths and sciences.”

Onto the 2022 results: you can find the OECD’s November 5, 2023 press release, “Decline in educational performance only partly attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic,” announcing the latest PISA result and there’s this December 5, 2023 CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) online news item, which contrasts the 2022 results with the 2018 results, Note: A link has been removed,

Math and reading scores of Canadian students continue to decline steeply, matching a global trend, according to a new study.

The state of global education was given a bleak appraisal in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which is the first study to examine the academic progress of 15-year-old students in dozens of countries during the pandemic.

Released Tuesday [December 5, 2023], it finds the average international math score fell by the equivalent of 15 points compared to 2018 scores, while reading scores fell 10 points.

The study found Canada’s overall math scores declined 15 points between 2018 and 2022. According to PISA, which defines a drop of 20 points as losing out on a fully year of learning, that means Canada’s math score dropped by an equivalent of three-quarters of a year of learning.

During that same time period, reading scores of Canadian students dropped by 13 points and science by three.

Only 12 per cent of Canadian students were high math achievers, scoring at Level 5 or 6. That’s fewer than some of the top Asian countries and economies: In Singapore, 41 per cent of students performed at the top level; in Hong Kong, 27 per cent; and in Japan and Korea, 23 per cent.

Louis Volante, a professor of education governance at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., believes the pandemic had more of a negative effect on math learning than reading and science.

‘Some provinces declining more than others’

Anna Stokke, a math professor at the University of Winnipeg, notes that math scores in Canada have been trending in the wrong direction since 2003, “with some provinces declining more than others.”

According to the study, the provinces with the largest drop in math scores since 2018 were Newfoundland Labrador with 29, Nova Scotia with 24, New Brunswick with 23 and Manitoba with 22. Meanwhile, Alberta’s score only dropped by seven and B.C.’s just eight.

“I do think part of the problem is the philosophy of how to teach math,” Stokke told CBC News.

“First of all, we’re not spending enough time on math in schools. And second of all, kids just aren’t getting good instruction in a lot of cases. They’re not getting explicit instruction. They’re not getting enough practice. And that really needs to change.”

A survey of students found about half faced closures of more than three months, but it didn’t always lead to lower scores. There was “no clear difference” in performance trends between countries that had limited closures, including Iceland and Sweden, and those with longer closures, including Brazil and Ireland, according to the report.

Canada still in top 10

Singapore, long seen as an education powerhouse, had the highest scores by far in every subject. It was joined in the upper echelons by other East Asian countries, including Japan and China.

Despite the declines across the subjects, Canada did well compared to the other countries in the report, placing ninth in math, sixth in reading and seventh in science.

Usually given every three years, the latest test was delayed a year because of the pandemic. It was administered in 2022 to a sample of 15-year-olds in 37 countries that are OECD members, plus 44 other partner countries. The test has been conducted since 2000.

In 2022, 81 countries participated, with 23,000 Canadian high school students writing the test.

If you don’t have time to read all of the December 5, 2023 CBC online news item, there’s Quinn Henderson’s succinct December 6, 2023 article for the Daily Hive,

Wendy Hughes (then PhD student) and Sarfaroz Niyozov (then associate professor) both associated with the University of Toronto, presented a critique of PISA in their June 4, 2019 essay on The Conversation,

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) — the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) global standardized test of student achievement — is frequently used by commentators to compare and rank national or provincial education systems.

PISA, which has now spread into 80 countries as a best education practice, presents itself as a tool to help countries make their systems more inclusive leading to equitable outcomes. But PISA is far more ambiguous and controversial.

Many academics and educators critique PISA as an economic measurement, not an educational one. The media generally use PISA results to blame and shame school systems. And the way that some politicians, policy-makers and researchers have used PISA is more closely aligned to a political process than an educational one.

You can find the PISA 2022 results here.

Black Girls Do Engineer (BGDE) and the US National Security Agency plus some Canadian Black Scientists Network news

This April 24, 2024 Black Girls Do Engineer (BGDE) news release popped up in my email with an abbreviation I haven’t seen in a while, HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities),

Black Girls Do Engineer recently signed an Education Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the [US] National Security Agency in an effort to continue playing a key role in developing science and technology talent for possible national security challenges.

The National Security Agency (NSA) partners with select universities and nonprofit organizations as part of the Agency’s Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Hacking 4 Intelligence (H4I) program. It is a program where the U.S. Government and industry partners, collaborate to solve national security problems. The program engages HBCU students and college bound students studying STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] disciplines. Black Girls Do Engineer, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides access, education and resources to Black students K-12 in STEM was selected to participate because of its stellar reputation in hosting cohorts of students through various STEM subjects including co-ed HBCU and High School programs, utilizing Microsoft technology to do so.

The NSA’s collaborative H4I program is for students to have the opportunity to cultivate essential skills by deconstructing and analyzing NSA and Microsoft problem sets, all while collaborating and networking with government and industry partners. Students will form interdisciplinary teams and work to solve real-world NSA and Microsoft problem sets. At the end of a 12-week cohort, students exit the program with a minimum viable product ready for deployment.

“This partnership with NSA will allow our program to provide our cybersecurity resources and curriculum to Higher Education institutions through our developed BGDE digital infrastructure enhanced by Microsoft tools,” states Kara Branch the Founder and CEO of Black Girls Do Engineer.

Black Girls Do Engineer‘s licensed STEM curriculum is committed to excellence in cyber defense education and research. Some of its programs include cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, data science and a host of technical training. Higher education programs include their design Badge A Thon event offered for college students.

“This collaboration will allow our national impact to reach new heights with higher education students,” concludes Kara Branch, Founder and CEO of Black Girls Do Engineer.

About Black Girls Do Engineer
As the fastest growing nationwide program for Black girls in STEM., BGDE has been dubbed “The Ivy League of Nonprofits.” The program is application-based and offers full-time membership-based STEM camps and workshops to Black girls in grades K through 12, with mentorship and individual workshops offered to college students up through age 21. The program currently has a 100% college acceptance rate and 100% job placement rate among its members. Since its launch in 2019, BGDE has served 4,000 girls though its program. The nonprofit has also helped secure its members $44,000 in STEM-related college scholarships.

BGDE futuristic programs of study include: A.I., Energy, Audio/Visual, Aerospace, Engineering, Medical, Robotics and Coding. Mentoring includes: College Prep, Financial Literacy, Upskilling, and Mentorship from professionals working in these fields offering real life experience.

I wandered onto the BGDE website and found this, (click on About and select Our Program from the dropdown menu),

Black Girls Do Engineering

Given the organization’s focus on futuristic programs, I find the use of a tree to illustrate their range a little amusing. I was also impressed because I’ve had contact, a few times, with people whose children are no longer satisfied with the fun science outreach programmes but are too young for some of the more challenging programmes available for high schoolers and/or aren’t fortunate enough to have connections to researchers who are will to help/mentor an interested young person. Brava for not leaving any gaps!

Also, congratulations on the partnership with the US National Security Agency!

Canadian Black Scientists Network (CBSN)

The last time the Canadian Black Scientists Network (CBSN) was mentioned here was in a February 1, 2022 posting, which coincidentally also featured my first mention of HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Now onto the Canadian news.

The CBSN will be holding its Black Excellence Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Medicine and Health (BE-STEMM) conference from July 30 – August 1, 2024 in Ottawa, Ontario.

It’s a little late but there’s still time to respond to the call for abstract submissions in English or French for the upcoming 3rd annual conference, Note: There is a discrepancy between the July 30,2024 date on the poster (above) and the conference’s start date on the submission page, See the explanation below the submission information,

Abstract submissions are now open for the 3rd annual national conference for Black Excellence in STEMM.

July 29 – August 1, 2024, Ottawa, Ontario

Les soumissions de résumés sont maintenant ouvertes pour la 3e conférence nationale annuelle pour l’excellence noire en STEMM.
29 juillet – 1er août 2024, Ottawa, Ontario

Abstract submission is open from March 20, 2024 through May 4, 2024. More information & Conference Registration will be shared in April!

La soumission des résumés est ouverte du 20 mars 2024 au 4 mai 2024.Plus d’informations et l’inscription à la conférence seront partagées en avril !

Please share this invitation with your networks/ Merci de partager cette invitation avec vos réseaux(pdf): EN / FR

The Canadian Black Scientists Network / Réseau Canadien des Scientifiques Noirs invite tous les participants de l’écosystème canadien de recherche et d’innovation à BESTEMM 2024, la Conférence nationale pour l’excellence des Noirs en sciences, technologies, ingénierie, mathématiques, médecine et santé.

The Canadian Black Scientists Network / Réseau Canadien des Scientifiques Noirs Invites all participants in the Canadian Research & Innovation Ecosystem to BESTEMM 2024, the National Conference for Black Excellence in Science Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Medicine and Health.

Now in its third year, BE-STEMM 2024 will bring together leading minds, talents, and innovators to share their ground-breaking research, and to work with Allies to dismantle barriers to Black success in STEMM.

Held as a successful online event in 2022 and 2023, BE-STEMM 2024 will be hosted in person for the first time this year, at the National Library & Public Archives Canada, with key events shared online, including a closing ceremony on Emancipation Day. BE-STEMM 2024 is a unique opportunity for Community members, policy-makers, and employers to connect with Black professionals in STEMM research & innovation.

The program will include:

Keynote talks
Contributed (Platform) talks
Lightning Talk Sessions
Poster Sessions
Career Fair
Networking receptions
A Public Panel Discussion
Science Fair Project Displays
Awards and prizes

BE-STEMM 2024 conference date discrepancy

After a little detective work (I used a search engine), I found this page on the CBSN website which offers information that explains the discrepancy,

Save the Date! BE-STEMM 2024 National Conference

All are welcome!

DATES:

*July 29th, 2024 (arrival day)
*July 30th – August 1, 2024 (full conference days)
*August 2, 2024 (departure day)

There you have it.

Five more stories complete the 3rd Frontiers for Young Minds collection of stories by Nobel Laureates

A January 31, 2024 Frontiers (publishers) news release on EurekAlert announces more stories by Nobel Laureates for volume 3 of Frontiers for Young Minds,

Frontiers for Young Minds, a non-profit, open-access scientific journal for kids, has published five new articles written by Nobel Prize-winners. The articles complete the third volume of the Nobel collection, bringing the number of featured Laureates and their discoveries to 30.  

The authors were awarded the Nobel Prize for their contributions to the fields of economics, physiology, and medicine. Within each article, the authors explain their ground-breaking work and the practical or future applications of their science.  

The articles are:  

  • Game Theory— More Than Just Games, written by Robert Aumann, awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2005.  
    Game theory is not just about games. It deals with real-life situations like business, politics, war, or even sharing donuts. Robert Aumann enhanced conflict resolution using game theory – the logic which helps us understand how to improve our decisions, specifically in situations where people might disagree.  
  • Can We Use Math to Design a Brighter Future? written by Eric Maskin, awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2007.  
    Math helps to develop new technologies and engineering techniques that advance our society. Eric Maskin laid the foundations of mechanism design theory, a branch of economics that can shape economies to reach social goals such as reducing pollution and establishing fair voting systems. 
  • T Killer T Cells: Immune System Heroes, written by Peter Doherty, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1996.  
    Our immune system keeps our body healthy by fighting microbes and protecting us from infections. Peter Doherty discovered how the immune system recognizes virus-infected cells and the clever way our T-cells identify and kill them. This knowledge could develop new treatments for autoimmune diseases and cancer. 
  • Can Grid Cells Help Us Understand the Brain? written by Edvard Moser, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2014.  
    Grid cells are special brain cells that play a key role in the brain’s navigation system. Edvard Moser co-discovered that these cells generate a positioning system that allows us to navigate our environment and estimate distance. Rapidly developing research on grid cells could eventually help us understand how cognition works. 
  • Hot Chili Peppers Help Uncover the Secrets of Pain, written by David Julius, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2021.  
    Receptors are small sensing structures present on cell membranes that react to stimuli from the environment or from within the body. David Julius identified a sensor in the nerve endings of the skin that responds to pain and heat. Using chili peppers to study how receptors relate to pain could help develop better drugs for intense and long-term (chronic) pain. 

Launched in 2013, Frontiers for Young Minds publishes accessible and engaging articles in collaboration with exceptional researchers to inspire the next generation of scientists. It provides reliable and up-to-date information on various topics in science, including in technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM). The unique Frontiers for Young Minds review process gives kids confidence and communication skills to engage with leading researchers worldwide and empowers them to ask questions and think critically before they validate the scientific information they read.  

Commenting on the new articles, head of program Laura Henderson says: “Since launching our Nobel Collection volume 1 in 2021, we have been blown away by the impact it has made. With over 1.8 million views and downloads worldwide, we are reaching science enthusiasts all over the world as part of our mission to inspire and engage kids with accessible scientific content. To now have a total of 30 Nobel Prize winners helping us to communicate scientific concepts to young minds is a huge achievement for all our team. I look forward to reaching even more young learners with these articles and our new partner collections coming later this year.” 

Discover all the Nobel Collections here: 

Volume one 
Volume two 
Volume three 

The first half of Volume three was announced here in my November 9, 2023 posting.

Thinking outside the curriculum: ‘Open schooling’ for science

An anecdote kicks off this October 20, 2023 news item on phys.org,

In a part of Sweden northeast of Stockholm, Nina Berglund likes trying out new ways to teach her science students aged 10 to 12.

Berglund recently invited a physics professor named Staffan Yngve to her class in the municipality of Norrtälje. Yngve brought with him a nail mat on which he proceeded to lie down to demonstrate the forces at work, delighting the students. “Even four months after, my pupils still remember it and speak about the visit using scientific terminology,” said Berglund.

She is a proponent of “open schooling,” an idea that science teaching must go beyond the staples of school labs such as test tubes, Bunsen burners and the periodic table to get students interested.

Amid concerns that Europe is attracting too few people—especially women—into scientific fields, the aim is to bring science to life for pupils.

While it has no formal defining characteristics, open schooling tends to feature activities such as on-site visits, off-site trips and remote learning that are generally exceptions in standard schools.

The story about open schooling in Europe comes from an October 19, 2023 article written by Andrew Dunne for Horizon: The EU Research & Innovation Magazine (also on Horizon science blog), Note: A link has been removed,

‘The big idea is to overcome the barriers we see with science education,’ said Maya Halevy, director of the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem, Israel.

Halevy led a research project that received EU funding to advance the whole concept. Called Make it Open, or MiO, the project ended in September 2023 after three years.

It helped to establish open schooling “hubs” in 10 European countries ranging from Sweden to Greece, bringing together more than 150 schools.

… at a Spanish educational institution called IES de Ortigueira in the northwestern part of the country, 12-year-olds learnt about physics by designing and building model playgrounds. The models were then displayed in the library, where the students explained their work to visitors.

At the primary school of Makrygialos near Greece’s second-biggest city, Thessaloniki, teacher Thanos Batsilas and his students were part of a living lab that taught environmental science through an activity involving mussel farming.

They accompanied farmers on a boat out to sea to observe how the environment is inextricably linked to the wellbeing of area residents and how climate change is advancing. The underlying point was that mussel farming is a viable way to make a living and can help support the local ecosystem.

Children loved the living-lab activities because they love anything that is out of the box,’ Batsilas said. ‘They embrace it.’

Koulouris [Pavlos Koulouris, faculty member at a school called Ellinogermaniki Agogi] said open schooling has the potential to turn traditional notions of academic achievement on their head.

You can find the Make it Open website here.

Youthful Canadian inventors win awards

Two teenagers stand next two each other displaying their inventions. One holds a laptop, while the other holds a wireless headset.
Vinny Gu, left, and Anush Mutyala, right, hope to continue to work to improve their inventions. (Niza Lyapa Nondo/CBC)

This November 28, 2023 article by Philip Drost for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) The Current radio programme highl8ights two youthful inventors, Note: Links have been removed,

Anush Mutyala [emphasis mine] may only be in Grade 12, but he already has hopes that his innovations and inventions will rival that of Elon Musk.

“I always tell my friends something that would be funny is if I’m competing head-to-head with Elon Musk in the race to getting people [neural] implants,” Mutyala told Matt Galloway on The Current

Mutyala, a student at Chinguacousy Secondary School in Brampton, Ont., created a brain imaging system that he says opens the future for permanent wireless neural implants. 

For his work, he received an award from Youth Science Canada at the National Fair in 2023, which highlights young people pushing innovation. 

Mutyala wanted to create a way for neural implants to last longer. Implants can help people hear better, or move parts of the body they otherwise couldn’t, but neural implants in particular face issues with regard to power consumption, and traditionally must be replaced by surgery after their batteries die. That can be every five years. 

But Mutyala thinks his system, Enerspike, can change that. The algorithm he designed lowers the energy consumption needed for implants to process and translate brain signals into making a limb move.

“You would essentially never need to replace wireless implants again for the purpose of battery replacement,” said Mutyala. 

Mutyala was inspired by Stephen Hawking, who famously spoke with the use of a speech synthesizer.

“What if we used technology like this and we were able to restore his complete communication ability? He would have been able to communicate at a much faster rate and he would have had a much greater impact on society,” said Mutyala. 

… Mutyala isn’t the only innovator. Vinny Gu [emphasis mine], a Grade 11 student at Markville Secondary School in Markham, Ont., also received an award for creating DermaScan, an online application that can look at a photo and predict whether the person photographed has skin cancer or not.

“There has [sic] been some attempts at this problem in the past. However, they usually result in very low accuracy. However, I incorporated a technology to help my model better detect the minor small details in the image in order for it to get a better prediction,” said Gu. 

He says it doesn’t replace visiting a dermatologist — but it can give people an option to do pre-screenings with ease, which can help them decide if they need to go see a dermatologist. He says his model is 90-per-cent accurate. 

He is currently testing Dermascan, and he hopes to one day make it available for free to anyone who needs it. 

Drost’s November 28, 2023 article hosts an embedded audio file of the radio interview and more.

You can find out about Anoush Mutyala and his work on his LinkedIn profile (in a addition to being a high school student, since October 2023, he’s also a neuromorphics researcher at York University). If my link to his profile fails, search Mutyala’s name online and access his public page at the LinkedIn website. There’s something else, Mutyala has an eponymous website.

My online searches for more about Vinny (or Vincent) Gu were not successful.

You can find a bit more information about Mutyala’s Enerspike here and Gu’s DermaScan here. Youth Science Canada can be found here.

Not to forget, there’s grade nine student Arushi Nath and her work on planetary defence, which is being recognized in a number of ways. (See my November 17, 2023 posting, Arushi Nath gives the inside story about the 2023 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Awards and my November 23, 2023 posting, Margot Lee Shetterly [Hidden Figures author] in Toronto, Canada and a little more STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] information.) I must say November 2023 has been quite the banner month for youth science in Canada.

Margot Lee Shetterly (Hidden Figures author) in Toronto, Canada and a little more STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) information

Ms. Shetterly was at the University of Toronto (Hart House) as a mentor at Tundra Technical Solutions’ 2023 Launchpad event. The company is a ‘talent recruitment’ agency and this is part of their outreach/public relations programme. This undated video (runtime: 2 mins. 27 secs.) from a previous Hart House event gives you a pretty good idea of what this year’s Toronto event was like,

This November 9, 2023 Tundra Technical Solutions news release (on Cision) suggests that this is a US-based company while supplying more information about their 2023 STEM or Launchpad mentorship event at Hart House,

On the heels of [US] National STEM Day, a landmark event unfolds tonight to advance the role of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Tundra, a trailblazer championing diversity within the world’s most innovative industries, hosts its annual Launchpad Mentorship Event at the University of Toronto’s Hart House.

This event welcomes hundreds of high school female students across the GTA [Greater Toronto Area?] to inspire and empower them to consider careers in STEM.

The night opens with a fascinating keynote speech by Margot Lee Shetterly, acclaimed author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Hidden Figures. Margot will share her insights into the critical contributions of African-American women mathematicians at NASA, setting a powerful tone for the evening. The spotlight also shines brightly on Arushi Nath, a 14-year-old Canadian prodigy and Tundra Launchpad Mentee of the Year whose contributions to astronomy have propelled her onto the world stage.

The Launchpad Event panel discussion features an impressive lineup of leaders, with Anne Steptoe, VP of Infrastructure at Wealthsimple; Linda Siksna, SVP of Technology Ops and Platforms at Canadian Tire; Natasha Nelson, VP of Ecostruxure at Schneider Electric; and Allison Atkins, National Leader for Cloud Endpoint at Microsoft. Moderated by Marisa Sterling, Assistant Dean and Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Professionalism at the University of Toronto, the panel tackles the challenges and opportunities within STEM fields, emphasizing the need for diversity and inclusion.

In a seamless transition from Shetterly’s keynote to the voices of present-day STEM leaders, the event spotlights the potential of young women in these fields. Arushi Nath [emphasis mine], the 9th-grade Canadian astronomy sensation, embodied this potential. Fresh from her success at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, Arushi’s presence will be a vibrant reminder of what the next generation can achieve with support from initiatives like Tundra’s Launchpad Event.

Tundra’s commitment to nurturing and developing STEM leaders of tomorrow is evident through its substantial investments in youth. Every year, Tundra connects thousands of students who identify as female and non-binary with mentors, awarding scholarships and prize packs to help students excel in their future.

Tundra’s dedication to diversity and empowerment in STEM remains unwavering since the Launchpad’s inception in 2019. The event is a testament to the bright future that awaits when we invest in the mentorship and recognition of young talent.

Female-identifying or non-binary students in grades 10-12 can apply for Tundra’s next Launchpad Scholarship here [deadline: December 3, 2023].

You can find out more about the Tundra Technical Solutions STEM initiatives here. (I’m not sure why they’ve listed Vancouver as a location for the event on the STEM initiatives page since there is no mention of it in the news release or elsewhere on the page.)

Arushi Nath was last mentioned here in a November 17, 2023 posting where her wins at the 2023 Canada Wide Science awards and the 34th European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) and her appearance at the 2023 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Awards were highlighted.

I’m having trouble keeping with her!

She has written up an account of her experience at the 2023 Launchpad Mentorship event at Hart House in a November 18 (?), 2023 blog posting on the HotPopRobot website,

Almost 150 students from across Toronto and the region attended the event. In addition, around 20 mentors from several organizations gathered to interact with the students. Many staff members from Tundra were also present to support the event.

Keynote Speech: Science and Space is for All

The evening started with a keynote speech from Margot Lee Shetterly, the author of Hidden Figures book. Hidden Figures [movie] explores the biographies of three African-American women who worked as computers to solve problems for engineers and others at NASA.

In her speech, she talked about her journey writing the book and what drew her to the topic. The fact that one of the three women was her neighbour was a big inspiring force. She shared the background of these brilliant women mathematicians, their personal stories, anecdotes and the crucial roles they played during the Space Race.

Several questions were posed to her, including how she felt about having her book transformed into a movie before the book was even complete and how students could merge their other passions with science.

Prizes and Awards: Winning 2023 Mentee of the Year Award

At the end of the raffle, I was surprised to hear my name called on the stage. I was honoured to receive the 2023 Mentee of the Year Award. I thanked the organizers for this gesture and for organizing such a wonderful evening of fun, learning and networking.

With Margot Lee Shetterly, the Author of Hidden Figures book [downloaded from https://hotpoprobot.com/2023/11/18/encouraging-young-women-in-science-technology-engineering-and-math-reflections-from-the-2023-launchpad-mentorship-event/]

More about Hidden Figures on FrogHeart

First mentioned here in a September 2, 2016 posting titled, “Movies and science, science, science (Part 1 of 2),” it focused heavily on Margot Lee Shetterly‘s 2016 nonfiction book, “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race.”

The movie focused primarily on three women but the book cast a wider net. It’s fascinating social history.

They were computers

These days we think of computers as pieces of technology but for a significant chunk of time, computers were people with skills in mathematics. Over time, computers were increasingly women because they worked harder and they worked for less money than men.

I have an embedded video trailer for the then upcoming movie and more about human computers in my September 2, 2016 posting.

There’s also something about the Hidden Figures script writing process in my February 6, 2017 posting; scroll down about 80% of the way. Sadly, I was not using subheads that day.

More Canadian STEM information

The government of Canada (Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada) has a webpage devoted to STEM initiatives, their own and others,

Canada has emerged as a world leader in many science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, and many new jobs and career opportunities that have emerged in recent years are STEM-related. As more and more businesses and organizations look to innovate, modernize and grow, the demand for people who can fill STEM-related jobs will only increase. Canada needs a workforce that can continue to meet the challenges of the future.

Additionally, young Canadians today need to think carefully and critically about science misinformation. Misinformation is not new, but the intensity and speed in which it has been spreading is both increasing and concerning, especially within the science realm. Science literacy encourages people to question, evaluate, and understand information. By equipping youth with science literacy skills, they will be better positioned to navigate online information and make better decisions based on understanding the difference between personal opinions and evidence-based conclusions.

The Government of Canada and its federal partners have put forward several new opportunities that are aimed at increasing science literacy and the participation of Canadians in STEM, including under-represented groups like women and Indigenous communities.

CanCode (Innovation, Science and Economic Develoment Canada)

CanCode is an Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) funding program that provides financial support for organizations to equip Canadian youth, including traditionally underrepresented groups, with the skills they need to be prepared for further studies. This includes advanced digital skills, like coding and STEM courses, leading to jobs of the future. For more information on the program and future Calls for Proposals, visit the CanCode webpage.

Citizen Science Portal (ISED)

The Citizen Science Portal provides information and access to science projects and science experiments happening in various communities for Canadians to participate in. Some may only be available at certain times of year or in certain areas, but with a little exploration, there are exciting ways to take part in science.

Objective: Moon – including Junior Astronauts (Canadian Space Agency)

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) aims to engage young Canadians, to get them excited about STEM and future careers in the field of space through a suite of resources for youth and educators. The CSA also helps them understand how they can play a role in Canada’s mission to the Moon. As part of Canada’s participation in Lunar Gateway, the Objective: Moon portfolio of activities, including the Junior Astronauts campaign that ended in July 2021, makes learning science fun and engaging for youth in grades K – 12.

Actua

Actua is a Canadian charitable organization preparing youth, ages 6-26, to be the next generation of leaders and innovators. It engages youth in inclusive, hands-on STEM experiences that build critical employability skills and confidence. Through a national outreach team and a vast member network of universities and colleges, Actua reaches youth in every province and territory in Canada through summer camps, classroom workshops, clubs, teacher training, and community outreach activities.

Mitacs

Mitacs is a national not-for-profit organization that designs and delivers internships and training programs in Canada. Working with universities, companies and federal and provincial governments, Mitacs builds and maintains partnerships that support industrial and social innovation in Canada. More information on Mitacs’ programs can be found here.

Science fairs, STEM competitions and awards

The Government of Canada supports the discoveries and the ingenuity of tomorrow’s scientists, engineers and inventors.

Canada’s science fairs and STEM competitions

The page has not been updated since August 13, 2021.

There are more organizations and STEM efforts (e.g. ScienceRendezvous [a national one day science fair], Beakerhead [a four day science fair held annually in Calgary, Alberta], the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics [they also offer “Inside the Perimeter” with all kinds of resources online]) than are listed on the page, which is a good place to start, but keep on looking.

A reminder: Tundra Launchpad scholarship deadline

Female-identifying or non-binary students in grades 10-12 can apply for Tundra’s next Launchpad Scholarship here [deadline: December 3, 2023].

Investigate thermodynamics by getting a grasp entropy with a hands-on model!

Using dice and buttons for understanding entropy? Apparently, filling the boxes in the image below with everyday objects helps students to better understand entropy and thermodynamics,

Caption: This hands-on model leverages known conditions of a simple system of hard particles to demonstrate how entropy is related to the number of accessible microstates by observing the degrees of freedom available to each particle. Credit: T. Ryan Rogers

A September 6, 2023 news item on ScienceDaily describes a new approach to teaching entropy,

Though a cornerstone of thermodynamics, entropy remains one of the most vexing concepts to teach budding physicists in the classroom. As a result, many people oversimplify the concept as the amount of disorder in the universe, neglecting its underlying quantitative nature.

In The Physics Teacher, co-published by AIP [American Institute of Physics] Publishing and the American Association of Physics Teachers, researcher T. Ryan Rogers designed a hand-held model to demonstrate the concept of entropy for students. Using everyday materials, Rogers’ approach allows students to confront the topic with new intuition — one that takes specific aim at the confusion between entropy and disorder.

A September 6, 2023 AIP news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, provides more detail,

“It’s a huge conceptual roadblock,” Rogers said. “The good news is that we’ve found that it’s something you can correct relatively easily early on. The bad news is that this misunderstanding gets taught so early on.”

While many classes opt for the imperfect, qualitative shorthand of calling entropy “disorder,” it’s defined mathematically as the number of ways energy can be distributed in a system. Such a definition merely requires students to understand how particles store energy, formally known as “degrees of freedom.”  

To tackle the problem, Rogers developed a model in which small objects such as dice and buttons are poured into a box, replicating a simple thermodynamic system. Some particles in the densely filled box are packed in place, meaning they have fewer degrees of freedom, leading to an overall low-entropy system.

As students shake the box, they introduce energy into the system, which loosens up locked-in particles. This increases the overall number of ways energy can be distributed within the box.

“You essentially zoom in on entropy so students can say, ‘Aha! There is where I saw the entropy increase,’” Rogers said.

As students shake further, the particles settle into a configuration that more evenly portions out the energy among them. The catch: at this point of high entropy, the particles fall into an orderly alignment. 

“Even though it looks more orientationally ordered, there’s actually higher entropy,” Rogers said.

All the students who participated in the lesson were able to reason to the correct definition of entropy after the experiment.

Next, Rogers plans to extend the reach of the model by starting a conversation about entropy with other educators and creating a broader activity guide for ways to use the kits for kindergarten through college. He hopes his work inspires others to clarify the distinction in their classrooms, even if by DIY means.

“Grapes and Cheez-It crackers are very effective, as well,” Rogers said.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Hands-on Model for Investigating Entropy and Disorder in the Classroom by T. Ryan Rogers. Phys. Teach. 61, 439–443 (2023) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1119/5.0089761 Published online September 1, 2023

This paper is open access.

I prefer this image of the teaching tool,

Common materials for handheld entropy demonstration. (a) Small, hard, rectangular, clear box with lid. (b) Octahedral dice serving as hard particles. (c) Sewing buttons serving as hard disks. (d) Wooden dowels cut to equal lengths serving as hard rods. [downloaded from https://pubs.aip.org/aapt/pte/article/61/6/439/2908340/Hands-on-Model-for-Investigating-Entropy-and]

Arushi Nath gives the inside story about the 2023 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Awards

A grade nine student from Toronto, Ontario, Arushi Nath has had quite the year,

[Arushi Nath] With Lloyd Longfield, Federal Member of Parliament representing Guelph (picture courtesy: Lloyd Longfield) [downloaded from https://hotpoprobot.com/2023/11/02/science-and-innovations-in-canada-reflections-from-the-nserc-2023-prizes-ceremony/]

Nath describes one of her latest outings in a November 3 (?), 2023 posting on the HotPopRobot website (more about the website later), Note: Links have been removed,

On 1 November 2023, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) awarded this year’s top NSERC Awards at a ceremony held at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. As a back-to-back winner of the top awards of the 2023 and 2022 Canada-Wide Science Fair, I got an invitation to join this ceremony. You can learn more about my research on developing algorithms for asteroid astrometry and photometry to measure the success of the NASA Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission [emphasis mine] at www.MonitorMyPlanet.com

I could not attend the ceremony last year, but I was determined to attend it this year, and I am glad I did. It was an excellent opportunity to learn about the exceptional research carried out in Canada on issues ranging from astronomy to microbiology, ocean sciences, wastewater and machine learning and how it impacted us. I even got to meet and talk to several researchers, ask them questions, and understand what it takes to produce impactful research.

[description of awards and recipients]

Some Suggestions to Raise a STEM-ignited NexGen in Post-COVID-19 World

I think the research investments and funding should start earlier, to even include school students. We are the most connected generation ever and are aware of scientific research and developments happening in the world, be it in the area of astronomy or marine sciences, microbiology or machine learning. Our learning pathways have also changed. COVID-19 lockdowns spurred the use of Zoom, online courses and virtual conferences to learn about a new topic, connect with researchers, collaborate with them, undertake projects and then present them virtually – while attending school. STEM conversations and collaborations are starting earlier and need to be encouraged so that more students pursue STEM, undertake curiosity-driven projects, and maintain this curiosity and scientific temper no matter what career paths they choose.

It calls for greater investments in school science project scholarships, new and expanded science centres, research collaboration platforms, open-data sharing, allowing students access to conferences, creating community maker spaces, opening up high-speed computing facilities to students, more science festivals, fairs and competitions, and encouraging greater diversity in science.

Congratulations to Arushi Nath!

Nath’s award-winning work

I had to dig a little bit for more information about her 2023 award-winning work. First, there was this in a May 19, 2023 Youth Science Canada news release,

Nearly 900 people gathered in Edmonton at the 2023 Canada-Wide Science Fair awards gala to celebrate the curiosity and ingenuity of Canadian students and announce the fair’s top winners. A total of 220 students shared more than 1.6 million in scholarships, awards, and prizes with the top awards in Discovery and Innovation going to Elizabeth Chen (Edmonton) for a project on alternative cancer treatments and Arushi Nath (Toronto), with a project on planetary defense [emphasis mine]. Arushi, who also won best project award at last year’s CWSF, becomes the first back-to-back best project award winner since 1989 – 1990.

Nath’s September (?), 2023 posting on her MonitorMyPlanet website fills in some gaps, Note: Links have been removed,

The 34th European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) was held in Brussels, Belgium. It brought together 136 promising young scientists aged 14 to 20, from 36 countries across the EU and beyond for a five-day competition.

I was honored to represent Canada as  Winner of 2023 Top Award at the 2023 Canada-Wide Science Fair.

My project “Developing Algorithms to Determine Asteroid’s Physical Properties and Success of Deflection Missions” won the second prize [at EUCYS]. I was the youngest contestant and the prize winner.

It was a wonderful experience to interact, form friendships and partners with bright young scientists across the world.

I found the descriptions of Nath’s work about ‘planetary defence’ and her paper is about algorithms for deflecting asteroids more accessible.

By the way, congratulations to Elizabeth Chen (Optimization of CAR-T Cell Therapy using RNA-Sequencing Analysis for Biomarker Identification) who won a top award at the 2023 EUCYS., as well as, an award from 2023 Canada-Wide Science Fair.

HotPopRobot

I highlighted the HotPopRobot endeavour (it’s a Nath family project) in a July 1, 2020 posting, “Toronto COVID-19 Lockdown Musical: a data sonification project from HotPopRobot” and mentioned them in an August 7, 2020 posting, “News from the Canadian Light Source (CLS), Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) 2020, the International Symposium on Electronic Arts (ISEA) 2020, and HotPopRobot,” scroll down to the ‘HotPopRobot, one of six global winners of 2020 NASA SpaceApps COVID-19 challenge’ subhead.

You can find HotPopRobot here.