SEFI—researching Engineering Education with the Europeans

img_9347I’ve just attended the world’s friendliest conference, the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI). I’ve never felt more welcome and invigorated by the exchange of ideas at a conference. This was my third SEFI, and while I’ve always felt incredibly welcome here, I now know people from all corners of the world by first name and they greet me likewise.

Last Sunday, I flew to Copenhagen from Nice, landing in the evening and traveling out to the campus of Denmark Technical University early Monday morning to help deliver an all-day workshop on research methods for PhD students. The workshop was coordinated by Prof. Jonte Bernhard, Dr. Kristina Edström, and Dr. Tinne de Laet. I also attended the conference’s opening ceremony and reception at Microsoft’s Danish HQ that evening.

img_9491Tuesday started bright and early with a keynote speech–delivered by Dr. Stephanie Farrell who was a Fulbright Fellow to Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) while I was a Marie Curie Fellow there. Although each morning started with a keynote lecture, for me, Stephanie’s was the most insightful of all. Attendees asked dozens of questions at the end, with another dozen people standing in line to ask questions afterward.

In all, there were three past DIT Fulbright Scholars at the conference–Stephanie, Dr. Sheryl Sorby, and me. The fact that three past DIT Fulbright scholars are still contributing to European EER on a regular basis and attending SEFI shows how a modest investment to support a Fulbrighter can pay dividends. We all still proudly represent DIT in various activities!

img_9308Following the Thursday morning keynotes, we enjoyed a fun new poster-presentation format. Poster authors got 30 seconds each to pitch their topic to the entire delegation, and then we went to visit their posters. This format raised the profile of posters as well as attendees’ interest in discussing them.

On this day, I also attended a session on writing for the European Journal for Engineering Education, got invited to serve on the journal’s Editorial Board by editors (Drd. Edström, Bernhard, and Maartje van den Bogaard), and networked with colleagues from Europe, North America, and Australia. Afterward, back in the city center, I enjoyed a lively dinner with editors from four different journals.

Working Groups were the focus on Wednesday, and I helped deliver a series of sessions of the Engineering Education Research (EER) Working Group, spearheaded by our leader Dr. Tinne de Laet. I’m a member of this group’s Governing Board, and since we meet monthly online, we didn’t need to conduct a business meeting here. In our morning session, each Board member briefly described her/his current projects. Participants each chose one Board member to join for small-group discussion. My small group discussed (1) tips for winning fellowship grants and (2) epistemology and identity topics related to EER. Later in the day, the Working Group ran a workshop where participants reviewed high-quality research papers and discussed their characteristics. During lunch and breaks–which were full of fascinating discussion with colleagues–I conferred with colleagues from Dublin Institute of Technology (Prof. Brian Bowe, Prof. Mike Murphy, Mr. Kevin Gaughan, Ms. Una Beagon, Ms. Diana Adele Martin, and Mr. Darren McCarthy) on plans to host an Inaugural Lecture at DIT this autumn. The lecture will be delivered by Dr. Bill Williams, who has just been appointed Adjunct Senior Researcher at DIT (upon my nomination–yay!). Since we intend to invite colleagues from other institutions, and particularly my colleagues from University College London, I worked to find an appropriate date and to identify the topics of Bill’s upcoming lecture and also the EER workshop he will conduct for our research group. Stay tuned for details!

img_9405After lunch, I attended a session on “Increasing the Impact of your Journal Publications” conducted by editors of the Journal for Engineering Education, Dr. Lisa Benson and Dr. Cindy Finelli. For dinner, the EER Working Group Board met in town.

Thursday morning, delegates attended presentations by individual scholars regarding their research projects. We used a range of formats including lecture, discussion, and flipped-classroom.

Over lunch, I worked with UCL colleagues, Ms. Emanuela Tilley, and Prof. John Mitchell, on strategic planning for a new Architectural Engineering curriculum we are developing. Throughout the conference, I enjoyed comparing notes with members of UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education who attended, including Emanuela, John, Dr. Inês Direito, Dr. Able Nayamapfene, and Ms. Paula Broome.

img_9380After lunch, I presented as part of the session “Reviewers! Reviewers! Reviewers!” In this session, editors of four journals explained what they are aiming to publish and how to write good reviews. I was representing IEEE Transactions on Education, the journal for which I am Associate Editor. We broke into small groups to identify characteristics of a good peer review and this was followed by a very insightful whole-group discussion.

After the workshop, I attended the Editorial Board meeting for EJEE, learning about our reach and impact from the publisher’s representative.

img_9440Late in the afternoon, everyone at the conference boarded buses for Copenhagen’s Experimentarium, a really fun science-learning center. I played with the educational exhibits alongside Stephanie’s family and other colleagues from DIT, UCL, and Fulbright. There was an awards ceremony, where our UCL colleague, Dr. Eva Soerensson was honored, and I thoroughly enjoyed the conference “gala” dinner. I sat with Belgian, Dutch, and British colleagues at dinner. We got a bit rowdy and ended up building towers from paper cups and discussing the feature of ubiquitous household appliances.

853e6054-964c-402e-b996-e9ee3e8191a1The final day of the conference had many individual poster and paper presentations, including a discussion session/presentation I delivered on patterns I’ve found among doctoral dissertations that have used phenomenology to study aspects of engineering education.

The closing ceremony for the conference was chaired by the incoming SEFI president, DIT’s Prof. Mike Murphy. We learned about the venue for next year’s conference, Budapest! Can’t wait!

img_9342I enjoyed dinner with close friends after the conference attendees dispersed. I got to explore Copenhagen a little on Saturday morning before flying off to a new conference in Greece.

Thanks to the whole SEFI crowd for a stellar week! See you in Hungry if not before!

Bread Board Games—DIT’s Electronics Workshops in Wexford

What a great weekend in Ireland, teaching four electronic engineering workshops for kids, mostly 6-8 years old, in Bunclody and Enniscorthy. I love working with the kids, and it’s always fun having a weekend outing with my friends from DIT.

DIT lecturer Frank Duignan invented the small hand held video games and instructions for helping kids assemble their own. Retired DIT lecturer Charlie Pritchard worked with local librarians to schedule these two dates, plus three more dates for workshops to be held around Wexford. Charlie also secured funding and ordered the parts from hither and yon. Then Frank and his son Sam prepared the parts. And the day before we set out for Bunclody, I helped Frank assemble the kits in our project room at DIT.

The photo gallery below shows three days of our adventure. You’ll see Frank and me assembling kits, and then sights I saw along the way from my home to the sunny southeastern corner of Ireland. You’ll see our two Friday workshops in Bunclody, our team dinner at the Pritchards’ home, and the village where my overnight hosts, the Hays, live. You’ll see some of the sights I got to take in with retired DIT lecturer Richard Hays, before Saturday’s events, and some lively fun we had between workshop sessions.

Mostly you’ll see young kids happily learning new skills, building their own video games, and operating their little devices with glee. You’ll see a bunch of teachers excited about what they do, and librarians dedicated to supporting them. You’ll see two secondary students, Oran and Sam (who were also there helping lead our booth at Dublin Maker just a few weeks ago), donating yet another day to teaching kids electronics.

I’m so lucky to know these folks–Frank, Richard, Charlie, Oran, Sam, Edith, and Geraldine–and get to help them give kids a taste of engineering. The kids’ joy when the screen lights up is worth it all. These kids’ focus and attention to detail in assembly pays off when the Bread Board Games spring to life.

Do-it-yourself punch cards and other amazing feats: DIT’s Paper Programming booth at Dublin Maker 2018

img_5842With the annual Dublin Maker fair on July 21st, DIT’s RoboSlam group of volunteer staff and students headed to Marrion Square for an action-packed Saturday. After four years of teaching visitors to Dublin Maker about build robots, we shifted focus to activities that could engage even more people at a time.

My clever colleagues in DIT’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering designed a booth on the theme of “Paper Programming” to teach the history and theory of using paper to program computerized gadgets that date back to the industrial loom for weaving fabric and the computer punch card.

img_5850The set of photo galleries below shows my weekend activities helping run this booth at Dublin Maker 2018. You’ll learn about and see photos of:

  • Getting to the fair
  • Setting up our booth
  • History of Paper Programming
  • Visiting other exhibits
  • Our activities
    • Fraktalismus
    • Scan2 Tweet
    • isitpop.art
    • Music Box
  • Time enough left for a relaxing Sunday!

Getting to the fair

My trip from London to the fair included a trip to London City Airport via the Docklands Light Rail on Friday. Exploring the city center of Dublin, I discovered a number of welcome changes. Namely, a second bike rental scheme has entered the city! This scheme requires locking the rental bike to a bike rack but doesn’t require using a docking stating like Dublin Bikes (of which I’m a member and enjoyed using twice this weekend). I also observed a slight increase in the use of the electric-car-charging stations. As I didn’t want to disturb my flat-mates, I dined out at Porto while reviewing calls for conference papers, and then took in a film about Oscar Wilde at the IFI. The next morning I woke early for my cycle ride to Marrion Square.

Setting up our booth

The team arrived an hour an a half before the official opening of the event, to get everything up and running. As every single activity we offered was brand new and designed for this event, we had some tweaking to do! The two main developers–Ted Burke and Frank Duignan–did an amazing job, and that enabled the rest of the crew to set up the activities. We learned a lot and had many successes at this event, and we will expand and continue to develop these activities for use in the future.

History of Paper Programming

Damon Berry and I served as the welcoming committee, of sorts–greeting people and providing introduction and background. Damon discussed the history of programming with paper, as described in the poster pictured below.

Visiting other exhibits

Before things got rolling, and on the way to pick up a lunch box, I got to visit other booths, check out the incredibly wide range of learning events, and make a few things myself.

Fraktalismus

For Fraktalismus, each participant drew one or two small sketches. Then a group of recent DIT graduates would capture the sketched image(s) and import them into a laptop.

The laptop was running a program developed by Dr. Ted Burke that applied a mathematical equation that would repeat the image in a fractal pattern. The participant could then use our computer mouse to adjust the “z” value in the equation–to flip through various iterations of the equation. The equation is included in an image below.

After selecting one fractal as the favorite pattern, the participant would then select a favored color combination. The DIT folks would print the image on glossy cardstock and provide the participant with it and an envelope to take home.

The results were artistic and consistently stunning! People of all ages got involved. I loved making my own greeting card using fractal geometry along with my hand-made sketch of a beloved fragment of London’s skyline.

Scan2 Tweet

in Scan2 Tweet, the participant used a barcode sheet with a hand scanner. Each barcode corresponded to one letter or keyboard character (space, delete, enter, for example). By scanning barcodes from this sheet, the participant could compose a short message and “Tweet” it from our group’s Twitter account. DIT’s Shane Ormonde ran this activity.

isitpop.art

Ted managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat at the last minute, getting his design-it-yourself video game programme up and running that he calls “isitpop.art”. Participants could input their own drawing to use as an icon in the game, and control the background to be an image of their choice (such as their own photo, or a video clip from the internet).

Music Box

In the Music Box activity, designed by Frank Duignan, participants received a sheet of paper with a grid for plotting musical tones in sequence. They were given a quick briefing on how the technology worked—they would color one square per row with a black marker. When this colored square passed its corresponding color sensor, a note would play. Thus, participants with knowledge of music theory were able to predict or orchestrate the sequence of notes to play a tune.

The piece of paper was attached to a drum (in this case a large drink bottle) and spun on its axis. This allowed the grided paper to pass across the set of color sensors, one row after another. A tennis ball was used to hold the bottom of the bottle in the correct place (effectively weighing it down).

We tried to use a similar system to run four small motors to operate a small robotic arm and its claw, and I suspect we will see this up and running in subsequent later events. Watching the teamwork on this activity gave a sense of what it’s like to work as an engineer, working to troubleshoot and address problems that arise with the parts.

I really enjoyed this activity and enjoyed hearing the short tunes that participants created.

Time enough left for a relaxing Sunday!

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, I hailed a cab for Dublin Airport. Landing at Gatwick, I grabbed breakfast to go and headed to the train platform. When the next train to Brighton pulled into the station, Aongus popped out to welcome me aboard for the half hour trip to the southern coast of Britain.

We spent the day on Brighton Beach, with lunch in the town and a visit to Brighton Pier before enjoying a peaceful 1.75-hour trip back by train to our place in Mile End.

 

“Paper Programming” tomorrow at Dublin Maker

On my way—headed to Dublin Maker via the DLR and London City Airport!

Regarding this year’s DIT/RoboSlam booth at Dublin Maker, which is tomorrow, 21 July, in the beautiful Merion Square.

Our team’s big news is that we have taken over three booth spaces this year to accommodate all the activities we will offer. Into these booths will go Frank Duignan’s amazing music machine, Ted Burke’s latest crazy but brilliant idea, “fractalismus,” courtesy of Ronan, Padraic and Ciaran, and “Scan2 tweet” by Shane Ormond.

Come check out the fun of “paper programming” and meet our RoboSlam crew!

http://www.dublinmaker.ie/

Excursions from London: Weekend trip to Rye

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Window shopping in Rye.

During May, we celebrated our third “bank holiday weekend” of the year in the quaint medieval town of Rye. Enamored with England’s southeastern coast from the two prior weekends, we boarded the Southern high-speed train service headed to Kent for a new adventure there.

Arriving in Rye, we found ourselves in an amazingly tranquil and sunny, exquisitely preserved town not far from the beach.

Top memories from our three-day weekend are identified below and also shown in a gallery of photos. I hope that if you’re planning an outing to Rye, this info will inspire you and help you plan.

Day One

  • Arrive at the pretty little train station and check in at the Regent “Motel” where it’s possible to park a car
  • Find the bike rental shop and make arrangements for the next morning
  • Walk around scenic Mermaid Street and its surrounding cobbled streets
  • Eat, drink, and be merry at Mermaid Hotel, Pub, and Restaurant
  • Attempt to see Lamb House (which was temporarily closed, unfortunately)
  • Stroll through Cemetery of St. Mary’s Church
  • Visit Ypres Tower/Castle, its courtyard and Woman’s prison tower, and its panoramic terrace with historic cannons
  • Grab a second lunch at Fletchers House or next door to it, at Simon the Pieman (my guy gets very hungry)
  • Tour St. Mary’s Church, its annual flower festival
  • Climb St. Mary’s bell tower to reach the spectacular panoramic view—this is a climb suited only to brave and well-coordinated folks (the passageways and stairs are extremely narrow and I tripped any number of times on the roof)
  • Shop in the boutiques around town and visit the Kino to check show times to see if any suit
  • Wander around town, visit the fun fair, and drive like a maniac at bumper cars
  • Dinner at The Devil in Rye, in the bright, sunny indoor courtyard area in the back
  • Enjoy a scenic night stroll through the town
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Blown away by Rye!

Day Two

On our second day, we set out for a leisurely bicycle trip toward Rye Harbour and Winchelsea town.

  • Enjoy breakfast at Whitehouse Rye, then rent bikes at Rye Hire, Ltd.
  • Pack a picnic lunch, and make a cycling tour, heading in the direction of Rye Harbour taking time out along the way for whatever pops up, such as an RV open house at JC Leisure
  • Relax I the courtyard and cemetery of the Church of the Holy Spirit and the nearby playground
  • Stop off at William the Conqueror, and attend special bank holiday events, such as traditional musicians and traditional folk dancers (Morris dancing) performing I. The streets in both Rye Harbour and Winchelsea town
  • Explore the WWII bunkers along the coast, the seawall at the mouth of River Rother, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, and many protective structures along the coast and at Winchelsea Beach
  • Experience sunset rays piercing through slit windows at the spectacular St. Thomas the Martyr church in Winchelsea, and search for famous names in the cemetery surrounding g the church
  • Enjoy a refreshment at The New Inn, in the lovely, floral Biergarten, a walled secret garden
  • Head home via rugged footpaths, as long as you’ve got an off-road bike–but next time, I’ll go for the electric bike rather than rent a push bike, so I can cover more distance
  • Dine again at The Mermaid Inn in Rye, “The Mermaid’s doors had been opened 150 years when Elizabeth I visited Rye in 1573” since it serves food late into the evening
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Cycling from Winchelsea back to Rye.

Day Three

On the final day, we checked out of the hotel, the. We de died to:

  • Enjoy breakfast in Rye, and jump on the Wave 101 bus to Camber Sands Beach (21-minute trip)
  • Sit on the beach, play in the shallow water, and walk along the beach and seawall until time to head back
  • Return to Rye, pick up bags at the hotel and enjoy a quick cookout meal at the pub in the old Water Works building, constructed 1869
  • Head to the Historic train station for the small two-carriage train back to Ashford International Train Station and on to London

Note that evening trains are extremely crowded on bank holiday Mondays.

Continental Conference-Hopping

img_4547It’s been a hectic few weeks, beginning with Inspirefest in Dublin, Ireland (21-22 June) to the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference in Salt Lake City (June 24-27), a quick visit to Virginia Tech and around the state, and ending today with the UK Royal Academy of Engineering and University College London Centre for Engineering Education’s symposium on Inclusive Engineering Education (July 9-10).

Inspirefest: Women in Tech

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Live drawing made during my sister Heather’s performance of “Hedy! The Live and Inventions of Hedy Lamar”, by Liza Donnelly.

Inspirefest is an annual celebration of women in technology, and this was its fourth year. It’s organized by Ann O’Dea and Silicon Republic. I attend the very first year it was held, and was invited this year as a VIP since my sister, Heather Massie, was performing the one-woman play she wrote, produces, and performs. The play is “Hedy! The Life and Inventions of Hedy Lamar” and Heather has been performing it all over the world. Just before heading to Dublin, she spent five weeks performing around Zimbabwe and South Africa. A major highlight of this year’s Inspirefest was Heather’s abbreviated 65-minute performance in one of Ireland’s largest theaters, the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre.

Other highlights this year were the opening address by Ireland’s Minister for Health, Simon Harris, Ranjani Kearsley’s talk, “it’s time to level the playing field”, meeting new friends and reconnecting with ones I’d met at the first Insirpefest, like head STEMette, Anne-Marie Imafadon. Many of the talks were recorded and made available online.

I’ve inserted a small gallery below with a few pictures from Inspirefest of Heather, me, and other special guests. My colleague and frequent co-author, Bill Williams flew in from Portugal on other business and joined us for Heather’s play. I’ve also included photos with Ann O’Dea, Anne-Marie Imafadon, and Mary Carty, who I met at the first Inspirefest.

ASEE

I hopped on a plane to Salt Lake City to attend my first ever ASEE conference. I presented two research papers at this event:

Chance, S. M. & Williams, W. (2018). Preliminary findings of a phenomenological study of Middle Eastern women’s experiences studying engineering in Ireland. American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Chance, S. M. & Duffy, G. (2018). A model for spurring organizational change based on faculty experiences working together to implement Problem-Based Learning. American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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My first ASEE conference!

You can download and read the papers at the links above. At ASEE, I met many people who I’ve been collaborating with online, and developed new friendships as well. I attended many sessions, caught up with colleagues like former Fulbright scholars to DIT, Drs. Stephanie Ferrall (the incoming ASEE president) and Sheryl Sorby (a director of the ASEE), and met some all-stars like Prof. John Heywood and Prof. Karl Smith. Professor Smith has been bringing experts and theories from student development to speak at this conference for decades, and I hope to carry on his work.

Virginia Tech–my home place

I made a stopover in Virginia, en route back to London, taking a few days to work from home as well as four days of holiday to visit family and friends.

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Visiting Nicky Wolmarans and Jenni Case at Virginia Tech.

Virginia Tech has one of the USA’s two university schools dedicated to Engineering Education, so I grabbed the opportunity to meet with the schools’ new head, Dr. Jennifer Case, and her colleague from the University of Cape Town, Dr. Nicky Wolmarans.

Other highlights of being in Virginia were visiting my dad, dear friends (Katie, Mary, John, Wendy), aunt and uncle (Kitty and Glen), former professor (Pam Eddy) and former student (Luanna Marins) and their families (Dave and Afonzo), some former colleagues (Tony), Virginia Beach (but for a very short 1.5 hours), and my mom for a visit to the Udvar Hazy Center (a branch of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport).

Inclusive Engineering Education Symposium

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Got back to London in time for UCL’s two-day symposium on Inclusive Engineering Education Symposium!

Landing in London Sunday morning left me a bit of time to rest up for the Inclusive Engineering Education Symposium, hosted by my colleagues in UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education. This was a chance to hear from industry leaders as to what steps they have taken to diversify and to welcome a new publication by the Royal Academy and UCL with tools and techniques for making engineering classrooms more inclusive.

The picture gallery below shows all these events and more….