In W&M News Today

Joanne A. Davidson, the Fulbright Ireland Communications & Information Officer, just sent me the link to William and Mary’s website.  Yesterday, they posted a piece about my exhibition on their main news page!

Guimarães: Birthplace of Portugal

Hamming it up!

Helping with the founding back in 1111 AD. 😉

Guimarães is an architecturally stunning town, and it is the place Portugal was born in the year 1111. Following my visit to the engineering program at the University of Minho and my Fulbright lecture/workshop, my hosts took me to visit the historic center and enjoy lunch in one of its very fine outdoor plazas.

Engineering at Minho

Seminar with engineering teachers from the University of Minho who use PBL.

Seminar with engineering teachers from the University of Minho who use PBL. (It was very cold in the room; everybody is huddled for warmth!)

These photos are from my trip to the Guimarães campus of the University of Minho — to visit engineering professors and tour the Department of Production Systems, at the university’s Engineering School.

My primary host there, Natascha van Hattum-Janssen, has been working as a Senior Researcher, Research Centre in Education. She has amassed quite an impressive record of publications. Her husband, Ferrie van Hattum, is a Polymer Engineer and has been serving as the Course Director of the Product Design degree program of the University of Minho, although both of them are now relocating to an institute in the Netherlands.

Natascha and her colleagues organize the annual PAEE symposium. The PAEE website explains:

The Department of Production and Systems of the University of Minho, the Research Centre for Education of the University of Minho, the Iberoamerican Association of Engineering Education Institutions (ASIBEI) and the Curriculum Development Working Group of SEFI – the European Society for Engineering Education – aim to join teachers, researchers on Engineering Education, deans of Engineering Schools and professionals concerned with Engineering Education, to enhance active learning approaches in Engineering Education through workshops and discussion of current practice and research.

The Fifth International Symposium on Project Approaches in Engineering Education PAEE 2013 will take place in the Netherlands and is hosted by the Eindhoven University of Technology. 

I served as a paper reviewer for this year’s conference and I hope to attend an PAEE event in coming years.

Exotic Porto

Porto's water front -- the perfect place for dinner and an evening stroll!

Porto’s water front — the perfect place for dinner and an evening stroll!

After speaking in Setabul, Lisbon, and Aviero, I packed up bag and hopped on the train to Porto.  It’s a lovely port city with steep topography and — surprise — more of Portugal’s stunning architecture!

I’ve been uploading the photos I took using my iPhone, so, unfortunately, I’m only providing a fleeting glimpse of these gorgeous places.  I hope someday you’ll have the chance to visit them for yourself.

Picking Back Up in Portugal

I dropped the ball telling you about my trip to Portugal and Belgium… I still have lots to show you!  When I last wrote about my Fulbright Inter-Country Lecturing adventures, we were in Aviero and Agueda with  José Manuel Nunes de Oliveira.

Here are a couple more of the modernist buildings at the University of Aviero.

Queen for a Day

Queen of Tarts 2

A visit to the Queen of Tarts in the Dublin’s Temple Bar  is always a treat.

I have fond memories of Dr. Pam Eddy’s most recent visit to Dublin and our stop to see “the Queen” together.

In fact, I sent  a little box of raspberry scones home with Dave a couple of weeks ago… he stopped by Pam and Dave’s on his drive home from the airport to deliver the Queen’s best.

SCALE-UP your Learning!

Robert Beichner, a professor at North Carolina State University, delivered a fascinating lecture at DIT’s Learning, Teaching and Technology Centre (LTTC). He discussed the way he teaches large groups of math students using hands-on approaches.

His approach is called “SCALE-UP” and is being used today at many universities — including MIT, Virginia Tech, and Old Dominion University (just miles from my Portsmouth home).

SCALE-UP stands for “student-centered active learning environment with upside-down pedagogies.”

Dr. Beichner tracks the learning that accrues using this format and has identified impressive results. For instance, using this approach, the top students actually reflect the biggest learning gains. Evidently, by teaching their peers as their teams work to figure out complex problems together, all the students learn a great deal. The top students seem to make the most new connections in their brains, however, which runs counter to common belief that top students get pulled down by “wasting time” explaining things to students who lack understanding.

Dr. Beichner teaches in classrooms of 99 students, he lectures for just ten minutes at the start of each class then gives the students a problem to work out for the following week. The students work in teams of three, and he always makes sure a student from the top 1/3 of the class is in each group. He compares learning gains of the students in the SCALE-UP classes with students in traditional lecture courses.

The SCALE-UP website explains:

Rigorous evaluations of learning have been conducted in parallel with the curriculum development effort. Besides hundreds of hours of classroom video and audio recordings, we also have conducted numerous interviews and focus groups, conducted many conceptual learning assessments (using nationally-recognized instruments in a pretest/posttest protocol), and collected portfolios of student work. We have data comparing nearly 16,000 traditional and SCALE-UP students. Our findings can be summarized as the following:

  • Ability to solve problems is improved
  • Conceptual understanding is increased
  • Attitudes are improved
  • Failure rates are drastically reduced, especially for women and minorities
  • “At risk” students do better in later engineering statics classes
Dr. Robert Beichner from NC State

Dr. Robert Beichner from NC State

Reflections on Francis Hutcheson

This is the plaque that Fergus Whelan posted on the stair tower at the Church on Mary Street (a religious building now operated as a bar and restaurant). The plaque honors Francis Hutcheson, “Father of the Scottish Enlightenment,” whose ideas made their way into the US Declaration of Independence.

The plaque’s coverings catch refections of the buildings across the intersection, at the west end of Henry Street. Here you see Primark’s world headquarters (the lovely red brick building with the patina-ed copper dome) to the right of Francis’ likeness.

Francis Hutchenson plaque

Robot Programming and Testing

Please visit the RoboSlam blog to see the newest photos of our recent robot programming and testing activities. Here’s one of the featured photos form that post:

Engineering lecturers Frank Duignan and Mick Core explaining concepts to two Transition Year students at our May RoboSlam.

Engineering lecturers Frank Duignan and Mick Core explaining concepts to two Transition Year students at our May RoboSlam.