Energy Cube — Build Day

Fionnuala advising an Energy Cube team.

Fionnuala advising an Energy Cube team.

Nowadays when you arrive in DIT’s four-year engineering program, you will complete three group-based design projects prior to selecting a specific engineering major: a bridge design project (to familiarize you with civil and structural engineering), a RoboSumo project (to learn about robotics, electrical, and electronic engineering, and programming), and an “Energy Cube” project (as an introduction to mechanical, product, and building services engineering).

The Energy Cube project is currently coordinated by a diverse and multi-disciplinary group of teachers. Fionnuala Farrell is a product design and manufacturing engineer, John Nolan is an expert in engineering drawing, and Micheal O’Flaherty is a building services engineer. 

This team built a geodesic dome for their Energy Cube.

This team built a geodesic dome for their Energy Cube.

I’ve been assisting them and contributing the perspective of an architect. I’m not involved in grading, since I’m interviewing some of the students for my research, but I attend classes to better understand what it’s like to learn and teach engineering. 

Fortunately, I know how to do all the parts involved in this project: designing buildings, identifying client needs, defining product evaluation criteria, collaborating, calculating volumes, making scale translations, predicting thermal performance using mathematical calculations, designing the lighting scheme, building models, testing performance, keeping records, and presenting work in writing as well as verbally.

For the students, though, this combination is a tall order!  They have a total of six sessions, four hours each (on Friday afternoons!?!!) to design, build, test, and present their Energy Cubes. Whew!

Lecturers Fionnuala Farrell, John Nolan, and Michael O'Flaherty surveying results of "the build."

Lecturers Fionnuala Farrell, John Nolan, and Micheal O’Flaherty surveying results of “the build.”

Moreover, they are working in assigned (rather than self-selected) groups of four. Learning to work with strangers isn’t always easy. They’ve done an admirable job.

Our second of four sets of students will test their cubes later today. I’ve posted photos of what the Energy Cube build looked like last week.

Tip-Top Design Skills

I meant to publish this on Ireland by Chance, but it ended up on RoboSlam.


Meeting with John McGrory, Fionnuala Farrell, Una Beagon, and Ted Burke to discuss teaching design. Meeting with John McGrory, Fionnuala Farrell, Una Beagon, and Ted Burke to discuss teaching design.

What does a skilled designer do? How does she act? How does he know what will work? 

My colleagues at Dublin Institute of Technology and I want to know. 

We all have design and teaching experience. We have a feel for what good design practice looks like. 

But we aim to be more precise. We want to explain this well to our students. 

So a group of us — who are teaching design on the new “common first year” course that all engineering students in DIT’s four year honors engineering program are now taking — got together Wednesday morning to mull it over. Before meeting, we all read an excellent and comprehensive article by David Crismond and Robin Adams that was published in the Journal of Engineering Education. It is called The Informed Design Teaching…

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Sunnyday in Edinburgh

€14.99 flight to Edinburg. Thanks for a lovely day, Ryanair! My hip architect friend, Tarrah Beebe, and I truly enjoyed the Sunday sunshine.

And to think she arrived in Dublin from LA just yesterday….











Shifting Powers

My colleague from William and Mary, Dr. Jim Barber, bought the Qualitative Research book I recommended to his students.


Yesterday I learned that the EU wants to support interdisciplinary research by including qualitative researchers on science and technology research teams.


Here’s an example of one of the panelist’s interdisciplinary research.


This information session was held at the art museum, IMMA, which is housed in the former Kilmainham Royal Hospital. The facility is beautiful.



Colleen Dube, the executive director of Fulbright Ireland–who has been a strong supporter of my work–moderated a panel discussion.



I enjoyed the transfer of power underlying the picture posted above. The royalty no longer hold the power to shape society’s future: those researcher on the floor do!

Likewise, quantitative research has reigned central in the sciences, but this session provided evidence that qualitative work is gaining credibility. It’s being seen, more often, as an important perspective that is an essential part of good research.

Stepping Back in Time at Sweny’s Chemist Shop

A colleague suggested I stop in at Sweny’s, an old chemist shop (what we in the States call a pharmacy) just to see the architecture.

Sweny’s hosts readings of texts authored by famous Dubliners. It also displays old books and artifacts as they would have been a hundred years ago.

The place reminds me of the old general store my parents photographed in, I think, Virginia’s Giles County, when I was a kid. (It may have even been near Dublin, Virginia — which would be a fun coincidence!)

Their clients were building a detailed model of the general store, to scale. I loved perusing the shelves and investigating the old-time shoes, not yet sold, looking for a home.









Focus on European Research

I’m going to try giving you a panoramic view of life here, working and living as a researcher in Dublin. I’ll make a stab at posting a panorama or reflection shot every few days. As a Fulbright, I tried to catalog my experiences. These days, I have to reserve my computer time for solid work. But a quick post from my phone shouldn’t take much time….

Today I’m learning about programs and achievements of the European Research Council (ERC). The organization’s president has been speaking at the Royal Irish Academy (RIA).

The RIA headquarters includes a lovely library about property ordinance surveys and the history of Ireland and Irish architecture. Before the event, I was flipping through a book and happened across a house that I think I’ve seen next to the Joyce Tower.







Discussing Development… of College Students

I just made my annual appearance at the class on theories about college students’ development taught by Dr. Jim Barber. Last year I got to be there in person, but this year it was back to Skype.

Fortunately, the new version of Skype allows for screen sharing. It is always a bit disorienting for me to deliver guest lectures online, but I don’t think it was too painful for the audience tonight — on account of this new technology.

Presentation to W&M SoE

Today at DIT, my research project is fully underway, and every day I’m drawing from the theories I learned in this very informative class that I had the good fortune to take, way back in 2006, at The College of William and Mary.

Tonight, I discussed two research methods I’ve been using — the first using template analysis and the second using descriptive phenomenology. If you’d like to view the Prezi I presented, you can click here.

The best part of the evening was that the William and Mary grad students — 22 in all — had lots and lots of questions. I couldn’t gauge exactly how well I was connecting with the folks in the back row (who contributed lots of great questions) because the resolution was only so/so, but I have been loving that the fact that my Skype/Messenger/iMessage/MagicJack technology has been improving every day!

It’s five hours later in Dublin than back in Virginia, so the evening is quite well worn here. And since I’ve got a researcher “media training” workshop in the morning, I’d better hit the sack now…. Adieu, Adieu, To you and you and yo-u!

Prezi cover shot