Working Hard, Playing Hard: London city models, maker spaces, and materials libraries

img_0657

Sums up the week.

Getting back on track after a vacation is always hectic. A road sign I passed today announcing “CHANGED PRIORITIES” summed up the ironies I’ve faced. My first week back (after a holiday in France and conferences in Denmark and Greece) has been a flurry of activity. I had to put a lot of time into recovering lost documents and preparing government applications, and that wasn’t expected. I anticipated being in Dublin this past week, but fate (and lost IDs) sent me in other directions.

Besides trying to make headway with research projects, file expense reports, get back into my gym routine and recover the plethora of bank and identification cards I lost in Greece, I did make time to meet colleagues and explore material libraries, maker labs, and the massive city model of London. The list below attests, though, that I actually got some “real work” done. I’m making progress despite the detours!

img_0537

With Dr. Anne Gardner, the new Deputy Editor of AAEE

Chronological highlights of the past ten days have been:

  • Quick catch-ups with both my supervisors, Profs. Nick Tyler and John Mitchell. John is the incoming Editor in Chief of IEEE Transactions on Education, so we had much to discuss.
  • Submitting two abstracts for the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) 2019 conference.
  • Providing input on a curriculum proposal under development at our Centre and module (course) planning for our new MSc in Engineering Education.
  • Lunching with guest academic, Prof. Euan Lindsay, of Australia’s Charles Sturt University and making with him a quick trip to the Building Centre’s exhibition on spatial modeling by Zaha Hadid’s lab and the giant model of London.
  • Touring UCL’s Institute of Making, its materials library and maker space.
  • img_0503
  • Thomas Empson’s fabulous RES2 presentation
  • Attending a dynamic, well-structured, and highly successful milestone presentation by my Ph.D. student, Thomas Empson of London South Bank University (LSBU). Delighted to have contributed to Thomas’ success.
  • Touring LSBU’s extensive maker labs (theater and cave for virtual reality, robotic arms, 3D printers using all sorts of materials, high-end laser cutters, and old-school lathes, milling machines, spray booths. Room after room after room. An amazing set of resources for the LSBU engineering community. I was astounded. They also have a small materials library.
  • img_0525
  • A product of LSBU’s extensive Maker Lab, this shell in the shape of a skull was printed in a liquid that contains emulsion and hardens when struck by a laser beam in the printer. Then the remaining liquid is drained away.
  • Lunching with guest academic, Prof. Anne Gardner, incoming Deputy Editor of the Australasian Journal of Engineering Education and another quick trip to visit the Building Centre.Gaining official approval from the UCL Ethics Committee to proceed with two research projects.
  • Completing UCL’s new online training program for data protection (GDPR), earning 100% on the final test.
  • Reading a UCL publication of guidelines for research staff. This is a very organized place!
  • Reading an incoming manuscript for the special focus journal issue and helping manage the review process.
  • Meeting with an expert in phenomenographical research methods, Dr. Mike Miminiris, to plan for an upcoming project.
  • Scheduling dates for upcoming seminars at UCL (by Dr. Mike Miminiris) and DIT (by Dr. Bill Williams).
  • Meeting with Prof. Simon Philbin, the new Director of LSBU’s Natu Puri Institute (NPI) to discuss strategic direction for the Institute.
img_0578

Aongus studying the London model

Over the weekend, I decided to bring Aongus to the Building Center because he hadn’t been yet. We spent most of Saturday with the model of London (using its interactive learning tools and the videos), taking a sneak peek at an exhibition being mounted on modular construction, visiting the special exhibit on the history of the Centre, viewing the Hadid exhibition (mentioned above), and learning about commercially-available building products and materials in the Centre’s massive product library.

That makes THREE materials libraries and TWO extensive maker labs visited in a week! All these are pictured in the photo gallery below.

img_0610

New global rankings from THE

I discovered that the new global rankings of universities, by the Times Higher Education, has placed UCL at 14th in the world. Each rating system uses different variables and metrics, so it’s not surprising that this is a bit different than the QS system that has UCL at 7th globally.

On Saturday and Sunday, we also made time to immerse ourselves in London–including the rainstorm on Saturday (oh my). Aongus and I enjoyed delectable meals, including dim sum at Dim T, my favorite fix at Chipotle, and molten cookies at Kingly Court. Saturday evening, we enjoyed the opening of the film “A Star is Born.” On Sunday, Aongus and I visited the Churchill War Rooms.

img_0652

Hot off the presses @Usborne #STEM “Engineering Scribble Book” for kids. Loved offering guidance as Eddie and Darran developed the content! @Centre4EngEdu @CREATE_DIT. A university bookstore outside London replied to comments on my Twitter feed. @cccubookstore said “Engineering Scribble Books will be in stock tomorrow. Science Scribble Book on publication in November ;-)”

So far this week, I’ve reviewed feedback I’ve collected from colleagues on three important documents I’m preparing. I spent the better part of a day re-vamping a manuscript to address reviewer comments.

Also this week, I enjoyed meeting a new Ph.D. student at UCL, Aristos, who is studying tidal energy and knows Greek–he has helped me contact the police station in Greece (still no word on my lost items). I had lunch one day with my officemate, Sital, and learned more about her family’s heritage. I meet online with the board of the Research on Engineering Education Network (REEN) planning the 2019 Symposium (REES 2019) to be held in Cape Town July 10-12, 2019. I also met online with Dr. Bill Williams to plan his upcoming lecture and workshop topics.

Ending on a high note yesterday, I received a fun package in the mail–a copy of a book I helped create for kids. I served as the “expert advisor” for Usborne Publisher on a publication called Usborne STEM “Engineering Scribble Book.” It’s the first in a series and it looks great!

With all these unanticipated adventures, I’m wondering if I, rather than fate, will help set my own priorities for the upcoming week. Probably not!

Copenhagen to Athens to Kos: A hop, skip, and a jump from SEFI to ICL

img_9548

Copenhagen

Following last week’s meeting of the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI) in Copenhagen, I enjoyed a post-conference dinner with colleagues, explored Copenhagen’s old town in the morning, and then jetted off to Greece for a second international conference–this one on Interactive Collaborative Learning (ICL). I spent a day in Athens en route, inspiring a deep sense of awe! For an architect like me, visiting the Acropolis is a must, and the experience was even more uplifting than I’d expected. I loved Athens and I will certainly return!

The photo album in this post includes photos of the day I spent cycling around Kos with my colleague, Dr. Stephanie Ferrall, and also from my one-day layover in Athens. It also provides a glimpse into the conference events to show what the work of a traveling researcher really looks like.

img_9829

Athens

The highlight of the ICL conference was getting to know colleagues with similar interests. I particularly enjoyed getting to know the Portuguese and Sri Lankan delegations and the keynote speakers.

Presentations were interesting and informative and I’ve posted photos of Anuradha Peramunugamage (from Sri Lanka), Stephanie Ferrall (USA), Christina Aggor (Ghana), and Rovani Sigamoney (currently from France) presenting their work.

img_0263

Dr. Ferrall’s ICL keynote

Stephanie was a big reason I attended. I submitted a paper for this conference after seeing she was listed as a keynote speaker. Stephanie and I were research fellows in Dublin together at DIT during the academic year 2014-2015. Stephanie is a world expert in engineering education pedagogy and in supporting LGBTQ+ students. She is currently the national president of the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE). Her work focuses on inclusivity and “revolutionizing diversity” in engineering schools. Stephanie’s keynote speech at ICL focused on classroom diversity whereas the keynote she delivered the week before, at SEFI, described large-scale patterns and philosophies regarding diversity. At ICL, Stephanie was honored by the International Society for Engineering Pedagogy (IGIP) with its highest award, the Nikola Tesla chain.

dsc_0113

My ICL presentation

I was also drawn to this conference because much of my research has to do with engineering students’ experiences of collaborative learning and that is the core subject of the conference.

At the ICL conference, I presented one line of my analysis, a study of Middle Eastern women’s experiences studying engineering abroad in Ireland. I collected interviews with eight such women over a period of four years. You can download “Middle Eastern Women’s Experiences of Collaborative Learning in Engineering in Ireland” at this link: https://arrow.dit.ie/engschcivcon/109/. The citation for the paper is:

Chance, S. M., Williams, B. (2018). Middle Eastern Women’s Experiences of Collaborative Learning in Engineering in Ireland. International Conference on Interactive Collaborative Learning (ICL) in Kos Island, Greece, 2018.

img_0128

Bike tour of Kos Island

As there were a few days free between SEFI and ICL, I’d gotten to spend time exploring Kos with Stephanie before the second conference. I posted some photos of us on Facebook with a notable but unanticipated effect. A colleague of mine from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the USA, Christopher Kochtitzky, took notice and reached out to connect with Stephanie since their goals for changing the world overlap.

img_0173Thus, one of my top accomplishments of this conference was connecting my colleagues from the CDC and ASEE. Soon Stephanie and Chris will be working together. They will connect engineering educators and students with the CDC’s new initiatives to increase physical activity across the US population and to improve public transportation, particularly with regard to accessibility. Stephanie will be able to tap into Chris’s experience and policy research and Chris will access Stephanie’s national contacts to help achieve CDC goals.

img_9795

On the Acropolis in Athens

The best surprise of my trip to Kos was meeting and getting to know Rovani Sigamoney from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This organization does amazing work. UNESCO was created following WWII to help preserve cultural monuments, artifacts, and places. Today it seeks to get better educational opportunities to the world population and to improve living conditions. I’ve always admired UNESCO’s work but saw it as a big, far-away organization. Now I see ways I can contribute, and I’m getting straight to work! Thanks, Rovaini, for the fine job you’re doing with the engineering division!

img_0293

UNESCO’s Rovani Sigamoney

On the last evening of my trip, I dined alone. The waiters provided my favorite dessert, although it wasn’t on the menu, and they made it a gift. Shortly before that, I had snapped a photo of the Kos police station in the evening light (see the end of the photo gallery). Little did I know I’d be back at that station in the morning, to report that I’d dropped my purse.

Into every life, a little rain must fall, and in this case, my purse fell off the back of the e-bike I had rented to get around town on the last day. With the generosity of many different people, I managed to make my way back to London late Saturday night. Now I’m working to recover all those bank cards and government-issued photo IDs. Thankfully, though, I still have my health and my happiness and great memories of Copenhagen and Kos, and friends new and old.

Excursions from London: Weekend trip to Rye

img_3225-1

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
img_3084

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
136e447b-f518-49a9-b669-5151548ebd11

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.

Learning London: Transport for Mobility

 

My research supervisor in London, Professor Nick Tyler, is a global expert in transportation systems, with expertise in accessibility. He travels around the world advising transportation planners–and his research also has gone a long way to improve how Transport for London serves people with mobility challenges and various forms of disability.

Transportation Design

IMG_7336

A view from the testing platform, with Professor Tyler and some MSc students.

Nick offered a Masters-level class at University College London in Term 2 and I got to attend the opening day which was held at the research facility he heads, located on the Northern Line up in Tufnell Park.

On the opening day of this course on design for transport engineers, Nick’s students and I experienced what it’s like to navigate common street conditions while blindfolded, hearing impaired, or using crutches and wheelchairs.

The photo gallery provides a glimpse of this opening day. And, YES, it did feel like Back to the Future with Dr. Emmett Brown, who you likely remember as “Doc.”

About PAMELA

PAMELA stands for “Pedestrian Accessibility Movement Environment Laboratory.” The lab’s website explains that “PAMELA is a multisensory laboratory for the assessment of pedestrian movement.” In other words, it is a research facility with equipment for simulating real-world conditions at full scale so researchers can study how people with differing abilities deal with specific variables (sounds, ambient noise, varying light levels, tripping hazards, steps, etc.).

“Constructed between 2003 and 2006, the PAMELA laboratory is a novel and highly flexible facility,” UCL’s PAMELA webpage explains, “allowing full-scale pedestrian infrastructure to be built and tested to enable thorough assessment and evaluation. The structure includes a flexible floor surface that represents real ground conditions with interchangeable surface materials and is supported by a range of sensing equipment.” The webpage also describes specific research studies that have made a tremendous difference and yielded huge financial savings in London.

A picture of an underground carriage at PAMELA

Transport simulation research being done at PEARL. Image from http://www.engineering.ucl.ac.uk/news/pamela-develop-pearl/

Introducing PAMELA’s sister, PEARL

In 2017, Nick secured a £9m grant from EPSRC via its UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) program. This will fund the construction of a new and improved version of PAMELA, called PEARL (People-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory).

Connecting UCL and DIT

In May, during my two visits to Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), I learned that my colleagues at DIT’s transportation engineers, led by Dr. Lorraine D’Arcy, received validation to launch a new, interdisciplinary Master of Science (MSc) degree in Transport and Mobility. I look forward to helping Lorraine connect with Nick so she and DIT can learn from–and hopefully, contribute to–the wealth of experience and knowledge Nick has accrued.

 

Learning London: Four-Day Family Extravaganza

My cousin Kaitlin has been teaching English in Spain this past year. So we (my partner Aongus and I) decided to add a second stamp to her passport and we invited her up to London for an extended weekend

Aongus meet her at the Tube station and guided her home from the airport, with a stop for dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant, Indigo at Richmix. Meanwhile, I sped back via train from my conference in Newcastle and arrived home minutes before them.

We were up bright and early Thursday morning for the start of a whirlwind tour that lasted four days.

On day one, we included:

  • Kaitlin’s first double-decker bus trip, on Bus 8, so as to see St. Paul’s and other prominent sites from the top deck, front row–best seats on the bus!
  • Sir John Soane’s House Museum, full of Roman antiquities and memorable painting and flooded with daylight in every corner.
  • The British Museum, stopping for coffee in the courtyard and visiting the South American and Egyptian sections.
  • Dashing into the Building Centre in Store Street to view the enormous model of London.
  • A relaxing couple of hours in Bloomsbury, for lunch with my UCL colleagues Emanuela and Folashade–our farewell sendoff to Queen Mary University of London for Folashade.
  • A walk to Picadilly Circus and the courtyard of the Royal Academy, with rose petal macaroons at Laudre in the Burlington Arcade, then onward to Green Park, the gates of Buckingham Palace, and a stroll across St. James’s Park.
  • Arriving at Westminster Abbey in perfect time to attend the choral Evensong.
  • A walk to Trafalgar Square and up Strsnd Street to fetch tickets at the box office of The Savoy.
  • A quick but tasty dinner at Itsu, where Aongus joined us after his work day.
  • A delightful evening at the West End musical “Dreamgirls”
  • Wrapping up the day with a walk through Covent Garden, stopping at Gelaterino before our bus ride home

Day two was filled with more adventures. This was Saturday and we headed by Tube to the Bourough of South Kensington and Chelsea for:

  • The Saatchi Gallery (modern art)
  • Kale salad and chestnut/almond waffles at a favorite cafe on Sloane Avenue
  • The Natural History Museum, where we focused on the dinasoaur and mammal exhibitions
  • Drinks and tagines at the Comptoir Libanas restaurant on Exhibition Road where we snagged an outdoor table under the awnings and heat lamps to avoid the evening rainstorm
  • Art-till-you-drop and cultural-encounters-of-all-kinds at the Victoria and Albert Museum (we saw several new wings due to Kaitlin’s interest in world religions)
  • Visits to high-end furniture shops and luxury department stores (John Lewis top to bottom, Herrod’s food courts, and Harvey Nichols tour of floors)
  • Pints at the Wilton Arms to again wait out the rain, and chat with some lively Brits
  • Dinner nearby at the Alfred Tennyson to round out the day and a stroll through high-end alleyways en route back to the tube–admiring the pricy vehicles.

Kaitlin spent day three with a friend she graduated university alongside. I’m so impressed with Kaitlin and all she has learned and done. She graduated first in her university class last year and then came to teach in Spain fresh out of college. She has taught both in a school and also private lessons and she even played soccer competitively, on a team in Spain.

Since it was Sunday and she was otherwise occupied, Aongus and I made the most of the day with:

  • A visit to the Imperial War Museum and the Tibetian Peace Garden, located on its grounds
  • A walk over to Trafalgar Square with a delightful Sunday roast at The Clarence
  • Fancy desserts at the sushi place in Kingly Court
  • Bus ride back to Shoreditch to catch up with Kaitlin at a South American restaurant near our home

On day four, Kaitlin and I had specific plans. We headed to:

  • The Churchill War Rooms, also viewing the exhibition on Churchill’s life
  • The London Eye, for a half-hour trip around this impressive Ferris wheel with its sweeping views of London
  • A quick visit to the National Gallery
  • Our second lunch in Bloomsbury at Dim T, since we enjoyed the one wit Folashade and Emanuela so much
  • A walking tour across University College London’s city campus

We gathered our bags from my office at UCL and boarded the tube for Heathrow, where we bid each other farewell–me heading to Dublin for a week’s work and Kait back to Spain to wrap up her teaching.

It was a truly delightful four days, though I admit I was completely exhausted the day after we parted. It was a treat to get to know this first-cousin-once-removed a bit better and to learn how very much alike we are despite having drastically different parental upbringing. I’m so very impressed with the person she’s become and how intelligent and thoughtful and hardworking and courteous she is. I’m glad I’d worked ahead and could take comp days while she was here so I could really get to know her. It was a rare treat to tour the city with her, and one I hope to have someday again.