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!

“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/

Jerry Crilly’s final farewell

Jerry Crilly

Frank Cullen and Jerry Crilly in May 2013, at the exhibition of my urban reflection photographs organized by the Irish Fulbright Commission. Photos of Jerry are by my family member, Dave Chance. See a full set of photos from the 2013 event by clicking here.

You may recall my friends Jerry Crilly and Kevin Donleavy. Both have dedicated their lives to Irish music, Irish history, and the pursuit of social justice.

On my first visit to the Cobblestone pub in Smithfield (Dublin 7), I met Jerry. That was back in 2012, and he soon asked me to find his pal Kevin who had moved to Virginia. It wasn’t long before I located Kevin in Charlottesville. On my visit to Virginia for Christmas that year, I brought Kevin a vinyl record, sent by Jerry as a gift. You can read more about that in a blog I posted long ago. The record had a lovely cover and contained songs by Rakish Paddy, one of Jerry’s musical groups.

Jerry was also at my photographic exhibition and my American wake so there are many blogs on this site that include him. He was a dear, sweet man, who never failed to mention the importance of his partner Deirdre in his life.

Jerry’s health has been declining over the past few years. I haven’t gotten to see him much as he rarely traveled as far as the Cobblestone at night. I did make a trip down to the south of Dublin, to visit the Bottle Tower one night so I could hear a musical gig organized by Jerry. It was enjoyable, but as these trad sessions didn’t start until 9:30 PM and ran on school nights, they weren’t very accessible to me.

Jerry Crilly 2

Jerry Crilly in May 2013.

Sadly, Jerry’s health got the better of him, and he recently passed away. Kevin has kept me informed of events, and forwarded on these details sent by Jerry’s beloved partner, Deirdre.

Dear Kevin,

Jerry had a lovely send off today. Everything went smoothly. We had a folk mass in the church that was beautiful. Then in the crematorium we had Jerry singing “John of Dreams” from the Rakish Paddy cd as we entered followed by his great friend Pat Ludford from Cornwall sing “Fields of Athenry” & for the final curtain his dear friend Julie played on flute “The Jerry Crilly Jig” kindly written by yourself & she did it a great justice. I so wished you could have been there to hear  her play it was so lovely. Then we went back to the Ballinteer House for food & a fantastic session from musicians from all over. Eric Fleming who was in Jerrys group the Connolly Folk & Brendan Leeson the last member alive of the Rakish Paddy Group the list goes on & on. They also had a session in O’Donoghues singing a lot of Jerry’s songs that I was delighted to hear about. Hope you’re ok. Thanks for all your kind emails over the past weeks & for letting us use your wonderful tune dedicated to Jerry for his final farewell.
Kind regards, Deirdre 

As Kevin Donleavy noted: “It is a sign of the regard in which Jerry Crilly was held that so many musicians participated in his last rites, and the seisiun at famed O’Donoghue’s (yip, the pub in Dublin)  must have been phenomenal. What a send-off — friends at every turning remembering him !  Requiescat in pace, Jerry.”

We will miss you, and the sincerity and social conscious you brought us, Jerry. I will never forget the lessons of the bonsai tree or the family in the tenement. May you rest in peace and your spirit continue inspire the best in us all.

Ready to Jump off a Bridge?

My Friday afternoons at Dublin Institute of Technology are filled with civil and structural engineering projects. Today, we performance-tested several types of bridges, all designed and built by first year students. Here’s my testing gear, provided by one of my lovely colleagues, Una Beagon:

I believe that hands-on design projects are chock-full of learning opportunities for students, and I’m thrilled to be part of delivering project modules at DIT.

It was the first time for me to personally conduct the testing of the full-size bridge, spanning six meters across the pond in the courtyard of our building. I’ve attached a video of the test of the full-sized bridges and another of testing the model bridges:

Working 8-9, What Fun to Make a Living!

I really love my job and yesterday was an exciting back-to-school kind of day. I crisscrossed the town many times.

My day started with two-hour a Construction IT Alliance (CITA) meeting/mini-conference where we learned about how Ireland’s national power company uses Building Information Modeling (BIM). Several of my colleagues from DIT presented and were involved in organizing the event. It was held in the beautiful National College of Physicians. So even though I missed seeing the beautiful sunrise that Aongus photographed for me yesterday on his way to work (shown below), I still had beautiful sights to see.

And as I raced from the CITA meeting across the city to DIT’s new campus at Grangegorman I saw even more from the top floor of a Dublin Bus. I hadn’t much time to get to the photo shoot for the upcoming issue of ResearchNews, published by DIT. This trip, my second of the day by bus, proved more thrilling than the first, as I had a much better view and more space than at rush hour.

The bus was efficient, and I enjoyed a little walk on our new campus before the shoot. It would have been a 45 minute walk, but the bus ride took just 20 minutes. The campus is lovely. Oddly, the irrigation system was running full-force. I say oddly, because the cloud cover was dense and ominous. I guess we have plenty of water here on our very green but very drizzly island.

The wind took a toll on the outdoor portion of our photo shoot. The windblown look on 15 of DIT’s highly-accomplished female researchers could make for an interesting cover photo.

Fortunately, one of the teachers in the shoot gave me a lift across town to RoboSumo lecture and lab.

This was our first day of RoboSumo this year and I had a ball. In fact, I’m starting to feel more confidence being myself and taking the lead from time to time in this classroom.

It took me a couple years teaching at Hampton University before I acclimatized there as well, and I’ll say that it’s exhilarating when you finally start to hit your stride. This is the start of my second year of full-time teaching here at DIT. Before that, I was in full-time research roles where I occasionally volunteered to teach. I’m loving being back in the classroom! And I feel like I made a positive difference being there yesterday. Like some of the interventions I made will have good effects for team participation. I think much of the effort and advice I put in helped students. I really look forward to RoboSumo this semester, and working with my colleagues (especially Ted and Catherine) and students in a Kevin Street.

After lab, I hoofed it over the Bolton Street to assist Avril with orientation (here it’s called induction) for the class of Postgraduate/Masters students starting our MSc in Applied BIM Technologies. I had a surprisingly good time giving tours to the new students and getting to know them.

Running into my dean, as I was leaving the building at 9 PM with my personal escort and bodyguard (Aongus), was a nice way to cap the day. My dean (Prof. Gerry Farrell) is always interested and supportive, and even he remembered meeting Aongus last spring when we were out with electrical engineering colleagues. Aongus and I were both impressed and touched that he remembered after the whirlwind BBQ day he’d had.

Likewise, I have been touched by the kindness of my line managers over the past few weeks. My family faced some major challenges, because my mom needed emergency surgery when she was touring Ireland. Dr. Avril Behan and Dr. Kevin Kelly couldn’t have been more kind as I helped get my mom through surgery, recovery, and return to the USA.

All in all, I’m thrilled to be starting a new semester here at DIT. Anyone who has moved country or made a major career shift will understand what it’s like to break through and feel like you’ve found your niche and you belong. Yesterday, I wasn’t walking on eggshells. I felt like I was flying with eagles.

Malahide sunrise–good morning photo sent to me by Aongus Coughlan

National College of Physicians on Kildare Street where the CITA meeting was held

Lobby of the National College of Physicians on Kildare Street

The room was filled to the brim with BIM enthusiasts. (It was slightly claustrophobic, actually!)

Introductions

DIT’s Dr. Alan Hore providing overviews

A fabulous list of interesting speakers 

ESB (the national power company) uses BIM frequently.

BIM examples from EBS

ESB uses BIM for planning, and also for communicating

We learned how ESB uses BIM in building and operating windfarms

DIT’s Dr. Barry McAuley presented research findings comparing Ireland’s progress in BIM with other countries 

Dr. McAuley, my colleague at DIT, was speaking on behalf of BICP

While I was waiting for the bus, I found this backdoor to Trinity. There’s always a back-door into a college…..

Thick traffic in Dublin…

…but a great view from the double-decker bus.

The Ha’penny Bridge

The James Joyce Bridge — one of the two bridges in Dublin designed by Calatrava’s office

There’s plenty of land to build on DIT’s new campus at Grangegoreman

The view across Dublin from the top of our new building is even more breathtaking than from here at ground-level

DIT’s research building, the Greenway Hub, is shown here to the left

A DIT Chemistry teacher, Catherine, has joined us in teaching the RoboSumo lab. We are glad to have her on the teaching team!

I had success in getting students working together to help each other learn skills

We also had a good time with icebreakers before forming teams. Icebreaker got the students talking to people they hadn’t yet met. Sometimes my years as a camp counselor come in handy!

When I don’t know the exact answer, I sometimes find a student who has got that particular type of problem sussed out to help!

Here’s Dr. Avril Behan running induction for the Postgraduate programs in BIM. We also lead the new students on tours of Bolton Street and Linen Hall.

Researcher in Motion, in Portugal

Europe’s research framework encourages researchers to move around. The principle  “Researchers in Motion” underlies most of research funded by the European Union through its individual fellowship and its international training networks. For instance, all Marie Curie fellows must move to a country where they have not been living (for at least 24 months of the 36 months proceeding their application date). The EU offers support to researchers in motion through EURAXESS. This includes a database of fellowship and job openings.

Although I am not currently funded by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) research fellowship, I am still benefiting from support received through my prior MSCA Individual Fellowship (2014-2016) and networks I first established as Fulbright Fellow (2012-2013). These professional relationships help me conduct research and share (or “disseminate”) my results and findings. For both of these fellowships, I moved from my home in the USA to Ireland to conduct research full-time.

My first trip to Portugal occurred during my Fulbright in 2013, when Bill Williams, a colleague I had met at a conference in Greece, helped me secure support from Portugal for Inter-Country Lecturing. Bill organized an itinerary for me where I visited five universities and delivered four lectures and workshops. During that trip, I fell in love with the country.

Now, whenever I have reason to visit Portugal, I find a way to tack on a weekend before or after my business meetings. I’ve also booked an upcoming summer holiday there. Please see my prior post about the research meetings and ASIBEI conference I attended in Portugal during my recent visit.

I research engineering and design education, and I now teach introductory engineering and architecture technology in Ireland. It’s important for me to keep current and build new knowledge related to engineering, architecture, art, and urban design — as well as educational theory and practice. Here are some images of relevant sites in and around Lisbon, taken during my recent trip to the Iberian peninsula:

The following photos were taken at the newly-opened MAAT (Museum of Arts, Architecture and Technology) in Lisbon:

Next to MAAT is the Tejo Power Station museum (a former thermoelectric power plant that once supplied power to Lisbon and its surrounding region):

The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is another highlight of Lisbon:

 

Recommended sites in Dublin and Ireland

Ireland’s a lovely place to visit, and Dublin is chock full of interesting sites to see. My favorites in the city center include: Marsh’s Library, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, one of the brewery or distillery tours (I’ve not yet been to Teelings Distillery, but it’s near Marsh’s and St. Patrick’s), Grafton Street, Trinity College walking tour with the Book of Kells, the Little Museum of Dublin, the Archeology Museum with the bog men, and the theaters (Gaiety, Abbey, Gate, and Olympia). I highly recommend a visit to the Queen of Tarts (on Lord Edward Street or it’s sister site on Cow’s Lane).

A bit out of the city center but still in Dublin are some of my very favorite sites: the Kilmainham Gaol (historic jail) and the Glasnevin Cemetary which has excellent tours plus a genealogy museum—it’s located adjacent to the Botanical Garden and the Gravedigger’s Pub.

The best place for traditional Irish music in Dublin is in north of the River Liffey  (Cobblestone Pub, run by a history buff and frequented by them as well), but O’Donoghue’s is also good for trad music and is in the center of town.

Good day trips from Dublin include Glendalough (monastic town with two scenic lakes) and Newgrange (a megalithic passage tomb, and World Heritage Site). In the same general area as Newgrange, Trim Castle warrants a visit. To the southwest of Dublin, I also enjoy visiting Kilkenny (I still need to visit the Smithwich’s brewery there) and the Rock of Cashel.

Closer in, there are lovely little costal villages around Dublin, including Dún Laoghaire (where you can walk the piers or visit the Sunday market in the People’s Park), Blackrock, and Dalkey. All three of these costal towns are to the south of Dublin and can be reached by train or bus. Howth is another nice costal village; it’s to the north of Dublin, and also accessible by train or bus. If you’re out near Howth with a car, the Casino Marino is fun to visit.

If you’re on a visit to Dublin and have enough time to go farther afield by car,  you should travel out overnight to one of some of the major sites in the west of Ireland, such as the Ring of Kerry, or Dingle, or Claire, or East Cork (with stops in Cork, Kinsale, and/or Cobh).

I really enjoy county Donegal but I’d say that you’d need two nights minimum to make that trip. Next time I go up to Donegal, I’ll visit the spa at Shandon, which looked amazing but was booked solid for the holiday weekend when we visited. The Glenveagh National Park and Castle were quite enjoyable. I’ve included a few pictures of Glenveagh on this blog post–taken late in the day on Halloween.

By the way, most tour guides here in Ireland are required to study and pass rigorous tests, so they really do know their stuff!