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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:

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.

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!

Abuzz on Bolton Street

These are busy days here at Dublin Institute of Technology, full of new experiences. It’s been a long while since I posted a blog, but I’m happy to report that — coming off a two-year stint as a visiting researcher — I’ve settled into my new permanent job as:

(Yes, the Europeans do like to list all theie credentials after their names… a bit cluttered… but, ah, as my colleague Una says, all those annual dues paid to licensing organizations might as well get you a spiffy signature….)
I’m actually teaching first year engineering classes now. I’ve attached photos from this afternoon in the engineering classes at Bolton Street DIT. This particular afternoon, I was officially teaching the bridge design/build class for Level 8 engineering students, but I also popped in to see how things were going in several other labs (Level 7 Energy Cube who also had built bridges today, and Level 8 Energy Cube).
I’d spent the morning in the architecture studio, as a guest reviewer for a third-year design “crit” where the students were presenting their designs for primary schools on sites in Kilkenny – one of my favorite Irish cities. Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos… though I did see some very nice designs. Several international students (from Switzerland and Russia) presented their work alongside Irish students.
I’m loving the challenges that come with teaching new subjects, and also the chance to be a regular visitor to the architecture studios once again.

This past Saturday, the RoboSlam founders — Damon, Ted, Frank, and Shannon — travelled to “sunny southeast Ireland” to deliver a RoboSlam for 18 students (ages 7-14) in Enniscorthy, County Wexford. Many thanks to the local sponsor Taoglas and to the parents who stuck around to help. Extra special thanks for helping organize and host the event go out to John O’Connor at the Enniscorthy Enterprise & Technology Centre, the CoderDojo mentor Sam, and Charlie Pritchard. Thanks to Edith Pritchard for a delicious follow-up dinner.

We’re pleased to report that 18 functioning robots left for happy new homes at the end of the day. The new robot design uses an Arduino Nano, which is very easy for people to continue coding and re-coding at home, after the formal workshop concludes. Frank Duignan came up with dual sensor design he calls “Two Eyes” and uploaded the newest code to out RoboSlam blog.

I’ve posted a couple photos silly selfies below. More photos are available on the RoboSlam blog. I worked up such an appetite that the hotel brought me two full breakfasts the next morning, as captured by Frank’s stealthy camera phone.

Thanks to everyone there for a fun and successful event!

Our students did an amazing job leading this robotics workshop for teens!

RoboSlam

For this month’s big RoboSlam event–provided to students from more than three Dublin schools as part of Engineer’s Week–our volunteer staff team did something a little different. We recruited some of the most energetic electrical and electronics engineering students form DIT and then, on Friday and Monday, we gave them training on how to lead a RoboSlam workshop.

When Tuesday morning came along, our engineering students were in top form. They led the robot-building and coding workshop for 37 secondary school students, and they did it with amazingly little help from their engineering teachers.

DIT student facilitators The heroes of the day: DIT’s RoboSlam student facilitators with robotics gurus Ted Burke and Damon Berry (the two in the RoboSlam t-shirts)

Things went so well, in fact, that the secondary school students were far ahead of schedule when they broke for lunch. So the student facilitators stayed behind and worked with Ted to hatch a plan for new coding challenges that…

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Our RoboSlam facilitators team has been growing this semester as we have been recruiting and training people to conduct their own RoboSlam robot-building workshops.

As it turns out, we also have also recruited a RoboSlam ambassador! Ten-year-old Luke Buckley, who I first met at ResearchNightDublin, attended a workshop on how to assemble robot circuitry that we held during Science Week. He rebuilt his robot on his very own, at home, and then brought his robot to school to show his classmates. He demonstrated how it worked and how to put it together.

The RoboSlam should get Luke into a programming workshop very soon (and then, who knows, maybe a facilitator training session, too). With enthusiasm like his, the sky’s the limit!

Here’s a note his mom sent to let us know about his experience. We love to receive followup stories from our participants–if you have any more, please email them on! We’re just a click away.

Dear Shannon,

I just wanted to say a big thank you for the RoboSlam workshop that my son, Luke attended. He asked me to say thank you from him too.

Just to give you some feedback on the outcome of your RoboSlam outreach activity, I thought that you might be interested to hear that Luke was able to disassemble and rebuild the robot on his own afterwards without any difficulty.  He also brought it into school (Glasnevin Educate Together National School) where he gave a demonstration to his class (31 pupils aged 10-11). Apparently the robot behaved perfectly during the demo and generated plenty of interest!

Many thanks again,

Niamh

Luke's robot

Luke O’Dowd at home, perfecting his robot design and testing it with an arena he built for himself. This robot is programmed to detect the change in color from black to white and to follow the line.

Micheál’s Sterling Engine

My colleague, Micheál O’Flaherty, brought into class today the little Sterling Engine he has made. This technology is in the early stages of being developed for home heating, to potentially replace the boiler in your home, Micheál says.  You can learn how to make one of your own on YouTube.

It was such good craic! (The Irish sort!)

STEMettes panorama IMG_8431Because it’s Science Week here in Ireland, I had hurried back from a conference in was attending at the University of Oxford (the UK-Ireland EER Network, for engineering education research). I thoroughly enjoyed the trip (which was my first visit to Cambridge) and reuniting with colleagues similarly dedicated to engineering education research.

The old part of Cambridge--lovely in the autumn!

The old part of Cambridge–lovely in the autumn!

Nevertheless, it was well worth the scurry home, because I’d been invited to speak at a STEMettes networking event (see their blog). STEMettes events are energizing and invigorating and I always enjoy the chance to share stories and ideas with curiousity-driven people. For me, meeting the STEMettes kicked off a week of special Science Week events. So, while my engineering colleagues were busy assembling robot kits for the upcoming week, I was out meeting girls who share my interest  in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Diversely skilled panelists of all ages graced the main stage at STEMettes, providing advice and sharing vivid stories of their paths to fascinating STEM careers. Here, I had the chance to meet and network with well-established experts, talented BoA employees, and up-and-coming young scientists.

STEMettes is a London-based organization encouraging girls to make, code, and create innovative businesses. Many of the dedicated and talented girls I met back in August–at the STEMEttes Outbox Incubator in London–were among the 45 or so assembled at the Bank ofAmerica  Merill Lynch HQ last Saturday, on the outskirts of Dublin. Another similar event was being run simultaneously in London. I met the director of STEMettes at Insiprefest in Dublin this past summer.

STEMettes 2In the coming week my friends and I will conduct two RoboSlam workshops in Dun Laougharie and a day-long event at the Cashel Arts Festival. At our recent Tech Week RoboSlam, 15 secondary school students walked away with their own assembled and fully-functioning robots.

I’ve posted photos from Cambridge and the UK-I EER network conference in the gallery below.

Cecilia Hartsell History presentation at Collins Barracks 1

Cecilia Hartsell researches WWI history. She is discovering parallels in the challenges Irish soldiers and African-Anericans soldiers faced when returning to their homes following the war. 

She presented research at an event at Collins Barracks in Dublin. The event was hosted by a history MeetUp group and 24 people attended on a recent Sunday afternoon. This is part of the dissertation research Cecilia is undertaking to earn a PhD from Fordam University. She will present the talk again, as part of History Week in Dublin:

Thursday, the 8th of October, 7-8 pm at Rathmines Library. 

Cecilia has also just published her first academic article, in History Now (an online journal at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History). Check it out at the link below:

https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/world-war-ii/essays/race-and-good-war-oral-history-interview-with-calvin-d-cosby-WWII

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