Diverse researchers at your service!

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The campus of DIT Grangegoreman (soon to be TU Dublin) which is now under construction

I found myself surrounded today, by dozens of brilliant scholars. I’d been invited to speak at a workshop on Gender Equality held by the Irish Alumni Chapter of Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA). The half-day workshop was held in St. Laurence Church on the Grangegorman Campus of DIT.

Marie Curie fellows, past and present, traveled in from all over Ireland to attend the event. The Irish MSCA Alumni chapter is just two years old and it covers the whole of the island, welcoming researchers from north and south, east and west.

A lovely group of early-career researchers arrived in last night from Cork for the workshop, for instance. They came to Ireland from many different countries across Europe and beyond to work with the excellent researchers here.

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Dr. Chiara Loder, with Ireland’s MSCA office, helps researchers write winning proposals

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Dr. Geraldine Canny, the MSCA National Contact Point and Head of Ireland’s MSCA Office.

Dr. Amir Tabaković, a Strategic Research Proposal Coordinator housed in DIT’s Research Enterprise and Innovation Services office organized the event. Amir was formerly a Marie Curie Fellow to TU Delft in the Netherlands. Several other alumni assisted in organizing, including Dr. Declan Devine, the  Chair of Ireland’s MCA Alumni chapter who was a Marie Curie fellow–following his wife’s own MSCA fellowship. They have spent time doing research in Switzerland, the US, and now back home in Ireland.

The day’s line-up of speakers was both exceptionally accomplished and full of insight. We started with introductions by our hosts, Amir and Declan, and a talk by Dr. Geraldine Canny, who is Head of the Irish Marie Skłodowska-Curie Office and National Contact Point – H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Programme. She is responsible for the delivery of the office suite of application supports and also provides input into MSCA policy as a Programme Committee member. The program continued as follows:

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Jean Cahill, one of my mentors and heroes

I’ve included photos of many presentations. During the coffee break and post-workshop lunch, we got to socialize and network. I asked Jean Cahill–a Head of Research at DIT and one of the people who has helped me with writing various grants in the past–how many Marie Curie Fellows we’ve had at DIT. She rattled off five, and I was two of them! I think, for institutional records, I’m counted as an incoming MSAC Fellow (2014-2016) and an outgoing MSCA Fellow (2018-2020). The reason I’d asked Jean about this was that I had just met DIT’s newest incoming MSCA fellow, and she’s female. Interestingly, all the five fellows to DIT who Jean identified are female. The program is open to men and women alike, so the success rate for women applying to DIT is very high! I’ve always found DIT to be a very supportive environment. In fact, Jean and others like former National Contact Point Dr. Jennifer Brennan, helped me draft both of MSCA applications–going well above and beyond their job requirements and providing loads of pertinent advice that was crucial to my success in securing funds. For both of my MSCA applications, Professor Nancy Stenson and Dr. Marek Rebow helped with editing as well.

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Chatting with Professor Brian Bowe in DIT’s Rathdowne House

For today, Amir had asked me to talk about my experiences as a Marie Curie fellow and identify some gender aspects of my research work. I encouraged the audience to push beyond gender and seek inclusivity for all types of diversity. I asked them to promote wider considerations of diversity in European funding calls and evaluations, as well as in their own research. I asked them to consider publishing gender-related aspects of their findings in journals that reach more than one type of specialty audience and I provided examples. Then I described one of the research projects I’ve done as an MSCA fellow and the data analysis I have underway now that I will report via the Society for Research in Higher Education.

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Dr. Shanonn Chance with DIT’s Dr. Barry McCauley, an expert in BIM and Quantity Surveying

At the conclusion of the workshop, I met up with my former Fulbright and MSCA supervisor, Professor Brian Bowe. Then I walked from DIT Grangegoreman to DIT Bolton Street by way of our new path–which connects the two sites and takes just seven minutes to walk. There at Bolton Street, I returned a library book (Marton and Booth, 1997) and had a chat with Dr. Barry McCauley, who was serving as my temporary replacement but has since been appointed to a permanent full-time position of his own at DIT. I couldn’t be more pleased, as Barry is an excellent teacher and researcher and is excelling even while adjusting to his new prosthetics. Barry was injured on a construction site when he was 21 and his legs were crushed, but he has not let this stop him. He went on to get his Ph.D. and he’s a force to be reckoned with! We are lucky to have him at DIT; I really enjoyed learning Navis Works and CostX from him in prior years and he has done some very important research on uptake and implementation of BIM (Building Informational Modelling) globally.

If you are a researcher reading this who is interested in applying for a fellowship to come do research in engineering education at either DIT (soon to be TU Dublin) or at my other institution which is UCL, or in BIM implementation here at DIT, please contact me and I’ll help you write a grant proposal (IrelandByChance at gmail dot com).

Meeting my bosses at London DIT Alumni’s annual chapter gathering

Maintaining professional connections is important, and although I’m on a Marie Curie fellowship in London, I still meet frequently with leaders from my home institution, Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT). Last night I met with Dr. Avril Behan (my direct line manager at DIT) in London, our recently-retired boss Professor Kevin Kelly, and DIT’s president Professor Brian Norton.

The London DIT Alumni chapter hosted a brilliant get-together, an annual event, at London’s Irish Center. This gave me a chance to meet DIT alumni working in London and also catch up with Avril, Kevin, Brian, and other DIT staff like Ciara Ahern.

I also had the pleasure of meeting anew many DIT graduates: MBA Tania Eyanga, Architecture Technologist John Heaney, daylighting designer Dr. Ruth Kelly Waskett, and engineers Paul Sheridan and Stephen Sunderland who work with WSP.

I’ve attached photos of the event as well as a few pics from Professor Kevin Kelly’s retirement party, held at DIT a couple of weeks ago.

At last night’s gathering, Professor Brian Norton provided updates on DIT’s new campus at Grangegoreman, and delivered the exciting news that a pedestrian route connecting Grangegoreman with DIT Bolton Street has just opened. The walk now takes just seven minutes and cuts through Kings Inn Law building, a truly stroll walk up Henrietta Street to Constitution Hill. Can’t wait to use this route! It will cut about 15 minutes off the current walking time between the two DIT sites.

Inaugurating a pioneer in engineering education research, Dr. Bill Williams

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Bill’s workshop on getting published in EER

Thanksgiving Day had a different look and feel this year. Here in Dublin, we welcomed Dr. Bill Williams to give his inaugural lecture as Visiting Professor in DIT’s School of Multidisciplinary Technologies.

Bill is an energetic and knowledgeable colleague, a close friend, and an excellent mentor to me. We have been working together on various projects since the day we first met, at a SEFI conference in 2012. Bill hosted my 2013 visit to five universities in Portugal, and we are currently co-editing a special focus issue of the journal IEEE Transactions on Education, the second special focus issue we’ve organized together. Because Bill has been so helpful in supporting my development over the years, I wanted others at DIT to benefit from his knowledge, experience, and helpful advice as well. He’s got a can-do attitude that is uplifting and infectious. And so, I nominated him for this prestigious appointment at DIT and am delighted it finally came to pass!

He arrived in Dublin Wednesday, which gave us a bit of time to catch up and compare notes on various projects. We enjoyed a very tasty vegetarian dinner at the newly-expanded Brother Hubbard, to get the ball rolling. If you’ve not eaten there, do hurry! You’re really missing out!

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Bill’s life path

Bill and I started Thanksgiving Day with a strategy meeting with our schools’ senior leaders, then we met with colleagues, welcomed guests from near and far, and settled in for Bill’s insightful lecture on “14 ways engineers bring value” to society.

Bill described his trajectory into engineering education research, via two stints in Africa where he taught Chemistry. Although he’s originally from Cork, Ireland, he has lived and worked for the past few decades in Barreiro, Portugal. In Lisbon, he earned his Ph.D., just shortly before retiring. Now, I’m quite happy to report, he’s still incredibly active in research and in advising and mentoring researchers new and old. We’ve now made it official by appointing him as an adjunct professor here at DIT!

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After an interesting set of lecture topics followed by Q&A with lively discussion, a small group of the international guests joined Bill and the event organizers for dinner in Dublin’s Italian Quarter–so I had Thanksgiving dinner surrounded by dear friends after all!

 

 

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Dr. Abel Nyamapfene (UCL) and Professor John Heywood (Trinity)

I was delighted that we had 22 attendees at Bill’s Thursday lecture and nearly as many at the follow-up workshop on Friday–a great turn-out, particularly given the long distances many traveled to attend! Bill himself traveled in from Portugal for the two-day event.

My UCL colleagues, Drs. Inês Direito and Abel Nyamapfene, came across from London. They work with me at the Centre for Engineering Education at University College London.

Dr. John Heywood (Professor Emeritus at Trinity and a global leader in the field of education research) made the trip up from Bray, Ireland.

 

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Drs. Shannon Chance (DIT and UCL) and Inês Direito (UCL)

Dr. Dónal Holland (Assistant Professor at the UCD School of Mechanical & Materials Engineering and an Associate at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences) came up from University College Dublin both days.

All these guests were joined by a host of enthusiastic DIT staff from the Kevin Street, Grangegoreman, and Bolton Street campuses.

Still abuzz from the lecture on Thursday, we prepared to focus on research publication strategies on Friday via a workshop led by Bill. But first, Inês, Abel, and Bill came for lunch at my flat and this provided me a semblance of a Thanksgiving gathering around my own table.

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Professor Brian Bowe (DIT) with Drs. Dónal Holland (UCD and Harvard) and Gavin Duffy (DIT)

Nevertheless, the main event for Friday was a workshop on getting research published in engineering education. Bill ran this half-day seminar for DIT’s CREATE research group. CREATE seeks to make Contributions to Research in Engineering and Applied Technologies Education. It is based at Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT, soon to be Technological University Dublin, TU Dublin).

Across these two days, we enjoyed sharing ideas informally as well as formally. Bill met with Professor Brian Bowe (the head of CREATE at DIT) and with a number of Ph.D. students and emerging researchers, and with senior leaders of the School.

I photographed some of the memorable moments and have shared them in the gallery below.

Meeting Grafton Architects: Irish Ladies Leading the Way!

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Shannon Chance with Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell of Dublin-based Grafton Architects.

I finally got to meet Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell, founders of Grafton Architects and designers of my home here in Dublin.

You may recall blogs I posted in October 2012 titled Hats off to Grafton Architects, a post about sun angles in winter, and a video clip I made shortly after moving into “my Dublin Castle.” I have attached my apartment tour which is quite goofy. In it, explained features unique to Ireland and the EU, but I called the water tank “electric storage.” That’s factually true, but here they use the term just for the wall heaters that heat bricks in the night, when electricity costs less, and radiate that heat our during the day.

I learned more about electric storage heat from my maintenance guy, Keith Brown. I posted a blog where he showed me how they work. I sure do miss Keith as he was able to fix anything, usually the way my grandpa would have! Pa grew up during the Great Depression and was quite thrifty! Keith, on the other hand, moved to Spain.

I, on the other hand, am not moving to Spain any time soon. But this flat is plenty warm and sunny.

I love every minute in this place, perched high in the Smithfield Lofts that Yvonne and Shelley designed back in 2006. Last night, I got to tell them how much I enjoy living here.

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Covers from “Totally Dublin”

I had braved the lashing rain, trotting across town to pick up new specs at Ace and Tate and then over to Fumbally for an event produced by the magazine Totally Dublin, which ran a feature on them in January 2018 that I still have on my coffee table.

The talks weren’t starting on time. Or rather, Irish evening-time tends to run quite behind what the clock face shows. This event ran 8-10 PM, rather than the 7-8:30 PM published. In any case, I had time to grab a slice of cake and get psyched up to hear these amazing architects talk.

In the interim, I decided to hop across the room to tell Yvonne and Shelley that I’m a big fan and I love my home.

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A Dickens Christmas in cozy Smithfield

I showed them the photo I took last week from my balcony, which I’d posted in an earlier blog.

They seemed delighted to hear their building was loved, as that construction process was rough, with the developer cutting corners and ultimately going out of business when the economy crashed. I’d been told that unfortunate story by my colleagues when I moved in and was glad to help these architects reconnect with their creation. Incidentally, any criticisms I’ve ever had of this building are due to poor workmanship and Ireland’s very strange fire codes.

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Shelley McNamara sharing insights

These architects are now world-famous. They curated the Venice Biennale this year, bringing Irish architecture and Irish design to the fore of the world stage. They dedicated the 2018 Biennale to “Freespace,” which I might describe as third-space, public space where everyone is welcome and treated with equal dignity and respect.

Last night, Shelley and Yvonne discussed their role in the Biennale and working together since they first met in architecture school at UCD where they graduated in 1974. Imagine, they entered in a class that was gender balanced at the end of the 1960s!

Consider that the year Shelley and Yvonne entered architecture school, women were not allowed to study this subject in many universities in the USA, including the University of Virginia (a place Yvonne and Shelley mentioned to me last night). UVA began admitting women in the year 1970. The institution had admitted a few women before this date because they had a medical school that needed nurses; my mom earned a Bachelors in Nursing there at UVA in the mid-60s.

What a revelation, to learn there was gender balance in architecture admissions here in Ireland at the same time there were 0% women and 100% men in architecture at UVA!

Yvonne and Shelley said they’d never experienced gender discrimination in their lifetimes as architects, designing buildings in Ireland, Peru, Italy, Spain, France…. That was quite inspiring to hear!

Yesterday evening also featured discussions with the photographer and artistic director of the magazine’s October cover piece on “The Bumbles” and discussion and performance by busker NC Lawlor, an Irish man reared in Manchester and now living and performing in many types of venues in Dublin. You’ll have to find him busking on Grafton Street if you want to hear him first hand!

Below are photos of the evening, along with pics I’ve snapped over time of my cozy flat.

An Evening of Astronauts and Magically Informative Skies

 

Last night’s sky over Dublin was spectacular, and a magical evening unfolded. I’ve been sequestered in my flat here in Dublin for the past few weeks, on a self-imposed writing retreat away from my current home in London.

 

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The view from my balcony, looking south toward Four courts, just beyond the roof of the Cappucian Friary and Padre Pio church.

However, my retreat has transformed into a sort of boot camp. The past few weeks have been like the days I was enrolled full-time for my Ph.D. while holding down my full-time teaching job (and somehow still doing well at both). I’ve been so inwardly focused that I’ve thought of calling this time my ‘hermitage.’ Yet, I’ve been so productive I’ve considered making this an annual thing.

After working straight through the weekend and submitting two big projects Tuesday, I was ready for a break Wednesday evening. And the evening didn’t fail to deliver. It was nothing short of magical.

Remarkable moments I enjoyed:

  • Views from my balcony at sunset.
  • Views of the city center from the top of a double-decker Dublin Bus–before realizing I was heading in the wrong direction and getting nowhere fast!
  • Recognizing, just in time, the error in my plan.
  • A fine fair-weather clip across town on a Dublin Bike, with a long haul up the hill to the far end of Phoenix Park to the residence of the US Ambassador.
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    US Ambassador’s residence in Dublin

    The stunning sight of the Ambassador’s home, tucked under a thick, delightfully-cheerful but ever-so-slightly-ominous blanket of clouds.

  • Clouds lit from the underside by our small but bustling city–a town beaming with holiday cheer and festive lights.
  • Stories of being in orbit from a man who has traveled far above the earth’s surface, in multiple spacecraft.
  • Learning about different types of rockets, and safety procedures that saved the lives of his colleagues in a recent failed mission.
  • Viewing dramatic photos US astronaut Shane Kimbrough captured from space–many from the Russian side of the Space Station, which he says has clearer glass that makes for better pics. img_2158
  • Meandering around the ground floor of the residence and enjoying the architectural details, but unfortunately, not recognizing a soul.
  • The delightful sensory experience of cycling back through the park on my way home. (By this time, the weather was starting to cool and I wished I’d donned the jacket that was tucked in my purse.) I pushed onward, not wanting to break the magic.
  • Parking my Dublin Bike at Blackhall Place, wandering through Smithfield Plaza, and enjoying the plaza’s holiday lights.
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    Music session at the Cobblestone, with Mick O’Grady, Pat Goode, Brenda Malloy, Tony Nugent, and others.

    And finally, stepping through the warm and welcoming front door of the Cobblestone pub, and soaking in greetings of musician friends and bartenders–catching some tunes, and sharing stories after the 7-9:30 session.

This fairy-tale set of events unfolded, after a somewhat odd day. I’d dealt with random, miscellaneous tasks, following on the heels of a week of productive writing and editing. Although this day wasn’t particularly productive, I kept trying.

But I had a particularly strange occurrence while working from home during the day:

A guy knocked on my apartment door and I asked through the solid core panel, “Who is it?” He didn’t say who, but rather that he needed something. I asked what. He said, in pained exasperation, that it was too complicated to explain. He sputtered and stuttered that he’d just have to go tell someone else. Fine by me. Look, if you’re bleeding and you need a doctor, say so. If you can’t explain your problem, I’ve no way to assess if and how I can help. My friends at the pub last night said never, ever open the door. Thanks to both God and good judgment that I didn’t.

I’ve been struggling with my vision and waiting for a new pair of multifocal glasses to arrive. Turns out, my far sight has improved, and this has thrown off all the settings on my progressive lenses. As a result, I’ve been fighting headaches from struggling to find a head-tilt position where I can actually see the screen. This has been going on for months, and I’ve only just gotten to the bottom of it all. A temporary pair of reading glasses is helping, but wearing them is disorienting and headaches still crop up.

So yesterday I was quite ready for a break. I wrapped up my work to head out for an event. I blended up a healthy juice of fruits and veggies–apples, carrots, cucumber, spinach, celery, and ginger–to pep me up for the evening.

I noted the stunning view of clouds rolling into Dublin at sunset. I clicked a photo from my balcony to post on Facebook:

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It’s already feeling like Christmas in Dublin! A bit of a Dickens Christmas, the lighting suggests. 

Such a lovely place to be, in this bright and sunny flat!

I quickly donned a skirt and boots with heels (unusual for me these days) and I zipped out for the bus slightly after 5 PM, en route, I thought, to the US Embassy. I grabbed a seat front and center on the top deck of the bus, and successfully deflected the man-spread in progress in the adjoining seat.

Views from the top deck were lovely! But, a half hour after I’d left home, sitting atop a bus stuck in traffic, I double checked the invite. It was quite clearly sent from the US Embassy, and that’s where I was headed. It’s on the southeast corner of town.

Nevertheless, the event–a public discussion with a highly experienced US Army astronaut–was actually in the other direction!

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The only way through rush hour traffic and up to the US Ambassador’s residence perched on the hill of Phoenix Park was by bike. It’s touted as the largest city park in Europe (or something of that sort), and the Residence is, as I’d come to discover, at the very northwest corner of the park. On the far opposite corner of town.

I had to wait for the bus’s next stop. It goes all the way from the Liffey, around Trinity College, to the far, far end of Nassau Street–almost to Claire Street, between stops. Quite difficult to see all those buildings pass by while wanting to disembark!

Once the bus finally stopped, by the grace of God, I clambered toward the nearest Dublin Bike dock.

Despite the mini-skirt and tall wedge-heeled boots I’d put on, I managed to make good time. I was up to the Ambassador’s in under a half hour. The cycle ride required great physical exertion, but there was no other viable way to get quickly from Trinity to Heuston Station. From the station, I could have taken a cab up and across the Park, but I persevered. After days sitting at the laptop, I needed the exercise.

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Gusts of wind billowed past, pushing a thick blanket of clouds across the winter sky. But it was warm. What a treat–the feel of cycling through the park in this delightful weather (despite rough paving on the cycle lanes, which appear to be under renovation). I felt a deep sense of joy while approaching the formal gates, to be greeted by the cheerful security officers who quickly found my name on their list. The magic of the evening was reinforced by this delightful setting–the Ambassador’s residence was aglow under a dramatic sky.

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The US Ambassador’s Residence is architecturally impressive.

I arrived in time to grab a canapé and a glass of wine before finding a seat. My face, flushed with energy, glowed brightly. The crowd filled three rooms, and so I observed through two different sets of doors. What ensued was delightfully informative. The dialogue was well worth the haul!

The speaker, US astronaut Shane Kimbrough, has the rare distinction of having served aboard BOTH the Space Shuttle AND the International Space Station. Once, he was in orbit for a full six months. That mission had been planned for four and a half months. Near the end, he received word that his stay was extended another six weeks.

Such interesting stories! He told of a mission he was on that launched from Russia, of bringing a soccer ball from a Challenger astronaut into space. He said during a spacewalk, you’re essentially in your own little one-person space capsule. He brought the experience of being-in-space alife for us all. img_2139-1

For more on NASA Astronaut and Former Commander of the International Space Station Shane Kimbrough see his webpage.

Shane shared amazing photos of his adventures and talked of cultural exchange, including multiple Thanksgivings spent in space. He described one year where the multi-national group aboard the Space Station celebrated our Christmas (December 25) as well as Russian Christmas (January 7).

He was also on a mission touted as “Home Improvement” since their team delivered and installed new kitchens, bathrooms, technical and exercise equipment and the like. Shane seemed so young and vibrant, yet he’s done all this. And what a remarkably humble guy he seemed to be!

Something he described will stick with me: he emphasized the fragility and beauty of the thin layer of atmosphere that protects, and indeed enables, life on our planet.

Of course, I ‘know about’ the ozone layer. My mom taught me to protect it since I was a kid. But I had never internalized the magic of this layer.  Although I knew about it intellectually, I had trouble ‘feeling’ it.

The scale is immense and the set of variables inconceivably complex. I have always had trouble wrapping my head around the idea of climate change. Shane made it palpable.

With a few words from Shane Kimbrough, I realized I’ve really only been looking up and out. From the International Space Station, he’d been outside, looking in. There, he adopted a more holistic view. He articulated it beautifully.

I’d been looking at all this from our human center, and been rightfully concerned. This astronaut helped me ‘see’ another way, but this also increased my concern. We must do more. I now have a better sense of awe of the beauty, vulnerability, and fragility of this thin veil.

img_2196-1On a night like yester–looking up, looking out–I saw the clouds rolling past. The jet stream pushing them along bound from the Atlantic along toward Scandinavia. img_2212-1

Heading home, I saw clouds. The stars were masked by plumes of water droplets suspended in air. Thick blankets of billowy, puffy clouds–holding us together–keeping us safe.

En route, I was inspired to wander the plaza and soak in the festive holiday lights. Then, I stepped in to see friends at my favorite local pub, the Cobblestone. Inside this pub, I feel love. Love of music and life-long friendships among musicians. I am always treated like family here.

Returning home, I fell into dreams of stars, with a new and deeper sense of awe for this planet we call home.

img_2218I awoke this morning to the ominous political news of Brexit, the pending collapse of the UK government, and then Teresa May’s resignation.

There was a different sort of sky, the sort of rays my friend Glen calls ‘God light’. Dear God, please let this light show us the importance of the atmosphere and of each other. Let it lead us to make better decisions.

Bread Board Games—DIT’s Electronics Workshops in Wexford

What a great weekend in Ireland, teaching four electronic engineering workshops for kids, mostly 6-8 years old, in Bunclody and Enniscorthy. I love working with the kids, and it’s always fun having a weekend outing with my friends from DIT.

DIT lecturer Frank Duignan invented the small hand held video games and instructions for helping kids assemble their own. Retired DIT lecturer Charlie Pritchard worked with local librarians to schedule these two dates, plus three more dates for workshops to be held around Wexford. Charlie also secured funding and ordered the parts from hither and yon. Then Frank and his son Sam prepared the parts. And the day before we set out for Bunclody, I helped Frank assemble the kits in our project room at DIT.

The photo gallery below shows three days of our adventure. You’ll see Frank and me assembling kits, and then sights I saw along the way from my home to the sunny southeastern corner of Ireland. You’ll see our two Friday workshops in Bunclody, our team dinner at the Pritchards’ home, and the village where my overnight hosts, the Hays, live. You’ll see some of the sights I got to take in with retired DIT lecturer Richard Hays, before Saturday’s events, and some lively fun we had between workshop sessions.

Mostly you’ll see young kids happily learning new skills, building their own video games, and operating their little devices with glee. You’ll see a bunch of teachers excited about what they do, and librarians dedicated to supporting them. You’ll see two secondary students, Oran and Sam (who were also there helping lead our booth at Dublin Maker just a few weeks ago), donating yet another day to teaching kids electronics.

I’m so lucky to know these folks–Frank, Richard, Charlie, Oran, Sam, Edith, and Geraldine–and get to help them give kids a taste of engineering. The kids’ joy when the screen lights up is worth it all. These kids’ focus and attention to detail in assembly pays off when the Bread Board Games spring to life.

Do-it-yourself punch cards and other amazing feats: DIT’s Paper Programming booth at Dublin Maker 2018

img_5842With the annual Dublin Maker fair on July 21st, DIT’s RoboSlam group of volunteer staff and students headed to Marrion Square for an action-packed Saturday. After four years of teaching visitors to Dublin Maker about build robots, we shifted focus to activities that could engage even more people at a time.

My clever colleagues in DIT’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering designed a booth on the theme of “Paper Programming” to teach the history and theory of using paper to program computerized gadgets that date back to the industrial loom for weaving fabric and the computer punch card.

img_5850The set of photo galleries below shows my weekend activities helping run this booth at Dublin Maker 2018. You’ll learn about and see photos of:

  • Getting to the fair
  • Setting up our booth
  • History of Paper Programming
  • Visiting other exhibits
  • Our activities
    • Fraktalismus
    • Scan2 Tweet
    • isitpop.art
    • Music Box
  • Time enough left for a relaxing Sunday!

Getting to the fair

My trip from London to the fair included a trip to London City Airport via the Docklands Light Rail on Friday. Exploring the city center of Dublin, I discovered a number of welcome changes. Namely, a second bike rental scheme has entered the city! This scheme requires locking the rental bike to a bike rack but doesn’t require using a docking stating like Dublin Bikes (of which I’m a member and enjoyed using twice this weekend). I also observed a slight increase in the use of the electric-car-charging stations. As I didn’t want to disturb my flat-mates, I dined out at Porto while reviewing calls for conference papers, and then took in a film about Oscar Wilde at the IFI. The next morning I woke early for my cycle ride to Marrion Square.

Setting up our booth

The team arrived an hour an a half before the official opening of the event, to get everything up and running. As every single activity we offered was brand new and designed for this event, we had some tweaking to do! The two main developers–Ted Burke and Frank Duignan–did an amazing job, and that enabled the rest of the crew to set up the activities. We learned a lot and had many successes at this event, and we will expand and continue to develop these activities for use in the future.

History of Paper Programming

Damon Berry and I served as the welcoming committee, of sorts–greeting people and providing introduction and background. Damon discussed the history of programming with paper, as described in the poster pictured below.

Visiting other exhibits

Before things got rolling, and on the way to pick up a lunch box, I got to visit other booths, check out the incredibly wide range of learning events, and make a few things myself.

Fraktalismus

For Fraktalismus, each participant drew one or two small sketches. Then a group of recent DIT graduates would capture the sketched image(s) and import them into a laptop.

The laptop was running a program developed by Dr. Ted Burke that applied a mathematical equation that would repeat the image in a fractal pattern. The participant could then use our computer mouse to adjust the “z” value in the equation–to flip through various iterations of the equation. The equation is included in an image below.

After selecting one fractal as the favorite pattern, the participant would then select a favored color combination. The DIT folks would print the image on glossy cardstock and provide the participant with it and an envelope to take home.

The results were artistic and consistently stunning! People of all ages got involved. I loved making my own greeting card using fractal geometry along with my hand-made sketch of a beloved fragment of London’s skyline.

Scan2 Tweet

in Scan2 Tweet, the participant used a barcode sheet with a hand scanner. Each barcode corresponded to one letter or keyboard character (space, delete, enter, for example). By scanning barcodes from this sheet, the participant could compose a short message and “Tweet” it from our group’s Twitter account. DIT’s Shane Ormonde ran this activity.

isitpop.art

Ted managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat at the last minute, getting his design-it-yourself video game programme up and running that he calls “isitpop.art”. Participants could input their own drawing to use as an icon in the game, and control the background to be an image of their choice (such as their own photo, or a video clip from the internet).

Music Box

In the Music Box activity, designed by Frank Duignan, participants received a sheet of paper with a grid for plotting musical tones in sequence. They were given a quick briefing on how the technology worked—they would color one square per row with a black marker. When this colored square passed its corresponding color sensor, a note would play. Thus, participants with knowledge of music theory were able to predict or orchestrate the sequence of notes to play a tune.

The piece of paper was attached to a drum (in this case a large drink bottle) and spun on its axis. This allowed the grided paper to pass across the set of color sensors, one row after another. A tennis ball was used to hold the bottom of the bottle in the correct place (effectively weighing it down).

We tried to use a similar system to run four small motors to operate a small robotic arm and its claw, and I suspect we will see this up and running in subsequent later events. Watching the teamwork on this activity gave a sense of what it’s like to work as an engineer, working to troubleshoot and address problems that arise with the parts.

I really enjoyed this activity and enjoyed hearing the short tunes that participants created.

Time enough left for a relaxing Sunday!

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, I hailed a cab for Dublin Airport. Landing at Gatwick, I grabbed breakfast to go and headed to the train platform. When the next train to Brighton pulled into the station, Aongus popped out to welcome me aboard for the half hour trip to the southern coast of Britain.

We spent the day on Brighton Beach, with lunch in the town and a visit to Brighton Pier before enjoying a peaceful 1.75-hour trip back by train to our place in Mile End.