Category: Teaching/Learning


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:

 

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ASIBEI member countries.

Last week I plunged into the warm, sunny weather of Portugal. I’d been invited to present about interactions between higher education and the business sector, at an ASIBEI conference. The president’s office of Instituto Politécnico de Setúbal invited me and sponsored my attendance at the conference.

ASIBEI is the Ibero-American Association of Engineering Teaching Institutions. It involves the Portuguese and Spanish-speaking world. The organization’s “official languages ​​are Spanish and Portuguese, which can be used interchangeably” in all meetings. I was the linguistic outsider, requiring  my own translator. I was also the only person to present in English; I spoke slowly and the audience followed along enthusiastically.

With the support of my Head of School, I arrived a couple days early to meet with colleagues about research projects and grant proposals. On Monday before the conference, I met with lecturers and researchers from Instituto Superior Técnico, as picuted below:

 

Later that day, I met with Dr. Bill Williams. Bill has been working with me on gender in engineering research studies. He has published conference papers with me and has also been working with me as co-editors of a special focus IEEE issue. Here’s a photo of Bill during the ASIBEI conference, where he moderated a panel session:

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Dr. Bill Williams is seated in the middle, moderating a panel discussion at the ASIBEI conference.

On Tuesday morning, I traveled from Lisbon to Cascais to meet with the Chair of the Ireland Portugal Business Network, who provided a great deal of support for a grant proposal I submitted this past January. After meeting with him, I got to spend a couple hours on the beach in this resort town where he and his family live. They escaped the cold weather of Ireland for sunnier skies. I loved these sunny skies and I rented a lounge chair and umbrella for the afternoon on the small but beautiful “Queen’s Beach” of Cascais.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I joined the ASIBEI conference for work sessions, panel discussions, a visit to Setúbal’s city hall, and a tour of the Lauak factory that produces parts for Airbus, Honeywell, and many other well known companies. I was fascinated to learn about the production of the airplane parts, since my dad and I have done our fair share of airplane construction in the past.

I made a presentation on “The Business of Higher Ed: Research Skills for a Prosperous Future” that you can view on Prezi. Aiming to provide the audience with useful knowledge that would interest them and help them in the future, I discussed the intention of Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions. I described two different MSCA programs that support researchers and help equip them to work with and within industry.

I had to hurry back to Dublin immediately following my panel presentation, to participate in our School’s program review Friday. The discussions with our evaluation panel were valuable and interesting, making the mid-night trip back to Ireland worthwhile.

Here are photos of the panel sessions:

And photos of the reception at City Hall:

Photos from the factory tour:

While in portugal, I also had a chance to visit the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, the new MAAT (Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia), and the Tejo Power Station museum (a former thermoelectric power plant that once supplied power to Lisbon and its surrounding region). See my next post for more images of the beautiful sites in and around Lisbon.

Did you know that you could get full funding to complete a PhD in a foreign country?

The website FindAPhD.com might help you locate one in your area of interest. For my many of my friends that would be education or architecture and built environment.

You can also search on EURAXESS Jobs to find jobs and fellowships, which can include funding to complete PhDs.

Learning to train new and upcoming researchers, I recently welcomed an intern from the States. Allison “Allie” Wagner has been here at DIT since the start of January, as part of the Masters in Higher Education Administration she is completing at the Central Michigan University. She is working with me for a total of two months.

In her time here, Allie is learning about how we manage programs at DIT and what it is like for students to live and study here. She is also doing a research project with me. We have conducted phenomenological interviews with five female students from the Middle East, and we hope to interview 2-3 more. This adds a “longitudinal” component to my prior research, since I interviewed all five of these women two years ago. Allie and I are following up to see what new expediences these women have had and how things have changed for them.

Overall, we want to produce a journal article with findings to help teachers do a better job in supporting international students — and particularly Muslim women studying engineering in Western contexts.

 


 

 

I’ve been in Brussels this week, evaluating grant proposals for the European Commission’s Research Executive Agency (REA). It’s the second time I’ve worked for the EU in this capacity–the first was during last fall’s lockdown in Brussels. This year’s event was much more pleasant, and we got to make our deliberations face-to-face, rather than using the Internet.

In my book, it’s important work. We’re determining which proposals will be funded and which research projects will proceed. Specifically, this week, we’re considering which PhD programs the EU will be co-financing. For successful applicants, the EU will pay a significant portion of the costs to hire early stage researchers to travel to another country in the EU to do their doctoral studies.

An intriguing aspect of the week has been being called “expert” everywhere I turn as I arrive at work in Covent Gardens every morning. I’m enjoying the novelty, although the sights have been the same day after day. The rooms in Covent Garden are very comfortable, in any case, and the other experts on the panel are friendly, knowledgeable, and polite. It’s been a great experience and I’ve gotten to learn a lot.

 

 

 

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After the lecture at KTH, with two librarians and two architecture profs, including my former classmate from Virginia Tech, Eric Stenberg.

Professor Jonte Burnhard invited me to KTH in Stockholm to deliver a guest lecture on what we–as education specialists, architecture educators, and researchers of engineering education–can learn from each other and from the pedagogical models used to teach architecture. Jonte had read a recent article, “Using Architecture Design Studio Pedagogies to Enhance Engineering Education,” that I’d published along with John Marshall and Gavin Duffy in IJEE. You can access the article at: http://arrow.dit.ie/engscheleart2/102)

The learning and teaching center at KTH hosts this type of lecture/workshop every couple weeks, to get the institution’s staff thinking about and discussing good ways to teach. In addition to classroom educators, quite a few of KTH’s librarians also attended the event, as well.

While at KTH, I enjoyed a dozen small-group discussions on pedagogical topics, toured the brand new architecture building, and caught up with a former classmate, Eric Stenberg,  from Virginia Tech’s architecture program. I’m hoping to visit KTH again soon, since we have so many overlapping interests.

I stayed though the weekend, before heading to Brussels on Sunday evening, and I’ve attached photos of the Christmas sights.

As a young researcher, Don McClure lived in my Dublin flat while he was collecting data for his PhD. Now that he’s finished his project, and earned his doctoral degree, he’s working as an Assistant Professor at St. John’s University in New York.

Recently, Dr. McClure was selected to present his findings at a conference held at the School of Education at Maynooth University.   Today was the big day, so Aongus and I headed out to the institution bright and early to hear Don speak.

Both presentations in his session were superb, and afterward we had a chance to chat with Don over coffee.

As Don headed back to his sessions, Aongus and I went out into the day, to explore the campus.

Turns out, it was graduation day and the chapel was open to the public. What an amazing site!

I realized immediately that this was a significant design. Turns out, indeed one of a kind. The University’s website states:

Built between 1875 and 1891, this Chapel has 454 carved stalls, making it the largest of its kind in the world. 

The place reminded me of the wooden theater in Parma, with a Hogwarts sort of mystique. What a treasure!

The webpage is well worth a read.

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!

 Catherine Simpson is here at DIT tonight describing the research she does as a Forensic Engineer. You can also call her an expert in thermal modeling and a Building Services Engineer.

She can make digital models of buildings and predict their future energy performance. She can also go into a functioning building to identify, analyze, and rectify errors in thermal performance. She says that very often, buildings do not end up performing the way experts predicted. These are skills she uses:

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Catherine says Forensic Engineers must avoid using clues as if they were actual evidence (of the problem and its causes). These are clues: complaints, anecdotes, consultant reports, BMS data, ad hoc solutions, staff theories, and staff observations. On the other hand, these are useful forms of evidence:

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Catherine models problems digitally and physically. She also develops theories that she can combine to test her theories:

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Catherine gave an example of a shopping mall that had a very windy atrium and a very steep heating bill. No one could identify the causes of these problems. But after six years experiencing these problems, the owners called her in.

With careful analysis of data she collected (using dozens of different routes, including studying air flow by blowing bubbles in crowded spaces where smoke tests couldn’t be used) she identified a number of problems. One was a poorly placed rotisserie oven that was triggering vents to open. Another problem was that the building controls “thought” the building’s vents were completely closed when many were only partially closed.

Catherine devised a £50k solution to closing the vents in winter that is saving the owner £60k every month, in heat alone. There were reduced wind drafts and reduced tenant complaints. She says it saved about £500k in capital and restored people’s confidence in the facility.

Here’s one tool she uses to measure air speed:

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She also uses thermal imaging to study air infiltration, like so:

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We use this kind of technology in our Energy Cube project. This is a picture from that class last week:


Catherine’s work involves fixing problems and also providing expert witness testimony. Forensic engineering seems fascinating! Catherine is a veritable Nancy Drew.

Forensic engineering, she says, is like a jigsaw. You’re given clues, you find evidence, simulation gives context, you test theories, and ultimately prove a solution. She obviously loves her job!

Philosophy symposium 1

Philosophers sometimes use primary documents in ways not much different from the historians I mentioned in my previous blog. According to Yale:

Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later. Primary sources are characterized by their content, regardless of whether they are available in original format, in microfilm/microfiche, in digital format, or in published format.

For historians, primary documents include photographs, letters, news clippings and the like. For philosophers, I’d say they could include original texts where an idea first appeared in written form. As a social science researcher, I myself am collecting audio-taped testimonies of female students who have first-hand experience of first-year engineering education. All three of these examples–philosophy, history, and social science research–involve high levels of interpretation of documents, ideas, and stories contributed by others.

Whereas my historian friend, Cecilia Hartsell, is investigating phenomena that include both the 1916 Uprising as well as the return of soldiers from WWI, my colleagues in philosophy spent a recent weekend discussing the phenomena of intentionality and normativity. These historians and philosophers seek to understand the context of events and ideas arising in the past, and what the authors of various documents meant at the time they spoke, or wrote.

 

february-workshopI joined a group of philosophers for a February 19-20, 2016 seminar that explored various aspects of phenomenology. The event was hosted by the School of Philosophy at the University College of Dublin but held at Newman House, on Saint Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Attending the seminar, I learned much more about phenomenology. I also learned more about the way philosophers think, study, generate new knowledge and new understandings, communicate with each other, test ideas, and seek to uncover the complex meanings embedded in writings by philosophers throughout the ages.

I am indebted to Prof. Dermot Moran and Dr. Elisa Magrì for inviting the public to their event so that I could attend, and to DIT’s new PhD student, Diana Adela Martin, for notifying me about the event.

Much of the discussion focused on phenomenology, which is both a philosophy and a social science research methodology. I’m currently using the methodology to study women’s experiences of STEM education, and will submit later this week a manuscript on another phenomenological research study of teachers’ experiences working together to implement Problem-Based Learning at Dublin Institute of Technology.

Related to experience, I must admit that visiting Newman House was an exquisite one. In this house, John Henry Newman founded University College Dublin (originally called the Catholic University of Ireland). I believe that he later became a cardinal and was beatified by the Catholic Church, despite the fact that his views did not always match the official sanctioned interpretations of the Church. Today, one can visit Newman Houses on campuses world wide, like the one I attended while a student at Virginia Tech. I’ve attached photos of the formal entry hall at UCD’s Newman House, for your enjoyment. I got so caught up in discussions at each coffee break that I never made it all the way to the lovely formal garden behind the house. Maybe next time!

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