Hands-on Robotics for Women’s Day

My colleagues who conducted the robotics workshop across town from mine last Friday sent photos of their RoboSlam. I’ve attached photos of the workshop held at Grangegoremen, now known as TU Dublin city campus. In all, we had 13 facilitators and over 40 participants join us for electronics workshops to celebrate International Women’s Day 2019.

The events were organized by TU Dublin’s office of civic engagement, and their staff provided these photos.

Celebrating International Women’s Day Building Arcade Games in Dublin

In Dublin last week, to conduct interviews with architecture and civil engineering students on their conceptualizations of design creation, I took an afternoon away to help teach girls from St. Bridig’s in the Coombe to build small hand-held video games. This was part of International Women’s Day 2019. It was one of two workshops our TU Dublin RoboSlam team conducted.

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Frank Duignan (far left), his two sons Sam and Oran, Shane Ormond (far right) and I all helped coach the students.

The workshop I helped conduct was the beautiful and newly-renovated Kevin Street public library (see photo gallery below). We had about 20 students and a handful of teachers there to build their first electronic devices. The game’s design was created by TU Dublin’s own Frank Duignan.

The students from St. Bridig’s were great–so focused and so very polite. They finished their breadboard gadgets in no time and had a chance to pay the games Frank had programmed in.

Thanks to TU Dublin’s Civic Engagement Office and St. Bridig’s of the Coombe for helping our RoboSlam crew get this experience to the students. The teachers posted a blog on their school site.

 

Interested in a new job or fellowship in engineering education research (EER)?

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Shannon Chance and Abel Nyamapfene about engineering education research (EER) at UCL.

If you are interested in finding a new job or fellowship in engineering education research (EER) then please visit the EER Jobs & Opportunities page I’m hosing on this blog. I update it regularly as I become aware of new jobs, grants, conferences, and learning opportunities.

For instance: If you want to get more involved with engineering education research (EER), I recommend consulting the following sites. The sites can link you to all sorts of EER jobs, grants, fellowship, and funding calls. I’ve created this page for people who would like to work in the field of, or study how to do, EER.

I’m also sharing notifications I receive about EER funded Ph.D. fellowships and upcoming conferences that I learn about via emails or conferences.

Today the I’ve posted:

Select news from the February newsletter of the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI):

go to the ERR Jobs & Opportunities tab to learn more!


 

Irish Trad: Traditional Irish Music on Internet Radio

Photo taken while visiting Kevin Donleavy in December 2012, during my Fulbright Fellowship to Ireland, but visiting Virginia for Christmas. 

A friend of mine in Virginia delivers a radio program of traditional Irish music. Tune in 3-5 pm Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) on Saturday, March 2. That’s 10-12 EST to hear Kevin Donleavy’s show!

Learn more about Kevin and how I met him here, about a past show here, and about our dear, departed friend Jerry Crilly here.

A chairde and pals, howreya,

Yes,  time for Irish traditional music on-line again.  The date is this Saturday, March 2,  and the program will be broadcast from 10 am till 12 noon as always. Or 3-5 pm that day in Ireland.  You need visit WTJU.net on the Web,  and then click on the Launch button. Your host, Kevin Donleavy of the O’Neill-Malcom branch of Comhaltas.  So do mark your calendar.
Here are some highlights from the upcoming show :  A couple of selections from the Sweets of May collection of music from South Armagh.  Liam Weldon singing the tremendously touching song, ” Where Is Our James Connolly ?”
Tunes from such fiddlers as Ciaran Tourish and Oisin MacDiarmada and the powerful Mick Conneely.  Lovely uilleann piping from Christopher McMullan’s new compact disc. Two songs from the woman’s band Girsa: “I Courted a Wee Girl,”  and “Mary and the Soldier.”  Cuts from the traditional groups Danu and Teada.  A political song or two, of course.  A seldom played reel called “The Nine Points of Roguery,”  played by the fine Sean Norman Ceili Band.  And more ….
This Saturday, time to wet the tea, roll back the carpet,  and get cracking!  Mi daza!
Kevin

Learning London: Enchanting Holland Park and Victorian House Museum

A couple of weekends ago, we visited Holland Park on both Saturday and Sunday. There was too much to see in the area for just one go. We had to spread it out. In fact, we’d also visited a weekend prior, bringing our 2019 total to three days.

In this blog, I’ll show you around the park and give you a peek inside one of the nearby Victorian house museums, 18 Stafford Terrace.

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On all three of our recent our visits to Holland Park, we were en route to the Design Museum. 

Walking Cards

In addition to using the handy walking cards pictures below, I also referenced my guidebooks and the internet to sketch out our trips.

Kyoto Japanese Garden

These beautifully designed and cultivated gardens boast a waterfall and a pride of peacocks.

Holland House

This house was greatly destroyed during the Second World War, but part of it lives on to delight the park’s visitors.

Belvedere Restaurant

There’s a lovely, posh restaurant in the park. We had a splurge.

18 Stafford Terrace

This is one of two Victorian house museums near Holland Park and the Design Museum. This one, on Stafford Terrace which runs parallel to Kensington Hight Street, was once home to an illustrator for Punch magazine, Edward L. Sambourne. It’s a lovely house filled with his artwork. It’s a delight to see how the stately homes on this terrace are laid out and lived in. This one is furnished in the “Aesthetic Movement.”

Learning London: Birthday Celebrations with Weekend Excursion to Oxford

Last week at UCL’s Engineering Front Office we celebrated birthdays, for my colleague Inês, and for me as well. A group of us had lunch out together on Wednesday and we also enjoyed lunch in the office together on several other days of the week.

It’s really not so bad getting old when you’re surrounded by loving friends! Even if they keep rubbing in my nearly-senior status….

At the end of the day, Friday, Aongus and I darted out of the city for a weekend away in historic and picturesque Oxford. This blog post recounts these birthday adventures using pictures.

Birthday Lunch at Sagar

On Wednesday, a group of us enjoyed a south-Indian lunch together at Sagar, which our lovely colleague, Sital Thanki, has introduced us to. In addition to a few photos of the birthday lunch, I show below some of the many kind cards and gifts I received from colleagues, friends, and family. The packages, calls from parents, and online messages I received from friends via Facebook and LinkedIn were also heartwarming.

Weekend in Oxford

As a birthday present, Aongus booked a weekend away in Oxford. We left London after work on Friday by bus (cheaper than the train, but with its own unique pitfalls). Overall, we enjoyed two nights in one of the world’s loveliest university cities before re-boarding a bus back to London.

Exploring the City

We ventured out briefly for dinner on Friday but focused on resting up for Saturday.

On Saturday morning, we wandered through the city fairly aimlessly. We wanted to see the high street areas, visit some of the shops, and get a feel for the University of Oxford.

Natural History Museum

On Saturday afternoon, we visited Oxford’s museum for Natural History, which I’d read about in one of Bill Bryson’s books. In addition to the exhibits on dinosaurs, mammals, birds, and insects, we also took in the special exhibit on bacteria. I’d need an extensive blog to tell you what I learned about bacteria, and I held off posting all the photos I took. But you’d be surprised to learn how bacteria created oxygen, photosynthesis, and cell-splitting that enabled human life to form.

Really amazing stuff!

Visiting this museum, you see the huge value that researchers add to our knowledge of everything in the physical world. Curious minds want to know! And many of these curious-minded people become life-long researchers–exploring the world to find answers to questions we didn’t even know we had, as well as questions we knew!

History of Science Museum

We narrowly missed the departure of the morning “Footprints” tour on Sunday, but we booked in for a later tour and headed into the History of Science Museum, originally a stockpile of curiosities, and now spread across three floors. My favorite parts covered sundials, photography, and penicillin–crucial research on penicillin was done at Oxford. Also fun were the measuring devices, calculating machines, and astronomical gadgets. Again, thank goodness for curious minds, figuring all this stuff out over time!

Blackwells Bookstore

To escape the cold–and take a little rest between the science museum and the planned walking tour–we stepped inside Blackwell’s Bookstore. A mindboggling collection indeed! It’s multiple floors and the basement sprawls far under Trinity College. Incidentally, at Oxford, the colleges are residential–they are where the students live, eat and sleep. Every student belongs to a college, and every student studies in a department.

Thankfully, Blackwell’s also features a coffee shop, which is optimal for a welcome and well-deserved rest.

Footprints Tour of Oxford

The Footprints company offers free walking tours as well as paid ones. To ensure we were part of a small group and could enter some Oxford sites where there are entry fees, I purchased tickets for the two-hour walking tour at £15 each. Although the plan seemed ideal, the weather turned ugly. Just before the tour started it got very cold, and shortly after the start, hail pounded down. The tour guide had to skip the first two sites and run straight into a library. Aongus was frozen solid by the tour’s end.

Divinity School

The large hall with its ornately carved stone ceiling at the Divinity School is featured in all sorts of films–from Harry Potter to the recent Mary Queen of Scots and The Favourite. Our tour guide brought us inside for a stop off–and I was thrilled to see this space.

New College: squares, dining hall, chapel and cloister

Of the 38 colleges at Oxford, we peeked inside only a few–they have entrance fees, and what you are permitted to see varies from one to the next. I wasn’t sure how to manage all that without insider knowledge, so we hired a guide! There were only ten of us in the tour group.

Our tour guide brought us to her favorite, the New College. You’ll likely recognize the dining hall, which is featured in movies. Of note, the cloister and the tree in it appeared in Harry Potter, but the dining hall used in that series of films was custom built, a near replica of a hall on campus that has only three actual long tables for the students. As Hogwarts had four schools, they made the studio version a bit wider to accommodate the extra row. Most college dining halls at Oxford also have a high table where the privileged sit and eat superior food.

The chapel in the New College is exquisite, and we heard a bit of organ practice while seated in there. Many colleges destroyed their historic old chapels and replaced them with more modern ones. What a waste. This Gothic one is stellar, though the ornate end wall was a somewhat recent addition.

Bodleian Library

Perhaps the most iconic building at Oxford is the round Bodleian Library, a reading room for students. Turns out, a cylinder isn’t quite conducive to storing books. It’s better for studying, we hope!

Overall, Oxford has a massive collection of books. This library is second only in size to the British Library (a copy of everything published in the UK goes there, similar to the Library of Congress in the USA, which is the world’s largest library collection). Like these other two libraries, you can view books only on-site here–it’s not a lending library.

Famous Folks

Oxford provided inspiration for C. S. Lewis’ Narnia and Tolkien’s Hobbits. Although I must admit I know little of Harry Potter, I did read some Hobbit stories and all of The Chronicles of Narnia.

Near the end of our tour, we saw the door that inspired Lewis’ lion, witch, and wardrobe. We also saw the Oxford lamp post he made famous.

We also learned about some very destructive and badly behaved boys who attended Oxford (David Cameron, Boris Johnson, and their political cronies). We learned about others who misbehaved in the town less aggressively (Bill Clinton) and we learned of people burned for political crimes on Broad Street, where our tour had started.

Look for the Footprints office there on Broad Street, near the shop Boswells of Oxford. Pick up some new luggage and an Ameribag while you’re there! It will take your mind off the stories of deviant behavior.

Learning London: At the lovely Bethnal Green library

img_5776Aongus and I stopped by the public library in Bethnal Green over the weekend since I wanted to show him its glorious architecture. It’s in the park we traverse en route to the Central Line Tube Station. The woodwork and the natural lighting in the reading rooms are superb.

And since Aongus selected a new thriller from the shelf, it freed the copy of “Brooklyn” he was carrying along in his bag. I dug it out of his bag on the Tube and read much of it in the course of over our weekend adventures. Granted, I normally read non-fiction since it’s much less addictive. Once I get started with a novel, I can’t put it down.

img_6125As such, I’m nearly finished reading the novel now. It is, as you probably recall from the contemporary motion picture by the same name, about a young Irish woman who boldly moves, alone, across the Atlantic to start a new life. I empathize with her experiences and I recognize many of the places she describes–both in Brooklyn and around Enniscorthy town and county Wexford, her original home. I’ve enjoyed both the book and the feature film but have learned more about Ireland form the book.

Aongus borrowed the paperback of “Brooklyn” from the Idea Store in Whitechapel–a modern edifice but also lovely. It was designed by architect Sir David Adjaye, who we learned much more about later in the weekend while visiting the Desing Museum. More on his exhibition in a future blog!

In any case, Aongus and I are very lucky to live near great libraries here in London!

Learning London: How office trivia aboard a double-deck tour landed me “The Language of Cities”

I’ve been spell bound all day by Dayan Sudjic’s 2016 book, “The Language of Cities.” I purchased the book after work yesterday to keep my knowledge of city-building fresh and up-to-date. I made that find at Waterstones, across the street from my office in Bloomsbury, and sealed the deal with a £10 gift card I won at Christmas.

In the past 24 hours, I’ve devoured every last page.

img_3672The Faculty if Engineering held a team-building event for Christmas, aboard a private double-decker bus that toured around the city of London. I got to know other members of our faculty as I sat with three people I didn’t previously know. Our table of four formed a team for the trivia contest, developed by our Dean’s personal assistant, the marvelous Maria Speight. Maria invented all the questions, having to do mostly with the sights we were passing. Excelling in this game required in-depth knowledge of the history of this fine city, which dates back to Roman times.

My team was fiercely competitive, and the two Brits in our team knew quite a lot about their city. I worried I couldn’t contribute; but I actually was able to help out.

I earned us a whopping nine points by knowing the name of every reindeer! In the end, there was a three-way tie. It took several rounds to break, but in the final round, I knew the winning answer. I had learned the population of London via my multiple visits to the city’s Building Centre. At the time the video at the Centre was made, there were about 8.8 million inhabitants. I extrapolated to today, guessing a current 8.9 mil, whereas Maria had an official count of 8.79…. Nevertheless, our answer was the closest and we won the top prize: Waterstones gift cards for our whole team!

What a great way to spend a day before Christmas, on a sunset tour of a glorious city, surrounded by passionate people who love their work in academia. I am truly blessed!

And now, I’ve soaked in every detail of Dayan Sudjic’s “The Language of Cities.”

The book calls me back to my days teaching “urban history and theory” to third-year architecture students at Hampton University, a module we provided students prior to their summer study abroad.

img_3706Sudjic’s book is full of insight, making fascinating new connections, so the synapses in my brain have been firing furiously today! Sudjic makes plenty of reference to the history and operation of London as well as cities around the world, and I am connecting the principles to places I’ve been.

Sincere thanks to the Dean and Faculty of Engineering at UCL and Ms. Maria Speight for helping get this book into my hands so I can learn more about the city we toured by double-deck bus!

The photo gallery below shows the bus-tour day as well as an informal night out for Christmas with engineering colleagues.

A Public Service Announcement to reduce colds this winter

In the interest of public health, I’m posting a blog to ask, beg, and plead that when you’re sick you STAY AT HOME.

There’s more than one way to tell a story. With a dozen possibilities, I’ve decided to present two. How would you tell this one? What do you make of it all? What would you do?

Empathetic to the carrier

Imagine you’d come to work on a Friday, feeling a bit, ill but coughing and sneezing so violently by the time you arrived at your desk that you couldn’t even settle in right away. You had to leave the office to compose yourself and find some tissues. You trudged through work all day because you were up against deadlines. “Maybe I should have stayed home,” you think, “but I’ve too much to do.” Unfortunately, your desk is adjacent to 23 others in a large open plan, and two colleagues are seated directly in front of you working diligently away. Their jobs don’t permit quite as much work-from-home as yours. They say nothing. On the other hand, another colleague who sits behind you gets up and moves. She’s now sitting in her team leader’s glass-enclosed office right beside your own desk. You see she’s bundled up in a winter coat and gloves—maybe the heat isn’t working in there. “Wonder why she moved in there when it’s cold?” By the end of the day, you decide to make a similar move, as there’s no one in the office’s large, shared conference room. You work in this big room for a couple hours and then you head out, happy to welcome the weekend. By Monday, you’re feeling quite a bit better, and completely fine to head to work.

Empathetic to the victims

I recently witnessed an appalling situation where a colleague came to work in a large open-plan office. Fortunately, only five other people were working in the open-plan portion of the office that day. Also, fortunately, at this university and in this faculty office, we are all very welcome to work from home.

693fe992-78ad-4ab9-a508-2d2cbeec7624-1By the late afternoon, the sick one had moved into a conference room to work, but it was too late.

Unfortunately, within days, the two who face that colleague were very sick.

Why were my colleagues willing to submit themselves to these germs? It appears they didn’t want to seem impolite. (Very British, I think, and not the best choice in this case, in my opinion.)

Now it’s over two weeks later, and one of them is still out of work. The other is clearly struggling to recover and to make it through each day.

Early that day, I had closed myself off in a glass-enclosed room, where I worked with coat and gloves to avoid the flying germs. By some miracle, I escaped unharmed.

I’m not as reservedly polite as my colleagues, but, in this instance, I also did not go against cultural norms here to say, “WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU THINKING?!?” Back in the USA, I surely would. And, as an architect, I’m comfortable openly critiquing the situation. I don’t want to go hunting around or making passive-aggressive gestures.

So, while I can’t change the past, just maybe I can help make other people’s future healthier.

To help others, I’m saying it loud and clear here:

Please, please don’t let this happen to others. Don’t expose colleagues and students to your infections and germs.

This is true everywhere, but is incredibly important in very densely populated areas, like London.

Learning London: Enjoying the (bus/fellowship/research) Journey

img_5651When you’re supervising a Ph.D. student, s/he usually comes to you for meetings. In my case, however, I travel over to LSBU twice a month to meet with my supervisee, Thomas, and his primary supervisor, Professor Shushma Patel. I’m doing this for several reasons:

  • It helps ensure Thomas gets effective advice that coincides. That helps since Thomas’ work and his conceptual thinking are very complex and we can work together to make sure all the parts fit together coherently.
  •  As part of my Marie Curie Fellowship, I’m also in training myself. As part of Work Package 4, Training, I’m supervising Thomas. This is an excellent way to build skills supervising students. Once Tomas successfully completes his Ph.D., I’ll be eligible to serve as a primary Ph.D. supervisor at TU Dublin and other institutions. This will surely make my applications for future funding more enticing to grantors, in cases where I’m proposing to “train” others in research.
  • In this case, I get to learn from Professor Patel, Thomas’ primary supervisor, who has impressive experience guiding doc students. I’m the second supervisor.
  • Meeting with Thomas and Shushma is loads of fun!

In advising Thomas, I get to draw from many aspects of my past experience–design creativity, environmental sustainability, engineering teamwork, and higher education (its organization and inner workings).

We usually spend about two hours in each meeting, as there are multiple facets to our work:

  • Most importantly, Thomas is writing a thesis (which in the United States we call a “dissertation”). It will include case studies of innovative engineering production. This is the central focus of our work.
  • Thomas is implementing his background research in designing and delivering The Great Challenge competition for the Design Museum, as I blogged about last week.
  • We’ve had an abstract accepted for a conference on product design education and we are developing it into a full paper, to submit in early March.

These meetings are delightful! We connect lots of synapses and we most definitely grow our brains while discussing complex inter-related issues.

img_5647-1The appetizer for the main-course meeting at LSBU each week is the trip there. I take a different route than I take to work daily and, on these days, I enjoy getting a bit of exercise. The fastest route to their campus is by way of the DLR, which is a 15-minute walk away from our flat

The cake-and-icing of the day? The double-decker-bus trip back to UCL! I love taking the London Bus from LSBU near Elephant and Castle, past Waterloo and the London Eye (the city’s giant Ferris wheel), across the Thames, over Strand Street, past Holburn Station and then straight north, through Bloomsbury, past Russel Square, to Tavistock Square. Then, it’s a short walk to the Engineering Front Building.

img_5672-1All parts of the journey are full of interesting sights!

Today on the big red bus, I got my very favorite seat–right above the bus driver, perched high above the street. The lovely sunlight today helped me overlook the bitter cold, and enticed me to snap even more photos than usual. You can see shots of the trip overall, with a frame-by-frame of some of my favorite areas.

I disembarked at Tavistock Square where a ceremony to commemorate Gandhi, held on the anniversary of his death, was concluding. The Square was magical and I felt Gandhi’s presence and the sense of peace he cherished–until I slipped on some black ice and nearly took a fall. Thankfully, I–or perhaps the spirit of Gandhi–caught me on the way down. I escaped injury.

img_5680Lessons of the day:

  • Completing a Ph.D. is a journey, best done with a collegial group of curious, knowledgeable, creative, and good-natured people.
  • A Fellowship also provides a gateway from the ordinary day-to-day routine and facilitates journey into the unknown.
  • There’s no better way to traverse the city on such a day than London Bus.
  • Seize the day and enjoy the journey. Make the very best of it you can.

AND:

BE THE CHANGE YOU HOPE TO SEE IN THE WORLD! –Mahatma Gandhi