Tag Archive: DIT


Shannon teaching at HU Point

Flashback: Teaching architecture students about sun angles at Hampton University, circa 2007.

I keep shifting roles in higher education so I can learn new skills. I spent 15 years teaching in the USA (advancing my way up to Professor of Architecture in 2014) before coming to Ireland as an education researcher and now Lecturer.

Transitioning from teaching to researching was more difficult than I had anticipated, partly because the work is more sedentary, but mostly because I missed interacting with students every day. And while I do enjoy engineering, I also miss discussing architecture and urban design on a daily basis. Fortunately though, I also enjoy interviewing engineering students.

As part of my Marie Curie Individual Fellowship to Dublin Institute of Technology (2014-2016), I conducted 60-90 minute interviews with 47 women in Poland, Portugal, and Ireland. The interviews I conducted as a researcher allow me to connect with students in new ways.

 

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Flashback to Portugal, where my colleagues and I have interviewed 11 women studying engineering.

Since the end of that initial Marie Curie fellowship, I’ve continued this research project alongside new responsibilities. I’ve recently conducted follow-up interviews with 11 of the 47 women in my study, for instance.

After that Marie Curie fellowship ended, I also found work as a Lecturer on the teaching staff in DIT’s School of Multidisciplinary Technologies and found my way back into the classroom. Today, I get to work with wonderful teaching colleagues, and to teach undergraduate as well as Masters-level students. I’ve included a photo gallery at the end of this blog, showing a typical week of teaching.

So these days, I divide my time between teaching in-class 16 hours per week, learning new content for the classes I teach, advising thesis students, serving as a year tutor in our MSc program in BIM technologies, and doing research. (I’ve taken a break from grant-writing this semester and have enjoyed the respite.)

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Planning for future studies in London.

I enjoy exciting new adventures, though, and so I’m preparing to transition back into full-time research for a while, so I can develop new skills by working for two years at University College of London. UCL’s website provides more details  via a press release about the fellowship).

I’ll look for opportunities to teach informally while I’m at UCL, as well, and I’ll look forward to my return to DIT’s classroom in two year’s time to apply what I’ve learned through observation and research.

DIT has granted me a Career Break so that at the end of the fellowship I’ll be able to come back to my current lecturing post. I’m excited about this because I feel I’ve found my feet and my voice teaching here. Aongus (my partner) says it’s clear I selected the right profession since my passion for teaching and for students comes through in the stories I tell at the end of the day.

Now, in the month before I leave for London, I’m trying my best to track down the 10 students from my DIT cohort who I haven’t yet met for follow-up interviews and move to this research project ahead.

 

 

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Wednesday’s RoboSumo class was going a-ok!

I’m gearing up for the new research fellowship by collecting data here in Ireland–data that I can analyze once I’m situated in London.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been interviewing women who are studying engineering in Dublin. Most of the women I’ve interviewed in this country have completed the design projects that you’ve seen in my prior blogs (RoboSumo, bridge design, and Energy Cube). Although I can’t show you the actual participants in my study for reasons of confidentiality, I’ve included a photo from this past Wednesday’s RoboSumo lab. Our big tournament is in two weeks, and excitement is mounting.  I’m asking students who took these courses three years ago about their experiences with engineering and with working in teams.

I truly believe that interviewing women from DIT over a period of years has helped me become a better teacher, particularly since I started teaching on these projects last autumn. In prior years, I was lending a hand occasionally in Energy Cube, RoboSumo, and bridge design, but most of my time was spent observing classroom and team dynamics.

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Trinity College’s main courtyard in all its mid-day splendor.

Today, I got to sit down and talk with a lovely young woman who started in DIT’s program four years ago, and who transferred to Trinity’s engineering program half-way through. To do this, I hiked across town to Trinity’s campus and the two of us chatted for 80 minutes, over coffee at Trinity’s Science Gallery. I hope the audio recording is clear enough, as I normally work in a much more controlled environment. There were far more distractions today than usual, yet the content of the interview was fascinating.

I interviewed all these women in the past as well, when they were first year engineering students, and now I’m catching back up with them after they completed several years of study. This is what’s referred to as a “longitudinal” study, and I am looking at changes and development over time. I have three more interviews lined up for next week, and I can not wait to hear about these students’ adventures in education and engineering.

 

The first year students have arrived at DIT and are getting orientation this week. Today, the whole group of incoming engineering students were at our Kevin Street campus to learn about electrical and electronics aspects of their first year curriculum. Dr. Ted Burke led the introduction.

I really enjoy the chance to teach in various programs and on multiple campuses of DIT. I’ve posted images from my morning walk from DIT Bolton Street to DIT Kevin Street.

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.

 


 

 

What you see depends upon where and how you look....

What you see depends upon where and how you look….

In engineering, the teaching-from-the-podium-by-manual-and-textbook approach simply isn’t working.  It’s not attracting enough students to study engineering.  It’s not engaging and fascinating enough of them.  It’s not spurring their creative thinking skills in enough ways.

I’m clearly not the only one who has noticed this.  The National Science Foundation and oodles of engineering scholars agree.  And now that the engineering profession — as a group of individuals bound by common knowledge, education, and language — has come to acknowledge these shortcomings, it is time to address the problems head-on.

Fergus Whelan commented that I need to think outside this box....  Thanks to Frank Daly for the fabulous photo.

Not liking to be trapped inside the box….

Making such a change is difficult.  It’s messy and complex.  It requires thinking outside the vocabulary and methods that created the profession in the first place. In line with the old cliché: engineering has to starting thinking outside its own box.  Most people today agree: We need engineers to see and think in new ways.  And indeed, many teachers are:

  • working to prompt the needed type of thinking in engineering
  • testing new teaching methods
  • working to evaluate results

I am one of them.

I have two sets of skills that I am hoping can help in positive ways.  First, I’m an architect and seasoned educator.  Second, I’m an education researcher.  From this vantage point, I see that engineering (programs and pedagogies) can benefit from what architecture programs do.

The architecture profession, for instance, has always used hands-on teaching.  Architecture schools are full of students and full of creative energy.  Architecture and engineering aren’t so different, yet our ideas about what they “are” differ, and the way they are taught differs as well

“Engineering,” I insist, can benefit from design thinking, from techniques used in design education, and from sharing ideas with architects as well.  Upcoming blogs will explain how.


Below is a little gallery of recent research activities, including a short promo video (shot with my iPad in a single take) for our RoboSlam exhibit this weekend’s Dublin Maker event.

RTE's Sinead Morris filming DIT's Ted Burke using a kitted-out iPhone 5.

RTE’s Sinead Morris filming DIT’s Ted Burke using a kitted-out iPhone 5.

TV journalist Sinead Morris came to DIT’s Kevin Street location today to film robot construction in action. Our RoboSlam team leaders — Ted, Damon, Frank, and I — are preparing for the upcoming Dublin Maker event, to be held at Trinity College on Saturday, July 26.  Sinead wanted to capture the activity.

The Dublin Maker event served as the impetus, Sinead explained, but the main intention of her piece is to show what the RoboSlam group is doing with robotics.

Sinead’s production is likely to air on RTE’s digital news channel, News Now.

Ted and Sinead set up for a shot of the robot underworld.

Ted and Sinead set up for a shot of the robot underworld.

Sinead is testing photojournalism innovations. The Irish television company where she works, RTE, wants its journalists to gain experience with spontaneous, low-tech approaches — so staff members can shoot, edit, and post “on the go.”  At the end of this innovation project, RTE staff will have the skills needed to disseminate news on the run… when opportunities arise.

RTE asked its staff to take this challenge: produce interesting and informative pieces wholly on their iPhones.

Hampton University journalism students were learning to do the same when my friend Tony Brown was dean of the program so, for me, watching this process firsthand proved fascinating.  The move toward spontaneous creation of new content aligns with the goals for our RoboSlam project; we want our workshop participants to take their robots home and start creating new “home grown” code for operating the ‘bots.

TV news technology has come a long way in my lifetime. When I was a kid in the ’70s and ’80s, my parents were television journalists. They used 16mm film equipment, and I learned to use the same when I was in college studying architecture.

Today’s capture-edit-and-post culture speeds the process. Mom and Dad used to shoot the footage and put it on a Trailways bus bound for the TV station one hour away. While it was in transit, they’d phone the station to make a voice recording of the text for the station to overlay.

It would appear in its synchronized form on that night’s news.

Now, Viola!, Sinead can do, alone and in moments, what it took dozens of people hours to create in the 1980s.

Robot show down.

Robot show down.

So, I was able to learn quite a bit from Sinead today, about software as well as hardware, and perhaps now I can give her videography techniques a go.

She also inspired me to write up this blog on site, while she’s finishing up her interview with Ted. Moments ago, she asked him what it’s like to work this type of job. He said he loves coming in every day to build robots and work with students.

He didn’t mention that he and his colleagues are currently on vacation and aren’t at all required to be here.  They just can’t keep themselves away!

We actually had quite a few interesting projects underway in the lab today while we were filming… a veritable Santa’s workshop of robotics. For instance, one of DIT’s third year students, Shane Ormonde, was here developing a new robot to show at the Dublin Maker event. He just completed a degree in Electrical and Control Engineering (DT009) and will pursue yet another degree in the fall.

Shane is conducting a robotics experiment while on summer holiday.  It’s a nice break, he says, from his call-center job.  (Gotta love that initiative!)

Shane Ormonde's new global robot arm.

Shane Ormonde’s new global robot arm.

Shane is building and programming a robotic system that, using a globe, can show in real time what the International Space Station is actually tracking at the same moment. Eventually, his robot will also be able to point to any location a person requests, using the laser on the end of its moving arm.

The globe itself moves to set the correct longitude and the arm moves to pinpoint the latitude.

He originally wanted people to be able to tune in via internet to ask the robot to identify specific locations and complete other such actions.  Shane’s creation will be featured as one part of our DIT RoboSlam exhibit at the Dublin Maker event.

Come join us next Saturday – near the cricket pitch at Trinity – and see!

Last week, a PR person from DIT asked to use a photo I took at graduation for publicity.  Through our communication, I learned she’d used another of my images–one from RoboSlam–in a press release back in May.

 

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We ended the “Engineering Your Future” week, sponsored by DIT and Engineers Ireland, with robot competitions (video footage to come) and awards. On the RoboSlam blog, you can see the full contingent of robots we created. Students earned awards for their essays, test performance, robot design, and the like.

Things really got fun once all the circuitry, programing, structural components, and body casings all synched and we stared testing out our nearly-fully-functioning robots and working out the final kinks.  Success!

See more photos about finalizing and testing on the RoboSlam website.

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Product design, rapid prototyping, statistical analysis, and body construction: our second day of RoboSlam covered all sorts of topics!

We got an overview of product design from DIT lecturers Ger Reilly and Kevin Delaney and designed bodies for our robots. Then, we divided into groups so that we’d all get to tour the rapid prototyping lab, learn about statistical analysis, and start crafting our robot bodies from rigid foam using the hot wire cutter.

Please visit our RoboSlam blog to see the range of things we accomplished this day….

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