Tag Archive: engineering


img_5637

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.

img_5644

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.

 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:

IMG_0684

 

 

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:

IMG_0686

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

IMG_0687

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:

IMG_0688
She also uses thermal imaging to study air infiltration, like so:

IMG_0690

IMG_0701

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!

Shannon Chance with the founders of STEMettes (Anne-Marie Imafidon, center) and Black Girls Code (Kimberly Bryant, right).

Shannon Chance with the founders of STEMettes (Anne-Marie Imafidon, center) and Black Girls Code (Kimberly Bryant, right).

Silicon Republic hosted the first ever Inspirefest last week in Dublin, celebrating women’s achievements in STEM. A world-class line up of speakers of all ages from across Europe and the Americas graced Dublin’s Bord Gais Theater stage for two information-packed days proving many inspirational and eye-opening discoveries for an architect and educational researcher like me. Many thanks to Ann O’Dea for creating Inspirefest for us to enjoy!

Kerry Howard described women codebreakers at Bletchley Park.

Kerry Howard described women codebreakers at Bletchley Park.

Offering lessons from history, Kerry Howard talked about women codebreakers at Bletchley Park, and in the evening we viewed the documentary “Code-Breakers” and had Q&A with its director.

Kathy Kleiman described the women “computers” who helped break the German codes in WWII and developed *the* first programmable computers.

Dr. Nina Ansary presented the new book, The Jewels of Allah: The Untold Story of Women in Iran.

Hamming it up on an evening tour of Merrion Square with Intel VP Margaret Burgdorff.

Hamming it up on an evening tour of Merrion Square with Intel VP Margaret Burgdorff.

Margaret Burgraff, a VP for Intel discussed leadership, Bethany Mayer (CEO of Ixia) gave pointers on navigating the “glass maze,” Shelly Porges talked about working with and for Hillary Clinton, and Carolan Lennon shared experience from her work as Managing Director of eircom Wholesale.

At this conference, 30% of the audience — and the speakers — were men. They included panelists like Prof. Brian MacCraith, the president of DCU of whom I’m a fan due to his knowledge about pedagogy.

The keynote by Steve Neff of Fidelity Investments pinpointed the ways diversity pays. His points were extended by panelists John Basile (Fidelity), Ryan Shanks (Accenture), Marie Moynihan (Dell’s Diversity Chief & VP of Talent), Prof Mark Ferguson (SFI), and Fionnuala Meehan (who leads a team of 450 at Google).

Lauren Boyle, EU's Digital Girl of the Year

Lauren Boyle, EU’s Digital Girl of the Year

Then some truly amazing young people joined the stage.

Ten-year old Lauren Boyle, EU’s Digital Girl of the Year, demonstrated her new website, Cool Kids Studio, for developing new life skills.

Emer Hickey and Ciara Judge, who founded Germinaid Innovations

Emer Hickey and Ciara Judge, who founded Germinaid Innovations

High school student Emer Hickey, along with her classmate Ciara Judge, recently launched Germinaid Innovations. This company provides “agricultural solutions for a brighter future.” Emer and Ciara developed technology that is drastically increasing crop yield using natural bacteria and won a global science competition.

They were on a panel with Anne-Marie Imafidon, founder of STEMettes, who is running a summer program for which I recently recruited participants. I’m thrilled that at least five girls who I connected to the program (from Ireland and Poland) have been accepted for the upcoming Outbox Incubator business development program in London. In all, 118 girls ages 11-22 will participate in this 5 week program.

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered pulsars

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered pulsars

Can you believe that we heard about all this in just the first 5 hours of the conference?!

During a break I had the chance to meet Anne-Marie, Mary Carty (a major contributor to the Outbox Incubator), and Kimberly Bryant (the founder of the Oakland-based Black Girls Code).

Later in the conference we heard from Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the astrophysicist who discovered pulsars and Susan McKenna Lawlor (of Space Tech Ireland) who developed equipment that is collecting data on a comet that is hurling through space at this very moment. MC Leo Enright and panelists Dr. Lucy Rogers and Ariel Waldman (who once worked for NASA and later founded spacehack.org) rounded out the session on space exploration and science.

Highlights from the second day included:

Ireland’s Taoiseach (i.e., prime minister) Enda Kenny, who described Ireland’s position in the tech world.

Robin Hauser Reynolds who described the life of Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer.

Dr. Sue Black who wrote the book Saving Bletchley Park, actually saved this historic campus, and founded TechMums.

Suraj Shah with Intel's

Suraj Shah with Intel’s “She Will Connect” project

Intel’s Suraj Shah who works in Africa on the “She Will Connect” project.

Louise Kenny founder of the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research in Cork.

Panelists Mary Moloney head of Coderdojo, Sheree Atcheson founder of Women Who Code, and Kimberly Bryant of Black Girls Code, who all shared their passion for coding.

Prof Linda Doyle and panelists Kathryn Parkes (SWRVE), Dr Annie Doona (President of the art college IADT), Susan Schreibman (Irish Research Council) coined a new term that I’ve adopted to describe the union of Design and STEM. D-STEM! Ain’t it grand?!

We learned about objects and wearables that collect data to help planners, policy makers, and designers from Gaia Dempsey (CEO and co-founder of DAQRI), Philip Moynagh (VP of Intel’s Internet of Things group), Jessica McCarthy, and students Laura Browne, Alex Casey, and Oisin O Sullivan.

Brianna Wu (co-founder of Spacekat Games) discussed intense challenges (and opportunities) for women in the digital game industry.

Niamh Bushnell, Dublin Start-up Commissioner

Niamh Bushnell, Dublin Start-up Commissioner

We also heard from business founders Elena Rossini and Elian Carsenet (of GapGrader), Laetitia Grail (of MyBlee Math), Ciara Clancy (of Beats Medical), and Niamh Bushnell (who is now the Start-up Commissioner for Dublin).

Investors and venture capitalists provided advice: Sharon Vosmek (ASTIA), Adam Quinton (Lucas Point Ventures), Nnamdi Okike (645 Ventures), and Julie Sinnamon (Enterprise Ireland).

Cindy Gallop, founder of Make Love Not Porn, provided a riveting final keynote on Making Money while Doing Social Good. She also has a TED talk.

Inspirefest 2015 lived up to its promise. It sent us back into the world full of new ideas and networks and knowledge!

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.

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

Fergus Whelan commented on this image that I need to think outside this box!  Many thanks to Frank Daly for the fabulous photo. My students, having sent his look many times before, certainly empathize with you!

In all corners of the globe today, companies are clamoring for skilled engineers. They want a larger pool of applicants who are creative, flexible thinkers prepared to address complex, emerging questions riddled with interrelated unknowns. Like industry, the sectors of healthcare, education, and government also have great need for well-rounded thinkers with strong engineering acumen.

Simply put: the world needs more people who can think across systems and see how things relate at multiple scales. We need people who can identify problems and create new solutions from the ground up. People who aren’t so closely bound to existing systems, ideas, and protocols that they can’t construct entirely new schemes for thinking and behaving.

Today, governmental organizations (like Science Foundation Ireland and the National Science Foundation in the USA) are working hard to address the shortfall in the number of engineers by generously funding education of, as well as research by, engineers and scientists. They seek better ways to teach and think about engineering and science.

The blogs I will be posting in the near future have to do with:

  • the way we think about and conceptualize engineering
  • how I think this needs to change
  • how architects and education researchers can help

Please note: I’m going to be explaining things that I’m trying to work out in my head and do this as if I’m speaking to a friend or relative who knows little about research. That means I may not be “100% right” in every explanation. But as you’ll see, that is a risk that must be taken for the sake of building knowledge. (It’s all part of this new “paradigm” for working and thinking that engineering needs to implement more widely… more on that to come!)

I do hope you’ll follow along on this research adventure, where I’m working to bring qualitative, social science research and design thinking into more facets of engineering education.  Yes, these are gutsy claims I’m making — particularly since I’m new to research and new to engineering.  Let’s see if I can live up to such promises….

Ted, Damon, and I have been gearing up for future RoboSlam workshops.   We have been looking for sponsors to help us continue and scale up our work.  For now, we’ll have to keep things fairly small and simple.  We’re not letting the lack of funds hold us back too much!  We’ve got to keep our momentum going!

During my Fulbright fellowship, I had several official projects. Along the way, I adopted a number of other projects–like RoboSlam–where I could learn and also contribute.

Ted and Damon are so talented and passionate about what they do that it’s impossible not to want to contribute to the success of their project.

While I was away studying in Rome, Ted and Damon hosted a workshop for people we hope will want to become facilitators of RoboSlam.  It’s part of our strategy for getting more people involved in the project.

Please visit the RoboSlam blog to see the newest photos of our recent robot programming and testing activities. Here’s one of the featured photos form that post:

Engineering lecturers Frank Duignan and Mick Core explaining concepts to two Transition Year students at our May RoboSlam.

Engineering lecturers Frank Duignan and Mick Core explaining concepts to two Transition Year students at our May RoboSlam.

RoboSlam

RoboSlam starts with an introduction to the overall robot-building process and then delves into assembling the electronic components (i.e., building the circuitry).  The photos below track the progress of several groups of participants in the “Engineering Your Future” event held the week of May 13-17 at DIT.

These photos were all taken by DIT’s current Fulbright Scholar in Engineering Education, Dr. Shannon Chance.  Participants are welcome to download them and share them with others.  Shannon will post images of the rest of the week in the days to come….

View original post

Past projects made by students...

Projects that students made in past years at the engineering school in Agueda.

I misunderstood the credit allotment for projects at Escola Superior de Tecnologia e Gestão de Águeda.  As it turns out, the project design courses carry credits in keeping with architecture design courses in the States.  Jose sent me this explanation:

Hi Shannon, 

Good to hear from you, and thanks for sharing your blogpost.
I am afraid, though, that you didn’t get the project dynamics right. Projects are awarded, on average, 6 ECTS, which is more than they get for each of the supporting courses (we call them that, too), which tend to have 3ECTS each. At the end of the semester, the groups of students have to write a report and there’s a public discussion of their work, before a panel that includes the project supervisor and, usually, an external member (from another HE institution or from industry). Students get individual grades for their project work. 
 
In fact, the number of credits associated with project work (exclusively, not including the supporting courses) in the program is roughly 30% of the total number of credits.
 
Cheers,
 
José
%d bloggers like this: