Focus on Student Development

Our new special focus journal is out!

This is a major part of my Marie Curie fellowship, because I wanted (a) to learn more about publishing and (b) build the knowledge base regarding “student development” in engineering.

I’m particularly interested in identity development and epistemic cognition (how students think about knowing and what knowledge is). I am myself working on a major research project exploring these epistemic topics, but with this journal issue I helped provide other people who are working on similar topics a place to publish their work.

It’s a really nice set of papers–three on identity and five on epistemology, with an introductory statement up front which I wrote with the people I brought on board as guest editors. The editorial team spent the past 18 months on this project–getting authors invited, articles competatively selected then carefully reviewed and enhanced.

You may remember that we issued a call for papers about 18 months ago. We managed to keep the whole project on track schedule-wise and the final printed version came out in August 2019, a full four months before I’d promised the funders I’d deliver it!!!!! How often will I get to say something like that!? Delighted to have the chance now.

Here’s the introductory statement:

Practical Epistemic Cognition in a Design Project—Engineering Students Developing Epistemic Fluency

Jonte Bernhard Anna-Karin Carstensen Jacob Davidsen Thomas Ryberg

Teacher Learner, Learner Teacher: Parallels and Dissonance in an Interdisciplinary Design Education Minor

Desen S. Ozkan Lisa D. Mcnair Diana Bairaktarova

Here’s an official overview of the issue:

“This Special Issue of the IEEE Transactions on Education focuses on using enquiry-based design projects to spur engineering students’ development, so as to increase understanding and application of the relevant theories, foster higher rates of student development and achieve this in healthy and productive ways.

Each of the eight papers in this Special Issue focuses on a specific aspect, presenting an empirical research study on either epistemological or identity development among engineering students. Five of the papers are on epistemological development or ‘epistemic cognition,’ and three on identity development. The overall set of resources is presented so engineering educators can gain familiarity with existing theories on how students change and grow over their university years, and can consider the findings of empirical studies and what these might imply for their own teaching and for their students’ learning.”

https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8786829

If you’ve got a manuscript you’d like to publish with this journal, you can find links on the website of the IEEE Education Societyhttp://ieee-edusociety.org/about/ieee-transactions-education. Or, feel free to drop me a line at <irelandbychance dot com> to ask advice–I’m an Associate Editor of this journal.

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.

img_8036

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.

 

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

img_2510

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!

img_2433

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!

img_2455-1

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!

 

 

img_2458

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.

 

img_2463-1

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.

img_2465

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.

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.

 

img_2124

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.
  • img_2185

    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.
  • img_2206

    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:

img_2125

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!

Screen Shot 2018-11-15 at 11.26.01 AM.png

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.

img_2131

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.

img_2159

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.

Working Hard, Playing Hard: London city models, maker spaces, and materials libraries

img_0657

Sums up the week.

Getting back on track after a vacation is always hectic. A road sign I passed today announcing “CHANGED PRIORITIES” summed up the ironies I’ve faced. My first week back (after a holiday in France and conferences in Denmark and Greece) has been a flurry of activity. I had to put a lot of time into recovering lost documents and preparing government applications, and that wasn’t expected. I anticipated being in Dublin this past week, but fate (and lost IDs) sent me in other directions.

Besides trying to make headway with research projects, file expense reports, get back into my gym routine and recover the plethora of bank and identification cards I lost in Greece, I did make time to meet colleagues and explore material libraries, maker labs, and the massive city model of London. The list below attests, though, that I actually got some “real work” done. I’m making progress despite the detours!

img_0537

With Dr. Anne Gardner, the new Deputy Editor of AAEE

Chronological highlights of the past ten days have been:

  • Quick catch-ups with both my supervisors, Profs. Nick Tyler and John Mitchell. John is the incoming Editor in Chief of IEEE Transactions on Education, so we had much to discuss.
  • Submitting two abstracts for the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) 2019 conference.
  • Providing input on a curriculum proposal under development at our Centre and module (course) planning for our new MSc in Engineering Education.
  • Lunching with guest academic, Prof. Euan Lindsay, of Australia’s Charles Sturt University and making with him a quick trip to the Building Centre’s exhibition on spatial modeling by Zaha Hadid’s lab and the giant model of London.
  • Touring UCL’s Institute of Making, its materials library and maker space.
  • img_0503
  • Thomas Empson’s fabulous RES2 presentation
  • Attending a dynamic, well-structured, and highly successful milestone presentation by my Ph.D. student, Thomas Empson of London South Bank University (LSBU). Delighted to have contributed to Thomas’ success.
  • Touring LSBU’s extensive maker labs (theater and cave for virtual reality, robotic arms, 3D printers using all sorts of materials, high-end laser cutters, and old-school lathes, milling machines, spray booths. Room after room after room. An amazing set of resources for the LSBU engineering community. I was astounded. They also have a small materials library.
  • img_0525
  • A product of LSBU’s extensive Maker Lab, this shell in the shape of a skull was printed in a liquid that contains emulsion and hardens when struck by a laser beam in the printer. Then the remaining liquid is drained away.
  • Lunching with guest academic, Prof. Anne Gardner, incoming Deputy Editor of the Australasian Journal of Engineering Education and another quick trip to visit the Building Centre.Gaining official approval from the UCL Ethics Committee to proceed with two research projects.
  • Completing UCL’s new online training program for data protection (GDPR), earning 100% on the final test.
  • Reading a UCL publication of guidelines for research staff. This is a very organized place!
  • Reading an incoming manuscript for the special focus journal issue and helping manage the review process.
  • Meeting with an expert in phenomenographical research methods, Dr. Mike Miminiris, to plan for an upcoming project.
  • Scheduling dates for upcoming seminars at UCL (by Dr. Mike Miminiris) and DIT (by Dr. Bill Williams).
  • Meeting with Prof. Simon Philbin, the new Director of LSBU’s Natu Puri Institute (NPI) to discuss strategic direction for the Institute.
img_0578

Aongus studying the London model

Over the weekend, I decided to bring Aongus to the Building Center because he hadn’t been yet. We spent most of Saturday with the model of London (using its interactive learning tools and the videos), taking a sneak peek at an exhibition being mounted on modular construction, visiting the special exhibit on the history of the Centre, viewing the Hadid exhibition (mentioned above), and learning about commercially-available building products and materials in the Centre’s massive product library.

That makes THREE materials libraries and TWO extensive maker labs visited in a week! All these are pictured in the photo gallery below.

img_0610

New global rankings from THE

I discovered that the new global rankings of universities, by the Times Higher Education, has placed UCL at 14th in the world. Each rating system uses different variables and metrics, so it’s not surprising that this is a bit different than the QS system that has UCL at 7th globally.

On Saturday and Sunday, we also made time to immerse ourselves in London–including the rainstorm on Saturday (oh my). Aongus and I enjoyed delectable meals, including dim sum at Dim T, my favorite fix at Chipotle, and molten cookies at Kingly Court. Saturday evening, we enjoyed the opening of the film “A Star is Born.” On Sunday, Aongus and I visited the Churchill War Rooms.

img_0652

Hot off the presses @Usborne #STEM “Engineering Scribble Book” for kids. Loved offering guidance as Eddie and Darran developed the content! @Centre4EngEdu @CREATE_DIT. A university bookstore outside London replied to comments on my Twitter feed. @cccubookstore said “Engineering Scribble Books will be in stock tomorrow. Science Scribble Book on publication in November ;-)”

So far this week, I’ve reviewed feedback I’ve collected from colleagues on three important documents I’m preparing. I spent the better part of a day re-vamping a manuscript to address reviewer comments.

Also this week, I enjoyed meeting a new Ph.D. student at UCL, Aristos, who is studying tidal energy and knows Greek–he has helped me contact the police station in Greece (still no word on my lost items). I had lunch one day with my officemate, Sital, and learned more about her family’s heritage. I meet online with the board of the Research on Engineering Education Network (REEN) planning the 2019 Symposium (REES 2019) to be held in Cape Town July 10-12, 2019. I also met online with Dr. Bill Williams to plan his upcoming lecture and workshop topics.

Ending on a high note yesterday, I received a fun package in the mail–a copy of a book I helped create for kids. I served as the “expert advisor” for Usborne Publisher on a publication called Usborne STEM “Engineering Scribble Book.” It’s the first in a series and it looks great!

With all these unanticipated adventures, I’m wondering if I, rather than fate, will help set my own priorities for the upcoming week. Probably not!

Learning London: Transport for Mobility

 

My research supervisor in London, Professor Nick Tyler, is a global expert in transportation systems, with expertise in accessibility. He travels around the world advising transportation planners–and his research also has gone a long way to improve how Transport for London serves people with mobility challenges and various forms of disability.

Transportation Design

IMG_7336

A view from the testing platform, with Professor Tyler and some MSc students.

Nick offered a Masters-level class at University College London in Term 2 and I got to attend the opening day which was held at the research facility he heads, located on the Northern Line up in Tufnell Park.

On the opening day of this course on design for transport engineers, Nick’s students and I experienced what it’s like to navigate common street conditions while blindfolded, hearing impaired, or using crutches and wheelchairs.

The photo gallery provides a glimpse of this opening day. And, YES, it did feel like Back to the Future with Dr. Emmett Brown, who you likely remember as “Doc.”

About PAMELA

PAMELA stands for “Pedestrian Accessibility Movement Environment Laboratory.” The lab’s website explains that “PAMELA is a multisensory laboratory for the assessment of pedestrian movement.” In other words, it is a research facility with equipment for simulating real-world conditions at full scale so researchers can study how people with differing abilities deal with specific variables (sounds, ambient noise, varying light levels, tripping hazards, steps, etc.).

“Constructed between 2003 and 2006, the PAMELA laboratory is a novel and highly flexible facility,” UCL’s PAMELA webpage explains, “allowing full-scale pedestrian infrastructure to be built and tested to enable thorough assessment and evaluation. The structure includes a flexible floor surface that represents real ground conditions with interchangeable surface materials and is supported by a range of sensing equipment.” The webpage also describes specific research studies that have made a tremendous difference and yielded huge financial savings in London.

A picture of an underground carriage at PAMELA

Transport simulation research being done at PEARL. Image from http://www.engineering.ucl.ac.uk/news/pamela-develop-pearl/

Introducing PAMELA’s sister, PEARL

In 2017, Nick secured a £9m grant from EPSRC via its UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) program. This will fund the construction of a new and improved version of PAMELA, called PEARL (People-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory).

Connecting UCL and DIT

In May, during my two visits to Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), I learned that my colleagues at DIT’s transportation engineers, led by Dr. Lorraine D’Arcy, received validation to launch a new, interdisciplinary Master of Science (MSc) degree in Transport and Mobility. I look forward to helping Lorraine connect with Nick so she and DIT can learn from–and hopefully, contribute to–the wealth of experience and knowledge Nick has accrued.

 

Engineering Education in South Africa: Facilitating Teamwork and Celebrating Diversity

My sister and I just crossed paths, like (air)ships in the night, at Johannesburg’s O. M. Tambo airport. At precisely the time my University College London colleague, Dr. Folashade Akinmolayan, and I were taking off from Tambo yesterday, my sister, Heather Massie, was boarding a plane in New York City. Heather was en route to the same airport.

Although Heather and I didn’t physically meet at Tambo airport, we were together in spirit–united by common causes and with more than just our flight itineraries overlapping. Finding ourselves in southern Africa at the same time would seem to be chance, but it also reflects who we are as people. It reflects values—of science, of learning, and of equality among people—that our parents instilled in us from our earliest days. Heather and I learned well from our mom (Cynthia Mara) and dad (Don Massie), and the values they gave us shape how we see the world, and how and where we work today.

shannon cynthia heather

Shannon with Cynthia and Heather one Christmas after Mom’s trip to Japan.

Heather and I are both STEM (science, engineering, technology, and maths) educators, but of wildly different sorts. We both do outreach and community engagement activities with groups of diverse people and in under-served places. We both use “audience” participation to share our passions in STEM with others. We teach in spontaneous, improvisational, and highly interactive ways. We both see people as individuals and we bond quickly with others. We value our diverse friends, colleagues, and communities. We see diversity as an essential feature of creativity and we view it holistically—believing that identity is dynamic and ever-evolving and that people work everyday to develop their own identities with regard to gender, race, ethnicity and nationality, belief system, physical ability, sexual orientation and the intersection of all these and more.

As a result, Heather will be in Zimbabwe and South Africa for the next five weeks, performing her critically acclaimed one-woman play about Heady Lamar. Lamar was a Hollywood screen star, an impassioned inventor, and a self-educated engineer. She developed technology that makes all our wifi and bluetooth devices work!

Shade and Shannon workshop title slideSimilar to Heather, I was in Johannesburg this past week, facilitating a workshop for 26 engineering educators from all over South Africa.

Via this workshop, Dr. Folashade “Shade” Akinmolayan and I shared what we have learned and implemented in practice. We shared what we know from our research on group-based learning and from what we have lived, by assigning team projects to students at University College London (UK), Dublin Institute of Technology (Ireland), and Hampton University (USA).

img_0621Shade and I were invited to teach this Master class (one of eight multi-day seminars on teaching and learning coordinated by South African engineering educators) because we are both part of UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education. Shade is a chemical engineer with a doctorate in engineering and a focus on team-based learning. She coordinates group- and problem-based learning for the Chemical Engineering Department at UCL, though she will soon move to a new university where she will contribute to the development of an innovative new curriculum in chemical engineering–from the ground up. As for me, I’m an architecture professor from the USA who uses group-based approached to teach students in architecture, engineering, and education. I’ve taught workshops on such topics to other higher ed teachers at DIT, Hampton U, and William and Mary.

Shade intro slideShade and I found the 26 South African participants in our two-day workshop on facilitating teamwork in engineering education to be extremely energetic and engaged. They were passionate about teaching. They were enthusiastic about learning, sharing ideas, and creating new knowledge. We discussed ways to address the specific challenges they face and strategies to help support the range of diverse students in their classrooms. Drawing from experience teaching in many different places really helped.

All 26 participants were eager to discuss techniques, goals, and challenges surrounding their own efforts to facilitate learning in teams.

Shade and I made a pretty dynamic duo, if I do say so myself. We really worked well together and delivered a workshop of top quality. We will look for opportunities to offer this workshop again. Please let us know if you have ideas for future venues–for our team building workshop, or for Heather’s play.

Shannon intro slideAlthough Shade and I had literally just met—finding each other at the airport as we departed London for Johannesburg—we made great use of the day we had before the workshop to refine our plans, get to know each other, and learn to work together.

The workshop went off without a hitch, and the learning the 28 of us achieved was highly impressive. As Shade remarked, the event was a great confidence booster for us as workshop facilitators. It was, in my view, a confidence booster for all 28 of us (participants and facilitators) because we are all engineering educators trying to innovate our teaching practices so that students learn more and develop a wider range of skills crucial for engineers to have, and we all walked away with stronger and more robust strategies.

We received this very kind email at the conclusion of the workshop:

Dear Organisers,

Good day.

I wish to express my heart-felt gratitude to all the organisers and funding partners for the invitation and funding to participate in the Master Class programme of 24 – 25 April 2018.

It highlighted, in a detailed and understandable manner effective teamwork fundamentals, strategies and ethics.

The facilitators showed quality planning, timeliness and precision in delivery and coordination that motivated active participation: leading to a hugely successful programme.

While looking forward to participate in future programmes, kindly please accept my respect and regards.

Thank you.

With kind regards,

Williams Kehinde Kupolati

What a lovely message to receive!

This wasn’t the first trip to South Africa for Heather or me, although it was Shade’s first time going there (she’s a British citizen, born and raised in London).

ROTCH South Africa trip cover copy

I was in Jo’burg and Cape Town in 2004, when Professor Brad Grant and I brought a group of Hampton University students there to study urban design. Wee looked at how urban design has been used to enforce racial and ethnic segregation. We also studied how contemporary architects and designers are working to counteract the adverse effects of decades of segregation and strife. I produced a booklet about the HU trip to South Africa. I can’t get the blog platform to upload the document for you, but please just email me to get a PDF copy. My email address is: irelandbychance [at] gmail [dot] com.

Heather was in Zimbabwe and Cape Town last year, performing as Hedy Lamar and conducting play-writing workshops. That followed a visit she made with our dear family friend, the late African-American playwright Leslie Lee. Leslie’s memory lives on the in the work Heather does every day. Now, Heather is back in Zimbabwe and South Africa again, with an action-packed itinerary that will look something like this:

HEDY postcard image

For details and performance dates, see www.HeatherMassie.com/HEDY

Harare International Festival of the Arts – Harare, Zimbabwe – May 3, 4 & 6, 2018

Unizulu Science Centre, Science Festival – Durban, South Africa – May 9-12, 2018

Women in Tech – Cape Town, South Africa – tbd May (17, 21 or 22), 2018

Thope Foundation – Cape Town, Khayelitsha, South Africa – May 18 & 19, 2018

Makukhanye Art Room – Cape Town, Khayelitsha, South Africa – May 20, 2018

George Arts Theatre – George, South Africa – May 24-26, 2018

Sci-Bono Discovery Centre – Johannesburg, South Africa – May 28 – June 1, 2018

As of this past Wednesday, the only definite dates with set show times were the Harare ones, but she will probably be performing on all of the listed dates. Please check Heather’s website for specific show times.

Here’s a gallery of images from the workshop:

I hope to share images from our tour of Johannesburg in a future post.

Learning London: University College London

During a recent workshop for development of research skills, the facilitator warned that people from other universities might approach us to work as a collaborator simply because they want to associate with UCL and they might not have genuine interest in actually working with us as individuals.

Funny enough, I was too naïve to have joined UCL just for its reputation. I’m only now beginning to understand the prominence of this institution and understand its very long, egalitarian history. As noted on the university’s website, “UCL was founded in 1826 as a secular alternative to Oxford and Cambridge by prominent intellectuals such as James Mill and Henry Brougham. UCL was the first university to be established in London, and the first entirely secular university to admit students regardless of religion. It was also the first university to admit women on equal terms with men.”

UCL’s surrounding neighborhood, Bloomsbury, hasn’t been portrayed as a center of equality and social reform in the various books, webpages, and exhibits I’ve consulted, but I see roots here. Near UCL’s main/Bloomsbury campus you’ll find the Quaker Meeting House, a symbol of religious tolerance (it has a lovely restaurant underground that offers discounts to UCL staff, and it has a cafe at street level) . You’ll find that huguenots and other religious minorities arrived in this neighborhood as immigrants seeking freedom from oppression in their homelands. You’ll find a former residence of Charles Dickens, whose tales show a deep concern for improving the lives of the oppressed.

IMG_7554As for breaking my naïve on the reputation and standing of UCL: QS’s most recent “world university rankings” ranked this institution seventh… in the world! Up there with MIT, Oxford, Harvard, and Cambridge.

I’d applied to work here after meeting some folks from the  university’s Centre for Engineering Education (CEE) and traveling over from Dublin for the launch of the CEE. Back in the States, I had heard of the Bartlett, UCL’s world-famous school of architecture, but not of UCL itself.

I applied to work here because I wanted to learn from movers-and-shakers and highly-accomplished teacher/researchers like Nick Tyler, John Mitchell, and Emanuela Tilley.

As explained in a case study of Nick’s past work overhauling engineering education published by MIT, this institution encourages quick and decisive action. It behaves more like a business than a typical university, and implements changes swiftly. The results can be impressive, as demonstrated with the increase in grades and diversity of students at intake and at graduation among students in civil engineering at UCL following the implementation of major curricular changes. And, who wouldn’t want a chance to observe in action a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE), Nick’s current title? An article in The Sun describes the British ranking system.

Today, I am enjoying learning my way around UCL. The photos in today’s gallery were taken on and near campus, in my adventures seeking out workshop, library, and lunch locations.

 

 

Learning London: Science Museum

IMG_7290

The Mathematics gallery, designed by Zaha Hadid and partners.

London’s Science Museum is so interesting that we went two days in a row. We hadn’t had our fill after just one visit, so we woke up Sunday morning and said “Let’s go back!” Incidentally, entry is by donation, so you can give what you like.

In the photo gallery below, you’ll see the Science Museum’s spacious entry hall and some images on the display about space exploration. You’ll see images from other parts of the museum that cover technological developments over time (related to transportation, homes, and appliances).

There’s special exhibit on Mathematics that includes visualization of air flow around a small aircraft (a display designed by the late/great architect Zaha Hadid) and there are displays about bridge and tower design.

I’ve included a few images from the special exhibition on technology in India–feeding my fascination with step wells. We also visited the exhibit on “Superbugs” to better understand the evolution of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.