Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Day 94 - Counting success of unlocked doors

As I continued to think about the She++ video that I watched yesterday, I was reminded that one of the challenges of encouraging more women to develop their aptitude and confidence with technology is that we don't always celebrate our count all our successes. 

The women in the She++ panel echoed some of the same messages I would tell my high school students. 

Continue to develop this MOST important skills of LOGIC and ALGORITHMIC

THINKING… that mindset can be applied to a variety of different thinking

A little bit of programming knowledge can unlock all these doors

You can go into any industry,  science,  fashion,  math

Finding problems that are worth solving and then solving them using computing

And when you successfully communicate that message to our women and girls and they start to feel empowered with technology, they may choose to very different field than "Computer Science"  to apply their new technology skills.

I had many girls pursue college and career choices they would have never considered had they not become more tech savvy from accounting to biology to civil engineering.

These successes must be celebrated, but are not easy to count.

It is easier to measure the number of  women in computer science.

But let's not measure our success only by the increase or decrease in computer science fields.  Many of our tech-savvy girls are walking through doors that were unlocked because of the work we have done raising their awareness, skill level, and confidence with technology.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Day 93 She++ tackles gender stereotypes in computer science

I just  finished watching a mini-documentary created by the team at She++
and immediately started to peruse their website  http://www.sheplusplus.org/  discovering an amazing team of talented young women committed to creating a culture in computer science that is more appealing to women.

They have done a great job combining some engaging animations and snippets of interviews to create a 12 minute message aimed at changing some of the stereotypes that exist about computer science careers.

One thing that really struck me was the diversity amongst the women who have bonded together in carrying our the mission outlined on the she++  ABOUT page.

she++ seeks to dismantle the untrue stereotype that computer science is not a career for women. We work with the technology industry to create a culture that is more appealing to women, and we work with women to dismantle harmful perceptions that they cannot succeed in the technology industry.

A quick look at the names and faces of the women on their team speaks to the fact that it is possible to gather a room full of people interested in computer science that are not 'white' 'males'.   What started as a conference of 250 attendees at Stanford has grown to a whole community looking to change the face of computer scientist.  

In this twelve minute  documentary,  you will learn more about the variety of interest  and skills that make up a panel of women from Facebook, Pinterest, Google, Microsoft, Box and other tech related companies.  The panel aims at  showing us that a computer science is not an "antisocial white male living in a cubicle".   I'm not so sure that this is still the stereotype that prevails when we think of careers in computer science, and I wonder if using the 'stereotype' to combat the 'stereotype'  is helpful,  but there certainly are other barriers for women, that the panel does address.

Their description of what it was like for women enrolled in their  first computer class was spot on.  I have  certainly felt many of the emotions that were described in the documentary and have watched young women that I have steered into computer science courses experience the same.

"I spent a lot of time thinking that I was not qualified for this.. I had not been coding since I was 12" 
"I thought I was failing that class all the way through" 
"There was an expectations  was that if you are studying computer science you must have used this before, I had hardly touched a computer."

The women warned that part of this may have been due to the fact that the "Intro to CS class was a weeder class and a bit more difficult."

Obviously the women in the class were not the only ones who find Intro to Computer Science classes challenging.  However,  according to research conducted at Stanford,  this plays out differently for women than it does for their male counterparts.
"When women don’t succeed at first, they blame themselves, and when a man does not succeed he blames the course and the test, when a women gets a B+ she blames herself.. when a man takes a B+ he thinks he is doing fine."
This drives home the fact that not only must we create more opportunities to bridge the experience gap that exist between girls and boys with computers and engineering type tasks,  but we must also include an increased awareness of that experience gap and an acceptance that "just because something is hard, does not mean its not fun  or that you are not good at it".    

This is sometime I try to do with each of the TechSavvy Girls events that I design.

I still remember one of my former students, Samantha, coming back from her first year of college saying to me
"Ms. deLaBruere,  if you had not helped me understand the experience gap, I would have dropped out of my  Intro to Civil Engineering class.  The boys were already half way through the assignment by the time I had set up the tools I needed to start the project. Not being familiar with the tools, meant I had to find the tool and orient myself to it before I even started."   

I have heard people complain that some of the information we put out perpetuates the image that girls as victims,  but I disagree.  If framed correctly, it can help girls prepare for that "Weeder" class experience  and understand that having less experience does not mean you don't belong.   Congrats to t the team from Stanford, for helping raise awareness. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Day 92 Ohms, Voltage, and Amps in Maker projects

Yesterday I started to share that my mental model around volts, amps, and ohms was finally emerging to a point where I felt that the fog had lifted. While that post was a reflection of the learning process by which this happened, today I thought I’d do a quick explanation of that mental model using the explanation provided in this Sparkfun tutorial and apply it to some of the project we have been making in our Girls Make IT sessions and see if it might resonate for some of you.  

By the end of this post, it is my hope that you might have a better understanding of why the words (volts, amps, and ohms)  might impact  your project design.  It will not be the goal of this post that you be able to calculate the ideal solution by which to power your project,  but you will be tuned in to how these materials might impact the design solution.  It is my goal that as you notice these words in the future you will be less likely to ignore them and start to create your own data points of how materials rated with different values (volts, amps, ohms) might impact your project design. 

First of all a mental model is built around our experiences and current understanding of the world. Water is s something most of us have experience with. Most of us have experience with garden hoses, water faucets, water towers, and with the experience of letting the current in a river carry us downstream. These experiences can help us better understand amps, voltage, and ohms.


The amount of energy that an electrical current is often measured in something we call AMPS (or ampere). To put it in perspective, an oven might use 10 - 20 amps while a clock radio would need only 1 amp. Amps is the total amount of current that is available or needed to power an object. 

Water example from Sparkfun

Let’s say you have a 55 gallon water tank in your home for hot water. The design of the water tank including how much water it can hold will determine the flow of the water to your sink or shower.  The design of your battery will determine the flow of the current from the battery to your project. The flow of the current in electricity is measured in a unit called AMPS.  

 The number of AMPS a battery has (if fully charged) is only one part of the equation of whether it is a good solution to power your project. 


Let’s say you connect your water tank to a hose laying flat on the ground. Chances are the water would trickle through the hose and be available to you, but there would be very little pressure behind it. On the other hand, if you raise the water tank up and place it up higher than the hose, the water pressure will increase and the water will come out the other end of the hose with enough pressure to be useful. You’ll definitely want more pressure to power wash your house than you will need to rinse off your dishes or take a shower. 

When working with electricity, the design of the battery can also provide more pressure behind the current making it useful for different types of tasks. The force by which the current is being pushed out towards us is measured in volts. The more volts, the more pressure or force is behind the current as it moves through your circuit. To put it in perspective, check out the difference between the clock radio and oven in our diagram above; an oven needs a power source that sends electrical current at 220 volts, while the clock radio only needs 12 volts to work.

Although we might have a lot of ‘water’ available, we are familiar that water can have a much different impact if it is flowing slowly or trickling through a hose laying flat than it can if you left one end of the hose higher. Consider the impact that a water coming through a hose has in the picture of the power wash hose above versus the impact that the water being being poured in this glass has. The water coming through the hose would knock the glass right out of your hand. Just as water pressure can increase the impact of the water has when it comes in contact with an object, so can electrical current. When it comes to electricity, we use a measure called voltage to measure the pressure of an electrical current. 

We need a measure of for this type of pressure when it comes to electricity The same is true for electrical current. Just because we have enough ‘electricity’ does not mean it is coming through the wire with enough pressure to power the project. An oven needs a power source that sends electrical current at 220 volts, while the clock radio only needs 12 volts to work.


Finally sometimes we have a power source with a lot of water and a lot of pressure, but the amount of current and speed of the current coming at us at once can be slowed down by adding some resistance to the hose or pipe through which the water is traveling. Have you ever bent a garden hose to slow down the flow of the water, while you grab the hose to aims it. When you did this you were adding resistance. Another way to add resistance would be to change the size of the hose. A narrower hose offers more resistance as water does not flow through it as easily as it does the wider hose.   Perhaps your shower has a shower head that allows you to adjust the pressure.

Your shower head can add more resistance thus slowing down the flow or increase the pressure by reducing the resistance.   The same is true for electricity.

In your maker project you select various materials for electricity to pass through based on the resistance it has. Some materials offer little or no resistance, while others materials have a lot of resistance.   Most metal or wire has very little resistance and connecting them to your battery allows the current to pass through at full force. If you have a 3 volt battery, your current passes through at 3 volts, while if you have a 12 volt battery the current has 4 times the pressure behind it. The amount of resistance is measured in Ohms or Ohms per meter.

Some materials like conductive threads are created with material that have more resistance and thus conductive thread allows the current to flow through with much less force/pressure than a piece of copper tape or a wire.  One of the benefits of this is that you can use conductive thread with power sources without frying your LED's because of too much voltage. 

For example silver coated conductive thread may have 300 ohms of resistance per foot while stainless steel conductive thread may have 28 ohms of resistance per foot. When you compare that to the .009 ohms of resistance you might find in a foot of copper tape, you can see that the materials you use to design your project make a huge difference in the way the project works (or doesn’t work).

In some future blog post, we'll put this knowledge to use with some practical examples of maker projects.  We'll even learn to use ohms law to calculate the amount of current needed for our maker projects. 

But hopefully your vocabulary will include the words, amps, voltage, resistance, and ohms and you will start to pay attention to the number of volts and amps as well as the resistance from using various power sources and materials as you design your  projects.  

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Day 91 - The Journey to Understanding Ohms, Voltage, and Amps

Before I started MAKING with electronics I never gave batteries much thought, except for  Christmas day when we would often be frantically looking for batteries for the presents where "batteries were not included."    But lately I've had lots more reasons to think about power sources as I create and make.  As I started to wonder about how to provide power to my projects, I started to wonder about volts and amps and wanted to get a better understanding of "why"  certain power solutions would work better than others.

As an educator I'm acutely aware of the role that motivation and frame of reference play on creating the optimal learning environment.  My maker projects provided the motivation.  However I still lacked some of the frame of reference needed to understand the explanations I was reading about ohms law.  But with each project I made,  I started to gain  experience that allowed me to build more data points slowly creating a frame of reference.    Watching the sparks fly when two dangling pieces of conductive threads became entangled made me wonder:

  "What was different about my power source this time that caused such a reaction?"
   "Why had there been no sparks flying on previous projects where threads had accidentally touched?"  
      "Might some of my projects create fire hazards?"

As the data points and list of questions grew, so did my ability to predict what might happens when I combined circuits, batteries, and conductive materials.  And with each iterations of predicting, designing, and testing solutions for my projects,   my frame of reference started to grow, my experience gap started to narrow.   I felt ready to tackle readings that would deepen my  understanding of the science behind the flow of electricity so that the information about volts and amps on the materials I was using to make would finally be useful in designing solutions to my projects.

But even though the vocabulary was more familiar as I read through various explanations of volts, amps, and ohms law,  I struggled with creating a mental model that felt complete.   Yet, despite the fact that  there were still some foggy parts for me,  it seemed that some of what I was reading as I was making was finally accessible and the fog was lifting.   I was no longer dismissing the information I read as gobbly geek;  I had deeper motivation for bridging the knowledge gaps  and had new experiences to connect pieces of the explanations to.   Maker  empowerment was setting in and added a degree of  confidence that I could grasp these new concepts as in produced in me an inclination to want to understand the interconnections of the systems that made up my world.  I also had  an important additional ingredient--the patience of a partner who was willing to listen as I described new renditions of my mental model and gently point out misconceptions with yet another explanation of the parts that were still foggy.  Meanwhile I kept playing/making and reading.   And finally,  more than a year into my playing with circuits, I feel like the fog has lifted about around my  understanding about volts, amps, circuits, and ohms law.    Last night I reread the Sparkfun explanation of voltage and amps and the water metaphor finally worked to complete the mental model that had been slowly building over the past year.

As an educator who is fascinated by the process of learning,  I'm intrigued by the variables that interconnected in my learning journey.  I know that no two learners will go through the same journey,  but I feel my reflecting and understanding my journey will help me better understand the various places in the journey that those 'making' around me might be at.  It will also help me design experiences that might help others on their journey of understanding the interconnected systems of the world around them, especially those who might have had similar experience gaps.

There have been plenty of times when I've said to myself  "who are you kidding - you don't belong here in this world where most of those around me seem to have a stronger background and understanding of science." Girls Make It Series of workshops has been shaped by that experience and the reactions from both participants and observers has validated  my feeling the designs for my workshop do connect with learners like me -  and that I my value might be in bringing diversity to the maker culture, but to also bring deeper understanding of technology, science, and making to a diverse set of learners.  But today, I feel that the lack of such a background has provided me with a different type of insights and that maybe that insight can be valuable in the maker culture.  Much of the design of my

Growing up in a household of 5 girls in the 60's meant that there were not a lot of toys that helped me experience electronics and mechanics.   I don't remember much about science class in our 4 room school house in rural Vermont.  Our elementary teachers were generalist and I imagine that my lack of vivid memories about science class is indicative of the quantity and quality of science education we experienced.

I have some faded memories of earth science and biology in high school, but nothing that excited me to learn more.  I do have a vivid memory of my guidance counselor telling me that I would never get into college after I insisted in signing up for  sewing class  over chemistry class (scheduled at the same time).  That year I learned that I wasn't very good at sewing, and signed up for chemistry my senior year -- which of course meant I never got the opportunity to experience physics.    Somehow I decided that science was not for me and managed to make it through four years of college avoiding any science classes by filling my distribution requirements with math classes.

What is gender?  Was it environment?  Was it environment due to gender and culture that contributed to my experience gaps in all things science.   Whatever it was,  I NOW get to experience bridging the gap and totally fascinated by that process.  How can my introspection about my process contribute to designing experiences that will impact those who don't 'naturally'  engage with creating and making? How can creating those experiences contribute to helping non-traditional 'makers'  deepens their understanding of the interconnected systems that make up their world?

There could have been no better time in my career for me to have discovered the series of book in the Interconnections:  Understanding Systems through Digital Design".  And to think I almost walked right by the National Writing Project table at the SxSw Edu Conference this year.   Framed in a pedagogical beliefs that align with Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards,  these books offer educators a field guide to integrating making into their curriculums.  The authors have designed a resource  for both in school and out of school educators that can guide them as they build their own confidence and skills to introduce making into their curriculum.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Day 90 - Learning about EL Wire

Every time I see EL Wire on a project, I'm mesmerized by the glow.  So I naturally assumed it was complicated.  Turns out its one of the simplest ways to electrify a piece of textile.

EL wire stands for electroluminescent wire. This wire can easily be attached to clothing or other materials that bend or have moving parts.  And it comes in fun colors and shapes. 

To add that that EL  glow to your projects, you basically need 3 things

1)  a long strip of EL wire

2) an EL Inverter Battery Pack

3) an some batteries

Or consider getting a starter kit with both the wire and the battery pack.

The first think you need to  know is that YOU CANNOT USE just a standard battery like you do with most LED eTextile project.   You MUST get an INVERTER battery pack.   This makes the power source for your eTextile project a little harder to conceal (and in the case of my hat a little clunkier)

Sparkfun has an inexpensive inverter and lots of fun colors available in its selection of EL wire .

In my project, I ended up creating a design that used the whole length of the green wire I happen to have handy.   However, you can cut it any size you want, as long as you reseal the end with hot glue or other similar substance.

But it must be powered by AC (alternating current) -- the same type of power that comes out of the electrical outlets in your house.  But since it would not be practical to have your e-Textile projects plugged into an outlet,  you can get portable power but using an inverter battery pack.  The inverter changes the direct current power that batteries produce and 'inverts' or changes it to AC power needed by your EL wire.

Your EL inverter/battery pack will include a JST connector that connects with the JST connector on your EL wire.   Most EL inverter/battery packs contain a button that changes the look of the EL wire from 'ON'  glowing, to  'Chasing"  or "Blinking", to OFF, every time you press the button.

 Here is a short video demonstration from SparkFun.

The geek in me wanted to do more with this cool looking wire.  With a little more research I read that Sparkfun carries two boards that can help me gain some control over the EL Wire ( the EL Sequencer and the EL Escudo Dos).

I also found a few EL Wire hacks that allow you to control the ON OFF of the inverter without having to manually press the button.  I started to think about how I could use this Hack (which uses an Arduino to control a Relay that controls the power to the inverter) in some of my projects.  This made me feel that the despite its simple on/off switch power option,  that I could control how and when my EL Wire turns on with an Arduino, if I learned to use a relay.

 Guess what's next on my list of Arduino skills to learn!  Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Day 89 EL-ectrifying products with EL Wire

I've been wanting to create an e-Textile  project with a sunflower for a while now, and have been  playing with different designs in my mind and on 'napkins'.   The sunflower ideas seem to gravitate towards my using a brown felt hat that my sister, Joanne, gave me.   This week the inspiration to move the project forward came when playing with EL wire;  and so did some new science knowledge.    Here's what I've got so far

I used conductive thread, three green micro leds, and a cell battery to add a little  pizazz to three flowers and then used  a green EL wire to create swirly patterns that looked like vines on the brim of the hat.  I decided that I wanted the vine effect on both the top and the inside of the brim.  At the last minute I decided to wrap the unused EL wire along the band of the hat.

EL wire was so easy to use, it didn't feel all that 'geeky' but it sure looked cool.  But it had very different properties than the LED circuits I have been playing with, so using it lead to new understanding about AC and DC power, and a LOT more questions, which I will try to answer over the next few post.  

It also lead to some experimentation of different techniques for adhering the EL wire to my felt hat.

But in each case,  the eTextile lead me to new motivation to learn more about the science involved in eTextile.  Motivation is KEY to new learning.  eTextiles gave me some of the motivation for some new science  and tech learning,  but it also gave me a frame of reference for the new knowledge to stick to.   Unless new knowledge can connect with previous knowledge, it usually won't stick.   All of a sudden the many pieces of eTextiles are starting to connect and build into a broader understanding of science and tech.  

I'm looking to add some type of element that uses sensors to the hat, but have not decided what that will be yet.  Any suggestions welcomed.

I'll use the next few blog post to share tips and tricks for working with EL wire,  simple parallel micro LED's and some of the science/tech knowledge that I gained along the way.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Day 88: Out of this world project based learning at CTE

The following post is a repost that I posted on Learning With Lucie blog this week.  I'm reposting it here on Earth Day, not only for its fantastic view of Earth, but also because it's such an amazing story of learning.  It's filled with possibilities of what's possible.   It's stories like this that inspires me to keep on encouraging girls to become Tech-Savvy.  We need more learning opportunities like this and students and teachers who aspire for amazing ways to apply their interest and skills with today's tools.

------ reposted from my professional blog about education www.LearningWithLucie.com  ------

Last week, students at Essex High School had an out of this world experience, that will most likely become one of their most vivid memories of high school.  On April 15, 2015, they successfully recorded the flight of a man-made balloon into the stratosphere and back, navigating their way through real world challenges that ranged from powering a data-logging Arduino through subzero temperatures to retrieving the payload in the midst of Vermont’s infamous mud season.  

This type of project-based learning is the type of learning that students remember.  It’s not knowledge that’s easily forgotten after the test.   It’s real world learning and problem-solving that inspires students to obtain deeper knowledge and inquiry than any text-book could.

This inquiry driven project based learning environment doesn’t just happen.  It takes a masterful teacher to design project based learning that is powerful and meaningful, and as I interviewed Jennifer Ligouri, science teacher at Essex Technical Center, it was evident to me that her passion  for kids,  passion for learning,  passion of science combined with masterful teaching were at the heart of this exciting and successful experience.

Listen to Jennifer describe the design of the project, the pre-flight testing,  the flight,  and the challenges that Vermont's mud season and lack of cell service brought to the chase and retrieval of the balloon's payload, and the successful retrieval of data collected during flight.

As you can tell from listening to the interview above,  instrumental to this project  was access to affordable technology tools that are empowering a new generation of innovators, makers, and problem-solvers. 

Tools like 3D printers,  laser cutters, Arduino microprocessors, sensors, spot GPS technology, and ultralight cameras, were all part of the design created by the team from Center for Technology at Essex.  

These tools are becoming more and more accessible to students  with the growth of the maker movement in our communities, not only in terms of cost and availability, but also in terms of people who are sharing their knowledge and experiences in how to use these tools.  Whether it be through the local maker community or the global connection made possible through the Internet, today’s students can pursue solutions to challenges like making a balloon that will reach the stratosphere.

The student have decided to enter their project to compete in several categories of  the Global Space Balloon Challenge including highest flight, best pictures, and first balloon flight design created with maker tools such as 3D printers and laser cutters.

Thank you to Jennifer Ligouri, her colleagues and students from the Center for Technology at Essex for sharing their story with us.

You will find their photos from the balloon and of adventures at http://www.cawdvt.org/resources/balloon-launch/
and video from the flight here: https://vimeo.com/125172889

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Day 87: Gender Stereotypes in Videos

Recently I saw an interesting lesson on the Zaption Showcase about gender stereotypes featuring Katie Perry's pop media song "Roar".    Since I was not familiar with Katie Perry,  I watched the video and answered the prompts from Zaption relating to gender stereotypes.  

Having the prompts made me look at the video a little more critically.  I actually watched it again after I had seen the end of the video.    There are a lot of messages in this video, some more obvious than others.  Definitely worth watching with a critical eye, and worth discussing with your friends or others.  I won't bias you with my own thoughts, and let you check it out for yourself. 

I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sit quietly, agree politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything

You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Get ready 'cause I've had enough
I see it all, I see it now

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
'Cause I am a champion and you're gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
'Cause I am a champion and you're gonna hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You're gonna hear me roar

Now I'm floating like a butterfly
Stinging like a bee I earned my stripes
I went from zero, to my own hero

You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Get ready 'cause I've had enough
I see it all, I see it now

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
'Cause I am a champion and you're gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
'Cause I am a champion and you're gonna hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
(You're gonna hear me roar)
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
(You'll hear me roar)
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You're gonna hear me roar...

Ro-oar, ro-oar, ro-oar, ro-oar, ro-oar

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
'Cause I am a champion and you're gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
'Cause I am a champion and you're gonna hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
(You're gonna hear me roar)
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
(You'll hear me roar)
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You're gonna hear me roar...

Monday, April 20, 2015

Day 86: Introducing Carrie Anne from Geek Gurl Diaries

I love meeting TechSavvy Girls both face to face and virtually. Today I'd like to introduce you to a very TechSavvy Girl that you have just got to meet  ~  Carrie Anne Philbin of Geek Gurl Diaries

Not only has Carrie Anne authored her own book called Adventures of Raspberry Pi, but she also maintains a blog and a YouTube Channel full of helpful tutorials.  I have been seeing her name come up over and over again lately, and now she is one of my go to persons when I need to learn a new tech skill.  

I just finished watching her LilyPad Tutorial   and would highly recommend any of the girls (and their teachers) who attended the Girls Make IT Session 2 give it a watch.  Not only will this be a good review of many of the concepts you learned that day,  but it will also give you a boost of confidence as you find yourself familiar with most (if not all) of the tech terms that Carrie Anne uses in her tutorial.  You'll find yourself saying -- "Hey I can do that".  You might even find yourself noticing that Carrie Ann could have been a little more efficient in her sewing patterns if she had sewn a "NEGATIVE BUS"  around her design so that she could more easily attach the negative leads of her LED's.    

I think you'll enjoy reading her tutorials and blog posts and seek her out for advice many times as you grow your own tech skills. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Day 85: Working in Serial ~ learning about batteries

Today  I worked on creating a model demonstrating my understanding of a food web using eTextile materials.  This is part of a professional inquiry I'm involved with.

 I have one more problem to solve, and doing some research about the best way to solve that problem  ~ "What should I use for an power source that will power my model, which consists of 4 LED's connected in serial?"  Each LED is used to symbolize "life" at each level of the food web.

Using a serial circuit,  the electricity flowed directly from one item to the next in my food web chain, releasing enough energy to 'light' the LED, then continuing on to the next item.  One of the problems I had to solve was that as soon as I put more than one LED in the model, I could no longer use the Coin Cell battery to power my model.   I switched power sources, but as soon as I added a 4th LED, the nine volt battery no longer powered my model.  Argh!    
If I had created the model using a parallel circuit, I would not have had a problem providing power to the 4 LEDs that represented life in my algae blossom, worm, little fish, and larger fish,  but  the energy flow would no longer represent my mental model of the food web.  

After a bit of Internet research, I discovered a site called Battery University, which lead me to my current solution -- connecting my 3 volt coin cell battery to my 9 volt battery in serial to provide my model with enough energy to keep each of my organism's LEDs alive.

The problem I have now is that this is not a elegant solution for such a small  eTextile project.  But the alternative,  working with parallel circuits would not model the flow of energy I want for this project.     I'll keep working through this design challenge, but meanwhile I have a new resource to share with ANYONE  who needs to bridge their 'experience gaps'  with battery technology.  Turns out there is a lot to know --  the site sells a 328 page book on the topic!  Who knew there was so much to know about batteries.  But suddenly I have a desire to know more!    Which proves one of my points for creating the model in the first place -- when providing students with the opportunity to CREATE and MAKE,  lots of unexpected, just in time learning happens, that yield to more questions, and more problem solving!  

I still have lots of questions (for myself, and others)  about the role of soft circuits in creating models.  But I do have a lot more tools in my toolbox now than I did before I started this 'inquiry".  Any suggestions welcomed (on either the battery problem  or  my current inquiry).

"How can soft circuits be used to help students develop models in science education? "
One of the reasons this interest me is that I believe soft circuits are a good entry point to bridging the experience gap that many of us have about the way electronics work.  Finding more ways for us to gain the experience, knowledge and skills to use these tools effectively would provide us with new ways to solve problems in the world around us.  This type of confidence might encourage us to take on challenges in our education and careers, that  we are currently avoiding.  

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Day 84: Noticing the Tailwind

Photo Credit:  WikiPedia
After reading Nicholas Kristof Op-Ed in the New York Times "Straight Talk for White Men" I was reminded about an online chat my computer tech class had with the computer tech class at Burlington High School, when one of my male students stood out and took ownership for the subtle things that male students do that are give messages to female students they are are not 'as welcomed' or 'as smart' in their computer tech class. I was taken back, but very proud of Darren. It is not every 17 year old boy who would have dared take than stand.
In this Op-Ed  Nicholas call  the advantage that white men recieve from an unconscious bias in society  a TAILWIND.

"It’s not that we white men are intentionally doing anything wrong, but we do have a penchant for obliviousness about the way we are beneficiaries of systematic unfairness. Maybe that’s because in a race, it’s easy not to notice a tailwind, and white men often go through life with a tailwind, while women and people of color must push against a headwind."

The piece includes many examples of unconscious bias in our society that systematically benefit both whites and men including a study by scholars, Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan, who studied the response to fictitious résumés sent out in response to help-wanted ads.
“John” was rated an average of 4.0 on a 7-point scale for competence, “Jennifer” a 3.3. When asked to propose an annual starting salary for the applicant, the professors suggested on average a salary for “John” almost $4,000 higher than for “Jennifer.”
Kristof, suggest that all of us, try to be aware of our unconscious biases, especially when it comes to people who don't look like us.    This is something I try to do frequently,  and 'frequently'  I do surprise myself in ways that makes me realize that ALL of us - male  or female - has unconscious biases that we must 'tune into'.

I remember discovering that despite my awareness of gender bias,  I found myself using male pronouns when I talked to my students about their future boss.  Ouch!  Me?  Well, I no longer do that, but I am still on the look out for my own unconscious biases.

One way you can start being more aware of your own biases is by taking the Harvard University Implicit Association Test   In this 10 minute test, you'll learn a lot about your own biases that can help you raise your awareness.  Give it a try!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Day 83: TechSavvy Girls Summer Camp in Orleans

Registrations just went live  for our 15th annual TechSavvy Girls Camp in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. 

Fifteen years ago, I started this camp as part of my Masters Program at Marlboro College.  Thanks to the tireless effort and incredible commitment of Betsy Calhoun and support from the local community, the camp continues to offer opportunities for girls in the northern part of Vermont.

More information and registration can be found at here.
2015 TECH SAVVY Summer Camp
July 27th-July 31st
9:00 – 3:00 at Lake Region Union High School

8    For incoming 4th–9th grade girls who like to have fun andmeet new friends…
8    Girls will work together using technology to buildconfidence, collaboration, creativity and communication skills with digital tools like Audacity, Lego Digital Designer, SCRATCH, Adobe Photoshop, GPS Units and more….  
8    For incoming 4th–9th grade girls who like to work together exploring and creating movies and animations like those developed for today's handheld devices.  
8    Girls will work together to learn new technology andINVENT new things… in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM).
8    Cost ($200) includes Breakfast and Lunch provided by Lake Region Union High School.

We appreciate the following organizations for supporting our 2015 camp by providing scholarship opportunities,  food, and a workspace.  
North Country Career Center
Lake Region Union High School
Lake Region UHS Cafeteria
Newport Rotary Club
Orleans American Legion Women’s Auxiliary

Join us for a week of technology rich fun making, creating, inventing and finding our space in a high tech world.

More information and registration can be found at here.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Day 82: Sewn With Code ~ Meet Maddie

At our Girls Make It Series,  the middle school girls got to meet and make with  role mentors like Maxine,  a fantastic role model from one of the local high school.

During the day,  we also introduced the girls to role models through the engaging videos of fantastic young women featured on the Made with Code website.  Of particular interest to our eTextile project  attendees was Maddie,  a  20 year old, who works at the intersection of fashion and technology.

Maddie asks questions like 
           What if cashmere sweaters did not shrink in the wash?
What if clothing regulated your temperature at all times? 
What if we had garments that you could change the color while you wear them or transitional garments that could be different textures?

Listen to Maddie talk  about her scholarships from Vogue and internship at a runway show for Tommy Hillfiger inspired our girls.  Maddie believes that in order "to dream big in the field of future fashion, you need to know code"

She describes how code will be used to help fashion be responsive to our bodies,  cooling it down, warming it up, illuminating when appropriate.   She also encourages girls to learn to code their own websites, and not just hiring someone else to.  According to Maddie, it all a question of "What Do You Want To Learn?"

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Day 81: Advice from a high school role model at Girls Make IT Day

Some people make a difference in the world everywhere they go.  Maxine, a senior at Essex High School is just one of those people.

I first met  Maxine when she and a group of high school friends sat down at our "Build a 3 Day printer in a Weekend" exhibit at the Champlain Mini Maker Faire. As you can see from this video, she and her friends loved geeking out.

 Little did I know then that Maxine would  keep coming into my life as a advocate for girls in tech.

Maxine sharing her hat at
Generator eTextile Social
The next time I bumped into her was during an  eTextile social at our local maker space - the Generator.  Maxine showed up with a very cool eTextile hat she had made and blew us all away.  I quickly invited her to join us on the Girls Make It Day we were planning around the topic of Circuits, Coding and eTextiles and was tickled pink when she said YES!

I knew how important high school mentors were to middle school girls.  High school girls are 'within reach'  to our middle school girls.  They can look at them and say  to themselves, "In a few years I'm going to be where she is".  They can imagine being there and are ready to  take the next step in that direction.

As predicted, Maxine was a big hit at the first Girls Make IT Day.  Her presence was key to the success of the day.  Her sincere authentic way of being with the world connected with everyone there.  And then when she showed the girls how to solder, she became the coolest girls in the place.  With Maxine's help,  the girls saw the soldering station at the Generator as a place that could empower them to take their projects to the next level.

For our second Girls Make It Day we were ready to move beyond bling and add coding to our skill set by having the girls use a LilyPad Arduino to  control the LED  in craft flowers they created.   I gave Maxine a challenge when I invited her -- "What if you created a flower that had sensors or motors to bring?"   She did not disappoint and showed up with this masterpiece with laser cut pieces and a servo motor.  I'm not sure our middle school crew appreciated it as much as I did,  but it was the perfect artifact to show the girls who had just moved 'beyond bling" what could happen next if they were to move "beyond blink."

My favorite part of having Maxine at Girls Make It Day 2 was  when she shared that she had just been accepted to Bucknell University where she would be majoring in chemical engineering and then offered advice to the girls for their upcoming journey through high school.

Thank you, Maxine for being an amazing role model for young women! I can't wait to follow your journey and watch you to continue to make a difference in the world.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Day 80: Girls Make It Day #2 Coding Garden A Success

Although a few weeks have passed,  I have not stopped thinking about Girls Make It Day #2.  The day went beyond my expectations.  About mid day, the girls just took charge of their own learning and started flying past what we had planned,  moving beyond bling,   beyond blink, and making flowers fade.

Teams of two middle school girls and one teacher/mentor arrived at the Generator with their flowers in hand ready to learn to code. Each participant was asked to bring two hand crafted flowers to the event that included an LED in the design.  The design challenge was meant to help the girls apply previous learning about circuits (whether it be the first Girls Make IT session, school or club activities, or their own self-exploration of circuits).  The design challenge mostly yielded a wide variety of origami style flowers.   

While the team leader brought their laptop to the tech check station to make sure that Arduino was properly installed and ready to go, the rest of the team created  a paper flower with their team member names  and added it to a white garden trellis.  (this would later serve as attribution to the finished product we hoped for by the end of the day ~ a collaborative community flower garden).  

During introductions, each team shared their flower designs and how they learned to make it and then immediately launched  into securing the LED to their flower using floral tape and a green wooden stem. This served as the perfect blend of wire and insulator for our flower project. Although the  two pieces of floral tape initially connected the LED leads to cell battery, it wouldn't be long before the leads were attached to a LilyPad Arduino board using alligator clips.  

The coding lesson that followed was interspersed  with making,  manipulating the  Arduino blink scheme and playing out computer science unplugged activities where the girls learned about variables by 'programming' their teacher to sing and 'programming' themselves to follow Arduino code using finger flashlights.  

One of the goals I had for the workshop was that every girl (and their teacher) would not only be able to use the Arduino code to control their flower, but that they would also UNDERSTAND each line of the code they used.  Too often, students are encouraged to 'copy' a snippet of code without understanding the various elements.   It wasn't long before everyone had mastered  the following commands and were using them to code their own flower arrangements. 

Although our goal was to move into learning how to use functions in  their code, the girls had their own idea.  One team DISCOVERED the FADE Arduino scheme and before we knew the teams took off into their own self directed learning, teaching each other to blink and fade flowers.  Their comfort level grew as they tried different sequences of patterns to give each flower its own unique presence in their flower arrangement.  Watching the collaboration in the room was absolutely delightful and reminded me of a time,  not so long ago, when I had my own classroom of students discovering, uncovering, and constructing together.  My experience taught me that this was the perfect moment to let go, step back, and watch the learning happen rather than redirect it to next phase of the lesson.   This is what I was aiming for but didn't anticipate it coming so early in the day. 

But it also meant that we didn't get to "MY" next step in the lesson (FUNCTIONS)  with the whole group,  but I did get to teach, Maxine, our high school role model/mentor how to use functions to help each girl add a contribution to a collaborative community flower box.  She was a quick study and jumped right into a leadership role into our final activity for the day. 

After each team had created and coded their own flower pot with their first flower creation,  it was time for them to contribute their second flower to the community garden (complete with code). 

We used window boxes, a Lilypad arduino, alligator clips, cardboard, and fake moss for our design and used Functions  to cycle through snippets of codes written by our middle school girls.   The results -- two flower boxes that were made with code by our middle school girls that would become a traveling exhibit to inspire others.   First step for our traveling exhibit would be the Generator Birthday Bash! 

Our Exhibit at the Generator Birthday Bash

We ended the day debriefing, challenging them to complete the 20 hour Code.org course and use their take home kit to continue exploring the power of code and keep on making.   The kit included 2  Lilypad  simple arduinos and one LilyPad Development board, which we strongly suggested they keep intact (NOT break apart) to practice their coding skills.   We also provided them a sneak preview of where we hope to go next (adding sensors and motors) by showing them the robotic flower prototype created by our fantastic high school mentor, Maxine.  The importance of having Maxine as a role model can not be underestimated.  She shared her recent acceptance to  Bucknell University,  her experience in the Essex Robotic Club, and offered advice for our young students about steps they could take to shape their future. She even started developing the leadership skills of one of the middle school girls, Eva, who used today's events to step into a new role as a middle school leader/mentor. 

Today left me inspired to keep working on providing opportunities for learning, mentoring, networking, leadership development that help create a STEM pipeline for girls.  Our goal is to announce some new Girls Make It session, including summer camp opportunities on this site, and also at  TechSavvy Girls and Vermont Works for Women website.

Many thanks to 
to the Generator  for providing the space for this fantastic day of learning, 
to  Vermont Works for Women  for funding the consumable supplies,
to Jill Dawson and Leah Joly for the the support and 'blind faith'  that this would work
to Maxine for  the robotic flower design and for being an inspiring high school role models
to Eva for being our first middle school leaders
to the teachers and middle school girls who created such beautiful flower designs and absorbed the coding lesson like sponges reinforcing my beliefs that making beautiful things is an onramp to increasing the number of girls who code.