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  • Startup Helps You Build Your Very Own Picosatellite On a Budget

    Zothecula writes A Glasgow-based startup is reducing the cost of access to space by offering "satellite kits" that make it easier for space enthusiasts, high schools and universities alike to build a small but functional satellite for as little as US$6,000 and then, thanks to its very small size, to launch for significantly less than the popular CubeSats.

    21 comments | yesterday

  • New AP Course, "Computer Science Principles," Aims To Make CS More Accessible

    theodp writes: "CS Principles," explains the intro to a Microsoft Research talk on a new Computer Science Toolkit and Gaming Course, "is a new AP course being piloted across the country and by making it more accessible to students we can help increase diversity in computing." Towards this end, Microsoft has developed "a middle school computing toolkit, and a high school CS Principles & Games course." These two projects were "developed specifically for girls," explains Microsoft, and are part of the corporation's Big Dream Movement for girls, which is partnering with the UN, White House, NSF, EU Commission, and others. One of Microsoft's particular goals is to "reach every individual girl in her house." According to a document on its website, Microsoft Research's other plans for Bridging the Gender Gap in computing include a partnership with the University of Wisconsin "to create a girls-only computer science Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)."

    205 comments | 2 days ago

  • Ask Slashdot: How Should a Liberal Arts Major Get Into STEM?

    An anonymous reader writes: I graduated with a degree in the liberal arts (English) in 2010 after having transferred from a Microbiology program (not for lack of ability, but for an enlightening class wherein we read Portrait of the Artist). Now, a couple years on, I'm 25, and though I very much appreciate my education for having taught me a great deal about abstraction, critical thinking, research, communication, and cheesily enough, humanity, I realize that I should have stuck with the STEM field. I've found that the jobs available to me are not exactly up my alley, and that I can better impact the world, and make myself happier, doing something STEM-related (preferably within the space industry — so not really something that's easy to just jump into). With a decent amount of student debt already amassed, how can I best break into the STEM world? I'm already taking online courses where I can, and enjoy doing entry-level programming, maths, etc.

    Should I continue picking things up where and when I can? Would it be wiser for me to go deeper into debt and get a second undergrad degree? Or should I try to go into grad school after doing some of my own studying up? Would the military be a better choice? Would it behoove me to just start trying to find STEM jobs and learn on the go (I know many times experience speaks louder to employers than a college degree might)? Or perhaps I should find a non-STEM job with a company that would allow me to transfer into that company's STEM work? I'd be particularly interested in hearing from people who have been in my position and from employers who have experience with employees who were in my position, but any insight would be welcome.

    275 comments | 2 days ago

  • Touring a Carnival Cruise Simulator: 210 Degrees of GeForce-Powered Projection

    MojoKid writes Recently, Carnival cruise lines gave tours of their CSMART facility in Almere, the Netherlands. This facility is one of a handful in the world that can provide both extensive training and certification on cruise ships as well as a comprehensive simulation of what it's like to command one. Simulating the operation of a Carnival cruise ship is anything but simple. Let's start with a ship that's at least passingly familiar to most people — the RMS Titanic. At roughly 46,000 tons and 882 feet long, she was, briefly, the largest vessel afloat. Compared to a modern cruise ship, however, Titanic was a pipsqueak. As the size and complexity of the ships has grown, the need for complete simulators has grown as well. The C-SMART facility currently sports two full bridge simulators, several partial bridges, and multiple engineering rooms. When the Costa Concordia wrecked off the coast of Italy several years ago, the C-SMART facility was used to simulate the wreck based on the black boxes from the ship itself. When C-SMART moves to its new facilities, it'll pick up an enormous improvement in processing power. The next-gen visual system is going to be powered by104 GeForce Grid systems running banks of GTX 980 GPUs. C-SMART executives claim it will actually substantially reduce their total power consumption thanks to the improved Maxwell GPU. Which solution is currently in place was unclear, but the total number of installed systems is dropping from just over 500 to 100 rackmounted units.

    42 comments | 2 days ago

  • Raspberry Pi In Space

    mikejuk (1801200) writes "When British astronaut Tim Peake heads off to the International Space Station in November, 2015, he will be accompanied on his 6-month mission by two augmented Raspberry Pis, aka Astro Pis. The Astro Pi board is a Raspberry Pi HAT (short for Hardware Attached on Top), and provides a gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetometer, as well as sensors for temperature, barometric pressure, and humidity. It also has a real time clock, LED display, and some push buttons — it sounds like the sort of addon that we could do with down here on earth as well! It will also be equipped with both a camera module and an infra-red camera. UK school pupils are being challenged to write Raspberry Pi apps or experiments to run in space. During his mission, Tim Peake will deploy the Astro Pis, upload the winning code while in orbit, set them running, collect the data generated and then download it to be distributed to the winning teams.

    56 comments | 4 days ago

  • Google Suggests Separating Students With 'Some CS Knowledge' From Novices

    theodp writes To address the challenge of rapidly increasing CS enrollments and increasing diversity, reports the Computing Education Blog, Google in November put out an RFP to universities for its invite-only 3X in 3 Years: CS Capacity Award program, which aims "to support faculty in finding innovative ways to address the capacity problem in their CS courses." In the linked-to RFP document, Google suggests that "students that have some CS background" should not be allowed to attend in-person intro CS courses where they "may be more likely to create a non-welcoming environment," and recommends that they instead be relegated to online courses. According to a recent NSF press release, this recommendation would largely exclude Asian and White boys from classrooms, which seems to be consistent with a Google-CodeCademy award program that offers $1,000 bonuses to teachers who get 10 or more high school kids to take a JavaScript course, but only counts students from "groups traditionally underrepresented in computer science (girls, or boys who identify as African American, Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native)." The project suggested in the Google RFP — which could be worth $1.5 million over 3 years to a large CS department — seems to embrace-and-extend a practice implemented at Harvey Mudd College years ago under President Maria Klawe, which divided the intro CS offering into separate sections based upon prior programming experience to — as the NY Times put it — reduce the intimidation factor of young men, already seasoned programmers, who dominated the class. Google Director of Education and University Relations Maggie Johnson, whose name appears on the CS Capacity RFP, is also on the Board of Code.org (where Klawe is coincidentally an Advisory Board member), the K-12 learn-to-code nonprofit that has received $3+ million from Google and many millions more from other tech giants and their execs. Earlier this week, Code.org received the blessing of the White House and NSF to train 25,000 teachers to teach CS, stirring unease among some educators concerned about the growing influence of corporations in public schools.

    305 comments | 4 days ago

  • MIT Removes Online Physics Lectures and Courses By Walter Lewin

    jIyajbe writes MIT is indefinitely removing retired physics faculty member Walter Lewin's online lectures from MIT OpenCourseWare and online MITx courses from edX, the online learning platform co-founded by MIT, following a determination that Dr. Lewin engaged in online sexual harassment in violation of MIT policies. For an example of Lewin's colorful style, see this YouTube video. MIT has also revoked Lewin's title as professor emeritus, after the school determined that he "had sexually harassed at least one student online."

    416 comments | about a week ago

  • Feds Plan For 35 Agencies To Collect, Share, Use Health Records of Americans

    cold fjord writes: The Weekly Standard reports, "This week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the release of the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020, which details the efforts of some 35 departments and agencies of the federal government and their roles in the plan to 'advance the collection, sharing, and use of electronic health information to improve health care, individual and community health, and research.' ... Now that HHS has publicly released the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, the agency is seeking the input from the public before implementation. The plan is subject to two-month period of public comment before finalization. The comment period runs through February 6, 2015." Among the many agencies that will be sharing records besides Health and Human Services are: Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Justice and Bureau of Prison, Department of Labor, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Office of Personnel Management, National Institute of Standards and Technology.

    209 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Seeking Coders, Tech Titans Turn To K-12 Schools

    theodp writes: Politico reports on how a tech PR blitz on the importance of coding in K-12 schools has won over President Obama, who's now been dubbed the "coder-in-chief" after sitting down Monday to "write" a few lines of computer code with middle school students as part of a PR campaign for the Hour of Code, which has earned bipartisan support in Washington. From the article: "The $30 million campaign to promote computer science education has been financed by the tech industry, led by Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, with corporate contributions from Microsoft, Google, Amazon and other giants. It's been a smash success: So many students opened up a free coding tutorial on Monday that the host website crashed. But the campaign has also stirred unease from some educators concerned about the growing influence of corporations in public schools. And it's raised questions about the motives of tech companies, which are sounding an alarm about the lack of computer training in American schools even as they lobby Congress for more H-1B visas to bring in foreign programmers."

    105 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Programmer Father Asks: What Gets Little Girls Interested In Science?

    nbauman writes Programmer David Auerbach is dismayed that, at a critical developmental age, his 4-year-old daughter wants to be a princess, not a scientist or engineer, he writes in Slate. The larger society keeps forcing sexist stereotypes on her, in every book and toy store. From the article: "Getting more women into science and technology fields: Where’s the silver bullet? While I might get more hits by revealing the One Simple Trick to increase female participation in the sciences, the truth is there isn’t some key inflection point where young women’s involvement drops off. Instead, there is a series of small- to medium-sized discouraging factors that set in from a young age, ranging from unhelpful social conditioning to a lack of role models to unconscious bias to very conscious bias. Any and all of these can figure into why, for example, women tend to underrate their technical abilities relative to men. I know plenty of successful women in the sciences, but let’s not fool ourselves and say the playing field in the academic sciences or the tech world is even. My wife attributes her pursuit of programming to being a loner and pretty much ignoring wider society while growing up: 'Being left alone with a computer (with NO INTERNET TO TELL ME WHAT I COULDN’T DO) was the deciding factor,' she tells me."

    584 comments | about two weeks ago

  • FBI Seizes Los Angeles Schools' iPad Documents

    An anonymous reader writes: The Los Angeles Unified School District had a bold (and expensive) plan to outfit its students with top-of-the-line technology: its 650,000 students will be given Apple iPads to use for school work. The cost? $1 billion. Unfortunately for them, the project has been plagued with problems. Now, the FBI has seized 20 boxes of documents regarding the district's procurement practices and confirmed an investigation. "Hundreds of students initially given the iPads last school year found ways to bypass security installations, downloading games and freely surfing the Web. Teachers complained they were not properly trained to instruct students with the new technology. And questions were raised after emails were disclosed showing that then-Superintendent John Deasy had been in communication with vendors Apple and Pearson before the contracts were put to bid."

    229 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Ben Harris Shows off the Electric Vehicle Challenge Simulator (Video)

    EVChallenge is a high school student project that converts gas cars to electric. This isn't a "someday" thing. It's already happening, and Ben has worked hard to make it so in N. Carolina. There are other people around the world doing EVChallenge, and Ben does a number of things besides EVChallenge. His Kickstarter project, for instance, was called Help Bring Back Quality Science Kits (STEM Education). It closed on October 17 after 119 backers came through with $6523, which was a lot more than Ben's modest $3500 goal. This takes us to Ben's EVChallenge simulator itself, which is a simple "breadboard" simulation of the circuitry that drives an electric car so students can learn EV (electric vehicle) principles before they work on the real thing.

    This is all part of the Harris Educational effort to make science teaching fun and interesting, not just with electric cars and simulations of their circuitry, but with other kits and even training services. As Ben's Training Services page says, "Harris Educational can provide face-to-face or online training for individuals, small groups, or companies. We can also help you design and implement your own training programs." So besides the video interview here, please look at Ben's pages, this article about his work, and check some of the videos on his assorted pages. It's good stuff, especially if you have (or plan to have) kids in high school. (Alternate Video Link)

    37 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Chromebooks Overtake iPads In US Education Market

    SmartAboutThings writes In Q3 2014, IDC notes that Google shipped 715,500 Chromebooks to U.S. schools while Apple shipped 702,000 iPads. Thus, Apple's iPad has lost its lead over Google's line of Chromebook laptops in the U.S. education market as Google shipped more devices to schools last quarter. While analysts say [registration required] that this advantage for Google's Chromebooks can be attributed to their low cost, the presence of a physical keyboard has also been seen as an important factor.

    193 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Interviews: Adora Svitak Answers Your Questions

    Recently, you had a chance to ask child prodigy, author and activist, Adora Svitak, about education and women In STEM and politics. Below you'll find her answers to your questions.

    107 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Google, National Parks Partner To Let Girls Program White House Xmas Tree Lights

    theodp writes The Washington Post reports the White House holiday decor is going digital this year, with dog-bots and crowdsourced tree lights. "Thanks to Google's Made with Code initiative," reports a National Park Foundation press release, "girls across the country will experience the beauty of code by lighting up holiday trees in President's Park, one of America's 401 national parks and home to the White House." Beginning on December 2, explains the press release, girls can head over to Google's madewithcode.com (launched last June by U.S. CTO Megan Smith, then a Google X VP), to code a design for one of the 56 state and territory trees. Girls can select the shape, size, and color of the lights, and animate different patterns using introductory programming language and their designs will appear live on the trees. "Made with Code is a fun and easy way for millions of girls to try introductory code and see Computer Science as a foundation for their futures. We're thrilled that this holiday season families across the country will be able to try their hands at a fun programming project," said former Rep. Susan Molinari, who now heads Google's lobbying and policy office in Washington, DC.

    333 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Football Concussion Lawsuits Start To Hit High Schools

    HughPickens.com writes Michael Tarm reports that a former high school quarterback has filed a lawsuit against the Illinois High School Association saying it didn't do enough to protect him from concussions when he played and still doesn't do enough to protect current players. This is the first instance in which legal action has been taken for former high school players as a whole against a group responsible for prep sports in a state. Such litigation could snowball, as similar suits targeting associations in other states are planned. "In Illinois high school football, responsibility — and, ultimately, fault — for the historically poor management of concussions begins with the IHSA," the lawsuit states. It calls high school concussions "an epidemic" and says the "most important battle being waged on high school football fields ... is the battle for the health and lives of" young players. The lawsuit calls on the Bloomington-based IHSA to tighten its head-injury protocols. It doesn't seek damages. "This is not a threat or attack on football," says attorney Joseph Siprut, who reached a $75 million settlement in a similar lawsuit against the NCAA in 2011. "Football is in danger in Illinois and other states — especially at the high school level — because of how dangerous it is. If football does not change internally, it will die. The talent well will dry up as parents keep kids out of the sport— and that's how a sport dies."

    233 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Finland Dumps Handwriting In Favor of Typing

    mikejuk writes It seems incredible that in the 21st century schools are still teaching children to scratch marks on paper. Well in Finland they are taking a step in the direction of the future by giving up teaching handwriting. The Savon Sanomat newspaper reports that from autumn 2016 cursive handwriting will no longer be a compulsory part of the school curriculum. Instead the schools will teach keyboard skills and 'texting'. The idea of teaching proper keyboard skills to children is unquestionably a great idea, the idea of texting is a little more dubious and many will mourn the loss of a traditional skill like cursive writing. So what about a world where cursive writing is forgotten? What do you do when your computer is dead and you need to leave a note? The death of cursive script probably isn't the death of handwriting but the death of doing it quickly and with style. Some no doubt will want to master it just for the sake of it — like driving a stick shift. I know some U.S. schools have done the same; how proficient should kids be with cursive?

    523 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Gilbert, AZ Censors Biology Books the Old-Fashioned Way

    nbauman writes The Gilbert, AZ school board has voted to tear out a page from Campbell's Biology (a standard highly-recommended textbook that many doctors and scientists fondly remember), because it discusses contraception without also discussing adoption. Julie Smith, a member of the Gilbert Public Schools governing board, said that she was a Catholic and "we do not contracept." Smith convinced the board that Campbell's violates Arizona law to teach "preference, encouragement and support to childbirth and adoption" over abortion. The Arizona Education Department decided that the pages didn't violate Arizona law, but nevermind. Rachel Maddow generously risked hassles for copyright violation and posted the missing pages as a service to Arizona honors biology students.

    289 comments | about three weeks ago

  • In UK Study, Girls Best Boys At Making Computer Games

    New submitter Esteanil writes Researchers in the University of Sussex's Informatics department asked pupils at a secondary school to design and program their own computer game using a new visual programming language. The young people, aged 12-13, spent eight weeks developing their own 3D role-playing games. The girls in the classroom wrote more complex programs in their games than the boys and also learnt more about coding. The girls used seven different triggers – almost twice as many as the boys – and were much more successful at creating complex scripts with two or more parts and conditional clauses. Boys nearly always chose to trigger their scripts on when a character says something, which is the first and easiest trigger to learn.

    312 comments | about three weeks ago

  • UK Announces Hybrid Work/Study Undergraduate Program To Fill Digital Gap

    An anonymous reader writes The UK's Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey today revealed a new scheme where undergraduates will be able to avoid student fees and student loans by working for companies for three years whilst simultaneously undertaking academic studies with participating universities, resulting in a degree at the end of their successful involvement in the scheme. The British government will fund two-thirds of the cost of tuition and the host employer the remainder. The "Digital Apprenticeship" scheme will remunerate students at an unspecified level of pay, and though details are currently sketchy, is reported to obviate the need for student loans. The initiative is targeting the skills gap in the digital sector, particularly in the field of web-development and technical analysis.

    110 comments | about three weeks ago

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