Tag Archives: #computerscience

TechReads: Fabricated – Part 2 (Controversies of 3D Printing)

3D printers make it easier to produce prosthetics and other custom products, much to the celebration of creative minds and makers. But like pretty much any technology, 3D printers can also bring trouble. Here are some of the top controversies surrounding 3D printing, as mentioned in Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman’s book Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing, along with additional resources for learning about these issues.

A Gray Area of Responsibility

A machine part malfunctions or breaks down, causing a fatal injury. The machine part was 3D printed. Under what circumstances is the death the responsibility of the user, manufacturer, design engineer of the machine part, and/or design engineer of the 3D printer? Michael Molitch-Hou provides industry insight on possible changes in liability issues. The complexity escalates further when we consider that 3D printing is also being used to develop living tissue, which may one day include entire organs.

It Isn’t Easy Being Green

3DPrintingGreen

Credit: edie newsroom

How do 3D printers measure up in terms of sustainability and going green? Instead of mass production, 3D printers can be used to manufacture an item only when it is needed, and the additive manufacturing process generates less waste. However, this model works for some products better than others. Factor in shipping/transportation costs, how easily the product can be made out of recyclable parts, and how easily the product can be recycled, and suddenly it’s not so easy to decide how much sustainability we’re really looking at. If you’re curious, Jonathan Bardelline and Catherine Wilson discuss this issue in more detail.

Getting the Red Light

3D printers are becoming cheaper, and the Internet provides increasingly ready access to design files for countless objects. This puts a strain on the concept of intellectual property.  How does this change the safety of items such as food, drugs and guns, which are currently regulated to some extent in many parts of the world? For example, in early 2013 the US government ordered a man to take his design files for a 3D printed gun off the Internet, but not before many other people downloaded and shared the file.

A Changing Job Market

Will 3D printers eliminate jobs or create jobs? You could argue for both sides, but let’s reframe the scenario: 3D printers seem set to eventually replace many of today’s manual laborers. However, the authors of Fabricated highlight an increasing demand for the design engineers that will continue to drive the creative side of using this technology. In this article, Rodolfo Lentejas explores some other ways that the job market could shift, including impacts on retail. For a more historical perspective, check out this column by History, Future Now.

Machines Making Machines

Credit: MIT Technology Review

Credit: MIT Technology Review

It would save a lot of time if a 3D printer could fix itself and print its own replacement parts. What if it had enough artificial intelligence to make better parts for itself or print entirely new, more sophisticated machines? The author, inventor and Google Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil made popular the concept of the singularity, which includes the idea that machines will keep developing smarter machines until one day, artificial intelligence will have surpassed human intelligence. Kurzweil calculates that the singularity could be upon us by 2045. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen argues the flip side here, reasoning why the possibility of the singularity is much further down the road.


This article is part of a series called TechReads, my ongoing series of technology-related book reviews. If you would like to suggest a book for a future TechReads article, please leave a comment below – and if you’ve read Fabricated, I’d love to hear what you think!


Featured Image: Evan Leeson

Should You Apply to the Ada Developer’s Academy?

Even though there has been an increase of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) occupations since the 1970s, women in the computer sciences remain sorely underrepresented. Just 15% of software jobs are held by women and 1.5% of open source contributors are women.

The Ada Developer’s Academy (Ada) — named for Ada Lovelace, purportedly the founder of scientific computing — is addressing this skill gap by training women to become software developers.

Ada is currently accepting applications for its second class slated to begin September 2nd.

“Ada is increasing opportunities for women in the traditionally male-dominated tech industry while addressing an acute and ongoing shortage of local developer talent,” said Elise Worthy, Program Manager & Co-Founder of Ada. “Our program is providing women with a solid footing in technical careers and tackling head-on the gender imbalance at local software companies, who recognize that Ada is a great opportunity to create a more equitable, diverse culture in tech.”

Established in 2013 as an intensive software developers training school exclusively for women, Ada offers six months of classroom-based instruction followed by a six-month internship  with Puget Sound-area tech companies. The internships prepare students for the transition into junior developer positions. Students completing the program also receive a certificate from Bellevue College.

Because of the immense time commitment (classes meet from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays), the women are awarded a monthly stipend.

Why a full year program?

Search the web and you will find 8-week hacking programs, but those programs are not sufficient enough to prepare students with limited or no technical background.

“We want to make sure that students are fully prepared. Learning to program in a classroom only gets you halfway there. The internship component is key: students experience being on software teams, working with legacy codebases, deadlines, and production code,” said Bookis Smuin, Lead Instructor at Ada. “The internship is just as important as the classroom experience in preparing the students to be productive and successful developers.”

The first class of students numbered 16. For this upcoming class, 24 students will be admitted.

Potential students do not have to possess prior programming experience, but should demonstrate technical aptitude.

According to Worthy, a majority of the women interested in programming are novices and have had limited access to technology education in high school and college. In fact, many of the students in the previous Ada class were switching careers. They held bachelor’s degrees in everything from theater to linguistics.

Of this first class, 25% relocated to Washington State from as far away as Florida  and half were women of color.

Ada did not release any information as to the specific ethnicities of the first class; however, according to a 2013 government report, African-Americans and Hispanics, regardless of gender, have been consistently underrepresented in STEM employment. In 2011, 6% of STEM workers were African-American and 7% were Hispanics.

So, Ada may be helping fulfill an ethnic diversity deficit in STEM jobs as well.

What do the women learn in the classroom?

The curriculum covers web development, how to work on agile development teams and lead software projects. Students work on projects that simulate real applications under real deadlines.

Specifically, students learn the Ruby on Rails tech stack (Ruby, Rails, JavaScript, HTML/CSS) and Agile Methodologies (pair programming, test-driven development, user-story creation).Through their training the students become adept at information gathering and creative problem solving as well.

“We’ve been so impressed with the student’s progress over the past six months. They’re developing full, production-ready applications on agile teams. They’re not only becoming fluent in code, but in the development process,” said Scott Case, COO of EnergySavvy and Ada Co-founder.

In May, the current class of Ada students held a demo of the civic apps they created as part of they’re coursework.

How can this education be offered for free?

As part of the Technology Alliance, Ada relies on sponsorships from Seattle-area tech companies who cover the students’ tuition, actively engage as mentors, and provide hands-on experience through internships.

Sixteen Seattle-area tech companies, including Expedia, EMC Isilon, EnergySavvy, Zillow, Marchex, Redfin, and Nordstrom, are now sponsoring Ada students.

Ada’s Future

Ada is on its way to training software developers who will fill a few of the 20,000 open STEM positions within Washington State.

Perhaps other organizations will take note of Ada’s approach to training software developers and duplicate the model. The need for diversity in tech is nation-wide.

Interested in applying to Ada Development Academy? The application deadline for the upcoming class is June 16, 2014 at 5 p.m. PDT.

Women interested in making a career change to software development are encouraged to apply.

CHANTELL OSEJO: FINDING HAPPINESS AS A WOMAN IN TECH

Software Developer, Chantell Osejo never dreamed that she would be a woman in technology.  It came as a complete surprise.

“If you had told me five years ago that I was going to be in IT, and a programmer, I would have laughed” – Chantell

THE BEGINNING

Coming from a small town in Tennessee, the opportunities in technology were limited. In her high school, the only computer classes offered were a basic keyboarding class and the occasional Dreamweaver course. None of her teachers suggested technology as a possible career path.

“Nobody ever suggested tech to me. Lots of [other] female dominated fields were the typical thing,” she says. “It wasn’t frowned upon necessarily; it’s just no one ever said, ‘have you considered this?’ “

At home, her mother wasn’t too fond of computers and limited Osejo and her siblings’ access to them. Her father was a different story.

“My dad always had been pretty much tech-oriented. He built computers with us when we went to visit him and we’d play on the internet.”

Osejo soon discovered Neopets and made her first foray into programming, although minor, by dabbling in HTML so she could make her Neopet town pages. Still, a career in computers never dawned on her.

FROM VET TO TECH

After high school, she enrolled in the Rochester Institute of Technology anticipating a career in veterinary medicine.

But, a funny thing happened.

Osejo found that she hated all of the classes in her major, but did have an intense interest in math, science, and logic. She took a career assessment to determine if the career she’d chosen was the best path for her. Her fiancé (who was a friend at the time) suggested that, with her interests, she may enjoy computer science.

Then, the results of her career assessment came back. The assessment ranked science at the bottom and computer science and technology at the top.  Osejo promptly switched majors. She remembers calling her mother with the news of her new found career goals.

“Her response was, ‘are you kidding me,’ “she laughs. ‘You must have lost your mind. You are going to be so miserable!’ It was probably a shock for her. It was a shock for me, too. “

FROM SHOCK TO BLISS

Osejo began exploring computing; originally starting with networking and systems administration. She took on internships in the field. During her second internship she was doing mobile development and fell in love with the mobile operating system and building apps.

Today, Osejo has found her bliss as an Android Developer for Glympse, a start-up based in Seattle. Glympse is an app that allows the user to share her location in real time with people of her choosing for a specific amount of time. The user can send a Glympse to let someone know she is going to be late or to follow her to her destination. A Glympse can be accessed from any platform.

Osejo explains her role at Glympse this way: “I own our Android customer facing platform app in its entirety. I build. Right now we are going through a re-design, for example. And, I’m tasked on occasion with implementing features as part of our partnerships. So, hypothetically, I might build a car mode UI that may be set up in your vehicle.”

Osejo truly enjoys her job!

“I kind of feel guilty talking to people who are not in the tech industry about how much fun I have at my job.”

START-UP OR CORPORATE

Before her time at Glympse, Osejo was a Software Integrator at financial services company, USAA. She found the culture there much different from that of a start-up. She says that at a big corporation you get a small slice of whatever application or product you’re working on; making you an expert on that particular thing.

A start-up culture is the polar opposite of that.

“I have so much freedom sometimes,” she says. “If I want to implement a feature and I have time; I can do it.”

When asked what she likes most about her job she says, “Oh, the creative aspect. Hands down!”

She says a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that programming is all about logic and math. It is an important piece of the job, but about eighty to ninety percent of programming is creative.

“You’re creating something. You’re building something. You’re fitting together the pieces of the puzzle,” she says. “Especially, if you’re designing. You’re building an experience.”

WOMEN AND TECH

Osejo would really like to see more women choose technology as a career. (When she graduated from college in 2012 there was only one other woman in her IT major.)

She gives back by volunteering with younger women and girls. Tutoring middle school kids in technology and leading an exhibit at a science fair designed to encourage girls to pursue technology and science, sponsored by Girls Inc., are just two examples of how she is giving back.

She feels that opportunities are wide-open for girls and women just starting out in technology as well as  career changers who want to pursue technology. She has met people with backgrounds in art and history who now work happily in technology.

“The opportunities are great,” she says. “No matter where your personality is on the spectrum, you can find the right fit for you.  Whether that’s a start-up mentality where you are able to drive the direction of the company or whether that’s corporate where you can be a piece of the bigger picture and really see how your bit interlocks with everything else that’s out there. There’s something for everyone.”

There May Be Something There That Wasn’t There Before

Ah, but maybe it was there before and it just took a new perspective.

If you think you’ve got a pretty accurate worldview, watch this TedTalk and we’ll see. In 2007, Hans Rosling showed us that in a world filled with increasing amounts of data, we desperately needed to visualize that data in a new way.

As a pre-test, Rosling asked the following set of questions to a group of Swedish undergradute students who were studying global health:

Which country has the highest child mortality…

  • Sri Lanka or Turkey?

  • Poland or South Korea?

  • Malaysia or Russia?

  • Pakistan or Vietnam?

  • Thailand or South Africa?

If you’re still feeling pretty confident, then that’s great – I make it a habit to read the local and world news almost daily and felt like I had to make some second guesses, but didn’t feel like I’d be too far off. What’s more, Rosling reveals that each pair of countries was deliberately chosen so that one country would in reality have twice the child mortality rate of the other. Shouldn’t be that hard then.

I was right for 5 2 out of the 5 questions, and the Swedish students were just about as accurate. How come we were so wrong, and how does data visualization come into play? First go make yourself a nice cup of tea, then come back to watch Rosling’s TedTalk, see how well you scored and among other things, see how just profoundly the Internet has impacted our world.

Without spoiling the video (if you’re still reading this and you haven’t watched the TedTalk, go watch it! I’ll wait, it’s okay), what strikes me most is that much of the data presented was not new in any kind of raw sense. These changes throughout the world haven’t happened overnight, yet it took a new kind of data visualization – Rosling used Gapminder – to make these changes easy to notice and understand.

In what turned out to be an at-once fitting and ironic search, I attempted to find a Creative Commons licensed image on Flickr to accompany this article and met with little success. (Thank you, Tony, for finding an image!) Type in ‘data’ and you get generic tech pictures, creepy doll faces and Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek. Type in ‘data visualization’ and you get a plethora of complicated circles, rectangles and spikes. ‘Statistics graphics’ yields slightly better results, yet I became very aware that the way we typically represent data in charts and diagrams has not changed much over the years. Rosling’s TedTalk helped me reflect that maybe it really is time for us to upgrade the way we visually represent data. If I was feeling pretty confident about my answers to those five questions, how many other situations are there where my perspective is so skewed, and what would it take to see something new?

Looking Ahead

The term ‘big data’ is becoming a more prevalent topic in computer science as we collect more and more information about ourselves and the world around us. Since Rosling gave his talk in 2007, it has become even more necessary for people to create news tools that help us better understand all of this information and decide how to react to its implications. Something tells me that pie charts and scatter plots aren’t always going to cut it anymore.


Think you might be interested in a career in big data? Check out what contributors at Forbes and Computerworld have to say.

TechReads: Creative Intelligence

My friends and I like to good-naturedly lament that when we say we’re Computer Science students, the response is often inevitably, “Oh, great! Now I know who to go to when I need to fix my computer!” I can see why we get this response. The majority of people are users, not creators, of technology – and any time that technology needs troubleshooting, users turn to the “IT guy” or the “IT department” and this is probably the first experience that they associate with the words “Computer Science” (availability heuristic, anyone?).

Interestingly, the next top two variations of responses I tend to get are rather opposite:

  1. “That’s cool! Technology keeps changing so much; you could create some pretty neat things.”
  2. “Really? I don’t think I’d have much fun with a bunch of logic and rules.”

Yes, technology is constantly and rapidly changing. Yes, this means there are people who are driving that change. Yes, Computer Science is built on logic and there are rules. What’s the difference between someone who puts those facts together and thinks “Cool!” and someone who asks “Really?”

The difference is whether or not you realize that some of those rules and their uses are not set in stone – that you have the potential to make new rules, or use logic in a new way to come up with a friendlier user interface, a more efficient system, or a video game world where portal guns are definitely a thing and definitely under the category of “some pretty neat things”.

In the book Creative Intelligence, author Bruce Nussbaum explores our preconceived notions of what it means to be creative, how we can deliberately foster creativity and why creativity is a key skill which Nussbaum argues is essential to the development of the economy. Although Nussbaum writes about how creativity applies to a number of fields, many of his examples are technology-related.

My Top 5 Favorite Tech Examples in Creative Intelligence:
On Amazon: Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect, and Inspire

  1. How did some of Apple’s earliest computer designs end up being inspired and solved by visiting a jelly bean factory?
  2. How has the recent surge in social media affected the way we engage with content, consuming versus creating it?
  3. What did a Portland, Oregon company do to help Lenovo create tech products that would appeal to its Chinese consumers and compete against foreign, better-known brands?
  4. How did ideas originally applied to create robots that could search for victims of disasters eventually lead to the development of the Roomba, the first vacuum-cleaning robot?
  5. How do games like Re-Mission, a video game for young cancer patients where the player wages battle against cancer cells, actually physically improve a patient’s health?

I would rate this book a 4 out of 5. I loved most of the examples and I find it rewarding and inspiring to explore how other people have found creative success. However, I am a little wary of believing that there is a set formula for creativity given its very nature.

Additionally, calling creativity a type of intelligence (Nussbaum also calls it “CQ”) still grates on the part of me that learned in Psychology class that there is no empirical evidence for any types of multiple intelligences. Granted, Nussbaum wrote this book mostly for a Business audience and not a Psychology one.

Overall though, this is the kind of springboard book that introduced me to new authors, ideas and companies that I would love to learn more about.

How do you use creativity in your work? What does creativity mean to you? Leave a comment below!


This article is the first of a series called TechReads, my new ongoing series of technology-related book reviews. If you would like to suggest a book for a future TechReads article, please leave a comment below – and if you’ve read Creative Intelligence, I’d love to hear what you think!

Image by Matt Katzenberger


creativeintbookOn Amazon: Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect, and Inspire

Adventures at the Northwest Regional Women in Computing Conference

AlexandreaYoong Co-Writer: Alexandrea Yoong
LinkedIn
“Alexandrea’s goals are to pursue an MS degree in Computer Science and work to program games and more widely accessible educational software or applications that encourage younger students, particularly girls and underrepresented minorities, to explore and pursue STEM careers.”
NicoleLewey Co-Writer: Nicole Lewey
LinkedIn
I am a Computer Science major with Mathematics and Music minors. I am Vice President and co-founder of the Women in Computer Science Club. I participate in multiple choral ensembles, one of which I will be directing starting Fall 2014.LinkedIn

Hi, we are Alexandrea Yoong and Nicole Lewey, President and Vice President of the Women in Computer Science Club (WICS) at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. Our club’s mission is to foster a community which promotes equal opportunities for women in computer science by helping to create professional development opportunities and by advocating for more women to enter and contribute to this dynamic field. We were really excited when our advisor, Shereen Khoja, told us about the Northwest Regional Women in Computing Conference in Portland, Oregon. Given that we formed our club very recently in February 2014, this conference was our first chance to interact with other aspiring computer scientists and professionals.

We knew that the conference would take place on April 12, 2014 and that we had the option to sign up for mock interviews and resume reviews. We also learned that our university’s Career Development Center prints free business cards for students and thought this would be useful. To prepare for the conference, we made sure our resumes were updated and thought about questions to ask the people we would meet.

GLaDOS of Portal was born as a senior project!

When we arrived at the conference, we knew that the morning keynote speaker, Kim Swift, had worked on the game Portal. What we didn’t know was that she and her team of fellow students at DigiPen Institute of Technology had developed the concept and first version of Portal (under a different title) as their senior project. Even more astonishing is that while showcasing this game at a convention, Kim Swift and her classmates were invited to present their game to developers at Valve, and then offered their first jobs on the spot! Kim Swift was down-to-earth but spoke about how it was important to look for opportunities and also create them. It was motivating to see someone achieving her goals at such a young age.

Next, we participated in a speed networking session. There were 21 colleges and universities represented, as well as a number of professionals. Our business cards came in handy, and we also learned that many people utilize LinkedIn profiles to build their professional image and further their networking. At this session, I [Alexandrea] met Ron Tenison, a retired professor and strong advocate for women in computer science. Later in the day, the club reconnected with him and learned about how to form a student chapter with ACM-W (Association for Computing Machinery – Women). I [Nicole] found it interesting to talk to other female computer science students who have had similar experiences.

Breaking the Ice with Angry Birds

For a fun icebreaker and group activity, we divided into small groups with people we didn’t know and spent 45 minutes engineering our own real-life version of an Angry Birds game. It was a fun way to meet new people and appreciate the amount of creativity every person brought to the table

At lunch, a diverse panel of four women talked about building your personal brand. One of the key takeaways from the panel was that recruiters rely heavily on LinkedIn to find potential employees. One of the women talked a lot about advocating for yourself, having the self-confidence to know how to pick your battles, and knowing when to confront an unfair work situation. It was also neat to see how Claire Francis, a high school freshman, was able to take her passion of health/fitness and develop her personal brand by using a blog and other social media – all without a formal degree.

There were three afternoon talks after lunch. The first was by Jennifer Davidson, a PhD candidate from Oregon State University, who researched how to involve a greater number of older adults in free/open source software communities. As women in computer science, something that stood out to us in her presentation was that only 1% of open source developers are female. This was also relevant because Open Source Development is a special topics class being offered at our university next Fall semester.

The afternoon keynote speaker, Reena Agarwal, spoke on the topic of innovation. We liked that she thought of innovation in little steps; she approached each day practically, explaining that she didn’t get up in the morning saying “I’m going to be innovative today!”

The third talk was given by Franziska Roesner, a PhD candidate from the University of Washington, who talked about privacy and the companies that track users online. A main point that she made was that many people don’t realize how extensively they’re tracked and that many of the tools currently used for privacy are much less effective than users think.

More than Digital Connections

During the career fair portion of the conference, I [Nicole] met with a woman from HP for a mock interview and resume advice. One piece of advice was to format the resume so that the most important components stood out just by scanning the page. We then went over some common interview questions and she gave me feedback about my answers. This was especially timely since I had interviews the following Monday and Tuesday for potential summer internships. One of the questions I learned to think about is how to describe the way I work within a team – I was asked this question at five different interviews.

Another benefit of the career fair was that we got to connect with Ron Tenison and learn how to form a student chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery – Women (ACM-W). I [Alexandrea] also networked with Coral Cotterell at the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and learned about various activities and other resources that we could use for outreach to elementary, middle and high school students. It was encouraging meeting so many people who were equally passionate about computer science education and supporting women in the field.

All of our Women in Computer Science club members walked away from this conference very excited about how we could pass on our positive experiences to other students. We were energized and inspired by the stories we heard, the people we met, and the ideas we shared. We encourage all of you to check out similar conferences and resources in your area!

Thanks,
Alexandrea and Nicole