Tag Archives: engineering

Making is a Click Away: 3 Kid-Friendly Maker Projects I Can’t Wait to Use in a Classroom

I’ve always felt like STEM was out of reach for me. It wasn’t that I felt locked out of the party, like many women throughout history have been, I just never thought I would actually enjoy a job in any of those fields. Much like our guest writer Emily explained, I love the idea of more women working in STEM… but other women, not me. Just the thought of sorting through code or equations when I could be reading or writing makes my eyes glaze over.

Luckily, over the last couple years, I had the serendipitous opportunity to work at a lab that combines the hands-on approach of maker culture with consideration for the humanities. This job forced me to approach a lot of tasks that I had never really encountered before, but it allowed me to do so from the perspective of a humanities student. We were prototyping, yes, but with the goal of understanding more about history, culture, and theory. My experiences at the lab gave me a whole new level of interest in the field of STEM and, while I still don’t feel like it’s the field for me, I feel confident enough to approach coding or engineering for some very (VERY) basic projects. It’s opened the door to ideas that once felt impossible to even consider.

I’m particularly excited to learn about the accessibility of maker culture because I recently decided to pursue a career in teaching. The more I learn about in the world of making and prototyping, the more excited I am to implement these approaches when teaching.

Building Circuits

If you look up the basics of circuit building online you will probably find a page that highlights all the tools and parts you will need to build a basic circuit. While this is incredibly helpful, for someone like me it’s also overwhelming. Even when approaching a much more accessible tool, like Arduino, circuit building can seem like something only experts should do.

That’s why I’m so thankful for kid-friendly tech companies who want to make this process simpler and more interesting for kids (and those of us with a child’s attention span for detail).

The first time I tried circuit building was with a Makey Makey, a kit that easily assembles into a simple circuit and allows you to use a variety of household items as computer keys (like food, pencil markings, and play dough).

I also brought it to work with me when I was running a summer kids program and got the kids to assemble it themselves. They loved the experience and were full of questions about why and how we could turn cucumber slices into a piano keyboard. I can only imagine how a simple circuitboard like the Makey Makey, or circuit stickers like those at Chibitronics, could make simple physics that much more exciting to learn. Continue reading

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We Need More Women in STEM, But I’m Not One Of Them

Hello everyone, my name is Emily and I am bad at math. Sometimes this makes me feel like a failure as a feminist.

See, I’m a nerd at heart (surprise!), and a lot of my favourite websites and blogs accrete STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) news alongside covert footage of the new Millenium Falcon. I certainly don’t mind after all, I follow NASA on Facebook. I really am truly interested in most of the science news that comes across my dash, but it’s like being a child with a crush on one of her parent’s friends: I think it’s so incredibly cool and it thinks I’m kind of silly. Left-brainers range from befuddled to downright arrogant when dealing with us right-brainers.  

At any rate I see a lot of news about how important it is to get more girls into STEM fields, and it leaves me feeling a little guilty.  I would consider myself both a nerd and a feminist, and yet my brain seems to be built like a sieve with number-shaped holes.  Seriously, when my husband was doing his engineering degree he would sometimes vent about the concepts he was learning and even when I was trying very hard to focus and follow what he was saying, my brain would go fuzzy and I’d entirely lose track of his words.  Numbers just make my brain congeal a little.

This, but with math.

I’m not exaggerating.  I can do the same problem four times and get four different answers.  The numbers swim and change places, and working through problems feels like pushing something heavy through something thick, only to find out you were moving the wrong heavy object once the job is done.  STEM types laud math for being so reliable and utterly logical, but it’s always felt rather arcane to me. Continue reading

3 Questions We Need to Ask about FHRITP and Internet Justice

You may have seen the following video circulating on the internet. For those of you who haven’t seen it, I should warn you that it contains coarse language.

I absolutely love how CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt manages to professionally undermine this popular joke. She is bang on in identifying the blatant sexism of the comment, and the way it exudes disrespect for all female news anchors. This phrase, and the trend of harassing female reporters, is particularly frustrating because it falls into “legal no man’s land” and would be very difficult to prosecute. However, shortly after this video aired, one of the men who defends the FHRITP trend was fired from his high-paying engineering job for violating their code of conduct.

While I am frankly quite ecstatic that we no longer live in the era of “boys will be boys”, there are certain aspects of this case that have also raised up questions for me. I’ve shared those questions with you below.

At what point does internet justice become cyber-bullying?

The internet has been a major catalyst for feminist activism. For example, a wide variety of feminist issues that are not usually discussed by mainstream media have been able to gain traction on social media. As a woman, I’m so thankful for that. I’m also a big believer in creating stigma around certain behaviours, since it often seems far more effective than banning them altogether. However, I have noticed some instances where public shaming has become an unnecessary contest between shamers. Evan has touched on this in the past, but I also found some prime examples of this on the “Help Shawn Simoes get his Job Back” Facebook page. It seems that instead of liking it in order to actually support the FHRITP scapegoat, people have been liking it so that they can one up each other with their witty comments.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 9.59.41 PM Continue reading