President’s Message January

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2015 Preview

Elizabeth Peterson – President

NESS has many plans for 2015, even during the winter. Please keep attuned for upcoming facility tours at Atrion in Warwick, General Dynamics/ Electric Boat at Quonset Point, and ACME Wire in Stonington. We have joined forces with our local collegiate sections to plan more tours throughout the year.

In addition, our annual Region F Conference  is early this year at Wentworth Institute of Technology on Feb. 28th, so mark your calendars! Come to Boston for a day full of professional development, networking and more. You will not be disappointed.

gavelBest wishes for you and yours in 2015!

Beth Peterson, NESS President

Outreach Observations January

SueThe New Way

Sue Anderson - Outreach Chair

 

Every week I ask my pastor for his sermon topic for the next Sunday since I write the press release for the church and include the title, hoping we get more than the usual 24 or so showing up. This week it is “The New Way”, and I thought this would make a good topic for this month’s SWE-NESS outreach topic as well.

It is January, the beginning of another new year, and as people make and ultimately break their New Year resolutions, perhaps titling a resolution as a “new way” instead might work out better in the long run.

Next month is National Engineers Week, and to get you in the mindset of how you can make a difference in an outreach to youth, make a new way toward learning more through a free webinar this month. The people at discovere.org (formerly eweek.org) are hosting a webinar at noon on 14 January titled 6 Easy Things You Can Do to Make a Difference during Engineers Week. They will present easy to implement activities and review turnkey resources you can use to celebrate engineering and successfully introduce students to engineering. You can RSVP to them here.  As always, their webinars may be seen later if you cannot attend at the original time slotted.

Another new way to go is to bring living role models to life for youth who want to know why they should take any STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, math) in school or college. “What’s in it for me?” and “When am I ever going to use this stuff?” are common responses to someone pushing them toward these subjects. Do a little research, starting with this short article.  This article talks about how the women at the top of the 2014 Fortune Most Powerful Women list are into STEM bigtime, listing technology companies like IBM, HP, Lockheed-Martin, and DuPont having more women as executives running the show. Not only are they good in business, they also majored in the field. The article names examples who you can further research to help prove your point to the wary student.

For those teenage girls who are still holdouts, you can go a different new way with this article on a startup company called Vidcode. The company was founded by two women, a photographer and a software engineer, designing an easy-to-learn code “to appeal to photo-fiend teen girls.” Girls can add color-tinting and other effects to homemade videos. The founders created Vidcode to get more girls involved in coding, “observing that girls became far more interested in learning to code if the experience reflected their creative interests and social lives.”

For those of you who teach, perhaps you can head in a new way based on this article.  The author is a senior research scientist who conducts research on effective physics teaching and learning. She relates her personal experiences in college as a STEM student: how she was treated and what she did as a result. Her goal is to change the way STEM is taught to students, specifically physics. To get more women interested in the STEM fields in the secondary schools and those of higher learning, I agree with her that the subjects should be taught more interactively, with more hands-on activities, and more real-life applications. Women, more than men, lean toward the social aspect of a job, where they can make a difference. By having real-life applications illustrating this aspect, perhaps more young women will find the new way toward a STEM career.

I have given you some new ways to go this new year, keeping in mind our local outreach programs are there as well. I will be sending out materials this month to those who volunteered to set up STEM book displays at their community libraries to promote E-Week for the month of February. There is a great engineering outreach to middle school Cadette Girl Scouts in Connecticut called Engineers to the Rescue! on the 23rd and 24th of this month, facilitated by SWE-NESS member Kimberly McLean. There are also two other programs next month: the Girl Scout SWE badge workshop at RWU and the Be an Engineer workshop at the Providence Children’s Museum. Details on these will follow in emails for volunteers later this month, so watch your email and think of the new way (or ways) you want to go!

OUTREACH PROGRAM CALENDAR

Jan. 23-24: Girl Scout Cadette workshop: Engineers to the Rescue!, 7 PM-3:30 PM, Pattagansett GS Camp, East Lyme, CT; POC Kimberly McLean

Feb. 7: Girl Scout Junior SWE badge workshop, 9-noon, RWU Engineering Bldg; POC Sue Anderson Feb. 21: Be an Engineer workshop, 11-2, Providence Children’s Museum; POC Sue Anderson

 

Professional Development January

Diana FramedTime to Refocus

Diana Ukleja – Treasurer

 A friend bought one of the Great Course DVDs, and invited a group to watch and discuss on New Year’s Eve.  The course she chose is “Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction To Meditation”, given by Prof. Mark Muesse of Rhodes College.  Her idea was that we would listen to five or six of the half-hour lectures (there are twenty-four in all!).  Seven ladies, three hours, no talking … what was she thinking?

We compromised on two lectures, with lots of talking, but promised to come back for more.  It occurred to me that some of the highlights might be of interest, taken together with thoughts from two quiet days I attended last month.  If you are not familiar with the “quiet day” setup, it is usually bracketed by food and conversation before and after, with one or two presentations on things to think about.  Questions may be presented for reflection or journaling.  Participants then scatter in silence for an hour or so.

The first quiet day focused on the contrast of silence with mental distractions.  In seeking interior silence and mentally cleaning house, we make an empty space where negative thoughts may filter in … it is better to listen to the distractions, we were told, as these may be the things we really need to deal with.  Of course, if there are too many distractions, that may be like a traffic jam where you can do nothing but wait.  Another theme was persistence, as exemplified in a biblical parable (Luke 11:5-8), which suggests that a neighbor woken late at night will help you not because he likes you or because he wants to, but because you keep knocking until he answers.

The second quiet day included a reflection on the need to wait for awareness or understanding to well up, rather than striving after it.  We were told that effort does not lead to growth or change (of our inner-selves), but that change may come with increased awareness.

The mindfulness course is firmly planted in Buddhist practice, contrasting the benefits to be gained by meditation with the “mindlessness” of the distracting mental chatter we so often experience.  Professor Muesse gives a vivid example, as the DVD displays a line of people, supposedly across the conference table from you at a meeting.  “Her hairstyle is awful!  I’m glad my hair doesn’t look that bad!  I hope my hair doesn’t look that bad.  I should say something … what should I say?” …

He argues that the regular practice of meditation strengthens one’s ability to remain focused and present in the moment, rather than drifting to plans for the future or judgments (chiefly negative) of the past.  To our disappointment, the first two lectures did not include any actual practice in meditation.  From the accompanying text, lesson six looks likely!

I share these fragments for your consideration, as you return from the holiday break with good intentions for your work and life in the new year.  If the break has been busy and noisy, perhaps you will want to seek a little quiet time, to see what bubbles up.

Wit-NESS January

Newsletter EditorDriving Then & Now

Peg Pickering Goter – Newsletter Editor

“We might not have to watch Red Asphalt,” my daughter just told me. We were talking about her driver’s training class.  She has completed about 24 hours in 4 days, with two more days remaining this weekend.  She assumed that I would be familiar with this video series, because the first installment was created in the mid-sixties. Since my intention was to write a humorous article, I need to tell you that these videos were never intended to be funny.  Having said that, the first one is so outdated that it would provide almost no relevance to today’s teen, and the third installment was so cheesy that it was hard not to laugh. This article is also pretty funny.

Anyway, each day I have picked her up from class, she has informed me that she was mostly being taught about all the different ways one can die while driving a car. She did say that she got a 95 on “recognizing road signs, ” so I feel confident that there is some technical driving knowledge being imparted. She also told me that my hands were in the wrong place on the steering wheel, and the airbag would break my wrists if it deployed at that moment.  So much for the old “10:00 and 2:00!”

In 1976, I did take a driver training class, but the only thing I remember is that the instructor was a football coach, and that he marked me incorrect when I said a “lead foot” was a driver who drove too fast. He insisted that it was somebody who drove at a constant speed (which was obviously very dangerous). Duh.  I got a permit at 15 and 6 months, and a full, unrestricted license on my 16th birthday.  I was the last of four, seven years younger than my closest sibling… Mom could hardly wait for me to drive, and got me hooked up with wheels almost instantaneously.  I was given use of a 1972 Chevy Vega, which consumed a quart of oil with every other gas fill-up. Alas, the Vega “met with an accident” in my second year of college (I SWEAR it was NOT MY FAULT!)  Then my parents bought me a 1980 Ford Pinto…

mazda_rx-y_gsl-se_84_04

I drove the Pinto Pony until I was able to buy my first car with my engineering salary. It was a 1984 Mazda RX7. Vroom… (Actually, the rotary engine went “hmmmm.”)

So now we are considering what type of vehicle we would feel comfortable having my daughter drive. She will begin on-road training in about 6 weeks, and I intend to have her learn on both our Pacifica (big and safe) and my Subaru Legacy (safe but fast!). When she starts driving solo, I would not be comfortable with either the Pacifica that can comfortably seat 6 additional teenagers, nor a V-6 that does zero-to-60 in about 6 seconds. She has expressed a love of the VW Beetle, and we are considering one of those. I am trying not to think about the Beetle my friend had in 1977… I used to sit in the back seat because the front passenger seat had been removed when the floor rusted through. No heat. Seatbelts??? HA!

So, friends… the next time somebody wistfully opines about “the good old days”, please remind them how much safer today’s cars are. Even with faulty ignition switches and exploding airbags, we are safer on today’s roads because of seatbelts, infant car-seats, airbags, drunk-driving laws and graduated teen-licensing programs. While we’re listing things, cell phones allow us to call for help, steering-wheel-mounted radio controls help us keep our eyes on the road, GPS navigation keeps us from getting lost, automatic lights stay on so that we can see our way to our front doors. I’d like to think that many safety features came about as women engineers began working in the auto industry. Yay us!  As scary as it seems to be putting my daughter behind the wheel, I KNOW that she has a much better chance of survival than I did at her age.

President’s Message December

bethp

December Happenings

Elizabeth Peterson – President

Please accept my heartfelt wish on behalf of NESS for a joyous and safe holiday season for you, your family and extended family, too!

Thank you all for your support throughout the year to help NESS achieve our goals. I’d like to express gratitude for several members who consistently give so much of their time and effort to sustain NESS and enable our section to continue to offer excellent programs for our members, colleagues, collegiates and children. Remember that renewing your SWE membership, even if you do not participate in local events, is important because you are staying informed and a portion of your dues is received by NESS.

Please let me know if you can join NESS for our annual holiday dinner on December 5th at Not Your Average Joe’s in Warwick. We will be collecting donations for Lucy’s Hearth 24-hour emergency and transitional shelter for homeless women and children.

More great news! This month, Dominion announced that they will increase their NESS corporate sponsorship by 100% to $3K! Our implementation of 16 STEM outreach programs which reached 1400 students in 2013 is exactly aligned with their corporate citizenship goal. It’s not easy to track the affects of our acts of kindness, but I reassure you that our mentorship is encouraging many local girls and boys to choose STEM college majors and certificate programs.

NESS’s Executive Council is looking forward to continue to serve you and our communities in 2015.

gavel Happy Holidays from Beth Peterson

 

 

Outreach Observations December

SueGirls Who Code

Sue Anderson - Outreach Chair

 I graduated nearly forty years ago majoring in electrical engineering and computer science. At that time, I was the only female in the engineering graduating class with those majors (the other female was in chemical engineering). Obviously, these numbers have changed quite a bit since – but there is still a shortage of women in computer science. Only 12 percent of college graduates in this field today are women, compared to 37 percent in the 1980’s. Two years ago, Reshma Saujani started a non-profit organization to correct not only the inequality of the gender imbalance, but also to provide the necessary workforce to deal with 21st century technology. She named it Girls Who Code.

According to the Girls Who Code website, the organization works “to educate, inspire, and equip high school girls with the skills and resources to pursue opportunities in computing fields.” They cite statistics from the Department of Labor, projecting 1.4 million computer specialist job openings by 2020. “Anecdotal data tells us that an average of 30% of those students with exposure to computer science will continue in the field. This means that 4.6 million adolescent girls will require some form of exposure to computer science education to realize gender parity in 2020. Girls Who Code has set out to reach 25% of those young women.”

Girls Who Code pairs “intensive instruction in robotics, web design, and mobile development with high-touch mentorship and exposure led by the industry’s top female engineers and entrepreneurs.” Clubs have been formed in schools, libraries, and other community organizations in over twenty states, including the SWE-NESS area in Rhode Island (Highlander Charter School and the Lincoln School, both in Providence) and Connecticut (West Side Middle School in Groton). Club programs consist of forty curriculum hours paired with project-based group learning.

Founder and CEO Saujani said she wants to add the perspective of women to the mix of technology. “They think about different problems and approach them in different ways, but if they don’t learn these high-tech skills, they may never get the opportunity to show how coding can help solve those problems…girls are tackling real problems and we are using technology to solve them and change the world. We are literally building a movement.”

Girls Who Code has an intensive summer immersion program, where girls are subjected to seven weeks of instruction in computer science, robotics, algorithms, web design, and mobile development by means of speakers, demos, workshops, and presentations from female engineers and entrepreneurs, as well as field trips to technology companies, startups, and academic institutions. The summer program culminates in a final project where “participants have designed and built mobile applications to help handicapped New Yorkers navigate the city’s streets and subways, encourage girls to pursue math and science, a Twitter-based application to start book clubs with peers across the country, video games with complex layers, and even created an LED light up umbrella!”

An article in my local newspaper about the Lincoln School club cited the thirty students meet after school for a couple of hours “learning loops, variables, algorithms, and how to weave them together into programs.” One of the students said she wanted to use the skills she learned from the club “to create something that makes a difference, something related to cultural awareness, world news, and civil rights issues.”

This sounds like a great opportunity for you to help mentor students in these Girls Who Code clubs – or to start one in your own community! There is information on their website as to how to start one. What’s interesting is there are no engineering organizations listed as partners – just companies. If your company is interested in sponsoring/partnering with Girls Who Code in conjunction with SWE, please contact Girls Who Code and let them know. I’m sure they would be thrilled to expand into our area!

 

 

Professional Development December

Diana FramedMore Exciting Webinars

Diana Ukleja – Treasurer

 

There certainly have been a lot of SWE webinars on offer lately!  Let’s take a look:

  • Mobile Computing at the Edge, presented by Grace Lewis, principal researcher at Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute
  • How Big Data Analytics is Enabling Big Data Center Sustainability, presented by Patrick Flynn, Group Leader for Applied Intelligence and Sustainability and by Stephanie Nadeau, Senior Business Intelligence Engineer, both at IO Data Centers
  • Keys to Career Success for Introverts, presented by Dr. Miriam Reiss, co-author of Branding and Marketing Mastery and a Master Certified Coach
  • 5 Principles to Perform at Your Best, in two parts, presented by Valencia Ray, MD, author of Leadership Beyond Gender: Transcend Limiting Mindsets to Become a More Engaging Leader

 While you may be receiving email notifications inviting you to register for the live webinar, remember that as a SWE member, you can always log on to the website and access past webinars.  Each webinar is scheduled for an hour, and there is usually an accompanying set of slides.  Given question time at the end, the elapsed time is under an hour … consider having one with your lunch!

 

Tech Tales December

Peg Holiday HeadDecember Then & Now

Peg Pickering Goter – Newsletter Editor

A few days before Thanksgiving, a niece contacted me through Facebook, asking if I had any information about our Pickering ancestors. One of her daughters was doing a research project about the Pickering family name. I immediately sent them a hand-written chart that my mother had created several years ago, showing birthdates, marriages, children born and death dates back as far as my great-grandfathers and mothers. My great-niece emailed back with one more question… Did I know what year our Pickering family came to America?  While I had this information for my Mother’s (Collins) side of my family, I did NOT know about my Pickering side. Time for a little research!

Imagine my surprise when within a few clicks, I found some old newspaper articles about my Great Grandfather through Google search. If you take a look at this linked page, you’ll see a picture of my Great Grandfather’s family, with my father’s father (Lieutenant Albert) pictured right. Our question was answered in the middle of the story, where we learned that Myles and Elystra were married in England in 1890, and moved to America not long after that.  Intrigued by the number of articles I found, I signed up for a free trial at Newspapers.com, and then opted to purchase a year’s membership for half-price on black Friday. (I love a bargain!) I have also signed up for a free-trial on Ancestry.com after finding some information about my Great Great Grandfather, Thomas Pickering.  I decided to talk about these tools in Tech Tales because of the great improvements I’ve noticed since the last time I tried to find historical information about my ancestors.

It occurs to me that many people live their entire lives without being mentioned in a newspaper, other than marriage or death announcements, so this Newspapers.com membership may prove more valuable to me than for others. My dad’s parents, grandparents and sister were all fairly prominent ministers for the Salvation Army, and were often mentioned on religious and social news pages. Many people might find the Ancestry.com site more useful, because it collects public records, rather than news articles. The sites are affiliated, but separate. Then again, some people might think it’s cool just to be able to read stories from these old newspapers… Perhaps I will do some research of SWE history or technical advancements over time, for use in a future article.

Since “The Season” is upon us, I thought you might be interested to read about the Salvation Army Kettles in 1915, as compared to today. My own impression is that not much has changed!  While my science education eventually caused me to turn away from religious beliefs, I still donate regularly to the Salvation Army, because they truly do help many people who need a lift. And yes, I still wear a Santa Hat sometimes, because… well… why not?

Ho Ho Happy Researching!