Examples and Challenges of Teaching STEM

Defining STEM…

When teaching STEM to minors, a common trap you want to avoid is that of mis-defining what STEM is for your school and your children.  STEM is not simply buying a bunch of iPads toSTEM_Takers-to-Makers1_mini do art, music, or using technology to complete homework assignments and classwork. Unless we’re teaching our kids creative innovation in a STEM related area, then we’re just fooling ourselves and, sadly, our kids.  As I explained in a recent talk for would-be-STEM educators, STEM should be about transforming kids (through hands on experiences) from consumers to innovators; or, as I like to say,
STEM is about turning kids from Takers into Makers.

Continue reading

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Project Wing – Drone Delivered Burritos in Blacksburg VA

drone_deliveryAn autonomous flying robot delivered burritos to me and a bunch of other Rackers for lunch today. I don’t know if I should be giddy with geek joy or fearfully completing my HERFgun in the basement. Either way, cool cutting edge drone research is happening here in Blacksburg VA as a part of Alphabet’s (Google’s parent company) is doing  “as part of an initiative to push research and safety measures for unmanned flight.”[1]

How does Blacksburg rate as one of the limited six “FAA-sanctioned drone test sites”[1]? In a word, Virginia Tech.  VT happens to be the home of the Virginia Center for Autonomous Systems (VaCAS), “an ICTAS/College of Engineering research center which facilitates interdisciplinary research in autonomous systems technology.”[2]  They even have their own drone test landing strip at Kentland farms just outside the town limits called the Kentland Experimental Aerial Systems (KEAS) laboratory.

But enough about research, let’s talk burrito-drones!

Being one of the larger software dev centers in Blacksburg, Racksburg (our nickname for Rackspace Blacksburg) was invited to come out and partake is this limited, by-invitation-only, test bed research event…and boy was it cool! They are not only researching and solving technical issues with the drone delivery tech itself, but are also figuring out things like: what kinds of orders are doable via drone, what kinds of prices consumers are willing to pay, what level of delivery fees people are most responsive to, and how often the sample clientele are most likely to use such a service (after the new/coolness factor has faded).

So here’s how the test incarnation of this unique food delivery trial run worked.

  1. drone_taking-ordersPlace your order:
    This will not be typical once implemented commercially, but in this test run we (the customers) drive to the delivery test venue, take a number to be called to the order kiosk (they’re making an App for this) and place your drone-burrito order. You can order burritos or burrito-bowls (around $6-7 ea). There is also a $6 fee per delivery. While a 100% surcharge is rather steep, a drone can fly two orders at a time so it’s good to find a partner to share the delivery fee.
  2. Relax and Snack While You Wait:
    drone_waiting1drone_waiting2While you wait for your order to be filled and delivered (which only takes between 6-10 minutes), you’re invited to sit and nosh on free chips, guac and drinks at either their canopy shielded picnic tables or their adirondack chair lounge area where you can watch the drones come and go. Pretty sweet!
  3. “Look! Here it Comes!”
    burrito-joy_captionI’ve got to say.. Drones are awesome, and most everyone loves a good burrito. But together , as one Racker expressed it you will “Experience Pure Burrito Joy!” He was so happy about getting to partake in this über yummy/geeky research project, that he rendered this intricate drawing of the experience. What more can I say!?  Oh, I guess we could show a narrated video of the experience:

     

  4. Enjoy!
    drone_eatingSo I don’t know if it was the burrito, the Garlic Cholulas they had on the table, or the whole drone-burrito-joy experience — but the Alphabet/Project Wing/Chipotle[3] experience  was truly magical. Here’s a selfie of my Racker buddy Dave Williams and I noshing on our air-mail delivered lunch (we split the drone delivery fee and so paid just $3 ea).
  5. Survey Research
    drone_surveysOf course as participants in Project Wing, we wanted to do our part by spending the 8-10 minutes needed for filling out their consumer research questionnaire. I recognized their multi-question, market research format by how they really drilled in to how much consumers would be willing to pay for such services, combined with a NPS style closing question formatted in a 0-10 scale of “would you recommend this service to a friend”.  I shared that I would be willing to pay $3-4 for such a service, but not more than that (even if it really was this quick), but that I would consider a $2 delivery fee to be a “good deal”. Here’s a shot of some other Rackers filling out their survey, still glowing with “pure burrito joy”.

Over all, Alphabet Inc’s Project Wing burrito drop was a really cool experience, and I was honored that Rackspace was invited to participate. I hope the university and Project Wing folks are able to use our feedback to refine this delivery system of the future…although there was a tongue and cheek joke when one Racker asked, “Can we get lounge chairs that hover so we don’t have to get up to pick up our burrito?” (a cutting narrative reference to what these types of services ultimately led to with regards to human narcissistic laziness in the futuristic Disney film Wall-E).drone_wall-e

Let’s all hope that projects and services like these end up bettering mankind and that our future mechanistic overlords don’t take advantage of this new dependency on them. 😉

All joking aside, most technology innovations like these make our lives that much more efficient and convenient. It’s up to us to make sure that we remember to use this extra time to get out, experience and enrich the amazing world in which we live— not use it to turn inward.

 

 

 

 

[1] “Delivery Drones to Be Tested in U.S.“, Bloomburg
[2]  VaCAS homepage
[3]  “Alphabet Teams Up With Chipotle For Project Wing Test: Drones Will Deliver Burritos To Virginia Tech “, Tech Times

 

 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

eLog Refugee Software Wins “Peoples Choice” Award in International Startup Competition in Blacksburg

IMG_9638_cEver year Rackspace Blacksburg supports an international team in the VT KnowledgeWorks Global Student Challenge. This year we hosted and worked with “Team eLog“, a couple of young UK entrepreneurs who had the idea of creating a software app and back-end system to help international refugees and immigrants track the voyage from their home land to their destination country.  It’s been determined that almost 90% of refugees actually have and use smart phones. This being the case, the would-be-immigrant simply downloads the eLog app,  inputs their vital stats, state and personal ID, birth certificates and documents.. and then uses the app to track their voyage to their destination. Once arriving at the destination country’s immigration or refugee processing office, they grant the immigration office access to their eLog account, GPS tagged travel history, country of origin, travel photos and other journey data, thus greatly reducing the work and delays of immigration processing while saving the destination country much of the time and labor of traditional paper-trail tracking and security checks.

IMG_9568_ccRackspace helped team eLog refine their pitch, think about other revenue models, and how to present their app as not just a war-time, distressed-country refugee tracking tool, but also as a peace time tool for moving standard immigrant documentation services from the 20th century into the 21st century paperless/GPS based journey and personal-ID documentation.

IMG_7596

Is that someone’s upside down head (bottom)?

After the competition and awards ceremony, eLog along with all the other international (and US) college teams all came back to Racksburg to party down and mingle with our local young professionals group. It was an awesome, rocking party that ended up being super eclectic (music wise) and a lot of fun.

If you’re interested in being a host company for a VT KnowledgeWorks student team, or would personally like to be a host family and invite a team into your home late next summer, contact the VT KnowledgeWorks folks and let them know. It’s a really fun and enlightening experience, not just for the students but for everyone involved.

 

 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Performance Case Study Talk of Migrating to the Cloud

2016-09_CRC-Sig-Talk_Jimmy-cloud

For more info, see the VT-CRC Event Calendar Listing here: http://www.vtcrc.com/events/itsig9-16/

 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Encryption Keysigning Party

 

 

 

2016-09_Keysigning-Poster

n00bs:  If you’ve never created an encryption keypair before (required  
before step-1), then you’ll first want to follow these easy step by step
directions for creating a solid set of encryption and signing keys.
(one should do this from the command line to grok what’s going on)

  1. RSVP Link: https://keyparty.vtcsec.org/ (please paste, do not type, your key fingerprint)
  2. Bring two forms of photo ID (one must be state/government issued)
  3. Print and bring the fingerprints roster:  https://keyparty.vtcsec.org/fingerprints.html (after verifying your own fingerprint is correct)

NOTE: Please do not bring a laptop. We do not actually sign keys at the party,
but only match and verify keys to identification. You will take home your
fingerprints paper sheet to download,
double check and sign all keys from home.

 

Background:

For the uninitiated, strong encryption is what allows one to secure their personal files, communications and papers. For example, if one wants to be able to email themselves or loan officers sensitive banking documents, correspond with the press or international co-horts securely, or just use strong encryption to protect personal files from prying eyes on their laptop or  thumb drive, then strong encryption is key.  Personal strong encryption is also what allows people like Edward Snowden, political dissidents, or other oppressed persons to securely communicate and prove the authenticity of their communications ( through authentication and non-repudiation) via “digital signatures“.

Keysigning is the action of one entity or person to validate (or sign) the public encryption key of another, therefore validating their identity as to be trusted.  The more keys you sign and who sign your key, the more “connections” you have to trust by extension.  Keysigning parties are the backbone activity required for those who desire to have/utilize this Web-of-Trust, to be used along with personal strong encryption.

 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

A Process Minimalist’s Guide To Retrospectives

David identifies themes from what we've discussed

Have you heard about Google’s Project Aristotle? It was a research project that aimed to find out what combination of personality types, skill sets, and backgrounds made up the most effective teams at Google. Are teams who hang out outside of work more effective? Do you group introverts with other introverts? Should teams share a preference for managerial style? Stuff like that.

(Bear with me—I promise this will tie back to retrospectives.)

So what did the researchers find out?

“We looked at 180 teams from all over the company,” Dubey said. “We had lots of data, but there was nothing showing that a mix of specific personality types or skills or backgrounds made any difference. The ‘who’ part of the equation didn’t seem to matter.”

—Charles Duhigg, What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team

And later in the article:

Most confounding of all, two teams might have nearly identical makeups, with overlapping memberships, but radically different levels of effectiveness. “At Google, we’re good at finding patterns,” Dubey said. “There weren’t strong patterns here.”

Did you catch that? Let that sink in for a minute.

Researchers at Google, who have access to more teams and more data than perhaps at any other company in history, and who are experts at finding patterns could not find any strong patterns in what combination of individuals make up an effective team. “The ‘who’ part of the equation didn’t seem to matter.”

Continue reading

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Tech Talk: Implementing Two-Factor Authentication at Virginia Tech – A Case Study

Abstract:
Two-factor authentication is a way of replacing simple passwords (something you know) with, for example, something you know plus something you have, such as a cell phone, electronic key or security device.  Two-factor auth is being implemented at Virginia Tech because higher education is increasingly becoming a target for hackers. They are after intellectual property, personal information, and financial information; and the attacks are more sophisticated than in the past. The goal of Virginia Tech’s 2-Factor Authentication Program is to increase security surrounding online systems and applications by implementing 2-factor authentication for “everyone, everything.” 2-factor will be the default, and one-factor the exception. 40,000+ users are expected to enroll by Fall, 2016.

Where: Rackspace in the CRC, 1691 Innovation Dr, Blacksburg VA 24060  (map)
When: May 26th, 5:30pm
Cost: Free (RSVP here)

 

Speaker Bio:

Dunker_IMG_9190A graduate of Hollins University, Ms. Dunker began her IT career as a systems programmer at Virginia Tech in 1978.  With an extensive background in operating systems support, she became involved in efforts to secure the university’s information technology infrastructure as Director of Secure Enterprise Technology Initiatives (SETI) in 2003, earning the SANS GIAC Security Essentials Certification in 2004. Today, she directs Secure Identity Services and is responsible for setting direction for initiatives that include identity management and assurance, secure middleware and authentication, Enterprise Directory integration and support, PKI, and software development testing.

Mary chaired the InCommon Assurance Advisory Committee in 2012 and 2013. She has co-chaired the EDUCAUSE Higher Information Security Council Information Security Guide Editorial Board and the EDUCAUSE/Internet2 Security Task Force Effective Practices and Solutions Working Group.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

STEM Turns Technology Takers Into Technology Makers

IMG_6882
Here at Racksburg we’re big believers in exposing kids to STEM and  information technologies. Admittedly, we do this partly because making our region more attractive to seasoned technology experts with growing families is just good for business (as discussed in this previous blog post). However we also invest in STEM because exposing kids to IT/programming technologies helps transform their mind set from one of being mere consumers of new technology, into becoming more technology innovators, makers and creators. Something  we all need to strive to do in our communities and schools. Continue reading

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Securing a WordPress Server Being Used as a PingBot Attack Node

wp-targetSo I come in to work this morning and notice that one of my WordPress sites is having problems reliably coming up.  I had not received any alerts on my phone, but still, around 1/2 the time the main news-feed page wasn’t coming up. If you ever see a system that’s normally rock solid, suddenly running “a little funny”.. don’t put it off.  Jump on and do a bit of poking around. I did that today and this post is documenting what I found, what I learned and what I had to do to secure my system. Continue reading

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Rackspace sponsors Kids’ Tech University

By Annelise Rosmaita

kids-tech-2016-02-27On Saturday February 27, I went to Kids Tech University. It is an event at Virgina Tech that features interactive hands on activities and even some college type lectures for kids to get us interested in Science, Technlology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Rackspace is a corporate sponsor for the event.

The lecture was on cell life and cancer presented by Dr. Carla Finkielstein from the Virginia Tech Department of Biological Sciences. It was very interesting. She showed videos of how cells duplicate and how cancer happens by cells duplicating uncontrollably. After the lecture, we got a Scientific Method and Kids’ Tech University packet on cell life, and an Aha-Album. Whenever you have a scientific, mathematics, engineering or technology aha! moment, you can jot it down in the album. Continue reading

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS
« Older posts

© 2016 Racksburg

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑