Friday, December 28, 2012

STEM Education: Preparing for the Jobs of the Future

Back in April 2012, the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee published an interesting (and upsetting) report titled STEM Education: Preparing for the Jobs of the Future. I find this report particularly interesting because it was prepared by an economic committee and not an education based committee. As a father of two STEM women and someone who has focused a large part of his career on STEM education, I found the Why Are We Falling Short in STEM section particularly disturbing...... not because I disagree with the findings but because (unfortunately based on my observations) I agree. Here's a list of what I find most disturbing as quoted from the report:
  • Science and technology curriculums are often thin in K-12 education, and may not be enough to provide students with a solid foundation in STEM upon which to build.
  • Part of the problem is that it is challenging to attract and retain STEM-trained individuals to teach STEM subjects at the K-12 level when higher wages and employment opportunities outside of the education sector make working in a STEM profession an attractive alternative.
  • Furthermore, while the quality of math and science teaching is the greatest factor in improving student achievement in STEM fields, not enough  K-12 math and science teachers have  hands-on experience working in STEM.
  • Teachers may also lack an educational background in STEM. For example, the National Science Foundation (NSF) found that 36 percent of middle school science teachers and approximately 30 percent of middle school math teachers lack in-field training.
  • Finally, there is the matter of culture. While not easy to quantify, to the extent that math and science are not considered “cool” among image-conscious high school students, inevitably many talented young people will be turned off from pursuing degrees and careers in STEM fields. Women may be particularly  unlikely to pursue STEM as a result of gender and cultural norms.
Lack of a science and math foundation at an early age, underprepared teachers, cultural issues.... can it be fixed? I encourage everyone to read the report.

Monday, December 17, 2012

First Person Shooter Games

I've been debating - do I write this post or not since Friday evening. Newtown, CT is just heartbreaking -  so many others are so much better at expressing feelings and emotions with words than I am. It's all still as confused and upset as I was Friday around 12:30 when I first heard the news something had happened. 

Yesterday (Sunday) morning I watched the political shows and there was a lot of discussion about a "common thread" profile with these types of incidents. Specifically:
  • Mentally unbalanced
  • High intelligence
  • Computer expertise
  • High estimation of potential that gets damaged in life prior
  • Hero in their own mind - happiest moment of their life during shooting
  • Lost in a black hole of their own festering
  • History of graphic video game violence with a passion for shoot to kill video games
  • Access to weapons - specifically assault type weapons like the ones used in violent video games
On Saturday I posted up a link in Facebook to a blog post on First Person Shooter (FPS) games written Thursday, the day before the shooting in CT, titled America's Love Affair With the First Person Shooter and the Rise of "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2". The post finishes with this paragraph:
The FPS genre is a perfect reflection of our national identity. It has become as American as celebrity worship and gaming itself. Like it or not, you have to admit that emptying a clip into some stranger's face could become a new American tradition. And how new is it really? After all, this is the nation that gabe the world cowboys, gangsters, and Rambo. The fact is that the FPS genre will be with us far into the life cycles of the next-gen consoles and beyond. Celebrity and mere mortals, athlete and accountants, rappers and high school students—there is no one type of FPS enthusiast anymore. It has become a vehicle where ordinary players can become professionals in the realm of eSports, attaining their own measure of celebrity in the process. Regardless of what critics may think of the content of these games, it's time to accept the fact the FPS genre has become our new national pastime. So why not just relax and heed Biggie Smalls' immortal words of advice: stay low and keep firing. 
This was written the day before the shooting. I encourage you to read the entire post and form your own opinions.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Watching What You Do While You Watch TV

Verizon recently filed a patent application that would target television ads using real time information collected by infrared cameras and microphones in you DVR. This is wild stuff - here's some examples of how this system would work right out of the filed document:
  • if detection facility 104 determines that a user is exercising (e.g., running on a treadmill, doing aerobics, lifting weights, etc.), advertising facility 106 may select an advertisement associated with exercise in general, a specific exercise being performed by the user, and/or any other advertisement (e.g., an advertisement for health food) that may be intended for people who exercise. 
  • if detection facility 104 detects that a user is playing with a dog, advertising facility 106 may select an advertisement associated with dogs (e.g., a dog food commercial, a flea treatment commercial, etc.). 
  • if detection facility 104 detects one or more words spoken by a user (e.g., while talking to another user within the same room or on the telephone), advertising facility 106 may utilize the one or more words spoken by the user to search for and/or select an advertisement associated with the one or more words. 
  • if detection facility 104 detects that a couple is arguing/fighting with each other, advertising facility 106 may select an advertisement associated marriage/relationship counseling. 
  • if detection facility 104 detects a particular object (e.g., a Budweiser can) within a user's surroundings, advertising facility 106 may select an advertisement associated with the detected object (e.g., a Budweiser commercial). 
  •  if detection facility 104 detects a mood of a user (e.g., that the user is stressed), advertising facility 106 may select an advertisement associated with the detected mood (e.g., a commercial for a stress-relief product such as aromatherapy candles, a vacation resort, etc.).
The image posted is also from the patent application and shows the detection zone. 

Pets, people, conversations, moods, beer cans?? I don't think this is something I'd want in my home.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

SNOWBALLEXPRESS.ORG the charity for the children of our fallen military heroes

Yesterday (11/30) I flew from Connecticut to Dallas for a meeting. At the Hartford airport gate I noticed two women and a young girl that was maybe 11. They stood out a bit - I could tell they were not experienced travelers and not the returning tired and frazzled business people you typically see on a Friday afternoon flight from the Northeast to Dallas.  If it was a flight to Orlando it would have made a little more sense......

I also noticed the American Airlines gate agents were holding small American flags and there were  hand-made signs on the wall by the jetway entrance welcoming three Snowball Express families. These people were allowed to board first so I knew something was up. Once we were all boarded the flight attendant announced these were families of fallen military service members traveling to Dallas-Fort Worth for 5 days.

When we got off the plane at DFW the airport was full of families and volunteers wearing blue Snowball Express t-shirts. I did a little more research online and found out there were 1,700 coming to the event from all over the country. During the five days the itinerary includes the Dallas Children's Parade, Six Flags, a rodeo, concerts, the Fort Worth Stockyards and a whole bunch more.

It was sad and exciting to see the families in DFW. Lots of kids that looked like they were connecting with a lot of old friends. I'm still thinking about that little girl and what her story was. Did she lose a mom or a dad? A heavy price to pay.

Snowball Express has been going for seven years now, starting in Southern California in 2006 and moving to the Dallas area in 2009. A worthy charity for volunteering and/or a donation.