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Showing posts from 2019

Hour of Code * 5

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Today for Hour of Code I had the opportunity to spend not just an hour but a whole day teaching seventy 5th graders about engineering. A day of teaching is exhausting. Despite the active participation, keeping them engaged all day left me lightheaded and drained. Being married to a teacher I've seen first hand how much thought and care goes into their work. But spending a day in their shoes is illuminating on a whole other level and something everyone should experience to understand just how underappreciated they are. Thanking them is one thing, but we should be doing so much more.

Stop Giving Swag

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In Canada, Engineers receive a jagged iron ring as part of their graduation ceremony. The ring is designed to be uncomfortable and scratch against things as a reminder that a calculation error could easily result in a bridge collapse, or 150 million database records leaking. Today I hosted thirty 6th Grade STEM students. We ran through some exercises and challenges, and at the end I pulled out a bowl filled with little hexagonal nuts on chains. I told them about the iron ring, and how when I was a kid I had a Microsoft keychain, and how happy I was the day I landed a job there. Normally we give away swag or prizes, but this time I spent very little money. These were completely worthless. The value was the meaning behind it: that it was a token reminder of their aspiration to one day get an iron ring. I was so impressed with how many of then wanted one. A mom who was chaperoning later mentioned to me that she'd been in IT but then l decided to stay at home to raise the kids. She tol

#TechlessTeaching

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For some months now I've been working on an 8-part series on teaching kids to code without tech. I'm really excited and proud to say it's now rolling out on Young Coder , a technical publication. There'll be one new article published each week. If you're a STEM teacher, or know a STEM/Computer teacher, please share it with them! #TechlessTeaching: Put Aside the Computers and Programming Toys A big thanks goes to my wife Stephanie Novin who is an amazing STEM teacher who helped with editing, and to Matthew MacDonald for the idea and encouragement.

Tit for Tat

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Today I hosted 18 high schoolers at work for the Greater Nashville Technology Council's Traveling Tech Day. Inspired by Radiolab's recent Tit for Tat episode, I had the students create strategies for the Prisoner's Dilemma.  It's a great example of how complex problems can have simple solutions. In my version, I made a Wizard game where the Wizards could work together with Light spells, or against each other with Dark spells. The pressure was on because the students described their strategies to me and I had to code each of them on the spot. Proud to say, despite some of the more complicated ones, I managed to code it all on the first pass, it built without bugs and ran without crashing. That's always a good feeling. 

Watching Your Parents Grow Up

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A few years ago when my daughter turned 1 I gifted her a duck pull-toy I made by hand. My son is a few months away from his first birthday, and I started on a train for him (don't tell him, it's a surprise.) It's been fun to include my daughter in this project. She's a big help and I think there's something really powerful when your child sees you have an idea, struggle with it, have setbacks, but remain persistent. I read somewhere that when you're a kid you don't realize you're watching your parents growing up, maybe that's why we think they have all the answers. So now I try to learn things in front of her, practice things I'm not good at, and even fail gracefully. Maybe she won't see me as a superhero, but hopefully she'll be better for it.

Bots! Robotics Engineering: with Hands-On Makerspace Activities

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I'm excited and proud to say my name is briefly mentioned in an upcoming STEM book for kids. I'm in Chapter 7, about Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. It'll be released this October. Kathy Ceceri has written many activity books for kids, including the popular Geek Mom book. Bots! Robotics Engineering: with Hands-On Makerspace Activities (Build It Yourself)

STEM Students and the Engineering Ritual of the Ring

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I recently hosted some 6th grade STEM students at our office. We ran through a series of challenges focused around problem solving and computational thinking. Normally these events have hosts giving away company swag but I wanted to do something different . Something that would not only be lasting and less wasteful but also more meaningful . Something whose value was not in its intrinsic cost, but entirely in what it represented. With the help of some coworkers, I’d fashioned a single hexagonal nut onto a ball chain. Incredibly inexpensive — to the point of being worthless. I kept the chains a glass bowl in the front of the room, and whenever the students asked about it, I smiled and told them I’d get to it later. Finally — after 2 hours of puzzles, exercises and challenges, I told them a story about myself. When I was in 8th grade I collected key chains. I had so many they barely fit in my pocket. One day I noticed my friend’s Microsoft key-chain and begged for him to trade. I’d give

On Risk, Passion, and Drive

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I'd like to share a recent story I'm proud of. It was not an independent effort. Had it been, I know for a fact we'd not have been as successful. That's exactly why I want to share it. I'd recently posted a question asking what recent risks others had taken, and how it had played out. Frasier Crane would probably make some remark about it being my anxious subconscious searching for validation as we'd just taken a large risk, and were not yet clear on the outcome. A few weeks ago, our team was preparing for one of the largest annual conferences we attend. In the previous 4 years, we'd been using the same interactive booth experience that was no longer as engaging as it had once been. We'd tried earlier in the year to revamp it, but with only 2 weeks to go we were a far cry from the experience we wanted to provide and the message we wanted to deliver. As the conference neared, our Marketing Manager voiced the same concerns I was feeling. Our "new"

Stop Interviewing, Start Conversing.

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Interviewing is a challenge. That’s obvious when you’re a candidate - but hiring a suitable candidate is not an easy task either. Too often we recruit out of necessity — that is, being faced with putting off work we are struggling to complete in order to find an ideal candidate, leaving us to rush a very important decision. Years of interviewing hundreds of candidates for various roles — software engineering, business analysis, sales, marketing, technical support, administrative roles — has lead me to believe the traditional Q&A interview approach is dated and inadequate. I’ve stopped interviewing altogether. Now, I build relationships. In no other aspect of life do we ask an individual a series of direct questions to make a determination about them, what role they will play, their aptitudes, or skills. We don’t give prospective friends psychological tests, we don’t ask them to list examples in recent history where they were good friends, or if they know how to execute basic friend

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