All posts by Guest Author

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Penn’s Access Engineering Gives Philly Teens Hands-On STEM Experience

Kaylin RabyKaylin Raby is a junior studying Systems Engineering and is the president of Access Engineering at Penn. In this guest post, she describes what the club does and explains its mission.

Recently there has been a push to encourage science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in schools across the country. Science and Math are standard elements of high school curricula everywhere, and kids are exposed to technology every day of their life. However, kids often have much less experience with engineering and what it actually entails. Access Engineering seeks to change this by providing high school students with a realistic and approachable first-year undergraduate engineering curriculum.

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Ashwin Dewan helps students with Arduino programming and BoeBots circuitry.

Access Engineering’s mission is to demonstrate to Philadelphia high school students what engineering is all about: an analytical thought process and an option for a future career. We also hope to inspire and motivate students to seek out higher education in general. As Penn Engineering students, we are in a unique position to accomplish this mission. We can relate to the challenges they face as high school students. Many prospective students do not apply to engineering schools because they don’t know what engineering curricula covers or they have misconceptions about what it entails. We want to acquaint students with the various engineering majors and give actionable advice that students can use in regards to their potential college paths and engineering careers.

Access Engineering offers two weekly programs to high school students interested in learning more about engineering. We teach an introductory track, which gives students a broad introduction to many different engineering fields. This includes an introduction to the Java coding language, circuit design, robotics, an introduction to computer assisted design, app development, and prototyping parts on 3-D printers. The advanced section focuses specifically on the integration of circuitry and computer science with mechanical engineering, building upon material learned within our first-semester program.

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Students investigate their findings in a chemical engineering lab.

Last semester, Access Engineering brought over seventy students to Penn every weekend to participate in our first and second semester programs. We recruit students from four main partner schools in and around Philadelphia, and we plan to expand the program to new schools each year.

We teach our lessons weekly on Saturday mornings from 10 AM – 1 PM. If you would like to know more about the club and what we do, we encourage you to visit our website. Recruitment for the fall semester begins in September- be sure to stop by the Activities Fair to speak with current volunteers about the Access Engineering experience!

 

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What’s so great about Snapchat?

alexThis guest post by Alex Burns C’16 describes the mobile messaging application Snapchat. Alex is a recent graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Jenna Wortham’s recent New York Times Magazine article on Snapchat raised some very interesting points about the nature of social media usage today. The fundamental appeal of Snapchat is its “re-humanization” of social media interactions. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, where users upload polished photos and constantly interact with companies & brands, Snapchat utilizes low-resolution, real-time photos & short videos, making for a less manufactured, more authentic social interaction.

Snapchat messages, referred to as Snaps, are appealing to me because they are so much more raw than other forms of social media. While various filters can be utilized, these messages must be taken in real time and are only visible to most users temporarily. In an age where digital footprints seemingly follow you everywhere, it is refreshing to send messages that might be visible to your most of your friends for a matter of seconds.  As a result of the short-lived nature of snaps, there is much less pressure to look attractive or cool. People are less afraid to be themselves in photos that will soon be forgotten. The fact that these photos must be taken in real time make snaps more honest than other forms of social media.  You can’t spend time photo-shopping or uploading photos taken by other people at past dates. Snaps represent what you are doing at that very moment in time. Like life experiences, Snaps are mostly temporary. In Jenna’s words:

Snapchat isn’t the place where you go to be pretty. It’s the place where you go to be yourself.”

Not only is Snapchat refreshingly authentic, it has also changing the way we communicate. When emoji were introduced in 2011, they forever changed the austere nature of text messages by allowing users to supplement texts with graphics relaying various emotions. Emoji helped humanize text messages. While emoji have been widely embraced, there is a limit to what can be expressed through them. As Jenna writes, “though the catalog of emoji has expanded in response to user demand, it still struggles to keep up with the multiplicity of human experiences.” Snapchat has helped fill this void by allowing users to send more personalized graphics in real time. In a way, Snapchat allows users to create their own emoji. Whether it is drawing a picture, or conveying emotion through a personal photo, Snapchat has shifted the format of an instant message from a message based in text, to a message made up primarily of a graphic image which can be supplemented with text. This greater ability to customize messages is transforming communication and making it even more enjoyable.

Managing Social Media at the Commons


michelle joMichelle Bookyung Jo is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying communication. In this post, she shares her experiences working at Weigle Information Commons as a Social Media Manager and discusses our strategies for actively engaging the Penn community.

I have always known that Weigle Information Commons has a lot going on, on top of the study booths and group study rooms students reserve throughout the semester. Working as a social media student worker at WIC for the past academic year, I not only learned more about what WIC is but also gained important hands-on experiences managing social media accounts to connect with WIC’s audience.

WIC has various online channels through which it reaches the Penn community. It has its own Twitter and Instagram account and also contributes to the Penn Libraries social media channels: @upennlib on Twitter, InstagramFacebook; pennlibraries on Youtube; and University of Pennsylvania Libraries on Flickr. Focusing on Twitter and Instagram, I got to see who WIC connects with and what WIC is for the Penn community.

My most basic job responsibility was scheduling tweets for WIC’s weekly workshops, but I explored more ways to leverage social media channels and use Twitter as a way to promote WIC as a resource for everyone. Some weeks I focused on updating the audience about various types of digital support WIC offers including digital device rentals. Some other weeks, I focused on major upcoming events in WIC such as the Engaging Students through Technology Symposium and Diversi-Tea sessions. More importantly, trying to see WIC’s social media presence from an undergraduate student’s perspective, I tried to make the social media channels as current as possible, posting pictures of workshops and any ongoing events at WIC.

The most challenging part of my job was to make sure that our content reaches not just Penn faculty but Penn students as well. We understand that following many subsidiary accounts within the University may not be as appealing as following the main “uofpenn” account, but I still wanted to make sure that there will be content for students should they find us interesting and look for more. Such an effort was mostly made on WIC’s Instagram account, and it has been a channel where I post more up-to-date content about WIC.

As an undergraduate student worker, I realized that there is a lot going on at WIC. I would like to invite fellow undergraduate students to know that any digital or technology-related support is available at WIC and encourage everyone to check our blog and social media channels from time to time.

Festive Library Board Meeting

alexThis guest post by Alex Burns C’17 describes a presentation for WIC’s 10th birthday at the February 2016 Penn Libraries Board of Overseers meeting. Alex is studying political science and you may meet him staffing the WIC Desk on weekday mornings.

The latest Penn Libraries board meeting was a little more festive than usual. Not because spring break was on the horizon, but because it was time to celebrate Weigle Information Commons’ 10th anniversary! At the meeting, a diverse group of students, professors, staff and alumni had the opportunity to reflect on their experiences at WIC.

It was really great to hear how Weigle has positively impacted people’s lives. Selamawit Bekele, a junior and Hoesley Digital Literacy Fellows, spoke about how the technology at WIC has helped her grow as a student. She went from having limited computer access before Penn to becoming an expert coder. It was also interesting to hear alumni echo my appreciation for the technology available at WIC. Ryan Leonard (C’10) shared a hilarious music video with the audience. He said it was made possible with the help of video production equipment from WIC. The highlight for me was watching Samantha Kannegiser’s slide show of her 10 favorite moments working at WIC. Her light-hearted presentation featured crazy Halloween costume pictures that drew a lot of laughs from the crowd. Overall, it was a fun event. I had the opportunity to talk about my experiences staffing the WIC Desk. Happy birthday WIC!

Here is a listing of the ten stories told at the meeting.

Penn Libraries Board Meeting – 10 WIC Stories

Wednesday, February 24, 11:30 am to 12:30 pm,

We share 10 stories to celebrate 10 years of the David B. Weigle Information Commons (WIC).

  1. Dr. D. Kent Peterman, Associate Dean and Director of Academic Affairs, The College, School of Arts and Sciences, discussed the vision that led to the creation of the Commons and will share a bit of history about a “Collaboratory” process. Kent has guided the WIC Program Partnersfor the past decade, and helps WIC maintain a strong connection to curricular needs.
  2. The Weigle Music Video created in October 2007 has brought smiles to audiences around the world.  Ryan Leonard C’10 was a freshman when he won our first Mashup Contest. He created this video with his prize camera and his two best friends. Today he manages data analysis with Tableau at Anthem, Inc in New York City. Ryan reflected on his adventures with video and WIC’s role in his career with healthcare consulting.
  3. Taylor McLendon W’15 worked as a lab consultant in Vitale and presented on our 2012 symposium student panel. Taylor was selected for the first Daily Pennsylvanian Penn Ten. Today she works at Makuu, continuing to contribute to the Penn community.
  4. Dr. Peter Decherney, Professor of English and Cinema Studies, helped create the WIC Faculty Advisory Group. He leads the Mashup Contest Selection Committee and the undergraduate student panel each year. Peter’s latest book Hollywood: A Very Short Introduction builds on his long-standing commitment to media law and policy, especially the regulation of Hollywood. Peter shared faculty perspectives on WIC’s work.
  5. Sarah Jacoby created a powerful portrait of five Penn faculty during her time here as a lab consultant at the Vitale Digital Media Lab. Today, she is an an artist and illustrator with many exciting accomplishments to share. She has received many awards for her work including the Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators.
  6. Alex Burns C’17 is a junior in the College studying Political Science. He has staffed the WIC desk on weekday mornings for the past year, and has taken the lead on several WIC projects. He shared some reflections on how the space is helpful for students who have different backgrounds and expectations for support.
  7. Samantha Kannegiser will graduate this May with a Masters in Library Science from Rutgers University. As a graduate intern at WIC, she led the creation of our New Media Showcase where we display, and permanently chronicle, the amazing works our students create for contests and classes. Samantha especially enjoys the lighter side of WIC’s work.
  8. The Hoesley Digital Literacy Fellows Program reflects a board priority, and brings together a cohort of 15 students each year to “demystify technology, provide hands-on training and a website building project, and foster career connections.” Selamawit Bekele C’17 is a junior in the College majoring in Health and Societies, and shared experiences with the current cohort, managed by Vickie Karasic, Digital Projects Fellow.
  9. The Seltzer Family Digital Media Awards supports innovative student projects using new technologies. Now in its ninth year, currently managed by David Toccafondi C’95, Manager of the Vitale Digital Media Lab, the awards get campus-wide attention. Carolina English C’16 is a senior in the College majoring in Visual Studies, and is a member of both the Seltzer and Hoesley programs this year. She shared her experiences with the programs as she approaches her graduation from Penn.
  10. For many years, Ian Seltzer C’09 has supported the Seltzer Family Digital Media Awards by mentoring current students and serving on the awards selection committee.  Ian is a media consultant having worked at Hulu and Michael Eisner’s digital studio, Vuguru. He has developed, licensed and launched thirty original titles for TV, Film, the web in over 110 countries worldwide. He shared his reflections as an alum and a mentor.

Fun with Bengali Comics

This guest post by Mallika Sircar, library staff in our South Asia Collection, describes a visit to WIC by students who attend the Shopan Bangla School in Wilmington and the Bangla School in Bear, Delaware.

‘Fun and educational’ – these were the words used by parents to describe the experience of the Bangla School students, during their field trip to the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. The program on 19th December 2015 was a resounding success with parents and students requesting more such events.

The strong South Asia collections of the University of Pennsylvania Libraries were on display as the students explored Bengali language material. Traditional resources and modern technology were both used in tandem. Exploration of the rich Bengali children’s literature collection was an extremely popular exercise; it was followed by a story-telling session in the Kislak Special Collections Center with the use of digital tools that magnified the story book characters on a big screen. The most popular activity, however, was the creation of comic strips in Bengali by the students in the Collaborative Classroom. In a short span of time, the students were able to write a story using pictures and Bengali script, which was truly commendable. The event concluded with the screening of an award-winning children’s science fiction film from the Penn Libraries’ video collection.

This trip to the University of Pennsylvania Libraries by the Bengali school community opened new doors in creative thinking for language teaching and learning.

We share below the event flyer, photos and comic books created by the students.

Ready, Set, Succeed: Join us!

Rashmi Kumar
Dr. Rashmi Kumar

This guest post from Dr. Rashmi Kumar, Specialist in STEM Learning at the Weingarten Learning Resources Center describes our Ready, Set, Succeed series  developed in collaboration with the Tutoring Center. Register now for our session on October 18, 2015.

The acquisition of knowledge is often viewed in three forms—declarative, procedural, and critical. Each of the above has different, although, sequentially significant aspects. Declarative knowledge focuses on the notion of ‘knowing what,’ procedural knowledge is anchored in ‘knowing how to,’ and critical knowledge is driven by the quest of ‘why.’

STEM courses are fundamentally geared to the constant pursuit of answering how and why. Continue reading Ready, Set, Succeed: Join us!

The Lightning Round: Strikingly Effective Presentations

Kara Moranski
Dr. Kara Moranski

Dr. Kara Moranski is a Spanish Language Course Coordinator in the Department of Romance Languages. In her guest post below, she reflects on her experiences at last year’s Lightning Round and invites you to join this year’s event. Kara serves on the planning team for the 2015 Engaging Students Through Technology Symposium.

Last October I attended my first Lightning Round at the 2014 Engaging Students Through Technology Symposium. I was not entirely sure what to expect; each presentation was to last just two minutes. Would it be effective? Would the presentations really be kept to the two-minute time limit?

I had the answer to that second question when I saw the gong that would be used to keep time. Before I knew it, we were three presentations in and Ula Cutten from English Language Programs was describing EDPuzzle, an incredibly useful tool that can annotate and add questions to videos from the web. I immediately imagined several different ways that this would be beneficial for students in my classes. A few more rings of the gong and I was listening to my colleague Geraldine Lebaudy (Romance Languages) explain the innovative ways in which she was using Canvas videos in her Business Spanish courses.  The Lightning Round went by as fast as, well, lightning, and I left with several new pedagogical tools that I could begin using immediately – tools that were already working for fellow educators here at the University of Pennsylvania.

I am thrilled that the Lightning Round will be back for this year’s Engaging Students Through Technology Symposium. We hope to see you there!

Would you like to register for the Engaging Students Through Technology Symposium 2015? Click here!

Interested in presenting in this year’s Lightning Round? Click here!