Learning

Gizmo Garden student works on powering a disco ball.

Students work on powering a disco ball and Hawaiian windstorm. Photo courtesy Gizmo Garden.

When a middle school girl from rural Maine updated her Facebook page with photo of herself soldering on a circuit board, the creators of Gizmo Garden© knew the project was working—participating students were developing new images of themselves.

Bill Silver ’75, SM ’80 and his wife, Judy, held the winter-break workshop in February for 10 students to bolster the opportunity for technical education in a place they loved—coastal Maine—but a location with limited resources.

The couple, living fulltime in Nobleboro, Maine, for the past five years, wanted to find a way to contribute to their community in a meaningful way. Bill Silver, a co-founder of the machine vision systems maker Cognex, and Judy Silver, who worked at Cognex in marketing and sales, drew on their technical and outreach skills. Working from MIT Edgerton Center curriculum models, they developed a week-long workshop that brought middle school students together in a local library and invited them to create their own projects using their newly acquired skills of breadboarding and soldering electronics onto circuit boards.

Bill Silver lead the Gizmo Garden workshop.

Bill Silver, who led the workshop along with a local educator and a librarian, works with students.

The Silvers, at their former home near Cognex’s headquarters in Natick, Massachusetts, routinely visited Boston’s Museum of Science and the MIT Museum, says Bill Silver, who continues to work remotely from Maine as a Cognex senior vice president. “Technology was in the air there,’ he says, “it’s not in the air up here.”

Feeling empowered to work with electronics could transform the five girls and five boys selected for the program, says Judy Silver. “As wonderful as this community is, kids growing up here don’t see engineering and technical careers as even in their universe. And now the kids see they can do this. And they have seen what young professionals can do from the videos we showed them.”

The Silvers plan to continue the Gizmo Garden project in 2016, again working from an established curriculum and adding their own opportunities for creativity and cooperation. This year they based the project on the Edgerton K-12 electronics curriculum course created initially for i2 Camp. Local TV produced a short video that shares student projects from a spinning a disco ball to recreating an Hawaii wind storm.

Want to know more? Visit the Gizmo Garden Facebook page or email the Silvers: gizmo@tidewater.net. Alumni interested in working on similar projects can join the K-12 Education Volunteer Network and tap the MIT Edgerton Center for ideas as well.

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Resume Scrabble

Credit: www.flazingo.com

Does your resume have what it takes to attract future employers while accurately demonstrating your skills? At the March 24 Career Lunch & Learn webinar, resume coach Robin Schlinger ’78 will discuss key components and information to consider before drafting a resume. All too often, individuals write a resume without taking the prep time to strategically think through the document. According to Schlinger, this process is essential to formulating a clear narrative that highlights your accomplishments—which is what a potential employer wants to know.

The free, online webinar will be held from 12-1 p.m. EDT and is available to alumni new to the workforce, considering a career transition, or just eager to strengthen an existing resume. Learn more and register.

About Robin Schlinger ’78
Robin Schlinger is a recognized leader in the Resume Writing and Career Coaching industry, a certified Federal Resume Writer (CFRW), Master Career Director (MCD), Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), Certified Master Resume Writer (CMRW), Certified Electronic Career Coach (CECC), Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC), Entrepreneur Coach, and 360 Reach Branding Specialist.

Since 2001, Schlinger has been coaching clients and adding value to federal and civilian resumes and other career marketing documents which get her clients the interviews and the job offers they want. In 2006, she started her own company, Robin’s Resumes® specializing in executive, technical, and federal resumes.

When Schlinger helps clients, she draws upon her previous career in industry and business. Prior to starting her practice, she worked as a Process, Research, and Quality Engineer and as a Planning Analyst for several Fortune 500 companies. She is an MIT alumna from the Class of 1978 who earned an SB in Chemical Engineering.

 

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Do cognitive skills always peak early and then decline? Not according to a new study by MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital researchers. By catapulting the research project into the universe of online games, they were able to get information from a vastly larger pool of people than previous studies. And their findings shook up conventional views.

Crowdsourcing reseeach through online games.

Crowdsourcing research through online games produces more diverse data. Illustration: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

Fluid intelligence, the ability to think quickly and recall information, was thought to peak around age 20, says coauthor Joshua Hartshorne, a postdoc in MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. However, being able to tap some three million test subjects online led Hartshorne and coauthor Laura Germine, a MGH postdoc, to make several surprising discoveries—including that fluid intelligence may peak as late as the 40s. The data also showed that crystallized intelligence, the accumulation of facts and knowledge, may peak in the 60s or the early 70s.

Having a larger pool of subjects produced better data.

Josh Hartshorne

Josh Hartshorne is a post-doc in MIT’s  computational cognitive science group.

“Most of what we know about the human mind comes from studying children under five years old, college students, and retirees … because those are the people who have time to take out of their day to come into the laboratory,” says Harthorne. “This really limits how much of the human experience we understand. Even worse, for the most part, we are mostly able to study people who are part of a university community—again, because those are the people who are nearby the laboratory.”

“By switching to using the Internet, we can get a much more diverse population, and so we are in a better position to understand what generalizes and what does not. Otherwise, we are in the dangerous situation of trying to extrapolate from MIT undergraduates to the entire human race.”

All that data also allowed them to use a statistical technique called bootstrapping.

“The basic problem is in our actual data, it may be that people who are 33 years old did the best. But that could be due to random chance. How do you know that the people who are 33-years-old really are doing reliably better than people at other ages? What you’d like to do is run the experiment many times and see if you usually find the 33-year-olds doing the best. In bootstrapping, you use the data you collected to simulate those additional experiments.”

What are some other intelligence timestamps?

  • Raw speed in processing information appears to peak around age 18 or 19.
  • Short-term memory improves until around age 25, holds steady for a decade, then begins to drop off.
  • The ability to evaluate the emotional states of other people peaks in the 40s or 50s.

Now you can play

You can compare your responses in a series of quick games and quizzes to others of your age and education range on these research web sites: gameswithwords.org and testmybrain.org.

Read the MIT News article, the “Rise and Fall of Cognitive Skills,” to learn more. Or check out Hartshorne’s other writing on topics on such as brain games and the role of citizen scientists.

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New robot adds two useful fingers to your hand.

New robot adds two useful fingers to your hand.

MIT is full of invention. One quick way to tap into the riches on campus is to browse the MIT Video collection, curated by the MIT News Office to bring highlights of research and campus culture into view. Whether you have just a minute—or an hour—you can learn something fun, intriguing, or maybe life changing. Here are a few suggestions:

Learn how to don the mascot costume.

Learn how to don the mascot costume.

If you browse by types, do venture into the Demonstrations section. Upwrap one of the mysteries of campus culture by watching Tim the Beaver: Putting on the Mascot Costume. First rule: do not try to put on the costume by yourself. Did you know ice packs are involved? Time: 00:03:54

Need an extra hand—or at least a couple of extra digits? Watch 7 Finger Robot, a 0:58 second spotlight on a new robotic device, worn on the wrist, that acts like two extra fingers adjacent to the pinky and thumb.

Learn how materials science is changing energy resources.

Learn how materials science is changing energy resources.

How are materials-driven advances transforming energy and economics worldwide? Watch Hey, Atoms: What Have You Done for Me Lately?: The age of materials design and how it will change the energy world. After an eight-minute introduction, hear Jeffrey C. Grossman, MIT professor of materials science and engineering, present the Wulff lecture. First, he lights things on fire, the way most energy is currently produced. And then it really gets interesting. Time: 58:12.

If you browse by channels, you can zoom in on 133 videos on mathematics including the 18.02 Tutorial Video: Partial Derivatives, which runs 11:59. Or among 261 videos on engineering, you will find Emmy-Award Winning Work on High-Speed Video Cameras by Brian Anthony SM ’98, PhD ’06, an entrepreneur who leads the MIT Medical Electronics Device Realization Center. Time: 02:51

Most visitors to Barcelona visit Antoni Gaudi’s iconic structures that join fanciful decorations with conservative structures—churches and housing. You can understand the subtleties of his work by watching an architecture and urban planning channel video titled the Creative Practices of Antoni Gaudi in Colònia Güell and Sagrada Familia. Time: 01:42:19

You can also explore channels devoted to the arts, student life, and entrepreneurship. Or click types to find history for a video on the Harnessing the Wind at MIT: Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel or the story of the telegraph and its impact in the Whole Wired World. Enjoy!

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Ice shells become strong and artful objects.

Ice shells become strong and artful objects.

When MIT students are out in freezing weather making things, anything can happen. During Independent Activities Period (IAP), they made structurally complex objects using the power of frozen water-soaked fabric. Watch the video Forces Frozen: Structures made from frozen fabrics.

The three-day workshop drew students from many disciplines.

The three-day workshop drew students from many disciplines.

The IAP workshop, titled Forces Frozen, pushed the boundaries of ice shells through design, experimentation, and fabrication. Led by Assistant Professor Caitlin Mueller ’07, SM ’14, PhD ’14 and post-doc Corentin Fivet, the workshop invited 30 students to research and design ice/fabric forms and the methods for making them on the first day and then spend the second day building formwork and rigging systems.  On the final day, they constructed an outdoor landscape of frozen structures and shared the work in a public exhibition.

The projects focus “on thin shell structures that get their strength not from the materials they are using or a thickness of material, but from the form they are using, just like an eggshell,” says Mueller. “The shells that we are designing are inspired by a twentieth-century Swiss structural designer, Heinz Isler…he was really inspired by nature and the forms that come out naturally through the forces of gravity. This is a really fun opportunity to combine physics, mechanics, and science with creating something that is almost artistic.”

Learn more on the Forces Frozen tumblr and a BetaBoston article.

You can try this at home.

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Guest Post by Aaron Johnson from the Ask an Engineer series, published by MIT’s School of Engineering

Because bikers are tougher than meteorologists. Just kidding! Read on…

Phoro: Brent Moore

Photo: Brent Moore

Turn on the news when a hurricane makes landfall and there’s a good chance you’ll see a brave (or foolish) meteorologist reporting live from the scene of the storm. He or she is probably yelling into the microphone about how the wind’s so strong that he or she has to hold onto a tree, traffic sign, or telephone pole to keep from blowing away. But attention-seeking meteorologists are not the only people who have to hang on during very high winds—motorcyclists are, too, every day. They’re also fully exposed, but they can zoom along at very high speeds and not fly off the back of their motorcycles? Why not?

It all comes down to a force called drag, says Richard Perdichizzi, a technical instructor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics who operates the Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel.“Drag is the force a body produces as the air moves around it,” he explains. The amount of force is a function of two factors—the body’s cross-sectional area, and its shape. The cross-sectional area is simply the size of the object facing the wind. According to Perdichizzi, “the average person presents approximately eight square feet of blockage.” But that’s only if you’re standing perfectly upright. If you stand sideways and suck in your stomach, or if you roll up into a ball, your cross-sectional area decreases and you’ll experience less drag force. This is essentially what a lot of motorcyclists do when they’re zipping down the highway. They put their heads and shoulders down and pull their knees up, minimizing their cross-sectional area.

Motorcyclists need to be able to see and steer their bikes, so there’s a limit to how small they can make their cross-sectional areas. This is where the shape of the motorcycle becomes important. The fairing—the contoured piece of metal or plastic covering the front of the motorcycle—and the windshield are specially designed to be as aerodynamic as possible. They smoothly deflect the air instead of stopping it or creating turbulence like a flat, boxy surface would. Stopped and turbulent air lead to more drag. Read more

Visit the MIT School of Engineering’s Ask an Engineer site for answers to more of your questions.

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Institute Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky, a prolific author, political activist, and philosopher, is one of MIT’s greatest scientists. He created the field of modern linguistics—the scientific study of language—and his political commentaries have sparked controversy and conversation for more than 50 years.

In the January 2015 Faculty Forum Online on Tuesday, January 20, Chomsky will shared insights on his career, took live questions, and discussed the Chomsky Archive, an MIT Libraries project to preserve and digitize the lectures, personal papers, and materials he has donated to MIT.

Watch the interview then share your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #MITFaculty.

About Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

Known as the “father of modern linguistics,” Institute Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky shaped the linguistics field around the profound question, “What does language reveal about the nature of knowledge?” Chomsky joined the MIT faculty in 1955 and was appointed Institute Professor in 1976.

Chomsky has authored more than 100 books on language and politics and is one of the world’s most-cited living scholars.

Chomsky in the Press
Noam Chomsky Official Website
The Chomsky Archives, MIT Libraries
MIT Libraries receive papers of distinguished linguist, philosopher and activist Noam Chomsky,” MIT News
Unboxing the Chomsky Archive,” MIT News
Chomsky on Russia: ‘The worst-case scenario, of course, would be a nuclear war,’” Salon
Interview with Noam Chomsky on the Crisis in Central America and Mexico,” The Nation
@chomsky_quotes, a collection of Noam Chomsky quotes on Twitter

About Faculty Forum Online

Up to eight times per academic year, the Faculty Forum Online presents interactive interviews with MIT faculty on timely and relevant topics, including nuclear weapons, neuroscience, digital privacy, climate policy, and climate research. Viewers watch and participate in live 30-minute interviews via interactive chat. Since its inception in 2011, archival editions on YouTube and MIT TechTV have been viewed nearly than 100,000 times.

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The Swarmcreativity session examines what your social network tells you.

Sloan’s Swarmcreativity session examines what your social network reveals about you.

Warm up in January beside an intellectual campfire—that is, the many creative and learning opportunities available through Independent Activities Period (IAP). On campus, you can choose from an array of mostly free non-credit sessions from a film viewing to a multi-part programming course. IAP activities, which run through January 30, are open to MIT alumni and the campus community.

You can also stay cozy at home and tap into online course materials through MIT OpenCourseWare. Try out Transmedia Storytelling: Modern Science Fiction, a spring 2014 course, or select a Highlights for High School selection such as the Chandra Astrophysics Institute video course. OCW and the more structured courses on edX are available free to the public as well.

To identify interesting IAP sessions, search the options by date or sponsor or you can browse the 48 non-credit categories. IAP also offers intensive academic and physical education courses for students.

In the Computers: Web Design and Development category, you can sign up for a three-session class that includes Swarmcreativity—Introduction to Collaboration Science, Coolhunting, and Virtual Mirroring and Coolfarming. Sign up for Coolfarming – How to Create Collaborative Innovation Networks (COINs) by Jan. 12, first class is Jan. 14. You can also learn about the Sloan course through the OpenCourseware version or the COINs2013 seminar website.

Forces Frozen, an Art and Architecture (A&A) workshop, explores the world of structural ice shells, inspired by Swiss engineer and designer Heinz Isler. You begin by researching and designing ice/fabric forms, learn to build formwork and rigging systems, and on the final day, construct an outdoor landscape of frozen structures. Sign up for Forces Frozen by Jan. 9, first of five classes is Jan. 12.

Also in A&S, you can hear a Jan. 21 campus talk and tour of the LEED Platinum Certified Artists For Humanity EpiCenter to discover how they are employing energy-efficiency and renewable-energy systems. Sign up for the MIT Energy Initiative-sponsored event by Jan. 14.

Join staff from the List Visual Arts Center on Jan. 21, 2:00-4:00 p.m., to check out Boston’s most important contemporary art galleries and learn how institutions like the List collect contemporary art. The Boston Contemporary Art Gallery Crawl begins at 450 Harrison Avenue, Boston; no sign up required.

Film lovers can view the Best of the European Short Film Festival 2014 on Jan. 26, 7:00-9:00 p.m., in 32-123. View a full listing of the films, which include prize-winning entries and a selection of audience and jury favorites. No sign up necessary.

In Educational Technology, you can take a one-session course titled Introduction to Making at MIT and Beyond. You can learn more about 3D printing, rapid fabrication, and maker spaces at MIT and how alumni are using these techniques in the world. Overview, presentations, and a panel discussion is scheduled Jan. 27, 4:00-5:15 p.m. in 32-155. No signup required.

Or bring your Apple mobile device to Siri and Beyond: Using Speech and More to Control Your iOS Device. Technical consultant Kim Patch will demonstrate how to use the native speech control on the iPhone and iPad efficiently. Set for Jan. 14, 1:00-2:30 p.m. in E17-121. No signup required for this Educational Technology session.

In a Careers session, you can find out how to Get a Patent on Your Invention and Turn It into a Startup! An MIT technology licensing officer will describe when and how to file a patent and how to get the coveted exclusive license. Sign up by emailing kmkhalil@mit.edu by Jan. 15 for this session set for the same day, Jan. 15, from 12:30-2:00 p.m. in 3-133.

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Slice of MIT Top Stories 2014

What do a Jeopardy! superstar, a battle of armrests, and fake MIT news from The Onion have in common? They’re all featured in Slice of MIT’s top 14 stories of 2014.

Relive all things quirky at MIT in 2014, including our most popular feature, the epic Hack Madness Tournament that named MIT’s hack of a 1982 hack of a Harvard-Yale game as the MIT’s community’s all-time favorite hack.

We hope Slice kept you entertained and informed in 2014. Thank you for reading. Happy New Year!

  1. The Harvard-Yale Football Game is MIT Hack Madness Champion: The game outlasted 31 MIT hacks, including the Caltech Cannon Heist.
  2. Ask an Engineer—How Do Birds Sit on Power Lines without Getting Electrocuted? There’s a reason you’ve never seen a bird straddle two wires.
  3. MIT Living Wage Calculator: Why Higher Wages Help Everybody: Showing the gap between the cost of necessities and the minimum wage.
  4. Waiting 37 Years for an MIT Degree: He now goes by Michael Zelin ’81.
  5. Welcoming the MIT 5: The Class of ’18 includes five pals from LA’s Polytechnic High.
  6. Ask an Engineer—Why is Speed at Sea Measured in Knots? Knots are the term for nautical speed. Why?
  7. Prepare for the Playoffs—An MIT Football Primer: A recap of the Engineers’ historic season.
  8. The Onion’s Best (Fake) Stories About MIT: More than 50 Onion stories mention MIT—here’s our 10 favorites.
  9. Record-Breaking MIT Alumna Questions the Jeopardy! Answers: Julia Collins’ 20 consecutive victories rank third-best all time.
  10. Ask an Engineer—Why Hasn’t Commercial Air Travel Gotten Any Faster Since the 1960s? Will we ever travel at supersonic speed?
  11. Armrest Wars—Designing an End to Elbow Battles: No more battles with a stranger for an armrest on a plane.
  12. Ask an Engineer—How do the Blades of a Jet Engine Start Turning? Here’s how commercial airlines start their engines.
  13. Who Coded Pied Piper for HBO’s Silicon Valley? Director Mike Judge relied on an alumnus’ algorithms to lend authenticity.
  14. Meet Elon Musk’s Top MIT Talent Many of his companies’ employees graduated from MIT.

Do you have a favorite MIT story from 2014? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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What’s one thing MIT students can do to increase their well-being this winter break? Sleep, according to Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, Affective Computing, Rosalind Picard SM ’86, ScD ’91. Picard is an instructor for MAS S63 Tools for Well Being, a course launched this past fall with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation aimed at better understanding how individuals can be healthier and happier.

“The course is our way to start learning about our health,” explains Picard. She says providing a semester-long credit course is important for students who need to make their time commitments count.  “People are interested in so much,” she says. “At MIT you have so much you have to do, you often only do what you have to do rather than you want to do.”

Tools for Well Being—a Media Arts and Sciences course—offers weekly lectures from researchers and experts on a range of topics including diet and nutrition, mental health, workplace well-being, and cognitive health. Another benefit is that the Wednesday lectures, on topics ranging from How to Measure Stress, Engagement, and Positive Affect to the Science of Workplace Fitness, are open to the public.

Picard recommends sleep as a first-step to wellbeing.

Picard recommends sleep as a first-step to well-being.

“This is the whole picture of well-being. It’s like a resilience guide. If you are going to drive yourself to maximum performance, what do you need to know?” she says.

The course—open to graduate and undergraduate students—also focuses on technology as it relates to well-being. Some class speakers have experience building and using technology for well-being—like Kevin Slavin Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Lab who previously worked in game development. The course culminates in a final project that requires students to design and prototype a tool for well-being. Past projects included a smart coupon model that would provide users with tailored coupons for healthy options and an app that assists in creating conversations to solve interpersonal conflicts at work.

Picard would like to see a smaller course focused on well-being as a requirement for undergrads, much like physical education is required.  She relates that though many courses may be interesting to students, taking courses outside of those required proves difficult for many.

“Students need to be as intelligent about their basic functioning as they are about bio and math. You must know how to take care of your own health so you can push yourself for four years and emerge strong and resilient,” she says.

A first step to increase that understanding is examining your sleep patterns, Picard says. As a recommendation to all students, the winter break is a great time to do this.

“Pay attention to how much sleep your body needs—that’s your natural rhythm. Figure out how to get closer to that when you get back to school,” she says.

Recorded lectures from Tools for Well Being are available to everyone.

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