Differential Tuition in Florida vs Differential Tuition in Washington

Interesting, Florida is considering “a proposal to lower tuition for STEM majors”:http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/10/tuition-by-major.html.

It is surprising and interesting that the issues are so different between Florida and Washington.

STEM programs in key fields at UW are oversubscribed and are turning way students every year. Stimulating demand would be pointless as the programs are capacity limited. The University and the legislature are trying to address capacity limits — the legislature this year has “redirected funds from liberal arts programs to engineering”:http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2018251983_admissions21m.html permitting growth in enrollments.

The Washington tuition discussion has been completely opposite the Florida discussion. A differential tuition proposal, charging higher fees for STEM degrees, has been approved. The justification is the unfilled demand, and the higher cost of STEM programs (labs, etc). As I understand it, the differential tuition proposal is on hold, due to legal challenges. I am not sure of the exact claims of the opposition, but I know those parents who purchased prepaid GET tuition vouchers have some legitimate concerns — which programs do these vouchers cover?

Again, interesting that the states see the issue so differently. The intent in Florida is good, encourage more STEM majors. I wonder if they are pulling on the right lever though.

TV Remotes and dogs’ mouths, a perfect match

_tar0_ @ flickr

Grab bag of entertaining things I read this weekend:

* “TV remotes are super awesome”:http://gm.asm.org/index.php/component/content/article/48/313-the-most-contaminated-surfaces-in-hotel-rooms
* “French beetle aircraft”:http://www.theverge.com/2012/6/8/3073654/french-beetle-coleoptere-aircraft. Jet fighters meet Dr. Seuss. We should let the French design all our weapons systems. We might not win the war but man would we look trippy.
* “Desk optimized for doodling”:http://design-milk.com/my-desk-by-miguel-mestre/. This is not ridiculous at all, it is kind of brilliant.
* “The top 100 young universities”:http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/04/world/asia/whos-the-next-mit.html?_r=2. For all our entrepreneurship, should we be worried that the US is so under-represented?
* “Our bugs control us”:http://thebrainbank.scienceblog.com/2012/06/01/we-are-not-alone-how-the-bugs-in-our-gut-influence-our-eating-habits/. If it was a strict democracy, our gut bacteria would outvote the rest of our bodies every time.

I like Udacity but I am dropping out.

So I’m 2 weeks into my first “Udacity”:www.udacity.com and I’m impressed with the quality of the courseware. The instructor is engaging, the videos are good, the pacing of video and interactive content keeps you engaged, the instruction is derived in bite size pieces which really works.

All that said, I am abandoning the course. It is targeted at too junior a level and the pacing is too slow. This is going to be a general problem for online instruction — the students are going to have varied backgrounds, it will be hard to target materials. And grading a course puts a huge constraint on overall course pacing which is what is driving me out. I’d like to fly ahead on the material but that is not the way the course works.

Still a great and valuable first effort.

Finished my first week of Udacity coursework

Taking “CS373, Programming a robotic car”:http://www.udacity.com/view#Course/cs373/CourseRev/feb2012/Unit/2/Nugget/1002. Don’t really love the topic, but good material to practice some Python and some statistical inference. So far, the course website seems to work very well, nice intermixing of video with interaction, nice breaking of instruction into short easily consumable pieces. And seems to scale well — in the forum, the most popular posts are approaching 4K views, so a pretty large class size, but pretty effective so far.

The material is early/middle undergraduate level at this point, but purportedly will ramp up.

The day you stop learning is the day you start dying

My grandfather once told me “The day you stop learning is the day you start dying.” I’ve had a lifelong commitment to education and I am still learning every day. There is so much going on in education, the choices are broader every day, with so many efforts to increase access and lower costs. Some things I’ve been learning about:

* played around this weekend with Apple’s new ibook publisher — Tons of coverage of the event announcing this week, see for instance http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/19/apple-textbook-event/. The goal is noble — allow millions of people to create textbooks, targeting the iPad of course, and dramatically cut the price of textbooks, and the carrying weight of textbooks. The tool works although it is a little buggy yet. I made a first textbook — basically i poured all the portfolio company summaries from the ignition partners website into a textbook format (a tool that would automatically pour CMS content into a textbook would be handy). These textbooks are really just another form of app for the iPad with a dev tool that is substantially friendlier to use than Xcode. If you can author a powerpoint presentation, you can author a textbook. There is nothing super revolutionary about the resultant products but this is a good step towards electronic textbooks.
* signed up for a course at udacity.com — We believe university-level education can be both high quality and low cost. Using the economics of the Internet, we’ve connected some of the greatest teachers to hundreds of thousands of students in almost every country on Earth. Know Labs was founded by three roboticists who believed much of the educational value of their university classes could be offered online for very low cost. A few weeks later, over 160,000 students in more than 190 countries enrolled in our first class, “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence.” The class was twice profiled by the New York Times and also by other news media. Now we’re a growing team of educators and engineers, on a mission to change the future of education.
* thinking about taking a course at “Digipen”:https://www.digipen.edu/ as well. They’ve done great work, the team for Portal came out of Digipen.
* at Wolf’s advice, learning about the “Dalton research group at the UW”:http://depts.washington.edu/eooptic/. A traditional university setting but exciting content.

My brain’s a little tired but excited about the opportunities!

Math software sources

Saving for later reference….

* “Netlib”:http://netlib.org/
* “NIST”:http://gams.nist.gov/
* “Trilinos”:http://trilinos.sandia.gov/
* “PETSc”:http://www.mcs.anl.gov/petsc/petsc-as/
* “OpenCL”:http://www.khronos.org
* “Nividia OpenCL”:http://developer.download.nvidia.com/compute/opencl/sdk/website/samples.html
* “Apple OpenCL”:http://developer.apple.com/library/mac/search/?q=opencl
* “NERSC”:http://www.nersc.gov/nusers/resources/software/. ACTS stuff dead?

Spring Quarter — High Performance Scientific Computing

Well, winter quarter’s Computation Fluid Dynamics just about killed me. My lack of a solid fluid dynamics basis certainly was a big reason for my struggles. It may have been a bridge too far for me.

Spring quarter will be “High Performance Scientific Computing”:http://www.washington.edu/students/crscat/appmath.html#amath583 and then I will have completed enough credits for my Master’s work. I need to take a breather after that and think about PhD progress and whether I want to really drive the rest of the way or not. I will clearly need to spend even more time on academic matters if I want to continue the PhD chase, and I don’t know how realistic that is given all my other commitments and time limitations.

Point Foundation scholarships

A couple weeks ago I wrote about our scholarships for Marion County students. We started doing this maybe 10 years ago and are glad every day that we’ve made the investment. The students we’ve helped will certainly make a great contribution to Marion County, to Ohio, or to whatever community they end up in, and hopefully they too will extend a hand someday to help the next generation of students.

3-4 years back, we also were introduced to the Point Foundation, whose mission (in their own words) is to provide “financial support, mentoring, leadership training and hope to meritorious students who are marginalized due to sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” We became a supporter of their scholarship programs, and have continued to support ever since. We’ve heard personally from young kids who were cut off from family support because of their LGBT status, and these stories are just heartbreaking. Casting aside young people because of their orientation is terrible, and so we happily support any effort to give these kids a bit of help in the world. We can never make up for the loss of support from their family or community, but if our financial assistance helps them through some tough times, we feel great about it.

We have been fortunate financially and so we can reach out and help on the financial issues for young people. If you are also fortunate, we’d encourage you to reach out and help a group as well, whether it be kids in your community, or kids in an interest group you care about, or any other set of kids. And if you can’t help monetarily, well these young people need encouragement and mentoring and guidance and emotional support and everything else. Do what you can to help them get ahead.

OSU scholarships for Marion County residents

For about the 10th year now we are providing funding for scholarships for Marion County residents and Marion County high school graduates. We’ve used different mechanisms in the past, but for the last 5-6 years we’ve done this through the OSU financial aid office as need-based scholarships for Marion County residents or Marion Country high school graduates, any high school in the county, attending any OSU campus. If you know someone who is from the Marion area and wants to attend OSU and needs some help, make sure they ask about!

We have a deep and ongoing connection to the Marion area — we had great experiences growing up there. Much of our extended family still live there and we get back for an extended visit once a year. We are blessed with families who encouraged and supported us to get our educations, educations which have meant a lot to us. And we have fond memories of our time at The Ohio State University. So we want to support the community, the university, and the students who need some help.

And the students who have been awarded scholarships so far are just awesome. We met about 10 of the then-current students a couple years ago at an OSU tailgate and they were all so impressive. Big goals, hard working, youthful vigor — it was inspiring to be around them. Just having a lunch with these students was a huge lift for us.

We’ve never been very vocal about our support but in these times of economic challenge, we felt it was important to become a little more vocal. We hope that everyone does what they can to support and encourage the full development of our young students. Some of these young people will go on to create businesses and jobs, lead our communities, enrich our lives through their art, or otherwise make a great contribution to our lives. Having them sidelined because they can’t quite make the economics of college work out, or having them burdened with a mountain of student loan debt — neither of these seem like good outcomes. So we do what we can, and we hope and trust that others do as well.

Computational Fluid Dynamics – my winter quarter adventure

This course may kill me as I know nothing of fluid dynamics, but I am hoping the computational focus will play in my favor. I’m not so interested in macro-scale behavior but more focused on nano-scale applications.

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is a set of methodologies to solve numerically the governing equations of fluid motion. In the past decades, the development and use of CFD has widely grown in both academia and industry to perform fundamental studies and engineering computations of fluid flows, e.g. for the design of airplanes, turbine blades, jet and rocket engines. This course is an introductory course to CFD covering its fundamentals, as well, few advanced topics.

The students completing this course in good standing are expected to learn: 1. the fundamentals and few advanced topics in CFD; 2. to select and implement numerical schemes for solving model equations for fluid dynamics; 3. to write and execute their own CFD codes (in Fortran or C); 4. to postprocess and analyze CFD results; 5. to write technical reports on CFD results.

My fall quarter academic work — vibrations, DEP modeling

Fall quarter kicking off, hurray! Formal coursework will be ME 588 — Dynamics and Vibrations. Basic theoretical framework, single DOF systems, multiple DOF systems, and continuously driven systems. Not my first choice of material but need to take remotely and the options were few.

Informally, I’ll be working on modeling of dielectrophoresis effects at the nanoscale, applied primarily to biological sensors. Some finite element, some matlab, some fluids, etc. Interesting study of forces and motion at the nanoscale. I’ve ordered a bunch of texts on electrodynamic modeling and and cranking thru. The mechanics are new to me, the electrodynamics are familiar but rusty, the coding work is relatively straightforward. Initial model focus is on 2D systems tho I’d like to step up to 3d, tho this is of course substantially more complicated.

Mech Eng basics on the web

Taking Finite Element Analysis this term which would be way easier if I actually had ever taken a basic course in mechanical engineering. Beams, trusses, springs, cantilevers are all foreign to me, I was learning about resistors and capacitors when the MechEs were learning this stuff.

Web to the rescue:
* “Cantilever calculator”:http://www.efunda.com/formulae/solid_mechanics/beams/casestudy_display.cfm?case=cantilever_endload#target up at efunda.
* “Moments of Inertia”:http://www.efunda.com/math/areas/IndexArea.cfm and other basics for beams of any shape
* A ton of other basic calculations up here as well: “efunda engineering calculations”:http://www.efunda.com/formulae/formula_index.cfm
* Of course Wolfram Alpha has a wealth of info as well.

Just starting to look thru iphone and ipad apps as well. Wolfram ALpha I already have, there are several civil enginnering apps as well — Statics, Civil Engineering Calculations. May try some of them.

An aside — why am I reading bunches of PDFs?

I finally officially matriculated last fall as a part time grad student at UW and am studying nanoengineering. For the moment I am sited in the mechanical engineering department tho I could just have easily been in the electrical engineering department, materials science department, chemistry, physics, or several other places. And in fact I am taking no traditional mechanical engineering courses, but am entirely focused on nanoscale problems and technology.

My long term interest is in industrial-scale production of nanoscale devices. Many great things have been made in the labs, but to scaling up to industrial scale production requires discovery of methods to automatically produce and assemble nanoscale devices, accepting the inherent error levels in these devices. Photolithography has been an amazing technology for creating computer chips but is a top-down approach — the entire chip is exactly designed and then carved out of silicon. The next wave of devices at the nanoscale will be organically assembled bottoms-up and there are whole new classes of problems to solve.

I’ve been reading a ton on nanowires and carbon nanotubes and the manipulation of them via various methods. And also thinking on the side about chip/circuit architecture based on these inexact, nondeterministic elements. Just got a pointer to “RelXLayer”:http://www.cra.org/ccc/xlayer.php which is a nice launch point for thinking about.

What I've been up to — Ohio, Europe, Studying…

Some silence in last month. Spent a lot of time enjoying family and central Ohio, fall is the time to be in the state with football, color changes, often good weather, etc.

And when not in Ohio, I was in Helsinki (recommended: Hotel Glo, Fazer Cafe), Stockholm (Lydmar Hotel, Vasa Museum, Sture shopping area, Skogskyrkogården, Sodermalm, Fasching Jazz Club, Opera Bar, oh and much more), and Brussels (Hotel Amigo, St Michael/St Gudula Cathedral, Roue d’Or, Musee Magritte, Comic Museum, Sablon, Wittamer chocolates, and much more).

Mentally I’ve been thinking about Fat Spaniel, a couple new things, and my half time load at UW this term as I continue my education. Lots of differential equations theory and numerical analysis, stuff I touched on 25 years ago, but good to get the base refreshed. Amazing how the tools have changed — MatLab and Mathematica are just incredible pieces of software.

Installing MatLab on Snow Leopard

Getting myself up to speed on MatLab for this fall’s classes, the activation fails on Snow Leopard with some ugly error message. Fix is easy — in the Java Preferences app on your system, make 32-bit Java the default. All is well after that.

Details on the “matlab support site”:http://www.mathworks.com/support/solutions/en/data/1-8GS5S1/index.html?product=ML&solution=1-8GS5S1

Spring Coursework

Continuing my educational adventure this spring:

ME 568 Active and Sensing Materials:  Fundamental knowledge of the nano-structure property relations of active and sensing materials, and their devices. Examples of the active and sensing materials are: shape memory alloys (SMAs), ferromagnetic SMAs, ferroelectric, pyroelectric and piezoelectric materials, thermoelectrics, electroactive and conducting polymers, photoactive polymers, photovoltaics, and electrochromic materials.

ME 518 Seminars on Advances in Manufacturing & Management: Current topics and advances made in manufacturing and management. Topics presented by invited speakers from academia and industry. Emphasis on the multidisciplinary nature of manufacturing and management.

via Course Descriptions.