Posts Tagged engineering

Ready for the Return of Robotics?

Are you ready for the kickoff of the 2012 US FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC)? I am! In about 12 hours I’ll be in the middle of an excited group of high school kids at the St Louis Planetarium watching a video broadcast from Southern New Hampshire University – Manchester Campus via NASA broadcast where this years competition will be announced!

Last year was my first season of mentoring the Roborebels Team 1329. It was an amazing experience. I can’t wait to hear this year’s challenge. Will the robot be required to drive, climb, grab, jump, or even swim? Or some combination of these? We will find out soon! We will spend the weekend brainstorming designs and poring over the design specs. At the end of the 7 week build season the robots will be put to the test is friendly co-optition as founder Dean Kamen likes to describe it.

I was amazed by what the students designed and built last year. I’m sure this year will be the same.

From an educational side, it is such an inspiring sight to see so many young men and women getting excited about science and engineering. After all, it will be up to them in a few years to take the lead in our economy and solve the next generation of technical challenges.

In the mean time, I need to put on my safety glasses and roll up my sleeves to help the students.

Best of luck to everyone involved!

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The Lecturing Life

Since I love teaching and lecturing, I think it is fitting that the first review of my novel Counting from Zero should come from the Science Editor at Washington University where I teach. My favorite part of the review is this quote:

Counting from Zero brings Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler into the computer age.”

My first experience of teaching was as a grad student at Lehigh University. I was a teaching assistant or TA throughout the four years I worked on my PhD. I didn’t actually teach classes, but I ran tutorials and labs. I enjoyed it a lot and found I was kind of good at it. I used to enjoy the student reviews at the end of each semester. My favorite comment from one student was: “Alan is a chill guy.”

Later in my career, I got involved with Voice over IP or VoIP and Session Initiation Protocol or SIP. As this was a new technology, I needed to help train other engineers at my company. I started running sessions for 25, 50, and even 100 engineers at a time, teaching SIP. My books on SIP came out of this experience.

About this same time, I contacted Washington University in St. Louis and asked if they wanted to hear the latest about SIP and VoIP. I met Professor Paul Min who was in charge of running seminars for the Electrical Engineering Department. Soon, I gave the seminar and started meeting the staff. I did some teaching for other professors when they were out of town. Next thing I knew, they asked if I wanted to teach an evening class the next fall. I said yes!

That was 10 years ago. I have taught a variety of classes but found my home in the Joint Engineering Program with UMSL, the University of Missouri St. Louis. I particularly enjoy teaching in this program because most students have jobs and practical experience. One highlight was developing and teaching a class in Internet Communications. My text book: one of my SIP books!

My teaching style is fairly traditional – I like writing on the blackboard. I’ve also experimented with newer technologies such as Google Wave. My least favorite part is marking HW and assigning grades.

I’m currently not teaching this semester due to my travel load but I can’t wait to be back in the Fall. I miss the energy and enthusiasm of students.

So thank you to Washington University and UMSL, my colleagues and students.  Perhaps one day I can teach an Internet security class and use Counting from Zero as the textbook – that would be fun!

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