Technology

Girls Who Code get inspiration from Google user researcher

By DAVID DUPONT  BG Independent News If the students in the Bowling Green Middle School Girls Who Code club Googled “inspiration,” Misa Gireau may very well be a top search result. Gireau’s video chat early this week with the students, though, was arranged in decidedly old-school fashion. Laura Leventhal, a professor emeritus in computer science at Bowling Green State University, has spoken to the club, and she thought they may want to talk with a woman who works for Google. So she asked her son, Sam Jaffee, who works for the tech giant, for suggestions. So Monday afternoon Gireau beamed into the Middle School classroom to talk about her path to a tech career and her job as a user researcher. Asking a young person what they want to do when they grow up “is a ridiculous question,” she said. A career path to a job you love twists and turns and involves false stops and changes of direction, she said. That’s what her path has been like.  Growing up she loved snowboarding and video games, and playing hockey. She dreamed of playing for her beloved Philadelphia Flyers. Or maybe she wanted to be a veterinarian, or scientist, or an astronaut, or Agent Scully from “The X-Files.” She went to school and studied psychology and computer science. She did coding for the aircraft manufacturer Lockheed-Martin and realized she didn’t like that. Her stint  in theoretical mathematics where she “sat in a room all day balancing really, really weird equations that meant nothing to me” also  proved not a good fit. Being someone who wants to help others, she tried counseling. As much as she loved her patients and being a therapist, “the mental health system was broke.” Instead she concentrated on research and that led her to her current career as a user researcher, first with the U.S. Census, then Capital One, and now with Google. But all those previous occupational forays have taught her something. A user researcher, she said, studies those interacting with software and devices to see how the experience can be improved. The researchers find the problems and then the software engineers write “this magical code” that solves them. She’s worked recently on a night camera app. Sometimes she conducts online surveys. Other times she’ll go out into the field to watch people. Other times she’ll have subjects come into her lab to observe them. That includes using a device that tracks their eye movements to see exactly where they’re looking. She demonstrated the technology. Gireau told the students that another important aspect is to find mentors.  At Google she has a co-worker who helps her navigate the interpersonal interactions in the male-dominated tech field. She said she has encountered instances where she’s been ignored or her ideas have been presented as a male employee’s idea.  In college, she recalled a professor who took her and a fellow student aside because they were his most curious students and were alway asking questions. The professor had developed a neuroscience lab to study sleep in a janitor’s closet and asked them to meet him there. While Gireau was describing the scenario, students and teachers started to nervously laugh, and comment quietly. Clearly this set up red flags among them. Gireau agreed that she had questions at the time, but the professor was not “creepy,” and the work exposed her to a new field of study. Jodi Anderson, a club advisor, said that the after-school club has more than 20 students involved, more than can be accommodated in the lab, but usually not all can attend so it works…

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Radio Hospital Verizon tuning into BG community

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Radio Hospital Verizon Wireless is the latest version of a business that’s helped customers for  90 years keep in touch with an evolving array of technology. Sometime in the 1920s, Ralph DePalma started a radio repair business – that’s the Radio Hospital in its name – in Lima. Over the years the equipment that occupied his bench changed. The shop was ready when the first televisions went on the fritz back in the day when appliances were fixed not pitched. About 25 years ago the business, which switched ownership to the founder’s nephew Tony DePalma along the way, took the on-ramp to the information superhighway and was there to meet people’s flip phone needs. That’s evolved into a full service Verizon store that can provide plans, smart phones, tablets, and more. The newest Radio Hospital Verizon Wireless outlet marked its grand opening at 1216 N. Main St., Bowling Green, last week. Radio Hospital Verizon Wireless can be reached at 567-213-2455 or at www.radiohospital.com. The store first opened its doors last November “We can do anything a Verizon store can,” said Christina Hunter, the general manager.  The difference is this store is locally owned. “We answer the phones when you call,” said Andrew Norton, district manager. “We like to say we’re neighbors helping neighbors. … With us you’re not just a number.” One of the reasons Bowling Green was an attractive option for Radio Hospital’s 14th store was the way the community supports local business, he said. “We can be part of that.” As a college town Bowling Green offers a lot of opportunities, not just customers but as employees. Hunter is one of many Bowling Green State University graduates who work for Radio Hospital. “The university helps us get new team members,” Norton said. Hunter said business has slowly been picking up since the soft opening the day before Thanksgiving. “People are still finding us.” Norton added: “We always look to grow in a community.”


Kids’ Tech infects students with a love of science

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Maybe it takes something creepy like a parasite that controls its host to hook children on science. That’s what Dr. Kelly Weinersmith, of Rice University, hopes when she presents “When Sci-Fi Comes to Life: Parasites that Control Host Behavior” at Kids’ Tech University @BGSU. The program for children, 9-12, will be presented at Bowling Green State University in four Saturday sessions, starting Feb. 3 and continuing through March 24, when Weinersmith will present. This is a way, she said, to show “students there’s all kinds of crazy stuff in nature, mind blowing stuff, and you can spend a lifetime asking interesting questions and let them know how much fun it is to be a scientist.” Kids’ Tech is open to 150 students. The cost is $90. For more information visit http://kidstechuniversity-bgsu.vbi.vt.edu/ “We want the children to feel that the study of science is something that they should consider, and that they can be comfortable in a university environment,” said Dr. Paul Morris, who adopted the program from one developed at Virginia Tech. The daylong sessions begin with presentations by the guest scientists in the morning. In the afternoon, the students assisted by BGSU graduate and undergraduate students participate in hands-on, activities that relate to the morning presentation. Working with the university students in the campus labs and classrooms gives them a feel for life as a university science student, Morris said. “We are able to provide them with a true university experience, by directly introducing them to distinguished scientists that they can relate to talking about their work. … The speakers in our program, are chosen for their ability to reach this audience, and their effectiveness is seen in the sea of hands that are raised during their morning presentations.” Weinersmith, who has her bachelor and master degrees from BGSU, said that talking about parasites with elements that could come from a science fiction film helps engage the students. “It gets them excited and interested in how the brain and immune system can help influence behavior.” Weinersmith said a workshop in forensics science at the University of Toledo pushed her toward studying biology at BGSU. At first, she was considering going to medical school, but a course in Population-Community Ecology taught by Dr. Jeffrey Miner steered her into her current direction. Dr. Anita Simic, assistant professor in the School of Earth, Environment and Society, will present “Earth Through a Drone’s Eye,” on Feb. 17. An expert on remote sensing, she’s using drone technology to introduce her field. Satellites, she said, seem too abstract. “You have to start with something simple to reach them.” Simic has a passion for teaching about her field. She’s an organizer of SPLIT Remote Sensing seminars for professionals. She’s also developed summer workshops using a “cascading” approach to teaching: She teaches her graduate students who teach undergraduates who teach high school students. Now Kids’ Tech U will give her a chance to reach elementary age students. “I think children need to be even younger than high school to start thinking about STEM and remote sensing.” When she was young, her father encouraged her love of math, which was paired with a love of music – she studied piano into her teens. That love of math led her to engineering, which in turn led to remote sensing. “When they’re really young if you start teaching math and the beauty of science it will be imbedded in them when they get older.” Other workshops scheduled are: Feb. 3 — “Global Change Microbiology: The Microscopic Organisms that Fuel Our Planet’s Global Carbon Cycle,”…


Library offers help getting the most out of digital devices

From WOOD COUNTY DISTRICT PUBLIC LIBRARY Two workshops in January at the Wood County District Public Library (251 N. Main St., Bowling Green) will help demystify your tablets, smart phones, and other devices as well as get you ready to borrow free digital content. Kristin Wetzel, who works closely with the library’s digital content providers, will lead both workshops.  The first is Wednesday, January 17 at 10 a.m.  and the second workshop is Monday, January 29 at 6:30 p.m. Both workshops will take place in the second floor meeting room.  “We are offering the workshop at two times so people who are not available during the day can also take advantage of the training and get the most from their devices” said Wetzel.  “There is so much wonderful, free material to download from your library,” said Wetzel. “I have helped people who came straight to the library from the store with their devices still in a box.  When they leave the library they are ready to read, listen, or watch whatever they like,” she said.  Reservations are not required to attend the workshops. Additional personalized help with your technology and computer questions is available Monday through Friday by appointment.  To take advantage of this service, simply call ahead to 419-352-5050 for an appointment with library staff. “We have been asked when the next class on using computers will be offered, but we have found that computer classes leave a lot of people in the dark because the class doesn’t relate to people’s specific needs,” said Michele Raine, Assistant Director at WCDPL. “The appointments allow us to focus on exactly what people would like to learn during their appointment.” Appointments can cover everything from how to format a Microsoft Word document, how to set up basic commands in an Excel spreadsheet, or how to create contacts in your smart phone. For more information on either the workshops or the personal assistance appointments, contact WCDPL’s Information Services Department at 419-352-5050.


BGSU students help senior bridge the digital divide

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Kate Magsamen-Conrad was inspired to create the course to help teach seniors about technology before she arrived on the Bowling Green State University campus. During the period of transition before starting to teach at BGSU she was home in the New York area. Given that she teaches media and communication, she was called upon to help her grandmother learn about the laptop that she’d gotten a year before and hadn’t touched. “It was really terrible,” Magsamen-Conrad said of the experience. She realized all the knowledge and technical savvy that’s a given when learning to use these devices.  “I can’t even think about all the different steps to do things.” Technology is everywhere, from the supermarket to the parking lot, and there’s so much potential for it to benefit elders. “But it’s underutilized … because they haven’t grown up with it and don’t have the familiarity.” So in spring 2013 the class was launched in collaboration with the Wood County Committee on Aging and the Wood County District Public Library. The class links elders with students from small group communication and a research methods classes. Earlier this month the most recent class graduated. Magsamen-Conrad said the class gives students a way to contribute to the community and put their learning to use in a way that matters. “This is a real human being who is going to benefit from your preparation for this assignment. I don’t think there’s a better way to improve presentation and professional skills.” Each class has about 30 seniors in it, though one class had about 60, she said. Many take the class several times, building on their knowledge. Jo Zbiegien, of Fostoria, said it was the fourth time she’s taken the course. “I got so frustrated not being able to find anything I wanted to find on my cell,” she said. Then her husband got her an iPad, and all she could figure out to do was play a few games and get text messages. Now the course has expanded her abilities.  Zbiegien has learned about the capabilities of Google and how to use GPS. That’s important, she said, because she drives a lot, and her phone is essential in case she ever needs help while on the road. She plans to take the class again to try to figure out how to transfer all her contacts from her Android phone to the iPad. Pam Ruffner said the course “was awesome because the students are caring and informational.” She said she got an iPad a few years ago and needed help learning about its capabilities. “I’m not one that just goes and experiments by myself.” She was most pleased with learning about iCloud and how to download music. The graduation was held in the Michael and Sara Kuhlin Center, the home of the School of Media and Communication. Mike Kuhlin served as the graduation speaker. He has witnessed and experienced the evolution of technology first hand. When he started working for the BG News as a journalism student in the mid-1960s, they used manual typewriters. An electric typewriter was a great improvement. The 1968 graduate went on to work for Ohio Bell and stayed with the company through all the mergers and changes, so he witnessed many of the changes first hand. The arrival of the smart phone has resulted in an “explosion” of apps. “That’s a whole new way of doing business. It puts so much at our fingerprints. Your imagination is the only thing that stops you from learning and using these applications.” No matter what someone is interested in, there’s…


BG Schools takes drudgery out of math, science & tech

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For a few hours last month, the gym at Conneaut Elementary School was transformed into a wetlands, prairie, woodland and river. For one day last week, all of Bowling Green’s fourth graders took part in the BG Math Invasion 2017. And every week, girls are beating the odds by joining the “Girls Who Code” program held after school every Monday. This is science, math and technology being made fun. “They are really into it,” Nichole Simonis, fifth grade science and reading teacher at Conneaut said about the COSI on Wheels program. “They are so excited about science. They were talking about it all morning. They saw the COSI truck and started cheering.” The COSI visit was funded by an anonymous donor, Simonis said. This was not a typical science lesson, nor a typical science teacher. With her portable mic on her head, Alex Wilkins quickly paced around the gym and fired off questions to the kids about ecology, habitats, and food chains. In the prairie setting, one student was decked out with wings and fuzzy feet and told to “be a bumble bee.” She slurped the nectar off one flower and shared it with another. They talked about seeds. “So seeds don’t have legs. I’ve been walking all over this gym, but seeds can’t do that,” Wilkins said. So another student came up to turn on a giant fan to blow seeds across the gym. They talked about other seed options – like burrs sticking to pant legs. “That’s seeds being really sneaky,” Wilkins said. Then came the topic that triggered giggling among the students. Seeds also travel to other sites when animals like bears eat them. “Every animal does it – they poop,” Wilkins said. “Poop is really high in nutrients. That seed comes out ready to grow.” Next, in the river area, the students learned little tidbits like American bullfrogs have no necks, large mouth bass are carnivorous, Eastern box turtles’ shells grow with them, and dragonflies can fly upside down. “Which is pretty cool, not a lot of bugs can do that,” Wilkins said. On the math front, about 240 fourth graders gathered in the community center last Monday for the BG Math Invasion 2017. “Today we are trying to get kids excited about learning different kinds of math,” said Laura Weaver, gifted coordinator. The students were using Roman numerals, logic and more. “There are different ways to do math,” Weaver said. “All kids can do math.” One of the goals was to help students become more comfortable with math. “We are trying to take the anxiety and stress out of high-stakes testing,” Weaver said. There were team building games to get students from the different elementaries to work together. They designed paper airplanes to achieve the most distance and velocity. “We felt fourth grade was that year of transition,” from elementary to more advanced math, Weaver said. The Math Invasion was supported by Lubrizol which bought T-shirts for the students, Dominoes which supplied pizza for lunch, and the elementary PTOs. Then onto technology, where a computer room at the middle school was packed last Monday with girls working on coding in an after school group called “Girls Who Code.” The program is a nationwide effort to help girls realize that computer coding is a career open to both genders. “The organizer noticed a major gender inequity of boys and girls in computer science,” said Jodi Anderson, secondary curriculum coordinator. The curriculum is free and four teachers volunteer their time for the weekly program. There are 24 girls in…


BGSU marks Jerome Library’s 50th year

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Fitting for a library that doubles as a work of art, Jerome Library will unveil a new piece at its celebration of the 50th anniversary. The program will start at 4 p.m. Friday. There’ll be short presentations on the history of the library as well as a presentation by Librarian Amy Fry on the mural. Then a piece by sculptor and book artist Vince Koloski, that draws inspiration from those murals, will be unveiled. The eight-story tall building with six floors of abstract art running up both the west and east faces first opened in 1967. Dean of University Libraries Sara Bushong said she’s been assured by the artist Donald Drumm that the designs have no hidden meaning. Bushong said that at the time, students “either loved it or thought it was the most atrocious thing they’d ever seen.” Now it’s hard to imagine campus without it. While the mural has been a constant landmark on campus over the past 50 years the services within it have evolved. When it was built it was devoted mostly to stacks of books. Now every one of its floors have been repurposed, sometimes several times over, Bushong said. The change is most evident on the first floor. “The goal is to have the first floor to be a very student services focused,” she said. The floor hosts the Learning Commons, Student Athletic Services, and, most recently, the Collab Lab. And, she added, “we’re still circulating books, which is good.” A member of the accreditation team for the architecture program commented that he was “impressed with how many people were coming in the building,” Bushong said. “There’s a lot of reasons to come here.” The library has about 450,000 visitors a year, that’s students, faculty, community member, and tour groups. The library went up in the midst of a university building boom. With its step down entrance and the dramatic murals, it was intended to add contrast to the flat landscape, Bushong said. Like any 50-year-old structure it has shown its age. The battle against leaks has been ongoing since 1967. Recent work on the roof over the first floor has solved problems on the first floor, though areas around the base of the tower, still cause leaks on the second level. And the library was not constructed with the ensuing digital age in mind. Bushong said that internet service is available throughout the building, but on some corners of the first floor cell phone service is spotty. Several years ago as the university was starting on its master plan, Jerome’s fate hung in the balance. “We had to decide whether the building was worth keeping,” the dean said. “We decided it was.” That’s meant a steady program of work on the building’s intricate inner workings. Bushong, who grew up in Bradner, remembers the building in its early years. Her father, Nick Ezzone, did graduate work at BGSU, and she would sometimes come to campus and visit the library with him. She earned her bachelor’s degree in music education at BGSU from 1976-1980 and remembers the building not having changed much. When she and her husband, Brian Bushong, returned to the area in 1983 so he could join the Tower Brass, she had a hard time finding a full-time teaching job, so she applied at the university and was hired in the curriculum resources library. She has worked in the library since except for a few years when she worked as a school librarian in Perrysburg. She earned a master’s degree in education at BGSU and then her…