Hello everyone. I struggled with what to write about this week. We are in finals, so that was consuming my time along with a NASA Preliminary Design Review (PDR) that our rocket team had to pull together. That being said, I am excited to be in the final stages of our project. To be more accurate, I am looking forward to having something tangible to share with everyone. My teammate and I have explained how we intend to produce a video utilizing our pointillism perspective as it pertains to education.
So we have an outline of how this will go. I will present a given physics topic offering bits of information, then at the end, tie them all together to make the “big picture.” My partner will do a video doing the opposite. She will present the big picture and then break it down to the “dots.” While one person offers one way of instruction, the other will break the process down. I think this will be very cool.
I really am glad I participated in this project. It has been a bright spot to a semester that has had many stressing events going on in the peripheral. Three Hurricanes, Puerto Rico still having major areas without power, California Fires, you name it. I truly hope our submission will inspire a new way of thinking in curriculum and instruction. Maybe it will inspire an even bigger idea. More to come soon. Sorry, I have made this entry short. We have grade submissions today! Looking forward to a warm and wonderful Holiday Season.
As Kent and I work on our outreach video, we have discussed various technologies we will use to record and compile it. This reminded me that it may be useful for me to talk about a few of the technologies I used in academia, some I use professionally, and those I use when working with sound and maps at home.
My revelation regarding principles of software choice began when working with my advisor in graduate school. He is a champion of free and open source (FOSS) software, especially in the academic sector, for various reasons. First, I would guess that many scientists in my field and others are familiar with an ancient beige monster lurking in the corner of the lab – perhaps it only accepts CDs and has an incompatible USB port – that has remained unconnected to the Internet for years to avoid reckoning with license expiration. With free and open source technology, this limitation vanishes. Other limitations abound, with some software lacking the breadth of commercial versions, or tech support. But within academic communities at publicly funded research institutions, at least, there are distinct advantages to going FOSS. Students gain from improved access and compatibility. With graduation looming, they can keep the technical skills they gained in school current without fear of losing access to important software. Furthermore, public funding can be used to support research directly, rather than going toward costly licensing fees.
After graduate school, my tech preferences were reshaped again, resulting from the explosion of coding in the fields of data science and geography, but that’s another story.
So, here’s my toolbox.
Websites/version control: GitHub is awesome. It’s relevant to anything that undergoes editing, especially by multiple sources; gone is the need for piles of drafts cluttering your hard drive. If anything, use it because we all have documents titled “draft-5.6_finalfinal”. It also allows you to host websites. In that vein, I’ve found CSS and HTML useful, which I used to retrofit a Bootstrap website template to fit my needs.
Figures: In graduate school, I used a bit of Illustrator and GraphPad, and now rely on G*MP (renaming campaign? edited for ablest slur – let me know if you know of a better platform!) and R / Python.
Instrumentation-specific software: I don’t wish to repeat experiences struggling with excruciatingly slow software installed on machines attached to scientific instrumentation, but couldn’t avoid it when using ion chromatography and working with ICP-OES and handheld XRF. I gradually found replacements in other areas of the lab when I could. For x-ray diffraction, I used Match! and the Crystallographic Open Database. Micro-XRF and micro-XRD were two analytical techniques I gained experience with at a national lab and were supported by custom applications developed by the engineers working there (the ultimate luxury). I have a little WheeStat from Public Lab that I haven’t had time to experiment with yet, but it has some cool basic free and open software attached.
Sound: SuperCollider and Audacity are the bees knees. I’m looking forward to trying out web-based sound platforms.