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Category Archives: thought

30th Annual Connecticut Invention Convention

Yesterday was the 30th Annual Invention Convention at the University of Connecticut (UConn) Storrs campus.

Approximately 690 inventors ages kindergarten through 8th grade.  320 or so adults, all engineers, scientists, educators, and business people, gave up an incredibly beautiful early May morning to judge and inspire the young inventors.  Tens of volunteers.  Overall, thousands of people.

Folks in the United States recognize UConn as a basketball powerhouse.  The women’s basketball team just won the NCAA national tournament, its 8th… which is a staggering number for any college basketball program, men or women.

What’s the relationship?

The basketball teams compete in the Gampel Pavilion on the UConn Storrs campus.  The state wide Invention Convention also takes place in the Gampel.

If you haven’t been there, it is breathtaking to see all of the posters and banners celebrating all of the successes of both teams.  Just walking in you feel the building oozing success and achievement… athletic achievement.

But on Saturday, 690 kids got a different message: ACADEMIC achievement, creativity and innovation, were just as worthy of celebration.

The Connecticut Invention Convention is made possible by the Connecticut Invention Convention non-profit in conjunction with the UConn School of Engineering and is supported by Connecticut firms.

If you’d like to learn more about this incredible program, please see the website (www.ctinventionconvention.org) and/or contact me!

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SCIESF epilogue

Just a quick note to say how amazing it was to judge the SCIESF again (see my previous post on judging at SCIESF).

And what’s not to like? I get to see friends again and I get to immerse myself in science topics I would not otherwise look into deeply.

It was also an opportunity to meet some incredible students.  I’m always fascinated to hear the stories what led them to their research:

  • In one case, it was a students fascination withBioluminescence that led him to pursue optogenetics and find a mentor at Yale University
  • In another, it was a group of students answering a STEM challenge set forth by Sikorsky Aircraft
  • One student wanted to pursue forensics, but didn’t like blood and gore so she thought pursuing document forensics was more her suit
  • Another, it was the pursuit of the basic mechanisms that cause cancer
  • And yet another the research was the end point of three years in understanding the mechanisms of gene expression.

My hats of to these student, their teachers, mentors, and parents.  The pursuit of science, in all of these cases at a college or even post-graduate level, meant that these students had been lead to understand the value of understanding complex systems, communication and cooperation with others, and hard work.

I am wondering which will be a Nobel laureate.

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2012 in education, growing up, innovation, learning, thought

 

Southern Connecticut Invitational Engineering and Science Fair Judging

This will be a brief post… but I’m really excited about judging the Southern Connecticut Invitational Engineering and Science Fair tomorrow.  Here’s the research I’ll be judging.  I’d like to remind you that this is the research of Southern Connecticut high school students, even though it is most often at a bachelor’s or sometimes even graduate level.

  • Optogenetic Interrogation of Prefrontal Cortex Dopamine D1 Receptor-Containing Neurons as a Technique to Restore Timing: A Novel Approach to Treat Prefrontal Disorders
    • I don’t know much about it yet, but I’m reading like crazy.  Found a great website that describes optogenetics
  • The Effect of Carbohydrate Inhibitor Tris-HCl on Creating Ketogenic Diet Conditions to Treat Epilepsy
    • Cool, I’ve been on a ketogenic diet, so I know a little bit of what is going on here.  I never knew that ketone bodies replace glucose as an energy source when passed through the brain and that apparently glucose in the brain can trigger epilepsy.
  • Sikorsky STEM Challenge
    • Designing an engine mount for a WWII F4U Corsair carrier based fighter airplane… Tim Allen cool! (cue his famous grunting noise…) Never flown in a Corsair, but I’ve been up-close and personal with one!
  • Individual Characteristic Analysis of Stamps Retrieved From Scanned Documents
    • Something I’ve actually studied while I was at Pitney Bowes. I’m actually a co-inventor of a patent in this area (7,889,885).
  • Creating a Cre/Lox Barcoding System: A Potential Breakthrough in Tracking the Heterogeneity of Glioblastoma Multiform
    • Just learned a lot about Cre/Lox recombination (thank you Wikipedia) and apparently this research is about using it to understand the performance of Glioblastoma Multiform, the most common and malignant form of primary intracranial tumor.
  • Finding the Optimal AlphaScreen Conditions for SMCX, a Histone Demethylas
    • Last thing to study tonight… AlphaScreen is a novel proximity-based assay developed by Connecticut’s PerkinElmer to measure gene expression and methylation. Methylation either promotes or silences gene expression, which of course can lead to either causing or stopping cancer. This research led to understanding the optimal conditions for this important test.

If you’d like to see a listing of all the projects, they can be found right here.

Unfortunately, Trumbull High School doesn’t participate in this event.  I wish it did.

And to my previous blog entry on the cost of today’s education… I’m quite certain that funding “just the basics” would not have allowed the participating school districts to create these opportunities for high school students.  And isn’t it important to our future that these opportunities are afforded students who want the challenge? Isn’t allowing students to pursue challenges where tomorrow leaders come from?  High school challenges come in many forms besides athletics.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2012 in education, growing up, innovation, learning, taxes, thought

 

The Phaedrus

The Phaedrus is a discussion between Socrates and Phaedrus as recorded by Plato.  I found this portion referenced in a comment to the New York Times article “The Dilemma of Being a Cyborg” by Carina Chocano.  The article is a worthy read as well.  I found it interesting that already back in Plato’s time, there was a concern that memory would be eroded when it was offloaded to secondary storage (such as the written word).
The article speaks to being human is to forget, something we all do, and to reminisce. We generally do this gracefully, over time.  When we entrust our memory to a device and the device fails, we lose our memories completely all at once, something that is out of our normal context. 
The commenter to the article mentioned that this was not a new thought… that Plato had recorded it a long time ago…

Socrates: At the Egyptian city of Naucratis, there was a famous old god, whose name was Theuth; the bird which is called the Ibis is sacred to him, and he was the inventor of many arts, such as arithmetic and calculation and geometry and astronomy and draughts and dice, but his great discovery was the use of letters. 

Now in those days the god Thamus was the king of the whole country of Egypt; and he dwelt in that great city of Upper Egypt which the Hellenes call Egyptian Thebes, and the god himself is called by them Ammon. To him came Theuth and showed his inventions, desiring that the other Egyptians might be allowed to have the benefit of them; he enumerated them, and Thamus enquired about their several uses, and praised some of them and censured others, as he approved or disapproved of them. 

It would take a long time to repeat all that Thamus said to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts. But when they came to letters, This, said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit. Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2012 in humanity, technology, thought

 
 
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