Philly

Women In Chemistry Documentary = Awesome

I had the pleasure of attending a screening of the Women in Chemistry documentary (trailer shown above) by local NPR affiliate WHYY in Philadelphia. This amazing documentary profiles eight women that have changed the course of chemistry and science in general.  Afterwards, we were treated to a Q&A moderated by Maiken Scott  with two of the women profiled in the video - Uma Chowdry and Mary Good. I asked a question a;bout getting kids engaged that don't have a support system that pushes science.  Both Mary and Uma told me to start with the problems that students are facing, and design solutions while focusing on the math and science aspects.  This is a winning idea!

The full list of profiled women is below:

  • Nancy Chang, cofounder and former CEO of the biopharmaceutical firm Tanox;
  • Uma Chowdhry, retired senior vice president and chief science and technology officer of DuPont;
  • Mildred Cohn, first female president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology;
  • Mary L. Good, former president of the American Chemical Society, undersecretary for technology in the U.S. Department of Commerce under President Bill Clinton, and recipient of the Priestley Medal;
  • Kathryn Hach-Darrow, cofounder of the Hach Chemical Company and the only woman to receive CHF’s Pittcon Heritage Award;
  • Paula Hammond, David H. Koch Professor in engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology;
  • Stephanie Kwolek, former research associate at DuPont and inventor of Kevlar; and
  • Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, founder, chairman, and managing director of Biocon Limited.

The full hour-long documentary is embedded below - checked it out.

STEMnasium: A Great Way to Teach Kids Science

Jon Skief founded the Harambee Charter School in West Philly in 1973. The school has been providing a quality science based education for children for 40 years, and recently received national attention 6 year old Zora Ball. She became one of the youngest people to develop a mobile gaming app.

Tairq Al-Nasir, head of the STEMnasium Learning Academy, adds the following stats:

In 2011, Philadelphia regional companies had 64,000 STEM-related and finance job openings, but area colleges graduated just 6,000 people with those degrees, according to Campus Philly. Al-Nasier widens the numbers even more.
“Every year, there’s a demand for 120,000 jobs for people with computer science backgrounds,” Al-Nasir said. “We’re only graduating nationally, 40,000. There are 80,000 students missing. Why is it missing? It’s missing because we haven’t rethought the STEM initiative.”

Check out the video that shows the program in action. If you can't see the video below, please click here.

Space Networking: My Experience with NASA

Photographers line up to get a shot of the final shuttle launch

Greetings from outer space, nerds! Wait, how can I call you nerds if I'm a bigger alien nerd that found his way to Earth? Hmm ...

I wrote an article for MediaTapper about my experiences with NASA's social networking community, as well as my experience viewing the final shuttle launch of the space program. Here's a sample:

NASA continues its excellent leveraging of social networking platforms by recently launching a Google+ page. NASA’s Twitter account has proven very popular to space geeks such as myself and others. We are connected on various social networks such as Google+, Facebook and Twitter, and the information flows freely. There are people that clearly know more than me, but not once have I felt talked down to. It’s truly an example of how technology can help to bring like-minded people together.

To read more, please click here.

 

Old School Tech: Eastern State Penitentiary

Click the photo for the entire photo album

 

Eastern State Penitentiary is truly one of Philadelphia's great places to visit.  A huge prison in the middle of the city!  It took quite a bit of tech to keep this institution running for almost two hundred years.

A little background from the website

Opened in 1829 as part of a controversial movement to change the behavior of inmates through "confinement in solitude with labor," Eastern State Penitentiary quickly became one of the most expensive and most copied buildings in the young United States. It is estimated that more than 300 prisons worldwide are based on the Penitentiary's wagon-wheel, or "radial" floor plan.

Some of America's most notorious criminals were held in the Penitentiary's vaulted, sky-lit cells, including bank robber Willie Sutton and Al Capone. After 142 years of consecutive use, Eastern State Penitentiary was completely abandoned in 1971, and now stands, a lost world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers.

From a technology perspective, the building was a marvel for its time.  By "confinement in solitude with labor", every prisoner was completely isolated within its own cell, with eighteen-inch thick walls providing near total silence.  To complement this, architect John Haviland created an entire infrastructure of indoor plumbing, running water, and central heat that was virtually unrivaled even in the home of wealthy Americans.  Amazingly, not even the first warden had running water in his living space.  The thought of having this in a huge building in the early 19th century is akin to driving a car when most people had horse and buggies.

 The "radial" floor plan mentioned in the summary (also known as "wagon wheel") refers to the prison being designed with a center point with prison hallways extended from it.  One guard could monitor all corridors by standing in this middle point and spinning around (as I did when I visited). Below this hub lied the gravity-fed plumbing system and supported the central heating system.  Remember, this is 1820!

I hope you like the photo above. The rest are in my Google+ / Picassa album and can be accessed by clicking the photo or clicking here.

For additional information, please see the following sites

 - Eastern State Penitentiary Website

 - VisitPhilly's Eastern State Penitenitary Site

 - New York Times Special: Voices from Eastern State Penitentiary