BLOGS

stem (3)

True Strength...

 

Topics: Diversity, Diversity in Science, STEM, Women in Science


"Diversity is our strength, unity is our power." Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

U.S. innovation has long drawn inspiration from a mix of scientific disciplines, academic institutions, research laboratories and industries, yet the scientific enterprise’s workforce lacks diversity of another sort, according to testimony before a House panel on May 9.

In remarks delivered to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Shirley Malcom, a senior adviser at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said the growing need for a workforce capable of delivering future innovations and meeting the world’s challenges will require “expanding the pool of talent, tapping into the vast well of women, minorities, racial and ethnic, and people with disabilities currently underrepresented in STEM,” the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The perspective delivered by Malcom, who also serves as director of AAAS’ STEM Equity Achievement or SEA Change initiative, were echoed by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, chairwoman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, as well as by each of the four other panelists who joined Malcom in addressing the committee.

“As the rest of the country becomes more diverse, the STEM workforce has been slow to respond,” said Johnson. “In addition, I have watched with dismay for decades as women have made too few gains in the STEM workforce.”

The "STEM Opportunities Act of 2019, a bill that would require more comprehensive demographic data to be collected on recipients of federal research awards and STEM faculty at universities to help identify and reduce barriers that prevent women and underrepresented groups from entering and advancing in STEM."
The caveat: the House bill will likely stall and die in the Senate if not outright vetoed by a recalcitrant, science-phobic administration basing its next reflexive move on what the previous black president favored. It is the insistence on being the center of the story forever; the hero of the plot. It allows a growing inequality based on zip codes, city funding, cultural maturity and opportunity. Most of the aforementioned zip codes will be urban, but a lot of them rural, currently undergoing an opioid crisis and economic opportunities excavated by bad trade policies. Their being over "colored others" is a warped and sadistic feel-good measure but not a solution - similar to the sentiments expressed with a "send her back" chant at a North Carolina Klan rally Wednesday. It is a de facto redlining scheme to keep the country gerrymandered on the status quo of visual differences reinforced by propagandized compulsory education with schlock creation science; entertainment options meant to numb us and media to reinforce our biases. It is not a path forward to a mythologized lost "greatness." It is proto fascism.
 
"You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise."
Representative Ilhan Omar quoting Dr. Maya Angelou on Twitter

It is an open invitation for China to take advantage of this blatant racism and ignorance, powering ahead of us to become the world's dominate superpower. Once our lofty perch among nations is lost, we will likely not recover it. We will be a byword, a proverb and in the inimitable words of our current juvenile chief executive "they are [and will likely be] laughing at us"; that throwaway line against his ardent foe that made him sad at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner, prophetically projection.

 

Diverse STEM Workforce Needed to Preserve U.S. Competitiveness, Anne Q. Hoy
Office of Public Programs SEA Change
American Association for the Advancement of Science

Read more…

Stepping Backwards...

Stepping%2BBackwards.PNG
Image source: link [1] below

 

Topics: Civics, NASA, Space Exploration, Star Trek, STEM


The first time I ran into the notion of the moon landing being "faked," a young coworker showed me a grainy amateurish video on YouTube. I encountered it with a co-vendor at the IBM research facility I supported. To neither, both younger than me, did it matter that "I was there" and they weren't on the planet yet. Evidence and eye witness testimony did not move them from their stances.

Neil Armstrong thought he had a 50–50 shot at pulling it off. "There are so many unknowns," the first man to set foot on the moon said in a 2011 interview with an Australian accounting firm. “There was a big chance that there was something in there we didn’t understand properly and we [would have] to abort and come back to Earth without landing.” That he, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins—with the help of thousands of NASA engineers, scientists and mission controllers on Earth—did pull off a moon landing remains one of humanity's most incredible achievements.

Consider that 50 years ago this month a 36-story-tall Saturn V rocket weighing as much as 400 elephants climbed away from Earth atop an explosion more powerful than the output of 85 Hoover Dams. Once in space, the astronauts escaped Earth orbit, traveled to lunar orbit, then undocked part of their spacecraft and steered it down for a soft impact on an alien land. Perhaps even more impressive, after taking a walk around, they climbed back in their lunar lander, launched off the surface of another planetary body (another first), rejoined the command module orbiting roughly 60 miles above the lunar surface, and then flew back to Earth, splashing down safely in the Pacific Ocean two days later. [1]

The spin offs from the space industry technologically benefited America. Not since the king cotton era (fueled by the free, uncompensated slave labor of my ancestors) had the United States enjoyed such dominance in production, productivity and economic expansion. It would go on for decades, many young people inspired by NASA, Star Trek reruns and conventions to pursue STEM careers out of a passion for exploration, and birthing a more egalitarian society post previous sectarian divisions.

Exactly 50 years ago today, a Saturn V rocket launched from Kennedy Space Center carrying Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the Moon. Four days later, Armstrong and Aldrin would land on the Moon and inspire a generation of young people to become scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.

The Apollo program's effect of inspiring America's children to pursue careers in STEM fields is one of the most powerful lasting legacies of the Moon race. Unfortunately, this effect seems to be coming to an end.

On the eve of the Apollo 11 anniversary, LEGO asked The Harris Poll to survey a total of 3,000 children in the United States, China, and the United Kingdom about their attitudes toward and knowledge of space. The results reveal that, at least for Western countries, kids today are more interested in YouTube than spaceflight. [2]

Entertainment and ambition looked upward: the notion of a three nacelle starship with a saucer section that could travel impossible speeds fueled imaginations. The notion of defying relativistic time dilation, traversing vast distances in human lifetimes propelled many of us into STEM to “do our parts” in getting at least close to this lofty goal. A fifth or tenth the speed of light to Proxima Centauri would achieve that aim. Any higher level physics class disabused us of attaining “warp speed,” but we could see the technological benefit and spin off of assisting in things that would promote the “Common Good” here on Terra Firma.

We did not count on the divorce of productivity and cost of living wages, stagnant since the 1970s. We did not count on conspiracy theorists masking themselves as serious news pundits and influencing more than clicks or product purchases from their sites. We did not count on the rapidly increasing (and encouraged) income disparity. We did not count on politicians bought by wealthy families and corporations whose only about getting wealthier and more powerful in our lives. We did not count on science denial, climate or otherwise. Such a dysfunctional dystopia depends on selfies, self-centered attitudes and distractions, like supercomputers in our hip pockets sharing our suppers; websites that reinforce our views and cute cat videos. And we did not count on the cultural division encouraged by authoritarians the world over as their best means of controlling the masses.

It is in such a world young people would rather be YouTube personalities than starship captains.

My previous, gob-smacking encounters with my younger coworkers are now explained.
 

1. One Small Step Back in Time: Relive the Wonder of Apollo 11, Clara Moskowitz, Scientific American
2. American kids would much rather be YouTubers than astronauts, Eric Berger, ArsTechica

Read more…

Beneficent Adversaries...

IMG_1708%2B%25281%2529.JPG
Petty Officer Third Class Robert H. Goodwin, WWII veteran


Topics: Nanofluidics, Nanotechnology, Research, STEM, Thesis


I passed my Thesis defense in Monday. I have a Masters in Nanoengineering.

After many weeks of running experiments, parsing data and writing preliminary conclusions, I had to stand before my committee: my advisor (chemist) and my nano physics professor, the department chair (mechanical engineering) and defend my research. In hindsight, it was the committee on steroids.

I bought coffee and donuts; water for the committee as is the tradition. That exposed me to 95 degree heat and North Carolina humidity. I ended up defending without my suit jacket.

There is the public defense part where you get questions from either the panel or the audience. Then the grueling begins when the audience is encouraged to leave and you are alone with your committee.

I was challenged on my understanding of the data, not in an accusatory way but to foster a better rewrite when I turn in my written product to the Graduate College. Those are due next Wednesday. I should be able to fulfill that request on review with my advisor. The committee also suggested further experiments I could do to verify what I thought I was seeing. After an intense 40 minutes of questioning, I was asked to leave as the committee conferred. For what seemed like an eternity, my advisor came out and shook my hand: "congratulations." I then went in to the committee to get their final suggestions and signatures for completing the process.

I am also moving...within Greensboro mind you, but to a house we own outright versus a rental apartment we don't.

It reminded me of my father proudly burning the last payment record as we owned our modest home - two bedrooms, one bath and less than a thousand square feet - in East Winston-Salem off Cleveland Avenue.

For the move, I had to parse through memorabilia that traveled with us from Texas to New York to North Carolina. It was time to make some decisions.

I found the program and invitation to my mother's graduation from Practical Nursing School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I imagined the trip for her and my father probably took a lot of back roads and the Green Book during that time period.

I found my parents' invitations sent for my high school graduation as well as my acceptance letter saying I had been accepted to North Carolina A&T State University for the fall semester, 1980. I found my first karate promotion certificates from Dr. Casterlow as part of the A&T Dojo.

I found a short story my father kept I had written for catharsis called "The Decision." It was when Pop left it to me to decide the fate of my dog, a Cocker Spaniel named Fala, named after FDR's dog. He was aged, tired and had stopped eating. The gist of the story was "sometimes as a man, you have to make difficult decisions." I was twelve. I didn't own a dog again until I was an adult with sons of my own. Parting with each four-legged friend has never gotten easier.

I found a lot of family photos that will go in albums and on a flash drive soon.

I also found the corroborating evidence I had read on History.com: the GI Bill like the New Deal before it was discriminatory to African Americans. My father passed a college entrance exam with only a sixth grade education formally, due to the fact he and my uncle Moses, Jr. went to work for my grandmother to help out the household. The GI Bill for white soldiers and sailors paid for a college education and loans encouraging home ownership, building a wealth gap that has persisted for generations. Many white service members went on to become professionals and professors. The GI Bill for my father and his fellow WWII veterans of color only covered vocational training, like barber school. So that's what he learned. Pop often cut my hair in the kitchen of our home  in a segregated neighborhood crafted by redlining legislation. He faced the indignities of working for a textile company - routinely getting passed over for promotions and getting called "boy" or n-word then his name. He smoked in a chair in his bedroom before he engaged with the family every evening after work. That was his way of coping. It eventually led to lung cancer, the contributing cause of his death.

I sadly had to throw away his literature books he bought for me: I read The Iliad and the Odyssey from that collection. I read snippets of Milton and I meant to read Thomas Paine. They alas were molded and mildewed; unrecoverable. I plan to replace the collection once we're settled in.

Announcing the good news on Facebook numbered in the thousands on the Kappa Alpha Psi page; hundreds on my main feed. It was good to see others, near and far, celebrate this achievement with me.

I passed my Masters Thesis defense.

I like to think I redeemed my father's dreams as well.
Read more…