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STEM Beat

Women in Computing

Women in Computer Science members at conference

Last week I highlighted one of many clubs made available to students who are in STEM or are interested in STEM. This week I want to draw your attention to a new club that formed in the Spring of 2014. Women in Computing encourages women in computing and technology to engage in outreach, leadership, fellowship, and service. The club also promotes opportunities for computing careers and scholarships.
 
 
Michaela, is currently the President of Women in Computing and joined the organization after her experience at the Grace Hopper Celebration, which is the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. “I realized that women being the minority shouldn't be the norm.  Especially at UNI, the men out number the women.  Bringing unity to the women in our field is something that I had never even thought about. Grace Hopper Celebration made it clear to me that we needed to bring unity mainly because I only knew one other classmate on the trip and one girl I had three classes with and never talked to. Now, I see all the women in the group in the hallways and say ‘Hi’ or have classes with them and sit by them.  These two things seem simple and common in a majority of other fields, but for some reason, not in ours. I aim to change this exact problem in the computing field.”
 
 
Being president for Women in Computing has provided Michaela with organization and leadership experience. “At times it is stressful, but I remember why I am doing this and it gives me a great feeling knowing that so many people will benefit from what I am trying to promote on our campus and in our community.”
 
 
Sarah Diesburg is the faculty adviser for this organization and hopes this group will provide a sense of community that may have been missing before.  “I'm very happy to be the faculty adviser for this group.  I noticed there was a need for a group like this in the computer science department for both retention of our current female students and recruitment of incoming female students.  I remember the time as a student when I felt a bit out of place in my undergraduate and graduate computer science departments, and having this type of group available helped me.  I would like to pay that forward with our current students.”
 
 
 Women in Computing members will gain valuable experience. This group reaches out to middle school students, sends women to regional and national conferences for women in computing,  provides socialization events for women in their department, and educates members on professional self-promotion through resume and social networking workshops.
 
 
Sarah hopes the club’s presence in their department and community will address equity issues, “Specifically, we want to work on retention and recruitment of women into computing careers and majors.  We hope our presence in the department and community will encourage women to consider computing and technology as a valid career choice, and we wish to provide an encouraging presence for female students already in these majors.”
 
 
Michaela's favorite memory has been meeting all of the girls and having a good time. “Not only do they know how to get stuff done, but I can see them get as excited as I am to finally set out to do the events that we have discussed.”
 
 
One of Sarah’s favorite memories has been taking six female students to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. “The students learned so much professionally, both in computer science and in how to prepare for the next step, whether that was an internship, a job, or graduate school.  We also bonded as a group.”

Stefani Keller, UNI STEM
Posted: 02-18-15

TEECA– Real Life Experiences

UNI Tekka students at competition.

        UNI has many student organization and clubs, including TEECA, which stands for Technology and Engineering Education Collegiate Association. TEECA is an organization for undergraduate and graduate students who want to develop content knowledge, continue professional development, and be involved with a professional organization. Ryan Anderson, President of TEECA, has been a member since 2012. “I joined because I was new on campus and was looking for ways to meet people and get involved. This organization allowed me to meet other students in my major and get involved with professional development opportunities. I was also excited about how we got to travel when we attended the regional and national conferences. “
 
TEECA currently has 12 members, but Ryan says they are always looking for new students to join,“membership is not limited to technology and engineering education majors. However the conferences and competitions we attend generally cater to technology and education majors. But anyone with interests in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) or education is likely to find something we do interesting. If someone is interested in joining TEECA all they need to do is come to one of our meetings or contact anyone from the club and we can get them started.”
 
Scott Greenhalgh has been the faculty advisor for TEECA for four years. In March, he will become the national advisor for  TEECA for the next two years.  Scott says many of the things the club does involves integrating the STEM concepts in deeper ways than are normally found in the classroom.“Students should join the organization for the experiences it provides. Prospective teachers can gain experiences with running extracurricular organizations, provide service in the field, and have fun with challenging competitions. TEECA is open to all UNI students, and we would like to especially let elementary education, science education, and math education students know they are welcome in the organization.”
 
TEECA is gearing up for their national competition this spring which will take place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At this competition, their club will compete against other colleges across the United States. “We plan to compete in the Technology Challenge (Quiz Bowl), Vex Robotics, Transportation, Problem Solving, Manufacturing, and Communications competitions. We currently are preparing by arranging trip details and once our meeting time gets finalized we will be meeting about twice a week to design, construct and program our vex robot. Once that robot is ready we will begin preparing our manufacturing and communications projects, which have to be completed on site at the conference,” says Ryan. 
 
Ryan has gained many experiences and leadership skills from TEECA. “TEECA has provided me with the opportunity to learn how to manage multiple activities while developing my leadership skills.  I have also been able to meet several of the leaders in the field and network with other students and teachers across the country."
 

Stefani Keller, UNI STEM
Posted: 02-11-15

Making a Difference with a STEM Career

UNI STEM Ambassador, Sarah Huebner with her dog.

Sarah Huebner is a senior at UNI. Her years at UNI have been filled with building lifelong memories and taking advantage of great opportunities. Sarah is a Biology, Ecology, and Evolution major. “I was working in research administration in Kansas City, managing grant projects for researchers. I was fascinated by the research projects and found myself continually drawn to the labs. I am especially interested in life in all its forms, so I decided to pursue a degree in Biology with the intent to do research of my own. I chose the Ecology and Evolution track  because I am passionate about wildlife conservation and restoration. We have a lot of wonderful organisms on this planet, and it’s up to us to ensure that they are here for many centuries to come so that people will always be able to experience the joy and awe that only nature can provide.”
 
Sarah chose UNI for its large university resources with the feel of a small school. “The faculty are top-notch and dedicated to training us to be the best scientists possible. Their doors are always open and they are very receptive to questions and comments in and out of class. There are also a lot of great opportunities to conduct research as an undergraduate. I am currently working in the lab of Dr. Jim Demastes and Dr. Theresa Spradling, assisting with their research on pocket gophers from New Mexico and the chewing lice found on the gophers. We are studying the interactions of these species as they evolve together, as well as the effect of range shift on the genetic diversity of populations. This research has major conservation implications, as it may give us some insight into how well populations lacking in diversity are able to adapt to changing environmental conditions.”
 
This summer, as part of UNI’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program, Sarah will be working in the lab of Dr. Kenneth Elgersma. They will conduct several projects pertaining to carbon fixing of native grasses in Iowa, the impact of native grasses on the populations of honey bees and native bees, and examining whether some native grasses could be effective biofuel producers.
 
Ecology, Evolution, and the Nature of Science taught by Dr. Demastes, has been Sarah’s favorite major course. “The class is primarily discussion-based, so we read books and articles and then debated the points of each in class. It was a great way to practice our critical thinking skills and train our minds to apply the scientific method to a wide variety of topics. “
 
In the future Sarah would like to work for the U.S. Forest Service or a state agency as a conservation biologist with an emphasis on restoration. “I intend to conduct additional research on the effects of climate change on populations of animals, which will hopefully lead to a better understanding of which management practices are effective and identifying additional ways that humans can mitigate our impact on wildlife.”
 
When Sarah finds some free time, she enjoys reading. She has been known to devour an entire book in just a few hours. Sarah also loves to be outdoors: camping, hiking, kayaking, and having bonfires with friends. She attends a lot of music concerts, everything from bluegrass to rock and enjoys watching football; the Kansas City Chiefs and, of course, the Panthers.
 
Her favorite memory so far at UNI had been her experience with an escaped alligator from the reptile lab. “The day I showed up for a  Biology lab and was informed by the instructor “Not to worry, but there’s an alligator trapped in the baseboard of the walls”. Rather than being afraid, the whole class of Biology majors was like “Cool! Can we see it?” Turns out it had made an escape from the reptile lab and had to be blocked into a small space until classes concluded for the day and it could be returned to its home. No students or alligators were harmed, but we did have a good laugh about our fairly uncommon reaction.”
 
On top of going to school Sarah also holds two jobs and finds time to volunteer at the Black Hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation Project.  “I work part-time at John Deere’s Product Engineering Center. I analyze data from various tests run on the oils involved with making tractors run, and provide the results to the group of engineers responsible for those products. I also serve as a STEM Ambassador for UNI and I volunteer at the Black Hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation Project, which feels more like fun to me than work. We take in animals (mostly babies) that have been wounded or abandoned, nurse them back to health, and then release them into the wild. I’ve gotten to work with raccoons, squirrels, owls, ducks, and deer so far, which has been a fun experience.”
 
Her advice to a future panther, “If you have a natural curiosity about how things work, a STEM major is the right choice for you. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics all give you the opportunity to discover and create things no one has ever done before. The work of each subsequent generation builds on the generations preceding it, giving us an ever-expanding understanding of the world, the cosmos, and our place in it. If you want to feel like you are making a difference, you should consider a STEM career. UNI is a very comfortable and progressive place to study. I am proud of how inclusive and welcoming our student body and faculty are. You will never be made to feel out of place here. You can get a great education while making lifelong friends and participating in any number of activities and clubs available to you. “

Stefani Keller, UNI STEM
Posted: 02-04-15

“Oooh and Aaahs” at the Planetarium Show

Image from the UNI Planetarium Show illustrating how the software outlines constellations (here Orion and Taurus) and other sky features.

The planetarium shows hosted by Earth and Environmental Sciences are starting up again this year. Dr. Siobahn Morgan, Professor of Astronomy and Earth Science Department Head has been leading the shows since they began in the spring of 2012. The planetarium shows take place every Thursday evening until March 12 with two show times. The first show begins at 7:00 p.m. and the second show begins at 8:00 p.m. The shows are located in room 105 Latham Hall. These planetarium shows are FREE and open to the public and UNI students.  The planetarium seats 25.
 
 
The Earth Science Department began offering shows a few years ago following the installation of a new computer controlled projector system. The new system provides Dr. Morgan the opportunity to give the public a dynamic presentation and greater flexibility in what she can display. This time of year a planetarium allows a view of the night sky without the danger of frostbite!
 
 
When you attend the shows, you will learn about the stars and constellations in the night sky and what to look for when you head outside. Dr. Morgan will answer questions and point out special objects in the sky such as planets and interesting objects. “I always hope that visitors to the planetarium learn something about science and to recognize the changes that occur over the course of the night, or even a longer term.  I also provide some information about the mythology or legends that are linked to some of the constellations, which are sometimes quite interesting.”
 
 
Dr. Morgan’s favorite part about these shows are the “oohs and aaahs” from the group. “When young children attend, they love to name and find all of the animals in the sky. It is just so much fun when the audience is excited about seeing more things in the sky.”
 
 
If you are looking for something to do now through March 12 go and check out the “oohs and aaahs” for yourself. The     planetarium shows provide UNI students and families a wonderful experience to discover more about our night sky while staying warm!
 
 
 
 

Stefani Keller, UNI STEM
Posted: 01-28-15

Spotlight on STEM Day– Highlight of the Year

The Spotlight Day Gallery provides UNI prreservice students with an opportunity to speak with K-12 students individually about their innovative projects.

If this is the first time you are hearing about Spotlight Day, then you have been missing out! Spotlight Day is a 20+ year UNI tradition. Spotlight on STEM Day showcases award winning K-12 classroom projects from across the state of Iowa. The best part is, it is FREE and OPEN to UNI students, faculty, staff, and the public.  Spotlight Day will be February 26, 2015 at the Innovative Teaching Technology Center (ITTC) on campus.
 
Spotlight day not only provides a wonderful experience for UNI pre-service teachers and faculty, but also provides an experience K-12 students never forget. Spotlight Day highlights around 15 different student created school displays. These displays highlight all grades, K-12, and a variety of rural and urban schools. “This is the perfect opportunity to go and talk to real students, real teachers, and real administrators face to face,” said Doreen Hayek, IT Projects Administrator, who created and directs the event. “It is just an absolutely wonderful day for the students. We have students tell us  this is the ‘highlight of the year’ for them because they get to go to UNI to present and talk with UNI faculty and they are just so excited about that.”       
 
At Spotlight Day pre-service teachers and faculty learn first hand how STEM is playing a role in curriculum. The event gives UNI students an opportunity to ask K-12 students what they like about their coursework and what they don’t like. Preservice teachers discover what types of teaching methods work best for different types of students and talk to the teachers about what teaching methods are working for their classroom now.
 
During the morning, K-12 students will use table displays to showcase an innovative project that their class has been working on over the past months. An example from last year is one class presented their work on water quality issues affecting mussels in the Cedar River watershed. Oh! And did I forget to mention, these were lower elementary school aged kids! The displays are amazing.
 
In the afternoon, 12 schools will make presentations about their projects and discuss what they are doing with STEM in their classrooms.  Presentations will occur every 30 minutes, beginning at 1:30 PM in three different rooms.   UNI Students, faculty and the public are invited to attend and ask questions.
 
Spotlight Day provides a huge advantage to our pre-service teachers. The students and teachers are coming to you, but it is up to you to take the opportunity and discover for yourself what is going on in today’s classroom. And who knows, this might become the highlight of the year for you too.

Stefani Keller, UNI STEM
Posted: 01-23-15

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