Gas station without pumps

2012 May 7

Kids on Campus

Filed under: Robotics — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 12:25
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Our local community college each year has a number of programs for kids (some for kids as young as 10 years old:  Kids on Campus – Cabrillo College Extension.

My son has outgrown these courses, and his 4 weeks of theater summer camp will make it difficult for him to register for any of the regular Cabrillo college courses.  He did take one of them several years ago: a Lego Robotics course using Logo and the old Lego Dacta serial interface board.  The same course appears to be offered this summer, with the same teacher.  Neither he nor I can remember now whether he had one week or two of using the serial interface—he does not even remember programming in Logo for controlling Lego motors.  I thought at the time that it was a pretty good course, and a nice variant on the mainly visual programming languages then available for Lego robotics.  (He has used a couple of those languages and NQC for programming Lego robots, though now he does most of his robotics programming in C++ on the Arduino, with Python and PySerial to communicate from a laptop.)

So far as I know, UCSC has not attempted to do much with education for children, other than the Seymour Center at the Long Marine Lab and the COSMOS program for high schoolers (which I discussed in a blog post about improving the science fair participation by high schoolers).  There are a lot of summer camps for kids on the UCSC campus, but most of these are from 3rd-party providers (like most campuses, they try to get money out of the dorms on a year-round basis).

2012 March 10

Mechatronics demo at UCSC

Filed under: Robotics — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:15
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I just got the announcement for one of the fun events for this time of year:

Come see tired and haggard engineering students who have not slept or showered in weeks! (Oh yeah, and their robots.)

What: CMPE118 Mechatronics Public Presentation
Where: Baskin Engineering 101 (Auditorium), UCSC
When: Wednesday, 14-Mar-2012, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

The Mechatronics class is having their public demonstration of their final design lab, Slugs of the Caribbean 2012, Wednesday 14-Mar-2012 at 7:00 PM in Baskin Engineering 101.

The task requires the ‘droids to navigate a field to get to the enemy’s island and return to their own, while shooting at the enemy with ping pong balls. The ‘droids will run against each other on the field. We will run the competition in a round robin format to see which robot reigns supreme.

The public is invited (you might have to duck a few ping-pong balls) and the teams will be on hand to explain their designs to one and all. Come see what these students have accomplished in 10 weeks and cheer on the competition.

The flyer
The project specs

Feel free to forward this to any and all that might be interested, children (future engineers) especially welcome.

I got to the mechatronics demo almost every year.  My son won’t be able to go this year, since it conflicts with his theater class, but I encourage others whose schedules permit to come.

2012 January 19

UCSC the only UC with Google virtual tour

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 17:36
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According to Google’s Street View University Partners – Maps Help, the only University of California campus that currently has a virtual tour is UCSC.

The “virtual tour” is not a tour so far as I can tell, but heavy Street View coverage of the campus.  The coverage of UCSC campus is adequate, including major roads and the bike paths, but not including many of service roads and footpaths that a real tour would cover.  It would be good for Google to hire a student to walk a number of the paths (particularly some of the single-track trails in the woods, which are not properly mapped) with a geotagging street-view camera, to capture the campus more thoroughly.

2011 October 27

40% increase in female CS majors—not as good as it sounds

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 19:14
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According to a press release this week from UCSC (Baskin School of Engineering promotes increased participation of women in computing), UCSC has had 40% increase in the number of women majoring in computer science in the past 2 years.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  But it is just spin.

The article does not say how big the increase in the number of men majoring in CS  was over the same period.  According to the 3 Quarter Average of Undergraduate Declared and Proposed Majors (historical, HC), the total CS majors went from 185.7 in 2008–09 to 294.9 in 2010–11 (fractions result from averaging over 3 quarters and from double majors).  That is a 59% increase, so it seems like the fraction of women in CS has been dropping.

Indeed, this quarter, Undergraduate Majors by Gender (HC) shows 30.0 women and 259.5 men, or about 10.4% of the majors being female. Even adding the proposed majors (many of whom will disappear to easier majors) only gets the numbers to 57.0 and 467.0 (10.9% female). This is not quite the lowest ratio of women of any of the engineering departments at UCSC (bioinformatics 29%, computer engineering 10.6%, electrical engineering 8.5%, bioengineering 26.5%, information systems management 16.9%), but is certainly not a number to brag about.  Actually, none of those numbers are anywhere near what they should be. (The bio- ones look relatively good, until you compare them with MCD bio, which is 59% women.)

Unfortunately, I can’t find on the planning website historical information about majors by gender, so I can’t do direct comparisons of the same measurements, but it looks to me like the engineering disciplines are getting worse gender imbalances, not better.

If the article had been about the growth in CS majors (thanks mostly to the game design major), it would have been a good, honest article. The accomplishment of growing CS enrollment at a time when many colleges are seeing shrinking CS enrollment is a story worth telling. But trumpeting the growth in female computer science majors, when their fraction of the CS majors is probably shrinking, is just sleazy advertising.  I’m once again ashamed to be associated with a university that will stoop so low.

2011 August 18

Need-based vs. merit aid

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:24
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Financial aid for college has become almost entirely “need-based”, except for athletic scholarships. In the process of writing my previous post about Stanford’s on-line AI course, I looked up what Stanford tuition is, and was directed to a page of statistics about Stanford: Stanford University Common Data Set 2010-2011.  In addition to the estimated cost of being a Stanford undergrad (about $55,611), they have statistics on how much is spent on financial aid:

Need based Non need based
$ $
Federal 7,396,882 237,927
State (i.e., all states) 3,528,578 18,348
Institutional (endowment, alumni, or other institutional awards) and external funds awarded by the college excluding athletic aid and tuition waivers 117,012,781 4,845,292
Scholarships/grants from external sources (e.g., Kiwanis, National Merit) not awarded by the college 4,301,567 5,699,901
Total Scholarships/Grants 132,239,808 10,801,468
Self Help
Student loans from all sources (excluding parent loans)  1,802,162 5,450,674
Federal work study 2,563,595
State and other work study employment 2,039,516 1,011,460
Total Self Help 6,405,273 6,462,134
Parent Loans 6,558,758
Tuition Waivers
Athletic Awards 2,643,976 14,095,400

Note that non-need-based awards other than athletic awards are primarily external and total $10.8 million, while non-need-based athletic awards come to $14.1 million.   Clearly Stanford aggressively recruits athletes, but not scholars.

Note that they do give a lot of need-based awards, $117 million, which dwarfs all other financial aid.  Still, a 2% increase in that funding would wipe out “need-based” loans, and a 6% increase could wipe out all Stanford student loans (well, another 6% to wipe out parent loans as well).  Redirecting the non-need-based athletic scholarships could guarantee that no Stanford undergrad took out student loans!  I doubt that would ever happen though, as Stanford has long prized athletics over any other art form, at least based on how much they subsidize it.

Of course, Stanford is hardly typical of financial aid.  Do other schools provide more merit-based aid?

The UCSC Common Data Set pages are less well formatted, but just as interesting. The total scholarships and grants are $100,995,238 (need-based) and $3,280,555 (non-need-based), so merit-based aid is an even smaller percentage of aid than at Stanford (though more of the merit-based aid is institutional rather than external).

Notably at UCSC loans and work study are bigger than at Stanford, making total self-help much bigger: $45,1121,901 (need-based) and $13,626,044 (non-need-based).  Parent loans are also big at UCSC: $1,960,207 need-based and $21,236,029 non-need-based. There are no athletic awards at UCSC.

Students acquire far more debt going to UCSC than going to Stanford.  The UC system is no longer a low-cost way to get a first-rate education, and it looks likely to continue to get more expensive while quality declines for as long as we have a government more interested in running the world’s largest prison system than they are in the world’s largest research university.

Merit scholarships have practically disappeared.  Only need-based aid and athletic scholarships still exists, which means that bright kids from the middle class are getting squeezed out of college education.


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