Due to spring break last week, I did not attend I.C. Stars, but as I returned this week, the interns were gleefully welcoming me. This week they are given the task to assemble/code SQL for 15 different queries. For each query they have to write up the code as stated by the problem and run it within 2.30 minutes. Due to this each intern kept practicing the SQL writing to stay under the time frame. Once that was accomplished they went over to a personnel who graded their performance and assessed their timings. By the time I had to go, majority of them were working on query #3-4. Many addressed stress and frustrations and I applied what I knew to help them move along.
This past Friday was a more relaxed day of activities. As I arrived, the interns were seated by their group and working on their latest project. For this project, the interns have to think of an innovative product based off a product that is already in the market. One group was thinking of an advanced version of Dropbox, while another one was researching of a medication alert system. The project that drew my attention was a magnetic/white board trifold board. As opposed to the basic cardboard paper trifold that students use year-round and recycle (throw out), they can reuse this trifold board as many times as they can. Students will be able to post diagrams/pictures and text with small magnetic tacks. If they keep focused on their research and work well, they can potentially go far with this idea. Later on Eric Lannert (Co-Founder) came by and gave a lecture on how to make a website through Google. Overall, a good, productive day.
I.C. Stars is a social enterprise company that hires individuals to carry on consulting tasks for other companies. In the early stages of my settlement with the company I was a bit confused on how I was going to perform my services since they provide work in various departments. After several conversations, Deborah Cane (Training Program Manager) wanted me to accompany the interns on Friday afternoons for two hours. She titled my period of time there as “Fridays with Fiona.”
The first week was successful. I helped ten interns with assessing and implementing programs. They were separated into three groups with different programs and clients to work for. That Friday, their task was to compile a list of questions to ask the clients/organizations for a better understanding of the prevalent issues to reach a solution. My job was to cycle through each group and offer as much help and answer any questions they had. They were comparing various online programs such as Google Doc, Dropbox, Picasa, etc., and needed a hand in deriving proper ways for another company to benefit from them. I was able to help them obtain good questions and show them ways to research well. Right off the bat, I was able to make a connection with all of them. I knew this would be a good semester.
The second week the interns had different aspects of a technical assessment to work on. The company that sought I.C. Stars’ help was El Hogar Del Nino. Throughout the multiple projects they had to research and acquire solid solutions and assessments, I was able to research with them and basically clean up some of their work through editing and reviewing. The interns consistently seek my help (even during the weekdays when I’m not there!) and comfortably rely on me to help them, which seems to be satisfying them and me as well. The gratification is highly rewarding.
This Friday was an interesting one. As I arrived, the interns were in the middle of presenting their technical assessment to a company called Hands On Tech for El Hogar Del Nino. Each intern presented their component within the entire project and delivered it pretty well. It’s not everyday that I get to sit-in presentations in which a consulting company is part of the audience. The founder and president of I.C. Stars, Sandee Kastrul, surprised the entire team by deciding that a presentation, which was going to be given by Accenture consultants in a different room, will be occurring right there itself to benefit the interns and the administrators equally. The Accenture consultant/presenter absolutely performed the presentation well and it was truly a privilege to be sitting amidst such intelligent and active members of a society. I felt smarter just by observing the intermittent dialogues and the clarity of the presentation.
Overall, the past three weeks have been great and I wouldn’t imagine giving back to the community in any other way. Now off to my Friday night class!
Today was my last day at Hamdard Center. Some of the kids were a little bit upset, but I let them know that there is a chance I will be doing SLC in the spring which would mean I could come back to teach. However, if I don’t, I will do my best that perhaps another Loyola student who takes 390 in the future can take my place.
For the last day I had the children have a choice between working in Scratch, ALICE, and playing Minecraft. The majority of them choose Minecraft, so I let those students tell me what they liked about the game and what they would change. After hearing their thoughts I let them know how it would be possible to change these things. I reminded them that Minecraft is coded in Java to inspire motivation for them to keep learning programming. I told the children that someday they can create a game that kids all over would be playing.
This experience has taught me several important things. I learned that teaching or explaining programming or computers to non-computer focused people can be very difficult. The old saying was true “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t know it very well.” It was difficult at first but I think now I am getting quite good at it. I had a lot of fun teaching the kids and they had a great time learning. Some kids today actually weren’t allowed to attend because they received penalties from behavior throughout the week, and started crying pretty bad! I didn’t realize I had such an impact on them and that they liked my class so much.
I feel like I definitely inspired some children to follow in STEM and computing fields who may not have otherwise.
So today was my last day at the organization. There was no fanfare or anything, just class with students…as you do. Overall I would say that this experience was really rewarding, as I’ve never anything quite like it before. I got to know some interesting people and teach them things which they will take with them for the rest of their lives. I even taught myself a few things in the process! I’m really glad I did it.
Thursday, Dec 1
Today I decided that I was going to show my class the Alice program. Alice is similar to Scratch, it is a drag and drop oriented program and is very visual, but it is quite more advance. It is developed by Carnegie Mellon University.
Since my class has a lot of younger students, I felt that Alice would be too complicated for them to follow along and do problems I set for them, so I decided that today would just be a free play where they can see what happens when they do random things. The kids had a lot of fun with creating environment and characters. In Alice, you can instantly tell that it will be harder than Scratch (but also more educational) because when creating a person, instead of just dropping it into your space like Scratch, you actually have to “write” a method for it. I myself was having a very fun time playing around with the program.
I found some sample programs online and had everybody load a helicopter flight simulator created in Alice. They were able to look at the program and see the potential of what they could actually create. The flight simulator is amazing and can be seen here:
This is the team I worked with over the semester. They were really awesome to work with! Go FTC Knights!
the last day I was able to obtain interviews about being on the robotics team from the adult mentors and the kids that participated. It was a very nice experience overall and I really enjoyed my time there. I feel like I learned a lot and got to really give back and help.
The girls managed organize into three groups of four and finalize topics. They have all come up with really great ideas that they’re able to expand and visually how these technologies can be implemented for other purposes. We spent a majority of the time today working on researching and beginning the report on the history of the projects as well as the title page, bibliography, and timeline. Things are going well, they’re supposed to have this phase of the project completed by Monday so we can spend next Wednesday going over the implementation of the technology. It’s going to be a long process but I think these girls are up for the challenge :)
Due to the rather blustery weather conditions today, only one student showed up to class. I was able to help her for a while, but another duty called. The organization’s main computer was so incredibly bogged down with gunk that they had me go and fix the whole thing, cleaning out and gutting many of the programs on the machine. It took quite while to get things working to a normal level, but it actually runs now, which is a good thing in itself.
Also, turns out I’ll be spending one more session at the organization next week. Should be a good time.
As the weather was fairly dismal this Tuesday, not very many people showed up to class. The ones that did therefore got special attention! It was the first time I have worked with another volunteer this semester - she stuck with one of the new students, and I helped another. Specifically, I helped the student tackle her resume and cover letter (to a fictional company of course), and explained to her the important difference between the two documents. Both ended up turning out very well.
Next week is the last week for this volunteer, however. It’s been a good time, and I hope next week goes without a hitch.