Thursday, July 27, 2017

Fence post problem

What do you know about having a process for problem solving? Do you follow a problem solving process when you solve a problem? What would /are the benefits of following a process when problem solving?

This is a very general question. Interpersonal problems tend (for me at least), to not lend themselves to processes very well.
But in the physical and computing world, I absolutely use a problem solving process. One of my hobbies is 3D printing, which is about 90% solving problems, and 10% buying new stuff. (plus .one percent spent saying "Yes, I saw the article about the 3d printed house").

It is important to isolate the subsystem that is causing the problem through tests. For instance, is it the software, or the machine? If the software, then start checking: is the heat right, the speed, etc. If you aren't sure, then test one variable at a time. Some problems are two-variable problems, and those are tough!

Benefits of a process: Less flailing around when things go sideways. A sense of familiarity and being in control during the problem. Because the process usually results in improvement... eventually.

Reflection: Why are problems like these important to learn to solve? How could this type of solution be of benefit to a carpenter, a chef, a teacher?

This type of computational thinking is important because they unlock the ability to generalize and automate a solution to fit all sorts of similar problems. A carpenter can use it to calculate square footage or volume of concrete, a chef might use it to multiply or divide a recipe or calculate cooking times at different heats, a teacher could use it to teach computer science :).


Turing Test, chat bots

A Turing Test is a person checking to see if he/she is talking to a computer.
After listening to the conversation with Samantha West, can you think of any occasions that you would want to know that you were talking to a person rather than a computer.

Frankly, I'm amazed that we are asking this question. I remember (and I'm sure you do too) the first time I answered the phone and it was a computer voice. There was no question that the computer was a computer. The fact that doubt as to the sentience of the caller is in itself a "B+" on the Turing test.

I would like to know if the caller is a person or a computer. It helps me in screening how much of my time I will give to the caller. If a robot, I will just hang up.

But in reality, the humans who call are just following a script (similar to Samantha West, but not a pre-recorded script). They are in effect, just as robotic, just as pre-programmed, just as likely to collect data, just as... whatever, as a robotic caller. At this point, the robots have become more human-like, just as the humans have become more robotic. Thus the Turing Test win.

What ethical implications/dilemmas do you see from the recordings you heard?

People lie. It is a sad fact of the human condition. We expect people to lie in creative and convincing ways to further their own ends. They will even tell the truth in a way that is a lie. And because of this, there are laws in place to protect consumers. But what about when computers lie? We trust computers to tell us the truth. Spreadsheets can't fudge the numbers for their own benefit.  A Google Search will give you the actual results that their algorithm says it should... or will it? The search giant will sometimes fudge the results manually (recently regarding CNN on the app store), to correct some mistake or even shape public perception.

Another ethical dilemma is workers in 3rd world countries who can now be paid even less than before! This is a real dilemma with no easy answer.

 After playing with chatbots, what are some ethical implecations you see in this technology?

First off, clever bot isn't really all that clever anymore. Let's assume you have access to one of the cutting edge chat-bots, then you create about a thousand personas on social media sites. Turn your bot army loose to spread your message. Comments, posts, reviews, etc. If you bot is clever enough, you can use it to spread a message: "My product is great", "I bought product X and it broke, then gave me cancer.", "Vote for candidate X", "Candidate Y is a (believable negative here)." Or maybe you turn your chatbot-super tool toward robo-dialing a few hundred thousand phone numbers. Maybe you hit 1% with your message. "Hey Grandma it's me! I'm stuck in a Mexican jail. Send money quick!"

Fraud aside, we are already seeing this technology used to "astroturf" public opinion at the "grassroots" level in the last election. (Both sides used it extensively).
We saw it used (hilariously) in the "Ashley Madison" debacle when 90% of their users turned out to be sock puppets.
This is a growing trend.

Data Reflection

What was Mr. Smith trying to teach you about Data, and why is this important for me?


The takeaway: Data can be looked at in different ways, it can be recorded and organized in different ways. It can be a list, an un-organized grouping, a visual representation etc. I disagree that the picture was data. It was observation. The list created from the picture was data.

Also, the lesson could be that data is interpreted. (if it's not interpreted then it doesn't matter. Like the noise of a tree falling when no one is around.) The data is made useful by the conclusions drawn from it. But those conclusions have a probability rating. The probability of the boy being interested in music is high. The probability that he lives in Turkey is lower.



What is Data?

 What do you think about when you hear the word "Data"? What is it? Where does it come from, where can it be found?

Though I'm not a trekkie, I think of the tv character. :)
Then I think of computer data. And that would be quantifyable, meaningful, organized information.
Data comes from recording observations. The recorder and observer can be human or machine. Data can be found all around us. It might be in a database, spreadsheet, notebook, or grocery receipt.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Trying new things.

Think of a time when you tried something new for the first time. I would like it to be something that you had never thought of before and you were apprehensive or not very excited to try it. Please describe what you were doing and discuss if it turned out to be a good or a bad experience. Finish off your post by talking about why it turned out good/bad.
I can think of a lot of new things I have tried, some with more success than others. But I'm having more trouble thinking of new things I tried that I wasn't keen on doing on my own. That implies an outside force compelling me to do that new thing. Outside forces in my life are limited to the Almighty, my wife, and my school administrators (in that order). It seems recursive, but I'll talk about learning to teach computer science.

My superintendent sent me an email, saying that there was a new computer science course that I should look into. He followed up again later and made it clear that I was going to be a CS teacher. Now I was pretty comfortable in my current program, working to improve my Entrepreneurship class and grinding through my Business Communications class each year. So I figured if CS would bump off BusComms, then I would give it a try! Our school was transitioning to a PLTW program at this point, and I was part of the push. The training was in Wisconson and two weeks long. It was strenuous, and at times I felt like the only one in the room without a background in the computer science industry. My closest experience: All my friends in college were CS majors.. you absorb a lot just hanging out! 

Two weeks of training was enough to give me the confidence to start the class, but I was careful to remind the students that I was a co-learner with them. We had fun, and I learned a ton about CS in general and about my curriculum in particular. Now I look forward to my CSPrinciples class and teach a second, AP section of the class. I added another course last year as an intro called "Hands on computer science". This is a project-based class working with Arduino and the Internet of Things, and etc. I have also added a lot of CS content to my 8th-grade Computer Applications class. They work in Scratch and HTML, and this year I will add some MIT App Inventor as well. When they take my other classes, they will be off to a running start!

In retrospect, I have always been the sort of person who figures to make the most of what's thrust upon me. But I really have enjoyed this mid-career shift and it has added a lot of meaningful, stimulating challenges to my life. 

Journaling and reflecting

How big of an impact do you feel that journaling/reflecting has made on your learning to this point in the course? How much of an annoyance has it been to this point?

I believe that journaling and reflecting are good processes to use. I often have thoughts about an issue, but until I try to write them down they are un-formed and unorganized. So journaling helps.

An annoyance, not really.

As an educator, I like the journaling assignments, because they make students slow down and think (as stated above), but they are also easy to plan and assign. I can use the same journal prompt for most assignments. Then I just read their log and assign participation points.

BTW, Adam, you are probably the only hit this blog will get this month!
edit: I was wrong! I went and looked at the stats, and I had 450 hits this month. Wow I had no idea.

Cre8 Fail. Back to the spirit of this blog.

So...  Cre8 was a failure. Sometimes you learn the most through failure, growth mindset, Thomas Edison, yada yada yada.

So I recycled the parts from Cre8 into a Graber i3 version of a Prusa i3. It works, pretty well at least. I then designed a larger printer (CoreXY, 12x14x14", Bowden, all motors fixed on outside of a fully enclosed 3/4" plywood box frame, 5/8" smooth rods, 3 synchronized leadscrews. Sort of like a SmartRapCore on steroids.) I called it "Vera". Just kidding, I called it Bigfoot. (Extra credit if you get the reference)

It worked... but not reliably. Some prints would be beyond-perfect. And FAST, that printer could cruise at 100mm/s or more. BUT then other times it would just fall apart on me. It gave each part precisely spaced ridges on the sides, which I could never figure out.  FRUSTRATION caused me to order a real printer...

A Folgertech FT-5. A pretty good deal on a large 3d printer. The build process took a week. Some of the parts have failed already and needed upgrading. I added an e3d hot end (clone) and a blower fan. Also added a z-axis synchro belt. I used the 110v heated bed from Bigfoot. Then on the second print, the controller board burned up. So Bigfoot had to donate his brain too. He sits on his big, beautiful side in the garage. And the FT-5 sits smugly to my right. Mostly working at this point, but I really wish I was getting better surface finish from this machine. My wife has made me swear off any new 3d printers... but I haven't told her about the Creality CR-10 yet... I should just stop looking and accept the fact that at my price-range 3D printing is about fixing a 3d printer.

At my day-job, I recently upgraded to a Craftbot XL (the new, big one!). It's sweet! But it arrived with a bent z-screw, and then blew a motherboard. I think their decision to roll-their-own firmware should be reconsidered. They would have been better off to run their 32bit board on an open source firmware like Smoothieware. Otherwise, it's awesome!

So Anyway:
Back to the spirit of this blog: making outdoor gear.
My daughter now goes packing with me once or twice per year, and that means my gear has changed, and she needs a pack that fits her. Pack design time!!
I also discovered the joy that is hammock camping... so there are some projects for that coming up as well.