Posts filed under ‘innovation’

life in CERN and the UN

Where does time go? Suddently I’ve finished my time as a Visiting Scholar in Melbourne Law School and started a contract with UNITAR-UNOSAT, based in CERN in Geneva, focused on geotagx.org & citizencyberlab.eu.

Over the weekend I participated in the CERN webfest as a mentor, workshop presenter and team member. It was an intense hackathon but worthwhile – evidenced in our team winning the ‘best design project’ prize.

[Photo by James Doherty]

Later this week I’ll be in London for the Wikimania Foundation conference. I also plan to help celebrate OpenStreetMap’s 10-year anniversary.

Working within CERN and the UN is invaluable experience. I’ve been impressed by CERN’s great computer security training. I’ve done a UN course on Psychological First Aid, based on WHO guidelines with inspiring participants from across the UN system.

I’m learning so much and meeting so many talented and inspiring people.

August 6, 2014 at 12:56 am Leave a comment

science/art

I wrote this article for RiAus while I worked there.

I’ve recently returned from a round-the-world adventure, presenting at several conferences and workshops about my PhD research and exploring along the way.

During my adventures I was lucky enough to visit some of the world’s coolest places that do science-art projects, as well as compare notes with some people working in these spaces internationally.

While I was in California I visited the Exploratorium and was enthralled by their tinkering studio. I spent a good ten minutes playing with their oscylinderscope. Even though I know I perceive music when sound waves tickle hairs in my ears, there was something compelling and affirming about seeing this at the same time as hearing it. We’ve done some cool music-themed things in the past at RiAus and I hope to see something about the physics of music happen in the future.

bikesI also visited Noisebridge, a hackerspace in San Francisco that blew me away. They had a collection of 3D printers just sitting around that dwarfed the collection we had at our 3D printing workshop with ANAT. They also have a dedicated sewing room, woodwork room and bike wall (pictured) – so much space!

It made me appreciate how awesome Hackerspace Adelaide is, given the limited real-world space and resources. I guess that’s why lots of projects end up happening out and about, like our Tour Down Under project in 2011.

I moved from the new-world technological frontier of California to a place steeped in science history – Florence. There I visited Museo Galileo and La Specola, fundamental to the history of astronomy and anatomy respectively. La Specola was fascinatingly creepy, while I found Museo Galileo profoundly educational for me personally.

I visited Museo Galileo fresh from talking about evaluation of science engagement at the Public Communication of Science and Technology conference, which made me more mindful of how I was engaging with the museum. At the moment I’m particularly interested in observational, ethnographic approaches to evaluating engagement, so was thinking about what someone might report from observing me interacting in the museum. I’m also interested in how engagement activities reinforce (or contradict) each other – and realised my own personal experience at Museo Galileo related to this.

I was involved in the RiAus Adelaide Reef project last year. This was a satellite of the worldwide Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef project. As science advisor on th

e project, I worked with mathematicians and scientists to develop the interpretive signage for the final exhibition – as well as learning to crochet to contribute to the project as an artist. I was much more comfortable with the environmental science and biology in the project, so spent more time trying to get my head around the idea of hyperbolic space with mathematicians David Butler and Simon Pampena who kindly helped out on the project.

galileo

In the final, interactive section of Museo Galileo, I came to an exhibit (pictured). Had I not been involved with the hyperbolic crochet project last year, I may have quickly glanced at it, pressed a button, then moved on. As it was, I spent a good ten minutes there. I pressed the buttons that moved the cone mostly full of water around, which changed the type of curve within. I tried to integrate in my brain how the level of water moving within a cone related to my understanding of hyperbolic space from the crochet project last year.

It would have been clear to anyone observing that I was engaged with the exhibit. I spent longer at the exhibit than others who passed through the whole room while I was there. However if people had been observing alone they would never have known why I engaged with the exhibit. Yes, this exhibit in Italy clearly stimulated my genuine learning about mathematics. However this learning built on my prior learning about mathematics through a craft project in Australia. In my evaluation research I’m interested in the steps that people take between projects that lead to more active citizens or more aware people, so it was profoundly useful to understand these steps within myself.

I went on from Florence to London, where there are too many amazing people and places doing science-art projects to mention. Keeping on the crafty theme, there are some people doing projects beyond London that I met who inspired me.

Something that appealed to me as a potential project for our 300+ group of science-art crafters involved in the RiAus Adelaide Reef is the Knit a Neuron project, created by Helen Featherstone and Anne Cooke.

This project appealed because, like the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, it allows people to contribute an individually crafted piece which, combined with others, forms a new entity. Through creating their individual pieces crafters can learn some science or maths about what they’re crafting. Then the final exhibition gives everyone – viewers and crafters – something new to learn about, which in the UK version was the science of brain injuries and stroke.

I also had a great time throwing around crafty ideas with Julia Collins, who’s a doctor of knots at the University of Edinburgh. She does an awesome range of projects there now. We enthused about Vi Hart and got excited about the possibility of doing crafty maths projects for the Adelaide Fringe Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the same year – fringe festivals across hemispheres united through math and yarn!

comic

Moving from yarn to other festive things – I was lucky enough to be in Paris for the launch of the science humour exhibition (pictured) at Espace des Sciences Pierre-Gilles de Gennes in Paris.

Even if you don’t speak French, if you can follow enough to click on ‘visionnez les blagues’ on this site you can discover a trove of science cartoons. I contributed by sharing my favourite cartoon and explaining why I liked it on a note – that cartoon and explanation are now part of the exhibition. I would love to see this participatory project happen in the RiAus FutureSpace Gallery down the track.

July 15, 2012 at 4:49 pm Leave a comment

Adacamp

I wrote this article about my Adacamp experience for RiAus when I worked there.

Recently I was honoured to attend the first-ever AdaCamp, an ‘unconference’ for women in open technology, hosted by The Ada Initiative at the CERES Community Environment Park in Melbourne.  I was attending this during my holidays with no particular affiliation; however it became evident throughout the day that the conference had relevance to my role at RiAus in many ways.

This conference preceded linux.conf.au, an open technology conference, but was specifically for women. Why? For reasons the Ada Initiative was set up to address. Women are underrepresented in the technology industry – which is why RiAus has hosted activities such as the WIT luncheon late last year. Most starkly, women make up less than 2% ofparticipants in open source projects. Given that RiAus is about bringing science (including computer science) to people and people to science, this is an issue of concern. Open philosophies align well with the RiAus raison d’être, as they allow people of all types and backgrounds to benefit from the wonders of science. Last year I presented on a panel at Flinders University library during open access week. Whether it’s open access to research or open source technology there are shared principles — which was the theme of one of the AdaCamp sessions, captured here.

One of the first sessions at AdaCamp was dedicated to the impostor syndrome, which afflicts women in science as much as women in open technology (everybody in the session, including myself, identified with this). I added to that wiki a feature in Nature about the impostor syndrome in women scientists. Speaking of which, women are underrepresented as editors of Wikipedia. Have you ever used Wikipedia? Have you ever contributed to it? I had, but it never occurred to me to identify as an editor until I heard that women were underrepresented – and there’s a mailing list about that.

One of the best things about AdaCamp was meeting some amazing women from around Oceania and beyond who are using their passion to defy stereotypes of who participates in open projects. You can see a photo of us, and read blog posts from other participants, here. AdaCamp stood out for me from other conferences because everyone participated and seemed to really want to go beyond the conference and drive things out in the real world (thanks in part, I’m sure, to the ‘unconference’ format). I found it useful to identify potential speakers and presenters for future RiAus programs, and to get ideas for projects that could work in other organisations I’ve been involved with, such as Hackerspace Adelaide.

It also made me look at whether women are represented in technology projects RiAus is involved with, such as the upcoming 3D Printing workshop, which will indeed feature an exceptional woman in technology — Dr Genevieve Bell from Intel.

February 15, 2012 at 4:34 pm Leave a comment

Translation: a quarter of laptops distributed through the One Laptop Per Child program in Uruguay aren’t working

One in four laptops given for free by the government of Uruguay to all public school students two years ago is either broken, under repair, stolen or has crashed, according to an official report published in July.

In 2008 Uruguay was the first country in the world to implement the One Laptop Per Child program, created by US scientist Nicholas Negroponte.

The program aimed to provide every child in the developing world with a laptop for educational purposes, at an affordable price.

With this objective the Uruguayan government created ‘Plan Ceibal’, which between 2008-2009 gave laptops to 380,000 children between 6 and 12 years of age who were enrolled in the country’s public schools.

Now the government has completed a survey to check the condition of the laptops, which has found that 27.4 percent are out of operation for different reasons.

According to the survey 14.2 percent of the laptops are broken; 6.2 percent are being repaired; 3.9 percent are frozen or crashed; one percent have been stolen; and the states of 3.1 percent are unknown.

In the country’s interior, where the laptops were first distributed in 2008, 29.9 percent of the laptops aren’t working. In Montevideo, the capital, 19.6 percent aren’t working, but children there received the laptops a year later in 2009.

The percentage of broken laptops in poor areas is higher, where only 66.3 percent are working. In more favourable environments the percentage reaches 83.5 percent.

“A significant number of faults were expected, but not this many. This discovery means that we’re revising aspects of the plan’s operation and coming up with measures to lower that number,” Fernando Brum, director of Plan Ceibal, told SciDev.Net.

Among the measures include a call centre to help users with broken laptops, mobile repair services to work in schools, and ways to reduce the cost of repairs.

Workshops for parents and teachers on how to look after the laptops have also been organised.

“We should keep in mind that 2010 is the first year that Plan Ceibal is operating across the whole country. We’re still gaining experience and problem solving; reducing the number of laptops that are out of service is one of our primary objectives,” concluded Brum.

You can read about the report in Spanish on the Plan Ceibal site.

This is my translation of a story written by Daniela Hirschfeld on the Science and Development Network, “Uruguay: cuarta parte de portátiles del OLPC no funciona”, published on August 11, 2010. You can read the original in Spanish here.

SciDev.Net stories are published under a Creative Commons attribution license; my translation is available under the same license. Note this license is only for this page. Other works on this website are subject to other licenses; please contact me for details if you’d like to republish other parts of this site.

August 17, 2010 at 3:52 am Leave a comment

Translation: Internet and mobile phones to improve agricultural management in Chile

An internet portal called “YoAgricultor”, driven by the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture, will allow small to medium-size country farmers to join virtual communities where they can access strategic farming information.

Four virtual communities have been launched on the portal this week (June 2nd), for producers of maize, honey, wine and berries. The initiative is a pilot project financed by the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA) and the Inter-American Development Bank, which could reach an estimated 2000 farmers.

In each virtual community farmers can find free information about plant health, productivity, agricultural techniques and weather and market alerts, among other things. There are also forums in which farmers can communicate with each other.

The portal’s contents have been developed in conjunction with farmers and organised following stages of production. Agronomists and members of agricultural organisations developed the contents including short videos, podcasts, text and photographs.

“This project is purely knowledge management: we’re taking the knowledge of producers and putting it into a system in which they can participate and enhance their activity,” Alain Hermosilla, the coordinator of YoAgricultor, said.

“A site like this hasn’t existed in Latin America until now, but it’s completely replicable and exportable, plus it’s developed with free software,” he added.

The portal also includes a service called DatAgro that allows maize farmers to receive a text message with guidance on market prices, weather alerts and crop improvement data. This mobile service will soon be introduced for berry farmers, beekeepers, winemakers and organisations for stock breeders in the south of Chile, according to John Zoltner, head of Zoltner Consulting Group, the Chilean company running the service.

In the near future, strategic information delivered via mobile phones might extend to other Latin American countries, where Zoltner said they are already talking with farmers of potato, coffee and other agricultural products.

This technology, he added, “will also be implemented in a pilot project with the Ministry of Health in Peru and the Pan American Health Organization, to build the capacity of health professionals and community workers who care for pregnant women and small children, with the objective of reducing rates of infant mortality in the Peruvian highlands”.

This is my translation of a story written by Paula Leighton on the Science and Development Network, “Internet y celulares mejoran gestión agrícola en Chile”, published on June 4 2010. You can read the original in Spanish here.

SciDev.Net stories are published under a Creative Commons attribution license; this translation is available under the same license. Note this license is only for this page. Other works on this website are subject to other licenses; please contact me for details if you’d like to republish other parts of this site.

June 12, 2010 at 11:11 am 2 comments

Scientists closer to developing salt-tolerant crops

An international team of scientists has developed salt-tolerant plants using a new type of genetic modification (GM), bringing salt-tolerant cereal crops a step closer to reality.

The research team – based at the University of Adelaide’s Waite Campus – has used a new GM technique to contain salt in parts of the plant where it does less damage.

Salinity affects agriculture worldwide, which means the results of this research could impact on world food production and security.

The work has been led by researchers from the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics and the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, in collaboration with scientists from the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge, UK.

The results of their work were published recently in the top international plant science journal, The Plant Cell.

“Salinity affects the growth of plants worldwide, particularly in irrigated land where one third of the world’s food is produced. And it is a problem that is only going to get worse, as pressure to use less water increases and quality of water decreases,” said the team’s leader, Professor Mark Tester, from the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine at the University of Adelaide and the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG).

“Helping plants to withstand this salty onslaught will have a significant impact on world food production.”

Professor Tester said his team used the technique to keep salt – as sodium ions (Na+) – out of the leaves of a model plant species. The researchers modified genes specifically around the plant’s water conducting pipes (xylem) so that salt is removed from the transpiration stream before it gets to the shoot.

“This reduces the amount of toxic Na+ building up in the shoot and so increases the plant’s tolerance to salinity,” Professor Tester said.

“In doing this, we’ve enhanced a process used naturally by plants to minimise the movement of Na+ to the shoot. We’ve used genetic modification to amplify the process, helping plants to do what they already do – but to do it much better.”

The team is now in the process of transferring this technology to crops such as rice, wheat and barley.

“Our results in rice already look very promising,” Professor Tester said.

This story was written with David Ellis and published in Adelaidean magazine.

August 10, 2009 at 4:43 am Leave a comment

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