Archive for March, 2011

Your Successful IT Career Is Just a Few Clicks Away!! Apply Now!!

Tracey Welson-Rossman graduated from college with a B.S degree in Business Administration with a focus on retail management/marketing.  She now estimates working in the information technology world for eleven years.  Previously, Tracey bought a company KangaKab and sold it for a total revenue off $2.5 million.  She worked at Skylight Systems and as recently as March 3rd, 2011 received nomination to a United Nations panel discussing Women in Technology.  Currently the Director of Business Development at Chariot Solutions, a IT consulting firm focused on application development in Java and other technologies, she is passionate about her job.

While Tracey’s professional information provides important examples of smart business and a successful IT career, its significance for young adults is more conceptual.  The opportunity for young adults in our increasingly technical era is vast, for men and women.  I was able to have a phone interview with Tracey and in our conversation she emphasized many different aspects of technology and the importance of finding ones’ personal niche.  Designing smart phone apps, network security, the .NET world, web design, software development, are only a few examples of how to apply technology in the professional world.  IT provides a career of significance and value as it requires a continuous education.  Development is not limited through school work and good grades because an individual is empowered to learn material independently and can be successful applying it professionally.

Having any technical skills can benefit a resume.  Tracey also focuses on the women’s role in the iconically man’s world of IT as she explains, “it’s not just the man with the pocket protector anymore, and even they are really nice.”  The lack of women in IT is a problem and Tracey created a group called TechGirlz to help fix it.  In the Philadelphia area TechGirlz recognizes, “High-profile women in technology-driven roles are hard to find in this primarily male-dominated industry.  However, there is an elite group of women who have been able to breakthrough the glass ceiling to become trusted and relied upon voices in technology.”  TechGirlz has six high-profile women from diverse areas of IT working together through facebook, twitter, speaking at conferences, and hosting programs to help the cause.  TechGirlz programs’ include hosting clinics for middle-school girls introducing them to technology.  After demonstrating how empowering technology can be,  the girls are as Tracey explained “hungry to learn.” Breaking through the glass ceiling is not an easy task; however, as technology awareness spreads women will make a difference.

At Illinois State University, my upper-level information technology classes are majority males.  While many majors experience gender division, it is a number that everyone should be aware about.  Tracey recognizes her priorities are not being a feminist, but she recognizes a beneficial group of our population missing from IT.  Regardless of gender, current skill, or major, there are opportunities within IT.  Start to think about skill sets to acquire and be ready for the future!

Look at techgirlz website to learn more or feel free to contact me with any questions or comments!

Cheers, Marla

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March 31, 2011 at 8:34 am Leave a comment

eLegs – The Future of Wheelchairs

Eythor Bender at his recent TED Talks demonstration.

Many of today’s newest and greatest technologies have developed faster than anyone could have ever imagined. It seems that internet start-ups are beginning every second, and it is hard to keep with the newest technology. There are certain technologies that have not experienced much change, and the wheelchair is one of them. In fact, the wheelchair has been in existence for over 500 years.  It is amazing that in that amount time no significant advances have been developed. Eythor Bender may have finally come up with the perfect solution, and it has a number of great applications.

In his recent demonstration of the technology, he first focused on the problem faced by many of today’s soldiers. According to Bender, the average soldier currently carries approximately 100 lbs for very long distances.  The amount is also slowly increasing per year. As a result, 30% of soldiers currently suffer from chronic back injuries. To help with this growing problem, Bender and his team have created the Human Universal Load Carrier. (HULC) The invention supposedly allows soldiers to now carry 200 lbs over varied terrain for hours.

So how does it work exactly? Bender describes the invention as a wearable robot that empowers users with extra

Demonstration of the HULC

strength. The HULC is an exoskeleton, which looks like a metal backpack combined with leg crutches. The metal contraption is much more than it seems. As the demonstration solider explained , ” [it] senses what I want to do, where I want to go, and augments my strength and endurance.” Bender claims that the integration of man and machine can increase speed and balance. The flexible design of the exoskeleton also allows users to still squat, crawl, and complete other highly agile movements. The best part of the machine is that is not a concept only reserved for science fiction magazines. According to Bender, his company and industry partner will have the device ready for full production in under a year.

Of course one of the inventions greater purposes, as pointed out in the beginning of this article is the potential alternative to the wheelchair. In the second product demonstration, the product was worn by a disabled women who has not had the ability to walk in over 19 years. This version of the device differed slightly from the HULC, and was called eLegs. The disabled demonstrator had a pair of forearm crutches in addition to the exoskeleton. The forearm crutches sent a relay messages to the exoskeleton’s computer located in the individual’s backpack. Using the on board battery packs, the computer then sent signals to extend and retract the motorized hips and knee cap regions of the eLegs. Witnessing the demonstrator walk across the stage was truly inspiring, and could be a potential solution for the 68 million wheelchair users worldwide.

The six minute presentation was mind blowing. Whether users are seeking for super human stamina and balance or simply the chance to walk again, Eythor Bander and his team may have found the perfect solution. The exoskeleton is non-evasive, which means anyone could buy one and installation would be similar to putting on a pair of shoes in the morning. Hopefully this concept quickly becomes a reality, because  potentially great impact may result.

For a full video of the demonstration check out this link .

Do not forget to take the quiz!

– Paul

March 27, 2011 at 10:31 pm Leave a comment

Internet Censorship in China – 1984 Come to Life

If you have ever read the book 1984, you probably realize how important personal freedom is.  In the book, George Orwell depicts a dystopian future society in which an absurdly powerful government monitors every aspect of the lives of its citizens, imposing overbearing control.

The communist government in China is currently doing everything it can to stop protests and political uprisings.  If you thought that freedom to search and send anything on the internet, or say anything on the phone was a given right to everyone, you are mistaken.  China has a string of servers dedicated to filtering Google searches for words that might be linked to political unrest, such as “freedom.”  In fact, lately, the servers have been dropping phone calls when they detect an unfavorable word.

Just recently, a Beijing entrepreneur, discussing restaurant choices with his fiancée over their cellphones, quoted Queen Gertrude’s response to Hamlet: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” The second time he said the word “protest,” her phone cut off.  He spoke English, but another caller, repeating the same phrase on Monday in Chinese over a different phone, was also cut off in midsentence.

A host of evidence over the past several weeks shows that Chinese authorities are more determined than ever to police cellphone calls, electronic messages, e-mail and access to the Internet in order to smother any hint of antigovernment sentiment.

About a month ago, some Gmail users in China found their service disconnected when they tried to send or save messages. This was around the time when anonymous Internet posts urged people unhappy with the government to gather every Sunday.

Google’s engineers determined that the technical difficulties were at the hand of the Chinese government.  An article on the website for People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official publication, recently called Google a tool of the United States government.  Like Facebook and Twitter, the article said, Google has “played a role in manufacturing social disorder” and sought to involve itself in other nations’ politics.

You may be asking yourself, just how far will censorship in China go?  According to, Bill Bishop, an internet expert in Beijing, “there’s a lot more they can do, but they’ve been holding back.”

Reading something like this really makes someone wonder that at any instant, personal freedom of speech could be taken away.

I hope all of you found this blog post to be enlightening.  I certainly did!  Here is the original article I read.  Don’t forget to go take the blackboard quiz!

Have a good week 🙂  ~Megan

March 23, 2011 at 9:16 pm Leave a comment

The Khan Academy

“Illinois State University Gladly we Learn and Teach,” if you spend any time on campus this registered trademark is well known.  Ranked as a top teaching school in the nation, Illinois State’s education program is strong.  This commitment to education potentially could become tied to technology through Sal Khan and his Khan Academy.

Watch at least the first 5-6 minutes of this video The Khan Academy and then I would recommend leaving it running while finishing this article and taking the quiz.

Sal Khan creates educational videos.  While his idea was small to start he now has over 2,100 videos, 100 self exercises, and has delivered these lessons to 41,392,293 people.  He primarily focuses on math lectures but all different types of material can potentially be covered.  As Khan saw how audiences responded to this type of learning where they can replay, stop, or look up additional information, like a youTube video, he saw the potential to flip the classroom.  By assigning the “one size fits all” online lectures as homework, when students come to class they work on “what used to be homework.”  This creates a classroom of interactive learning.  Kids get more efficient help from the teacher when the “mandatory lecture” is already provided and now the teacher can spend more time applying concepts and answering questions.  Many school districts look at “student to teacher” ratios to determine productivity; however, Khan believes the real statistic should be a “student to valuable teacher” ratio which would help academics.

The videos allow students work ahead or do extra problems.  The teachers can use supplementary exercises to accompany material.  Khan has also created monitoring systems for teachers to calculate, nearly like a business model, how to approach teaching.  For each student, a printout can show each concept highlighted in green, blue, white, or red.  A green line infers the student is proficient, blue means they are still learning the concept, white means they have not tried the concept, and red means they have tried and failed.  By isolating the “problem concepts” to red or blue categories teachers are able to focus their efforts efficiently.  Printouts also help build statistics on what worked, what did not, and what kind of individual help students need.

Bill Gates endorses the Khan Academy.  The Bill Gates foundation is helping Khan to further this dream and believes this is “the start of a revolution.”  Adults can use it, home-schooled kids, and anyone looking for help can use it.  I watched an algebra video, “Proof: log a +  log b = log ab,” and while I only watched 3 out of the 7 minutes (I waved bye-bye to algebra a long time ago), I found it extremely well done and comprehensible.

Check out the Khan Academy at The Khan Academy Website or the video I watched at Khan Academy_Alegbra_Proof loga, logb, logab

Don’t forget to take the quiz and of course, HAPPY ST.PATRICK’S DAY!

Cheers,

Marla

March 16, 2011 at 11:34 pm Leave a comment

Social Media and Disaster Relief

Seemingly overnight large news corporations have switched to a new source for many of their stories.  We saw it happen recently with conflicts in Egypt, and now again with the unfortunate disaster in Japan. Social media is quickly taking center stage as the severity of the damage caused by the tsunami in Japan increases. If you have not caught the latest results of the record 8.9 magnitude earthquake you can learn more by following CNN’s live blog.

The Public as Reporters

Social media has allowed the public to become the main reporters in recent years, and the disaster in Japan in no exclusion to this trend. Below are just some of the hundreds of videos uploaded to various video sharing websites such as YouTube, UStream, and countless others.

Toyko, March 11 2011, Earthquake

Toyko earthquake AS IT HAPPENED 3/11/2011

Beyond video coverage, a significant spike in the microblogging service, Twitter, occurred shortly after the tsunami reached Japan. At one point in time the Twitter use in Toyko reached 1,200 tweets per minute according to Tweet-O-Meter. Not only was it a source of delivering the latest news, but with most of the phone lines disabled throughout Japan it was the only source of communication. Primary communication with also established through Facebook and Japan’s social networking site, Mixi.

Social Media to Help

In massive disaster situations such as this, social media has also found a great niche in providing numerous types of support. In recent years, the American Red Cross has found developing a texting campaign to raise money for victims of disasters. The campaign raised over $20 million for Haiti last year, and is again being launched for Japan.  The American Red Cross has also implemented a Facebook campaign to raise money. This was developed using the Causes application platform within Facebook. The American Red Cross and Apple’s iTunes have also teamed it to help Japan. In the iTunes Store, users will find a link to donate to the American Red Cross, and 100% of the proceeds go towards the American Red Cross’s efforts.

The American Red Cross is not the only organization actively raising funds for disaster relief in Japan. Zynga, maker of famous social games such as FarmVille, CityVille, and many other “ville” games, is continuing their campaign for social good. For example, proceeds from radishes in Farmville go towards the Save the Children’s Japan Earthquake Tsunami Emergency Fund.

Finally, Google has taken a slightly different approach to providing social good. Google developed a similar application for other recent disasters, and possible the most helpful out of all of the resources. The Google Crisis Center is full of valuable resources from anyone involved in the incident. It provides links to many different disaster relief websites, links to alert agencies, and the latest news regarding the disaster.

I believe the most interesting and useful application Google has developed is Person Finder. The Person Finder application allows users to enter details about a lost individual or report an individual as missing. At the time of publishing this article, the Person Finder application was tracking around 130,000 records. Applications such as Person Finder can be crucial when a disaster such as Japan recent tsunami displaces many individuals.

Conclusion

While the recent disaster in Japan may seem very distant from our nation, the recent advances in the reliability and availability of social media resources has brought the entire world closer. We now can provide immediate help to disaster relief efforts, and more actively join in the conversation with individuals affected globally.

March 13, 2011 at 9:18 pm Leave a comment

World’s First Eye-controlled Laptop

A lot of companies like Microsoft believe that motion control is the future of computing.  However, it is a lot of work to wave your hands around all of the time in order to make decisions on a computer interface.

There is a company out there that has a better idea for the future of computer-human interaction.  Tobii (eye-tracking software producer) and Lenovo (pc company) have paired to create the worlds first eye-controlled laptop.  The laptop was presented at this year’s CeBit tech fair in Hannover, Germany.

Lenovo eye-tracking laptop

Henrik Eskilsson, the CEO of Tobii (the manufacturer of eye-tracking software) trys out a prototype of the laptop.

The computer tracks your gaze and figures out where you’re looking on the screen.  With a stare, you can make a cursor appear, zoom in on pictures or maps, or switch between open windows and browse e-mails and documents. To increase battery life, the computer can auto-dim and brighten the screen when it recognizes your eyes. Also, as demonstrated at CeBit, gamers can glance at it in order to burn up incoming asteroids.

The laptop shines infrared lights into the users eyes in order to track eye movements and hidden cameras then detect the glint in the retinas. The system needs to be adjusted to fit each individual user and works for users that have eyeglasses as well.

Eye tracking software has already been in use for people with disabilities, but it has never been used by a general audience before.  Tobii has already been supplying it’s eye-tracking software to people with special needs for a decade, but they hope to make it small and cheap enough in the near future to broaden their user scope.  Currently, the built in cameras make the lenovo laptop twice as big as an ordinary laptop.  There were also concerns that looking at the screen would accidentally send emails and make things happen that the user didn’t intend to happen.  However Engadget got its eyeballs on the demo Windows 7 laptop and reports that “it works extraordinarily well–Tobii clearly knows what it’s doing, because even with our sloppy calibration at the start of the session, the system still detected where we were looking with pinpoint precision.”

Click this link to watch the video:   http://www.viddler.com/simple/4ef24940/

Here is a link to the article I got most of this information from: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20037819-1.html

Thanks for reading the article and watching the video!  Don’t forget to go to blackboard and take the quiz now!

~Megan

March 2, 2011 at 12:32 pm Leave a comment


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