Archive for March, 2013

Are you a Gardener? Well maybe this can help…

I went home this weekend for Easter and since it’s not snowing outside, I was able to see the backyard. My mom always wants me to help her plant flowers. It also reminded me of my neighbors’ yard and how her husband has a garden for vegetables.  During the summer time, they would give us some of the tomatoes and cucumbers they had.

Reading the New York Times, there are these new apps that give those who are not great gardeners the opportunity to know what they are doing. I figured that since I’m not the only one waiting for summer to hit and to also see the flowers bloom, I thought it would be a great idea to mention these apps.

Garden Pro, Landscaper’s Companion, The Beginners Garden Guide, and Garden Tracker are the apps that were mentioned that you can purchase for less than $5 depending on which one you get. The Garden Pro only cost $4 and available to iPhones. It is great for beginners as well as experts. This app gives you a list of flowers, vegetables, and herbs. You are able to get information on this such as the light preference for the flower, how much water you should give it, preferred soil and basic care instructions. There is also a to do list available to help you remember what you should do/buy.

Next is the Landscaper’s Companion. It costs $5 and is available on iPhones and androids. This is for experienced gardeners. More detailed information for the different types of plants, cultivation advice and pictures of the plants. You can also add your own plant pictures but it will cost an additional $7.

The Beginners Gardening Guide is an android app for people who are just starting gardening work. With this app you are able to gain soil management, design examples, detailed information on vegetables or flowers.

Lastly, Garden Tracker is a $2 app that will help you design what you want your garden to look like with the flowers you picked. A grid pops up and you pick which areas you want to plant to go. A list will provide the name of the flower as well as a description.

There are many other apps that help with doing gardening work. I like how we are able to use technology to help us with daily tasks that we don’t even think twice about because we were born in the technology generation.

Have a good day! Math 120 don’t forget to take the quiz.


March 31, 2013 at 2:19 pm Leave a comment

Benefits of Technology in Academia

Sorry it took me so long to get this one going! This one isn’t super technical, but moreso some food for thought!

Remember the days of those silly overheads? Now are the days of the smartboards and schools giving their students IPads. There are a multitude of reasons why technology is helpful to all students in the classroom. Engineering this technology could be an excitement in itself as well!

Technology motivates students to pay attention and be interested in the subject matter. Having a teacher stand in front of the class and talk for eternity is boring. With a smartboard for instance, students are more likely to volunteer to participate because they want to “play with a new toy”. Solving math problems for instance on a smart board is more fun than doing it on a worksheet. Also, engaging students in technology helps them to have multisensory engagements in the lessons because not only do they see it in writing, but they can visualize the concepts as well.

Technology improves grades and test scores for students. No one really likes tests (unless you’re super crazy of course)… especially standardized tests, such as the ACT and SAT. According to a study that was taken at a school in New Hampshire, the computer technology caused the test scores of students to increase. Intrinsic motivation helps too, especially with online discussion boards. With smart boards as well, for example, if you are doing a math problem, everyone can see it and learn from that person’s success or mistakes. It’s easier to view and understand than an overhead or chalk/dry erase board because the user can create a neat interface, you can stay more organized than on a chalk/dry erase board or overhead, and you can easily save what you’ve done in class to use for future references or review materials for the students.

Technology enables you to solve problems and become more creative. Programs such as photoshop foster a different type of creativity than just drawing. Even a web developer/designer can be creative when they the user interface, choose the color scheme and what they want the site to look like, etc. Creative learning is integrated into a classroom curriculum (ex technical drawing), which fosters inventive thinking skills and self-expression. Creativity is also helpful for critical thinking and research (ex selecting topics, determining your search queries, etc.).

Technology helps students with special needs be able to communicate easier and learn more efficiently. For children who are nonverbal, for example, technology helps them to be able to communicate in general. There are systems, such as a picture exchange system to enabling communication through pictures, a voice output aid which allows people to type out what they want to say and have a pre-programmed voice speak for them, and much more. This technology enables them to work alongside students of normal mental capacity, increase their confidence, and feel like a regular student.

Imagine creating some of this technology… Could you ever see yourself doing that?

Don’t forget to take the quiz on ReggieNet if you’re in Math120!

Source for the study (and for most of this):

March 30, 2013 at 4:34 pm Leave a comment

Want a robot?

Many people, me included, are fascinated by robots. Robots come in many different forms — some much more intelligent than others. I don’t mean the science-fiction androids you can find in movies –those don’t really exist, at least not yet. I mean actually-existing robots in the real world that can adjust their behavior in complex ways, to fit a changing environment. Probably the best-known intelligent robots right now are self-driving cars. If you haven’t seen a video about this, you should check it out for yourself:

Not exactly what comes to mind when you hear the word, “robot”, is it? But still, the car moves and adapts those movements in a complex way to a changing environment — it’s an intelligent robot. I expect the day is coming when most cars will drive themselves. No more drunk drivers, no more falling asleep at the wheel and crashing into oncoming traffic. No more fun??

What does this have to do with IT? You can figure that out easily — intelligent robots get their intelligence from the computing power that guides them.

Factory robots have been around for quite a while, often replacing many assembly line workers with one big complicated machine that does the same routine over and over again. Those robots originally were not so much intelligent as they were strong and fast. Giant welding robots could weld a car frame in several places at once, very precisely and quickly. Over and over. Very useful, but not very smart. With the addition of more computing power, these robots in some cases are getting smarter, more able to adjust their behavior automatically to changing conditions. There’s not much future for humans in routine assembly line jobs in the US. But there’s a great opportunity for those who know how to design and maintain these machines. (By the way, all this stuff gets designed by teams of people with varied kinds of knowledge — some mechanical, some electrical, some IT. Business people with IT knowledge may be the ones to get the ball rolling.)

A very different kind of somewhat intelligent robot is found in the group sometimes called “remote presence” robots. Like self-driving cars, some of these robots can guide themselves down office building or hospital corridors, stop and start when needed, avoiding collisions with people and objects. They are equipped with cameras, microphones, screens, and a sound system. Using wi-fi, they connect to the internet, allowing someone located anywhere in the world to communicate with the robot, sending audio and video to anyone near the robot, and allowing the remote person to hear and see what is going on around the robot.

How are these remote presence robots useful? Already, they are being used in some hospitals, to allow doctors to do morning rounds, checking up on their patients in the hospital without the doctor’s ever leaving his or her office. A nurse accompanies the robot from room to room, asking questions of patients, taking vital statistics, and so on. But the doctor is there with the nurse, in the form of the robot, and can ask questions, give instructions, and get information via the robot. Similarly, a student who is not able to leave home because of illness or disability could attend class this way. I expect in the next few years we will begin to see remote presence robots occasionally on campus. Since these robots are essentially just fancy laptops on motorized wheels, they are not terribly expensive to build.

However, the most fun and personally interesting robots to me are the intelligent ones that walk and talk, with the potential to be personal assistants for people. Especially for people with severe physical limitations, people who need a lot of help with basic things like getting dressed, eating, and so on. Many of us have experienced family members with needs like that. Caring for such folks is very draining, and often extremely expensive. We’re a long way from having robots that are proficient enough to be able to be a full-service personal assistant, but work is being done toward this goal, and strides are being made every week. One project along these lines is a cooperative venture that any student anywhere in the world can help with, online, organized by a French company. I’ve chosen a video about this company’s robot, Nao, to illustrate some of the potential, partly because Nao is cute. I actually think that a personal assistant robot should be cute!

I should warn you that Nao is too slow and too small to be really useful at present. But Nao does already have some of the basic capability needed — Nao can “hear” voice commands, can “speak” through embedded speakers, can “see” with cameras linked to visual computer processors, can walk, can get up if it falls over, can find objects, can reach out and grasp objects. When viewing the video, keep in mind that Nao is NOT like a remote-controlled helicopter or drone. No person is behind the scenes telling Nao where to go, how to move, when to reach out and grasp something. Nao does all these things on its own, once turned on by being tapped on the head. Nao navigates through a house by being given a camera feed from a ceiling camera, not by someone pushing buttons or manipulating a controller thingy. Nao’s main brain is not inside of Nao’s body, but is rather a computer communicating with Nao wirelessly.

Want more Nao video? Just search for Nao on YouTube. With a little IT background, you could even help develop Nao’s abilities.

Kenton Machina

March 25, 2013 at 12:36 pm Leave a comment

Wifi and Football, a Perfect Combination?

Wifi is one of the greatest emerging technologies that have come out in the past decade. You see wifi practically everywhere, from your houses, apartments, schools, coffee houses, airports, and now football stadiums? Wait, what? You read me right, wifi in a football stadium, and it is looking impressive.

49'ers Stadium Model

Defending NFC champions the San Francisco 49’ers are going to be bringing in the 2014 season strong with a new stadium that is supposed to have one of the most advanced wifi networks around, being able to support every single user, simultaneously, and not have to limit their bandwidth. With the current designs, that is 68,500 users. Statistics are that current stadium wifi networks can hardly even handle one fourth of stadium capacity, where this new plan is going to blow that out of the water. The network is being designed by IT Director Dan Williams and CTO Kunal Malik, who both previously worked at Facebook, so they understand the need for a huge architecture.

Why would you want to have wifi at a football stadium, you ask? There is a football game going on, why not pay attention to that instead of your phones? One of the driving reasons behind putting wifi in the stadiums is to reduce the stress on the surrounding cellular network towers. If you end up having too many devices in one area trying to connect to the internet on a cellular tower to Tweet about the game or upload photos and videos, the network will end up getting too clogged and users will have a degraded time. Adding a wifi network with virtually unlimited bandwidth to its users will help to free up the cellular network traffic so that they will have a better experience and can better Tweet and Facebook about the game. The tech team also plans on having mobile applications created so that the users can watch video streams or order food, directly on their phones from within the network.

I think it is really interesting that now sports stadiums are being brought into the age of the internet. The world is starting to more and more become one with IT, but who knows how far we will go! Food for thought! ISU students, be sure to take the quiz on ReggieNet so you can get your extra credit!

March 21, 2013 at 12:02 am Leave a comment

Cyber Threats

If you haven’t been listening to the news lately, there are concerns in regards to security threats. When first hearing this, I thought that I should probably update my security software on my computer. After listening to other shows talking about the security threat, it came to me that it is something really serious that everyone needs to know about. Even though it is not as dangerous as terrorism, nuclear destruction, weapons, etc. ; it is still a concern that needs to be addressed  when it comes to our government.

Here is a link to an article that was written on cyber attacks and how it is less threatening then it seems:

Math 120 Students please read the article and don’t forget to take the quiz!

March 17, 2013 at 4:02 pm Leave a comment

Women in IT

Many people have the misconception that this is a male-dominated world and think males are smarter and better than women. The IT department at ISU is over 90% male-dominated. There are very few women even in general who graduate with an IT-related degree, as well as get a doctorate and become a tenure track professor. But why?

False stereotypes of IT

The IT field is considered to be comprised of a bunch of nerds who stay up all night alone in their room and have no social life. Of course that is not true, but women tend to dislike the stereotype of doing something masculine. People generally assume that computer nerds like video games, junk food, and star trek posters and women don’t generally like that. They also fear that men wouldn’t be attracted to them.

What people don’t realize

The IT field is a heavily growing industry and jobs are significantly less difficult to obtain than an education job. Despite there being few women in the field to begin with, minorities are given a good opportunity when the company is in favor of diversity and inclusion. IT departments don’t just hire men and companies want it to be as balanced as possible.

What can we do to improve this imbalanced ratio?

There are many programs in schools and in the community to inspire women to pursue math and science in school, which can lead you to IT. For example, Millennium Girls at State Farm is a program to inspire middle school aged girls to pursue math, science, or technology by taking the girls through fun activities. Peer pressure can be an issue throughout high school. In order to combat peer pressure towards the time when high school students are deciding what to major in, there are recommendations of having these types of programs at that time in order for people not to be peer pressured out of choosing an IT major. Also, colleges shouldn’t aim “weed out” classes to be skewed towards men, women shouldn’t be made to feel uncomfortable in labs, and negative stereotype threats should be avoided.

The impact of women in the IT field

There are women CEOs at major IT companies, such as HP, Yahoo, and IBM. Women provide a different type of attitude and sense of creativity to the field. Underrepresented groups do need to play a role in any type of career. Women who defy the general IT stereotype are very likely to get a job because they possess the soft skills (ex talking to people, leadership skills, etc.). Having women allows the work to be more innovative, it prevents groupthink, and better decisions are made.

It actually IS possible to be a successful women in IT

Yes, there are women CEOs and a decently long list of successful women in computing. I could consider myself one of those people because I ignored the stereotypes and actually do consider myself nerdy. I ignored any peer pressure and anyone who tried to make fun of me. I also didn’t care that there were many males in the major because I tend to gravitate towards males and a lot of my friends are male as well. Right now, after almost 4 years of being an IT student, I have high grades, am the AITP club president, and earned all of that from hard work and passion. Don’t just pick up an IT major because someone tells you do. Do it because you love it and following what your heart tells you to do!

If you have any interest in pursuing an IT degree (or are an IT major already), you can check out the AITP club on March 19 at 8:00pm in Stevenson401. If you are interested in pursuing a career or internship in IT, you can check out the career mixer on March 26 from 8-11pm in the Bone Prairie South room. If you’re in Math120, don’t forget the Regginet quiz!

March 7, 2013 at 11:58 pm 1 comment

WARNING: Your ULID password expires in 7 day(s)


[image courtesy: Gizmodo]

One of the most annoying ISU-related sets of words to ever penetrate through my corneas. It really shouldn’t be all that bothersome, and yet it is. Yes, everyone with an ilstu account must submit to the arduous process of changing their password every 60 days, forcing us to remember a totally new combination of 8-50 letters, numbers, and maybe some of these guys if you’re pro: ! @ # $ % &. Or more likely, you just use the exact same password each time but cycle the numbers like so: ______1, ______2, etc. I’m sure many of you are guilty of this and I’ll admit I have been as well, for reasons that pretty much boil down to two. Convenience and (false) sense of security. (more…)

March 4, 2013 at 8:17 pm 2 comments

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