Tag Archives: STEM

Inviting students to participate in Code to Learn competition 2020

COVID has had a significant impact on how students engage with hands-on learning and poses additional responsibilities for parents and teachers to engage their students in meaningful learning experiences. 

Today,  we are launching the seventh edition of the Code to Learn competition as a means to immerse students in creative and computational thinking, along with building their skills in programming.

Students from Class 5 to 12 from any school in India can register through their parents or teachers to show their coding genius using exciting tools like Scratch, App Inventor and Google AutoML to build games, animation, android apps and/or their own machine learning applications; without writing even a single line of code!

Over the years, Computer Science and Programming has evolved and become one of the strongest means of solving real-life problems. The Code to Learn competition provides a platform for kids to learn the basics of coding and build a stronger foundation in Computer Science. In a fun and engaging way,  we aim to inspire students to use technology to solve problems around them.

In line with this objective, we have been running the Code to Learn competition successfully for school students in India for the last six years. The program has also been adopted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India under the Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan.  

Artificial Intelligence has become a strong enabler to solve many challenging problems of society. Google has put AI to use to solve some of the most pressing issues, from helping predict early blindness to giving timely updates on floods in India. We have a special AI track for class 9 -12 students where they use Google’s existing Machine Learning models to create projects with a problem statement and a data set of their choice. Students define a problem and select any open dataset or create their own (images or text) and train a pre-trained machine learning model to create their own Machine Learning application using Google Cloud AutoML.

Code to Learn concluded successfully in 2019 and witnessed an overwhelming participation of students from across the country with innovative and exciting projects. We saw powerful applications ranging from fun games to applications that help farmers with timely information. In the Artificial Intelligence theme, we received excellent projects where students defined and tried to solve various societal problems like early detection of breast cancer, predicting learning disabilities through images of handwriting and segregating recyclable plastic waste using Computer Vision models.
The competition registrations are now open and parents, teachers or legal guardians can register on behalf of the student on the competition website (g.co/codetolearn). Students from across India can submit their projects by 31st July, 2020. We also have online resources available on our website to learn Scratch, AppInventor and Google Cloud AutoML to get started.

We are very excited about this year's competition, and are looking forward to seeing the innovation and creativity that students will present to us via their projects! For more details, visit our website: g.co/codetolearn.

Code to Learn is co-organized by Google Cloud, ACM India, CS Pathshala, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), IIIT Bangalore. ACM is the worldwide society for scientific and educational computing with an aim to advance Computer Science both as a science (through CS Pathshala) and as a profession. IISc and IIIT Bangalore are research-oriented universities based in Bangalore.

Posted by Divy Thakkar, Research and Education Program Manager, and Ashwani Sharma, Head of Research Operations and University Relations, India, AU/NZ and SEA 

AIY Projects: Updated kits for 2018

Posted by Billy Rutledge, Director of AIY Projects

Last year, AIY Projects launched to give makers the power to build AI into their projects with two do-it-yourself kits. We're seeing continued demand for the kits, especially from the STEM audience where parents and teachers alike have found the products to be great tools for the classroom. The changing nature of work in the future means students may have jobs that haven't yet been imagined, and we know that computer science skills, like analytical thinking and creative problem solving, will be crucial.

We're taking the first of many steps to help educators integrate AIY into STEM lesson plans and help prepare students for the challenges of the future by launching a new version of our AIY kits. The Voice Kit lets you build a voice controlled speaker, while the Vision Kit lets you build a camera that learns to recognize people and objects (check it out here). The new kits make getting started a little easier with clearer instructions, a new app and all the parts in one box.

To make setup easier, both kits have been redesigned to work with the new Raspberry Pi Zero WH, which comes included in the box, along with the USB connector cable and pre-provisioned SD card. Now users no longer need to download the software image and can get running faster. The updated AIY Vision Kit v1.1 also includes the Raspberry Pi Camera v2.

AIY Voice Kit v2 includes Raspberry Pi Zero WH and pre-provisioned SD card

AIY Voice Kit v1.1 includes Raspberry Pi Zero WH, Raspberry Pi Cam 2 and pre-provisioned SD card

We're also introducing the AIY companion app for Android, available here in Google Play, to make wireless setup and configuration a snap. The kits still work with monitor, keyboard and mouse as an alternate path and we're working on iOS and Chrome companions which will be coming soon.

The AIY website has been refreshed with improved documentation, now easier for young makers to get started and learn as they build. It also includes a new AIY Models area, showcasing a collection of neural networks designed to work with AIY kits. While we've solved one barrier to entry for the STEM audience, we recognize that there are many other things that we can do to make our kits even more useful. We'll once again be at #MakerFaire events to gather feedback from our users and in June we'll be working with teachers from all over the world at the ISTE conference in Chicago.

The new AIY Voice Kit and Vision Kit have arrived at Target Stores and Target.com (US) this month and we're working to make them globally available through retailers worldwide. Sign up on our mailing list to be notified when our products become available.

We hope you'll pick up one of the new AIY kits and learn more about how to build your own smart devices. Be sure to share your recipes on Hackster.io and social media using #aiyprojects.

Cryptography, Cloud and Equality: a Q&A with Google Security expert Maya Kaczorowski

Note from the editor: What do Julie Payette, Indira Samarasekera and Jenni Sidey have in common? They are just some of Canada’s fierce female masterminds who’ve graduated in the field of either science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) and who continue to impact our society. We already have plenty of talent in Canada. However, we are not turning out enough computer science graduates to keep up with demand, especially not enough women. It's never been more critical that we give our young girls the tools they need to become the technology builders of tomorrow. One of the ways we can better equip them, is by exposing young women to how their future studies could directly apply in the real world and make them aware of the exciting career opportunities in STEM. In the hopes of doing just that, we’ve sat down for an interview with one of own trailblazers, Montrealer Maya Kaczorowski, a Product Manager at Google in Security & Privacy. 

Can you tell us about your current role at Google and how you got here? 
Currently, my focus is on securing workloads running in containerized environments – which is a mouthful! To clarify, containers are a relatively new way of running workloads especially in the cloud. Our team uses tools such as Docker and Kubernetes which ultimately make our customer’s applications more portable.

Prior to this, I focused on encryption at rest and encryption key management, and was the Product Manager for Google Cloud Key Management Service (Cloud KMS). Before joining Google, I worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, serving financial, healthcare and insurance customers on a variety of topics, where I discovered my passion for security strategy.
What’s your educational background?
I completed a BA&Sc in Mathematics and Economics at McGill University in Montreal and then pursued a Master in Science in Applicable Mathematics, focusing on cryptography and game theory at the London School of Economics.

Can you tell us what motivated you to pursue a career in science and technology? 
I always liked solving puzzles and when I took a number theory class at McGill, I realized cryptography was a great mesh of puzzles, math, and practical use cases in security. I pursued my interest in cryptography, and ended up doing a Master's degree in the field. It wasn’t a straight path from there to a technical role in the industry, however, by seizing the right opportunities when they arose, I ultimately ended up in role that was meant for me, at Google working with the encryption team. I’m especially excited about working in infrastructure security, which is a huge focus given the uptake of the cloud industry. There’s a lot of opportunity for development, and for innovation in this space.

What challenges did you face as a woman during your studies and then throughout the course of your career?
Being taken seriously has always been difficult. I can remember going to some of my first conferences in security, and people asking me if I was a reporter, or what I ‘really’ worked on, even if I had Google written on my badge. No one will give you the benefit of the doubt, you have to initially prove yourself. I’m lucky that I had the opportunities to do so, and the courage to not let people dismiss me easily.
Why is now a great time for women to pursue careers in tech?
There are two complementary forces at work - it’s a friendlier and more attractive industry for women; and companies are also realizing they need women to be more successful. In general, there are already more women in tech, and more women in leadership roles - mentoring and acting as role models for the next generation of women.

Why are women uniquely qualified to excel in some of these leadership roles? 
Without over-generalizing, women bring different viewpoints to the workplace. Research has shown that more diverse teams lead to better business outcomes, and teams with more women tend to have more individuals actively participating in decision-making processes. In any product, but especially in security, having individuals from a variety of backgrounds leads to building better, more useful products.

What advice would you have for other women considering following a career in science and tech? 
Simply, just go for it. Given how accessible information and tutorials are nowadays, you can teach yourself anything. I often see people falter in their belief that they need to have gone to a particular school, or have a particular degree, or particular life experience, in order to have a particular job. Compared to men, women are less likely to apply to jobs where they don’t meet all the requirements, but there’s really no harm in trying. Ask others in the industry how they got where they are, teach yourself that, ask questions where you don’t understand, and go for it.

Additionally, when I studied mathematics, about half of my class was women - which I know is unusual. We were a headstrong bunch, each taking on leadership roles in student government, research, and other campus activities; and standing up for each other if needed. I would encourage women to support each other and to take on leadership roles either within your program of study, in the community or specific ecosystem they are aiming to persevere in.
What do you think would encourage more women to pursue studies in science and technology? 
I don’t think there’s an easy solution to gender equality in tech, which is why we’re all trying to improve it! I think having more exposure to how your studies are directly applicable in the real world, in the form of internships and co-ops, helps any student get a better idea of whether or not this work interests them, and what’s needed to be successful.

INNOVATE U – Inspiring Canada’s next generation of technology builders

Editor’s Note: Today’s blog is guest authored by Jennifer Flanagan, President and CEO of Actua

Today, 1,400 inquisitive and curious kids (and their teachers) joined Google engineers, Actua and the University of Toronto’s Engineering Outreach team for the first-ever INNOVATE U, a day of exploration and experimentation with science and technology.
Celina Ceasar-Chavannes, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister of Canada and MP for Whitby, speaks to students at Innovate U

We kicked off the day with a performance by DJ Scratch, who debuted a version of “O Canada” that had the kids dancing in the aisles of Convocation Hall. The kids also heard from Ann Makosinski, a young Canadian inventor whose pioneering use of thermal technology in creating The Hollow Flashlight catapulted her to a win in the Google Science Fair in 2013.

1,400 Ontario students visit Innovation Alley at Innovate U

NNOVATE U is a one-day event, designed to showcase the vast potential of STEM subjects. The kids and their teachers had an opportunity to participate in hands-on workshops with U of T engineering students, Actua outreach instructors and Google engineers, as well as to tour Innovate Alley, where they could try out everything from virtual reality tours of Canada’s arctic to solar-powered cars and the latest robotics.
Google Science Fair winner Ann Makosinski kicking off the day at Innovate U

For more than 20 years, Actua has worked to prepare young Canadians to be innovators and leaders by engaging them in exciting and accessible STEM experiences that build critical skills and confidence.  This includes our Codemakers program, supported by Google, to transform the way youth engage with computer science. The three year Codemakers project will inspire over 100,000 youth across Canada in digital skill building experiences that move them from being consumers of technology to producers of technology. Events like INNOVATE U are part of Codemakers and give us an opportunity to create extra special and unique moments of inspiration for these kids - particularly those from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in STEM, like girls and Indigenous Youth. Today we hope to ignite a spark of curiosity that will increase the likelihood that they will pursue STEM studies and careers.

Together, we can show kids that technology offers everyone the potential to create, to collaborate and to invent.

Posted by Jennifer Flanagan, President and CEO of Actua. The University of Toronto is one of 34 Actua network members across Canada annually engaging 250,000 youth in hands-on STEM.

Appreciating 3 computer science teachers upending stereotypes

Editor's note: This post is part of our series for U.S. Teacher Appreciation Week. Look for more content on our blog and social media throughout the week. Don’t forget to add to the conversation using #ThankATeacher.

When I was five years old, I immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan. My sister and I were the only Asians in our entire school, and I remember how my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Marvin, went out of her way to make me feel welcome in the classroom and country. I stayed in touch with her until her passing a few years ago. Our relationship speaks volumes about how influential teachers can be. Later in high school, my math teacher, Mr. Fee, showed me how to apply my math skills in the real world. His practical guidance shaped my career aspirations to study chemical engineering in college and to become a high school math teacher myself.
After moving from Taiwan to the U.S. at age 5, Mo Fong's first experiences with the U.S. School system was formed by her kindergarten teacher Mrs. Marvin, who helped set her up on a path to success. 
All good teachers inspire students to pursue new opportunities and challenge themselves, but science, technology, engineering & math (STEM) teachers and specifically computer science (CS) teachers have to overcome some obstacles that others don’t. Often, there’s not enough access to CS resources in schools, and school officials haven’t adopted a CS curriculum. Only 22% of public school principals say that CS education is a top priority, despite the fact that more than 1.3 million computer and math-based jobs will be created by 2022, according to a joint Google and Gallup study. CS teachers also have to overcome stereotypes that keep many students, especially girls and underrepresented minorities, away from the subject.

In the spirit of Teacher Appreciation Week, I would like to share the stories of three high school CS teachers who are overcoming these obstacles and inspiring students to be passionate about the problems they want to solve in the world.

Diane Terrell - Exposing more students to computer science 

When I think of Diane Johnson Terrell words like strength, empowerment and role model come to mind. Terrell, a high school math and engineering teacher at Oakland Unified School District in California, became a CS teacher via an unconventional path. She was working as a programmer analyst and quickly realized she was one of the only African Americans and females in the industry. One of the main reasons the field isn’t more diverse is because people haven’t been exposed to the field, Terrell says. Now her students understand they can build amazing things with a CS degree, and they can have a lucrative career doing so.

Terrell also is breaking down the idea that CS is only for boys and the affluent. She's introducing a CS program that more than 400 9th graders will take next year, and teaching youth at her church how to code and develop an app for the church together.

“Many students in my community play video games and post on social media, but they don’t understand that a lot of programming and code goes into building them,” Terrell says. “My goal is to get my students to move from being consumers to being builders by creating apps on their phones.” 

Another inspiring way Terrell is empowering female students to pursue CS is by connecting them with female executives and doctoral students in the field who mentor them and show them that women can be as successful in the field as men. “After spending time with their mentors at UC Berkeley, girls of color learned they have a phenomenal aptitude to change the world,” Terrell says. “Their confidence exploded and they realized how much of a difference they can make.”

Seth Reichelson - Breaking down the computer science stereotype 

The field of CS shares the unfortunate “geek” stereotype that math and engineering do. But that stereotype doesn’t exist at Lake Brantley High School in Altamonte Springs, Florida. Teacher Seth Reichelson, a White House Champion of Change, has toppled those preconceived notions and made his AP CS class appealing to all students. To make the subject relatable and interesting, he changes his in-class examples to be fun, for example by having students manipulate pixels in a picture instead of doing a bug simulation.

“I won’t acknowledge a stereotype because if you acknowledge it, that’s the same as promoting it,” says Reichelson, who learned this strategy at a National Center for Women & Information Technology workshop. “My students have no idea what the stereotype is.”
The computer science class of 2015 at Lake Brantley High School
Reichelson believes that there should be a diversity requirement that the AP CS student population reflect the diversity of the entire school. He believes a more diverse classroom will lead to a greater diversity of ideas and opinions and thus a smarter, better run workplace. “If you have one type of person working for your company, you’re only going to have one type of solution,” Reichelson says. “You have to have a diverse company to have diverse solutions.”

Leslie Aaronson - Turning the classroom into a startup environment 

After working for Nickelodeon for three years, Leslie Aaronson realized she wanted to teach students communication, collaboration and networking skills in a way that reflects the real world. Today as lead teacher of Foshay Learning Center’s Technology Academy in Los Angeles, California, she’s turned her classroom into a startup environment. She encourages students to take control of their learning and be proactive, instead of waiting for the teacher to provide instructions. “I put learning back into the student’s hands. Students show each other their screens, and when they can’t figure out a solution to a problem, I ask them, ‘What have you tried, and who have you talked to?’ I challenge them to explore all of their resources.”

Aaronson teaches her students to meet with professionals, both to develop the skill of networking and to form strong relationships with people in the industry. She coordinates mentor days and field trips for her students to connect with people at local colleges like USC and UCLA.

To showcase their projects, Aaronson’s students develop a digital portfolio that speaks to their technology skills when applying for college or interviewing for jobs. “Some kids come back to me three years later and say that the portfolio they created in my class got them a job. The most rewarding thing is to know I’m helping people get on their feet and achieve great things in life.” 
Leslie with nine of her students who won the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Award

These are the stories of just a few of the inspirational CS teachers that are educating the data scientists and software developers of tomorrow. Reach out a hand and support teachers like Diane, Seth and Leslie by donating to a classroom in need at DonorsChoose.org, or partnering with a school to introduce a CS program.