Archive for the 'Opinion' Category

21
Feb
08

Aftermath

The three days of madness that was the Walking with Robots engagement training workshop is over. Does that mean the end of this blog? That’s up to the roboticists and AI researchers who took part. Personally, I hope they continue it – I’m fascinated to know what they come up with over the next weeks and months.

No pressure, folks.

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20
Feb
08

Demostrating with Adrian and Vishu

Adrian Albin-Clark and Vishuu Aran Kumar, both from Manchester University, demonstrate simple robots that can be programmed to work together to do a complex task.

The aim was to find the card where was painted a human body… A short explanation and the conclusion by Adrian is below;

“Excited, I learnt a lot of things today!” was Sifat Momen’s words when he was asked for a opinion about the exercise.

Finally, for me it is all… was a good experience and I learnt a lot of things in this New Media stream…. >>

20
Feb
08

Misconception about Science: Final Part

In my previous entry I elaborated upon the fact that there is little interest in science amongst children. Today I will suggest some things that, in my opinion, may help to stimulate interest in science, not only amongst children, but also amongst everyone with little or no knowledge in science. Earlier I said that if parents at home, teachers at school and the industry as a whole try to get children more involved in science, then interest in science may grow in the near future, so that the society and the industry can both benefit from it. I will cover each aspect separately in this entry, hoping that the reader will gain more understanding and insight into this issue that affects us all.

Parents clearly have a very large influence on children as they raise them. Parental attitudes are one of the most important factors in shaping children’s interest in science. I often hear that parents say “It’s okay my child doesn’t do well in science subjects. I was no good at them either.”, which results in children dismissing science subjects as unimportant. In order to keep the interest in science, it is important to start early with it. If children want something specific in science that sparks and burns their interest, then they need to pay attention to science subjects in school. Parents should support them, even if they hardly know anything about science. This can be done by, for example, taking part in science fairs or guided nature hikes and visiting museums, observatories and aquariums are all ways that parents can show their kids that science is not only valuable, but fun too. In fact, what you don’t know about science can put the parents and their child on a level playing field when questions arise.

A few suggestions for parents in order to boost the interest of children in science are the following:

  • Show interest in the children’s activities;
  • Discuss activities before, during and after doing them;
  • Encourage the children to make predictions and comparisons and to draw conclusions;
  • Show the children how to go about finding an answer to a question;
  • Let the children discover things by themselves, only helping out whenever necessary.

As for teachers, well, I can be brief about that, considering the fact that I have experienced the same thing back in high school: Don’t be so boring. Engage the pupils in short and fun activities and discussions about everyday things related to science. Not everything needs to be done by the book only. If possible, school trips to science fairs and other events can be organised. Afterwards, in class, pupils can discuss about the activities. Moreover, performing experiments in class — either with everyone or just the teacher alone — tends to stimulate the interest of the pupils in science, because they then see science in action, so that they can question things about what they have seen and this way their interest is developed. A common proverb is “a picture says more than a thousand words” definitely applies here.

Finally, the industry is also responsible for awakening the interest in science, because they are the major players in organising scientific events, such as festivals or exhibitions. Without those events, many people would not know things about science in everyday life.

To make a long story — spread over my blog entries so far — short, there is simply lack of science communication all over the world and it all starts with the children. The industry has the money to organise scientific events at any time, at any place, for everyone; teachers have the knowledge to pass on at school; parents have the key to awaken the interest in science in children; and, finally, children have the potential to become scientists when their interest has sparkled and is burning fiercely enough. Those are the ingredients for a successful recipe of creating a new world of science with new people and thus also new potential. When that happens, the future may look brighter with respect to science. So, if we can take away the wrong assumption that science is boring and involves men in white clothes doing nothing but thinking about science stuff and performing dull experiments, then that’d be the first major step in the right direction. In fact, the editors of this blog have already shown that science is everything but boring! In the workshop Walking with Robots there are a number of fun activities dealing with science, all of which you can read about in this blog!

19
Feb
08

Misconception about Science: Part Three

Previously I talked about how little interest there is in science amongst children and the children want to do something else, because “that is more fun”. Scientists are opionated people. The point of science is to prove things, right or wrong — that is, find new theories and establish them, or prove current establishments wrong, making way for new theories. That is the single biggest challenge facing scientists. They are expected to act aggressively and nobody is trained for that. Moreover, from that point of view, it is not so surprising that people think that science involves such difficult things and large-scale experiments. So the fun side goes away and people tend to look elsewhere to make a career out of.All that often originates from the youth of people; when children do not learn early in their age that science is not about all that and they get involved with everyday little and fun things — be it practical things, such as experiments, or using media, such as educational videos or programmes on tv — then they will build interest into science. In my opinion, it helps if children and teenagers initially have sufficient knowledge about everything in life: not just science, but also medicins, politics, and so on. Of course, it is to a certain extent; otherwise it will be too difficult for them. Then, with that knowledge, they can make better decisions about their career, because they now know what each of the disciplines involves and they can determine whether it is something for them or not.Now, with respect to science, it is not a coincidence that the workshop Walking with Robots takes place in a building where science is the main theme. As mentioned before, it takes place in At-Bristol, which is a science and discovery centre that combines hands-on activities with the latest multi-media technology and exhibitions. It comes at no surprise to me that, when looking around, I encounter people who are interested in science, including children. After all, that is the target group of At-Bristol. Two pictures of children learning things about science and the corresponding discoveries are shown below.

Children playing on an organ-like instrument.

Children playing an organ-like instrument.

Demonstration about how to make glue.

Demonstration about how to make glue.

In general, however, I hardly hear people talking about science and making discussions about them. Only in my study of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Maastricht, the Netherlands, and other scientific places such talks take place in a regular manner. I strongly believe that there is simply not sufficient attention paid towards the development of interest in science amongst children and teenagers. If parents at home, teachers at school and the industry as a whole try to involve children more in science, then the situation will change for the better.In my next entry, I will cover some of the ways to change the situation. Stay tuned until then!

19
Feb
08

Misconception about Science: Part Two

Today is the second day of the workshop Walking with Robots in Bristol. I’m currently sitting in the room, thinking of what to write down in order to continue the topic of my previous blog entry, together with all other editors of the New Media group. So I figured I’d give another small rant on misconceptions about science. The reason that I want to talk about it, is simply the fact that I personally think that it is a shame that not everyone knows about science — how much fun it can be. This blog is one of the opportunities for me to elaborate upon this issue, so I will take that chance today, early in the morning (yes, 11 am is early for me) without a cup of coffee (I don’t like coffee).

Now, what is science exactly? One could simply look up the definition in the dictionary, on Wikipedia, or whatever. For example, an online dictionary (http://dictionary.reference.com) says the following about science: “science is a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws” or “science is systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation”. That is a whole mouthful. No wonder people seem to think differently about it. Although it is quite shortsighted to conclude that fact based on the given definitions of science, it surely plays a role. Basically, what both definitions say is that science consists of knowledge, often gained through observations and experiments and this knowledge constitutes of facts about the world — the nature — around us. The new definition is now easier to read and to understand. When looking upon the easy definition, I can imagine people consider science as something really difficult, because the world around us is incredibly complex. We still have a lot of things to figure out about this world of ours.

However, although it is true that science is the big thing because of our world, it is also the smaller things that make it interesting, as I already mentioned in my previous blog entry. With everyday objects, small and fun experiments can be conducted. Especially children will love to know more about the little tidbits of life — of the world around them, because, by nature, children are always curious. The earlier this happens, the better, since their path of life is often determined by what they experience in the early stages of their life. I have noticed a change with respect to this aspect of life. Studies have shown that there is not only a gender gap in math, science, and technology — and the media have covered the topic relentlessly, about girls having noticeably less interest in those disciplines than boys — but children of nowadays, even boys, think of science as boring and are looking for different paths of career. Moreover, parents, teachers, and the industry as a whole, do not put enough effort in making science accessible and inviting to all. If they want to draw a variety of thinkers, then that is exactly what they must do, in my opinion.

This is my part of the rant for now. Stay tuned for the next part!

18
Feb
08

Introduction: Misconception about Science

I was invited to be part of the new media group in the workshop Walking with Robots, which takes place in Bristol, England. The workshop mainly deals with science communication. The reason that it exists is that people are too unaware of what science really involves; that it can actually be interesting.

The problem is namely the fact that science is not as popular as expected. Most people even fear it: They think it is difficult, it is boring, and so on. However, the opposite is true. Science is not just the big thing; it is also the little things that make it really interesting. In fact, it can be done with everyday objects, so there is no reason to hold back. You’d be surprised what you didn’t know about those little things. In other words, when you try, you can see it can be fun! People like me and the participants of the workshop hope to achieve the goal of bringing the world of science closer to the general audience.

That’s why this blog exists. It is there, on the World Wide Web, to show you the other side of science, the fun side! In here, small tidbits about everything related to the workshop and, obviously, science itself are published, so that the reader is invited to think about the topics covered in this blog. Of course, comments are also welcome! I and the other editors hope this will be an enjoyable blog for everyone to read.