Conclusion of my ILE: Modernizing the BHS Robotics Club Website

Now I could simply just show you the finished product, but there’s more to the journey than the destination. In my first semester of senior year I took VHS Advanced Web Design (although it wasn’t as advanced as thought it would be). Instead, I would simply just watch lectures online from CS50, an introductory computer science course at Harvard University. In December, which is the month in which the Robotics club prepares for the build season, an intense six week period to fully design, build, and program a robot in order to complete a challenge. Xin Zhang, a prestigious BHS student, offered me to help in designing the website. Using the Wayback Machine at Internet Archive, which is a massive internet archive that stores snapshots of websites over time, I was able to look into previous designs of our own website. Unfortunately, I was unimpressed. In order to create a website, I went and gathered the necessary resources:

  • Bootstrap

    • Bootstrap is a powerful front-end framework for HTML, CSS, and JS used to rapidly develop websites that are responsive and mobile-first.
  • Sublime Text 3

    • A text editor that is useful because of plugins like Tag, HTML-CSS-JS Prettify, SublimeLinter.
  • Github

    • Github is powerful collaboration software. It allows all to work on the website (though not live) at the same time and keep track of revisions.
  • Roots.io

    • A modern HTML5 WordPress Bootstrap starter theme

Due to the popularity of Bootstrap, it is common to find websites using Bootstrap that make little changes to make the site unique. For example, it is painfully obvious that haikudeck uses Bootstrap for its website. However, one goal we strived for was to create a unique looking website that one would not expect to be made using Bootstrap.

Finding Inspiration

In order to create a modern responsive web design, we decided to look at other websites to model after. We chose not to base our site model off of other teams in robotics. Instead, we looked to the top. We surveyed university and award winning websites for inspiration. Some of the few that were deemed relevant to our interests was BU, University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins, and Cooper Union. We knew that just because they are university sites or sites of Fortune 500 companies, that cannot stop us from making website on the same scale. The robotics club should, by merit, be employing the most advanced technology and yet our older website does not reflect this notion.

    • Instead of using the default fonts that come with Bootstrap we decided to experiment with Google Fonts and chose Open Sans.
  • ColourLovers

    • Red is not an easy color to work with. It is rare to find sites themed with red and clashing red with black or white in the wrong way can be a disaster.
  • Backstretch

    • Out of all the resources we used, Backstretch had the greatest impact on the site’s appearance (besides using Bootstrap). Backstretch allows us to add a static image to the background of all pages.

What’s next

In order to keep the site going in the future years, we need to make every last effort in order to educate the younger members of the club on how the code works on the site and how to easily make adjustments to the code. From what we learned in this project, we now have to pass the baton to the underclassmen.

What I’ve Learned

To create a functional, modern, responsive web product through the collaboration of highly motivated individuals Recieved a greater sense of understanding in HTML, CSS, Javascript, and PHP Hopefully these skills I have developed will transfer over in college where I plan to study either computer science or biomedical engineering. If I could start over, I would have changed my initial ILE topic to this one. Overall, I am proud of the results of my ILE because we were able to create a product from minimal prior knowledge. For future Help Desk students, I would advise them to be open to change in their ILE topic, it’s never too late to change an ILE.

Here is a link to final product, and here is a link to the HaikuDeck presentation.

 

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Google Glass: The Next BIG Thing in Education

Google Glass?

Google Glass is a wearable, voice controlled Android device that displays information to the side of the user’s field of view and resembles a pair of glasses. Glass offers an augmented reality experience by allowing users to receive information based on visual, audio, and location based inputs. Sounds confusing? Here is a basic video explaining what Google Glass is:

Still confused? Here is another, more in depth video below!

The creator of the video, Marques Brownlee, goes through the Google Glass Explorer Edition, which he explains is an limited early edition of Glass. He lists a core list of seven functions that Glass is capable of:

  1. Take a picture
  2. Record a video
  3. Navigation
  4. Send messages
  5. Phone calls
  6. Google+ hangouts
  7. Google search

Now these functions don’t seem so amazing for such an expensive and advanced device but once an App store is added, the list of functions of Glass will be limitless. This video was released on August 30th, 2013 and since then on November 2013, Google released a Glass Development Kit to build Glassware. Glassware is simply software for the Google Glass.

I want one

Okay, now I have just teased you with a revolutionary piece of technology. So how can you get your hands on Google Glass? In order to get Glass, you must sign up for the Glass Explorer Program and be a US resident. Google e ven explicity states that the device is not authorized for use outside the United States here. Google will notify if a spot opens up in the Explorer Program.

explorer signup

Tech Specs – “under the hood

Let’s run down some of the technical specifications of Glass

Fit

  • Adjustable nosepads and durable frame fits any face.

  • Extra nosepads in two sizes.

Display

  • High resolution display is the equivalent of a 25 inch high definition screen from eight feet away.

Camera

  • Photos – 5 MP

  • Videos – 720p

Audio

  • Bone Conduction Transducer

Connectivity

  • Wifi – 802.11b/g

  • Bluetooth

Storage

  • 12 GB of usable memory, synced with Google cloud storage. 16 GB Flash total.

Battery

  • One day of typical use. Some features, like video calls and video recording, are more battery intensive.

  • Charger

  • Included Micro USB cable and charger.

  • While there are thousands of Micro USB chargers out there, Glass is designed and tested with the included charger in mind. Use it and preserve long and prosperous Glass use.

Compatibility

  • Any Bluetooth-capable phone.

  • The MyGlass companion app requires Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or higher. MyGlass enables GPS and SMS messaging.

What is truly impressive of these specs is that Google managed to pack Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, speakers, a camera, microphone, touchpad, and a gyroscope in such a nonintrusive, small and lightweight device. As time progresses, there is no doubt Google will improve the hardware of Glass. We already see Apple release new generations of iPhones and iPads with more memory and processing power each year.

The guys over at catwig decided to do a hardware teardown, dissecting the magnificent device into its parts. They were able to successfully take apart Glass and isolate key components of the device such as the side touchpad, main CPU board, speaker, and camera.

Above is a picture of all the parts of Google Glass spread out.

How does the magic work?

Over at TechLife, an article was created to investigate how Glass actually worked. Google Glass overlay the world you see around you with related information beamed onto your retina by a prism that receives from a tiny projector inside the lens. Google Glass is almost like a computer, containing fundamental parts like the CPU, sensors such as the GPS, speakers, microphone, and battery. All of these fundamental parts are embedded into the main frame of the device. Google keeps Glass as light as possible by performing most of the processing via cloud. Glass use a tiny projector to project the screen through an angled prism when then reflects the projection into our eyes.

Still not sure what is going on? Below is an infographic bringing everything together!

Glass in Education

Over at Mashable, a massive infographic on 30 uses of Glass was created and can be seen below.

Some people believe major chances are needed in the way we educate people as a result of this wearable technology

    • 1. Standardized Testing will either change or go away.

      • Students will have information on the fly using Glass. Therefore questions on exams must reach towards a higher level of critical thinking.

    • 2. Schools will have to operate differently.

      • The wearable type of technology will be a distraction to learning if students are not engaged. It is integral that schools give more freedom to class selection for students so that they are better engaged in classes they like. Students will also have to begin choosing their own topics to learn and learning skills through project and problem based learning.

    • 3. There will be a new “proficiency gap”.

      • Glass at the moment is expensive and most likely will remain expensive. Unless the school is able to purchase the device for all students, there will be a gap between those who have Glass and do not have glass as a result of socioeconomic standing.

  • Despite these challenges, the author of the article firmly believes that there is much to unearth from this technology, and educators must look into the possibilities as soon as possible.

Glass in Elementary School 

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 8.52.32 AM

Ms Margaret Powers, a Lower School Technology Coordinator at a private school outside of Philadelphia. She helps integrate technology from kindergarten to second grade. She entered into the Explorer Program and was chosen to receive a pair of Glass. She created a blog to document each day how she is integrating Glass into education over here

“At first, Glass was a distraction. Students would stop their work and run over to ask questions and try to touch it. But over time, they grew accustomed to the device and Glass simply became just another accessory to my outfit. I began to use Glass to document a range of activities from a student field trip to projects like making a silent movie. I’ve also used it as a way to record and observe my own teaching practices. For lessons that I teach multiple times, I have been able to review my Glass recordings and then adjust how I teach them with the next group. I began letting students wear Glass during activities like painting in the style of Picasso or building a tipi, which has allowed me a peek into their motor skills and creativity processes from their perspective. We also brought Glass on a field trip to the farm where they captured photos and videos of their experiences. Afterwards, we discussed how they had officially become “Documenters” to remember what they learned and to share their projects with other students–some as far away as Singapore!” said Ms Powers.

Here are just a few ways Ms. Powers used Glass in the Class:

  • Record activities of the students from a first person perspective
  • Document how students use apps like Kodable.

Steve Dembo, former kindergarten teacher talks about the benefits of glass in education and currently involves himself in many EdTech conferences.

At the end of the day, there are a ridiculous number of reasons not to get Glass right now.  And I truly do understand why anyone would have that opinion.  But for people that can accept the limitations and are interested in pushing the boundaries, in helping to re-write the way our society interacts with the digital space…  well, it really is a wonderful opportunity.

And now I hear the same things about Google Glass.  It’s too big.  It’s annoying.  Too expensive.  Too limited.  No apps.  It’s intrusive.  People will be too out of touch because of it.  And it goes on and on and on.

Mr. Dembo explores how previous technology has always faced opposition such as the introduction of the world wide web, the first GPS, and the first iPhone. He mentions how Glass is just the beginning and may seem limited but people like Mr. Dembo are ready to push the boundaries of technology in education.

Middle School

Here is an article about magnet students at Lufkin Middle School in Texas getting the chance to test drive glass. It doesn’t sound like the best idea to put students made of magnets with glass but these students in the article have a specialized curriculum that attract students from a wide range of interests. Typically the curriculum of magnet schools is more project based and hands on, which sounds perfect for Google Glass. The Lufkin school district was randomly chosen to be a part of research and development of Google Glass. Below is what a few middle school students from Lufkin students had to say about their experience using Google Glass:

“It’s this kind of augmented reality think where the screen will appear over the corner of your eye and you speak to it and Google and research all of it hands free.” said Aiden Willis, an 8th grader.

“They are glasses and it’s almost like an iPad in the top right corner of your eye,” said 8th grader, Emily Massingill.

“We recently did a project that had a lot of research and typing. We could have been researching and typing what we researched at the same time.” said Alexandria Tatum.

High School

Andrew Vanden Heuvel is a science teacher at Michigan Virtual School who was on of the first teachers to receive Glass.

“I don’t think there’s any delusions that Glass is going to be the tool to transform education–it wasn’t built to be that tool,”

Vanden Huevel believes that Glass offers a shift in perspective to allow teachers to engage students more easily than before.

“What I’m excited by making these videos is not only that they’re filmed with Google Glass, but they’re high engagement videos, so they’re meant to be really short and to get kids to think about how math and science is all around,” he said. “I suppose I could have done that before, but it’s just so easy now.”

Mr. Huevel referred  to his STEMBite videos made using Google Glass and its first person recording to create highly engaging videos.

Here is an article that lists several uses of Glass in education:

  • With Glass, students can easily record lectures from a first person perspective to keep for future reference.
  • Glass can allow students to create visual presentations and shoot relevant videos that can be integrated into presentations.
  • Learning new languages and speaking them could be done on the go with Glass coupled with Google’s own Google Translator. Google Glass would be able to present text based translations in real-time.
  • Distance learning could be made a lot easier than before with Google Glass. Webinars and such can be streamed directly onto your Glass than your smartphone or laptop so that its easy to be accessed anywhere, anytime.
  • The Glass could be used to set timetables for students along with information regarding the halls where classes will be held with details on professors to take the classes. Matous Skala, a czech republic student, created a Google Glass UI mockup called Student Book for a school organization application. During the lesson, it shows you info about current class and lesson progress. At a break, it shows you where your next lesson is and counts minutes to its beginning. It could also contain homework and exams lists.

Postsecondary

Colleges have a lot of money.  Colleges have A LOT of money. Here is an article detailing how college professors and students imagine using Google Glass in the classroom.

Cornell

Cynthia Johnston Turner, Cornell University’s director of wind ensembles, is among the professors who see possible ways to use the high-tech glasses in their teaching. She plans to work with a tech expert at Cornell and an undergraduate student to explore the capabilities of Glass. She envisions using Glass in concerts to stream to the audience the perspective of the conductor and performer. She also hopes to help develop applications to embed music scores into Glass so that a conductor may conduct without looking down at his or her music.

Lets now travel across to country to the sunny beaches of California. Robert Hernandez, an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Southern California, said he planned to use Glass in his multimedia-journalism classes to explore its potential for on-the-ground reporting He also believed that the glasses could be used for instructional purposes in which he could show how to do something rather than giving a step-by-step guide.

UC Berkeley

Richard Koci Hernandez, an assistant professor of journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, had less positive remarks towards Glass. “Currently there just doesn’t seem to be any real classroom application yet,” he said. “Even if you wanted to record a video straight, you’re only going to get about 30 minutes of recording before the battery dies. My lectures are at least an hour. It’s very limited.”

Let’s not forget about the students. Here is an article about Catalin Voss, an 18-year-old who finished his first year at Stanford University, is working on an emotion-recognition program that would allow people to register feedback from their students’ expression and tone to make their classes more engaging. In particular, though, Voss, who has a cousin with autism, hopes his application could also help teach people with autism better to comprehend emotions of others.

University of Southern California

At USC, students have also given their input about Glass. Michael Cherin, a senior majoring in communications, mentioned that “If I went through one of my communication classes, for example, and I realized [Google Glass] is kind of deterring me from learning and it’s not helping me in that particular situation, whether it’s taking notes or giving a speech in class, the episode would be based around that,”  Kevin Matre, a senior majoring in film and television production, believes it has its ups and downs. “I think that it could be really beneficial to help students take notes and keep up with what’s happening in their class, but I think a downside of that is students’ privacy,” Matre said.

Computer Science

Considering that glassware is available to all and does not restrict people with annual 100$ licenses and forces developers to program on Macs, it is one clear advantage to programmers. Students who take AP Computer Science A can learn Java and apply it to program Glassware, which is coded in Java. The Glass Development Kit is available as an add-on to the Android SDK to build Glassware.

Healthcare Applications

Google Glass is having a lasting impact on medical education. Here is an article about how Glass is being used to make “training emergency” as real as possible.

Bad for children?

Google themselves write that “Don’t let children under 13 use Glass as it could harm developing vision.

However, this statement may not be true. A Google spokesperson has said that:

“We’ve studied design comfort and safety very closely, and we haven’t found cause for concern,” a Google spokesperson clarified to NBC News. “It’s something we’ll continue to watch carefully. We have been working with ophthalmologists throughout our development process.” The spokesperson also said that Glass has not been tested on children.

In addition, Dr. James Salz, a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology

“He expressed surprise in regard to Google’s warning for children under 13. “It’s probably for some legal reason,” he remarked. “I don’t really see any hard scientific reason why that would be true.” While there are certain issues which should be addressed at a young age, Salz told NBC News, “usually it’s felt that by the time [children] are six or seven, their eyes are mature.”

But think about the children! Still not convinced? Expert eye surgeon Professor Bernard Chang, a consultant eye surgeon in Leeds and Honorary Secretary of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists says that “By the age of seven to eight years, a child’s eyesight will have fully matured. So at this age there really is very little difference between a child’s eye and an adult’s eye.” In terms of Google’s age restriction,  Professors Chang said that “This is probably because Google has not done research into the effects of this device in children of this age group and are worried it may harm visual development.

Disadvantages

The current Google glass explorer edition has been reported to have terrible battery life. The device typically lasts from x hours after charging. For a device to be ideal in an academic environment, it must have a strong battery life or otherwise students will come to class with dead Google Glasses.

Glass can record pictures and videos at any instant in time without people being aware. This can be a problem especially in a school where many students would not be okay with being filmed or pictured at any time without their consent. It will be difficult to get students to comply with an agreement to not take a picture or video of someone else without their consent as students already wrongly do so with their iPads. However, in the same way there were concerns with the iPad and privacy, we have been able to deal with it and will continue to do so with future technology like Google Glass.

The Google Glass explorer edition costs $1500. However, this is not its final price.The current version is for those who are willing to pay there price in order to explore glass and give feedback to google. A consumer version of glass will be available in the future for a much lower price comparable to tablets.

While the glass may seem robust as it can be used in outdoor activities like cycling, it is still fragile. The shape of the device especially doesn’t make it too safe. One could accidentally sit on glass, put it in their backpack and have it break. Glass is not as uniform in rigidly like the iPad. Hopefully in the future companies will create cases and covers that secure the device.

Capture

The only possible way currently to take notes via Glass is through one’s own voice. In a classroom filled with 24 students, it would be impossible to take notes if everyone was speaking at the same time.  You’ve just graduated middle school and you are enjoying your summer before high school. Three weeks before the start of high school you are called into school in order to listen to a presentation and receive Google Glass for yours to keep throughout your high school career at no cost whatsoever. During the first day of high school you meander your way into homeroom, trying not to stare into the intimidating eyes of the seniors. Your homeroom teacher gives you an extra copy of your schedule.

  1. AP World History
  2. AP Biology
  3. Algebra II (only after managing to convince administration to take it, even though it is standard nationwide)
  4. Honors English
  5. Honors Spanish II
  6. AP Computer Science (which you were only able to take after acing both computer science finals over the summer)
  7. Gym

You come home, muscles aching from either the weight of the textbooks you received or the pressure to do well but you cannot discern. The number of domestic and international students applying to colleges in the united states is rapidly increasing and the competition is becoming fierce. Students no longer gasp at the high school student who dares take more than 2 AP classes, but now has become substandard. You begin to start homework once you home, but cannot figure out how to take notes. “OK Glass . . .” 3 P.M. Perhaps in this time of the future there will already be Bluetooth keyboard ready to be used by glass or virtual keyboards projected in front of you for to time on. 6 P.M. Even students today are struggling to take notes with the accessibility of the iPad. 9 P.M. Could Google Glass make it easier for students to take notes? 12 A.M. Has the iPad encouraged students to prepare themselves better for class? 3 A.M. Despite this drawback, Glass’s Bluetooth capability should allow for companies to develop keyboards for students to type with or possibly even an app for a virtual projection of a working keyboard.

Person Experience

In my personal experience using Glass, I had trouble aligning the screen correctly and the projected screen appeared blurry. The device was difficult to use mainly because I had no idea what I was doing. Despite my not so great experience, I am sure if I spend more time using Glass, I will become accustomed to it.

Overall

After careful researching Google Glass, I have come to conclude that Glass definitely has a use in education. At the current moment it is limited in use but the amazing aspect of Glass, like any piece of technology, is that it can be improved upon on. We have seen the first iPhone take the world by storm and now the iPhone 5 is more powerful than ever. With support from developers around the world in the future, there is no doubt that there is no limit on what glass will be used for. There has always been a pattern of initial opposition to new technology but over time people come to accept what technology to offer.

Here is a link to our presentation on Google Glass!

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Week 13 Reflection

This week in Help Desk, there was only one student who I helped. The student wanted to get the YouTube app on his iPad as Apple removed the YouTube app in the iOS 7 update. What seemed like the simple task of searching YouTube in the app store became a bigger task since the student did not have an Apple account. I gave instructions to the student on creating an Apple ID so in the future he could download any other app he would like.

Overall, it was a quiet week in terms of helping others with their problems. However, I remained productive during the week. I worked on my post for Hour of Code featuring an introduction to Python. We also had the chance to try out Google Glass for a period. I was impressed with the device although it takes time to get used to. This first hand experience would contribute towards a presentation that Harsh, Nathan, Dora, and I will have to make in front of the administration next week on the educational advantages and (possibly) disadvantages of implementing Glass in the classroom.

Posted in Weekly Reflections

Hour of Code : Python

Every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science. Almost all students have experience in taking a music or art class. But how many of those students can say they have taken a programming class? Programming, art and music share one simple idea: limitless creation. Programming is another medium, like art and music, that can allow students to unleash their creativity and build an application. Many students like to listen to music and make music so why not play video games and code for video games?

The Hour of Code serves to help students learn how to code and engage them in a different way of creative expression. I myself tried out one of the Python tutorials located here as I have never programmed in Python before. The tutorial walked you through to create a “chatterbox” named Eliza  that could respond to your messages. Above is a picture of the final product at the end of the tutorial. The end task was to create a program that responded in certain ways to different answers. In the example, Eliza would keep asking you what movie you would like to watch until you mention WALL-E, which was her favorite movie. If you mention Transformers, she will say that the movie was scary. If you answer with anything other than Transformers or WALL-E, she will say she had fun and suggest to watch another movie. This might sound like a lot of code but the tutorial breaks down everything you need to make the final project in smaller parts. Overall, the tutorial laid out some basic foundations of Python by teaching me about output statements, control statements, and the syntax.

Posted in Tech News

Week 12 Reflection

Harsh and I finally completed our revamped presentation on evaluating websites and submitted a post for the main blog. We learned how to create presentations with visual appeal. We aimed to limit the amount of information on each slide by distributing it over many slides. We also added pictures that creatively expresses the questions one should ask when evaluating a site.

For our ILE, Harsh and I decided to take a step back on Appgyver and decided to work on making a web application first and then move it over to Steroids.js. After doing some research on web development, I came up with two web development frameworks: Bootstrap and Foundation. We plan to use Bootstrap to layout the foundation for our site as it has more resources and a larger community than Foundation. Bootstrap is a powerful web development framework that can rapidly generate fully functional sites that work for any device. Hopefully, we can make a basic design of the site by the end of next week. After making the design, we will need to populate the site automatically with data through a mySQL database.

Posted in Weekly Reflections

1 Week, 1 App

In the video above, the Nordstrom Innovation Lab goes through the process of designing a Sunglass iPad App in one week. The Innovation Lab works on one week experiments. When someone has an idea, it is the the job of those working at the Innovation Lab to prove whether that idea will work. Customers walk in the store and normally take lots of pictures of themselves wearing sunglasses.  The idea was to improve upon this process The Innovation Lab is not located in a room with chemicals and beakers. Those working in the lab situated themselves in the store to ensure they received customer feedback on what they were building which is what JB, the lab manager, says is a “flash build”, which is when a software team comes to a surprise location and builds an app. By doing a flash build, the developers on the team can swap in features and present it to customers on the fly for instant feedback.

The app they had to make in one week was an app that helped customers pick the best sunglasses for them. Jeremy, a developer, details how they use story maps to create the app by outlining all the steps a customer would take in buying sunglasses. A designer named Kim, a designer, mentions how she created individual paper slides that worked as a paper version of an app. Customers would be presented with a paper slide and based on what button the customer taps, she would change the slide. These paper prototypes helped the team create a design that was intuitive to the customer.

On day 4, a sunglass buyer came in and put on polarized glasses. However, she was surprised to see the picture she took came out black. The team discovered a bug that the polarization of the iPad running up and down with the polarization of the glasses running vertical cancels each other out. By placing themselves in the store, the team discovered a bug through customer feedback and promptly fixed the bug by putting the app in landscape design.

In the end, the app let you take pictures with sunglasses on and then let you later preview the pictures. After one week, the developers found their flash build a success. They were able to get the most important goals done and improve customer experience.

Posted in Tech News

Breaking the Boundary between the Physical and Digital World

This post will discuss the following TED Talk.

Designer and engineer Jinha Lee demonstrates how the border between our physical world and the digital world is becoming thinner. First, he presents a pen tool that goes through the screen and displays a three-dimensional model of the pen

Next, he shows how he can apply the same concept to computing.

Using a depth camera and transparent display, he can reach into the 3D space and grab pixels with his bare hands. He then describe the idea of having the digital world reach us instead. At the MIT Media Lab, he was able to create a physical pixel in the form of a spherical magnet by cancelling gravity and controlling its movement. Human motions can be recorded and played back. He explains how students can use it as a tool to learn complex concepts.

Lee ends the TED Talk with the notion that once we remove the boundary, the only boundary left is our imagination.

Overall, this TED Talk fascinated me. The potential of this technology is limitless. As a student, the educational opportunities this product can provide is unheard of. It is only a matter of time before this technology hits classrooms. It may seem like a stretch, but so did bringing iPads into the classrooms.

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