Tag Archives: TechWomen

Introduction to Physical Computing

Wissa Wassef, weaving by Reda Ahmed, Egypt
Wissa Wassef weaving by Reda Ahmed, Egypt

TechWomen has started its first Virtual Delegation and I am one of the delegates from the Silicon Valley to Cameroon. On 14 June, I gave the online keynote speech on “Building a Global Network.” On 17 June, Maryann Hrichak and I (TechWomen Mentors) are leading a session on “Introduction to Physical Computing” with 100 students in Douala and Yaoundé, working with TechWomen Lead Fellows Janet Bih Shufor and Gisele Beatrice Sonfack.

Maryann and I will introduce the online discussion through the history of computing and weaving, specifically Jacquard looms, considered a precursor to modern computing technology. The idea for this approach came from my daughter Jessica Dickinson Goodman who was one of the Mentors on the 2018 TechWomen Delegation to Nigeria during which she gave a workshop on “Teaching Binary and Encryption Through Weaving.” Our Physical Computing session this week will be relatively short but we plan to cover the relationship of physical objects (like looms and yarn) to computing devices. We will show parts of the hands-on video “Personal Jacquard Weaving” and will end with a more futuristic view in the video “Knightscope – Present and Future” from Knightscope, the robotics company where my long-term TechWomen Co-Mentor, Mercedes Soria is Executive Vice President of Software Engineering, and Chief Intelligence Officer.

Some key dates from my introduction: 1804 Jacquard loom, 1837 Babbage Analytical Engine (programming by Ada Lovelace), 1884 Hollerith punched card tabulating machine (used in 1890 U.S. Census). Punch cards and paper tape continued in use until the 1990s.

Gisele and Janet will lead the students through an exercise using the MIT Media Lab’s Scratch program. Gisele wrote this about the exercise: “To control a system, or automate its operation, we use the variables which can be random or fixed depending on the type of sensors, we apply the conditions. Loops are uses to do the same thing infinitely. These concepts are the basics of physical computing.” This is their handout.

Here is our 17 June 2021 session plan:

  • 10 minutes – Introduction to Physical Computing (Katy Dickinson & Maryann Hrichak) on Zoom, including Arduino weaving video segment
  • 25 minutesScratch activity in two Zoom breakout rooms with about 50 students each, one in Douala (lead by Gisele), and the other in Yaoundé (lead by Janet), with ten TechWomen mentors helping
  • 5 minutes – Reflection (Katy Dickinson & Maryann Hrichak) on Zoom, including Knightscope robots video

TechWomen is a mentoring program of the US State Department – Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

TechWomen Maryann Hrichak, Katy Dickinson, Janet Bih Fofang, Gisele Beatrice Sonfack, Zoom 2021-06-15
TechWomen Maryann Hrichak, Katy Dickinson, Janet Bih Fofang, Gisele Beatrice Sonfack, Session Planning Meeting 2021-06-15
Xaviera Nguefo Kowo and Janet Bih Shufor, TechWomen Cameroon Delegation Screen Shot 2021-06-17
Xaviera Nguefo Kowo and Janet Bih Shufor, TechWomen Cameroon Delegation 2021-06-17
Fellows Janet, Jessica, Gisele of TechWomen Cameroon Delegation Screen Shot 2021-06-17 Screen Shot 2021-06-17
Fellows Janet, Jessica, Gisele of TechWomen Cameroon Delegation 2021-06-17

Thanks to Jeannice Farrer Samani, Janet Bih Shufor, and others for their recommendations on materials below. During our TechWomen-Cameroon Physical Computing session, I knew many of the girls might have network connection problems or would not  fully understand the Zoom-based presentations because we spoke in English and many of them are French speakers. I want the “References and Resources” to present inspiring materials they could read later. I selected physical computing examples focused on weaving and robotics and included women and girl role models not only from Cameroon and Africa but also from the U.S. I hope that the girls will find these materials helpful!

References and Resources:

Additional Information from TechWomen Mentor Suzette Shipp:

1640 Weaving Room, Carlyle House, Alexandria, Virginia USA (postcard).

Updated 22 June 2021

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Willow Glen Garden Update

Cercidium Floridum, Desert Palo Verde, Parkinsonia Florida, San Jose CA, June 2021
Cercidium Floridum, Desert Palo Verde, Parkinsonia Florida, San Jose CA, June 2021

Now that I am done with Spring 2021 classes, I have been able to tend my garden. Our house in Willow Glen (San Jose, California) was built almost 100 years ago in the old bed of the Guadalupe River, so the soil is amazing. Yesterday, we planted a green-bark, yellow-flower Palo Verde tree (Desert Palo Verde – Cercidium floridum – Parkinsonia Florida), that should thrive in our increasingly-hot summers. The tomato garden I planted in March is starting to fruit, and the giant white bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai), Pink Stripe Flax (Phormium), Matilija Poppies (Romneya), and four types of yarrow are blooming exuberantly. The oak tree named after my friend Seham Aljaafreh, who helped me plant it in 2014, has doubled in size this year.

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Helping the Holy Land

TechWomen at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, Gaza City, Feb 2016
TechWomen at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, Gaza City, Feb 2016

During this violent time in the Holy Land, our family just made a large donation to Episcopal Relief & Development which supports the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City (which I visited with TechWomen mentors and mentees in 2016), and the Middle East. We have asked for a corporate match for our family donation. Please consider donating – and keep the Holy Land in your prayers. We also donated to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (as requested by Ryan Sturgill, Director of Gaza Sky Geeks).

I put this information on my own Facebook account but when I tried to re-post a version of it, Facebook blocked me. Apparently Facebook objects to posts about praying for Gaza and making charitable donations to the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza. Please continue to pray and donate anyway.

Our 2016 visit was an unofficial TechWomen delegation by five senior mentors who wanted to visit their much-loved Gazan mentees. TechWomen is a program of the U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs – Exchange Programs, managed by the Institute of International Education (IIE). I am re-posting some of my pictures here from our trip to Gaza City so that you can see what it looked like before the current violence. You can read some of my 2016 posts with more photos, Traveling in Palestine, Three Border Walls, Where We Stayed in Palestine, and Understanding Gaza.

Facebook post rejection 20 May 2021
Facebook post rejection 20 May 2021

25 May 2021 Update:
In addition to donating to Episcopal Relief & Development which supports Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza (including the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City), here is the list of reputable first responder organizations recommended by Ryan Sturgill, Director of Gaza Sky Geeks:

Palestine Red Crescent Society, https://www.palestinercs.org/

Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, https://www.pcrf.net/

Medical Aid for Palestinians, https://www.map.org.uk/

Doctors Without Borders, https://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/

UN Population Fund in Palestine, https://palestine.unfpa.org/

Thank you for your prayers and generous donations.

If you want to receive Katysblog posts by email, please sign up using the Sign Me Up! button (upper right on Katysblog home). Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson and Jessica Dickinson Goodman.

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TechWomen Sierra Leone Project

TechWomen Sierra Leone team, 2 Nov 2020

Following up on my 8 October 2020 post: Despite the challenges of working at home during a pandemic, the inspiring TechWomen team from Sierra Leone is making good progress developing a project to benefit their country. We have worked for months to identify and refine our focus on the challenge of malnutrition in children, and on a statement on the social impact of this difficult problem. The current version of our action plan statement is below. Next week, we begin to make our pitch video.

TechWomen is a competitive and prestigious exchange program of the U.S. State Department – Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Executive Vice President of Knightscope Software Engineering Mercedes Soria, Country Coach Salwa Campbell, and I are mentoring the five Emerging Leaders from Sierra Leone, Dr. Fatmata Munu, Glenna Wilson, Isha Kamara, Joan Koroma, and Josephine Turay (all from Freetown).

Team Sierra Leone Impact Statement

We don’t want to watch our children die. Team Sierra Leone will start with 50 mothers as our pilot. Our campaign will reach the target audience in Freetown and western area by radio, and advertising vans distributing brochures with pictures. We will provide educational materials on best food and good nutritional practices. In addition to mothers, we will contact community leaders, chiefs and community health workers.

Our mission is to reduce the level of malnutrition in Sierra Leone. We will achieve this by educating mothers on how to use local foods to make balanced diets. According to the government of Sierra Leone, 31.3% of children have the chronic form of malnutrition. This is because according to UNICEF, 70% of infants and young children are underfed, surviving on diets consisting mainly of starchy staples. We believe we are the best people to work on the malnutrition project because our skills and background are a perfect match, comprising but not limited to a medical doctor, pharmacist, public health graduate and a data scientist.

This text and photo was published with permission of Team Sierra Leone.

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2016 Zimbabwe

TechWomen Harare Zimbabwe 2016 by Anar Simpson

Thanks to fellow TechWomen Mentor, Anar Simpson, for sending this picture just now of some of us in the 2016 delegation to Zimbabwe, at the Meikles Hotel in Harare. What an inspiring trip that was!

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TechWomen Team Sierra Leone

Fourah Bay College (University of Sierra Leone) in Freetown, 2017

I am honored to be one of the 2020 TechWomen Impact Coaches for Sierra Leone, working again with fellow Mentor, Mercedes Soria. We mentors just finished our second online training meeting with IIE. I have visited Sierra Leone twice, once in 2017 with Families Without Borders and then again in 2019 as part of the TechWomen Delegation, for which I gave the Networking Keynote address. I am happy to be working with Salwa Campbell as our Sierra Leone Peer Advisor for the five Emerging Leaders from Salone.

I was the Process Architect for TechWomen 2010-2011 and have been a TechWomen mentor and part of eleven international delegations since 2011. TechWomen is an exchange program of the US Department of State – Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This life changing program is very dear to me and I am looking forward to helping the 2020 Team Sierra Leone develop a project that will help their community.

Tools I mentioned on today’s training call, for teams working at a distance: Google Groups – email distribution and archive, WhatsApp – quick messages and meeting reminders, Facebook – personal updates and contacts, LinkedIn – professional updates and contacts, Skype or Zoom – to communicate verbally, Google Drive – to share and communicate in writing. Send a WhatsApp message to the whole team 2 hours in advance of a team meeting so they don’t have to remember US time zones, Daylight Savings, etc. Mentors have to keep up with country events by reading BBC News, Al Jazeera, New York Times

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Fabric from Africa

Face masks, fabric from Sierra Leone

Since we are sheltering in place during the Covid-19 lockdown, and I have a new machine, I have been sewing. In particular, I have had time to use some of the sophisticated and beautiful wax print fabrics I carried home from 11 trips to Africa since 2010. Some of it has become face masks and some curtains. My dining room is now bright with potato print tablecloths featuring elephant and guinea fowl patterns from Zimbabwe, and fish pattern curtains I made from fabric purchased in Sierra Leone. In the curtains, matching the leaping fish on either side of the center took some planning!

Earlier Katysblog posts with pictures of arts and crafts from some of my travels in Africa:

Potato print tablecloths from Zimbabwe
Dining room with African fabrics August 2020
Fabric purchased Sierra Leone 2017
2014 TechWomen in fabric shop, Rwanda2014 Rwanda
2017 Sierra Leone
2019 Sierra Leone Fabric2019 Sierra Leone

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Images Copyright 2014-2020 by Katy Dickinson.

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