Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The IT Girl

The Hack Shack is a place where students can let their creativity flourish, and as staff, we have chosen to be the individuals that guide them through their learning process. However, to  this day, the staff members have been primarily male. I'm the currently the only female Hack Shack staff member, and only the second female in its first two years. I have been asked to share my experiences. We all know that there is a gender gap when it comes to women in technology.

The role of women in technology has significantly stalled and, in some cases, even declined. In 2008, women on average held 25% of IT-related jobs in the US, a drop from the 36% occupied in 1991. Also, women between 25 and 34 are reporting increasing dissatisfaction with their tech careers. 56% leave their jobs at the highlight of their career, which is twice the quit rate for men. According to a Reuters study, 30% of 450 technology executives stated that their groups had no women in leadership positions (Kvochko, 2016).

Women are becoming increasingly invisible in the thriving technology and computing sector, one of the top U.S industries and one of the fastest-growing professional occupations among U.S workers with an estimated 1.8 million jobs in computing by 2018, according to the U.S Department of Labor (Kvochko, 2016).

There are females out there that don't get the recognition that they deserve or the encouragement that they desire. Luckily, I get to work in an environment where I don't feel judged. So, no. I'm not going to concoct a sob story about how being a girl in the Hack Shack is difficult. There has never been a day in my many years of schooling, where someone has told me that I would never be good enough to work with technology.

Oyster River does a good job trying to motivate all of its students to pursue whatever they're passionate about, and providing them with opportunities to get there, especially in the STEM area. No one treats me differently for being a girl, and in fact, the males that come into the Hack Shack will even ask me to assist them with their projects. None of the other members hold me back and we all coexist seamlessly in that little room.

Well, I guess I will admit, it can be intimidating at times to be around people who have extensive knowledge of this technology. It can be weird to sit with them during our meetings, and hear them talk about things that I have no idea about. You can compare it to skateboarding as a kid. Because I'm a girl, I feel like I stand out as the odd ball, but any other guy at the skatepark wouldn't be given a second glance. Sometimes it can be frustrating to know that I'm doing at things at a much slower pace than the other guys are. However, this doesn't stop me from continuing to learn.

 I have taught myself how to use the Silhouette Cameo, which some members don't even know how to use. That machine can be used for artistic projects, which is my area of expertise. I've made various things, like temporary tattoos, and stickers. It gives the Makerspace a whole different perspective.  In the Hack Shack, we can all learn from each other. People can learn how to use the Silhouette Cameo from me, and I can learn how to use the MakerBot from the other members. We all aren't knowledgeable about everything, but that's the point of the class, to keep learning. Just because I'm a girl, doesn't mean I know any less, or any more than the people around me.  

So, we should keep encouraging women to join technology, because I'm having a wonderful time. One thing I can say though is this: The Hack Shack has been given some flair because of me (Obviously because of my awesome signage).

Kvochko, Elena. "Why There Are Still Few Women Leaders in Tech." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 4 Jan. 2016. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Grow a Tree: Stay Focused on School

Grow a Tree Stay Focused on School
-James Kahn

It's common knowledge that cellphones have the side of effect of being distracting. Look around at any point during the day and people will be looking down at their phones instead of interacting with people. This distraction takes away from more than just social life. Cell phones constantly take away from the time and effort you put into work/school work.

How do you fix this though?

For me this wasn't easy, even if I wanted to leave my phone alone it would constantly vibrate, just calling to be used. A simple solution is airplane mode, but this means I can't listen to music while I work, making it a choice I would rather avoid. To solve this problem, a friend recommend an app called Forest Stay Focused. This is actually a really simple app; it's basically a timer. You set a timer on your phone and while the timer is running, you can't go play games or get distracted without a penalty. This penalty is that you kill a tree, not an actual tree but a virtual one. You see when you set the timer you start the growth of a virtual tree. Stop the timer early and it dies. Don't touch your phone and a trees grows. Another good part of the app is that each time a tree grows you are rewarded with leaves. When you gather 2,500 leaves you can donate them to have a tree planted in real life.

Now, you would be surprised by how much I resisted using my phone so as to not kill a tree. With the app on I, didn't want to even check my phone. Before you think, "Wait, this has no benefit over airplane mode," it does.  I have the ability to whitelist apps. What this means is that I can select apps like Pandora or Spotify and continue to listen music even with the block on the device.

I highly urge people to try out this app. There's no downside to the app. It allows you to stay focused and helps the environment. Plus for those that are really ambitious you can download onto Chrome for even more tree growing.
Stay Focused Logo. Digital image. Forest. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2016.

To download go to :

Unreal Engine 4 is Seriously Unreal

Unreal Engine 4 Overview

What is a game engine?
Image result for skyrim

All of our beloved games, whether nostalgic classics or new cutting-edge titles, are developed using a game engine, so what is it? A game engine is essentially a collection of organized software that would allow for easier game development which combines many parts to work with each other such as physics (movement), graphics(displaying on screen)  or audio (direction) each with a massive array of tools for you to customize and create with. By using a game engine you don't have to waste time writing code. If you are a company such as Bethesda Softworks(developer of Skyrim) that generally uses their own coded/designed game engine (Creation Engine) you can then reuse that same engine to develop other games which would save an incredible amount of work and time. (For example Fallout 4 which was made with the same engine as Skyrim).
Image result for fallout 4
(Fallout 4)

With these 2 games as an example we can see that they are totally different from each other, but if you have ever played both (which if you haven't, I HIGHLY suggest it) you may notice the similarities in the gameplay mechanics and designs such as Lock Picking which is almost identical in mechanics but re-skinned, given a different audio and animation to look different. This would be much simpler to do in a game engine since all you have to do is edit, not create and code all over again.

Image result for skyrim lockpicking
Image result for fallout lockpicking

What is Unreal Engine 4?
Image result for unreal engine 4

As they put it themselves, Unreal Engine 4 is an array of tools for game developers. Such games can range from 2D mobile side-scrollers to 3D first-person shooters. Functions include VR compatibility, blueprints and even a marketplace of community made assets and code. And best of all, it's FREE. Professionals working for corporations (Microsoft/Apple/etc) and even complete novices alike are able to use this engine. Heck, even I got the hang of it in a week of summer camp.

Some of the notable games developed using Unreal
Image result for gow 4
Image result for batman arkham knight

Brief beginner's rundown

This is what you would start off with when using a default first-person shooter map. As you can see, there are many different function all in one area which makes it confusing at first but will eventually become more of a convenience as you use it more. The topography, spawn points, textures/animations, even blast radius can be modified and changed all in one area. Essentially the best way to start learning is to test and play around like I did. Unreal even provides a character for you to play as to test your map (press play) by walking around/shooting/etc.

And eventually you become more familiar with this engine you can begin to design your first map like I did (I AM BY NO MEANS A PROFESSIONAL).

Here's me testing my map with the character I mentioned before UE4 provided for you (see the gun and icons?).

See the little wires on the table? Those are mesh placeholders for items such as the health pack and ammunition seen below.

Things to note
-I used nothing but what was provided in UE4 (including textures)
-Took me a couple hours to make
-Very much like a mix between Photoshop and a 3D print design program
-This is just barely scratching the surface of this engine's potential

While I could sit here and talk for hours about all the features this engine has to offer, I would recommend that you watch this video to fully grasp the sheer amount of things it can accomplish. If you don't have the time or are just lazy, here are a few screenshots.

The Future
As time progresses and each new triple-A game (highest quality, well known titles)  is released, the demand for more and more hyperrealism increases. Have you ever wondered how far video games could go? UE4 provides some of the best I have ever seen (some may blow your mind) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTb7k9pCQTo
(Again a few screencaps for you lazy folks)

So you may be wondering, "If this can be done, why aren't games like this?" and the answer to that question is a good thing to think about. What makes a game a game like Skyrim or Fallout is not just the graphics, but the gameplay/content. The samples you see here or in the video are simply there only with animation and with the purpose of looking at. The processors/parts of computers/consoles wouldn't be able to handle this amount of detail along with gameplay. Which means that eventually in the future games will look like this but the technology has yet to catch up to what engines like UE4 can achieve.

Next On the Plate: 3D Printed Food!

Next On the Plate: 3D Printed Food!
By: Owen Moore
Food is an important aspect in anyone's life. Without food, one would not be able to survive. Food is also a driving force in many people's lives as well. I for one can say that is true. I love any type of food; I love the taste of ice cream, donuts, sushi and pizza just to name a few.  As Kevin James once said, "There's no better feeling in the world than a warm box of pizza on your lap," and I completely agree. The only trouble is having to dial up a restaurant for the pizza or struggling with making it yourself. Wouldn't it be great if you could just print your own pizza or whatever you feel like? Well, now you can.
In recent years the demand for 3D printing has gone up, as has the number of things that you can design and make. But, there has been no revolutionary idea or development that has surpassed the newfangled technology of 3D printed food. Now, with this new technology one can print a pizza, pasta or anything else.
Take the "Foodini" for example, this 3D printer allows you to print stuffed ravioli, pizza and more.
Another thing that is being discussed about 3D food printers is the topic of sustainable food. With these 3D printers, food could be more accessible and would help to eliminate some of the livestock that is kept for consumption. This would then help to lower the emissions of greenhouse gases such as methane. Methane is created both through natural sources and human activities, including the decomposition of wastes in landfills, agriculture, and rice cultivation. Methane is also, a byproduct of animals. Because, there is an increasing amount of humans in the world there is also an increase of animals for food. Through this increase of livestock, there is an increase of methane in the atmosphere. Also, in order to feed the livestock, these animals need to be fed. A common form of food that is fed to livestock are things such as grain. In order for grain to be produced, it has to be cultivated. But, nitrous-oxide, another major greenhouse gas, is produced by soil cultivation practices, especially the use of fertilizers, both commercial and organic. So, if there is a lesser amount of livestock, greenhouse gas emissions will drop as well.
On top of the sustainability of 3D printed food, this form of 3D printing has worked its way into the gourmet food world. In 2015, the Culinary Institute of America partnered with 3D Systems, maker of the ChefJet, another 3D food printer. Now, 3D printed food has become an art form. Things such as intricate flavored sugar (shown on the right)  printed in fancy geometric designs have been created.
In other news, 3D printed food has been introduced to restaurants. "Food Ink.," the first ever 3D printed restaurant, opened last summer in London, England.  To see a video clink on the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWOVvSfSjCM

Works Cited
@Digitaltrends. "Why 3D Food Printing Is More than Just a Novelty — It's the Future of Food." Digital Trends, 21 Aug. 2015, http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/3d-food-printers-how-they-could-change-what-you-eat/.
Hadhazy, Adam. "Will 3D Printers Manufacture Your Meals?" Popular Mechanics, 30 Jan. 2015, http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gadgets/a8816/will-3d-printers-manufacture-your-meals-15265101/.
Https://3dprint.com/author/scott-j-grunewald/. "Will the Foodini Food 3D Printer Be the Microwave of the Future?" 3DPrintcom, 11 Apr. 2016, https://3dprint.com/129130/foodini-food-3d-printer/.
"Kevin James Quotes." BrainyQuote, Xplore, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/k/kevin_james.html.
Prisco, Jacopo. "'Foodini' Machine Lets You Print Edible Burgers, Pizza." CNN, Cable News Network, http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/06/tech/innovation/foodini-machine-print-food/.
"Will 3D Printers Make Food Sustainable?" The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 18 May 2012, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/may/18/3d-printers-food-sustainable.
"World&Rsquo;s First 3D-Printing Restaurant May Serve the Future of Sustainable Food." Inhabitat Green Design Innovation Architecture Green Building, http://inhabitat.com/worlds-first-3d-printing-restaurant-may-serve-the-future-of-sustainable-food/.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Maker Bot!

Designing The Makerbot
By Jarrod Bernier

For almost a year I worked on one project. That project was "The Makerbot." I designed it in Sketch-Up, which at the time was the only 3D design software that I knew how to use. The idea of the Makerbot is that he would be a mascot for the MakerSpace and allow for us to advertise more easily and increase foot traffic in the Hack Shack. DSCN0556.JPG
I faced many problems while designing the Makerbot and I conquered them as they came along. The first problem I faced was with the first edition. His joints were too small and the plastic pieces themselves bent and twisted and broke instead of doing what they were supposed to do. What a bummer!

DSCN0554.JPGThis sent me back to the drawing board and back into Sketch-Up to see if I could fix the problem. Well, after another month or so I had what I thought was the answer. However after printing the second edition of the Makerbot. I found that it had a flaw as well. But this time the joints were too large and all of the limbs fell out.

DSCN0557.JPGBy now I was determined to get this right. 3rd time's the charm right?
Not in this case. The third edition I printed the whole thing way too small and had a mix of two problems. The leg joints were too small and the arm joints were too big. So I went in for one final print!
This time the print was going fine until the printer itself was actually unplugged mid print. Gaaah!

One final time and I got the result I wanted. A completed Makerbot that has movable arms and legs, that don't fall out of their sockets. Huzzah!
But now I faced a whole new problem … What to design next! The possibilities are endless! If you have any ideas come on down B period and let me hear 'em! I am open to any suggestion!

So You Want To Learn Something?

We’ve all heard it before. Technology has changed everything”. As our CPUs get faster and our networks more diverse, we cannot deny the ever-permeating presence of technology in our lives has changed the ways in which we live.

But what about education?

Before looking at the current educational situation, it is important to take a step back and briefly think about education’s history. If this doesn’t interest you, feel free to jump to the next part of the blog post!

When one thinks of accessing knowledge a century ago, a library would likely come to mind. With shelves upon shelves of information, there was no better way to surround yourself with knowledge. Combining this access to information with structured courses and knowledgeable professors formed a successful way of learning. One that still resonates with us today.

However, the internet has made everything accessible to practically everyone. From an educational standpoint, this has caused a drastic change in the first mentioned access to information, potentially rivaling the invention of writing in magnitude! The world wide web is full of information structured in a class like manner. All you need is the drive to take advantage of this information.  

Of course, you need to know where to find it first! Below you can find the various resources I have used throughout my academic career with accompanying descriptions of each. Let me know of any I missed!

Kahn Academy                                               https://www.khanacademy.org/

With everything from kindergarten math to multi-variable calculus, Kahn Academy is a one stop shop for a high school education and beyond. Free of charge, Kahn Academy provides the world with thousands of hours of lecture based classes. These classes have built in quizzes placed strategically throughout the course to reinforce the covered topics.

Personally I have used Kahn Academy to study for the SAT and review chemistry concepts before exams. Last summer I learned differential and integral calculus solely from Kahn Academy to qualify for a class I wanted to take at a local university!

With the whole of Kahn Academy at your fingertips, all you need is the motivation and desire to learn to explore complex concepts. With courses structured for preparing for the post-undergrad MCAT exams to getting into college, Kahn Academy can be a powerful asset in your academic journey.

TL;DR: The key advantages of Kahn Academy are
    Their vast library of structured courses
    Discussion forums
    It’s all free!

iTunes U                                                          itunes.apple.com/us/app/itunes-u/

If you find yourself pursuing a topic of interest to levels beyond average, iTunes U might be for… you! With courses from Stanford, MIT, Harvard, and other big name schools, there is no doubt that you will be able to find challenging material in the subjects you are interested in!

Most of iTunes U’s classes consist of recorded college lectures organized into a class format. Most classes will also include homework and other documents that were provided to the students taking the class at the time.

TL;DR: The key advantages of iTunes U are
    Vast selection of higher-education topics
    Lectures provide an introduction to what taking a college class is like!

Code Academy                                                    www.codecademy.com/

You would be hard pressed to find a better online resource for learning computer programming than Code Academy. Covering a vast selection of topics ranging from web design, database programming, version control, and the command line, Code Academy has all of the bases covered!

Again, Code Academy provides structured classes to help the learner form the connections they need to in order to understand a new topic. Throughout the course the user is encouraged to experiment with the concepts they just learned.

Unfortunately Code Academy does not have a well integrated question-answer system as Kahn Academy does. Some features are also pro-only, requiring a monthly subscription. These downfalls are countered however by the service it provides: making it easier for future programmers around the world to start their coding education.

TL;DR: The key advantages of Code Academy are
    A large selection of programming topics
    Ease of use and an elegant layout of the courses



Honorable Mentions


      Stack Overflow (stackoverflow.com ):  This site provides a lively question-answer environment to which you can always turn to when you get stuck.    

    Wikipedia (wikipedia.org): The information may not always be 100% accurate, but arguably the largest collection of human knowledge ever to exist is great for brushing up on subjects or exploring interesting topics.
    Udemy (www.udemy.com): Udemy has paid-for classes on everything from business to baking. Featuring a large course catalog and a friendly instructor/student ecosystem, Udemy has a lot to offer.  

In Conclusion

There are certainly more options out there than the ones listed here. Regardless, the important thing to realize is that these opportunities are out there, waiting to be taken advantage of. If you have some free time and want to pick up a skill, take that first step and find a resource to learn from. Who knows what you will accomplish.

All of the information in this blog post came from personal experience.