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Generation Nano Challenge

News From NSF - 7 hours 15 min ago

NSF and NNI aim to promote an understanding and appreciation of nanotechnology and STEM careers in middle and high school students by inviting them to design an original superhero with nanotechnology-enabled gear.
More at https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/gennano/?WT.mc_id=USNSF_51


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NSF funds 30 faculty research fellowships through new EPSCoR initiative

News From NSF - Wed, 09/20/2017 - 10:00

New awards from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) will provide 30 non-tenured researchers with fellowships, partnering them with premier research centers and enhancing their ability to work at the frontiers of science and engineering.

The NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-4 fellowship awards total roughly $5.6 million and are ...
More at https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=243157&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click


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NSF awards $36.6 million in new food-energy-water system grants

News From NSF - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 12:15

The number of humans alive on our planet today is some 7.5 billion. By 2087, projections show, 11 billion people will be living on Earth.

How will we continue to have a sustainable supply of food, energy and water, and protect the ecosystems that provide essential "services" for humans?

To help answer these questions, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to award ...
More at https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=242998&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click


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NSF issues new EPSCoR awards, investing in science and engineering across nation

News From NSF - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 10:00

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded five jurisdictions nearly $20 million each through the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), which builds research and development capacity in states that demonstrate a commitment to research but have thus far lacked the levels of investment seen in other parts of the country.

The new EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-1 awards will bolster science and engineering academic research ...
More at https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=243159&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click


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The challenge of retaining women in computing: The 2016 Taulbee Survey: Supplementary Report on Course-level Enrollment

ComputingEd - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 07:00

The Computing Research Association (CRA) has just released a supplement to their 2016 Taulbee Survey report.  They now are collecting individual course data, which gives them more fine-grained numbers about who is entering the major, who is retained until mid-level, and who makes it to the upper-level.  Previously, they mostly just had enrollment and graduation data.  These new data give them new insights.  For example, we are getting more women and URM in computing, but we are not retaining them all.

Except in the introductory course for non-majors, the median percentage of women in courses at each level was either fairly constant or increasing [from previous years]. The most notable increase was in the mid-level course, where the median percentage of women went from 17.4 in 2015 to 20.0 in 2016. The median percentage of women in the upper-level course also increased, from 14.1 to 15.9 percent. We see a slight drop-off from the median percentage of women in the introductory course for majors in 2015 (21.0 percent) to the median percentage of women in the mid-level course in 2016 (20.0 percent), and a somewhat larger drop-off between the median percentage of women in the mid-level course in 2015 (17.4 percent) and the median percentage of women in the upper-level course in 2016 (15.9 percent).  Because the median percentage at each level is for a single representative course, not for all students at that level, some of the differences between levels may be attributable to the specific courses on which the institutions chose to report. Overall, however, this trend of decreasing representation of women at higher course levels is congruent with other data.

Source: The 2016 Taulbee Survey: Supplementary Report on Course-level Enrollment – CRA


Tagged: BPC, computing education, CRA, NCWIT, undergraduate education, women in computing

Changes in non-extreme precipitation may have not-so-subtle consequences

News From NSF - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 05:00

Find related stories on NSF's Critical Zone Observatories site.

Extreme floods and droughts receive a lot of attention. But what happens when precipitation -- or lack thereof -- occurs in a more measured way?

Researchers have analyzed more than five decades of data from across North America to find that changes in non-extreme precipitation are more significant than previously realized. ...
More at https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=243121&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click


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British girls “logging off” from CS: What’s the real problem?

ComputingEd - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 07:00

The BBC reports (in the article linked below) that the “revolution in computing education has stalled.”  The data from England (including the Roehampton Report, discussed in this blog post) do back up that claim — see the quotes at the bottom.

In this post, I’m reflecting on the response from the British Computer Society. “We need to do more with the curriculum to show it’s not just a nerdy boys’ subject. We’ve got to show them it’s about real problems like climate change and improving healthcare.”  There are some interesting assumptions and warrants in these statements.  Do girls avoid CS because they think it’s a boys’ subject, or because it’s not about real problems?  How does the curriculum “show” that it is (or isn’t) a “nerdy boys’ subject”?  If the curriculum emphasized “real problems,” would it no longer be a “nerdy boys’ subject”?  Are these at all connected? Would making CS be like “climate change and improving healthcare” attract more female students?

First, I’d like to know if the girls choosing ICT over CS are actually saying that it’s because CS is “a nerdy boys’ subject,” and if the girls know anything about the curriculum in CS.  In our research, we found that high school students know very little about what actually happens in undergraduate CS, and undergraduate students in CS don’t even know what’s in their next semester’s classes. Changing the curriculum doesn’t do much good if the girls’ decisions are being made without knowing about the curriculum.  The former claim, that CS is perceived by girls as a “nerdy boys’ subject,” is well-supported in the literature.  But is that the main reason why the girls aren’t enrolling?

Do we know that this a curriculum issue at all? The evidence suggests that there are other likely reasons.

  • Maybe it’s not the curriculum’s “problem” focus, but the “learning objective” focus. Do the girls percieve that the point of the course is to become part of the Tech industry as a professional programmer?  Maybe girls are more interested in broadening their potential careers and not limiting their options to IT?  ICT can be used anywhere.  CS might be perceived as being about being a software developer.
  • Are the girls seeing mass media depictions of programming and deciding that it’s not for them?  A 2016 ICER paper by Colleen Lewis, Ruth Anderson, and Ken Yasuhara explored the reasons why students might not feel that they have a good “fit” with CS (see ACM paper link here).  But are those the reasons why women might not even try CS? Maybe they have had experiences with programming and decided that they didn’t fit? Or maybe the decided that syntax errors and unit tests are just tedious and boring?
  • Are the girls seeing mass media depictions of the Tech industry and deciding that they’d rather not be a Googler or work at Uber? They are probably hearing about things like the Damore memo at Google. Whether they think he’s right or not, maybe girls are saying that they just don’t want to bother.
  • Do the girls have more choices, and CS is simply less attractive in comparison?  It may be that girls know that CS is about solving real problems, but they’d rather solve real problems in law, medicine, or business.
  • Do the girls perceive that wages are not rising in the Tech industry?  Or do the girls perceive that they can make more money (perhaps with fewer negative connotations) as a lawyer, doctor, or businessperson?

I have heard from some colleagues in England that the real problem is a lack of teachers.  I can believe that having too few teachers does contribute to the problem, but that raises the same questions at another level.  Why don’t teachers teach computer science?  Is it because they don’t want to be in the position of being “vocational education,” simply preparing software developers?  Or are teachers deciding that they are dis-interested in software development, for themselves or for their students?  Or are the teachers looking at other areas of critical need for teachers and decide that CS is less attractive?

Bottom line is that we know too little, in the UK or in the US (see Generation CS), about what is influencing student and teacher decisions to pursue or to avoid classes in computing. The reality doesn’t matter here — people make decisions based on their perceptions.

In England, entries for the new computer science GCSE, which is supposed to replace ICT, rose modestly from 60,521 in 2016 to 64,159 this year. Girls accounted for just 20% of entries, and the proportion was a tiny bit lower than last year.

ICT entries fell from 84,120 to 73,099, which you would expect as the subject is disappearing from the national curriculum. But it had proved more attractive to girls. Even there, the proportion of female entries fell from 41% to 39%.

Combine the two subjects, and you find that the number studying either subject has fallen by over 7,000 in the past year. Back in 2015 more than 47,000 girls were getting some kind of computing qualification, and that has fallen to about 41,000 – just 30% of the total.

Source: Computer science: Girls logging off – BBC News


Tagged: BPC, computing for all, computing for everyone, enrollment, NCWIT, retention, women in computing

NSF awards $14.7 million for research to deepen understanding of Earth’s biodiversity

News From NSF - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 10:25

Symbiotic bacteria -- microbes that have close and long-term relationships with their "hosts" -- are everywhere on Earth: in soil, in coral reefs, in humans.

Through a new National Science Foundation (NSF) Dimensions of Biodiversity grant, scientist Joel Sachs of the University of California, Riverside, will look at native California legume plants and their symbiotic nitrogen-providing bacteria, as well as at the soil in which the plants are rooted, to determine the magnitude of the ...
More at https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=242943&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click


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Business R&D performed in US reached $356 billion in 2015

News From NSF - Wed, 09/13/2017 - 11:25

Businesses spent $356 billion on research and development (R&D) performed in the United States in 2015, a 4.4 percent increase over the $341 billion spent in 2014.

Of the total R&D expenditures in 2015, companies spent $22 billion (6 percent) on basic research, $56 billion (16 percent) on applied research, and $278 billion (78 percent) on development. The spending shares did not change from 2014. Those data points come from the Business R&D and Innovation Survey (BRDIS), ...
More at https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=243082&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click


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