Call for interest – Women Who Code Birmingham Chapter

Hello!

If you’re here, you’re interested in forming a chapter of Women Who Code, here in Birmingham.

Women Who Code‘s key initiatives include:

  • Free technical study groups (Ruby, Javascript, iOS, Android, Python, Algorithms)
  • Connecting our community with influential tech experts and investors
  • Career and leadership development
  • Increasing female speakers and judges at conferences and hackathons
  • Increasing participation in the tech community

To join as a founding member, please sign-up for the initial list below. Once we hit twenty women, we’ll set a date for a first organizing meeting.

— Shirley Hicks

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Hans Rosling and the Joy of Stats

Hate statistics? Don’t know much about them? Have an hour? Then sit down and watch the best video you’ll ever see that will tell you why statistics are important and how they tell us so very much about our world. Hans Rosling does it again.

http://www.gapminder.org/videos/the-joy-of-stats/

The Story of Stuxnet

When I started my computer science program, and was taking the first of the introductory classes during fall 2009, our Alice prof mentioned the need for programmers with security training to “harden” critical utility infrastructure. This was before the Stuxnet computer virus did its thing to the Iran centrifuges. Having a bit of life experience, my immediate conclusion was that if the threat had been identified, and was actively being discussed within the U.S., it was because there were tools capable of doing so either in development at a skunkworks, or already deployed against  enemies of the U.S.

Nine months later, Kaspersky Labs first identified the Stuxnet virus used to destabilize the Iranian uranium centrifuges. This article, published by the IEEE’s Spectrum magazine this month, tells the story in some detail.

UAB’s 3-D Printer Lab

Had a tour of UAB’s 3D printer lab Friday afternoon.

Disclosure: I’m a student enrolled in the UAB business school information systems program. I’m also doing a minor in computer science. The guy who runs the lab, Dr. Sloan, is my algorithms class prof this semester.

A jumbled collection of watch parts printed in white ABS plastic.

Watch parts printed in ABS plastic as part of 3-D Print Lab student project

The 3D printer lab is part of the computer science department at Campbell Hall. They have two industrial printers and 3 MakerBot machines of varying vintages and capabilities. They can print ABS plastic, ABS plastic with a secondary plastic for structures requiring support during production, and a biodegradable plastic which can be broken down and gradually replaced within living organisms.

Dr. Sloan is actively looking for on campus collaborators; if you need to prototype objects as part of your research or development process, he has the facilities. Samples of some of the work they’ve been prototyping while getting started can be seen at http://3dprintlab.cis….

He’s also actively recruiting for a collaborative computer science and art class, CS 491, which will be run during the next fall semester. Computer Science students and art students will be working in pairs to design, program and generate 3-D objects. No formal prerequisites are required, although he suggested that you have a good grasp of either programming or 3-D design/sculpture before enrolling.

How to count to 31 on one hand

When I started my computer science studies, as a mature student with no programming experience, I took a class that introduced me to the basic programming and computer science concepts that underpin all computer architecture and programming.

These concepts are:

As part of learning about binary numbers, we learned how to count to 31 on one hand.

This video, from Fuerve, shows you how.

Struggling through Java

When I first returned to school, I started off with a introduction to programming concepts. I took an Alice class and a Python class while relearning most of my high school mathematics, and then spent a year in introductory Java programming hell, learning the basic concepts while attempting to also learn enough about Eclipse, the open source programming tool, to effectively steer it without crashing it. I’m learning programming in my forties, and much to my chagrin, I can’t just “soak up the knowledge” the way I used to twenty years ago. It’s work and I have to learn deliberately, using structured memorization techniques, acronyms and physical rehearsal to remember key programming structures & concepts. The thing that I need to learn the most also scares me the most; I’m not always sure that the time and effort I’m spending on this is going to be worth it.

As a mature student, you have obligations outside the classroom and these can easily interfere with spending the time you need to really pound concepts into your head. I find that I am also constantly wondering about where I’m going to use this – I really want to see how all this is used in the real world.

 

 

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