BXV Elementary School Coding Workshops

Last Thursday, the BVX Girls Coding Club organized an afterschool activity for second to fifth graders with the hope of creating more interest in STEM subjects, particularly with girls. With seven types of workshops, the elementary schoolers were encouraged to combine both programming and engineering concepts in their workshops. For example, the LittleBits station, which simulated a circuit formed of electronic building blocks, or the Makey-Makey station, which encouraged creativity by connecting common objects to computer programs. Younger students worked with Cubetto and Dash & Dot, two robots that demonstrate how computers (in this case the robots) took commands that were written into a program (which the students accomplished through basic block based coding). Exposure to such activities left the students excited to learn more, both on their own and in their technology classes. Continue reading “BXV Elementary School Coding Workshops”


Stop “Robber Barons” From Monopolizing Our Internet

If you are reading this and you know what net neutrality is, stop and go tell congress to stop the FCC vote here. Seriously, go do it now.

Okay, for everyone else: the quick version. Net neutrality is the idea that America’s internet should have a capitalist, competitive market, and regulations exactly like those on offline business market. I know, right? What a revolutionary idea. The alternative, which the FCC (the government agency in charge of radio, tv, and phone transmissions, not really the internet) likes to call “free and open internet,” is internet service providers being able to do things that would violate antitrust laws if they happened in the physical world, with a physical product. Comcast would be able to lower internet speeds for certain websites, including those that would otherwise compete with their own streaming services, as Verizon has already illegally done with Netflix for its users.

The FCC voted on December 14th, but even after they vote to remove regulations there are still a few more steps to go through before your cable bill doubles just to keep Netflix and youtube. Congress has the ability to stop the vote, however, as long as they get enough concerned citizens contacting them. Go to https://www.battleforthenet.com/ and sign the petition to keep the internet a free market for everyone.  Then, you can call congress, and the website makes it very easy by giving you a script. Thanks.

Data on an Unusual Star: KIC 8462852

Scientists looking at past data of a certain patch of the night sky have noticed something strange: a star, named KIC 8462852, seems to have dimmed in overall brightness by a significant factor, over 20% since 1890. This may seem like a long time, but in the life cycle of a star, this is faster than anything scientists have ever seen before. Intriguingly, the star has also been dimming and brightening erratically, sometimes by as much as 22%. Both of these are things that have never been seen before. Scientists initially hypothesized that a cloud of comets or large planets could be causing the dimming, but before long this was ruled out, as the dimming was too erratic. Another, even less credible theory, is that the star is home to a high level Kardashev civilization, one which has harnessed the energy of its sun by building a large solar panel-like structure around it. If this theory sounds far out to you, then you are with good company. It is a concept straight out of science fiction, and most of the scientific community (ancient alien theorists aside) does not believe in this “Dyson Sphere” theory. Even if life did exist in the KIC 8462852 system, harnessing energy on this scale is entirely hypothetical and may not be possible.

The technology being used to look for signs of this star is a mix of old photographic plates from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and the Kepler Telescope. The data gathered from these sources was compiled, and the new data from Kepler supported the older data, painting a picture of the star’s unprecedented dimming. Questions of the reliability of the plates have been brought up, as the old technology could hold less accurate data. However, this is unlikely, as the plates are backed up by Kepler, with modern technology.

If any of this sounds interesting, I have provided some links to additional reading in the text above.

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