Attending the Georgia Tech’s Annual Undergraduate Research Spring Symposium was a surprisingly valuable and eye opening experience for me. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I had not even heard of the symposium before my awesome Tech Communications professor asking us to attend. As I walked up the steps to the Student Center Ballroom, I realized I had no idea what to expect. It was exciting to see students outside chatting and enthusiastic volunteers to greet me with programmes. Unfortunately this was a stark contrast to the Poster Presentation session inside. Seemed like it was a lot of students waiting around for people to approach them and discuss their research. What a shame that our peers work so hard on their research for only a handful of their intended audience to show up.

Fortunately, I did not let this ruin my experience and I quickly approached a familiar face. I asked my friend about his research; “In Situ Magnetometry of Lithium Ion Batteries.” I was wowed with facts about how carefully stripping lithium from these batteries lead to spikes in magnetic susceptibility. I quickly realized how difficult it is to sum up a year of research into a poster and a 20 minute chat. When I brought up the question of whether or not I could follow his research development further, it seemed like a dead end. I suggested that he could keep us posted electronically, an idea that he took with interest. Hopefully this gets followed up on.

After thanking my friend for the enlightening talk I continued on my way and decided I wanted something I get my head around. A poster on gang prevention caught my eye. A cheery student told me it was this research was still in the ideation phase and she had not yet got a chance to collect data yet. I took this opportunity to give her some feedback and thoughts on her hypothesis. I really enjoyed giving my insight as an outsider. This made me realize we might be able to turn this model upside down. What about having all students doing these things as proposals? Young researchers could actually have a chance to collaborate and have a conversation with their peers rather than just talking at them. To put money where my mouth is, what do you all think of this idea?

Read More »

25 Apr 2013

LCC3403: Technical Communications with Paulette Richards was truly a change of pace from typical Georgia Tech classes. Instead of being drilled with problem sets, I was given the opportunity to develop my written, oral, visual, electronic, and non-verbal communication skills through a variety of creative projects. We kicked off the class by analyzing our resumes holistically, taking to account not only the content but overall design and feel. Together we discussed how a resume is a first impression and how we could improve the phrasing to focus on the most relevant information to recruiters. By the end I learned how to communicate my accomplishments effectively and concisely with the fewest amount of words.

Dovetailing from our resumes, as a class we considered the topic of one’s online reputation and how it is an increasingly important aspect of our lives and a company’s success. Students then chose topics to research and create a presentation around to educate rest of the class. My presentation focused on how celebrities interact with their fans through Reddit, an open source news platform. From my personal experience, I found slideshows with less text and more visuals were more effective so I made a conscious effort to illustrate my points through data and images. For example I used images rather than just the names of celebrities to illustrate examples of Reddit users. In addition, for the actual presentation, I knew the quality of a presentation was directly correlated with the excitement and non-verbal cues of the presenter. Due to this fact, I made sure to add physical cues and gestures to my rehearsal of the presentation. By the end of this project I was much more aware of my posture and non-verbal expressions.

The next set of assignments were spiritually related to a topic of Big Data. We all were again given the freedom to choose topics we had a passion about, mine being Massively Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. Our first exercise was to write up a technical process description. It was made clear that we would have to take into consideration our audience and the purpose. This made me deeply consider how style and language should reflect the intended audience of my writing. From this I wrote up a description of how I believed MOOCs would change the landscape of education for students.

Building on top of our technical description we created podcasts to demonstrate our new knowledge of big data. Using the technical description as a rough script, I used Audacity to record and edit a podcast. While listening to the playback of my podcast, it was made extremely evident that intonation and pitch heavily influenced the experience for my audience. This was compounded by the fact digital systems had trouble with certain aversion to sounds like “s.” I used with my next takes and post editing to polish my final podcast.

The last portion of our Big Data arc was to produce a poster that conveyed all that we learned. I decided create an infographic that defined what a MOOC was and how the major players in the space adapt through data analysis. Using visual data representations I was able to show the steps a MOOC data mined in a cyclical fashion as well as some other statistics on the size of the companies that are producing the classes. This was a great application of design theory and typography fundamentals that we went over in class.

As a bonus for my portfolio, I included an instructional video that I made for my company, eCommHub. Due to the fact eCommHub is a startup with only 4 employees that handle everything from development to marketing and support, we must try to minimize the time spent handling common questions for customers. To do so we created a video that explained how to set up our product. I was able to bring together a lot of aspects of multimedia and oral presentation to the instructional video. This was definitely a culmination of the skills I learned in class, especially making sure to address my intended audience as well as having clear language and intonation.

In the end this class has helped me become a well rounded engineer and developer who could communicate in the aspects of written, oral, visual, electronic, and non-verbal mediums. These projects are proud works I would like to share with peers, mentors, and employers. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did creating them!

Read More »

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are free online classes intended to reach a worldwide audience. These are individual courses ranging from high school to graduate level, in a spectrum of subjects that range from art history to data mining. MOOCs share two key features, one being they are through an online medium, and the other being free and open for anyone to sign up.

The tipping point crossed early last year when the three largest MOOC platforms, Coursera, EdX and Udacity, exited beta and publically launched. These platforms make it extremely easy for professors to move online by providing infrastructure to create video lectures, quizzes, tests and homeworks. It only took a couple of big-name, early adopters like UC Berkeley, MIT, U of Michigan, and Stanford to create a huge amount of buzz. Now Coursera is home to over 100 courses from over 20 universities. Almost all the Ivy leagues are on board and great institutions all over the world are joining in on the initiative.

For students the process is even better than signing up for classes at Georgia Tech. You are free to join as many classes as you want. The classes are fully structured, with homeworks, quizzes and tests. There are forums to interact other students, on which you can also frequently find study groups if you live in a city. These classes are transforming education in the United States and all over the world. The way that MOOCs can revolutionize education is through it’s huge audience and collection of data. Due to the massive user-base, professors can team up with data analysts to run A/B tests on specific questions and teaching methods that cannot be done in a traditional classroom. At this point, like many other tech companies leveraging big data, they have so much data and not enough people using it. In this way EdX, a joint venture by MIT and Harvard, will be releasing some of it’s data to the public to have a crack at it. Hopefully individuals will take advantage of this opportunity to come up with some new insights on education.

Read More »