Women in engineering

But they should contribute more.

Why they don’t? Because of numbers.

Just days ago Business Insider published it’s yearly showcase of the most powerful women engineers and as they say, it was hard to dig them out. Of course it was! The percentage of of women holding technical jobs in corporate America is abysmally small (about 15%) and in Europe things go lower. Just 6% of professional engineers are women in the UK (the lowest proportion in Europe).

That is actually very bad. In one of the most blooming places to be and women are not in here. And this is not about politically correctness. It’ s a shame.

Women are capable for engineering the same way men are and that means more capable people in an industry that really needs them.

We have to get their attention!

There are many dedicated initiatives to push women to become engineers.IEEE Women in engineeringSociety of Women Engineersdedicateduniversity programs and many more just a google search away. But why they fail so far?

An article puts the reasons in order:

  1. Teasing in school
  2. A Lack of Encouragement
  3. Stereotypes
  4. Childcare
  5. Competition
  6. Marginalisation
  7. Bias

These are mostly society perception issues.

However many women decide to follow scientific careers, but it is hard to keep them there. A study showed that 40% of women who got an engineering degree never used it professionally or when they did, they soon left. The reasons were mostly because they claimed that they had uncivil workplaces, supervisors didn’t support them and they also complained about male coworkers.

Many women are interested in engineering but they are being kept back.

Some companies try to change that. Not in the best way possible in my opinion but they try.

The trend is to show how easy it is for women to get involved with electronics by giving them ways to incorporate them in their clothes.

But when you mostly showcase that women want sew stuff with conductive thread and glue textiles everywhere, I believe you are kind of reducing them.

Hey, look how easy it is to do this. As easy as this other stuff you know how to do as a woman. Stitching, isn’t it?

I wouldn’t like it.

I am talking mostly about Sparkfun and Adafruit which are two companies that I love. Adafruit’s CEO (Ladyada) is a woman by the way.

With the Arduino Flora there was a chance for women interested in the fashion industry to add sensors, buttons and lights to their clothes. This is awesome and broadening for the fashion enthusiast but this can’t be the end of it. There are many more interesting engineering stuff out there that are not “girly” and women may want to mess with.

“I’m not a woman engineer. I’m an engineer”.
Carla (Alice Wetterlund), Silicon Valley

Many women like to play with motors, high voltages or design rockets. Many of my friends are like that and they are good engineers. This looks more interesting and more inspiring to me. Women that have genuine interest for the technology and not just the final application.

What we should do instead?

Showcase the countless women that disrupt engineering every day, like Ladyada for whom we talked about or those who Business Insider found. That women are engineers of equal capacity to men and that we loose great possible engineers due to social idiocy. If you are a woman, don’t come and play with electronics because it is easy (it is not). Come because you love it and you are needed. Not as woman. As an individual!

Dear Jessie

Jessie is not a person.

Jessie is the new stable release of Debian. And maybe it will get Debian to be my Linux operating system of choice.

As you may know I use a MacBook Air and I am happy with OS X.

To increase my disk space I got a 240GB SSD from OWC and for almost a year the system was humming fine.

Last week I experienced freezes and discovered that the SSD was under extensive heat. I swapped it for the old one and realised that I should shrink my space requirements until I know what’s happening with the old disk and how to fix it.

Immediately I thought…

Put Linux on this thing!

I’ve mostly used Ubuntu and Arch in my past computers.

Ubuntu mentioned on it’s wiki that there was some problems with my model. Also I can tolerate Ubuntu’s Unity but that is not to say I am fond of it. Suddenly I remembered that Linus Torvalds uses Fedora on his MacBook Air. So I gave it a shot.

I could not find an image that included the Broadcom drivers for my wireless card so my installation required a few more steps. Extensive heat, Gnome 3 and the random clicking from the trackpad made me give up in an hour or two (mostly Gnome 3 though).

Then I found out on twitter that the latest stable Debian release (codenamed Jessie) was out on Saturday. What a coincidence that on Saturday was my birthday!

I found a Debian image that included the non-free packages and I installed it on my whole drive.

The famous Cinnamon from Linux Mint was available as a choice so I used that.

Now I can say I am thrilled!

The last time I tried to install Debian I ended up with an unusable computer. Now on of the least supported notebooks on Linux it ran fairly well.

I tuned the touchpad as a point and shoot device removing the fancy stuff and followed some guides to prevent some interrupts that were going crazy on Mac while on Linux and the thing was more than usable.

Even the display port worked seamlessly!

Not to say there was no problems.

Battery life was not good. 3 hours compared to 5ish on OS X with moderate use. The touchpad in the configuration I had was not so pleasure to work with and there was excessive heat and fan spinning for simple tasks.

A day latter I did a clean install of OS X.

I needed the battery life and a trackpad that does not crack my nerves as I bus-travel a lot every week.

However I am very impressed with Debian. I can even recommend it to Ubuntu users and enthusiasts. It is a legit choice if you want something almost as stable as Arch with the compatibility offerings of Ubuntu.

If I don’t grab a MacBook for my next computer (Surface Pro please become cheaper), it will probably dual boot with Debian!

Activating kids

Recently we had the chance to show some kids what Electrical and Computer Science Engineers do and challenge them to tackle a problem in their school.

And boy that was awesome!

I am a board member at the IEEE Student Branch of the University of Patrasand with some other members we decided to implement an IEEE program called TISPAnd we believe we nailed it!

We contacted a lyceum close to our uni. They heard us and they decided they would like to work with us.

First step was to get some kids to one of our events.

It happened so our next programmed event was “Robotics & 3D Printing” which would be an awesome demonstration!

Here are some photos from there.

Kids were excited!

So it was our turn to get on their school. We prepared our slides and a surprise activity.

The teachers organised a limited student event with 25 people max so we could be as effective as possible.

As we learned, we already had created high expectations and some kids escaped their classes to attend our event resulting to an audience double in numbers from what we expected.

That made us super happy and anxious at the same time. We had 2 hours to do so much!

So we started!

Algorithmic problems, circuits and robots were flying in front of their eyes.

Kid’s were hooked from the first minutes and they made some interesting questions.

Then it was project time!

The theme was a cliche but it really worked.

Let’s become engineers

Kids formed teams and were asked to:

  • Identify a problem
  • Examine solutions
  • Propose a final solution along with it’s requirements.
  • Present all that in class

Very original ideas came up from e-learning to energy savings and school security.

One particular team pinched my interest. The kids that seem to have little to no interest for school.

The irony was that they proposed a solution to a problem that they mostly create, which is class skipping.

It was an actual problem in schools and their solution was one that could be easily implemented, had little to no adoption curve and was chosen between other good solutions (some of them unorthodox).

The teachers were very impressed too! These boys are a real challenge to keep as an audience for 10 minutes in a regular class. And then you see them attached to something interactive like this for two hours!

Next day was awesome too!

I had prepared a Python workshop for another class.

We did some basic stuff and at the end I guided them through creating their own simple web app using Wolfram Alpha and IMdB to get the IMdB links of the best selling movies of the year they chose.

You can see it as a heroku app here!

They saw they could go from Zero to Hero in no time and Wolfram Alpha (a tool that we use regularly as engineers) was in their arsenal to play with.

We started packing to leave and we spotted a girl studying the equation plots of a RLC circuit on Wolfram Alpha.

It felt good.

#bansports or #fixsports?

If sports and mostly the competition did not exist I would not have been the individual I am today.

Competition in biology, ecology, and sociology, is a contest between organisms, animals, individuals, groups, etc., for territory, a niche, or a location of resources,for resources and goods, mates, for prestige, recognition, awards, or group or social status, for leadership.

This is where the problems grow. No man that enjoys a good run or play/watch a game of basketball can do any harm.

Competition is great so it attracts money for greater results. Without it there are no sports and no interest in them. Even if we run alone we want to be in competition with ourself. To beat our last record or cover a bigger distance.

So far so good.

However this is where the word professional comes in and where bad practices begin like excessive pressure, unauthorized (or “authorized”) supplements, athlete exploitation (see March Madness) and so on.

Sport events take huge extends some times and fan behavior can be dangerous or lethal. Once in Greece on the year 1981 and at the end of a football match 21 people died because some stepped on them literally.

As with many things in our current society like diversity, xenophobia, etc. the problem can be solved with better education even if the lack of it cannot be blamed as the main factor of this problem’s origin. People get excited with exciting stuff and if we are to ban sports we should start with other stuff first.

People like sports and there is nothing wrong with it. They like sports and sport events from the ancient times so we can say that this is a thing that is not going anywhere and we cannot realistically ban it due to some incidents. And we shouldn’t.

What we should do is Fix Sports!

Educate athletes and mostly their families, coaches and if possible the fans.

Sports build character like nothing I’ve seen. Me and my teamates are a valid example of this. Maybe we were just lucky and had a great coach and great families but hey, there are many examples just like us for this to be a coincidence.

So, don’t #bansports! #fixsports!

FORCE your self!

This is one of the most important and motivating TED talks I’ve seen.

I promise, it worths your time:

I’ve been in a mode of getting more stable and reliable in the last months but when I saw this 3 or 4 days ago, it was like the random thoughts in my head strengthen and got in order. I try to avoid the emergency brake in any situation. Of course it fails some times but the rest of them are very satisfying.

Change is hard and you are never gonna feel like it.
The more you force yourself, the more you are going to feel like it.

Does Greece have a plan?

How can a country afford to be so unready all the time?

I am talking about Greece. We were the centre of the world for a while some days ago for the 4 month bailout extension we got in February. And of course for our controversial Minister of Economics, Mr. Varoufakis.

As for a little context, Greek people voted for a Greece in Euro and out of the crisis minus the austerity. Maybe it is a fool’s quest, maybe not.

From the day after, Mr. Varoufakis has become the Rock Star of the Economics aka. Minister of Awesome aka. Minister of OMFG. due to his looks and attitude. As for negotiating it looks like he bit more than he could possibly chew. Let’s say it could have gone better…

Spending some time to the TV news and watching Syriza’s representatives, 3 or 4 plans seem to exist. And the collisions between them are fundamental.

You see, the thing with the government is that they are not a united body with a common direction. They are more like children having their shoes glued together and everyone want’s to go somewhere else.

There are people who say we must cooperate and do the needed by common sense changes. There are people suggesting to use the extension as a prep to leave euro and return to drachma. Some other few want to get in bed with Mr. Putin.

As a result no common direction can be achieved and we end up stalling. And every day that continues it costs vastly.

Mr. Tsipras is more capable than I thought for his place. He is a populist alright but he has managed to keep these children and the people together even if Syriza has skewed from it’s program which was more like a fairytale. He is reachable and people like him. As an individual I can say he is the better leader from what’s available.

That’s why Alexis Tsipras must give or even force direction to the children with the glued shoes. If he does not, his government will do exactly what Antoni’s Samaras government didVirtually nothing. Not because it couldn’t because it stalled.

There is a chance for an actual change for Greece. It is the first time in many years that people actually support their government. And that is the key for Greece to fix stuff it couldn’t before.

So please, stop wondering how it will look like. First month is gone. Stop stalling and start working because there are many things to solve and you haven’t even picked your first.

Tick Tack