Archive for January, 2013

FabLab goes to Thailand

January 31st, 2013

Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra welcomes Paulo Blikstein at the opening of an education conference on Jan. 15 in Bangkok. (Photo credit: Suksapattana Foundation)

Stanford’s PAULO BLIKSTEIN received a warm welcome from Thailand’s Prime Minister YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA in Bangkok earlier this month to celebrate the opening of his latest educational FabLab.

Blikstein, assistant professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), is at the forefront of a movement to improve the teaching of science, engineering and math by enabling students to use high-tech equipment – laser cutters, 3D printers, milling machines, robotics and other tools – to learn by making, creating and collaborating. The opening of the FabLab at the Darunsikkhalai School for Innovative Learning follows Blikstein’s launching of labs in Moscow and at the Castilleja School in Palo Alto, along with establishing one at Stanford.

“A FabLab is a very special place in a school,” Blikstein told a gathering of some 250 Thai education policy makers and teachers at the 1st Thailand Constructionism Symposium, which ran Jan. 15-17. “It is a disruptive space – an invention lab, but also a science lab, a robotics club and a place for people to hang out and make stuff.”

In addition to talks by Blikstein and the prime minister, the three-day symposium featured the official signing of a partnership between the GSE and leading educational institutions in Thailand, made possible by a $1.1 million grant from the Suksapattana Foundation. Along with the new FabLab, the agreement includes fellowships for Thai graduate students to study in the GSE’s Learning, Design and Technology Master’s Program and support for Stanford postdoctoral scholars to conduct research on how the Thai FabLab is helping students to learn.

Blikstein emphasized that the key to FabLab’s success in schools is research that measures what works and what doesn’t and how to develop appropriate lesson plans.

NEIL GERSHENFELD of the MIT Media Lab developed the idea of a FabLab in the early 2000s, mainly as a way to foster entrepreneurship and product design in communities. Blikstein was a graduate student at MIT at that time. Upon his arrival at Stanford in 2008, Blikstein was the first to propose the idea of using these technologies in K-12 schools to create a new kind of lab, with its own particular architecture, materials and curricula, all specially designed for schools and children.

“Many people thought that I was crazy at the time – putting a laser cutter and a 3D printer in the hands of a 12-year-old,” Blikstein said. But to date, young learners in Blikstein’s labs have made such devices as their own optical microscopes to study biological specimens, showers that turn themselves off to save energy and a prize-winning robotic flute that can play simple Bach melodies.

Blikstein said that he is now fielding requests from around the world to open new FabLabs.

“It’s about making school a place for ideas – sometimes unusual, amazing ideas that adults will never have,” he said. “We want children to come to school thinking, ‘What am I going to invent today?’ They need to understand that they can express themselves through science, math and engineering – and not only memorize formulas.”

—SANDY BARRON, a writer based in Thailand


Stanford freshman’s documentary chronicles Huntington’s disease decision

January 30th, 2013

Freshman KRISTEN POWERS was recently featured on a CBS Sunday Morning segment on genetic disease testing. The Roble Hall resident was filmed in the residence hall’s theater and on the hiking trails around Lake Lagunita.

Powers was chosen to appear on the national television show because she is producing a documentary about her decision to get tested for Huntington’s disease, the genetic brain disorder that caused her mother’s death at age 45. Powers knew she had a 50 percent chance of inheriting the fatal disease, which causes muscle and cognitive degeneration before killing its victims.

Powers is continuing to raise funds for the documentary, called Twitch. The documentary chronicles her life as she decides to have the test that will reveal whether she has the disease.

“As a teenager overwhelmed by Huntington’s disease, I failed to find helpful resources and support systems to help me cope with the disease my mum was dying of,” Powers writes. “When she passed away and I decided to test, I still could not easily find any resources that would aid in my decision-making process.”

She added, “I set on this journey to make Twitch in order to help build the pool of resources for those affected by Huntington’s disease, especially using the powerful medium of film. No one should have to go through this disease alone, especially as a confused young teenager.”

Watch the documentary trailer on the Indiegogo website and support Powers’ efforts. The CBS Sunday Morning segment is on the program website. Powers also has been featured in a TEDxTeen presentation.

Stanford physicist wins 2013 Rossi Prize

January 29th, 2013

Roger Romani

Stanford physics Professor ROGER W. ROMANI will share the 2013 Rossi Prize with ALICE HARDING of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The prize is being awarded to them by the American Astronomical Society for establishing a theoretical framework for understanding gamma-ray pulsars.

Gamma-ray pulsars are unusual cosmic objects: They are the remnants of massive stars that have exploded as supernovae and are now rapidly spinning neutron stars that emit gamma-ray photons and sometimes (but not always) radio photons. By elucidating the theoretical behavior of these irregular objects, Harding and Romani made possible many of the observations made with the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

“While pulsars were discovered nearly 50 years ago via their radio emissions, it turns out that the radio pulses are just an energetically insignificant echo of the particle accelerators blasting away in these exotic stars’ magnetospheres,” said Romani. “Fermi, by detecting gamma rays from over 100 of these neutron stars, has revealed to us the heart of the pulsar machine.”

“I am thrilled that Roger W. Romani’s many contributions to our understanding of pulsars have been acknowledged in this way,” said ROGER BLANDFORD, a physics professor at Stanford and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the 2013 winner of Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society’s highest honor, the Gold Medal.

“They have provided the essential connection between the basic theory of these fascinating objects and what we actually observe. This, in turn, has enabled the great discoveries made using Fermi,” Blandford added.

The prize is awarded annually by the American Astronomical Society’s High-Energy Astrophysics Division to recognize significant contributions in high-energy astrophysics. The award is named in honor of Bruno Rossi, an authority on cosmic ray physics and a pioneer in the field of X-ray astronomy.

René Girard honored by the King of Spain

January 25th, 2013

Réne Girard photo by Linda A. Cicero/Stanford News

Professor Emeritus RENÉ GIRARD will be granted the Order of Isabella the Catholic, Commander by Number, by the Spanish head of state, H.M. King Juan Carlos. Girard is receiving the decoration “for his outstanding work, during the past decades, in the fields of philosophy and anthropology.”

A French historian, literary critic and philosopher of social science, Girard has written nearly 30 books. His ideas about human behavior have inspired a generation of scholars in a range of disciplines, from theology and mythology to economics and cultural studies.

The Order of Isabella the Catholic is a Spanish civil order bestowed upon both Spanish citizens and foreigners in recognition of services that benefit the country.

A statement from the cultural advisors to King Juan Carlos points to Girard’s “profound attachment” to “Spanish culture as a whole” as reason for the award. Girard has repeatedly said that the works of Miguel de Cervantes, one of Spain’s greatest writers, have been crucial to him when it came to elaborating his theories.

Girard, who became the Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French Language, Literature and Civilization at Stanford in 1981, is most known for his hypotheses about mimetic desire, the psychology of envy and the scapegoat mechanism, all of which delve into the roots of the human condition.

Through a study of characters in great literary works, Girard developed what is arguably his most famous theory of mimetic desire, in which he asserts that a compulsion to imitate others fuels nearly all human conflict.

Girard, one of only 40 members of the Académie Française, France’s highest intellectual honor, retired from Stanford in 1995.

The Consul General of Spain in San Francisco, Jorge Montealegre Buire, will personally deliver the medal to Girard at a private ceremony in his home at Stanford today.


Apps class updated for iOS 6

January 24th, 2013

Brent IzutsuIt’s back!

The wildly popular iTunes U course, Coding Together: Developing Apps for iPhone and iPad, has been updated for iOS 6, the software that runs the latest versions of iPhones and iPads.

It’s the sixth time around for this class, which draws hundreds of thousands of followers around the world. The class rocketed to fame in 2009, when it got 1 million downloads in its first seven weeks of existence.

The free iTunes U course is based on Stanford’s in-class version, taught by computer science lecturer PAUL HEGARTY, an engineer who worked with Apple founder STEVE JOBS at NeXT.

The latest iteration launched Tuesday, Jan. 22, and enrollments close on Feb. 1. For a preview, click here.

“With over 500,000 subscribers for our previous course in fall 2011, we’re excited to offer an update to our most popular iTunes U course,” said BRENT IZUTSU, Stanford’s director of digital media.

“Now that we’ve got an expanded product line, from iPhones and iPod Touches to iPads, and now iPad minis, it will be fascinating to see what apps people come up with using the latest tools.”

Piazza, a platform used in several of Stanford’s other online courses, will provide the ability for online participants to learn socially. When the course was offered last year, more than 12,000 of the 100,000 online learners from 120 countries participated in the discussions on Piazza.

Students liked the peer-to-peer feature, Izutsu said, because it allowed them to emulate the experience of a classroom course on their own schedule – the best of both worlds.

—R. F. MACKAY, Office of the Vice Provost for Online Learning

Bill Clebsch elected board chair of networking nonprofit

January 23rd, 2013

Photo courtesy of Bill Clebsch

BILL CLEBSCH, associate vice president for information technology services at Stanford, has been named chair of the board of the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC). Clebsch, who succeeded the University of California’s chief information officer, DAVID ERNST, assumed the role Jan. 1.

CENIC is a nonprofit corporation created in 1996 by members of California’s research and education community to obtain cost-effective, high-bandwidth networking to support their missions and to respond to the needs of their faculty, staff and students. Members of CENIC include the California K-12 system and all of the state’s community college, state university and University of California campuses, as well as Stanford, Caltech, the University of Southern California and other private institutions.

At Stanford, Clebsch has university-wide responsibility for data center planning and operations; research computing; network and communication services; infrastructure applications; desktop and mobility support; call center services; and Help Desk support. He came to Stanford in 1986 for the project that implemented the campus-wide voice and data network. After holding several positions, he assumed the leadership role in central IT Services in 2006. He was promoted to associate vice president in 2009.

Clebsch has been involved with CENIC since its inception. He helped develop the early financial models for its funding and served on its business advisory committee in the 1990s. He has been a member of the CENIC board for four years. CENIC’s board chairs serve two-year terms, which are renewable.

“CENIC and, indeed, the global research and education network community are moving into a new era of ultra-high-performance and above-the-network services, and the leadership and experience that Bill offers will be absolutely invaluable in assuring that California maintains and builds on its current position as a global innovator,” said LOUIS FOX, CENIC’s president and CEO.

Celebrate Women in Sports Day

January 22nd, 2013

Stanford’s female athletes are honoring National Girls and Women in Sports Day, which takes place Sunday, Jan. 27,  with a video titled “Women in Sports – Be Inspired.” More inspiration is in store at Maples Pavilion on Sunday. Prior to the Cardinal women’s basketball team’s 4 p.m. game against Colorado, there will be activity stations set up for a Celebration of Women in Sports. After the game, several members of the women’s basketball team will be on hand to sign autographs.

Stanford’s Archive of Recorded Sound offers traditional jazz 24/7

January 17th, 2013
Photo by Jamie Karutz

Jim Cullum Photo by Jamie Karutz

In an effort to broaden public access to its jazz holdings, Stanford’s Archive of Recorded Sound recently began continuous web streaming of more than 400 hours of historic radio broadcasts.

Jazz critic and music historian TED GIOIA writes in an article in Stanford magazine that the project is a partnership with jazz veteran JIM CULLUM, originator and co-host of Riverwalk Jazz, a popular weekly feature on Public Radio International.

“Cullum has donated the program recordings to Stanford, already a growing powerhouse of jazz archives. He and his band, who anchor the broadcasts, have a history on campus: From 1994 to 2004, they were in residence every summer at the Stanford Jazz Workshop and made recordings at Dinkelspiel Auditorium for the radio show.”

“These are living performances of a whole genre of American music,” University Librarian MICHAEL KELLER,” says in the article. “Jim’s work is an amazing cultural accomplishment that needs to be preserved and shared with the next generation.”

According to Gioia, the archive will stream the 420 shows from the collection over two Internet-based radio channels, which are accessible on Stanford’s Riverwalk Jazz website.

Read Gioia’s article on the Stanford magazine website.

Stanford compassion classes named among 2012’s Top 10 findings in the “Science of a Meaningful Life”

January 16th, 2013

A Stanford study demonstrating that compassion training can make participants more compassionate has been named one of the Greater Good Science Center‘s “Top 10 Insights” in 2012.

The July 2012 paper evaluated students who completed Compassion Cultivation Training, or CCT—an 8-week-long course at Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. The training program involves instruction, readings, practical exercises and frequent guided group meditation, and was designed by GESHE THUPTA JINPA, the primary English translator to the 14th Dalai Lama and a visiting research scholar at the center.

The authors, led by Stanford social science researcher HOORIA JAZAIERI, analyzed CCT participants’ assessments of their own capacity for compassion. Compared to identically surveyed CCT applicants who had been waitlisted, the researchers found that those who completed the course exhibited more compassion for others, were better able to accept compassion from others and exhibited more self-compassion.

The UC Berkeley-affiliated Greater Good Science Center, an interdisciplinary research center focused on the science of well-being, compassion and mindfulness, will feature CCT at its upcoming “Practicing Mindfulness & Compassion” conference in March.




Stanford shines in 2013 ‘Edu-Scholar’ ranking

January 15th, 2013

Graduate School of Education Professor Linda Darling-Hammond tied for first place among the top 'Edu-Scholars.'

Stanford led the pack in an annual list of the scholars who have the greatest influence on the public debate on schools and schooling, according to a Jan. 9 posting on a blog on the Education Week website.

Out of a total of 168 featured on the annual ranking, there were 17 academics who were listed as being from Stanford. That tied for first with Harvard, which also had 17.

Known as the Edu-Scholar Public Presence Rankings, the list is compiled by FREDERICK HESS, the American Enterprise Institute’s director of education policy studies and an Education Week blogger. The list highlights scholars “who work to move ideas from the pages of academic journals into the national conversation,” according to a release announcing the 2013 rankings.

Hess uses seven metrics to calculate the extent that university-based academics contributed to public debates about schools and schooling. “The rankings reflect both a scholar’s body of academic work—encompassing books, articles and the degree to which these are cited—and their 2012 footprint on the public discourse as reflected by appearances in education news outlets, blogs, new media and the general press,” the release says.

Michael Kirst, of the Graduate School of Education, and Eric Hanushek, of the Hoover Institution, also made the list. Hanushek ranked third among 168 scholars.

LINDA DARLING-HAMMOND of the Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE) was tied for first on the list with DIANE RAVITCH of New York University. Other members of the GSE faculty who made Hess’ list are LARRY CUBAN, NEL NODDINGS, SUSANNA LOEB, MICHAEL KIRST, DAVID LABAREE, THOMAS DEE, EDWARD HAERTEL, MITCHELL STEVENS, ERIC BETTINGER and MICHELLE REININGER.

ERIC HANUSHEK, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a professor by courtesy at the GSE, ranked third. Hess also lists five other scholars from Stanford: ROB REICH and TERRY MOE, political science; CAROLINE HOXBY, economics;  MARGARET “MACKE” RAYMOND, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution; and ANTHONY S. BRYK, who had been on the GSE faculty before leaving to become president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

—JONATHAN RABINOVITZ, director of communications for the Graduate School of Education