Personal interactions are important drivers of STEM identity in girls

As head of the educational outreach arm of the Florida State University-headquartered National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Roxanne Hughes has overseen dozens of science camps over the years, including numerous sessions of the successful SciGirls Summer Camp she co-organizes with WFSU .

In a new paper published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Hughes and her colleagues took a much closer look at one of those camps, a coding camp for middle school girls.

They found that nuanced interactions between teachers and campers as well as among the girls themselves impacted how girls viewed themselves as coders.

The MagLab offers both co-ed camps and summer camps for girls about science in general as well as about coding in particular . Hughes, director of the MagLab’s Center for Integrating Research and Learning , wanted to study the coding camp because computer science is the only STEM field where the representation of women has actually declined since 1990.

“It’s super gendered in how it has been advertised, beginning with the personal computer,” Hughes said. “And there are stereotypes behind what is marketed to girls versus what is marketed to boys. We wanted to develop a conceptual framework focusing specifically on coding identity — how the girls see themselves as coders — to add to existing research on STEM identity more broadly.”

This specific study focused on the disparate experiences of three girls in the camp. The researchers looked at when and how the girls were recognized for their coding successes during the camp, and how teachers and peers responded when the girls demonstrated coding skills.

“Each girl received different levels of recognition, which affected their coding identity development,” Hughes said. “We found that educators play a crucial role in amplifying recognition, which then influences how those interactions reinforce their identities as coders.”

Positive praise often resulted in a girl pursuing more challenging activities, for example, strengthening her coding identity.

Exactly how teachers praised the campers played a role in how that recognition impacted the girls. Being praised in front of other girls, for example, had more impact than a discreet pat on the back. More public praise prompted peer recognition, which further boosted a girl’s coding identity.

The type of behavior recognized by teachers also appeared to have different effects. A girl praised for demonstrating a skill might feel more like a coder than one lauded for her persistence, for example. Lack of encouragement was also observed: One girl who sought attention for her coding prowess went unacknowledged, while another who was assisting her peers received lots of recognition, responses that seem to play into gender stereotypes, Hughes said. Even in a camp explicitly designed to bolster girls in the sciences, prevailing stereotypes can undermine best intentions.

“To me, the most interesting piece was the way in which educators still carry the general gender stereotypes, and how that influenced the behavior they rewarded.” Hughes said. “They recognized the girl who was being a team player, checking in on how everyone was feeling — all very stereotypically feminine traits that are not necessarily connected to or rewarded in computing fields currently.”

Messaging about science is especially important for girls in middle school, Hughes said. At that developmental stage, their interest in STEM disciplines begins to wane as they start to get the picture that those fields clash with their other identities.

The MagLab study focused on three girls — one Black, one white and one Latina — as a means to develop a framework for future researchers to understand coding identity. Hughes says this is too small a data set to tease out definitive conclusions about roles of race and gender, but the study does raise many questions for future researchers to examine with the help of these findings.

“The questions that come out of the study to me are so fascinating,” Hughes said. “Like, how would these girls be treated differently if they were boys? How do the definitions of ‘coder’ that the girls develop in the camp open or constrain opportunities for them to continue this identity work as they move forward?”

The study has also prompted Hughes to think about how to design more inclusive, culturally responsive camps at the MagLab.

“Even though this is a summer camp, there is still the same carryover of stereotypes and sexism and racism from the outer world into this space,” she said. “How can we create a space where girls can behave differently from the social gendered expectations?”

The challenge will be to show each camper that she and her culture are valued in the camp and to draw connections between home and camp that underscore that. “We need to show that each of the girls has value — in that camp space and in science in general,” Hughes said.

Joining Hughes as co-authors on the study were Jennifer Schellinger of Florida State University and Kari Roberts of the MagLab.

The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory is funded by the National Science Foundation and the State of Florida, and has operations at Florida State University, University of Florida and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

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Extra stability for magnetic knots

Tiny magnetic whirls that can occur in materials — so-called skyrmions — hold high promises for novel electronic devices or magnetic memory in which they are used as bits to store information. A fundamental prerequisite for any application is the stability of these magnetic whirls. A research team of the Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astrophysics of Kiel University has now demonstrated that so far neglected magnetic interactions can play a key role for skyrmion stability and can drastically enhance skyrmion lifetime. Their work, which has been published today (September 21, 2020) in Nature Communications, opens also the perspective to stabilize skyrmions in new material systems in which the previously considered mechanisms are not sufficient.

Intensive research on stability at room temperature

Their unique magnetic structure — more precisely their topology — lends stability to skyrmions and protects them from collapse. Therefore, skyrmions are denoted as knots in the magnetization. However, on the atomic lattice of a solid this protection is imperfect and there is only a finite energy barrier. “The situation is comparable to a marble lying in a trough which thus needs a certain impetus, energy, to escape from it. The larger the energy barrier, the higher is the temperature at which the skyrmion is stable,” explains Professor Stefan Heinze from Kiel University. Especially skyrmions with diameters below 10 nanometers, which are needed for future spinelectronic devices, have so far only been detected at very low temperatures. Since applications are typically at room temperature the enhancement of the energy barrier is a key objective in today’s research on skyrmions.

Previously, a standard model of the relevant magnetic interactions contributing to the barrier has been established. A team of theoretical physicists from the research group of Professor Stefan Heinze has now demonstrated that one type of magnetic interactions has so far been overlooked. In the 1920s Werner Heisenberg could explain the occurrence of ferromagnetism by the quantum mechanical exchange interaction which results from the spin dependent “hopping” of electrons between two atoms. “If one considers the electron hopping between more atoms, higher-order exchange interactions occur,” says Dr. Souvik Paul, first author of the study. However, these interactions are much weaker than the pair-wise exchange proposed by Heisenberg and were thus neglected in the research on skyrmions.

Weak higher-order exchange interactions stabilize skyrmions

Based on atomistic simulations and quantum mechanical calculations performed on the super computers of the North-German Supercomputing Alliance (HLRN) the scientists from Kiel have now explained that these weak interactions can still provide a surprisingly large contribution to skyrmion stability. Especially the cyclic hopping over four atomic sites influences the energy of the transition state extraordinarily strongly, where only a few atomic bar magnets are tilted against each other. Even stable antiskyrmions were found in the simulations which are advantageous for some future data storage concepts but typically decay too fast.

Higher-order exchange interactions appear in many magnetic materials used for potential skyrmion applications such as cobalt or iron. They can also stabilize skyrmions in magnetic structures in which the previously considered magnetic interactions cannot occur or are too small. Therefore, the present study opens new promising routes for the research on these fascinating magnetic knots.

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Materials provided by Kiel University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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API Businesses Don’t Deserve to Exist Unless They Aggregate

Growing up, I studied piano. By high school, I was bored with reciting Scott Joplin and the Casio synthesizer I had access to didn’t pull my heartstrings. But then it happened….I remember the first time I played the organ in a church. After configuring the interface (known as stops on an organ), I pressed three keys which encoded my press into an electrical signal which was sent to the other end of the cathedral to some actuators that controlled airflow to these giant pipes and WOW.
Little me could make a BIG sound.
To me, this is the fundamental notion of an awesome API: to control vast resources with simple programmatic commands:

  1. Look at 1,000 images and select the ones with babies in them? There’s an API for that.
  2. Simulate 1,000 stock market scenarios and tell me if my trade has a chance of letting me retire? There’s an API for that.
  3. Find out everything including the credit score of my high school teacher inputting only their email address? There’s an API for that.
  4. Send money through five banks to someone’s account on the other side of the world? There’s an API for that.
  5. Beam propaganda to all the friends of my opponents? Sadly, there’s an API for that too.

As developers have become the architects of the human experience and their craft exposed to the masses, the opportunity to offer those developers switches that operate vast resources in the form of APIs has increased. Everybody gets an organ keyboard and the other end is connected to elaborate and vast pipes throughout the world.
Before joining Shasta, I was the CTO of API Economy at IBM and this was our vision: to empower businesses to expose their functions as APIs that others can mix, match and build upon – setting up all kinds of pipes in the Worldwide Wurlitzer. Before this, at StrongLoop, we maintained very popular frameworks that developers use to create these APIs including Node.js, Express and LoopBack.

Here’s what I learned: Startup API businesses don’t deserve to exist unless they aggregate. Think about this like a developer: what is the point of adding an abstraction layer? Either it needs to hide a lot of complexity (such as the famous Stripe and Twilio APIs which hide telcom and banking complexity) or it needs to aggregate. For startups, they typically don’t have any complex infrastructure to abstract – that’s what big company APIs can do. Startups can gain an advantage by aggregating many functions, or the same function from many sources. Or aggregating datasets or uses of data. But wait you say, Twilio and Stripe were once startups! Yes, and I’d say what they did was aggregate access to the infrastructure (Twilio made it easy to send SMS across many mobile networks, it doesn’t operate the networks. Stripe made it easy to charge credit cards through many banks, they didn’t operate a bank.) As many entrepreneurs have figured this out, the opportunities to aggregate across big players are highly contested. But there is a new area to gain advantage: Data, and especially data with machine learning.

Training and running ML models is expensive. It takes thousands to millions of hours of GPU time to train a great model, shuffling data to and fro all the while. It takes huge amounts of annotation to create the training set. If the model can be used across companies, or better yet, across industries, it makes sense to do this once and then optimize the runtime and offer this model (behind an API) for far less than it would cost anyone to create it themselves, and spread the cost among customers. Indeed, this type of aggregation of expense and distribution of cost is the fundamental idea of a software vendor: create a system that’s too expensive for any one user to have created and distribute the cost among many people who need the same functionality. 

Easy ML APIs have been created already – you can process text, classify objects in photographs, and translate from one language to another. It gets really interesting when a model trained using private data can be aggregated by a vendor and distributed to all who may benefit from this. Imagine a model which can predict how long a bug in Python code will take to fix – it would need to be trained on all the bug reports and all the resulting code changes that we can get our hands on. This model will get better the more code and bug reports it sees, but nobody wants to make their code and bug reports public (outside of open source projects, of course.) A trusted vendor can be given access to this data, train a model, and allow that model to be used by customers. That’s the type of API future we’re going to see and it will be awesome.

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Author: <a href="">issacroth</a>


Breaking molecular traffic jams with finned nanoporous materials

Thousands of chemical processes used by the energy industry and for other applications rely on the high speed of catalytic reactions, but molecules frequently are hindered by molecular traffic jams that slow them down. Now an entirely new class of porous catalysts has been invented, using unique fins to speed up the chemistry by allowing molecules to skip the lines that limit the reaction.

This discovery was published in Nature Materials.

The breakthrough focused on reducing barriers for molecules accessing the interior pores of catalysts, called zeolites — aluminosilicates with pores smaller than a nanometer. Zeolites are widely used in commercial processes as solid catalysts for the production of gasoline and value-added chemicals and other products.

In these applications, chemistry within the zeolite pores first requires molecules to find the small number of openings on the outside surface of catalyst particles. This creates a queue of molecules that must “wait in line” to enter the particle, diffuse to the active site involved in the chemical reaction, and then exit the particle.

One approach to address these transport problems has been to synthesize small nanoparticles. As zeolites become smaller, the amount of surface area exposing the pores increases per amount of catalyst material, which grants increased access for molecules entering the pores. Smaller particles also reduce the internal distance molecules must travel through the particle.

However, the synthesis of these smaller zeolite particles is expensive, and the resulting particles are often too inefficient for practical applications.

Researchers at the University of Houston, led by Jeffrey Rimer, Abraham E. Dukler Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, developed a way to induce larger catalyst particles to behave like nanoparticles — that is, to allow molecules to enter, spark a reaction and exit quickly, by growing protrusions, or fins, on the surfaces of catalyst particles. By adding nanoscale fins that protrude from the external surface of large particles, the roughened exterior of the particle significantly increased in surface area, granting molecules increased access and reducing the transport limitations that frequently plague conventional zeolite materials.

“Our new synthesis approach capitalizes on work we have been doing in our group for many years, focused on controlling zeolite crystallization in ways that enable the growth of fins,” Rimer said. “This new class of materials bypasses the need to directly synthesize nanoparticles, creating a new paradigm in zeolite catalyst design.”

Rimer worked with a team of international experts in materials synthesis, characterization and modeling to demonstrate the capability of finned zeolites to improve the performance of this unique family of solid catalysts. By comparing finned zeolites with conventional catalytic materials, they showed that zeolites with fins lasted almost eight times longer. Rimer said the incorporation of fins leads to shorter internal diffusion pathways and ensures molecules efficiently reach the reaction sites while reducing the propensity of carbon-based species to become immobilized. That build up ultimately deactivates the catalyst.

Xiaodong Zou, professor of inorganic and structural chemistry at Stockholm University, and members of her laboratory conducted advanced 3D electron microscopy characterization to unravel the pore structures of the finned crystals and confirmed that the fins were extensions of the underlying crystal and did not create impediments for internal diffusion.

“It is amazing to see how well all these hundreds of individual nanofins are aligned with the parent crystal,” Zou said.

Additional state-of-the-art techniques for characterizing zeolite catalysts in real time were performed at Utrecht University by the research group of Bert Weckhuysen, professor of catalysis, energy and sustainability. These measurements confirmed the exceptional ability of finned zeolites to prolong catalyst activity well beyond that of larger catalysts.

Weckhuysen said the use of operando spectroscopy clearly showed how the introduction of fins lowered the amount of external coke deposits during catalysis. “That substantially increased the lifetime of finned zeolite crystals,” he said.

Jeremy Palmer, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at UH, used computational methods to model finned materials and explain how the new design works to improve catalysis.

Researchers had expected the fins would perform better than a standard-sized zeolite catalyst, he said. “But we found it was not just a 10% or 20% improvement. It was a tripling of efficiency. The magnitude of the improvement was a real surprise to us.”

Additional work at the University of Minnesota by the research group of Paul Dauenhauer, professor of chemical engineering and materials science, and by Michael Tsapatsis, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Johns Hopkins University, confirmed the enhanced mass transport properties of finned zeolites. Using a new method to track molecule diffusion by infrared light, the UM researchers demonstrated that the fins enhanced molecule transport between 100 and 1,000 times faster than conventional particles.

“The addition of fins allows molecules to get inside the channels of zeolites where the chemistry happens, but it also lets molecules quickly get out of the particle, which lets them operate for a much longer period of time,” Dauenhauer said.

The discovery has immediate relevance to industry for a host of applications, including the production of fuels, chemicals for plastics and polymers, and reactions that make molecules for food, medicine and personal care products.

“The beauty of this new discovery is its potential generalization to a wide range of zeolite materials, using techniques that are easy to incorporate in existing synthesis processes,” Rimer said. “The ability to control the properties of fins could allow for much greater flexibility in the rational design of zeolite catalysts.”

This work was supported by and is part of a larger mission of the U.S. Department of Energy, with additional support provided by various international funding agencies.

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FXCubic Introduces Real-time Markup API

FXCubic, a trading technology provider, has introduced a real-time bridge markup API. The API targets high volume brokers and traders. Through the API, users gain access to market data calculations and can adjust their markups in real-time according to an algorithm of choice.

“We believe this is truly groundbreaking, as this kind of technology has never been accessible to the vast majority of brokers, Ege Kozan, FXCubic CEO, commented in a press release. “When used right, such technology can have a big impact on a broker’s profitability, so we are expecting our clients to take full advantage of this new tool and apply it to their business very rapidly.”

With the API, users can react to market changes in their books automatically. Exposure is monitored and calculated on an ongoing basis. When certain thresholds and predefined metrics are hit, markups are adjusted for each independent instrument.

FXCubic has not currently published public API docs for the new API. For an overview of all FXCubic’s technology, visit its technology site. Those interested can see more details at the platform and architecture sites.

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Author: <a href="">ecarter</a>


Twitter Announces New API and Establishes API Development Roadmap

Less than a day removed from a security breach that led to several high profile Twitter accounts being hacked, Twitter is moving forward with the announcement of an all-new API. V2 of the Twitter API is intended to provide developers with a more robust feature set and a simplified path to advanced data access.

The API enhancements included in V2 are a result of direct feedback from developers via tweets, focus groups, and Twitter Developer labs. Developer Labs is a platform that allows developers to work with and provide feedback on Twitter’s latest technological developments. The new API focuses on adding the sort of flexibility and scalability that reflects the demands of Twitter’s diverse userbase. Twitter is adding new “elevated access options” and new “product tracks” in an attempt to provide tailored options that will appeal to a broad set of developers.

The Twitter API V2 represents a ground-up rebuild, with a focus on offering a combination of simplicity and a robust feature set. Specific new features mentioned in the announcement include: conversation threading, poll results in Tweets, pinned Tweets on profiles, spam filtering, and a more powerful stream filtering and search query language.

As for the platform’s new access options, Twitter is working to streamline top-to-bottom access to the platform via access leveling. Previously Twitter’s V1 APITrack this API offered tiers that provided more uniquely disparate experiences, leading to difficulty moving between tiers. The company hopes that unifying these experiences into one API experience will allow for a more seamless experience as the developer’s needs change. From now on all Developers regardless of their product track (more on this in a second) will have a path to advanced data access.

V2 introduces the idea of product tracks, tailored pathways designed to facilitate specific use cases. The new API will feature three separate pathways: Standard, Academic Research, and Business. Each pathway will have unique data access requirements while sharing a similar overall experience.

Additionally, Twitter is launching a new developer portal and establishing an API roadmap, both with the intention of allowing developers to more easily anticipate the APIs direction: 

“This is where you can get started with our new onboarding wizard, manage Apps, understand your API usage and limits, access our new support center, find documentation, and more to come in the future.”

Early access to the new API will become available next week and developers can request access via the developer portal. Although production-ready at that time, only some endpoints will be available immediately. The Academic Research and Business pathways will be released in the near future, while the Standard path will be open at release. 

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Author: <a href="">KevinSundstrom</a>

3D Printing Industry

Farsoon debuts its Flight 252P 3D printer and two new industrial polymers

Powder bed fusion specialist Farsoon has announced its new high temperature 252P series of polymer SLS 3D printers. The set comprises two variants, the ST252P (higher power) and the HT252P (lower power), and features the company’s proprietary Flight technology. Farsoon will also be releasing two new plastic powder materials to complement the 252P with the […]

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Author: Kubi Sertoglu


How drones can monitor explosive volcanoes

Due to the difficult accessibility and the high risk of collapse or explosion, the imaging of active volcanoes has so far been a great challenge in volcanology. Researchers around Edgar Zorn from the German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ in Potsdam are now presenting the results of a series of repeated survey flights with optical and thermal imaging cameras at the Santa Maria volcano in Guatemala. Drones were used to observe the lava dome, a viscous plug of lava. The researchers were able to show that the lava dome shows movements on two different time scales: slow expansion and growth of the dome and fast extrusion of viscous lava. The study was published in the journal “Scientific Reports.”

“We have equipped a drone with different cameras,” says Edgar Zorn from GFZ, the first author of the study. “We then flew the drone over the crater at various intervals, measuring the movements of lava flow and a lava dome using a specific type of stereo photography with a precision never seen before.” By comparing the data from the drone, we were able to determine the flow velocity, movement patterns and surface temperature of the volcano. These parameters are important for predicting the danger of explosive volcanoes. The researchers also succeeded in deriving the flow properties of the lava from these data.

“We have shown that the use of drones can help to completely re-measure even the most dangerous and active volcanoes on Earth from a safe distance,” continues Edgar Zorn. “A regular and systematic survey of dangerous volcanoes with drones seems to be almost within one’s grasp,” says Thomas Walter, volcanologist at GFZ, who was also involved in the study.

The two cameras of the drone used on the Caliente volcanic cone of the Santa Maria volcano were able to take high-resolution photos on the one hand and thermal imaging on the other. Using a special computer algorithm, the researchers were able to create complete and detailed 3D models from these images. They obtained a 3D topography and temperature model of the volcano with a resolution of only a few centimetres.

Drone missions considerably reduce the risk for volcanologists, as the cameras can be flown directly to the dangerous spots without the scientists having to go near them themselves. Instead, the greatest challenge lies in the post-processing and calculation of the models. “The 3D models of the various flights must be positioned exactly so that they can be compared. This requires painstaking detail work, but the effort is worth it because even minimal movements become immediately visible,” says Edgar Zorn. “In the study, we presented some new possibilities for the representation and measurement of certain ground movements, which could be very useful in future projects.”

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Materials provided by GFZ GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Helmholtz Centre. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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3D Printing Industry

Essentium and LEHVOSS develop PEEK and HTN materials for FFF 3D printing

Essentium Inc., the Texas-based 3D printer manufacturer behind High Speed Extrusion (HSE) technology, has announced a partnership with chemical and mineral materials specialist LEHVOSS Group to develop high-performance materials for additive manufacturing.  The materials, comprising a line of PEEK and High-Temperature Nylon (HTN), were created specifically for production-level extrusion-based 3D printing processes. They are designed […]

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Author: Anas Essop


WAIVER EXTENSION, REVISED TIMING OF ENFORCEMENT: Monday, March 23 at 8:00 AM – PA Department of Community & Economic Development

Harrisburg, PA – Due to the high volume of waiver requests, the Wolf Administration is delaying enforcement of Governor Tom Wolf’s order and the Secretary of Health’s order that all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania must close their physical locations to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Per Governor Wolf’s and Dr. Levine’s orders, businesses that were non-life sustaining were ordered to close their physical locations on March 19, at 8:00 PM. This order stands, only the enforcement timing will change and become effective on Monday, March 23, at 8:00 AM.

Those businesses requesting clarification on whether they are defined as life-sustaining should check this list