Saturday, October 07, 2006

GHC: Keynote Speaker, Helen Greiner, Co-found iRobot

This has been the best conference ever. I thought that the conference two years ago in Chicago could not be matched…I was wrong! The past few days has been exhilarating and so so inspiring. Talks were chalked full of information and showed the true breadth of our abilities as women. If you couldn’t find something to interest you, you were not looking. Last night the conference parties occurred and all of the sponsors were wonderful. The sponsors that hosted parties included CA, HP, IBM, Cisco, Yahoo, Sun, Intel, Microsoft, and of course my favorite GOOGLE (who by the way paid for my attendance. I am one of the Google scholars and am honored by this!) Google's party lasted until 11:30 and we all danced, and danced, and danced. Who would have thought that dancing with so many other women could be so much fun! A BIG THANK YOU to all of the sponsors for a wonderfully fun evening. I promise to be your biggest walking advertisement when I get back to the University of Minnesota.

Welcome: Opening Remarks by Lucy Sanders
I invent the future…next years conference’s theme to be held in Orlando, Florida, was specifically selected because each one of us is responsible for the future!

Keynote Speaker: Helen Greiner, Co-founder iRobot
If you are going to start a company, you must take rejection well. As Helen says it does not matter what other people think I am doing, it matters what I think. She has since been approached from VC people who turned her down years ago and they said that they were wrong…how true, how true. Now they are building real robots for households and the military. The message that iRobots is trying to get out are that robots are practical and affordable (and yes…you too can LOVE robots).

iRobot believes that robots are a disruptive technology. As autonomy increases, the applications can increase also. So, what’s in a robot? Well there are multiple disciples coming in: control architecture (AWARE), mechanical systems, electrical systems, dynamic sensing, production engineering, and power systems and communications. Robots are truly a collaborative team effort!

The Roomba was originally known internally as Dust Puppy. The knew they needed a “better” name so they asked the engineers for names…(get these)…Rosie, CyberSuck, Dirtanator, or Muck Master 2000. I personally like the CyberSuck but hey…who listens to me! In fact when they were testing the robot they should have come to my house. I have 3 dogs (dirty, stinky, full of dirt)…if Roomba could work in my house it could have been named “SuperCommandoDirtBusteroftheWorld”…bring it on Helen…bring it on!

Vision: Every child considers a career in engineering, math, or science. What do kids like? Dinosaurs and robots. Robots are considered cool and we should use them help kids to stay interested in these careers. Kids are asked to join the iRobot Design Team. They can then go to check out to see the real robots in action.

What’s Next at iRobot: More missions for robots include intelligent vehicles (e.g. RAPTRS) and on the consumer side DirtDog (oh yeah…I am definitely buying one of these. I think maybe 3 of them! One each of my three dogs who are Sadie, Max, and old Bart. Sam my husband … you get the Roomba not the Woomba (from Saturday Night Live)…you gotta see the spoof. I haven’t laughed this hard in years!

And she wants us to know that the robots say “you will be assimiliated…”

Just want to say to Helen from me and my friends (Katie and Esra who are from the University of Minnesota too) thanks for your great keynote talk!

Friday, October 06, 2006

GHC: Sally Ride's Keynote Speech, Grace Hopper Conference, October 6th

...Well, here I am sitting in a (Minnesota warm!) conference room at the Town and Country Convention Center in San Diego. This conference has been AWESOME! So many people to meet and talk with and so little time. I for one enjoy speaking with others (as many in my group can attest to...they often want me to be quiet...I do not take hints well.) We are patiently waiting for Sally Ride's keynote talk. This woman has been an inspiration for so many people. She epitomizes the spirit of adventure that we often times forget to associate with science. (thank you Katie for that input) Yes, we should look for challenges and opportunities to show that we are adventurers that can make positive impacts on the world around us.

8:30...Welcome by Peter Freeman, Assistant Director, National Science Foundation
He wishes to congratulate us on this conference. Focus on the strength of the community that our women leaders have built in the past 15 years and much longer...we owe them a strong applause for that. The women in the computing community are making a strong impact. The numbers of women in the field is small but Peter believes that we have turned a corner. We have the community to change things. He wishes to challenge us to do something with the Broadening Participation Program. To change the field for all of us. Computing is so important to our society. Technology is part of the change so instrumental to our society and every aspect of it. He sees the NSF mission is pushing the frontiers. Although the funding is not huge, the NSF tries to be innovative through its programs. Peter encourages all of us to participate in programs like the Broadening Participation Program (Jan Cuny is heading this up), the Advance Program, Research Experience for Undergraduates and the GENIE Program.

8:45...Keynote Talk by Sally Ride, Former NASA Astronaunt (the first woman astronaunt), President, Sally Ride Science

Page 3, Standford Daily, NASA advertisement for astronauts. Sally decided to apply along with over 8,000 other people. 35 people were chosen for the astronaut program and she was one of a total of 6 women selected. When she went into space with 4 men on the shuttle flight SFC-7 she made history and women celebrated. Today, women astronauts are commonly on flights into space and we continue to celebrate and rejoice in this fact. Sally brought some incredible pictures from space that, I think, really reinforce the fact that we live on a fragile planet and we are a brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity. To listen to Sally speak about her experiences in helping develop programs to reach out to girls to encourage them to think about the possibility of becoming scientists made me think…hey, I don’t need to be an rocket scientist to do this….I can do this as a student along with my fellow women students. I have helped out at day camps with young girls and I hope that I helped inspire them (and not scared the heck of them.) Sally shows how having a passion to help others can be translated into action and action into real numbers. We know that to ensure that the number of women in computer science can grow if we ensure that we allow the possibility to become a reality for young women entering the field (and yes even the older women to become computer scientists such as myself). I am 41 years old and am in graduate school and I am amazed at the contributions that young women bring to the field. They have energy and intelligence and yet, women who are older still have much to bring to the table. Sally shows how a wonderful career can change and yet still be so effective in helping others. Thank you Sally for reading that Stanford Daily ad and choosing to apply for the space program and tell your Dad that we are just as proud of you as he is!

Shana Watters, GHC 2006 Live Blogger

Thursday, October 05, 2006

GHC: Opening Remarks of Grace Hopper Conference...

Well I am here in beautiful San Diego California at the Grace Hopper Conference. I am very very excited to be among so many other women (and men...nice to see you too!) who are involved in the field of computer science. There are professors, undergraduates, graduate students, and those who work in industry. People are talking everywhere as we wait in anticipation of the Welcoming Remarks by Jan Cuny, the Conference Chair; Telle Whitney, President, Anita Borg Institute; and Stu Feldman, President, ACM. I remember sitting in a similar hall two years ago and the Grace Hopper Conference in Chicago. It was the first time that I had attended and I was excited and nervous to be among so many women. We as women are often the minority at conferences and for the first time I felt like I was not only part of the majority but among others who understood fully what it meant to be a woman in a field that is predominantly male. Now...don't get me wrong I am honored to know many men in our field and I have many role models in the CS field who are males but there is something special about forming bonds with other women who are experts in their own right! I found many of these new role models in Chicago two years ago (and I had a wonderful time while meeting these women). I met hundreds of women and when I returned to my department at the University of Minnesota I extolled the wonderful virtues of the Grace Hopper Conference. It appears that my enthusiasm along with the other students who attended were able to spark more interest in this conference...the University of Minnesota has 17 students here this year (4 undergraduates and 13 graduates students) along with Dr Maria Gini. We have worked hard to ensure that many students could come and we would like to thank the Grace Hopper Conference, Google, Thomson West Publishing, the University of Minnesota's Department of Computers Science and Engineering, Institute of Technology, and the Software Engineering

Telle Whitey's Opening Remarks...what can I say...this woman is a fireball and she exudes such a positive energy that you cannot help but be excited when you are in her presence! I have had the honor to hear her speak a number of times and whenever I hear her I come away feeling like there is great promise in reaching out to women in the field and ensuring that we are heard through our work in industry, academia, and research! Thank you are truly a wonderful role model and I want you to know you may not know me but that does not matter...I know you!

Stu Feldman, ACM President...this is his first time at a Grace Hopper Conference and his remarks make me glad that he is here. The ACM's support for this conference is crucial and the ACM's commitment to the conference has been ongoing for many years. I believe that without the support of the ACM the conference would not be as strong as it is. It makes me glad that I am part of the ACM and the work that it is doing to ensure that our field is represented by all walks of life. Thank you Stu for ensuring that the ACM's vision of the future includes me.

Keynote Speaker: Shirley Tilghman, President, Princeton University:
Shirley wants us to not lose sight of how far we have come! Although there is still much work to be done, we have made inroads into how our society and subsequently how universities view women and their roles in scientific fields. This is not the exact wording of Shirley's but I hope it is close and is in the spirit of how she said it...We have to fight against our nature to think only of people like ourselves when considering the people we hire, seeking speakers, and associating with others. We need to be able to imagine that a female candidate can be the best person for a position in order to actually find women who are qualified. Vigilence needs to be part of our lives.

Shana Watters, GHC 2006 Live Blogger

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Why Blog?

I have always wondered why people choose to blog. I thought...why spend the time writing when one can easily pick up the phone and talk. Talking is so much simpler than writing. In fact, I have always found talking to be easy and writing to be more difficult. So, I have decided it is time to bring out the inner blogger and let my thoughts not only resonant through my voice but also through my written words.