Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day

This last Saturday I volunteered at Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, put on by the University of Texas at Austin’s Women in Engineering Program:

There were 2,500+ girls in 1st-8th grade wandering around the engineering block of UT’s campus, exploring different activities facilitated by north of 700 volunteers. I can only speak to my own experience (I didn’t get to see every activity), but I think it was a really fun and worthwhile experience.

In our room, we had the “Don’t Sink the Titanic” activity. Basically this consisted of giving the girls 1 square foot of aluminum foil, 1 foot of masking tape, a couple rubber bands, two straws and 6 popsicle sticks… using that hodge-podge of materials, they construct the best and strongest boat they can, and compete to see whose boat can hold the most golf balls without sinking.

Trying to hold as many golf balls as possible!
Trying to hold as many golf balls as possible!

The record was 46!

To put that in perspective… the most one of the volunteers was able to get was 33. These girls were pretty amazing.

Getting girls and young women excited about the so-called STEM areas of study (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math for the uninitiated), has long been a concern for education and science policy. It’s events like this that can try to help reduce the gender-gap in these areas by getting girls excited about building things and creatively solving problems.


But we still have a long way to go. Events like this one can plant the seed, but it will take a sustained effort by parents and educators at all levels to help that seed flourish and bear fruit.

I work in a research group of about 17 people. Two of them are women. That’s a ratio that needs to change. The good news is that it is (slowly) changing. And with a vigilant and sustained effort, we can get more girls excited about science.

So, go ahead: introduce a girl to engineering, introduce a girl to physics, introduce a girl to biology, introduce a girl to robotics, zoology, climate science, Python and astronomy. We need them, and it’s up to all of us.

Austin Marathon Recap

I did it. It is done. It hurt a lot (but in a good way… mostly).

Done!
Done!

For those interested, my race results are here. And you can see the Strava map for my mile-by-mile splits (which are mostly accurate, but the data is a little noisy in downtown).

As for a summary of the results: my chip time was 3:21:28, which comes to 7:41/mile. I beat my goal pace!

Other fun results for the day include being 34/326 in my division (M 25-29), 199/2235 among men, and 224/3638 overall! I really couldn’t be more happy with the results.

Many thanks to everyone at Conley Sports, who put on the LIVESTRONG Austin Marathon & Half Marathon, for such a well run and fun event! It’s really a great course and fun day, and that’s largely because of the crew they’ve got running it.

Here are some highlights from the day:

Getting Ready
Luke, Meredith and Grant at the starting corral.
Lookin' Good
My biggest fan.
Ready... Set...
Moments before the starting gun.
Mile 8
Hillary took an action shot of me close to Mile 8

Celebrating
Celebrating.
This way
Because of where she was standing at the finish… it turns out the kisses were 26.2 miles in the other direction.
All the finishers
Meredith, Grant and me celebrating!
Sexy Sweat
Inside at the VIP after party. Thanks to Eli for getting us in!
Heading Home
Waddling SLOWLY back to the car. Time for nap.

Marathon: T-2 Days Recap

Race weekend. It’s here.

I’ve had that nervous energy that comes with race weekend for the last couple of days. I’ve been re-reading an Austin Marathon course-guide written by Rob Hill (he coaches Team Spiridon), and it’s getting me excited and scared. Which is good.

It’s just that weird time of training… where I’m not actually training any more. And it’s irrational, but I’m terrified that I’ve lost everything over the last two weeks of tapering because I haven’t done anything recently to show myself it’s still there. So… basically I’ve gone ’round the bend.

I did get a nice little run in last night, and I got to see a short section of the course I hadn’t seen before (just the part going up Jackson to Bull Creek), but it’s nice to be able to visualize it all. In various pieces through many different runs I’ve almost run the cumulative length of the route. The only part I didn’t get to is the the part right at the northern end of the course: going east from Great Northern Blvd to Duval. (And also, the time I ran Duval was going the wrong direction: it was going uphill. But I think I can mentally make the adjustment to running downhill to the finish!)

Anyway… I’ve been trying to fine tune my nutrition plan, and visualize the race. Here we go… less than 48 hours to go.

For anyone interested in tracking me, you can follow me using the Austin Marathon App (just click the picture!). My bib number is #2715. Assuming everything works out there, you should be able to see my 5k, 5mi, 10mi, Half Marathon, 20mi, and Finish times as they happen. The app also will use my pace (up to the last check point) to guess where I am, so you can sort of follow me as I run the course, too!

Good luck to everyone who’ll be out there with me!

Run Hard. Run Happy. Here we go!

Scientific Process Rage

Found this courtesy of a mentor who has been helping me figure out my plans for next year. Pretty much the way things work around here (by Paul Vallett):

I came across a student online who was wondering: What do scientists do? What is being a scientist like?

In pondering possible responses I started to think about what science and research is actually like, versus what it is portrayed as in popular culture. I actually find myself thinking about this topic quite a bit. I realize I am a scientist, but even when I am just trying to enjoy some TV shows or movies and I see a scene that involves a bit of science or technology needed to figure something out, my brain chimes in” “There’s no way that would work the first time, you’d have to go through all sorts of calibrations, find a standard sample… and then they would realize that they are using the wrong type of detector so they’d have to go build a new one… but first they’d have to figure out how to build a new one so that would take time… and in the end this whole research segment that takes about 30 seconds on the show should take about 10 weeks in real life”

Anyways, here’s my handy flowchart of the perception of science in popular culture versus actual science:

Austin Marathon: T-2 Weeks Recap

Whelp… I’ve officially done my last pre-marathon double-digit miles run. Now, let the relaxing and true tapering begin. Runs now will be mostly about getting some blood flow and stretching out my legs, not so much for performance.

These last two weeks went really well: every run (including the longer ones) was at tempo. I think that bodes well for race day, but we’ll see!

In other news, I participated in the Strava “Base Miles Blast” Challenge, which was basically a collective challenge to run as many miles as possible during the month of January.

Base Mile Blast

I think I did pretty well on this one: 122 miles total last month! That put me at 1455 out of 9519 participants, which ain’t too shabby. I didn’t even come close to the guy who won… who ran a ridiculous 602.5 miles last month (jaw hits floor).

So anyway… training basically complete. There will be no more gains in fitness other than the general recovery that comes with two weeks of a lighter load. The big challenge now is to not gain weight in the meantime.

Run Happy!