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Coding for a cause

first_img Wyss Institute creation is designed to instruct anyone from a 5-year-old to an intermediate programmer Harvard students teach computer science in local middle schools Planting the seeds of STEM Root, the code-teaching robotcenter_img When he was just 4 years old, Jelani Nelson got his first taste of what computers could do, and it came in the form of an animated plumber named Mario.For his birthday that year, Nelson’s parents gave him a Nintendo Entertainment System, and he quickly immersed himself in the world of video games. By the time he was 10, Nelson had moved on to PC and online gaming, and it was there that he discovered — nearly by accident — the code that makes the online world work.“I got into computers through gaming, and I had a computer at home with an internet connection,” he said. “I remember at some point I right-clicked on a webpage on my browser, and saw that it said ‘view source.’ That was how I learned HTML was a thing.”That discovery, Nelson said, not only set him on the road to teaching himself to code — first in HTML and later in other, more complex languages — but in some ways also put him on the path that eventually led to Harvard.These days, Nelson is the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, where his work is focused on developing new algorithms to make computer systems work more efficiently. At the end of this academic year, he will leave Harvard to join the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley.“I’m in the theory of computation group here, and broadly what that means is modeling computation mathematically and proving theorems related to those models,” Nelson said. “So we may want to prove that a particular problem cannot be solved, or that any method that solves a problem has to use at least this much time or memory. Proving that there are methods that are memory- or time-efficient — that’s generally called algorithms.”Streaming and SketchingGenerally speaking, Nelson’s work is focused on two types of algorithms — streaming and sketching, which are focused on using very little memory.A basic way to understand streaming algorithms, Nelson said, is to imagine someone reading a list of numbers, then asking for their sum.“If I ask you at the end to tell me the sum of all the numbers, you can do that by keeping a running sum in your head, but you don’t need to remember every number,” he said. “But then if I ask you to tell me the fifth number, you won’t remember it, because you only kept this running tally. You only used just enough memory to answer a specific type of query.“That’s a simple example, but there are other situations that are not so simple, where it turns out there are very memory-efficient algorithms that don’t need to remember every item, but can answer nontrivial queries about the past,” he added. “For example, if I’m Amazon and I want to know what were the popular items people bought yesterday between 7 and 8 p.m., I want to be able to answer that without my data structure actually remembering the record of every sale during that time.”,By comparison, Nelson said, sketching algorithms are designed to let users answer questions about compressed data even if they don’t have access to the original data.“In the literature, a synonym for a sketch is a synopsis,” he said. “So sometimes you might have multiple sources of data … and you want to be able to make a sketch of one, and a sketch of the other, and then use those sketches to compare them without having access to the original data.”For a real-world application of such algorithms, Nelson said, consider your spam filter.“So the idea is that an email is a document, and you can apply a sketching algorithm to it to create a lower-dimensional representation,” he said. “You can then run a machine-learning algorithm on that data. And the idea is that now it is more efficient because it’s working on lower-dimensional data.”From the Caribbean to Cambridge While it wasn’t long after first discovering HTML that Nelson set out to teach himself to code, he quickly ran into an obstacle: The only bookstore in his hometown on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands was woefully lacking in coding manuals.“When I was in seventh or eighth grade, we visited the mainland, and I went to a bookstore and bought an HTML book,” he said. “For practice, I wanted to make a website for my little sister. We both liked the [Nickelodeon show] ‘Rugrats,’ and I wanted to put a picture of Tommy on her webpage … but I was afraid of violating copyright, so I called Nickelodeon and asked them permission to include images from ‘Rugrats’ on the site, and they refused. But they took my info, and shortly afterward, we got a box in the mail with a bunch of swag, like VHS tapes and T-shirts and toys.”At the same time, Nelson said, he had also become deeply interested in math, and began taking part in competitions for middle schoolers run by the Alexandria, Va.–based nonprofit Mathcounts. As a seventh-grader he was one of a handful of students who represented the U.S. Virgin Islands at a national competition held in Washington, D.C.As a senior in high school, Nelson began to delve deeper into programming. He bought several books on the computer languages C and C++, and applied to MIT after seeing it was rated as the best in the nation for both computer science and mathematics.“When I got to MIT, I think I was surprised by all the things I didn’t know,” Nelson said. “In my high school, we didn’t have AP classes. … The highest level of math you could take was single-variable calculus, so I just didn’t know what existed in math beyond calculus. I had never really seen creative mathematical problem-solving before, so it was a big wake-up call.”It was at MIT, first as an undergraduate and later as a grad student, that Nelson began to show off one of his more unusual skills — his blazing fast typing speed. In 2010, he scored the top spot on TyperA, a website that hosts online typing tests, with a staggering 170 words per minute.“I used it as a procrastination mechanism,” he said. “I would just go and do these typing speed contests, and at some point I got to be at the top of the leaderboard. More recently people have passed me, but I think I’m still in the top five.”,Coding for a cause Nelson’s educational efforts aren’t limited to the Harvard campus. Shortly after completing his doctorate at MIT in 2011, he founded AddisCoder, an educational program in Ethiopia, where his mother is from, dedicated to teaching coding and algorithms to high school students in Addis Ababa.“I had graduated in early June, but my postdoc in Berkeley didn’t start until August, so I decided to visit some relatives in Ethiopia,” he said. “And I thought, ‘If I’m going to spend a lengthy amount of time here, what am I going to do besides hang out?’ And I thought, ‘Why don’t I teach a course?’ I ended up with 82 students, and I was the sole lecturer, with one volunteer teaching assistant.”Working with the Meles Zenawi Foundation, created in honor of the former Ethiopian prime minister, the program taught 175 students in the summer of 2018, coming from public schools across the country. Nearly half of them were female.“The classes run for four weeks, and each day there is about 90 minutes of lecture, and the rest of the time they’re in the computer lab, solving problems, so it’s very hands-on,” Nelson said. “When I partnered with the Meles Zenawi Foundation in 2016, we had a meeting with the Ministry of Education, and we said, ‘We see no reason why this shouldn’t be balanced; we’re certain you can find very capable women to recruit into the course.’ And they listened. The last two offerings have both included over 40 percent girls. Also, almost all students in the course had never coded before and really didn’t know what computer science was, so the program really helped to evangelize computer science to kids who otherwise might have never been exposed.”In addition to the classroom time, the program this past summer held a career day, which drew more than a dozen people — including two from Kenya and several from Ethiopia — who work in fields that require knowledge of computer science.“We wanted them to see that not only are there Facebooks and Googles, but that there are job opportunities locally for them as well,” Nelson said. Relatedlast_img read more

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Leprechaun Legion expands to all athletic clubs

first_imgNotre Dame’s student body has always been a spirited group, but this year, the Leprechaun Legion is making changes that they hope will improve the overall atmosphere of all sporting events. “Our goal is to try to find different ways to get students to come to games,” Matthew Cunningham, president of Leprechaun Legion, said.  “We want to keep them entertained and engaged and loud and to create kind of a home field advantage.” To encourage maximum participation from the student body, the Legion has recently decided to expand itself so that every sport will have its own loud, boisterous student section. “The Legion last year focused on basketball,” vice president, Kristen Stoutenburgh, said. “It’s historically been men’s basketball so we expanded to encompass not just the student section at basketball games but also the student section at all sporting events. “Every student on campus is part of the Leprechaun Legion.” But for those who want to be more involved in the Legion than simply attending various athletic contests, new changes in the organization’s leadership structure will provide a way. The Leprechaun Legion board is comprised of an executive council, board leaders, marketing members, and the board of student representatives. Essentially, the board will work to find areas in which the student section can improve, Cunningham said. “We have weekly meetings and we talk Notre Dame athletics about how to make them the best that they can possibly be,” Stoutenburgh said. “There are also individual sports committees, which take charge of the student section for their particular sport.  Any student can join a sports committee.” “I think we have a great student section,” Cunningham said.  “I think part of the reason people come to Notre Dame is the great athletic programs.  But we can do better.” He noted that last year’s decision to add music to the football games as an example. “It added a great dimension to the stadium atmosphere,” Cunningham said. Other things like the Leprechaun Legion shirts, which were distributed at several sporting events early in the year, serve to bring the student body together as a united force, Stoutenburgh said. “They’re not just there to watch.  They’re there to be a fan and support their team,” she said. The bigger, more excited student sections will unite fans, but they will also lend support to the athletes. “We want to be the best, not only for our own enjoyment but also to support the players and the coaches,” Stoutenburgh said.  “Athletes know the Legion stands behind them.” The energy the student section generates can play a crucial role in Notre Dame games. “Coaches will say ‘Yeah, the crowd was great today, it really gave us a boost when we needed it,’” Cunningham said. “That’s what we’re trying to do here ­­- give the students and coaches that extra energy.” In the end, the Leprechaun Legion serves two purposes.  It is a voice for the student body within the athletic department and it brings fans and athletes together. “There’s not that big separation between us,” Stoutenburgh said.  “We’re all one team.” For more information on the Leprechaun Legion, email legion@nd.edu with your name and sport of interest.last_img read more

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Siena Poll: 49 Percent Say To Keep NY PAUSE Restrictions Beyond May 15

first_imgPhoto: CDCLOUDONVILLE – In a poll released by the Siena College Research Institute on Monday, 49% of residents say the New York State ‘On PAUSE’ restrictions should remain in place beyond May 15.However, 39% say they believe it will be safe to gradually open.52% of those that worked outside of the home prior to the pandemic are very confident that their businesses will take the steps to keep employees and clients safe from the virus. While 81% are somewhat confident, only 27% are very confident.Related | Siena Poll: Majority Of Voters Trust Cuomo Over Trump On NY Reopening According to the poll, in order to feel safe going to work outside of the home, the workforce said the following is necessary:workers are provided with masks (75%)a treatment for the virus is available (71%)workplaces are sanitized daily (72%)both diagnostic (64%) and antibody (61%) testing is availableworkplaces are set up for social distancing (61%) Share:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)last_img read more

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‘Kid to a legend’: Torres bids Atletico farewell with two goals

first_img0Shares0000Thanks for the memories: Atletico Madrid’s Fernando Torres acknowledges the fans on his last appearance for the club on Sunday © AFP / GABRIEL BOUYSMADRID, Spain, May 20 – Fernando Torres scored twice on an emotional final outing for Atletico Madrid on Sunday but was denied a victorious farewell as Eibar snatched a 2-2 draw.Torres struck in each half much to the delight of his adoring fans at the Wanda Metropolitano but a Lucas Hernandez red card helped Eibar claim a point on the last day of the La Liga season. Atletico finish the campaign second in the table, Eibar sit 10th.Enrique Garcia had given the visitors a surprise early lead and Ruben Pena capitalised on the numerical advantage by equalising late on, but this match was always going to be about Torres.On his 404th appearance for Atletico, his goals were his 128th and 129th for the club, coming 17 years after his first, scored against Albacete in the Segunda Division in June 2001.Torres has yet to declare his next move but this display — speedy, sharp and clinical — will have caught the eye of many interested parties.In truth, the 34-year-old’s fairytale ending had already arrived on Wednesday, when he lifted his first Atleti trophy after the triumphant Europa League final against Marseille.But this double added some extra sparkle in front of his own supporters, who stayed on after the final whistle to watch the team form a guard of honour as the striker left the pitch.He had walked out the same way, with his three children, through a corridor formed by the Eibar players as Atletico’s fans displayed the words, ‘De Nino A Leyenda’, meaning ‘from a kid to a legend’.Outside the ground, fans had posed for photos next to Torres life-size cut-outs and peered at message boards, detailing the player’s greatest moments.This, after all, was a boyhood Atletico fan, who first watched his team with his grandfather as a child, and who, when he returned to the club for a second spell in 2015, drew a crowd of more than 40,000 just for his presentation.He missed an early chance, and it was a good one too, after nicking the ball away from Eibar’s David Lomban, only to drag the finish wide of the far post.Eibar threatened to spoil the party when Garcia gave them the lead in the 35th minute. Stefan Savic attempted to clear but connected only with the air and Garcia snuck in ahead of Juanfran to slide home.Atletico were enjoying the lion’s share of possession, however, and Torres’ moment came two minutes before the interval.Saul’s clipped ball over the top caught Eibar napping and Angel Correa might have shot, with only the goalkeeper to beat. Instead he squared right for Torres, who celebrated by kissing the badge and applauding the fans.His second on the hour required more of his own work. Diego Costa, sent on with Antoine Griezmann a minute before, played the through-ball but Torres showed speed to outrun Paulo Oliveira and a cool head to finish past Marko Dmitrovic.This time he ran into the fans behind the goal, for which he picked up a yellow card. Three minutes later, referee Alfonso Alvarez produced another booking, for Hernandez, who had already been cautioned when he obstructed Ivan Alejo and Atleti were down to 10.Eibar were level within seven minutes, Pena unleashing a superb strike from the edge of the area that Jan Oblak could only palm into the top corner.Atleti pushed for a winner late on but the spoils were shared as the tributes to Torres continued after the final whistle.0Shares0000(Visited 2 times, 1 visits today)last_img read more