Blog Posts

Education, STEM Resources

HiFive Inventor Coding Kit (Ages 7+)

I was only about 7 years old when I first realized I wanted to work in the space industry one day. I used to look up at the stars and dream of exploring our universe. However, growing up I had relatively low exposure to the types of hands on activities capable of sparking an interest in STEM. Tynker Coding for Kids and BBC Learning have partnered to make coding accessible and fun, not only providing kids with the inspiration to pursue STEM careers but also to grow their self confidence in the skills required to thrive in these fields.

When it came time to apply to college, I knew that I would need an engineering degree to accomplish my goals but I didn’t even know what engineers did. It wasn’t until college that I learned how to code but practicing these skills helped grow my confidence in my engineering capabilities tremendously.

With the HiFive Inventor Coding Kit, kids of all ages have the opportunity to experiment with coding in a fun and non-intimidating way whether through block coding for beginners or MicroPython for Advanced Coders. Learners can make their way through structured activities and challenges or venture out on their own to create their very own project. There is even an “Introduction to Python” section with fifteen lessons which takes learners through the basics of coding in Python. Python has quickly become a favorite language due to its versatility and straightforward syntax. Because Python is open source, meaning it is freely available to the public, it encourages open collaboration on the internet.

It wasn’t until college that I learned how to code but practicing these skills helped grow my confidence in my engineering capabilities tremendously.

Each coding kit comes with the following:

  • HiFive Inventor mini-computer
  • Doctor Who and Tynker coding lessons
  • Thousands of activities and challenges
  • External speaker
  • Light up USB LED cable
  • External battery pack
  • Alligator clips

Each kit is powered by Tynker, the world’s #1 creative coding platform that is used worldwide by 60 million kids in over 90,000 schools. The HiFive Inventor is even equipped with WiFi and Bluetooth capability and has sensors that allow it to interact with the environment around you.

As our world continues to rely more heavily on automation, computers and technology to drive innovation, employers will continue to demand a highly skilled workforce with the problem solving capabilities that coding helps to foster. Further, it is increasingly likely that many jobs will require at least a basic level of coding. By exposing kids to these activities at a young age, we are setting them up to be the confident change-makers our world needs.

You can purchase your very own HiFive Inventor Coding Kit here.

Education, Engineering, STEM Resources

Professional Courses to Boost Your Resume

Are you an aerospace engineering professional looking to boost your resume? I have compiled a brief list of some short courses to help give you an edge in your career.

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

AIAA On-Site Courses: Check out the website for a myriad of courses which your employer can bring right to your office from computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to model-based systems engineering to tactical and strategic missile guidance and so many more.

AIAA Online Education: Here you’ll find a long list of courses (of varying lengths) taught by industry experts. All courses are taught online, offering great flexibility.

The University of Kansas: KU Aerospace Short Courses

KU offers a wide variety of options for many disciplines within the aerospace profession. Check out the course catalog for the full list of 50+ classes with many options taught several times throughout the year and in multiple locations. Some examples are “Flight Test Principles and Practices”, “Structural Composites”, “Advanced Avionics” and “Project Management Fundamentals for Aerospace Professionals”. They also offer Certificates of Specialization with many specialties to choose from.

Southwest Research Institute: NASGRO Training

NASGRO is the most widely used fracture mechanics and fatigue crack growth software program in the world. It was developed under a Space Act Agreement between SwRI and NASA. I have personally attended this training program and found it invaluable. It is a 3-day course which takes students through the very basic background of fracture mechanics, which is the basis for the program, as well as through each of the program’s modules with hands-on practice examples. Many industry leaders utilize NASGRO to ensure safe operation of structural components.

Dassault Systemes: Introduction to Abaqus

This course is currently offered online and teaches students not just how to model, submit jobs and view simulation results in the software program, but also teaches the technical basis the program utilizes to solve problems. Abaqus is the Finite Element Analysis (FEA) tool I utilized for my graduate school research.

Codecademy: Learn Python 2

Python has quickly become a favorite language due to its versatility and straightforward syntax. Because Python is open source, meaning it is freely available to the public and thus encourages open collaboration, there are many free resources available online. If you’re looking for something a little more structured, this course takes about 25 hours to complete, requires no prerequisites and promises to leave you comfortable enough with the basics to be coding your own script by the end. You can download Python for free here.

If there’s a class you’ve taken and highly recommend, drop a comment!

Education, Health & Fitness

How to Keep Your Sanity as a Full-Time Student

  1. Take at least one day a week off for a little self-love. I didn’t figure this out nearly early enough but it honestly saved my sanity once I did. No one can go pedal to the metal forever. Burnout is real and it’s inevitable if you don’t take some time to enjoy life as it’s passing you by. I recommend making a list of your favorite activities you wish you had more time for and optimizing your Saturday or Sunday by taking time to literally stop and smell the roses. My favorite way to do this was usually to wake up early on a Saturday and get a good run in then grab a great cup of coffee and explore the city, go hiking, try a new restaurant, get a pedicure etc. I usually found that by the time Sunday came around and it was time to be productive again, I had a relatively clear head to accomplish whatever I needed to before classes resumed on Monday.
  2. Look for free resources & don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everything in life worth having takes a good amount of effort and college isn’t the exception, but the harsh reality is that good grades can have a significant impact on the opportunities (co-ops, internships, and full-time job offers) available to you. I took advantage of TA & professor office hours, the school’s tutoring center, and the Academic Success Center which helped me create a schedule to better manage my time. Then, I swallowed my pride and I asked classmates who quickly grasped the material to explain it to me. The fact of the matter is that most people are surprisingly open to helping-you just need to ask (and sometimes offering money for their time doesn’t hurt either). Further, some professors take note of who has been to office hours and truly shown effort when determining a final grade that is close enough to round up or down.
  3. Eat well, stay hydrated, and get enough sleep. Taking care of your physical health can have monumental impacts on all the other aspects of your life. Eating well-balanced healthy meals throughout the day instead of that 2pm candy bar from the vending machine as you’re running to the next class is a great step in the right direction. Planning and cooking meals ahead and bringing them with in a lunchbox was my favorite way to stay on track. Also make sure you’re drinking plenty of water-no energy drinks don’t count! I recommend 1/2-1 full gallon of water a day. Carrying a water bottle to refill can help. Lastly, do not pull all-nighters. I repeat. No all-nighters. A late night here and there is fine. If you’re a night owl, staying up late is fine as long as you have the time to sleep a full 6-8 hours afterwards. After making it through 6 years of engineering courses, research, a work study job, marathon training, etc. without doing so, I honestly don’t see the value. Most nights I got 5-6 hours of sleep a night and while that wasn’t optimal, I can tell you the rare nights I got 3-4, I woke up feeling terrible and not having accomplished much more than if I had pulled the plug and gotten a few more hours of sleep. I see it as a case of the law of diminishing returns. Do your best to plan ahead and start assignments, projects, and studying early.

Do you have any tips you swear by? I’d love for you to share them with me in the comments. Be well and keep reaching for the stars!

Kate