Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Balloons without water

Posted in Educationon Jul 22, 2011

I read an article today about how a big water balloon fight at BYU was cancelled:

Norm Finlinson, executive director for Student Academic and Advisement Services (SAAS), said attempts were made to have a water balloon fight this year, but it was impossible to get everything together.

“We had fully intended to do it this year, but things didn’t work out,” Finlinson said.

I understand that things don’t always work out, but I read a little further into the article and I think I understand why things didn’t work out:

This year, SAAS wanted the engineering department on campus to have students create various machines which would fill up the balloons. Last year volunteers spent weeks filling more than 120,000 balloons.

I’ve seen too many activities at BYU and also at church that fail because the plan was to have someone else do the critical and complicated part.  I can imagine in this case a student activities committee was discussing how to organize the filling of a 1/8th of a million balloons, and realized that getting volunteers to fill balloons for weeks wasn’t the best idea.  Someone problem expressed a wish for machine to automagically fill up balloons, with of course the engineers on campus being the only ones smart enough to come up with such a machine.

I imagine the destruction of their wishful thinking like this:

  1. The engineers decided that they would rather build human powered drills to make water wells in Africa
  2. The engineers were confused why they should spend weeks to build devices for a social event that they wouldn’t even attend.
  3. The engineers, studying as much as possible, were trying to set the curve on the next exam with a 70%.
  4. The engineers thought that it was a good idea to take a 5 credit hour class during spring term.
  5. Every time the engineers started working the plans for a water balloon filling machine, a cute girl in the apartment complex would come over and beg them to fix all the spyware and viruses on their laptop.
  6. Really though, the engineers probably didn’t really ever want to build a water balloon filler; they didn’t volunteer for such a task, and just because they might be the most capable on campus doesn’t mean they have the time or motivation to help with every available project.
I think I might be coming off a little sour, so let me skip to the conclusion:  It is probably best to have a plan B when you are asking busy people to volunteer lots of time.

That chair is worth how much?

Posted in Educationon Jun 9, 2009

From a recent BYU Police Beat:

June 2: An office chair was taken from the Faculty Office Building. The chair is valued at $900

The real shocker here is that BYU is paying $900 for office chairs. That does sound like theft.

BYU should use parking meters

Posted in Educationon Feb 2, 2009

A Parking Meter

A Parking Meter

Like many university campuses, parking is a problem at Brigham Young University. All the parking lots near campus are reserved for faculty, forcing students to park off campus and walk to class. While this situation isn’t that bad, it can be very difficult for those who are taking a big project to campus for a class, or those who just need to drop an assignment off or talk briefly to a professor.

I suggest that BYU should convert a few of their prime parking spots to paid parking with parking meters. They would allow for those few students who have a special situation requiring them to park close to do so, while raising parking revenue for BYU.

The cost of parking should be high enough so only the students who have a dire need would use them, and the maximum time allowed should be somewhere in between 30 and 75 minutes, so that students couldn’t park there all day using up the prime spot.

Parking metered spots should be placed near campus classrooms, but only one or two per lot so that they don’t seriously displace staff and faculty parking.

I think it is a win-win situation.  Students have one more parking choice, and BYU can raise additional money.  

(Photo Source)

Eighth grade ID card

Posted in Educationon Jan 31, 2009

I was looking through on of my old boxes tonight and I came across my old ID card from the 8th grade.  I was 13 years old when this photo was taken.

ID Card

ID Card

I just hope that by posting this online I’m not opening myself up to identity theft.

Advertising on tests

Posted in Educationon Dec 2, 2008

I found an interesting story today about a math teacher who is selling advertising space on the tests he gives to his students.  $10 for a quiz, $20 for a chapter test, $30 for a semester final.  The money raised pays for the printing costs of the test, which would otherwise cost almost $200 more than his copying budget.

While I’m cautious about commercializing education, I think this is a good idea because it allows the community to get more involved in sponsoring education.  The idea could sour if the advertising becomes a distraction to the student while taking their test.

At BYU, they have a testing center which allows students to take their exams over a range of dates.  Often the last day the exam is offered is considered a late day in which a fee is charged.  The late fees help departments to offset the cost of the exam.  Perhaps the BYU testing center should offer exam advertising to as an alternative to late fees.

Here are a few of my notes/thoughts from the Saturday afternoon session of General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  • Elder Wirthlin – Learn to laugh.  Leason learned from his mother: “Come what may, and love it.”
  • Elder Holland -Angles are dispatched to help us in times of need.  But not all angles are from the other side of the veil.
  • Gerald Causse – Little children have a great ability to learn and trust… the same qualities help open the door to the holy spirit.
  • Lawrence E Corbridge – Christ offers a well of living water… He is the bread of life.  He is the only way.
  • Elder Christofferson – Building a Zion. Zion is zion because of the attributes and character of its citizens.
  • Elder Bednar – Council in all that we do. Prayer becomes more meaningful as you express heartfelt gratitude.

A WIRED.com post (also posted to Slashdot.org) gave 5 reasons why it stinks to be an engineering student. I’ve decided to list each reason and give a letter grade to BYU on how they appeared to do while I was in the program. If you want to rant about your education, here is your chance. Higher grades indicate a better student experience.

5. Textbooks Quality: B-. I’ve had some great textbooks which the professors used well and still are used by me today. I also had some classes where I was provided only with an electronic copy of a manuscript that the professor was putting together.

4. Encouraging Professors: C+. The WIRED post presented the problem as, “A professor that would rather be tending to his research will walz up to a blackboard or overhead projector and scribble out equations for an hour.” About half of my professors seemed to do this to some degree, and several of which had severe problems with this. There were a few professors who seemed burdened to be having to teach an undergraduate class, they would rather be working on research, and you would never see them attempt to interact with students outside of the three lecture hours a week. However, there were some professors who made every effort to get to know their students by name and do whatever it took to help them succeed.

3. Quality Counseling: B+. I found that there were many great counselors who were very skilled, approachable, and available. I only gave a B+ grade because in my experiences, I found that these counselors did better with course work academic counseling and were not so pro-active at personalized career counseling. I also didn’t give an A grade because those seem to impossible to earn at BYU.

2. Reasonable grades: C-. Engineering classes are just plain harder than classes in other majors. I always found it amusing when taking a class from a different department (not math) and was able to put in less work for a better grade when compared with an engineering class. Anti-grade-inflation tactics are well employed in engineering classes, where students compete harder for lower grades than students in other disciplines.

1. Interesting assignments: C. The complaint being, “Every assignment feels the same.” Homework assignments were often many page, green engineering paper, math problems. Varied labs and coding assignments made things interesting sometimes, but it seemed like the hard work-out problems from the text book were never-ending and downright miserable compared to the homework I saw my non-engineering friends do.

Bonus reason, girls: D. I’ve been in classes where there were no girls at all, and I’ve been in classes where the only girl was my sister. On average, there might be one girl to twenty guys. Without even touching on the limits this puts on dating, having fewer girls around just adds less excitement and variety.

Overall GPA: 2.17. If these grades get any lower, engineering classes would have to be put on academic warning status. These grades aren’t to say that engineering is bad, or to discourage people from entering an engineering field. Its just illustrating that engineering is hard. BYU’s use of student teaching assistants could especially be a source of many problems, especially as these TAs create an inappropriate buffer between the students from the professors.


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