Author Archives: kwiens

“Graduate Pathways to Success” Workshop

Hello Readers!

Yesterday I went to a Graduate Pathways to Success (GPS) workshop called Management Essentials for Leadership.  The GPS is a program administered through the Faculty of Graduate Studies that holds lots of events throughout the year that are designed to help graduate students gain skills in a variety of different areas.  All of their workshops are free, and often include *exciting* free breakfasts/lunches.  You can see a list of all the upcoming events at:

Overall I thought that workshop was pretty good.  There were a mix of students there from very diverse backgrounds, so it was fun to talk to people doing such different things.  In some ways, however, I think that actual learning may have been easier and more productive with groups that maybe had more similar backgrounds (though it would have been socially less interesting).  For example, quite a bit of time was spend on “SMART” goal setting and basic project planning which I have heard before many times.

There were a few things though that I thought were really good, or at least new to me.  The biggest was the “Four Levels of Listening” idea.  When you’re used to being in a school/technical environment, I think it can get easy to  jump into thinking of solutions to things people are talking about instead first really listening to the problem and making sure you understand it.  This concept is obviously not new, but the workshop offered some techniques to HELP you listen before you jump in to save the day.  It divided listening into 4 levels.

LEVEL 0 – the “least useful” type of listening where you immediately go to reassurance, denial, or advice giving.

LEVEL 1 – “fact finding.” In this step you ask the speaker for more information about the problem, and keep asking questions

LEVEL 2 – “paraphrase” Here you restate what the speaker has said to make sure you understand what they’re saying, and that they know you know what they’re saying

LEVEL 3 – “reflect and interpret implications”  where you begin to emotionally identify with the speaker and understand where they’re coming from.

So to use these steps as a leader, this is what you’re supposed to do.  You’re supposed to avoid level 0 altogether unless the speaker doesn’t have the skills to solve the problem they’re bringing to you.  This seemed strange to me, but the facilitator made a good point of “why would you waste your time helping someone solve a problem they know how to fix on their own?”  Its kind of a new way of looking at conversations in that you aren’t always supposed to be there to solve things, your there to help them get solved.  I don’t know, I thought it was cool and was quite the moment for me.

So, assuming the person is able to solve the problem on their own,  and only need help arriving at how to do it, you’re supposed to go through Levels 1 – 3.  He did a few examples with different workshop participants, and I can see how it could work.   I really like how what you say doesn’t influence the person, but still helps them out.

The workshop ran all day from 9am to 4pm, so it was a fairly big time commitment, but overall I was happy with what I got out of it. You should check some of them out!

Classes are over!

Hello Readers!

I know the other bloggers have already said it, but I want to too: CLASSES ARE OVER FOR THE TERM! This term was a doozie, but its almost done, minus one more project and a final.

As I have said in other posts, a lot of the courses I took this term were very project heavy which I have really enjoyed, and I want to talk about two of them in this post.

The first one is another computer science assignment.  For this project we were given a picture of a donkey, as below:

and were to fill in a program that would remove the donkey, and fill in the space with a specified texture (the grass) from the image.  As you can see, our programs did a pretty decent job.

If only you could make programs for real life. Concrete crack?

* Run wall through program *

Not anymore!

In this class, you really start to look at pictures totally differently, and there are SO many different ways they can be displayed; the way we look at them (typical colour picture) is just one way.  Its also fun to start to have an idea of how programs like photoshop do what they do.  I think I’m going to miss that class…minus the theory parts, but its fun to have something so hands on, and where the work you do for assignments actually DOES something.

Ok, on to a more engineering project.  I also took a controls course that was by far the most useful class I’m pretty sure any engineer could ever take.  If you come to UBC, you should absolutely take it too — its called MECH 520.  For one of our projects, we were give a miniature automotive light bulb (a C194 – if you’re interested), and were to build a hotwire anemometer to measures air flow rates from the change in resistance over the bulb filament.  And that’s pretty much all the instructions we were given.  That is what I liked about the class so much, everything was so open-ended, and you had a think a little bit.

I went the classy route and made mine out of cardboard and a balloon, but its always fun to actually BUILD something, instead of simply learning how something works.

The light bulb was so delicate that I was scared to try to over a very big range of flow rates. If you decide to make one, I would suggest getting one with a more…rugged filament.

Now that classes are wrapping up, I’m starting to get a little nervous about what’s next.  I’ve been in classes for so long, I’m so used to how they work and what I need to do to do well in them.  Starting on “research only” in a week or so will be so different! I hope it will be good and that everything will go well.

I hope everything is going well with you!

CPSC – an advertisement?

Hello there!

I have something to tell you that had you told me I would be saying this a year ago, I would have called you a liar!  Over the past month, my eyes have been opened to the awesome world of computer science.  Yes, you did read that right; I think computer science is in fact awesome.  Let me explain.

As I’ve probably mentioned in previous posts, I am taking a computer vision course this term.  In my undergrad I didn’t do very much programming at all, which explains my previous attitude towards the subject, and made signing up for this course a little intimidating.  But even though I’m pretty sure I’m spending about twice as long as anyone else on the assignments, when they’re done I have a working product that, at least in this course, does something that is (1) cool, and (2) would be useful in so many applications.

Now for the assignment that inspired this post:  We were given a few photos and told to write a program that would identify where the faces were.   Tons of software does this now (ie. Picasa and its creepy ability to not only identify faces, but who’s face if they have enough photos on there!), and better than at least my version is able to, but it was still pretty interesting to get an idea of how these programs go about doing this sort of thing.

Here is the result of my program on one of the pictures we were given:

It didn’t get all of them, but it didn’t do too bad either, and it wasn’t even really that hard!  Think about how many places you could use this!  If you wanted to track something, you could put some kind of  distinctive sticker on it (ie. on crash test dummies), and write a little program that would tell you where it is.  It would even work way better than the face detection program, since the sticker would always be the same (whereas each person’s face is different).

I know doing something like this is nothing new, but now its not just a “yeah, you can do that with software” thing, but a “I have an idea of how its actually done” thing.  Also, more importantly to me, know I would be able to make something like this happen if I had to …. with certain degree of accuracy….

Assignments like this are the completely unique thing about a computer science degree.  You would leave school with so much hands-on experience.  I can’t imagine getting the same kind of grasp of the material in any other field since you have to use what you’re learning and all for the cost of buying a computer.  Its too bad you can’t do this in engineering since its such a good way to learn, but alas, to buy the equipment to try out a lot of what you’re learning would cost a whole lot more than a computer.