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Girls Who Code teaches that computer skills aren’t just for boys

Local chapter of national organization builds wall of ideas in first year

Regina McMenomy

Regina McMenomy, an English instructor at Washington State University Vancouver, is facilitating a new chapter of Girls Who Code, a national organization whose mission is to provide computer science instruction to young women and girls through clubs, classes and online programs.

McMenomy isn’t a coder herself. That’s part of the point of Girls Who Code, she said. She’ll be learning along with the group how to write computer-generated music, develop games or design websites. It all depends on their interests.

“The agency is entirely theirs,” she said.

Emma Anderson, 12, and Ivy Isch, 11, are friends who attend Discovery Middle School. The pair huddled around a computer, experimenting with EarSketch, a program that teaches Python and JavaScript through the creation of music.

Emma enjoys learning code in a room of all girls, she said. It’s important that girls don’t “grow up thinking only guys can do” programming.

The girls, who meet once a week on Wednesdays, will over the next 14 weeks develop a virtual murder mystery using a variety of code and programming skills.

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The Columbian

Vancouver group steps up to keep ‘A Radio Christmas Carol’ on the air

The golden age of radio gets newer all the time.

For years now, the Kiggins Theatre and Re-Imagined Radio, a Washington State University Vancouver project, have been reviving the bygone era when families gathered around a grand wooden box in the living room to listen.

So, local radio-drama lovers nearly slipped on a banana peel upon hearing that, for the first time in years, Portland’s busy Willamette Radio Workshop won’t perform its annual holiday classic “A Radio Christmas Carol” at the Kiggins this year.

John Barber

“We couldn’t find a time that worked for everyone,” said John Barber, who has steered Re-Imagined Radio as a faculty member in the creative media and digital culture department at WSUV. “It was a challenge we just couldn’t solve.”

But Kiggins owner Dan Wyatt recalled that Vancouver’s own Metropolitan Performing Arts group recently shone during a live reading of the script “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” at a Harry Potter festival. Turning to Metropolitan to carry on the radio-drama tradition seemed like the perfect way to transform a loss into a win, Barber said.

“Let’s go a little more grassroots than before,” he thought. “Why have this event in Vancouver and bring in the entertainment from afar?” The idea of developing a local stable of voice actors and sound-effects specialists “is quite exciting when you think about all the ways it could go,” he said.

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The Columbian

Homer on a flash drive

Plato is sitting at the feet of his mentor Socrates, writing down what the old philosopher says. What Socrates is saying, ironically, is that writing is bad for you: It rots your memory. Preserved in Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates’s opinion of the then-emerging technology sounds strange to us now—until you recall that that’s pretty much exactly what pundits in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have been saying about TV, video games, and texting.

Dene GrigarDene Grigar, director of Washington State University Vancouver’s program in Creative Media and Digital Culture, laughs and nods. She’s also the president of the Electronic Literature Organization, an international team of scholars and artists dedicated to creating, preserving and evangelizing “born-digital” art and literature.

“Remember the fireside chats?” she asks, harkening back to World War II and Roosevelt’s cozy, comfort-food style of delivering encouragement to a nation at war with fascism.

“Read the reviews,” she continues. “People didn’t want fireside chats, people didn’t embrace them. The president making himself available?” The demonstrative redhead waves her hands, a gesture that says, Shocking! “No! You’ve got to be behind a podium.

“The Industrial Age is a model for us,” she continues, tromping up the stairs to her lab. “They were struggling with transitioning from an agricultural economy to a manufacturing one. Mechanizing jobs, the introduction of machines into everyday life.” She enters her lab and concludes, “We are struggling through a lot of these issues that we’ve already struggled through before. But now with different technologies.”

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Washington State Magazine

Augmented-reality experience helps tell Academy’s history

WSUV program’s app will enhance historic site’s Dec. 8 anniversary.

Mother Joseph and her fellow Sisters of Providence arrived in Vancouver, Wash., on Dec. 8, 1856. The 161st anniversary of that event will be celebrated when an augmented-reality experience and some other visitor-friendly features are unveiled at Providence Academy.

Dene Grigar

The augmented-reality feature is a new mobile app created by the Creative Media and Digital Culture program directed by Dene Grigar at Washington State University Vancouver.

The app will provide a virtual history of Providence Academy through mobile devices. Visitors will be able to point their phone at sites around the building and interact with the videos and graphics that appear.

One augmented-reality segment is built around an animated version of the building’s bell. Visitors will be able to pull their phones downward in a tugging motion, ringing the 400-pound bell.

Students in professor Grigar’s class have also visited the Providence Archives in Seattle to review historical documents and images.

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The Columbian

Ask Dr. Universe: How did science get its name?

Dear Dr. Universe: I was wondering, how did science get its name? Who thought of it? Does it mean something special? -Jada, 10

Dear Jada,

Michael Goldsby

My friend Michael Goldsby is a philosopher of science at Washington State University. He said the English word “science” comes from the Latin, scientia, which means knowledge.

In medieval times, the pursuit of knowledge included things like grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. Of course, the meaning of the word “science” has changed over time.

Debbie Lee

My friend Debbie Lee, a researcher and Regents professor of English at WSU who wrote a book on the history of science, said that, in the 18th and 19th centuries, a lot of people in Europe were going out to other parts of the world to explore.

“They came up with these huge systems of cataloging and naming the world,” she said. “Science really continued to grow out of that pursuit.”

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Dr. Universe