Left to right: Phoebe Cheng, Manager Civil/Structural Engineering, BART; EECS Chair Claire Tomlin; Nikhila Pai, Sr. Manager of On Call Professional Service Agreements, BART; (photo: EECS)

Berkeley EECS and BART celebrate Women's History Month

In honor of Women’s History Month, Berkeley EECS and BART worked together to Embrace Equity in STEM. Over the course of 50 years, both organizations have strived to be engines of societal change and social mobility, and they continue to do so today: BART, by providing fast, reliable transportation to the public; Berkeley EECS through its mission to educate leaders, create knowledge, and serve society. The World Economic Forum has estimated that only 20% of engineering graduates are women, and women of color represent only 2% of all engineering professionals. Women are particularly underrepresented in leadership roles, comprising 24% in technology and 16% in infrastructure. To bridge the gap, Berkeley EECS is committed to promoting access to education and careers in STEM for women and girls. BART is a vital part of the transportation infrastructure in the Bay Area, and it plays a key role in ensuring that everyone has access to education and impactful careers in STEM. EECS Chair Claire Tomlin served as a special guest and ambassador for women in engineering, and participated in a panel discussion with BART engineers and Berkeley Engineering alumnae to promote early access to education for young women aspiring to make a greater impact on society. “It’s important that there are women role-models and people you can relate to,” said Professor Tomlin. “The number of women in engineering is still too low and I think we should be striving for a percentage of women that’s representative of the population.”

(Photo by Michael Ball)

Berkeley EECS leads strong showing at SIGCSE

Berkeley EECS led a strong showing at the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE) Technical Symposium. SIGCSE, held last week in Toronto, Canada, is the premier venue for innovations in CS education and pedagogy. The event boasts attendance of over 1000 computer scientists from around the world, representing CS education research in all levels of CS teaching, including K-12, higher education and professional education. This year, EECS faculty and students contributed four papers, two posters, two workshops, and two panels, led by faculty members such as Michael Ball, Armando Fox, Dan Garcia, Peyrin Kao, Narges Norouzi, Gireeja Ranade, and Lisa Yan. Professor Ranade and her group presented their work on inclusive group formation. Dan Garcia’s presentation, “A’s for All” detailed how Berkeley EECS is pivoting toward mastery learning. Professor Fox and graduate student Victor Huang presented their use of a “climate-first lens” to train first-time TAs in CS teaching techniques. “I'm proud to be among such a high-powered group that is advancing the state of the art in the theory and practice of CS pedagogy,” said Fox.

95 Female-identifying first year students hold an ice cream social with CS advisors in the Cory Hall courtyard

CS Kickstart thrives amid return to in-person outreach

Now in its 11th consecutive year, CS Kickstart held its one-week computer science immersion program earlier this month, ushering in over 95 attendees to the program, a record turnout. The program is designed to introduce female-identifying first-year students to computer science at Berkeley and aims to add more diversity to the field. Completely student-run, they host workshops in Python, web development, electrical engineering, and data science; panel discussions featuring current Ph.D. students and faculty speakers like CS Prof. John DeNero;  field trips, like a community-building experience with the Oakland Athletics, and tours, panels, and Q&A sessions with industry partners, such as SAP Academy and Stitch Fix. “It was amazing to see CS Kickstart held in person again this year and with more students than in previous years!” said EECS Director of Student Diversity, Audrey Sillers.

Tuff Pupil: A Hip Hop Series about Global STEM Issues

CS Profs. John Kubiatowicz and Ken Goldberg, along with Berkeley's Director of Research IT, Ken Lutz, have collaborated with the Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS) and the Lawrence Berkeley Lab (LBL) to create an animated series called "Tuff Pupil" which teaches children, ages 7 to 10,  about important cyber security concepts and other global STEM issues. Familiarizing children with these topics has become even more critical since the full-scale adoption of computers for remote learning in response to the pandemic.  Tuff Pupil has so far launched three 5-minute animated video episodes featuring "high school hip hop duo" Taye and Flori (Tommy Soulati Shepherd and Kaitlin McGaw of Grammy-nominated Alphabet Rock) who rap about data privacy in catchy ways that evoke the Schoolhouse Rock shorts of the 1970s and 80s. Parents, educators, librarians and community leaders are encouraged to share these videos with children in their "homes, schools and youth organizations to support conversations about how to safely and smartly use the internet."  New episodes are planned for 2022 which will demystify everyday phenomena related to "data science, climate disruption, contagion, clean energy, and artificial intelligence."

Deanna Gelosi wins Best Full Paper Award at ACM IDC 2021

"PlushPal: Storytelling with Interactive Plush Toys and Machine Learning," co-authored by CS Masters student Deanna Gelosi (advisor: Dan Garcia), has won the Best Full Paper Award at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Interaction Design for Children (IDC) conference 2021.  IDC is "the premier international conference for researchers, educators and practitioners to share the latest research findings, innovative methodologies and new technologies in the areas of inclusive child-centered design, learning and interaction."  The paper, which was presented in the "Physical Computing for Learning" conference session, describes PlushPal, "a web-based design tool for children to make plush toys interactive with machine learning (ML). With PlushPal, children attach micro:bit hardware to stuffed animals, design custom gestures for their toy, and build gesture-recognition ML models to trigger their own sounds."  It creates "a novel design space for children to express their ideas using gesture, as well as a description of observed debugging practices, building on efforts to support children using ML to enhance creative play."  Gelosi's degree will be in the field of Human-Computer Interaction and New Media, and her research interests include creativity support tools, traditional craft and computing technologies, digital fabrication, and equity in STEAM.  She is a member of the Berkeley Center for New Media (BCNM), the Berkeley Institute of Design (BID), and the Tinkering Studio--an R&D lab in the San Francisco Exploratorium.

Rediet Abebe and Jelani Nelson to participate in U-M Africa Week

CS Prof. Jelani Nelson and Assistant Prof. Rediet Abebe will be participating on a panel about the "Role of Computing in Africa's Economic Future" at the University of Michigan Africa Week conference on Tuesday, February 16th, from 9:30 am to 10:45 (EST).  U-M Africa Week brings together "thought leaders in higher education, industry, and government for a series of discussions on the key issues and opportunities that will shape Africa in the coming decades."  Nelson is a member of the UC Berkeley Theory Group and is the founder and co-organizer of AddisCoder, a free intensive 4-week summer program which introduces Ethiopian high schoolers to programming and algorithms.  Abebe studies artificial intelligence and algorithms, with a focus on equity and justice concerns.  She is co-founder and co-organizer of the multi-institutional, interdisciplinary research initiative Mechanism Design for Social Good (MD4SG).  The conference will run from February 15 to 19, 2021.

Ken and Blooma Goldberg show you "How to Train Your Robot"

A 15-minute video version of the children's book "How to Train Your Robot," written by CS Prof. Ken Goldberg and his daughter, Blooma, has been released by the CITRIS Banatao Institute.  Aimed  at children ages six to eleven, it tells the story of a group of 4th graders who decide to build a robot to clean their workshop.  Designed to inspire girls and members of other under-represented groups to explore engineering, robotics, and coding for themselves, it's the perfect introduction for kids who are curious about robots and want to know more about how they work.    The video utilizes animatics with story narration, and is subtitled in English, Spanish, Japanese, Hindi, and simplified Chinese.   Co-written by Ashley Chase and illustrated by Dave Clegg, the book was published with support from the NSF and the the Lawrence Hall of Science in 2019.

Hopper-Dean awards EECS department $2M for diversity initiatives

The Hopper-Dean Foundation has awarded the EECS department $2 million over two years to support diversity initiatives in computer science.  The gift follows the success of a $1M grant awarded by Hopper-Dean in 2016 to include and support more CS students from underrepresented groups at Berkeley.   The grant will fund initiatives targeting high school students (Beauty & Joy of Computing), community college students (Transfer-To-Excellence), 1st and 2nd year undergraduates (CS Kickstart, CS Scholars, CS Mentors), 2nd and 3rd year undergraduates (Teaching at Scale), and 1st year graduates (EECS Graduate Fellows).  These initiatives have shown real results.  In just the past two years, the number of women who graduated in CS and EECS majors increased by 47%, and the number of underrepresented minority students increased by 43%.  Over the past eight years, the number of women enrolled in the EECS graduate program has more than doubled and minority graduate students increased by more than 50%.

Nolan Pokpongkiat wins third place David L. Kirp Prize

Third-year Computer Science undergraduate Nolan Pokpongkiat is the third place winner of the KIDS FIRST: David L. Kirp Prize, funded by the U.C. Berkeley Institute for the Study of Societal Issues.  The prize recognizes "students who have developed innovative strategies to increase opportunities for children and youth, as well as students who have demonstrated a commitment to improving the future of children and youth."  Pokpongkiat co-founded Helix, a non-profit organization with the goal of diversifying the healthcare field by empowering young people to pursue futures in medicine. As Managing Director, Nolan brought together a team to design a month-long summer program where high school students spend a week living at UC Berkeley training in basic clinical skills, getting CPR-certified, and learning about possible healthcare careers. Then, through partnerships with UCSF Health, John Muir Health, and Kaiser Permanente, along with a network of over 160 medical professionals, students rotate through shadowing placements in the hospital, on the ambulance, and in community clinics for the remainder of the month.

College of Engineering reports 7% increase in female students admitted for 2018-19

UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering has seen a 7 percent increase in the number of female students admitted for the 2018–19 academic year, according to the college’s admissions statistics.  Multiple strategies have been implemented in recent years to increase the number of female engineering students: reaching out to middle school students, making work more relevant to societal needs, offering hands-on experience, and building community.  Female engineering students have faced difficulty entering the male-dominated college.  In 2017, women constituted 25 percent of freshmen and 19 percent of transfers, this year, women made up 32 percent of incoming freshmen and 26 percent of transfers.