Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Grace Hopper 2009

I just got back from Grace Hopper in Tucson! Some highlights:

  • The keynote by Megan Smith, VP of New Business Development and General Manager of Google.org, was excellent. She showed us a map of the world highlighted based on the number of search queries from the region (I wish I could find the map, it was definitely worth seeing). Africa was mostly empty of queries in comparison to the rest of the world. One of the things I really appreciated about her description of ways to change that was her acknowledgement that the people of Africa are highly intelligent and will "bring the internet to themselves."

  • I went to a talk about feminism and technology. The highlight was a Skype'd in call from a woman in Pakistan. She discussed how technology is increasing women's freedom to work, even if they aren't allowed to leave their homes. It was amazing to see her, and the room was packed.
  • The Best Practices in Introductory Computer Science Classes talk had some excellent and exciting ideas. My favorite suggestion (or really, theme) was the idea of taking projects that local community organizations need done, and giving them as class or group projects to the students. This motivates the students to do their best, since people are actually relying on what they get done, and also helps local organizations that frequently need small programs written but don't have the money to hire a programmer. While this might not work in an algorithms class, it seems like a good fit for a second or third programming focussed class.
  • I stayed for the weekend after Grace Hopper to go hiking and get to see more of Tucson than just the hotel. I went with a friend who I met at the CRA-W Grad Cohort my first year of grad school. We're still friends and both still in grad school, so for a sample size of two Grad Cohort has been effective. We spent Saturday hiking in the desert, and Sunday exploring the surrounding mountains. Saturday evening we went to watch the sunset in a location suggested by one of the rangers, and were treated to a beautiful sunset, full moon, and group of people singing the sun to sleep. Apparently Tucson doesn't frequently have clouds, but that certainly wasn't my experience.

  • Of course, no trip to Tucson is complete without cacti.

All in all, an excellent trip.

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