10th Annual Summer Scholars Experience

Every summer for the past 10 years, Seidenberg has hand-selected some of the highest-achieving high school students across the nation to be a part of the Seidenberg Summer Scholars Experience (SSSE). SSSE brings these scholars together on our campus in New York City for a week of mobile hacking that will prepare the scholars for a bright future in computer programming. The camp includes an intensive hackathon that challenges their skills in team work, ideation, programming, execution, and – dauntingly for some – presenting and displaying each step of their process to their peers and mentors. For students preparing for their final year of high school, it’s a big and exciting undertaking for the summer.

Amanda Zeitlin Nicole Budzinski

What is even more enriching in the Scholar Experience is that each summer we challenge the scholars to create an application that has the potential to help a cause. In some years this has been a call for apps that augment STEM education; in other years we focused on Cyber Security and User Experience. This year, we asked the scholars to create an app around the Billion Oyster Project, a project which Seidenberg has become proudly affiliated with over the past year through a generous grant awarded to the school by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Brandon Ingram Beck Fuga

Of course, along with the challenge of hacking for multiple hours a day, the Scholars Experience is always balanced with a collection of the best adventures in New York City. The scholars get a curated tour of the tech scene, including tours of Google and Microsoft’s headquarters. They also enjoy intimate visits to startups like AppFigures, which have been pioneered by Summer Scholars of the past, as well as Seidenberg alumni. Then, just to be absolutely certain that this experience is unforgettable, the Scholars are also treated to performances like Fuerza Bruta and some of the delicious cuisine that this city has to offer.

Nicole Feygin Joe Redling-Pace

Not only are mentors and professors shocked every year by what these scholars can accomplish in just a week, but the scholars themselves  surprised even themselves with their skills! One of our scholars from Staten Island, Nicole Budzinski (top right), expressed that her own abilities surprised her, as she hadn’t taken on a project quite like this before. On the experience overall, Amanda Zeitlin and Nicole Feygin (top left and bottom right) both laughingly agreed that they were surprised to have found such good friends at “nerd camp.”  With a week’s worth of days filled with fun, vigor, and excitement, the scholars are able to form long-lasting friendships with their team mates from across the States. On top of that, participants will always have a direct connection to the heart of NYC through their mentors and professors at Seidenberg.

For more information on this year’s scholars, take a look at our video introducing each scholar! Plus, this year we’ve made daily videos that can be found on our YouTube channel.

(Pictured from top: Amanda Zeitlin from NY, Nicole Budzinski from NY, Brandan Ingram from OK, Beck Fuga from PA, Nicole Feygin from MI, and Joe Redling-Pace from NJ. Photography credit belongs to Noura Boustany Jost).

More photos of the experience can be found on the Seidenberg Facebook page.


This Weekend’s STEM Conference at Pace Featured Exceptional Guests to Discuss Technology’s Role in Education

We just had an eventful and exciting weekend here at Seidenberg! The much anticipated two-day STEM conference has now come and gone, but in its wake remains many new things to discuss, mobile apps to use, plants to tend to, and ZOOBs to play with.

Pictures from the STEM Conference
Pictured clockwise from top, Douglas Rushkoff speaks to the attendees about technology and education; Seidenberg students run final checks on their mobile apps before presenting them to the crowd; Rushkoff and Jonathan Hill have a discussion during Friday’s luncheon; Teachers, professors, and other attendees enjoy food and drinks at Friday’s rooftop mixer.

The two-day event consisted of a VIP luncheon, an evening mixer, and a collaboratory conference. The main topics discussed included technology’s role in educational settings, the importance of approaching technology critically, and how computing should be interdisciplinary but also stand as a full, separate subject.

Our keynote speaker was PhD Media Theorist, Author, and Codecademy’s Evangelist, Douglas Rushkoff. Well-spoken, energetic, and clearly passionate about the day’s topic, Rushkoff had a lot to say about the relationship between technology and education from its past to its trajectory. A main point in his discussion was how programming should be approached as literacy. Students should be as well-rounded in computing as they are expected to be in other subjects. As he mentions in his book Program or Be Programmed, it is not okay to be a mere passenger in the technological world; students should be focused on learning less about basic skills in user-oriented program packages, such as Microsoft Office, and more about the programming skills that give us those packages in the first place. Rushkoff stated that he prefers to approach computing as a liberal art and a science–a type of engineering that he likened to cooking. Cooking is hugely scientific. The chemistry of the elements and how they blend is essential to the task yet cooking can be creative and artful and requires the capacity to multitask as well.

Rushkoff is also a big advocate for experiential education, as described by a mantra, “see one, do one, teach one,” which is part of Codecademy’s teaching process.

When Rushkoff asked the audience for feedback, many of the teachers in the crowd (not all of whom come from a computing or STEM subject) agreed with his stance on the matter. The questions that arose were those of what to do next. One teacher asked how to find a suitable entry point when teaching computing, to which Rushkoff responded that questioning, comparison, and critique are the first steps of learning. To begin, students must approach programming as a liberal art, then they may delve deeper into technical learning.

With that much said, Rushkoff bid the conference farewell and Michael Joaquin Grey, an artist and inventor, stepped up to show everyone his invention: ZOOBs. Disguised as a toy for kids, like Legos or Tinkertoys, ZOOBs are building blocks for all kinds of structures. The unique thing about them is that they are modeled after anatomical and naturally occurring joints and connectors, so the structures that form are mobile and can be close to actual anatomies. Grey presented to the audience a model of a DNA helix that was flexible. From that model, one could see how the DNA can wrap up into different shapes, as it does in living cells. There are five different pieces, which are five different colors, just as there are five vowels, five fingers, five base pairs, five joints. ‘ZOOB’ itself is an acronym for Zoology, Ontology, Ontogeny, and Botany. Grey is now working on projects related to sensory integration issues and computational cinema.

After everyone got their share of playtime with the all-too-addictive ZOOBs, students, professors, and teachers who have been working on their own mobile apps presented their respective programs to the rest of the group. Each app was one geared towards educating and could eventually be used in a classroom setting. The apps, created from scratch, ranged from chemistry rummy to an app for measurements in biology to an app that hosts a virtual patient.

To open back up to the topic of the day, there was a panel discussion that continued off of Douglas Rushkoff’s conversation. The panel featured Steve Ettlinger, author of Twinkie, Deconstructed, Brian Evans and Tom Lynch, both of whom are professors in the School of Education here at Pace, Lou Lahana, a teacher at The Island School, and PhD Meghan Groome, the Executive Director of Education & Public Programs at New York Academy of Science. The moderator was Ben Esner, Director of K-12 STEM Education at Polytechnic Institute at New York University. The discussion flowed through the vision for STEM Education, to techniques and examples in curricula, to publicizing it all to generate a larger discussion across the globe. Audience members were also able to add their two-cents when the time came. One teacher in particular expressed her views that teachers in Pace as well as teachers in any other institute should be able to access curated advice on technology, since no one will have to time to keep up with technology as new devices appear while obtaining the necessary skill levels to teach with each new device. Instead, this teacher hoped that a forum would open up either online or in the form of an association that will produce reputable advice on which technologies are the best in a classroom environment and when it is necessary to update.

Pictures from the STEM Conference
Pictured clockwise from top, Michael Joaquin Grey lays out his ZOOB structures before talking about their conception; Attendees tune in to Grey as he explains ZOOBs; Boswyck Farms displays different devices for Hydroponic farming; Jonathan Hill introduces the students and teachers who have all created mobile apps to share.