Conferences Are About People – ‘Broadening Engagement’

I should be in bed. I am tired. I am at the Seattle Supercomputing Conference, and in the few days I have been here my mind has been challenged to think, stretch, create and expand my ideas on education. It it not my first time at the conference. As I continue to attend, I gather friends with benefits who have the same mission of changing the world and sharing their expertise. I have learned so much, I had to think how to share. Look here at the conference site and examine communities.

I am part of a team of teachers. We are an affinity team, and we sit and talk after the sessions, to strategize what we will do during the year after the conference is over. Jesse Bemley has created the first Supercomputer Center in a neighborhood. Mano Talaiver is a great friend from Virginia; she works with a consortium out of Longwood University, educating the rural populace and sharing new technologies, gender education and such. Bob Plants is a learning science specialist who trained at Vanderbilt and who currently works at the University of Mississippi; we work together at And my husband, Vic Sutton, is a journalist-educator. That is the core of our group, but already this year we have found a few others to bring along on our journey. No one is in charge of the team.  Henry Neeman and Scott Lathrop are our main contacts within the SC community.

We spin straw into gold with these contacts and scatter new ideas along in educational places. I am not a PhD like most of my friends. I am an educational dreamer who cobbles bits of information into opportunities for others.

We have friends with benefits. We have friends within the Supercomputing Community. Facebook and Google+ are our usual way of communicating and disseminating information, scholarships, links, and ideas. At this conference we meet and greet people who want to include diverse populations. We also learn from people who are not usually available to us as mentors or instructors. What is interesting is that these people acknowledge us as individuals and thank us for helping to share information. I will mention just a few people.

Dr. Robert Panoff of Shodor has been a cheerleader for education and broadening engagement for all of the time that I have known him. “With an Internet presence producing 3 to 4 million page views per month, Shodor has an international impact. Its award-winning, free online education tools such as Interactivate are popular with students and educators alike” (About). He helps you as a teacher or educator to push the envelope to learn what you need to, to share the concepts of computational thinking.

Shodor is a nonprofit organization serving students and educators by providing materials and instruction relating to computational science (scientific, interactive computing)…. Shodor is transforming learning through computational thinking. In the Raleigh-Durham, NC area, Shodor offers workshopsapprenticeships and internships for youth and teens to build excitement for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through interactive explorations using hands-on and computer-enhanced activities, giving them the experience they will need to pursue a technology-intensive career path. (About)

I love the NCSI workshops where educators get to fine tune their skills with computational tools and knowledge. Take some time to look through what he has to offer.

During the conference we have had our Facebook/Google Moments.

Can you imagine that one of the recipients of the 2011 National Medal of Science recipients is a good friend? That he reads your emails and announcements and ideas? Can you imagine that he is a user friendly, affable, kind and gentle person? He gave us all in the broadening engagement community a cameo of his award, but most of all an opportunity to speak with him. “The White House announced that Richard Tapia, a Rice University mathematician and longtime champion of diversity in U.S. education, will receive the National Medal of Science from President Barack Obama” (Rice).

Dr. Richard Tapia is my friend. When I first met him, either at NSF or SC, we talked and talked and talked. I had no idea he was a renowned scientist. But the talks helped, and eventually I got invited to Teacher Tech in Houston at Rice University. Here is his webpage, and you can read all about his diversity outreach projects and conferences.

I had a Facebook moment with a physicist that I do not really know. He stopped by my table to thank me for what I do, and I was amazed that he even knew me.

Henry Neeman is a friend too. I found out about him at the Supercomputing Conference. He does wonders with helping others to understand the concept of Supercomputing. He has helped us to create a SIG at in Computational Thinking. He actually attended our conference and did workshops.

See the PDF of his presentation, “Supercomputing in Plain English.” He is a great instructor, with a sense of humor, a great educator with a heart for teachers and kids.. We were able to take his courses on the telephone with the computer, or with big technology. He also participated in the TCEA conference with us to create a workshop and to develop a paper. Here is what he says about himself on his web page: “Hi, I’m Henry Neeman ( The pictures of me (above) are actually relatively good — I’m much more of a dork in person. Welcome to my lame homepage.”

Henry and Scott Lathrop have created wonderful opportunities for us to share Supercomputing with K-12. Scott was the person in charge of the SC conference this year. He is the Education, Outreach and Training Technical Program Manager of Blue Waters and associated with XSEDE. There is so much to say about a leader who creates possibilities for others.

You may have noticed that we have not talked about any women.  That is what Broader Engagement is about, that and the inclusion of others.

2 Responses

  1. […] broader engagement is to change the face of technology to be more inclusive. Remember I asked in my first take on the conference, “Where are the women?” Well, lots of women were involved in the […]

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