technology

Never Have Trouble Finding Places for Science on Your Vacation Again: Sci Sites!

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In January 2018, Dr. Lakshini Mendis launched a website for the purpose of inviting science to come along on your vacation.  While just about every large city in the United States, as well as across the world, typically has a science-related museum, or other science related activities to do while you’re visiting, sometimes they can be hard to find.

 

 

Dr. Lakshini Mendis is a trained neuroscientist, and now is a full-time science writer and editor herself.  After she gained her PhD, she traveled abroad a lot.  While she was abroad, she wanted to find these “STEM-related places” that she knew absolutely existed.  Finding them, though, was an entire adventure on its own.

 

 

Dr. Mendis found it to be a little frustrating and not very convenient that there wasn’t a place on the internet where you could go to see every science activity or public area in the location you were visiting.  Of course, you could Google things all day long, but the convenience just was not there. She wanted a “one-stop STEM related travel site”.  

 

 

VISIT THE SITE

 

 
 
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Sci-Sites.com is exactly that.  By noting where she has been on her science filled trips, and asking others where they have been, Dr. Mendis has created an easily-accessible space to fit her goal.  This site includes guest posts about these places, so that you’re not going in blind — as well as suggests science related spaces for every continent. No matter where you’re going on vacation, Dr. Mendis is making it so you have no excuse to not add science into the mixture.

 

 

Another wonderful thing about Dr. Mendis’ site is that it aids in visibility for not only STEM, and STEM-related public spaces, but also for the scientists and employees involved.  By allowing guest posts, scientists who have worked for specific museums and other STEM-related places can bring awareness to those said areas, as well as to the work that they do for that specific place. 

 

It’s another way, that’s totally different and completely unique to the current world of Science Communication, to get the science communication ball rolling.  It’s a great way to get the entire family involved with STEM and the people directly involved in STEM fields in a fun and relatable way.

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

Interview: Harshita Arora and Her App Crypto Price Tracker

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Back in the last month of 2017, it felt like the only thing we were hearing about was the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Though it had started the year being worth $1,000, it had a huge spike in December that sparked the news media, having reached a worth of $17,000.

 

Bitcoin may be the most popular cryptocurrency (at least in the United States), but it is far from the only cryptocurrency in circulation.  It can be hard enough to keep track of Bitcoin, let alone the hundreds of other types of cryptocurrency around the world.  However, as the world starts to become interested in the world of cryptocurrency, and as the world begins to lean on it, it’s important to keep track of its real world worth.

 

Harshita Arora, a 16-year-old coder, created an application just for that.

 

 
 
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Crypto Price Tracker, which made it to Apple’s App Store Top Charts, was published just last month on January 28th, 2018.  Harshita, the mastermind behind the app, was kind enough to offer me a free version of the application in order to review it.*  Honestly, the app was incredible.  It was smooth; it functioned well; there were no crashes or bugs that I could see.  It’s a simple app, but it’s simplicity doesn’t take away from it’s beauty — in fact, it may just add to it.

 

DOWNLOAD THE APP FOR IOS

 

After viewing the app and playing around with it, I decided to ask if Harshita would be willing to answer some of my questions about the application.  She was completely willing to!

 

Q: First of all, I want to thank you for being willing to sit down and answer these questions! I think that our readers will throughly enjoy this! 

 

A: Thank you so much for having me! I hope my answers will help people! (: 

 

Q: What inspired you to design this application in the first place? And what got you interested in Cryptocurrency? 

 

A: I’ve shared my story of what inspired me to create Crypto Price Tracker here. In short, I was frustrated of using horribly-designed price tracking apps (not to mention, full of ads) with often inaccurate prices and alerts. I researched more and identified that there was a market need for a better and improved app. So I went ahead and created one :D


I remember the first time I came across the term cryptocurrency was in 2016. I read an article in a tech magazine (Digit) about Bitcoin and Bitcoin mining. Blockchain and building software on blockchain framework was a very interesting concept and business opportunity. Though, I never got around to building products in the field, as I was working on other projects. But in 2017, cryptos were just everywhere online. My Facebook and Quora feed were flooded with content related to cryptos and blockchain. So I started reading more online and got interested in cryptos. 

 

Q: What is the general goal of your application? 

 

A: Crypto Price Tracker helps users track prices of 1000+ cryptocurrencies from over 19 exchanges, set price alerts, manage crypto portfolio, and much more. The goal I had when I started out was to create one app where people can find and do everything they want to, to keep themselves up-to-date with cryptocurrencies and their prices, and manage their portfolio if they’ve invested in cryptos. 

 

 
 
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Q: How long did it take for you to code, design, and develop this application before it was ready to submit?

 

A: I started in November 2017 and I released the app on 28th January 2018. So it was a 2-3 months long journey from start to finish. It’s been an interesting ride! I’ve shared the journey until launch here in this post. I’m writing a post on launching, marketing, and getting feedback. 

 

 

Q: What was the beginning process of developing an application like this? Did you write the code from scratch, or use some sort of base? Was this for a classroom project, or just in your free time? 

 

A: The process started with having a product spec so that I know what features will go into the app. Then I began drawing user-flow diagrams and wireframes for each screen. I then designed all screens using Affinity Designer. That process took 3-4 weeks. I’ve shared my learnings and advice on how to design beautiful apps in this post. 

 

After designs were ready and imported in Xcode, that’s when I moved on to coding. Developing iOS apps is a lot of fun and the code was written from scratch. I used a lot of libraries, frameworks, and cocoapods. Mainly: SwiftyJSON, Alamofire, Charts, Popup Dialog, and CoreData. I couldn’t have developed the app without my mentors, Aviral and Bhavish. They were super critical in coding the app. And my friend, Harsh built the back-end on Firebase. 

 

It was not a classroom project since I do not go to school. I’ve been an unschooler for 1.5 years. Crypto Price Tracker is my first solo app. 

 

Q: How did you learn how to code, and what makes you so passionate about coding? 

 

A: I learned digital design and app design when I was 14 from my CS teacher. He’d assign really interesting projects to build, to give students real world design experience. He introduced me to Google’s Scratch and MIT App Inventor. I used to play around with them all day, for months, and that’s where I learnt basic programming concepts and built projects. Then I got the opportunity to intern at Salesforce in winter 2016 – which is where I got exposure to working in tech for the first time. 

 

I love designing and building products. And being able to build valuable software that solves a market need is a super fun and rewarding process. 

 

 
 

Q: Are you looking forward to creating new applications as well? And will they be long similar lines, or do you have new ideas that have nothing to do with Cryptocurrency? 

 

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A: Yes! I’ve recently started working on an AI app with a friend. It’s an app in Health and Fitness – so a completely different market. I’d be sharing more on this app on my Medium in a few weeks! 

 

Q: Have you received a lot of positive feedback and support from anyone in particular? Strangers reviewing the application, or family members and friends? 

 

A: Yes! When I started out with this app, 5-6 of my friends in crypto helped me understand a lot of terms and concepts in crypto and helped me a lot in figuring out the features that people/users want. When I had a prototype in Adobe XD, I asked my friends to test it out and they gave a lot of positive feedback and suggestions for improvements. ~50 of my friends tested the beta when it was on TestFlight, which was 1 week prior to planned submission. I never got any strangers to test the app until v1.0 release. After the release, my inbox was flooded with emails from happy users sharing feedback and things to work on. 

 

Q: Would you call the application an overall success and a driving point in your coding career? Why? 

 

A: I think Crypto Price Tracker has been pretty successful in acquiring users and retaining them. I’ve gotten 1,500+ downloads in 2 weeks. It was #2 app in Finance in the App Store top charts for paid apps within 24 hours of launch. It was featured on Product Hunt. A post about it on reddit got a lot of virality. And tons more good things have happened! I’m also getting acquisition offers right now. I’d say yes, it was definitely a driving point in my career in tech. 

 

Q: What would you say as a word of advice to anyone looking to get into coding themselves? 

 

A: Something I wish more people knew is that there’s a lot of resources online to ask questions if you get stuck. My favorite website is codementor.io. I’ve met a few of my coding mentors on the platform when I had questions. 

Another useful resource to ask questions (though you can’t get 1-on-1 mentoring) would be: Quora, reddit, StackOverflow. 

When learning to code, and especially if you’re self-learning with online courses and books, you will get stuck a lot. Knowing where to ask questions from more experience programmers and developers can help a lot! 

 

I cannot recommend downloading this application enough.  Even if you don’t know anything about cryptocurrency, it’s amazing to see this young woman excel at what she loves to do — and to help support her.  You can download the app on IOS devices here.

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

 

Meet the Smartwatch Designed For Blind Users

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Originally published April 2017

 

Smartwatches, love them or hate them, are becoming a huge part of our day to day life.  Many people have them, and companies are making more and more apps to go along with them as the days go on.  However, for someone who cannot see, they’re very difficult to use.  Though voice control on many of the devices (like Apple’s Siri) may aid in allowing those who are blind to use a smartwatch, it’s still not something created with them in mind.

 

The company Dot thought about this, and they’ve developed a smartwatch for blind users.

 

AN ACCESSIBLE SMARTWATCH INSPRIED BY A CLASSMATE

 

Eric Juyoon Kim, the CEO of Dot, had a classmate during his time at University of Washington who was vision-impaired.  Watching his classmate having to lug around a big braille book while everyone else sported tablets struck him.  Accessibility for the blind to have technology like tablets is still an issue.  Certain existing devices aimed at remedying this are usually very expensive, and Eric wanted to make something more affordable and accessible for those who needed it.

 

Dot is a small start-up company at the moment, but they have a great team of engineers working on the project alongside Eric.  They’ve also won various awards for their work since 2014, including at the London International Awards in October.

 

ABOUT THE DOT SMARTWATCH

 

The smartwatch is a Braille watch, that has the Braille text right on the watch face for users to touch and interact with. It’s meant to be as unlimited as possible in its potentials.  Dot has created a new technology in order to make this watch work the way they want to.  Their developed technology lessens the size needed for the device, making it not bulky or heavy (their product is 12.5mm thick and weighs 27g).  They also developed this technology to be less expensive, and therefore make it more accessible to everyone, while uncompromising on the device quality.

 

The target price of the Dot Watch will start from $300 before tax, and Dot plans to keep the price range consistent across the global market.

 

The watch will display text messages, social media notifications, and other text-based notifications, allowing the user to read whatever they need to right on their wrist.  And, of course, it will also display the time in Braille as well. It also works with both iPhone and Android devices.

 

For now, the product will be available in both English and Korean.  They plan on bringing more Braille languages to the table, such as Japanese, Arabic, French, German, Dutch, Chinese, and more.

 

HOW DO I GET ONE?

 

You can currently Pre-Order the device here.  Since the price has not yet been set, pre-ordering the smartwatch will not contractually bind you financially.  There will be a 10% discount, however, if you do decide to pre-order the Dot Watch.

 

Marked on their website’s about page is a quote from Stevie Wonder.  It states:  “We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability”, and Dot plans to do just that.  It will be great to see how far this product goes, and how many people it will help.

 

 

*This article is not sponsored

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

How to Stop Spreading False Information on Social Media

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As much as we don't like to admit it, we've probably have all spread fake news and false information via social media.

 

But it's Not Like This is Anything New

 

Despite what the comedic, political satire comic "The Birth of Fake News" might have said, the press hasn't been the best source of information for the past 600 years.  Fake news and the spread of false information in order to get readers to buy your paper has been a strategy for a very long time.  The term "Yellow Journalism" was coined back in the 1890s.  This term was a sweeping generalization of news that was not well-researched (if at all), and spread to make the headlines sell papers.  However, this was still a problem back in the 1400s.

 

According to Politico Magazine, back in 1400s there were similar problems.  There was a lack of journalistic ethics causing fake stories to pass in the newly-invented press and spread to the neighboring towns reading.

 

Fake news might be seen as more of an epidemic these days for the mere fact along that it can take minutes for false information to go viral.

 

The fact of the matter is -- fakes news will always be there.  False information will always be sprinkled about (if not completely obvious) in our media.  We have to be responsible.  We have to not share things that are not factual, especially when it comes to scientific discoveries or facts.  It can be easy to retweet something right off the back.  Something that makes it look like we're correct on some side of whatever debate we happen to be on.

 

But how can you stop the spreading?

 

1. Recognize You're Not Infallible Yourself

 

We have to face the facts -- we're probably going to spread something false. Even if we go into it with the best intentions, it's easy to spread something, and that can catch fire quickly.  If this happens, and you recognize it, just apologize.  Perhaps delete the post (though that won't always rid of the problem depending on how far it spread), but do so with an apology.  You'll look more reliable if you admit your wrongdoing rather than just sweeping the evidence underneath the rug.  A lot of times, people will find what dust you left behind if you try to hide it.

 

2.  Recognize That Science Journals Aren't Always Accurate

 

A journalist scammed the media into spreading the false information that chocolate was good for you.  He did this by submitting a fake scientific study to a scientific journal.  He has a Ph.D, and new exactly what he was doing as he created a junk article that was intended to catch fire and destroy everything in its pathway.  When Dr.Bohannon came out and said the study was false, he said:  "You have to know how to read a scientific paper — and actually bother to do it.  For far too long, the people who cover this beat have treated it like gossip, echoing whatever they find in press releases. Hopefully our little experiment will make reporters and readers alike more skeptical."

 

3.  Don't Hit the Retweet Button Until You're As Sure as You Can Be

 

Do your own research before you spread any information.  Especially if you're not an expert in the field yourself.  Create a check list of what to look out for before retweeting that article.

 

  • Does the article come from a reliable news source? One that's proven itself to be so?
  • Does the article have sources linked or written beneath it?
  • Do those sources come from reliable places?
  • Has there been conflicting articles or evidence? What did those have to say?

 

4. Be as Unbiased as Humanly Possible

 

This is probably the hardest one. Science has become a very polarized place, and it has mingled with politics whether you think it should have or not. Because of this, sides have been created. As a result, we have to be as careful as possible to not let our emotions get involved.  When emotions get involved, they can take over logic without much of a fight.  Since that is the case, everything else we talked about in this article wouldn't even matter; we got too far ahead of ourselves.  We felt so passionately, we already spread the false information.

 

You can't stop the spreading of fake news, but you can be more responsible yourself.

 

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

Code Angel: A New Kickstarter Campaign to Teach You and Your Children How to Code

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Since the original publishing of this article, CODE ANGEL was successfully funded, and can be found here

Learning to code has never been easier than with a Raspberry Pi computer.  These computers, the size of a credit card, are designed specifically to teach children how to code.  In this day and age this is, of course, something incredibly crucial to learn, considering how much we use computers every single day.

 

Schools in the UK have used Raspberry Pi in their classrooms, but there isn’t always enough time to actually teach coding properly.  However, with Code Angel, your child can learn to do this on her own, at home, on her own time using the Python programming language.

 

What is Code Angel?

 

 
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Currently, Code Angel is a Kickstarter project that launched today at 15:00 GMT, or 11am EST.  It was founded by Mark Cunningham, who had the idea to teach “the principles of computer programming through 12 amazing game projects”.  The game projects include (but are not limited to) an Alien Invasion Game, Tic Tac Toe, and Mini Golf.

 

 

When you purchase Code Angel (which will be about 25£ — about ~$32 — at the time of its release) it comes fully loaded with everything your child (or even yourself) will need to learn how to code these games.  The code of each game is explained by computer science teachers via video, teaching your child beforehand how to code the game so that they can learn as they go along.  And learning how to code games specifically should keep your child more engaged than a typical coding course.

 

What if you’ve made a mistake, and you can’t figure out what you’ve done wrong? Code Angel themselves will explain how to fix your bugs if you upload the code to their website.

 

Every graphic needed for the game, and every sound needed, are already availiable with Code Angel when your purchase it — all you have to do is implement the code.

 

There’s two different ways you can purchase Code Angel as well.  There’s Code Angel in a Box, which gives you your own personal Raspberry Pi computer and everything else you need to start right from the box.  There’s also Code Angel Digital, which is perfect if you already have a Raspberry Pi.  This form of the program allows you to download and stream the content from Code Angel’s website.

 

Mark Cunningham decided to do this project out of a place of passion.  “Code Angel is not gender specific,”  He told me.  “[But] as a Computing Science teacher and father to [two] girls I am passionate about getting girls into coding/computing”.

 

In his press release for the project, he goes on by saying: “Computer programming is a key 21st Century skill, but it should also be fun and give the learner a sense of achievement.  With over 20 years of  experience of teaching computer programming in schools, we know what motivates learners and we know what causes barriers to their learning. We also believe in developing computational thinking skills.”

 

You can visit their Kickstarter to support them here!  There are a lot of great perks if you decide to help fund the project.  You can also visit their Twitter account here to get more updates on the project as it moves forward, and also check out their website!

 

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.