Presentation Revolution

Thank goodness for practice presentations.  By the end of the day, I think our PowerPoint Presentation improved from a “meh” 5/10, to a strong 8.5/10.

This morning, we had a nice long Peer-Review Presentation Practice Session that lasted all morning and a bit into the afternoon. This was tremendously helpful for me, and i’m sure it was for everyone else as well. These “milestone updates” and “peer-review” sessions are definitely a big plus. One thing that I realized after presenting, was that I have been a little bit misguided with presentations in general.

I remember in elementary school, our little PowerPoint presentations were filled with fun colors, fancy images, and intense animations. However, throughout middle school, we were told to avoid crazy colors, and simplify everything. Of course their point was to make sure that the slides are readable to audiences, and also to make sure that you knew your material. Remember the kid who used black colored letters on a dark blue background and that other kid who wrote an essay on each slide? Yeah, they wanted us to avoid that.By high-school, presentations were so uninspiring and bland, that they probably would have failed in elementary school.

I got the idea that simplicity and minimalism meant clarity. This, I now realize, is not entirely true. After our practice run, I realized that many of the slides in our presentation were working against us. The entire purpose of a presentation is to make the delivery of a message or idea easier for the presenter and clearer for the audience. Our presentation was hurting us instead of helping us because the information slides were too vague and general. They were too simple. We left out too much information, and that meant that we had to explain more, and the audience would therefor have to listen more. And we all know that an audience that is forced to listen more carefully, is an audience that won’t listen at all.

PowerPoints are tools that can help guide us in our telling of our story. Animations convey a sense of progress over time, and visuals help explain concepts and ideas. I had shied away from visuals and especially animations because I believed them to be obstructive, distracting, or unnecessary. But now I realize that, if used correctly, animations and visuals are immensely beneficial.

I spent the rest of the day (hmm, last day? wow) revamping the old PowerPoint with magnificent animations and a few more visuals. Originally, we were unsure about how in-depth we wanted go in explaining the issues with unpredictable URLs. Then we realized that if we only half explain it – which we did in our practice run, it would only be confusing and more detrimental than beneficial to the presentation. We should either explain it fully, or not touch upon it at all.

So we decided to explain it fully as best as we can. However, this time it won’t be just us trying to verbally explain it with just a handful of words on the presentation slide. I have assembled an animation that will hopefully guide the audience as I explain it. I’ve tested it on my brother, and it seemed to work. Here’s a sneak peak!


Un-animated of course. Saving it for tomorrow!

Aside from animations, more visuals, and a better explanation, we have re-ordered the slides of the presentation for the sake of clarity. Originally we had the slides correlate chronologically with our actual progress over time in the lab. However, this order doesn’t really lend itself too well with a very “follow-able story-line.” The re-arranged order should make a little bit more sense and should be a lot easier to follow.

Thank you fellow interns, Bob, and Bethany for your very helpful advice and feedback. Tomorrow should be fun!



Presentation Preparation

Today was not really the most exciting day. We are done with our project, and we have completed its supplementary presentation. All we have to do now is practice the presentation thoroughly.

It will be tricky trying to explain why we have an online version as well as an offline version of the STN. We going to have to explain the whole situation with the unpredictable URLs. Details are important, but nobody cares about all of the details. Other than that, the presentation shouldn’t be too bad.


Observing the Mees Observatory


The Mees Observatory

I came into work today bright and early at 2:00 pm. No, I’m not late; today is field trip day!

Bob arranged for a visit to the Mees Observatory in Bristol, NY, today, and we are hoping to catch a glimpse at some stars. The observatory is named after C. E. Kenneth Mees, “in honor of his pioneering work in the development of sensitive photographic emulsions for use in astronomy.” This should be interesting.

Will update later.

The observatory was at the top of a large hill, which was tempting to roll down. We had DiBella’s for dinner (Thank You Bob!), and played soccer (on a slope) for a bit. After a very interesting presentation of Astronomy and its history, we took a look at the telescope itself and the process by which it is operated.

The telescope and the dome was very cool. Unfortunately, the skies were very cloudy and visibility was low. Our chances of seeing anything were very slim. After adjusting our eyes to the darkness in red light for about 10-15 minutes, we eventually did have some good luck. A “sucker spot” in the sky, or a gap in the clouds, allowed us to catch a glimpse of Mizar and Alcor of the Big Dipper, a stellar double star! In fact, Mizar and Alcor actually consist of 6 stars. Here’s kind of what we saw:


And here is where we saw it:


Neat Stuff

Also, there will be a meteor shower tomorrow. Unfortunately, we live in Rochester and so there will also be rain and clouds. Maybe next year!

Free Food!


The RIT Inn & Conference Center

While we do usually have “free” food on Fridays at the barbecue, we don’t usually have free catered breakfast AND lunch. The RIT Conference Center/Inn, had delicious muffins for breakfast and lots of other fancy stuff for lunch. Not bad for “free food.”

At the Undergraduate Research Symposium, there were two very interesting main talks from accomplished RIT alumni, The first (at breakfast) was Erhardt Graeff, a Ph.D Student and Researcher at the Center for Civic Media at MIT. He talked about his journey throughout education and the eventual creation of “The Awesome Foundation.” The second speaker (at lunch), was Professor Rick Kittles, associate professor in the Department of Medicine and the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Illinois, Chicago. He talked about the National Human Genome Center and his role in it, as well as the history of race in science. It was a very interesting talk about a very interesting and deeply rooted topic.

Throughout the day, we hopped from presentation to presentation and learned about the various projects and research efforts by undergraduates from around the nation. The topics and fields covered at the Symposium were far and varied. It was amazing to see so many different branches of research in one day.

At 3:15pm, it was time for us to present. Just like Bethany, Bob, and Dave said, it was over in a flash. Overall, I think we did pretty well.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend Maryam’s presentation about Gaze Analysis on 3D Reconstructed Scenes because she presented at 3:00pm.

The Undergraduate Research Symposium was a very unique and great experience that I was very fortunate to be a part of.


David had organized a fun Friday movie night in the fishbowl. When we returned to the CIS, we headed to the Fishbowl, where we prepared to watch Star Wars Episode IV. And what do you know? MORE FREE FOOD! David and the grad student Matt, had arranged for pizza to be delivered for the movie.

Watching Star Wars IV was a good idea for me because the last time I watched it was when I was maybe 5-6 years old. I learned that I really don’t know what happened in the original Star Wars trilogy. I’m going to have to watch episodes V and VI soon!

When you have free Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner in one day, you know that it was a good day!

*Once again, thank you to Bethany, Bob, and Dave

Presentation Consultation

After finishing the first draft of the presentation for the symposium, we asked Bethany, Bob, and Dave to take a look and critique our work. In practice, we went through the presentation in 9-10 minutes. But when we presented to Bethany, Bob, and Dave, we took just 8 minutes. Uh oh…

So we spent the next many minutes with Bethany, Bob, and Dave, going through our presentation and making adjustments. With their help and constructive criticisms, we identified our main issues.

Our main issues were:

  • Too short/fast (goal = 12 minutes)
  • “Story-line” is hard to follow
  • Lacking visuals of actual setup + parts
  • Not very exciting
  • A few redundant slides

For the next couple of hours, we revamped our presentation. Dave graciously came down to take a look at our new and improved presentation. This time, we finished in 13 minutes. After a few more helpful tips from Dave, we were set to go.

I think we are very ready for the Symposium tomorrow!


*Thank you Bethany, Bob and Dave for your help!

To Learn, or Not to Learn

Trying to find concepts and lessons to teach has actually gotten me a little bit more interested in the subject. I became curious as how how exactly do Astronomers use spectra to learn about the Sun and other stars. It turns out that a lot can still be taught about the Sun that isn’t too “disconnected from general knowledge.”

Every different ion of an element sends out light at combinations of wavelengths that are unique. Light at these wavelengths, known as emission lines, can be used like fingerprints to identify the atom or ion that sent out the light. And because ions of an element are particularly selective in their temperature ranges, each ion of an element can only exist at certain temperatures unique to each ion of the element.  With these facts, astronomers can tell which elements and ions exist on a star, and the temperature at that location on the star.

In addition to reading the wavelength combinations, astronomers can also utilize the Doppler Effect to determine the movement of a star (or object) in space. If the wavelength of an emitting source is shorter than it’s resting wavelength, then the source is approaching us. If the wavelength of an emitting source is longer than it’s resting wavelength, then the source moving away from us. [The question I have is, how do astronomers determine the resting wavelength of an emitting source if the source is in motion? ]

These concepts are definitely graspable for high-schoolers, and could likely be demonstrated to middle-schoolers without too much difficulty. If we ever do have a teacher’s manual, we could definitely add these concepts and create lesson plans accordingly.

In between study/learning sessions, I worked a bit on our Powerpoint presentation for the Intern Symposium. The Powerpoint is near complete, and it only needs a few more slides and a few visuals that I have saved on my home desktop. Overall, I’m pretty content with the content of our Powerpoint!

To Teach, or Not to Teach?

Today, after the morning 10:30am Insight Lab meeting, CIS professor of Physics and Astronomy, Michael Richmond, paid a visit to the lab. After Mr. Messinger had suggested that we find help for facts about the sun by looking in the CIS building itself, Christi contacted Professor Richmond, who was kind enough to offer some of his time and knowledge. He came and observed our STN and DSE projects, and then, despite not being a Solar Astronomer, was still able to offer many brilliant ideas, as well as some professional insight. We discovered that most of the things that the SDO images tell us, are not exactly very middle school/high school friendly. While teachers and museum tour guides may be able to point out certain facts that each wavelength tells us, they wouldn’t be able to provide a very meaningful explanation for middle/high schoolers and museum visitors.



Take for example the AIA 171 Angstrom wavelength image above (gold). I could tell you that

This wavelength is emitted by iron-9 (Fe IX) at around 600,000 Kelvin. This wavelength shows the quiet corona and giant magnetic arcs called coronal loops. Also, it is in the Upper Transition Region/Quiet Corona solar regions of the Sun.

To a museum-goer, this may be “fascinating,” and induce some mindless head nodding and intrigued-frowning-facial-expressions of pretend understanding. And to a middle/high schooler, I would probably lose their attention and therefor interest by the time I finished the first sentence.

Even if a teacher or museum tour guide managed to keep their attention for the entire three sentences above, there would still be a lot of explaining to do. What is iron-9 (Fe IX)? How does it emit waves? Why does it emit waves of a certain wavelength? Why is there iron in the sun? What does temperature have to do with wavelength? What is the Quiet Corona? Why are there coronal loops? And so on and so forth… Keep in mind, each of these questions will likely spawn more questions that require even more explanation.

If middle/high schoolers and museum-goers are not lost or bored and the sun is still up by the time you explain everything, then you should seriously consider a career in education.

There is a reason why a computer teacher in high school never really teaches you how a computer works. He may explain that the computers communicate by a system of binary codes and sequences, or he might try to explain the different parts of a computer. But, in the end, the image that appears on your screen still seems like wizardry. Even most people who build their own computers by assembling the parts, will not be able to tell you how or why their computer works. The only people who may know how a computer actually works, are likely the people who have gone through numerous years of very specific and focused education. It is not the purpose of a high school or a museum to provide that kind of specific and “exclusive” information.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that high school teachers are wasting their time by trying to explain binary code to students! I’m saying that high school teachers are only giving general information about certain topics so that students can get an “idea” on what a certain topic or area of study is all about. The point is, that the STN’s wavelengths cover very specific information that may be too disconnected from “general knowledge” to interest or be of use to middle/high schoolers. Also, much of the “general information” that the various wavelengths can provide, is not very well understood by even the most well-informed scientists.

For example, we know that sunspots are cooler regions on the Sun’s photosphere and that they are formed by some kind of magnetic field interactions. And as a result of the formation of these sunspots and the magnetic reactions, Coronal Loops form. But that’s about all that we really know. Sunspots and their closely related Coronal Loops are referred to as “phenomenons” because we have failed to accurately predict their formation, patterns, and understand their nature. What we do know about these phenomena is unlikely to satisfy the appetites of the curious.

Still, not all is for naught.

Here’s some general information could still demonstrate with the STN:

  • In Gaseous bodies in space, such as in the Sun and Jupiter, the time it takes for a point on the “equator” to rotate full circle, is less than the time required for a point closer to a pole to rotate full circle.  On the other hand, in solid bodies in space, such as in Earth and Mars, the time it takes for a point on the “equator” to rotate full circle, is equal to the time required for a point closer to a pole to rotate full circle.
    • We could prove this by tracking a point on the equator of the Sun and count how many days it takes for the point to go all the way around the equator. And then we count how many days it takes for a point near one of the poles to go full circle and compare it to our first number.
    • Then repeat the same process on the Earth and compare the results with observations made earlier on the Sun
  • A solar flare is defined as a sudden, rapid, and intense variation in brightness, and occurs when magnetic energy that has built up in the solar atmosphere is suddenly released.
  • A sunspot is a significantly cooler spot on the sun’s surface (photosphere) and is formed by the interactions of the Sun’s magnetic fields.
  • Coronal loops are horseshoe-shaped protrusions of the Sun’s plasma that occur in between pairs of sunspots.
    •  we can point out solar flares, sunspots, and coronal loops, but we can’t really explain much about them.

It would still be a cool and unique experience for middle and high-schoolers to see the Sun in these different perspectives and see up-close what solar flares, sunspots, and coronal loops look like. You can still definitely utilize some basic information about the Sun to introduce the amazing and unexpectedly dynamic nature of the Sun.

Perhaps the lack of understanding that we have about the Sun may inspire the curious to look further.


*special thanks to Professor Michael Richmond