On Jan. 28, 2019, Informatics Professor Theresa Jean Tanenbaum and Assistant Project Scientist Karen Tanenbaum led a career workshop for junior high students at the Shalimar Learning Center in Costa Mesa, run by Think Together. Organized by the Tikkun Olam committee of University Synagogue as part of their career outreach efforts in the local community, the workshop involved hands-on learning activities. The Tanenbaums also discussed their educational journey through college and graduate school as well as their current work together running the Transformative Play Lab in the Department of Informatics at UCI.
“One of the goals of the career workshops overall is to tell different stories about how people figure out their careers, and to demonstrate that many career paths are not a straightforward line from schooling to the workforce,” says Karen. “While our work involves technology and computing, we also emphasize the creative, design-oriented work that we do and how working with technology doesn’t just mean ‘computer science.’”
Highlighting this point, the Tanenbaums engaged the students in playful learning about conductivity and circuits using MakeyMakey invention kits, bananas, Play-Doh and graphite drawings. “The students thought it was great fun, and really got into it,” notes Karen. “Many of them were involved in the coding club, so they were familiar with manipulating software but had not seen that extend into hardware/interface elements.
The students enjoyed drawing their own interfaces with soft graphite pencils and playing Pac-Man with an interface made from bananas and Play-Doh. They asked about conductivity and how they could extend the activity on both the hardware and software side. In a decade or so, these same students could be designing next-generation hardware or software. Or maybe their career paths will take a turn and they’ll apply their computer science knowledge in novel ways to other areas such as healthcare or education!
— Shani Murray