This weekend I had the privilege of attending the 25th T^3 conference, TI's conference on education and technology, as a guest of Christopher Mitchell. It was my first time attending and I had a wonderful time. I had the chance to meet up with a friend I haven't seen in quite some time, as well as make new friends; I got to meet a "Hollywood" celebrity (and she was even so kind as to draw me a picture), as well as a "community" celebrity; I embarrassed myself in front of the president of TI, and in front of everyone else, too. Probably most importantly I got to play with a lot of calculators and peripherals, and really got a to see how much of a difference technology in the classroom can make.

This is pretty long, but I've broken it into days. I had a great time overall, but for the part that was the most amazing for me, skip to day 2.5 Smile.

Day 0 or: The Nightmares of Air Travel
The original plan had been for me to fly to La Guardia and meet Christopher in Manhattan, where we would then bus down to Philly together, using the time to catch up and go over his talk. Instead, my flight was cancelled, and I had to talk with four different people to get rebooked to Philadelphia. Once I finally made it in I took a taxi to the hotel, and finally met up with Christopher. Because it was now 11pm, and the conference started early we didn't spend much time catching up, but I did get to play around about with the TI-84+ Color Silver Edition (what a name...) a bit before turning in. It's fun, but I'll get into that more. I showed Christopher my Merthsoft! Silver Edition:

(a custom operating system on the TI-84+SE—all I did was change a single string) which he got a kick out of. I then had him draw me a picture on my Surface:

We then went to bed to be fresh for the full day ahead.

Day 1 or: Let the Games Begin
The opening ceremony started early, and when I got there I met up with Christopher and Adrien Bertrand, administrator at TI-Planet. My favorite part was listening to Leland D. Melvin , former astronaut and NASA’s associate administrator for education. He talked a lot about teaching kids the relevance of their education. He has a very inspiring life story that really shows it’s possible to achieve a lot with enough ambition. He also talked about what it was like in space. What stuck out particularly to me was that in space your taste buds become desensitized, so they use a lot of hot sauce and spices on their foods.

After that we went to our first session, “Color on the TI-84 C Silver Edition Graphing Calculator”, presented by Tom Reardon. We learned how the 84+CSE can be used in the classroom, along with the Smart View software. I had a lot of fun finding the function that defined the arc of water coming out of a water fountain. During the session a question was asked about how to clear the styles of a specific Y= equation. I was able to answer (hit [Clear] twice), and received a Pez candy—the first of many gifts I would receive during the conference. At first he had us graph some things, and it felt very slow; however, after turning off asymptote detection graphing was incredibly fast. It was a lot of fun messing with different colors and shadings, and I can really see how this will be really useful to students in the classroom. At the end of the session, Tom had a little contest to see who could guess a number between 1 and 1000 that was closest to the one he had; I guessed 6 and won a license to the Nspire iPad software. As I don't have an iPad, I will be gifting it to Cemetech admin comic.

I then went to a hands-on Nspire session called “This Session Contains MSGs: Math, Science, and Genetics”, presented by Shawn Shlueter. In this session I used interactive activities to learn about Punnett squares and genetics. After a brief introduction to the topic of genetics, all done on the calculator, we opened an activity that was designed as a data-collection experiment. There was a short survey in which the students (or in this case, the attendants of the session) would record the sex of the respondent, and then would give them three Ishihara color perception tests . The idea is they would go around class (or the lunch room, etc.) and record responses. They would then be able to graph the results and see that significantly fewer females were colorblind than males. This held true for our session where of the three males that were there, two were colorblind (myself included), and none of the women (7 or so, if memory serves). This is a great way for students to study sex-linked traits in genetics, and to actually get experience collecting the data and coming up with reasons for why this happens. My only concern is if a student wasn't aware he was colorblind, this may not be the nicest way to find out—I know that when I found out I was crushed, since I wanted to be an astronaut, which you cannot be if you're colorblind. Overall, I really enjoyed this session, and since I had never used the Nspire before, this really showed me how useful of a tool this could be in science and math education.

After that I then went to what was probably my favorite session the conference, “Teaching Human Physiology Using the TI-Nspire Handheld”, presented by Judy Day. We got to measure heart rate, blood pressure, muscle stamina, grip strength, and oxygen levels. This was incredibly fun, and the hardware and software involved is very straight forward. We measure people's heart rates, and then did some light aerobic activity (my partner ran in place), and then measured it again. As one might expect, his heart rate increased. We were able to graph both results and see how his heart rate slowed back down after exercising, but was still above his at-rest rate. With blood pressure, we fumbled around with it for a while, and finally got some fun results when we finally read the directions Smile. With the muscle fatigue and grip strength meter, it was fun to see how quickly our hands tire, and how hard it can be to get back up to full strength after gripping for a minute straight. The oxygen test was very cool; they had use take a huge breath and hold it as long as we could (pardon the boasting, but being a classically trained clarinetist and singer, I was able to hold my breath the longest—about a minute before I got bored of it) and then measure the CO2 levels of our breath. We then hyperventilated and did the same thing. I was able to hold my breath for about the same amount of time, with some interesting results. I thought this was wicked cool, and definitely think it is a great hands-on way to teach students about physiology.

On a tangent note, after this session I walked back to the convention center proper with a woman I had met in that class and we chatted a bit about education and technology. The next morning I had a friend request on Facebook, though I couldn't for the life of me figure out who it was—all I knew was we had about 40 friends in common, all from college. Looking through her profile, I spotted a picture of the keynote address, and realized she was at that conference. A mutual friend has posted that I was there as well and tagged me in the post. Well, it turns out this woman was the one I had met the day before. She graduated two years after me, and despite the school being only 2000 students, we had never met before. Well, now in this conference of 6000 people, we manage to not only both be attending, but we actually had met and didn't even realize the connection. The world can, indeed, be very small sometimes.

After that session I went to another session on the 84+CSE. I took this opportunity to play around with BASIC programming on the device. It was very familiar and the fun of nostalgia took over—I soon had an almost-complete Snake game written, as a lesson to myself of what I could do with colors. Here's a glimpse:

The screenshot is a bit choppy, but I promise it looks great on the calc. AdriWeb, Kerm, and Elfprince can all attest to that Smile.

I was able to transfer it to Christopher's 84+CSE, and have continued to work on it. Expect a v0.9 release soon. Programming on the device is quite fun and familiar, and the addition of colors is both intuitive and adds a lot to the language. However, it's not without its faults; scrolling through the editor is painfully slow, so when selecting "goto" after an error you can go make yourself a sandwich or something (I'm exaggerating, of course, but it is painfully slow). If I had to get from the bottom of my program to anywhere near the top, I found it faster exit the editor and start from the top. Additionally, while performant enough for a game like Snake, I still feel the speed of the interpreter leaves something to be desired.

After this session, Christopher and I met back up with Adrien to head to the dinner reception and karaoke session. Christopher and Adrien wouldn't go up and sing, but I got to sing the last song of the night, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, by Queen. Despite sight-reading and missing the key change, I think it went well, here's the video for those who missed the link above:
I'd like to point out that when I'm warmed up and not just messing around, I do sound a bit better than that.

Afterwards we went back to Adrien’s hotel room to talk about the day, and Adrien drew me a nice picture:

Day 2 or: Wow, What an Amazing Day
This day started with us attending a session where Tom Reardon and Mayim Bialik demoed the Nspire iPad app. It was a lot of fun to see all the various activities, and the grapher seems very intuitive and full-featured. I can definitely see the usefulness of this software, and it answers my (and others') questions about where TI is headed given the ubiquity of tablets.

I then attended Christopher’s talk on programming the 84+. He did an excellent job; I just wish more people had showed up.

We then attended a special iPad Panel, with two teachers, Stephanie Ogden and Sheri Abel, who have integrated the iPad app into their classrooms, moderated by Mayim Bialik. Christopher has a great transcript of the session , so I won’t go over it in too much detail, but both teachers were clearly quite impressed with software and what it could provide. They touched on how it improved student engagement in math, how it helped students understand better, and how it let the student work at their own pace so as to not get left behind or lost. My biggest concern was how student-teacher engagement would be affected given the additional interface between the student and the teacher, so during the Q&A session I asked them to speak on that. Both teachers agreed that it augmented rather than replaced or interfered with the connection between them and the students; it gives the students another avenue to interact with the teachers (with email and messaging), and students still need to work with the teacher while interacting with the activities. They also commented on how it helps the student-teacher relationship since the students love to help out the teacher with the technology; this helps build trust and rapport, and I definitely see the utility here. This assuaged my concerns a lot, to hear both teachers speak so highly of it, but I still have some trepidation—mainly driven by my own lack of attention span and that when I had a calculator in class, I would spend the time programming. I can only imagine what some students will do when given an iPad in class. My other big concern was one of cheating: if the students have these devices, it would be fairly easy to share answers or look up information. Both teachers noted that they had run into this problem and that while there are some workaround it's still an open problem that needs to be addressed.

Overall I really enjoyed this session, and it was great to hear of all the successes the teachers had with the software. I definitely support TI in their endeavors here, and can't wait to see what more they will do (a Windows 8 Metro App would be fun, I think).

After this me and Christopher went to another hands-on session called “Simulating and Building a STEM Instrument for the Science Classroom”, presented by Fred Fotsch, where we got to build a colorimeter, and determine the color of liquids with the Nspire voltage probe:

This was immensely fun, and I learned a lot. The full lesson would have students determine the concentration of copper in a solution by its color. I would've had a blast with this in school (and did in the session). Overlapping disciplines like that (math, chemistry, electrical engineering) is a great way to get students interested in many things, and a great way for them to discover what they may want to do professionally.

Speaking of overlapping disciplines, the next session I went to was called “What's an English Teacher Doing in a Mathematics Classroom” presented by Ray Williams, and was all about analyzing literature with mathematics. As a math enthusiast and self-described literary nerd (and someone who's very passionate about liberal arts education), I found this session enthralling. The teachers who set this up started out wanting to find a way to integrate match and literature, and set out to find various media that would be conducive to this. Ray went through four different books that the students analyzed and how the analysis went.

The first book was a picture book called The Window. It's a story told through pictures about urban development. The students were able to use the book to analyze the rule of thirds and the golden spiral. They also used the development to explore exponential growth and determined that the development, while modeled after real-world situations, was actually quite hyperbolic. The students could then write about if the author had a right to do that, etc.

Next they studied poetry. A great thing that Ray said during the talk was "there's more maths in poetry than there is English”. Among the topics they looked into was the mathematics of rhyme and rhythm. He didn't spend as much time talking about this as I would've liked, but I plan on reading through the 50-page booklet he gave about it.

He also briefly touched on Flatland, which of course is full of mathematical content, and a Japanese book called The Housekeeper and the Professor. The latter sounded quite interesting, and I plan on reading it. He then talked about patterns within primes. I don't know if this was related to the book, but he talked about the patterns of 4n+1 and 6n+1 primes, which I thought was very interesting. After this session, I chatted with him about analyzing Poe and Frost, and about including music as well (after all, Thelonious Monk said "all musicians are subconsciously mathematicians"). He said he was definitely interested in including music, since there's math all over the place with that.

Day 2.5 or: The Really Exciting Stuff Happens Here
After a short break, I met back up with Christopher and Adrien to attend a cocktail party with Mayim Bialik. The three of us chatted and ate for a little bit, and then got in line to meet Mayim. She recognized us from the sessions and was a genuinely pleasant person to talk with. She took a photo with the three of us:
She also signed headshots for us. Mine says "Shaun - Hi! Mayim Bialik". She also was willing to draw me a picture on my Surface:

Mayim was a genuinely nice person, and it was a pleasure meeting her, even if just briefly. After this we ran into Melendy Lovett, TI’s President of EdTech, where I managed to make a fool of myself since I didn't know who she was. However, I did suggest to her that TI make Windows 8 application for the Nspire. We also spoke with Peter Balyta and he was a very cool guy. He recognized Adrien from previous encounters, and came over to speak with us. I and Christopher introduced ourselves, and I asked him "are you familiar with Cemetech". He replied that he was, and seemed genuinely pleased to meet the owner and one of the admins. They apparently watch us quite closely. So, Peter, if you're reading this, hello! We spoke about the TI-82 with fond reminiscence, and had a nice chat. We then got the amazing opportunity to meet Pat Milheron, author of, like, all the z80 calculator OSes, and many scientific calculators. He told us a story of a scientific calc he had to write the software for that had 4-bit processor with no PC, so each instruction had to encode where to go next within it. The debugger for it was a separate unit with lights and switches, and sounded very archaic and fascinating. Listening to him talk, it's very obvious how brilliant he is, and I was honored to get to speak with him about his experiences, and talk about the 84+CSE with him and Margo.

After we finally let him get on with his night, we ran into Venkatesh Chari of Orbit Research and Ken Perry of APH, who had an Orion for us to play with. It was quite an amazing device. When graphing it plays pitches for the Y value of the graph, the same while tracing. When the value is negative the unit vibrates. When on the home screen, it talks out the answer of the equation you enter, and you can put it in a mode where it tells you all the keys you’ve pressed. We were curious how easy it was to learn the keypad, and Ken assured us that it’s very easy to pick up and learn, and that he had no trouble whatsoever. We were able to snap a photo of Ken with the Orion:

Both men were very entertaining to talk to.

After this we had a nice discussion with our contact Marianne Hancock from Golin-Harris about TI, Mayim, NASA, healthcare, feminism, gaming, and more. It was a very nice discussion, and I hope to have more opportunities to work with her in the future. Afterward, Christopher, Adrien, and I went to get some pizza and then went to sleep.

Day 3 or: The Closing Ceremony
The closing ceremony was short but good. There was a photo montage of images tweeted during the conference (sadly Mayim’s drawing didn’t make it up there). Then Gayle Mujica said some words about the conference, and invited Nick Lombardo, the student from Connecticut who won the "Bring Mayim Back to School" contest, on stage to introduce Mayim Bialik. He talked about carrying around his calculator and I had happy flashbacks to my high school days where I did the same. Next Mayim got up about her interest in education and STEM fields. She then had a Q&A session. A question that particularly struck me was from one teacher who spoke of her female students who sometimes take a back seat simply because they’re female. She asked Mayim to speak on TI’s role and Mayim’s role as the brand ambassador. Mayim answered that there’s still a lot more that she and TI can do in that arena, and that she looks forward to climbing those mountains (she also mentioned some real-life mountains she was looking forward to hiking).

Day 3.5 and Beyond or: The Conference Ends
After the closing session, we headed to the Reading Terminal Market to get some food, and then headed to NYC. There we met up with Thomas Dickerson (elfprince), and had a little admin-get-together involving good food, walking around NYC, and general shaunanigans. The next day we had a birthday breakfast for Christopher, and then I headed back home to Madison.

I had a great time at T^3, and look forward to going again. I learned a lot about the technology TI is developing, and had a bit of a paradigm shift, actually thinking of the technology in terms of education rather than development. I was very impressed with everything that can be done on the Nspire as well as the 84+CSE. I can’t wait until I get my hands on my very own, and hope you all will too. I met some amazing people and re-met some old friends. I would like to thank everyone at TI who gave me and Christopher this opportunity. I had a great time.

For more in-depth coverage, check out the posts here and at TI-Planet where Christopher and Adrien kept up to date with news posts.
Great article, very informative! I kind of laughed a bit at "They apparently watch us quite closely."

I hope that it's in a good standing kind of way. :p
This needs a serious tl;dl, because a, I ain't reading all of that.

Edit: Oh look. This forum still censors words. How cute.
you dont sound that bad at all, shaun! nice voice!

this is certainly the best for an overveiw of the meeting, and maybe i will be able to go to the next conferences.
nice information thank you
Very Happy
Yes, thanks, this is really nice! I like how you peppered it with other things you did during the conference, like drawings on your Surface.
Also, the shaunanigans involved me drawing him a UFO.
just a question. what is shaun's "surface"?
Shaun, this is a superb postmortem. You made it feel very personal and approachable without losing the narrative flow anywhere. Since I was there with you for most of the conference, and you told me the details on everything that we didn't go to see together, there were no big surprises. Nevertheless, it was a very enjoyable read. Now I just need to figure out how to strongarm you (and elfprince and comic and tifreak and Tari) into using your excellent skills to write more of the news articles in the future.

Edit: LuxenD, how can you be a technology person and not know what a Surface is? It's Microsoft's tablet; Shaun has the x86 "RT" version.
I have the x86 "Pro" version Wink I actually really enjoyed writing this--it probably wouldn't be too hard to convince me to write more.
Excellent article, bravo Very Happy

Also, when are you going to share the snake game that I helped designed (/me runs) ? Razz
adriweb wrote:
Excellent article, bravo Very Happy

Also, when are you going to share the snake game that I helped designed (/me runs) ? Razz
He has TokenIDE to help him write it, but he has to send it to me each time it needs to be tested, so I wouldn't rush him. Smile

Merthsoft: Excellent, I'll have to find the way to motivate you. Perhaps mail you a philly cheesesteak for each article you write... Wink
Heyheyhey, we're bribing with food now? I want some. :< lol
tifreak8x wrote:
Heyheyhey, we're bribing with food now? I want some. :< 0x5
You have to write more news articles to get food bribes. Very Happy I loved the one that you did write recently, though, soi you're on the right track. Smile
Great report on your attendance at the T^3 euducation and technology conference. It was kind of a Christopher Mitchell to invite you along as his guest. It must have felt wonderful just being there and soaking up all the technology, talks, presentaions, etc. And meeting some wonderful people throughout the weekend. I enjoyed your rendition of Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love". Well, when you are having fun, sing your heart out! Lovely piece, thanks for taking the trouble to write it up.

Can we see more photos, please? Very Happy
Ask and you shall receive. Here's my whole album of T^3 photos for you all to enjoy. I'm happy to answer any questions that you might have about them.

Absolutely delightful! The photos of the new TI-84 Plus C Special Edition are just mouth-watering. I would like to think that Texas Instruments were gracious and generous enough to give you one for free as a memento of the conference, but I suspect not.

And that picture of you with not one but two TI-84 Plus C SEs had me wanting to touch my monitor! Tell me that one of the calculators belonged to Shaun, don't tell me that you had two TI-84 Plus Cs all to yourself to play with it. Sad

If only all the Cemetech members were present at your presentation on programming then we would have all Learned, been Engergised and Connected... Very Happy

Thank you and Shaun for sharing your experience of the conference and enabling us to see and touch (on our monitors, of course) all those delectable calculators. Very Happy

What did Shaun do with all those pillows? Did he place his collection of calculators on them at night - each one on its own individual pillow? Awesome! Razz
flintymcqwerty wrote:
Absolutely delightful! The photos of the new TI-84 Plus C Special Edition are just mouth-watering. I would like to think that Texas Instruments were gracious and generous enough to give you one for free as a memento of the conference, but I suspect not.

KermM had one before, he's lucky Razz
(However, they gave me one haha Razz)

And that picture of you with not one but two TI-84 Plus C SEs had me wanting to touch my monitor! Tell me that one of the calculators belonged to Shaun, don't tell me that you had two TI-84 Plus Cs all to yourself to play with it. Sad
In fact, this was during a "hand-on" session where we all had one to play with. Here, KermM just took his too (or was it mine ? I don't remember) Razz

Anyway, want more "mouth-watering" photos ? Take a look at this Razz
It's interesting to see that even the non school calcs have the charging tabs as well for the dock. If I had more than 4 84+CSEs, I'd get a dock. :p
Great work guys, great info and awesome photos! Its such a great time to be part of the community and you guys are driving us all forward! Smile.
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