Skype with a rocket scientist – Today’s STEM Talk at Salt River Elementary

It’s funny how an ‘old’ technology comes to the rescue, even in education that’s all about Ed-Tech.

I’ve used Ustream, am experimenting with Stre.am, one of the newest shiny objects for collaboration and live-streaming. WebEx is not feasible for legal reasons, which is why Skype has come to the rescue. Skype – that grandaddy of web conferencing tools– is old in Internet years! Released in 2003, it came in a different era from our one-click chat apps that are morphing into lean, mobile must-haves. It’s still a trusty, if not crusty application.

Anyway, for this ongoing series of STEM Talks, I am pleased to be able to connect my school with an eminent NASA scientist, Dr. Ashwin Vasavada. He is the lead scientist on NASA’s Curiosity Rover mission, and comes to us via the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. For those of us with one-planet experience, know this: Ashwin participated in Galileo mission to Jupiter, and Cassini mission to Saturn.

My students have some background to Curiosity, because of robotics, and some have seen the full-scale model of this Humvee-sized robot at ASU. I’ll be curious (I know, bad pun!) to see how they engage with him.

Place: Computer & Technology Lab

Time
: 4:00 pm

Light refreshments will be served.

Check out previous STEM Talks here, and here.

Phone calls are cool, once again

Are phone calls back in business?

After all the texting, WhatsApping and refusing to pick up the phone (because you wanted the caller to not waste your time, when a SMS would suffice), it appears that people are returning to real conversations.

Or am I just being optimistic?

Here’s a shocker: In 2013, Skype carried an estimated 214 billion minutes of international “on-net” calls (that’s defined as calls made from one Skype app to another).

That’s in spite of the rise of Viber and Line, and even Google Hangouts which do the same job, or better. There’s also an emerging standard known as VoLTE, that’s supposedly about to deliver ‘infallible voice service’ that’s different from the VOIP standard. It’s too technical to go into this here. But the big picture is that soon, when voice calls become cheaper, and more high def, it’s going to make us want to return to those conversations.

For my Mum’s 90th birthday, last week, I was able to speak to her, and get some half-decent face-time with cousins, thanks to Skype. To me Skype is the trusty service, in the same way that land-lines were some 20 years ago, never mind the poor quality of the line. I still use these ‘over-the-top (OTT) applications, but whenever I yearn for close encounters, there’s nothing like a phone call!