News from Room 402 / September 2013 update

Above: Mackenzie, Athena and Patricia study a Rand McNally road map of the city, and discover that Central Park is terribly distorted on the MTA’s subway map

We’re offering a number of really exciting classes this fall! This is what we’ve been up to for the past couple of weeks:

Global Feminism – This module examines the lives and rights of women around the world. We began with a week of readings about feminism in the United States (including our own definition of that word), and have now transitioned to thinking about feminism in the context of global issues like trafficking and prostitution. We began reading Half the Sky late last week (more details about that in my next email if you’re reading along with us), and are looking forward to celebrating International Day of the Girl on October 11th. The course web page is

Introduction to Computer Science – We’re fortunate to be able to offer this class in collaboration with an organization called TEALS that brings technologists into high school classrooms to teach computer science. We’re using a platform called Build Your Own Blocks, which is what UC Berkeley uses to teach its own Intro to CS class. Our first challenge was to create a program that moves a character back and forth across a screen and also allows them to jump.  The course web page is

Media Lab – I’ve wanted to teach a class on things like programming and 3D printing for some time, and this is it! We started the class with a 2-day introduction to simple circuits on paper, kind of like those birthday cards you can buy that light up and play music.  We’re now working on 2-3 different platforms for the rest of the course, and students will be expected to build a final project of their own design. We’re using something called the MaKey MaKey to experiment with how we can use our bodies (not just our fingers) to interact with computers. If you’d like to learn more, see We’re also working with soft circuits, which allow us to use conductive thread and sewable LEDs to create garments or stuffed animals that incorporate electricity. We also have a 3D printer (a Printrbot LC) that we’ll be using just as soon as we can get it calibrated. (If you have any expertise with this, please let me know.) The course web page is

Cartography – This class is about map reading and map making. We’ve started by practicing basic compass skills, understanding scale by comparing the MTA map with a Rand McNally road map of NYC, and taking a field trip to the Sean Kelly gallery to see the exhibit “From Memory, Draw a Map of the United States.” We’re planning another trip to Central Park to practice navigation skills in collaboration with the Appalachian Mountain Club and will be covering other fundamentals (latitude/longitude, projection) soon. Going forward, we’ll be making paper mache globes, participating in a digital mapping project, making some maps as art, and maybe even doing some aerial balloon mapping, which involves sending a 5-foot helium-filled balloon 300 feet into the sky with a camera attached! (I’m working on that.) The course web page is

Stay tuned for more photos!

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