Your address will show here +12 34 56 78
Sustainability, Features, Featurable

Campus Innovator The IdeasXChange Campus Innovator is a forward-thinking, proactive individual who has kickstarted their own sustainable initiative on the UBC Vancouver campus. Their involvement surrounds the core values of a sustainable, innovative and interdisciplinary mindset, which they are eager to share with the rest of the UBC student body. If you would like to nominate yourself as a Campus Innovator, or would like to interview another Campus Innovator you know, please send your pitch to: magazine@ideasxchange.org.


(Interview by Priscilla Ng) Recently, IdeasXChange had the opportunity to talk to Mohammad Asadi Lari, a third-year Honours Physiology student who is involved primarily in research and youth engagement. His passion in facilitating an innovative, sustainable, and paradigm-shifting discussion in STEM research and data education prompted him to be involved in various organizations in research and scholarly publishing that are well-known within Canada and beyond.


Please describe yourself and your passion in 3 words!
Two of these words can actually be integrated into one word – ‘social’ and ‘innovation’. I like the social aspect and the innovation aspect of the fields that I am engaged in. I first learned about this term at the National Youth Leadership and Innovation Summit in Toronto. Before that, I was never engaged with people who were involved in start-ups, but this was a buzzword that kept coming up during the conference. I would also want to choose the word ‘compassion’ too, because I care about the people who I work with. Compassion is required in social innovation and the work that I do in that area. I think that my own growth is intertwined with the growth of my peers – they grow, I grow, and I hope that when I grow, I am able to share it with others, so that they also grow as individuals. That’s actually why I think ‘compassion’ is the most important word out of the three.


You had mentioned your interest in educational innovation and working with UBC students to cultivate young leaders. What inspired you to be a part of STEM Fellowship, and what would you like UBC students to be able to take away from getting involved with the organization?
STEM Fellowship started when Dr. Sacha Noukhovich, a highly seasoned teacher from Toronto, invited me to work with two students currently at UCalgary and UofT on a new organization. It kick-started in April 2015, and from that point onwards, it became my most important involvement! My immediate social circle was in UBC, so we had recruited a lot of people here initially, which was followed by establishing our first club here in March 2016, and expanding our presence into a total of twelve campuses (and counting!). Our primary focus is on data science and scholarly communication, but we want students to see these as tools where they could both get engaged with STEM leadership, innovation and research, as well as getting to share their work. There is a lot of good work out there by students, but they are unaware of how they can share them, and this is not just limited to writing. We are also working closely with a company called Digital Science, probably one of the largest innovation companies in the scholarly publishing field, and they push for a number of tools used for analyzing research around the world. In doing this, we are also aiming to connect major non-profit organizations and companies in the scholarly publishing field to campuses all across Canada, and this is where our scholarly communication, ‘Editing 101’ and peer review workshops come in. We hope to create an international network, that is brought together by the collective action of local clusters of STEM Fellows, and given the strong presence we have in UBC, we hope to see this campus as a leading element of the broader project!



The Big Data Challenge and the STEM Fellowship Journal seem to be two of the major projects at work by the organization (along with many others). Please tell us more about what lies behind this year’s theme, ‘Using impact data to understand and predict the future directions of science’, why Data Science is important, and some of the challenges faced in pushing for this initiative.
The Big Data Challenge in Toronto is an initiative where we provide data sets to students, and they will use a total of 3 months using the tools and options to analyze data in order to come up with their own projects. Eight projects will be selected to enter the finale in Toronto, and our ultimate goal is to make this initiative nation-wide. We are also, of course, looking to bring this into UBC. Our Big Data events are currently sponsored by IBM-Big Data University, Microsoft, SAS and SciNet (Canada’s largest super computer centre). What was interesting about this year is that our students were working on open-access data and the data from the city of Toronto last year, and this year, students are working with Alternative Metrics (AltMetrics). They ended up becoming our sponsors for the Big Data Challenge, and the source of research data that our students to work with. A lot of very interesting projects emerged from this collaboration which were extremely impressive for high school students, and we will be publishing three of them in our next issue. Over the past year, I also had the opportunity to talk to a number of indigenous student leaders, and they were interested in the idea of the Big Data Challenge because they saw potential in working with data that were relevant to their respective communities, especially the environmental issues regarding the construction of the pipeline. I think STEM is very empowering; giving students the tools they need to solidify their projects, as well as mentorship with data and coming up with trends, and finding things that they would be able to share. Our ultimate goal is to be a platform that would give students tools to do things themselves, which is why we want to bring data education online. This will also become an important component of our STEMpowerment initiative.


As the Managing Director at the STEM Fellowship and the co-director of the STEM Fellowship Journal Editorial Board, what is your definition of a successful research project, and what are some of your tips for students who are interested in research and learning more about getting their work published?
The STEM Fellowship Journal is actually the only Canadian science publishing journal that is dedicated only to publishing high school and undergraduate work. The idea is that we want to be a national platform journal to show student research, and promote interdisciplinary research. We are arranging the publication of research with institutions across Canada, such as the undergraduate engineering research in the University of Toronto, inter-disciplinary research from McGill University, the top project from the Science One program at UBC, and the Sanofi Biogenius Challenge. These institutions work with students and research fairs, and are able to produce high-quality student research from a mix of different fields, disciplines, and year groups. Recently, we have also been able to secure with two major granting agencies, NSERC and CIHR, to promote SFJ and allow for a select number of publications coming from publicly funded research by undergraduate students.  We also published works from our High School Scholarly Writing challenge, where students had submitted their IB extended essays, for example, and had gotten feedback on it. Four of them were chosen and could publish their work in the journal. We are also getting in touch with the Harvard Undergraduate Research Society, and the Stanford Undergraduate Research Society, to publish their research work and expand the network as well – it’s a win-win situation. The journal is our flagship scholarly aspect, but what I see happening in the long-term are the workshops, so students can have access to tools to write, to share, and to see themselves as capable to be writing more. The tools are not limited to STEM, as they are as applicable to humanity as they are to science, so we would want to get the interdisciplinary feature as solid as possible.



We are interested in knowing more about your involvement in the Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCUNESCO)! What are some of the action plans in progress for bringing a more sustainable and internationally connected future for the Canadian and global youth? What are some of the way in which the youth can become more engaged?
UNESCO’s Education Week had focused on education for sustainable development, and global citizenship education. My involvement in the CCUNESCO Youth Advisory Group (YAG) stems from my will to promote more novel educational philosophies, to change paradigms in education, and make them wider so students can avoid perceiving the world in a narrow way. A big part of what we are aiming to do is to connect students from different countries, and because of my personal connections, we did publish some works by students from Iran. These students from Central Iran were working on projects that were quite basic, but they were incredibly impressive for those students, as they were in grade nine and I had doubted that they had written the work themselves! But after talking to them, I was convinced that it was their work indeed. A lot of these initiatives are catered towards North America and Western Europe, but the world is so much bigger, and I see a lot of arrogance sometimes that a shifting in education paradigms can help us break. We are currently seeing interest from university students from outside North America, including Iran, Russia and South Africa!

What are some of the biggest challenges and setbacks in establishing Gene Researching for A Week, and how did you go about tackling it? Were your larger visions in starting this initiative carried through to your current endeavours in STEM Fellowship? The Gene Researching for A Week was established twelve years ago, and it helped me a lot with the initiatives and project that I am working on in STEM Fellowship today. The reason that this project has been so successful is because we have been getting applications from throughout Canada. 40-50 high school students are paired up with a supervisor during the spring break, and these students get to shadow their supervisors in their labs for a week, full time, to observe and also to get involved one way or another. Even though the organization that was originally running the Gene Research for A Week project was dissolved, the project still carried on under CIHR’s leadership because it was so effective and executed in high-quality. For me, I would love to see STEM Fellowship’s STEMpowerment program getting the amount of recognition that Gene Research for A Week did, gaining that representation and being able to garner people’s interest from all over Canada, so we can further this paradigm and be a part in changing people’s lives.


Tell us about an inspiring figure who you have always looked up to. How and why did they inspire you?
It’s cliché – but my mom! I have to persist on naming her, and actually also my grandmothers, because they have incredible impact on my life. They have inspired me in different ways, by being resilient and patient, while strengthening my resolve to try harder and harder. I share with my grandmothers the details of the work that I am involved in, and they give me advice…the whole compassion aspect has its roots in these discussions, and from listening to my elders.


Lastly, are there any major plans for 2017 and beyond that you’d like us to look out for?
For STEM Fellowship, there are a lot of things that we would like to see happen. Our biggest strive at the moment is to establish a strong membership base, and actually have STEM fellows. We do not have a membership program as of now, so that is something for us to look into, and it would be geared both to high school students and university students on different aspects. Our ongoing goal is centered on expansion, but aside from this, I am exploring the global health ecosystem in the hope of starting a health startup with one of my close friends from the physiology program, Geoffrey Ching. We are at a very baseline phase, but the process is very exciting!  

Learn more about STEM Fellowship at: www.stemfellowship.org.

0

Society
Digital textbooks and e-learning resources have been steadily on the rise and becoming increasingly widespread, despite the heavy debates surrounding its implementation into traditional education. As conventional learning materials are replaced by tablets and other smart devices, the future of digitalization and educational technology becomes prevalent and fast-approaching. One country that is demonstrating the all-pervasiveness of digitalized education is Asia’s leading tech hub – South Korea. Its high-achieving, accomplishment-pursuing attitudes towards youth education has earned its rightful place as one of the top achieving nations in various educational and IQ tests carried out worldwide. South Korea’s e-learning culture and its players  In 2013, the South Korean government had announced its plans to implement an “educational paradigm shift”, known as ‘SMART education’. Rather than a blatant proclamation of loyalty towards digitalized resources for learning, the concept revolves around an acronymic slogan promoting a self-disciplined, motivated, and adaptive outlook on nationwide schooling. South Korea’s ‘SMART education’ bears the ambitious mission of digitalizing education completely and wholly by 2015. Today, in 2016, the nation’s e-learning goals are evident. As high school students prepare for the College Scholastic Ability Test, or Suneung that takes place in November annually, it is clear that the vision to digitalize is well on track. Students diligently attend school during the day, and log in to their online classrooms as nighttime dawns. Judy Suh’s 2012 award-winning short documentary ‘ExamiNation’ portrays the South Korean attitude towards education. Through the capturing of the average high school student’s hardworking, nose-in-book lifestyle, youth education is exposed as a cultural phenomenon in itself. The documentary follows final-year high school student Bitna Hwang and her repetitive musings at school, private cram centers, and dimly-lit studying cubicles where she spends hours doing practice exams and memorizing content. The average South Korean high school student spends 16 hours a day studying. Amidst this nationwide emphasis on lengthy hours of study, where does technology fit in? Private tutoring expenditure in South Korea tops $20 billion annually, and is a thriving industry feeding off the rigorous lifestyles of diligent young students (and their parents). Online cram schools are a new, budding form of e-learning, allowing subject-specific content to be even more accessible than ever. A package membership allows full access to lecture videos, past papers, and online streaming schedules, encouraging the importance of self-directed study patterns that extend school hours. Journeyman Pictures’ documentary on South Korea’s academic scene and sky-high teen suicide rates exposes the masterminds behind these online academies. They are profit-driven entrepreneurs who sport wacky costumes to make their lectures interesting in order to prevent students from falling asleep due to strenuous hours of studying with devices in hand. Students typically spend more than 2 hours a day reviewing merely from online lectures. During the live streaming, up to 300,000 students nationwide are logged on and ready to learn. The key is to “keep costs low and provide kids with good-quality online content”. It is clear that education has become a corporatized business tool with its elevated demand. The people’s attitudes towards youth education, paired with the culture of online and after school tutoring reflects not only the competitive, dog-eat-dog nature of the local education system, but also the fast-advancing pervasiveness of digital learning outside the classroom. North America’s Khan Academy – where does digitalized education stand? Similarly, e-learning and digital education in North America are widespread. Cloud-based learning and information storage tools, as well as multimedia materials are becoming increasingly popularized. Online tutorial videos teaching various subjects such as science, mathematics, and economics are an example of the shifting education scene – from traditional paperbacks to digital learning. SRI International’s study on the use of Khan Academy in North American schools showed that its role satisfied a “blended learning model”. Khan Academy is a popular academic website providing students with free instructional and tutorial videos on subjects such as mathematics, science, economics, and more. Its resources are used mainly in K-12 education within North America. The “blended learning model” is the combination of self-directed online study with instructor-led school-based learning, allowing students to enhance their knowledge on particular areas of study. Khan Academy’s steady rise stipulates a shift of emphasis onto self-paced and self-directed learning that can prepare students for independent knowledge acquisition and research in university. During online study, students can practice newly-acquired skills from classroom-based instructed learning, and obtain a better grasp on areas in which they have trouble with. Thus, the “blended learning model” acts as not only a tool for teachers and instructors to track students’ learning curves, but also for students to monitor and pace their own learning progress. As digitalized learning becomes an academic trend, it is important to evaluate the implications behind its popularization in order to utilize it to full potential. South Korea’s academic paradigm shift clarifies the connection between readily-available online education, and diligent attitudes that will lead to success. The use of technology as learning tools and why they are used is ultimately what constitutes as the culture of digital education.
0

Business, Society
The 7dayringproject is a brand new local initiative dedicated to promoting girls’ education, founded and run by two third-year UBC students in the Sauder School of Business, Taylor Davis and Peony Au. The inspiration for the project came from Davis’ trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia after her first year where she helped host business workshops for local entrepreneurs with UBC’s Arc Initiative. It was here that she met Salem Kassahun. Kassahun owns Salem’s Designs, creating and selling beautiful handcrafted Ethiopian jewellery, textiles, and gifts in Addis. What inspired Davis and Au to work with her is that in addition to being a strong businesswoman, Kassahun also seeks to benefit her community with every business decision she makes. From empowering her employees through training and fair wages to sponsoring the schooling and education of children in the community, she does her part to fight Addis’ overwhelming poverty and leave the world in a better place. Noticing the “7 day ring” in Kassahun’s shop one day, Davis learned it represents the seven days of the week and serves as a reminder that we have two choices every day: to make the most of it or let it pass us by. After buying a ring for herself, Davis says she “fell in love with the personal reminder to seize everyday.”

An initiative is born

In the spirit of social entrepreneurship, Davis and Au teamed up to bring the 7dayring to Canada. With their combined specializations in human resources, marketing, and accounting and their a mutual passion for “doing good” with business, the 7dayringproject was born! The process is simple: the project purchases Kassahun’s rings from Ethiopia, sells them in Canada, covers its distribution and operation costs, and donates the proceeds to the Girl Fund of Imagine1Day, an organization in Ethiopia dedicated to gender equity and girls’ education.

THE7DAYRINGPROJECT from Nano Clow on Vimeo.

With so many issues involving poverty that need addressing, I asked Davis and Au why they chose the cause of girls’ education to support. Davis took the lead, recalling Kassahun’s sponsorship of a young girl named Kiddist, a daughter of an employee. In their community, Kiddist had little opportunity to attend a strong educational program. Noticing her potential, Kassahun sponsored Kiddist’s schooling. Now, Kiddist is the top of her class, in the top four in Addis and is set to receive a full-ride university scholarship. “We want to create more success stories like Kiddist’s and to foster the next generation of female leaders, like Salem!” It’s very clear that Davis and Au have high hopes for the 7dayringproject and a passion to push the initiative as far as it will go. Davis explains, “the heart of the project really goes back to the fundamental purpose of the Arc Initiative – to use your skills and education to have a positive impact.”  Jumping in, Au says the initiative feeds her drive to empower people to find their potential. With Christmas just around the corner, the 7dayring is the perfect gift for the do-gooder in your life who’s passionate about making a difference in an ethical way. Because the project buys the rings straight from Ethiopia through Kassahun, it aids in injecting money back into the Ethiopian economy, allowing Kassahun to continue helping her community. The ring not only represents the importance of seizing every day, but each purchase also supports girls in Ethiopia to do the same thing by making education a reality for them. Click here to visit the 7dayringproject’s website, learn more about their story and business model, and purchase a ring or two!

Why initiatives like the 7dayringproject matter

In 2015, the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a series of commitments that aim to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change. Two specific goals of the SDGs are the deliverance of quality education and gender equality. In development work, it’s well known that empowering women and girls is key to breaking the cyclical nature of poverty, and to empower is to educate. Due to harmful gender stereotypes, poverty, and early pregnancies and marriage, many girls and young women don’t complete their educations. According to UNESCO statistics, 31 of 57 million children not in primary school are girls while 493 million of the world’s illiterate population are women. Just how important is girls’ education and how much does it really contribute to fighting poverty? UN Women notes that improved education accounts for 50% of economic growth in OECD countries, a group of wealthy Western nations, in the last fifty years. Half of that growth statistic is a result of more women in higher education. For developing countries, ensuring girls are able to obtain and complete primary and secondary educations will be a difficult task, as they must also deal with other dimensions of poverty, such as health, to render education effective. In spite of this, the value of ensuring girls’ educations is no less important. In a PR statement, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova confidently states, “We know increasing the education of adolescent girls and young women carries impact across generations. We know education is the best cure against transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child. We know it is the best way to avert child marriage. We know if all women completed primary education, we could reduce by 70 per cent the number of women dying in childbirth in sub-Saharan Africa – saving over 100,000 lives every year.”  
0

Technology, Innovation
You can now buy a computer for the price of one beer. The UK-based Raspberry Pi Foundation – a charity promoting the study of basic computer science to schools – announced the Raspberry Pi Zero, a tiny computer at the cost of $5 USD or about $7 CDN. The first one they first announced was about $33 CDN.
CEO of Raspberry Pi Eben Upton said in a video when he was a child, the high cost of computers where a real barrier for him trying to learn about computers, ”really what we are trying to do with Raspberry Pi is to make sure that cost is never going to be a barrier to anyone who is interested in getting involved in coding.” The tiny computer has half a gig a ram, an HDMI connector, and SD card and USB slot – allowing users to connect a keyboard, screen and mouse. It also runs applications like Minecraft, Scratch and Sonic Pi. Raspberry PI has manufactured several tens of thousands Raspberry Pi Zero units so far. As much as Eben would like to provide free computers, he says they aren’t going to go any cheaper in the foreseeable future, “we’ve gone from the cost of, let’s say four lattes to one latte.”
0

Science, Features
We have compiled a list of our favourite YouTube channels and playlists filled with educational, nerdy and thought provoking content. These channels will leave you wanting for more – so just let them talk nerdy to you.

1) DNews

DNews produces videos covering thought provoking subjects and research on new scientific findings. They also answer questions you may have asked yourself, but never had the nerve to ask – such as why do dogs spin before they poop?

2) Stuff Mom Never Told You

Cristen Conger talks about the history, science, psychology and culture of women. Covering topics such as the history of wardrobe, makeup and dating culture. She shatters gender stereotypes and attempts to solve today’s gender-based misunderstandings.

3) AsapSCIENCE

AsapSCIENCE produces weekly videos that touch on various subjects including the brain and mental health, space and exploration, the effects of drugs on the body, pets, romance and sexuality and more. You name it!

4) TestTube News

Playlists: The Art of War looks at hypothetical scenarios of countries with tensions going to war. What would happen if two rivalring nations had a war against each other? Who would win? The Strength of Nations looks at the military and economic strength of nations at a worldwide level. Can’t we all Just Get Along? discusses why nations are in conflict with each other. Whether there are borders cutting cultural or tribal territory, or just a violent history – this series takes a close look of those stories.

5) Laci Green

Laci Green hosts Sex +, covering all sorts of topics about gender, feminism and sexuality. Talking about important topics – from consent, body image, to the problems with the objectification of women, Laci has all the sex related education you’ve been looking for!

6) Vice

Vice focuses on documentary-style investigative journalism – covering world news, politics, sex and travel among others.

7) Motherboard

Motherboard travels the world to uncover stories of the future – examining the intersection of technology, science and humans.

8) Numberphile

Numberphile is a series by mathematicians and physicists teaching you all about numbers. Do you want to know how you can win at rock paper scissors by using math?

9) It’s Okay to be Smart

It’s Okay to be Smart is hosted by Ph.D Biologists and Science Writer Joe Hanson. He also covers a variety of topics and states on his website his mission is to teach science as more than facts – science is for everyone and it impacts every part of our lives.

10) Crash Course

Crash Course is a YouTube channel teaching different subjects including: world history, chemistry, psychology, anatomy and physiology, government and politics, astronomy and economics.

11) Minute Physics

Minute Physics is a series explaining psychics-related topics. From the theory of gravity to examining the hollow earth theory, minute physics will tickle your learning senses. Our favourite: Is it better to Walk or Run in the Rain? (Good to know if you live in Vancouver, like we do!)

12) Top 6

Top 6 is a quirky, educational and comedic YouTube series – part of the YouTube channel =3 – it is sure to give you a laugh! Kelly Landry brings you a facts count down on various topics: Top 6 Facts About Kissing, Top 6 Smartest People Alive, Top 6 Real Life Super Powers, Top 6 Things Science Got Wrong, well, you get the point. Most videos have a section titled, “You’re About to Learn Some Shit,” – for being both nerdy and funny, we had to include it in this list.
0

Sustainability, Science, Innovation
Hannah Herbst, 15, from Boca Raton, Florida, might just be one of North America’s top young scientists. She won first place in the 2015 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientists Challenge along with a $25,000 prize – for creating an energy prototype probe that converts ocean currents into energy for just $12 – placing first out of nine other finalists. Herbst’s probe is made up of low-cost recycle materials creating a hydroelectric generator with a propeller – able to power a small LED light system. “I really want to end the energy poverty crisis and really help the other methods of renewable energy collection to generate more power and to make our world a better place for everyone,” Herbst says. She made the probe seeking to create a stable power source to developing countries by using ocean currents. It was inspired by Herbst’s desire to help her 9-year-old pen pal living in Ethiopia who lacks a reliable energy source. Marine current power is not widely used at the moment, but it has potential for electricity generation in the future. Marine currents are more predicable that solar and wind power. A 2006 report by the United States Department of the Interior estimated that capturing that 1/1000th of the available energy in the Gulf Stream would supply Florida with 35% of its electrical needs.
2