I was wondering that myself.  For that reason, I installed Google Analytics to all blogs that have a new post in this calendar year, as well as the Wiki (in the process, I upgraded our version of mediawiki to the latest: 1.12).

Let me know if you want to see the pretty graphs that Google generates on our behalf.

Did you volunteer time by sandbagging and/or post-flood cleanup in Iowa City during the flood of ’08? You’d be doing Iowa City another great favor by filling out the form below, describing your voluntary labor. The City will compile the total hours worked and submit it for possible reimbursement or credit from the Federal government. Names will not be used for any other purpose except for compiling total volunteer hours spent fighting the flood.

City of Iowa City – Volunteer Log of Hours Worked

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Industrial Engineering Program – Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Iowa

The redesigned the layout of the MIE pages to fit with the College of Engineering’s design, but they didn’t change much of the content.  Why am I still on the front page of IE?  Get some new pictures!

Today I attended the 4Cast Conference on Social Networking and Campus Impact
The purpose of the conference is to get people from around UIowa that
are interested in social networking together in one place to discuss
how to use social networking on campus.  I’ll try to blog about it as
things go along.

Conference start.  Jon Winet
gives an overview of social networking, web2.0, collaboration tools. 
Gives examples of weblogs, facebook/myspace, Google docs, flickr,
twitter, Second Life.  Issues about privacy and data
mining/aggregation.  Showed a video of a UI
Writers Worship doing a
reading in Second Life.  Discussed the convergence of information
sources – computer, TV, movies, cell phones.  Introduced an interesting
presentation technique called Pecha-Kucha: A powerpoint presentation using 20 slides, each slide shown for 20 seconds: 6:40 total presentation time.

Broke into discussion groups.  Discussed how SN tools support and
enhance teaching. and what can UI do to use SN tools.   Many of the
groups identified the need for some type of decision support system for
faculty to help them decide which tool could be used to address
different types of learning objectives. 

12ish: Lunch.  Very
yummy.  I spent much of it talking with a professor from the Spanish
Dept, who had questions about types of technology she could use NOW.

Broke into separate sessions that went into more depth on specific
technologies – wikis, Second Life, podcasting.  Ok, I went back to my
lab for this part of the day.

2:30: Overview of Personal Response Systems, or “Clickers,” which are used to get real-time responses from lecture students.

Summary and Discussion

was struck by the range of perception of and experience with different
social network technologies.  Some people had never heard of some of
the tools, some had heard of them but never seen them, some had seen
them and were not clear why they would use them in class, and some
(few) had used them in class and research.  It was good for me because
it challenged many of the assumptions and ideas that I have come to
take for granted in my social network research.

Access to the technical skills and resources to build and use social network sites was an issue for some departments.

We raised some of the obvious issues of privacy, data mining, and UI
social network policies.  One professor, for example, recently started
a Facebook profile.  She only allows her students to see a limited
portion of her profile, and asks her students to limit her access to
their profile.  She wants to keep a teacher-student relationship, and
doesn’t want to see their party pictures.  Another person suggested
that it may be proper not to Facebook-friend people while you are
teaching class, but you can be friends after.  It will be interesting
to see how institutional policies evolve in this area.

of the range of experiences, I think they could have done a better job
at introducing and organizing the social networking arena to the many
newbies in the group.  The first speaker did a great job of showing
some of the social network sites like Facebook, myspace, youtube, etc,
and even showed some examples of how they are being used in education. 
But I think this group needed to take a step back from specific tools. 
For example, I think social network technologies are good at 1)
locating and connecting people with similar interests, 2) enabling
asyncronous communcation and collaboration, 3) enabling reuse/mashups
of existing content and 4) aggregating many opinions or viewpoints
about a particular resource.  It may have been helpful to introduce
social networking by saying, “here are 4 uses for social networking
technologies, and here are particular examples of these uses.”  This
would have helped people to separate concepts about social networking
in general from the specific implementations you see in Facebook,
Second Life, etc.  Second, introducing social networking concepts
instead of specific tools may have helped people identify how these
tools could be used in their work and teaching.

New rule:   websites should only be upgraded in the morning when the sysop is fresh and patient, not at night when   he is tired.

Also, I think you should have to get a license to use the rm -rf * command (recursively remove everything, forcibly without confirmation) in unix.


The EducatorPR blog today reports on a Society for New Communications Research study that shows that communicators are choosing to use social networking.

“Twenty-seven percent of respondents reported that social media is a core element of their communications strategy. Only 3 percent stated that social media have little or no value to their communications initiatives. Respondents believe that social media is most effective for the following sectors: arts, entertainment and recreation; communications; computer hardware; and education.”

AP is reporting on Honda’s violin-playing robot today.   Honda argues that robots will become an important player in Japanese society in the future because of Japan’s aging population (30,000 people over 100 years old).

“Now we want to accelerate the development of robots that make a contribution to society, drawing on our knowledge and innovation in the field of automobiles.”

Honda is also interested in partnering with Universities to continue to improve robotics.

I didn’t want to keep clogging up the lab webpage with book reports, so I started my own blog: Geb’s world.   I’m going to experiment with putting more of my thoughts out there and devote more time to reading my students ideas on their blogs, if they are interested in participating in the game.

I just finished Cat’s Cradle (again, I hadn’t read it since I was a kid). It’s hard to get over just how clever a writer Kurt Vonnegut is. I happened to pick up the soft cover version last week because it was on the banned books list at the library. I suppose the Bokonon religion stuff may offend some who dislike alternative religious views.

I’m not good at literary criticism, but I think it is safe to say that the book deals with the limitations of pursuing scientific thought and scientific questions for their own sake, and that real wisdom is more likely to come from a more humanitarian view of the world. Basically, the book wonders what the point of scientific truth is, if it doesn’t really improve the human condition. A damn good question.
It also has a few witty things to say about human nature. Here’s a few more snippets that caught my fancy this time:

I’ve ignored this blog too long.   I’m reading Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle.”   So far a couple of quotes have struck me as worth remembering:

“All of the true things that I’m about to tell you are shameless lies.”


“‘Dr. Breed keeps telling me the main thing with Dr. Hoenikker was truth.’

‘You don’t seem to agree.’

‘I don’t know whether I agree or not.   I just have trouble understanding how truth, all by itself, could be enough for a person.’”


“Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”


“There was a sign hung around my dead cat’s neck.   It said, ‘meow.’ …. Somebody or something did not wish me to be a nihilist.   It was Krebb’s mission, whether he knew it or not, to disenchant me with that philosophy.   Well, done, Mr. Krebbs, welll done.”

Good stuff, even if it is a bunch of shameless lies.

Welcome to the new semester.   We’ve got a lot of things planned this year.   We’re going to build the USAR Sim Team, develop the solar bike project, move everyone a step closer to graduation and get some of those paper out the door.

I can’t wait to get started!

Updated the GROK Codex to the latest version of Mediawiki, not without some gnashing of teeth.

Also, installed a CAPTCHA service to hopefully reduce the amount of spam.

Just got word that Gray’s team from West High won a national Engineering competition. Congratulations to you, Gray!

The Semantic Robot Vision Challenge is a new research
competition that is designed to push the state of the art in image
understanding and automatic acquisition of knowledge from large
unstructured databases of images (such as those generally found on the

In this competition, teams will be required to demonstrate a robot
that has the ability to:

  1. Autonomously connect to the Internet and build an object
    classification database sufficient to identify a number of objects
    found on a textual list.
  2. Use this classification database to autonomously search an indoor
    environment for the objects in its list.

Integrating a mobile robot with the vision research adds another
interesting layer of complexity that would not ordinarily be available
in a purely computer vision competition. Semantic understanding of
the objects could also be expanded to scene understanding as well.
Thus, scene context can be used to guide the search for objects in
areas which make the most sense for them to be found (e.g. a stapler
is usually found on a desk rather than on the floor or on a wall).

The Semantic Robotic Vision Challenge

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Welcome to the GROK Lab. This is the new webpage for the lab. From here you can explore our podcasts and our wiki as well as blogs devoted to individual projects.