Telling stories, conquering biases | UDaily

As a doctoral college student researching laptop or computer science, Minji Kong is interested in building new digital systems to make improvements to laptop or computer science discovering in K-12 school rooms.

She is also a resourceful storyteller, artist, musician and co-founder of The Papaya Venture, an initiative primarily based on figuring out and critically addressing inequities and bias in computing and computing education study. The group aims to remodel computing schooling and the broader computing self-discipline into a much more inclusive and equitable area.

In recognition of her properly-rounded excellence, Kong is the 2021 winner of the Laird Fellowship, an once-a-year award that aids 1 initially-yr engineering graduate university student at the University of Delaware pursue pursuits beyond his or her industry of review. 

The George W. Laird Advantage Fellowship is given to honor the memory of George W. Laird, who attained a bachelor of arts degree at Hamilton Higher education in 1964 and then attended the University of Delaware, where he was awarded a bachelor’s diploma in mechanical engineering with best honors in 1968 and a master’s diploma in mechanical and aerospace engineering in 1971. On Sept. 6, 1977, at the age of 35, George W. Laird was killed in a tragic incident.

Laird Fellows are chosen for balanced excellence, demonstrating intellectual functionality and traits this kind of as character, maturity, perception of humor, creativeness, ingenuity, and creativeness, coupled with sensible expertise, perseverance, and the widespread sense required to execute strategies, according to the choice committee.

Journey to UD

Born in South Korea, Kong moved to Singapore when she was eight years previous and finished her elementary education and learning there. Her household came to the United States when she was 13, settling in New Jersey and then Delaware, exactly where Kong completed superior college.

Escalating up in distinctive nations around the world, surrounded by new cultures and languages — Kong speaks Korean, Mandarin, Spanish and English — influenced her enthusiasm for telling tales. “I have experimented with imaginative storytelling, especially by visible and musical mediums in new years,” she claimed. “Storytelling is an action that has considerably formed my upbringing as an immigrant, so I delight in obtaining time outside the house of my scientific studies to continue telling and listening to stories.”

Her qualifications also led her to go after study in personal computer science schooling, learning how individuals understand and instruct computing.

“Travelling will make you appreciate distinctive individuals, their backgrounds and the tales that they tell,” Kong claimed. Nevertheless, K-12 educators require additional equipment to foster laptop science discovering environments that are responsive to a various populace of students. “With the increase of pc technological know-how about the entire world, it is more essential than at any time for computer science to be an inclusive field.”

In 2016, Kong enrolled in the honors system at the College of Delaware to go after a diploma in Personal computer Science.

As an undergraduate university student at UD, she found a lot of chances to nurture her passions. She practiced photojournalism as a visible editor for The Evaluate, UD’s college student newspaper, and she worked as a electronic media intern for the Faculty of Earth, Ocean and Atmosphere and Delaware Sea Grant. She also liked offering rising artists a inventive area by curating visual artworks for UD’s art and literary journal Principal Street Journal.

Since 2017, Kong has composed and independently revealed songs beneath her solo musical task, The Hidden Shelf. “It’s an endeavor I didn’t pretty go out of my way in telling my social circle about to begin with, especially since I wanted to receive exterior opinions and constructive criticism from the general public if they occur to stumble upon my perform,” stated Kong. “But the job slowly received a surprise viewers and recognition about the decades and introduced neat prospects for me to meet up with and collaborate with other storytellers close to the entire world, which I am grateful for and however try out to do these days.”

Kong also excelled as an undergraduate researcher at UD. Less than the guidance of her research adviser, Alumni Distinguished Professor Lori Pollock, Kong finished an honors thesis describing a scalable logging and details mining technique that could help academics to keep track of in real-time how students learn to code within a programming atmosphere acknowledged as Scratch, a block-based mostly visible programming language made by the MIT Media Lab to teach coding to kids ages 8 to 16. In other text, alternatively than creating code, young children build systems by dragging and dropping blocks that incorporate discrete parts of details.

“Programming in Scratch results in being this truly the natural way artistic action since it encourages whoever is employing the Scratch ecosystem to tinker close to with images, tunes, seems and text,” Kong explained. “It emphasizes that resourceful element in programming, and a whole lot of K-12 educators assistance it.”

Excellence in graduate scientific tests

Kong graduated from UD with distinction in 2020. She is continuing her research in the pc science doctoral method, where she proceeds to study below Pollock when coordinating instructional analysis routines with Chrystalla Mouza, Distinguished Professor of Trainer Training and Director of UD’s School of Instruction.

Through her investigation, Kong has acquired that there are extremely number of instruments to assistance lecturers who use Scratch for in-class pursuits, limiting the means to offer personalized mastering for learners. In response, Kong is developing what are regarded as “Teaching Augmentation Tools” for Scratch. These include things like true-time evaluation of college student programming behaviors, as very well as a dashboard, ambient lighting displays and/or wearable equipment that will obtain and display people discovering analytics to extra easily detect pupils who will need added help.

In the spring of 2021, Kong had an prospect to converse with K-8 instructors in Delaware and Maryland about their ordeals working with Scratch and their requires and choices for Scratch Training Augmentation (TA) programs. “In the speedy long run, I’ll be opening up this conversation to a larger audience, which would include things like equally academics and students as some of the most important stakeholders included in TA process patterns,” she explained. “I’ll also concurrently be searching at how I could start co-creating the techniques with the stakeholders to most effective center long term models around their wants, approaching the undertaking from the perspectives of mainly the Computing Training and Human-Pc Interaction exploration fields.” This endeavor will be supported by a National Science Basis Graduate Investigate Fellowship.

In addition, as section of Kong’s investigate assistant posture with the Partner4CS team, she will support with the group’s annually summer season expert enhancement for K-12 Delaware teachers interested in instructing or incorporating laptop science into their curricula. “For the first time, we will be featuring academics sessions on how they can train synthetic intelligence and its ethics at the K-12 stage, which I am now setting up and truly thrilled to be main,” she said.

Kong will also proceed her involvement with The Papaya Challenge. She is functioning with fellow co-founders to keep vital discussions in a workshop at an forthcoming convention about how present procedures in the computing instruction discipline do or do not heart equity and how all people can operate toward centering equity in their analysis. 

All the even though, she’s nonetheless telling stories through tunes and art. “Recently, I’ve been drawn to far more classic visible artwork mediums and jumped back into oil portray for the 1st time in a though, which has been nerve-racking however pleasurable,” suggests Kong.

Awards and recognition

The Laird Fellowship is not the only latest UD award for Kong. In 2021, she was picked for the Robert W. Gore Fellowship, which is awarded to two College or university of Engineering doctoral college students every calendar year. The award is named immediately after the late Dr. Robert W. Gore, a renowned engineer and scientist and UD alumnus.   

Successful that fellowship was a bit serendipitous, as Kong’s quite to start with undergraduate computer system science program was in Gore Corridor. “Dr. Gore and his family’s impact on the College have usually surrounded me,” she reported. “My laptop or computer science job began in a house that the Gore family developed for the broader University local community, and now, with the aid of the Higher education of Engineering, I’m in a position to have on Dr. Gore’s outstanding legacy. It is a terrific honor.”

Now, as UD’s newest Laird Fellow, Kong joins a one of a kind community of engaged UD alumni.

“I am honored and psyched to make background as the initially Laird Fellow from the CS [computer science] section — as nicely as the initially East Asian girl, I think — to join the Laird Fellowship local community,” she stated. “I am also wanting ahead to obtaining acquainted with Mr. Laird’s spouse and children and the other Laird Fellows in the several years to arrive. Even during the assortment method by yourself, it was refreshing to resonate with other individuals who valued the value of human qualities over and above one’s engineering endeavors as much as I did. It is exhilarating to know that there exists this developing group in engineering, composed of generations of engineers who use and hone their creative imagination in just and beyond the field, all the whilst honoring Mr. Laird.”


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