Information Science and Engineering Night – Class Outreach Coordination

EE376A (Winter 2019)

By: Sofía Josefina Lago Dudas

For my EE 376A project, I was fortunate enough to work with Tsachy and his team to help plan the class-wide outreach event that every student participated in. My original project mentor, Irena, originally connected me with Tsachy who was seeking a student to help coordinate the logistics for the outreach. I’m extremely thankful that she thought to do so, as this was such a special opportunity to weave something like outreach and service into a class I was interested in, which I have never had the opportunity to do.

I met with Tsachy initially unsure whether I would want to play this role, but was easily won over. I was inspired by his vision for not only teaching an amazing class, but also aiming to expand the class’s sphere of influence through the outreach. I also felt immediately supported by him in this work, as it was very clear he was extremely committed to the vision of having a service component in the class. I agreed to take on this role and am so glad that I did so.

Work began with publicity and marketing materials and coordinating with the head of the Nixon PTA, whose name was Jen. Jen was absolutely wonderful to work with – extremely communicative, supportive, and helpful. Jen was a true MVP of the event. Without her, I don’t believe the outreach would have been successful. I drafted several statements about my vision for the outreach and a description for the parents, which Jen included in many email blasts to the Nixon families. An example of one is below:

After 10 weeks of studying the communication, measurement, and representation of “information,” Stanford students will share their findings with the Nixon community through interactive games, performances, activities, and more!  Come to explore the beauty and utility of information science and engineering, in a way that is fun for the entire family.

Light refreshments will be provided.  Register HERE.

As soon as we posted the registration link and form, registrants began to roll in. In addition to email blasts, I made two large banners that were hung visibly at school entrances to further encourage people to sign up to attend the Information Science and Engineering Night:

Nixon students (including Tsachy’s daughter!) in front of the Information Science & Engineering Night banner that I made to publicize the event.

Through all of this work in publicity and marketing, I thought a lot about the most appropriate language and visual messaging for the event. I wanted the event to seem approachable and fun, to entice children to want to attend. I wanted it to seem playful and creative as well, since I really wanted the outreach booths to push the boundary in creativity. I also wanted to use languages that would appeal to Palo Alto area parents, and help convey that this would be a meaningful and productive event to bring the entire family to. I also was trying to convey what the event was in the first place, which at first was hard to do in just a hundred words. It was hard to convey, as an outreach component for a 300 level electrical engineering class is pretty novel!

Publicity went well! In the end, we had 158 families register to attend, comprised of 267 adults and 281 children. I was floored by this display of enthusiasm around the event, and it was also really validating. What we were trying to do excited people, and they wanted to be a part of it!

In addition to publicity, I also was the main coordination liaison with Nixon and the EE 376A team. I had several meetings at the school to go over logistics with the PTA, the principal, and the custodial team, as well as week of phone calls. I truly loved working with them all, as they too cared so much about this event being a success. From this I learned about communicating with different stakeholders, and communicating what was relevant to them in a way that was efficient and clear. They were extremely accommodating and let me visit the school several times to make measurements of the auditorium space we were having the event in.

The Nixon auditorium, where the magic happened!

Finally, I served as a communication point person for the student outreach groups! I drafted a few Piazza post that the TA’s kindly posted to Piazza for me to make sure everything was clear to the students. I also communicated with individual students about accommodations for their visions for their individual outreaches, as well as ensured all project groups submitted their outreach proposals. I was blown away by the amount of effort my fellow students put into their outreaches – we had children books written, standup comedy performed, interactive sculptures built, and topics like neural networks explained at a level Kindergarteners could understand. All in all, we had 60 different project groups, which I tried to cluster and lay out methodically for best flow and a cohesive learning experience for the children. The layout of the project groups was as below:

The layout of the 60 project groups we had for the outreach (to scale!)

Additionally, I created materials to help communicate information about the different booths to the parents and children attending the event. The rate at which they entered was quite rapid, so I wanted to create a short pamphlet that would help them navigate all the different booths. I ended up creating a visual map of the space and the various areas, depicted below:

Map to help parents and children easily navigate the space.

I also created a “BINGO” style game to help children navigate the different booths, and provide more motivation and incentives by gamifying the experience. The BINGO sheet I created is below:

Information SCIENCE! (BINGO!)

The outreach itself was a dream. Although there was a slight miscommunication with Hugo the custodian (always more to learn about communication!), the setup went flawlessly due to the hard work of the school administrators, Tsachy’s team, and the students.

Tsachy attempting to scale the Nixon building to let us in after my miscommunication with Hugo. The teaching team and I were locked out of Nixon for an hour!

During the outreach itself, I pretty much got to sit back and relax and visit the outreach booths. I learned so much, and I was absolutely blown away by how quick, curious, and adorable the children were. It was a really special evening.

A Nixon student after winning 64 (!!!) pieces at a outreach booth explaining the St. Petersburg paradox.

This was an absolutely amazing class and I am so thankful that I was able to participate and help with orchestrating the outreach. I have adored getting to know Tsachy and his team and I hope to continue doing work like this at Stanford.

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