Python Counterstrike: Squirrel Ambush

Kurt Grandis, a soft-spoken software engineer from North Carolina, delivered a humorous and informative presentation at PyCon 2012. PyCon is the largest annual gathering for the community using and developing the open-source Python programming language. During the course of his presentation, Militarizing Your Backyard with Python: Computer Vision and the Squirrel Hordes, Kurt describes how participating in citizen science (ala the Backyard Bird Count) led him to use Python to tap into computer vision libraries and build an automated sentry water cannon capable of soaking bushy-tailed backyard bandits.

Related Resources:

  • Kurt mentions OpenCV in his presentation. What is it? The Wikipedia entry for OpenCV (or Open Source Computer Vision Library) states that it “is a library of programming functions mainly aimed at real time computer vision.”
  • He also talks about support vector machines (SVM) as a means of analyzing images so as to recognize and distinguish bird shapes from squirrel shapes.
  • Canny edge detection also comes into play.
  • NumPy (also mentioned in the presentation) is the fundamental package for scientific computing with Python.


Gosh, But I’m Feeling Googlish Today

And why shouldn’t I? After all, Google Apps is out of beta, alternative browser Google Chrome is well on its way to becoming a free operating system targeted for netbooks, and I got an invite to use Google Voice. All these events have coincided during my visit to Huntsville, Alabama where I am currently participating in the North Alabama Technology Conference. I think Google’s recent visibility and other, signifigant events underscore a powerful shift in how educators envision how learning occurs.

As all this Googlistic news rapidly made its way through PC World and other tech news outlets, I listened to Dr. Melinda Maddox of the Alabama State Department of Education address NATC conference attendees about the need to re-conceptualize how teachers can better meet the needs of today’s learners. Dr. Maddox discussed…

  • economic concerns and how they will undoubtedly drive the need to look for more low-cost/no-cost ways to deliver education in an innovative manner
  • current policies that unintentionally or intentionally create barriers to education
  • input/data from students, teachers, administrators, parents, and community members that acknowledge and document a need for re-thinking school as we know it
  • the realization that technology integration is more than just flashy web 2.0, hardware, and software
  • the What Works and Innovation Fund and how it will, according to the US Department of Education, “support competitive grants to LEAs and partnerships between non-profit organizations and LEAs that have made significant progress in improving student achievement or other areas to scale up their work and serve as models of best practices” (for example, discerning why and how to develop new assessments that really provide timely and useful feedback so as to augment learning) and
  • ISTE‘s brand new NETS for Administartors.

As I listened, I thought about the way Google’s plans could positively impact student achievement. For example, Google’s desire to provide Chrome OS for netbook users (i.e, teachers and students in many schools) means that districts might no longer have to pay Microsoft or Apple for an operating system. If schools no longer had to follow directives to spend money on textbooks, educators and pupils might come together via Google Docs to create their own dynamic, web-based, media-rich, replacements for textbooks that merges with Moodle or other free, resources and tools. New technologies such as  Google Voice may even re-engineer the manner in which learners communicate with teachers and do it for FREE, leaving much more money available for other, much-needed projects (say, decreasing the digital divide).

I wonder if any forward-thinking superintendents or administrators are ready to give Google a try. What’s to lose if they do? They’ll have money. That’s right. If they try Google and decide to return to commercial resources, they’ll be able to do so.

Related links:

Certifiably Great: Google Teacher Academy

I just got an email from Google K-12 Education Outreach via Cristin Frodella announcing that Google is now accepting applications for participants in the Google Teacher Academy program. I heartily encourage all interested educators to apply. I met Cristin last year in California when I had the great honor and pleasure of being invited to attend GTA where I became a Google Certified Teacher. Since that time, I have continued to benefit from the experience. I met a number of talented individuals from locations all over the world and in doing so enriched my knowledge and skills.

Here’s what Cristin had to say:

In celebration of National Teacher’s Day, we are happy to announce that applications are now open for our next Google Teacher Academy, which will take place in our Boulder, Colorado office on August 5th, 2009.  For those unfamiliar with it, the Google Teacher Academy is a FREE professional development experience designed to help K-12 educators get the most from innovative technologies. Each Academy is an intensive, one-day event where participants get hands-on experience with Google’s free products and other technologies, learn about innovative instructional strategies, receive resources to share with colleagues, and immerse themselves in an innovative corporate environment. Upon completion, Academy participants become Google Certified Teachers who share what they learn with other K-12 educators in their local region.  The GTA is open to teachers all over the world, but participants must pay for their own travel and lodging, if necessary.

Want more details?

Click here for more information about the Google Teacher Academy. C’mon! Take a chance! Check out the application and be sure to apply by MIDNIGHT, July 3rd, 2009.

Linkin’ to Lincoln

Starting in February the Smithsonian will launch a series of online education conferences designed to allow participants to interact with Smithsonian experts in subject areas such as History. Each conference will have a single theme or topic explored through the lens of several different disciplines by Smithsonian curators. Smithsonian educators and researchers will exercise their expertise and demonstrate how to use ideas and resources presented during the conference in classrooms. In fact, the Smithsonian is honoring Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial with special exhibitions and programs. For example, there’s the Smithsonian Online Education Conference: Abraham Lincoln. On February 4 and 5, 2009, interested parties can explore Smithsonian research and collections related to Lincoln’s (i.e.,  portraits,  diaries , documents and other historical artifacts). Registration is free and open to everyone. All of the conference sessions will be recorded and archived, so teachers can replay them at any time.

A link to more information about the event is here:


Related links:

Moonlight Arrival in the Sunshine State: FETC 09

Having bothered just about everyone we know in the Peach State and not at all content to freeze there, that tenaciously tricky Techno-Geezer from Ebenezer, Jocular Joe Strickland and I packed our bags and headed down to the Sunshine State. After leaving the last vestiges of daylight behind us, driving over 300 miles, and listening to the audio edition of Malcolm Gladwell‘s new book Outliers, we arrived at our hotel in Orlando smack in the cold, dark dead of night.

Our route to FETC 2009

Our route to FETC 2009

Despite the fact that it’s pretty darned chilly down here, too, we’re very excited to be reporting what we discover at FETC 2009. This conference promises to be a great source of new ideas, tools, strategies, and resources. While we’re in the neighborhood we’ll be wearing out our shoes sharing conference news you can use.