Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Kayvon Gorji

Hello all. My name is Kayvon Gorji and I am a current high school senior at BASIS Scottsdale. I am a fairly varied person in that I enjoy hobbies from reading passages from art history textbooks to listening to indie rock genres. I am also avid about binge watching tv shows like the Office which I have on and off probably rewatched more than I dare to count. But beyond a hermit with a Netflix account, I also am passionate about outdoor activities like playing in pick up soccer games and going for pant-filled runs. 

*Now that we have examined Kayvon the person, let's take a closer look at Kayvon the scholar.*

For my senior project, I will be working for a startup company, BlocPower, in New York. The company works to create energy efficiency projects in inner city buildings, thus fostering a greater social and environmental sense of well-being in the surrounding underserved neighborhoods. 

Although I have no prior experience with any of these topics, I am excited by how it will provide a crucial resource to further my research question. This question, throughout the project, is concerned with a specific subset of BlocPower, that is school buildings in inner cities. I am interested in examining specifically how creating sustainable infrastructure and systems (within these schools) correlates with the teaching of STEM topics. Through my research I hope to better understand how the creation of, for example, rooftop gardens can improve ventilation, air quality, and learning of earth science altogether and if such projects are worth the effort (that is time, money, and labor). 

In addition to working for BlocPower, for the duration of my project I will be volunteering for a rooftop garden connected with an after school program called 5th St. Farm. This is exciting because while I am providing quality assurance (one of my duties for the company) for BlocPower’s day-to-day operations, I will be able to actually perform fieldwork and collect tangible research material as well. 

I hope this journey will be as exciting to you, the readers, as it is to me. I look forward to cataloging my experiences and in the meantime here are some helpful links which may answer your questions if you are confused or befuddled: my site placement and my research proposal

Thanks for reading my first post and I look forward to posting about education, sustainability, and amusing gifs in the coming weeks!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Week 10

Week 10...Last week but the adventure is just getting started. I just wanted to start off by thanking everyone who is following this blog for sticking with my work and bearing with my obscure posts that probably didn't make much sense (or at least in the first few weeks). I also wanted to thank BlocPower for the tremendous opportunity in allowing me to work as a technology intern for the two and a half month period that I was there, allowing me to learn code, SEO optimization, and crowdfunding mechanisms I would otherwise not have been able to explore. 

Anyways onto what I did this week. So this week I submitted my presentation to my faculty advisor, Mr. Covalciuc, and received some feedback for that. I will submit to you, the audience, what I gave to him at the bottom if you would like to check it out. It is still in the works and may not make much sense but I hope when I present on it that might clear things up a bit (ps as a side note please, if you are so inclined, just look it over and give any thoughts you guys have just so I get some more eyes on it and make sure it’s not completely awful :)).

And if you all are interested in what I did for my last week at BlocPower here it is. This week I setup basic page functionalities for the wiki. I created screen captures also (which are just videos people can create by recording their screen) for the engineering, finance, and technology team so that now that I am gone, at least there is some sort of resource there for people needing the wiki to refer to. 

Beyond, finishing up work at BlocPower, I also created some notes for each slide for the Powerpoint and really tried to narrow down what was important and what wasn’t. I came to the conclusion that in answering the central question, how do gardens improve STEM-based education in urban schools, I also looked at other important factors like the current state of STEM-related subjects in inner-city schools and how gardens can (or can't be) successfully implemented into that curriculum.

Anyway I don't want to give too much away so here is that Powerpoint as a reference. I hope you all enjoy your weekend and I look forward to giving my final update soon.  

Friday, April 7, 2017

Week 9

Oh snap. Week 9 is hereee! Wooo. Not that I'm excited, just surprised is all. Time flies when you're having a blast.

This week has been pretty busy if you ask me. The Senior Project slides are due the 13th and at the same time I've had to meet some deadlines this week for BlocPower so it's been filled with work, but it’s been productive. 

I think we will start with the slides and some SRP shenanigans right off the bat. So I am almost done with my slides and so far I did some more research into pilot studies, surveys, and theories (yes surprisingly enough garden theory is a thing). What I had some particular difficulty with was linking my work at BlocPower with my research because while BlocPower does do retrofits, gardens are not the same thing. So when going over my internship experience slide in my head, I decided I wanted to focus on some of the skills I gained from going to meetings and working on sprint teams which you guys will get a taste of if you check out my presentation in early May. I also have been finding interesting ways to communicate the different ways gardens can enhance education. Not to reveal any spoilers but gardens can improve aspects of a student’s learning experience from their interest in nutritional science to even their bonding to a school. However, this information has plenty of caveats because in my analysis of the ways garden-based education improves STEM I am unable to include relevant quantitative data, so my findings are based upon qualitative analyses (a source of error I have included in the powerpoint presentation). I feel like I have said too much already haha but I have to keep the audience somewhat (or not) intrigued.

In addition to that I did a lot of work for the wiki this week (while on the side pushing out some blog content--yay!). That has entailed speaking with the engineering and finance team at BlocPower and figuring out how they want to organize effectively (because currently they have terabytes of files and storage on their computers that need to be managed and moved over). I even made a “how to use wiki” tutorial video which ironically is only available to BlocPower employees through the wiki. 

Anyways thanks for hanging in there with me and here’s my reaction to the Manhattan skyline as well as some photos from where I work.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Week 8

It’s been two months already? I just noticed that: that’s totally rad.

Ok I just wanted to start this post off by saying that some progress has been made in narrowing the focus of my central question for my presentation so here it is. Rather than exploring retrofits holistically I will specifically be looking at gardens (whether those are separate or rooftop) and examining how their implementation in urban schools (in inner cities) can enhance STEM education. Now you may be wondering why the switch? Well I’ll tell you hypothetical listener, because in exploring garden-based learning 1) there are much more case studies to work off of and 2) I can focus I much more interesting argument that can go as far as to include educational psychology (which I don't know if you all, but I certainly find interesting). Those questions will be answered with a number of sources which I will be sure to include when finishing up that up and coming PPT (what the cool kids say in reference to the old power point presentation). I hope that cleared up some confusion because I know last week I just threw down a bunch of questions and was like here are some musings I did not totally think about (though I nevertheless appreciated the feedback for that so thank you). 

Anyways moving on to what I did for BlocPower this week. So this week I finished implementing the folder structure in the wiki and then moved on to do that fun stuff I referenced a couple weeks ago which is called testing. To reiterate testing is simply executing a test plan which, not to include more quality assurance jargon, is a set of rules to ensure the user interface for an application is working smoothly.

Finally I just wanted to include a quick note on a project that BlocPower is currently doing in the Congo. To summarize, BlocPower is looking to provide loan management systems in the Congo, specifically for electricity in cities surrounding what is called Virunga National Park. The park is, wait for it, the second largest rainforest in the world and holds a dam that is already being used to process and generate electricity. I have no idea the timeline for the project but I thought this really innovative idea alone speaks volumes to the breadth of activity BlocPower covers as a company so just wanted to share.

Anyways, hope you all enjoy your weekend and will keep you all updated on any new findings soon!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Week 7

Onto lucky number 7. Despite this week being hectic it truly does feel nice to be able to wrap up and share my experiences in these past few days. So let’s dive right into it. 

This week I did quite a bit of research into my topic and found one particular resource to be helpful that incidentally provides answers, through various case studies, to my central question. I will attach a link here because even if you are not completely nerding out on my project adventure, it is an interesting read regardless. I also created a list of questions which I think to be adequate for how I want to approach my powerpoint presentation and final product so here they are: 

  1. When is a school considered an inner city school?
  2. Can retrofits in larger, more funded schools serve as a model for inner city schools?
  3. Why are inner cities left out of the sustainability market?
  4. What is holding back inner city schools from building retrofits?
  5. What are practices that help teach STEM education effectively? Is hands-on learning a part of that?
  6. What sociological effects result when retrofits like gardens are built for students?
  7. What retrofits will I examine and how many?
  8. Which retrofits are the most effective?
  9. Does the desire to further STEM education result in a retrofit or does the desire to conserve energy result in a retrofit and then further STEM education? Or both?
  10. What kind of metrics will I be using and what do I mean by affect
    1. What kind of courses are the most beneficial? Separate courses? Optional after-school courses? Topics integrated into existing courses? 
  11. Why is it important, especially in inner cities, that STEM education be given proper attention in schools? Can retrofits plausibly instill meaningful change?
  12. Where will schools get the funding for retrofits? A non-profit? The government?
    1. If the government will they plausibly invest? Take NYCHA for example. 
  13. Can retrofits affecting STEM education be effective with existing constraints like Common Core?
  14. What type of inner city schools are the most likely build these retrofits? What type of inner city schools already have these retrofits?
  15. What are some relevant statistics about STEM classes in inner cities (i.e. minorities)?
  16. Should I just examine gardens because that is what is most prominent or should I also examine other possible retrofits? 

These questions are nothing new, I just wanted to make transparent how I am going about conducting my research and on what specific sources of information. 

In addition to this independent work, I spent my week at BlocPower implementing folder structures into the wiki (which was built by a fellow developer). This simply means I took whatever resources and important information, BlocPower wanted included in their database and included it in the wiki. I also did some work for our blog, specifically on creating a new set of posts addressing National Women’s History Month (March) and asking female coworkers their experiences and insights as women in the technical/engineering industry. 

Anyways I hope I did not drag on, but,  I hope you all enjoy this upcoming weekend!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Week 6

Week 6, more like this week has been sick (no but seriously I think I am coming down with something). Anyway glad we made it this far guys. 

So just as a quick update for the weather on the east coast, snow has provided a very real paradox for me. While I do love sledding down snowy hills and making snow angels, the weather has impacted my involvement with 5th St. Farm. As most people know, gardens and icy, snow-ridden weather do not mix so we will see if that volunteer opportunity will carry out which is slightly disappointing. 

But aside from that piece of bad news, this week has been really great. I did most of my research by creating some blog content for BlocPower’s Marketplace website and read into some blog content generated by an intern that previously worked with BlocPower. One of the pieces this author wrote included information about Hempstead High School, a school that installed solar panels in their school and used it to create classes about solar energy. It felt like chance and coincidence mixed as I happened upon this article, because as you all know this is the topic I am researching. 

In addition to creating/looking into blog content, I also did some interesting (though that might be relative) work. So I went through a number of python tutorials to prepare myself for the much anticipated wiki site (which amazingly worked yesterday but crashed today). This included a resource called “Automate the Boring Stuff,” a site that a coworker provided and has proved to be really helpful. What’s really exciting is that while the wiki site is being finished, I can spend time learning a different type of code, HTML, which I am in the early stages of becoming involved with.

And then onto the topic of meetings. Meetings this week mostly consisted of talking about our second round of Facebook ads and finishing up the editing of our survey which I mentioned in last week’s post. The results of that survey, if I am not mistaken, should be out next week which I will soon report on. Finally, while we talking abut meetings, I just wanted to mention something interesting that came up in our all hands meeting which is that when our senior team pitches BlocPower to investors they all have to be on the same page about BlocPower’s vision and its scalability (which manifests into the 3 P’s-people, profit, and product) which I thought a valuable piece of marketing advice.

Anyways, ’til next week fellow readers.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Week 5

Halfway through the project woo! Week 5 psht, no problemo. 

So this week was again filled to the brim which I cannot be happier to report upon. So just to give a quick background, which I am positive is more than likely in order, I have been involved in something called development of operations which is what has taken up all of my meetings. What devops (what the cool kids call it) involves is crowdfunding campaigns and outreach to various audiences in order to bolster our public relations as well as gain valuable marketing data. As an example, BlocPower recently put out numerous Facebook ads to see if that would attract customers to donate. We targeted a variety of ages and races dispersed throughout the Bronx and Queens as part of the project and have gained really interesting insights we are trying to work off of. These insights include that the landing pages that people are taken to after clicking on ads makes a big difference on converted customers (that is those who make donations to numerous retrofits for churches on our website) which we took note of in the most recent (yesterday) sprint meeting. This meeting also included something else which I thought from a business development perspective to be invaluable: surveying people. We initially discussed doing focus groups but a problem that often arises from these is that the desired audience (young, college-educated for us) is difficult to achieve and they are often really time-consuming and expensive. So we decided upon surveys, the draft of which has been circling around the team so we can develop something pretty enough to ask our audience (in this case, middle-aged and higher income) because as you all know the wording of polls/surveys can sway results dramatically. 

In terms of the work I got done in the office this week, I did a lot of data cleaning which is basically looking up buildings generated by Salesforce (a business development tool) and seeing if they have valid BBL and BIN numbers (numbers buildings in NYC must have in order to be considered “valid”). I know I mentioned the wiki stuff last week but that still needs to get set up so the coding for that project might have to wait…I know I know I’m excited for starting that too. 

Anyway, will be sure to include some pictures next week. Until another day my fellow readers.