Build Learning Portfolio


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The Build course runs throughout the whole of 2020 with an aim to create practitioners who have a hands-on understanding of new and emerging technological constellations and their separate components.

In Semester 1 it consisted of Skills sessions in Python, Circuits, Data and Sensors as well as an individual Maker Project.

For Semester 2, the focus is on different types of systems mapping (causal loops, stocks and flows), control diagrams, simulations, safety frameworks and machine learning as well as a group-based project where we are building a cyber-physical system.

For me, I’m starting from a ‘low base’. Never programmed. Never built a circuit. A vague understanding of machine learning. Some skills in data analysis from my consulting toolkit. Trying to channel distant memories from my undergraduate Science degree in Chemistry and Psychology where we engaged with a fair bit of Maths and Stats and, of course, the scientific method. Some soldering experience from a project where I built an Eiffel Tower out of chicken wire and coathangers (in Year 4 with my Dad!). Overall, it’s fair to say my interest and fascination with technology to date has been largely conceptual.

At the beginning of the Build Course, we were asked to set some goals. My long term goal has been reviewed at the beginning of Semester 2 and still remains true.

My long term goal: Understand a breadth of ‘technical’ skills by physically interacting /building / experimenting in order to be able to have meaningful interactions with technical ‘experts’ and communicate findings widely.

I want to understand enough of the technicalities of how a system is built in order to meaningfully interrogate and/or contribute to it and then communicate its implications to various audiences.

I’m motivated to achieve this goal because:

  • I’m a bridge-builder and translator across stakeholders and disciplines – this is something that I aspire to be in this new emerging field of applied cybernetics and have some experience doing in other contexts;
  • I have a desire to flex muscles in building and creating (to add to my current strengths in thinking and connecting) – this has also been reflected to date in my career where I’ve flourished in environments which connect strategy to implementation in cross-cultural environments; and
  • I believe that cyberphysical systems of the future need to address bias through diversity and collaboration (of gender, worldview, sector, discipline etc) to ensure that they are not further entrenching structural disadvantage. One way to authentically engage across disciplines, respecting what everyone brings in a collaborative environment, is to immerse oneself in other skillsets and views.

I see the Build Course as an amazing opportunity to dive into all sorts of areas that I’ve been wanting to understand and engage with for a long time in service of this goal.

What I’ve learned, connected to my overarching goal at the end of Semester 2:

Reflecting on my goal at the end of Semester 2 of the Master of Applied Cybernetics, I feel as though I have certainly improved my understanding of various building blocks of ‘technical systems’. I have been able to demonstrate that understanding through a variety of ways that I would never have thought possible in such a short period of time. For example, I have successfully:

  • learned the basics of a programming language – python, including how to apply it to data analysis I would have previously done in Excel;
  • scrutinised, tested and understood other people’s code;
  • programmed an agent that plays tic-tac-toe according to a strategy that I defined;
  • captured air quality data through a sensor that was connected to my computer and programmed to log data;
  • visualised large datasets using Tableau;
  • worked out how to use GitLab for collaborative coding;
  • imagined a smart home and drawn a network map to show its systems and networking;
  • made high-level sense of a collection of seminal AI works;
  • made my very own maker project connecting circuits and python into a tangible, functioning, convincing prototype;
  • simulated a rover to move along a terrain;
  • understood the basics of the Machine Learning pipeline and concepts of fairness and AI governance; and
  • built a cyber-physical system – a computer vision-enabled tap that adjusts water flow and duration based on what’s under it.

All of these experiences have built my confidence in how to engage with new technologies in short timeframes and without knowing all of the details. I have also been able to successfully work and discuss with other members of the cohort who come from computer science or electrical engineering backgrounds as well as others in my networks whom I would consider technical ‘experts’. Experiences across these building blocks have enabled me to have different types of conversations and to meaningfully engage in different topics in new ways.

What I’ve learned about the New Branch of Engineering (NBE) from this experience (so far):

Undertaking this course has uncovered a few overarching reflections about the New Branch of Engineering.

First, I remain steadfast in my learning goal for this course and believe that being able to engage in fields that are unfamiliar in meaningful ways is a crucial skill in bringing cyber-physical systems to scale. I am practising this muscle every week by engaging in new tools and ways of thinking and then working through how to creatively communicate to various audiences.

Second, this course has proven to me that it is possible to have very diverse groups doing the same course and on different learning journeys. I think this is an important realisation as the New Branch of Engineering is taught into existence with cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural cohorts.

Third, thinking in systems is important not just conceptually (as explored in the Questions and Practice courses) but also in Build. It has been really interesting to see how I have been able to adopt a systems approach to designing and building. The cross-over between the courses has been fascinating and something that warrants further reflection.

Fourth, I have come to realise that I am learning about different components, not by researching but by engaging and doing. This has been daunting at times, but I am becoming more comfortable with this style of learning and recognising its importance in exploring the New Branch of Engineering.

Finally, the importance of collaboration and working in teams has been reinforced through this experience. The importance of this collaboration has been felt through interactions with staff and peers, as we navigated the course.

More detailed reflections on Semester 1 of the course are considered through the lens of three core skills I’ve developed over the course of this semester: Circuits, Python & Problem-solving and Computational Thinking.

More detailed reflections on Semester 2 of the course are considered through three core skills I’m developing over the course of this semester: Handling Feedback, considering cyber-physical system governance and doing data analysis using python

Click on these areas to find out more!