Author Archives: Rolando Barredo

Video Games, Just a Pastime, or a True Medical Revelation? By Rolando Barredo

In this modern era, we entertain ourselves very differently than many years ago. Instead of physical activity, we use technology, such as video games in order to entertain ourselves. But during all the time that we play, what is going on in our brain? Is it benefiting or damaging our brain? Gaming is actually very good for our brains and our mental health. Playing video games induces brain plasticity, which is beneficial for mental health. Also, research has found that video game “training” is a good way to reduce the effects of autism. Lastly, playing video games augments cognitive function in the brain. During this written discussion, I will elaborate on the positive effects of video games on the brain, as well as any other arguments that can stem from these studies. Also, I will discuss how this can possibly change in the future, when new technology arrives on the scene.

Playing video games induces brain plasticity, which is beneficial for mental health. Onee belief people have is that playing video games is a waste of time, in which we don’t take away any benefits other than entertaining ourselves. Well, according to a study carried out in 2014, Super Mario induces brain plasticity, or in other words, playing Super Mario makes the brain more plastic.The article states that increasing plasticity of the brain can help “counteract known risk factors for mental disease.” (Kuhn, Page 1) How do we know that this is increasing brain plasticity? Well, the study showed that after the 2 month study period, gray matter in the brain increased in the cerebellum and the right hippocampus. This also leads us to the conclusion that the navigational skills needed to succeed in Super Mario directly correlated to the increased amount of gray matter in the brain. On another note, John Medina, in Brain Rules, discussed brain plasticity, and its importance to the wiring of the brain. Of course, since each person’s brain is wired differently, the results from the research done by Kuhn varies, and you shouldn’t expect to be immune to mental disorders.  If we can wire the brain better, that will lead to less risk of mental diseases. This evidence clearly shows how video games really benefit our brain.

Playing video games helps relieve the effects of mental disorders such as autism. Autism is defined as “A mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary.) There are many treatment options that can alleviate the effects of ASD. A research done in the University of Freiburg in Germany suggests that  “non-violent video games with an engaging storytelling can prove to be beneficial in combating clinical disorders.” (Health Daily Digest) The article where this research is found also states that the storytelling in these video games help autistic children interact and reason with the video game, therefore helping them develop the section in their brain that lacks full function. With this in mind, the research done also states that this can help “other clinical disorders as well.” The engagement of an autistic brain is what benefits he person. According to another article in Health Daily Digest, playing video games and also boost an autistic child’s cognitive skill, as well as their use of social media. Why is more social media use key? Well, autism restricts interest in social skills, so this boost in social media use is also beneficial to them, stemming from video game play. Overall, a person that has a mental disorder, which is highly engaged with video game can see an improvement to their overall mental health.

Video game training increases cognitive function. Cognitive function is defined “as an intellectual process by which one becomes aware of, perceives, or comprehends ideas. It involves all aspects of perception, thinking, reasoning, and remembering.” Therefore, what we are trying to prove is that video games make you more alert. Well, in an interview with my mom, Tania, she states that she isn’t “One of those people that believes that video games are a waste of time.” I asked her if she has played video games recently, to which she has responded “Yes.” She plays on her cell phone. When I asked what effect she feels from frequently playing video games on her phone, she said that “It makes her feel more focused and attentive.” I was quite surprised at her answer, but according to an article on PLoS One, a well known public library of science, their research results suggest that in old human brains, the more a person trained in video games, the more of an improvement they see in “cognitive performance on attentional functions.” (Mayas, Page 1) Therefore, the way my mom feels isn’t a placebo effect, it is backed by research that has been recently done.

Well, despite all the research done to prove that video games are actually quite positive for the brain, there are other arguments that are quite valid. A renowned argument made against video games is that they make you lose focus, since the brain craves playing video games. This is quite valid, as with anything that can become addictive, it can have negative effects for the brain. I interviewed my friend Erick (15 years old), who plays video games as if it were for a living. I told him to be honest with his answers. When I asked him how much Call of Duty he plays a day, he responded by saying that “It’s from the moment I wake up till’ I feel sleepy. I do stop to eat though.” Clearly, he is a suitable candidate to discuss what negative effect video games have on his mental state. One question I had to ask him was “What do you feel like doing when you’re in school?” He said that he just “Wishes to get home and get on PSN. (Playstation Network) I just feel like I’ve gone through so much throughout the day that it helps relieve the stress from the day.” This is quite surprising, yet believable in this technological era we live in. Just like drug and alcohol addiction, video games are addictive, which can lead to negative re-wiring of the brain. One will become dependent of this “escape” and it can become harmful. This is an argument that other make in rebuttal to the good video games can do for the brain.

Well, video games a have an immensely positive effect on the brain. For example, it can reduce chances of mental disorder and also improve cognitive function. The evidence is clear and it is here for everyone to see. Gone are the days where the only thing we can say about video games is that it’s a pastime. The possibilities for the future of video games are endless. There are already games on ones phone that reduce brain aging, so the future is here. But what about other video games? Can there be video games of all genres that also have a positive effect on the brain? Well, it is most certainly possible. With the research we have now, more developments can be made which will revolutionize the entertainment and medical fields. We can create video games that are not only fun, but proven to be good for the brain. What can we do in the meantime, while we wait for the perfect video game? Well, go play some classic Super Mario, or any engaging video game, and rest assured that your brain will appreciate it.

Works Cited

Erick. Personal interview. 5 December 2015.

Kühn, S, et al. “Playing Super Mario Induces Structural Brain Plasticity: Gray Matter Changes Resulting From Training With A Commercial Video Game.” Molecular Psychiatry 19.2 (2014): 265-271. Academic Search Complete. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

Mayas, Julia, et al. “Plasticity Of Attentional Functions In Older Adults After Non-Action Video Game Training: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Plos ONE 9.3 (2014): 1-10. Academic Search Complete. Web. 8 Dec. 2015

Medina, John. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Seattle, WA: Pear, 2008. Print.

Saha, Debatree. “TV and Video Games, Not Social Media, Keep Autistic Kids Engaged.”Health Daily Digest 16 Feb. 2012: n. pag. LexisNexis Academic [LexisNexis]. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

Tania. Personal interview. 4 December 2015.

“Video Games Can Combat Autism: Study.” Health Daily Digest [London] 14 Apr. 2015: n. pag. LexisNexis Academic [LexisNexis]. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

Is Electro-Mechanical Technology right for me? By Rolando Barredo

My name is Rolando Barredo, and I am currently enrolled in New York City College of Technology, a college that is part of the CUNY system. I am aspiring to be an Electro Mechanical Technician. This is the best career for me because technology in general defines me, it pays well for an associates degree, and Electro Mechanical Technology is a STEM major, which is a category of jobs that is still developing, but there are a lot of jobs available with this line of work showing great promise.. That shows good signs of its future. I will discuss what Electro Mechanical Technology involves, as well as going deep into why I chose my major. I will also talk about what choices I have once I complete the Undergraduate program for Electro Mechanical Technology.

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Electro Mechanical Technology, or EMT for short, is a major which focuses on the mathematical and hardware aspects of computers and electricity.The full name for the degree is the Associates in Applied Science in Electro Mechanical Technology. This degree is great for anyone that wishes to pursue a bachelors of Computer or Mechanical Engineering. According to the City Tech College Catalog, on page 213, you can be hired for several positions, including computer maintenance, production assembly and robotics technology. The catalog also says that you can get hired by companies such as Verizon, the MTA and NYPD. Even I didn’t know the NYPD needed such employees. The degree is accredited by ABET, which is also responsible for many of the course finals tests many classes take. In terms of some of the classes you take, on page 219, it mentions the classes you take on your first semester. I am personally taking Electric Circuits, Logic and Problem Solving and Technical Graphics, among others. These classes are the basis of what you will need for the time you’re in City Tech, since they teach the basics of EMT. Seeing as one of the things you can get hired for as a technician is production assembly, I enjoy hands on work with hardware. That is what I want to do as a career after college. These are the basics of EMT at City Tech.

This degree is right for me because technology itself defines who I am. In a major such as Electro Mechanical Technology, you need to make sure, as in any other major, that this is what you truly want to do as a career. As seen in my Project 1, where I explain how computers define me, I describe how all the circuitry, components, and the idea of putting pieces of a puzzle together fascinate me. In Electromechanical Technology, according to the college catalog, on page 219, many of the labs involve putting components and cables together. This is, for example, in Electrical Circuit and ElectroMechanical Manufacturing classes.That is not only fun, for me, but it shows how technology is something that I honestly take seriously. On another note, technology is also something that gets me excited. For many people, technology just comes and goes, but the fact of the matter is that technology involves so much more. The future will revolve around technology, and we can’t simply say that comes and goes when it’s something that will improve our future. That is why I’m so intrigued with technology, which is how it defines me. This is key in order to succeed in my major.

Despite my major being an Associate’s, it promises good pay for when I get out of college. One great source we can use to see potential pay and job outlook for our specific major is the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook. It tells us things such as median salary, job outlook, and also what the certain ob involves. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, under the Architecture and Engineering section, we can find the Electro Mechanical Technicians section. In there, we can find that anyone with an Associates in EMT, can earn around $52k. That is a good amount considering it is only with a 2 year degree. It is projected to grow at a rate of 4%, which isn’t that much, but it also says that our skills will help us maintain the demand for the job, which is key for its future. Another job that I can also get is being a drafter. Under the same section in the Handbook, we can see that drafters earn around $50k as well. That involves making schematics either handmade or using software, such as Microsoft Visio. (Which is what we currently use in my Technical Graphics class.) For that job, you only need an Associates as well, which goes to show that getting an Associates is quite handy, and quite a pay day.

STEM jobs, or jobs in the sciences, technology, engineering and math are growing the more time that passes, and it is still developing, even through K-12 education. This shows me that our government wants more high school and college graduates choosing this category of jobs. For example, the article The Keys to Future STEM Careers: Basic Skills, Critical Thinking, and Ethics by Kathleen Ramsey and Barbara Baethe shows that compared to other countries graduates in STEM fields, we can still improve massively. On page 26, on the first paragraph of the introduction, we can see that bachelor graduates in the USA for STEM applications are at 31%, compared to 61% and 51% in Japan and China respectively. These stats are from 2008. Also in that first paragraph, the overall consensus is that interest levels in STEM degrees are high at first, but once you get to the senior year of high school, only 12% of students remain interested in that career. I am actually one of the people that had no interest when I was in 10th grade, until a project in 11th grade made me realise EMT was what I wanted. The project involved researching careers and colleges that offered those careers. This is important because the article also states that one of the keys to STEM success in the US is increasing student involvement, discussion and research in these topics. This information shows that despite the vast amount of STEM careers, there is a lot of improving to do, that there is constant work done. This clearly shows that the future for my field is a promising one, and the fact that I’m going for an EMT degree is a huge step in the right direction.

Completing my Electro Mechanical Associates leaves me at a roadway with several paths to choose from. Whether it be in City Tech, or in another school, I have so many choices of Bachelors I can pursue. For example, Eletro Mechanical Technology involves Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, and I can decide to go for either one for Bachelors, since full credits transfer here in City Tech. I can also decide to follow the path I’m already in, which is going towards Computer Engineering. The last path, which is one that I am thinking about, is just going for the Associates, since the ratio of time to pay is well in favor of just getting my AAS. This will enable me not only get a job sooner, but to also experience real life in general sooner, rather than be stuck still in the college life or 2 extra years. The extra time having a job looks better in conjunction with an AAS looks better after the 4 years. Those are the possible paths my life can take once I fulfill my potential in my major here at City Tech.

 

Works Cited

Barredo, Rolando. “Computers and Me.” OpenLab. City Tech, 30 September 2015. Web. 8             November 2015. 

Ramsey, Kathleen, and Barbara Baethe. “The Keys To Future STEM Careers: Basic Skills, Critical Thinking, And Ethics.” Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin 80.1 (2013): 26-33. Academic Search Complete. Web. 9 Nov. 2015.

New York City College of Technology College Catalog 2015-2016 (City Tech). New York: New York City College of Technology, 2015. PDF.

United States. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Electro Mechanical Technicians.” Occupational Outlook Handbook. Washington: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8 January 2014, Web. 8 November 2015.

“Computers and Me” Rolando Barredo

My name is Rolando Barredo. I am 18 years old, and I am currently enrolled in City Tech. I am planning to get an Associates in Electro Mechanical Technology. In my life, computers have made a great impact in my life. This is something that defines me. One reason is that the idea of a machine that is intelligent fascinates me. Also, the fact that video game consoles and handhelds are computers is a topic that I think of every time I play games. I have built my own computer, and I can consider it a defining moment in my life, which made me realize what I can do with that knowledge. Lastly, the fact that I have been surrounded by computers, or things that I now know are computers in itself is something that has impacted me the most. Those are reasons that computers, in general, define me as a person.

Computers are intelligent machines, whether or not we realize it. Computers are made up of many components. The basics are, a processor, or the brain, the chassis, or the body, and the monitor, where we can see the processes. One way that I saw this was when I was in elementary school, we had the old style Macs. This was the first year I used computers. They had the giant monitors with the large chassis, and they still accepted floppy discs. There were so many different colors, and I always liked the blue, since it’s my favorite color. Then, we started using them. Note, this is in my 2nd or 3rd grade mind. They did so many things like play YouTube videos, or listen to music. We can use Paint to draw. I had no idea that a machine could do such a thing. I saw a computer as if it were a person. It thinks, it has a body, which can be different, and a monitor, where we can see what it’s thinking. If it has a webcam, the computer has eyes. I was fascinated by this idea, as childish as it seems, but this is the way I laid a foundation in my mind of how computers work at the most basic level. It really sounds ignorant now, but that is how I now have that mentality of a computer being an intelligent machine. Now I know how those processes happen, what they actually are, and obviously, it isn’t a human with a brain. It is a machine we have developed that can do so many things. Being around one makes you feel like you are around something powerful. In other terms, a strong computer is equivalent to a car with a lot of horse power. This shows how an elementary school experience really impacted my view on computers.

Video game consoles and handhelds are computers as well. This idea is something that deepened my interest in computer hardware. Everyone has played on a Playstation, an Xbox, or a handheld such as a Gameboy or PSP. Obviously, we see them as devices in which not only we can play games, but at a certain age, our full entertainment system. We wouldn’t focus on the other things a handheld or a console are. They process info and handle graphics as well, just like a computer. Why? Because they are a computer. I remember when I broke my PSP, and I wanted to see what was wrong. I removed the screws holding it in place, and what I saw inside was another world. I saw a bunch of little components and chips, just like a computer has. I honestly thought all handhelds were just a screen and a game cartridge. I never knew how similar the complexity between a computer and a handheld are. That opened a whole other world for me. I started to investigate what else these handhelds can do that a computer can do as well. In that little research I did, I also saw the insides of an Xbox. I saw a green board and more chips inside. I realized that all the devices we use to game and entertain ourselves are also computers. My view on gaming devices changed completely with what seemed like the demise of my PSP. Who could’ve known? That realization of gaming devices being computers changed the way I viewed technology overall.

FB_IMG_1443627914387I see building my own computer as a defining moment in my life, since it made me aware of what I can do with my knowledge. Around 2 years ago, I watched a YouTube video on how to build a computer. It was several videos as it was a series of 3 videos. It was purely out of curiosity, because in that moment, it wasn’t even an idea in my mind to build a computer. Before that, I heard that building a PC is complicated, and not everybody can do it. While watching these videos, I saw how every component came together, like a puzzle. Each part complements the other, in terms of the functions that they do. I also saw how you can change the parts used to build the PC, depending on what you want the computer to be more efficient for. The specifications can be changed, and so on. It got me wondering, “What if I saved up the money to build my own PC? Would I do it?” I decided to take on the challenge to save up and build. I researched a lot in order to know what to get to build a gaming PC. Now that I reflect upon that, I see that it didn’t require so much reading. It took me 6 months to save up the money and buy all the parts. When everything came, it was so many boxes, I couldn’t believe it. When I started to build the PC, I didn’t need to re-watch the series, as the whole process was embedded in my mind. While I put everything together, I realized that I can do so much with this knowledge that I gained and put in practice. I wanted to go deeper, so I asked myself, “How is a computer part made?” Looking at a CPU (or processor) made me wonder how that individual component is made. That turned on a lightbulb for me in my mind. It wasn’t just a lightbulb for a temporary idea, it is a lightbulb that is still on, because now I’m actually learning how these components are made. That is a huge reason why I am currently studying in the field that I am and some of the questions I had before have been answered. For example, one part of a motherboard that is used in its production is a resistor, which I have already done a lab for. It’s like now, the pieces of the puzzle are coming together again, only on a smaller scale. That is why building a computer, in my eyes, is a key part to what defines me as a person.

Being surrounded by computers and things that I now know are computers has impacted me the most. You can say that it still influences me now, as we see how more and more technology is released. Just recently, the new iPhone 6S was released. The release of the iPhone had more people wait outside the Apple Store than people waiting outside Central Park to wait for the pope. That is impressive and we can see how many people carry computers in their pockets. We live in a city where big things happen, after all, we do live in NYC. We have areas like Times Square that attract so many people. My high school was around Times Square, so I got to see it everyday. The way I see it, though, is quite different. The amount of LED billboards and lights that are on all day is quite mesmerizing. The amount of computers surrounding us just in that area is surreal. You wouldn’t believe the amount of hardware that goes behind every electrical equipment that is used there. Going back to the anecdote of the Apple Store, I remember the first time I went to the Apple Store in Grand Central. It was when it just opened there in my freshman year of high school. That was an amazing experience being surrounded by all those computers. All those iPhones, iPads, and Macs… Wow. This impacted me, by making me think that not only would it be cool to work with computers, but to always be surrounded by any type of computer is what I want to do as a career.

Overall, computers were, and still are a huge part of my life. I plan on keeping it that way for a long time. There are many things I still want to achieve in my life that revolves around computers. For example, I would like to start off by successfully getting my Associates of Electro Mechanical Technology. That would be a huge step in my life, whether or not I choose to pursue a Bachelors. A Bachelors would be a degree in Computer Engineering Technology, which would go more in depth into what I studied the previous years. Also, I would like to go to a convention called CES, or the Commercial Electronics Show. In that convention, manufacturers display the prowess of their hardware in terms of them being the next best thing. Seeing the YouTube videos for that really shows what the future looks like. It makes us see the phones we will use, the TVs that we will watch from, etc. Going to such convention is a dream. In general, using my career opportunities for something revolving around computers is what I would like to do. That is my dream and I won’t stop chasing it.