With the final bits of debris from Machines Behaving Badly re-entering earth's orbit I can stand down from helping 24 kids built small robots out of servos, and old plywood, and styrofoam. And give myself a few well deserved days off before starting up the Advanced Class.
I have done the basic class for 12 years now, on occasion running two classes in one year. But the Advanced class is a different breed of cat. This is year five, so it corresponds to my dropping out of the conventional working world and becoming a freelancer. As such it is driven by my curiosity and sustained by my flexible schedule.
There are advantages to being a volunteer, and to having no formal training in Education. It gives me the freedom to do a class, or not, depending on whether I get an amusing idea for one. This was the year it almost did not happen. But 'round about Christmas I thought, hmmm, might it be fun to take two full sized Kiddy Cars, put them under remote control and have a Grand Prix Race through the middle school halls at lunchtime? Well, yes, yes it would.
So we did. Two Jeeps, similar power and electronics, variations in mechanical drive control. Each unit had to have a few silly gimmicks. One had a confetti cannon made from an old portable vacuum cleaner. The other a water sprayer from a standard automotive windshield wiper squirter. We raced at each of the three lunch periods. The unit with tank steering prevailed 2-1 over the less efficient machine where we just kept the original steering wheel and drove it off a pulley. (too much slop in the steering, kept hitting walls. oops redux.).
And of course at the finish line the same Assistant Principle got sprayed with water and/or confetti.
I have briefly posted on the 2011 project Robotics April Fools.
Ah, and for 2012 I have an interesting project in mind. The course announcement encourages students to show up prepared to work hard, and to spend some time staring at vending machines......
*One female student in the Advanced class in its first four incarnations. Probably the best student I have had yet. She will go far.