Saturday, October 5, 2013

Preaching A Different Kind of Religon

I skipped out on the morning session of Conference to give an Arduino seminar to the local model railroading group. Last time I went to one of these, it was all the way down in Roseburg! This time I just had to travel several blocks to our local Prince of Peace Church. Not too many people have combined microcontrollers and model railroading quite like I have, so it was up to me to convince them it was easy and fun!

Here are my slides:

During one of the Maker Fairs, I sketched this out to help illustrate the various functions the micro-controller does on the layout:

All together, it is a bit overwhelming, even for me, but taken a piece a time, it is quite doable. Instead of bringing the full layout, I used the Sparkfun Inventor Kit and a small section of track to demonstrate the various ways I use Arduino.

I think it went well. I got lots of question during and after the seminar. It was obvious they were thinking about ways to apply this to their own layouts! I got home in time for the afternoon Conference session and D. Todd Chrisofferson's wonderful talk about women in the church.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Day on the Willamette

Had a great day on the Willamette. We went from Crystal Lake Park in Corvallis up to Hyak Park near Adair. It was about 10 river miles, and took about four hours.
We saw a lot of osprey, including a juvenile that took off from the nest. We also saw a large heron.

We had lunch at Half-Moon Bend. We had camped near here on a previous trip.

We had the river to our selves. It made for a great escape from civilization.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Crazy Math

I have been struggling through an online linear algebra course for five weeks with some of my colleagues at work. My brain is not as sharp as it once was, and of course my memory never was. Still, I like learning and solving problems. I finally got the payoff when I was able to use:
to change this:

to this:

I couldn't explain how this works to save my life, but it is amazing to me that someone figured it out. Math can be cool.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Reunion Pics

Here are a few of my favorites:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Pinewood Derby Photos

This was my second year running the Ward's Pinewood Derby. We had several workshops prior to the event to help get the bodies shaped. The kid's designs were amazing.

We had 28 entries this year, twice that of last years event. Luckily I learned my lesson about delegation and of course the leaders really stepped up.
The hit of the night was the photo-finish video replays. Some of the races were really close and they kept the crowd occupied while we got the next heat ready.

It was another great event. Hopefully we made some lasting memories!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

2D Printed Pinewood Vanagon

I'm not the first to make a Pinewood Vanagon, but I doubt anyone has made a photo-realistic one like this:
We had an "open" division for the dads (and Cubmasters). There were some crazy entries. Annie didn't want to build a car this year so she had to drive instead.

I don't think she had any idea of what I was up to when I was taking the original photos, but this is what I had in mind! The car on the right was made with a 3D printer!

I think the height exceeds the limit (rules vary), but other than that, it is a legal pinewood car. The sides are balsa and it only weighed 4.5 oz. when completed. The original axle spacing was perfect. I didn't bother with adding weight, graphite or polishing axles (Annie's car was embarrassing fast last year, loosing only to the car that took Districts).

Here is one of the original photos I started with.

How did it do? Let's just say I didn't loose every race. With vanagons, it is about style, not speed!

I'm getting a lot of interest in this, so if you want to try and build your own, the files and notes are here.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Toys of My Childhood

I am taking a "Learning Creative Learning" class online from the MIT Media Lab (the brains behind Lego Mindstorms). One of the readings was an essay by Seymour Papert titled "Gears of My Childhood" where he talked about how his early love of automobiles and gears in particular shaped his learning ability.

In reflecting on the things that sparked my interests as a child, I think it is notable that I can't narrow it down to just one. I seemed to have access to countless creative toys. I remember building a "arctic research station" out of Legos and placing in a snowdrift overnight. I remember the 300 in 1 electronics kit from which I built a radio. Erector sets, Lincoln logs, tinker toys. Some of the things I remember were not toys. My dad's university office held a number of scientific instruments he would let us play with, including one for measuring sound levels in decibels.

If I had to narrow it down to one, it would be the computer. There were a lot of them, starting with the teletype terminal at dad's university where we could play Star Trek on a special account if the system wasn't too busy. And all the craft items we made out of punch cards and program tapes! I wrote about the early computers in my life here.

The latest toy to spark my interest is also a computer.  The Raspberry Pi Linux computer is a marvel. It is faster and has more memory than the university's main frame did, yet I bought it for just $35. It can be used for about anything from commanding toy trains via the internet to learning computer system administration. The applications are endless, and the price puts in reach of everyone. I can't wait to see what the toys of my children's childhood bring about!