Sunday, December 27, 2015

9-year old solders TV-B-Gone kit

Completed Adafruit TV-B-Gone kit
I'm a proud grandpa today. The granddaughter did her most ambitious soldering project yet - a TV-B-Gone from Adafruit (see here, really it's cool) - which totals out at about 60 solders or so and took her 2 hours, with reading the instructions being the most time consuming part. She even had a couple of screwups she had to fix with the solder sucker, a task she performed without getting frustrated or giving up. For a nine-year old, I thought it was a pretty impressive feat of concentration. She placed every component and soldered all of it herself; she defiantly didn't want any more grownup assistance than absolutely necessary.

At one point I asked if she needed help. She replied exasperatedly, "I'm fine Grandpa, I've been doing this for a long time." And the funny thing is, she has - right about two years, anyway.

When we finished, we tested the device in my bedroom and the TV dutifully turned off. She screamed as though she were a 1961 teenybopper at a Beatles concert and danced and bounced on the bed in full, spasmodic ecstasy for nearly a full minute before we could calm her down. She wanted to share her achievement with my nonagenarian in-laws, who just moved in across the street a week or so ago, before taking it back to her mother, for whom she made it as a gift. Now that she sees it works, though, I think she kind of wants to keep it.

Or maybe we'll just have to make another one.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Math is Scary

Pumpkin Pi, because math is scary:

It can be so frustrating it will make you scream:

Or maybe hand out candy:

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My most anticipated book of 2015 (and 2014)

Ugh. I must wait another week and a half - after already waiting months - for a book I've quite been looking forward to sharing with the young'un: Making Simple Robots.

That's okay, I guess: Books are like video games. Late ones are only late until they're released, bad ones are bad forever. Better to get it right than fast.

The projects from this book were a big hit and I think she's ready to take the ideas up a notch. Certainly I am!

MORE: Well, there are a few interesting projects here, but "robot" is a bit strong for some of them. I'm sinking some money into a small introductory robotics library  - and a couple of kits - for ideas and instructions on more complex builds. The projects in this book are fine for where the young'un is now, but don't move the ball a lot toward more substantive robotics beyond the craft and puppetry range. Also, I'm not a great fan of using the Little Bits platform for the book's electronics. The circuits are simple enough to where one really shouldn't need that product. My 8-year old granddaughter can put together a circuit and solder it; anybody who can actually read this book and hopes to "build robots" should be able to figure that much out.

UPDATE (4/12): Since this post I've expanded my entry-and-intermediate level robotics library quite a bit, with a skew toward Arduino-based projects. More on these topics as summer approaches.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Why Thomas Jefferson ditched his newspaper subscriptions in favor of Newton, Euclid, Tacitus and Thucydides

I don't use Twitter for my own commentary but maintain an account with which to follow others. One feed I enjoy immensely is "On This Day in Math," which today brought us this tidbit: "1812 Thomas Jefferson writes [to] John Adams 'I have given up newspapers in exchange for Tacitus and Thucydides, for Newton and Euclid;...'" Oh, to be afforded such a luxury! For now, though, your correspondent regrettably must remain ensconced in daily affairs.

Still, to honor TJ's late-in-life liberation from what must have been a life-long newspaper addiction, those of you who have too long neglected your Newton and Euclid ought to add to their new year's resolutions spending spare time watching Vi Hart videos (and rewatching them, perhaps with assistance from Sal Khan, till you thoroughly understand them). I had occasion over the summer to spend time re-upping my basic geometry and trig skills and looking at the material as an adult with an eye toward utility on my own projects. That turned out to be an entirely different and far more productive experience than slogging through geometry and trig texts in high school.