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6 Jul 2012
Emergency Preparedness
On the way to Scout Camp, our caravan came across a motorcyclist, down on the shoulder of the road, barely responsive.
We quickly surmised that an accident had happened just seconds ago, and quickly, but carefully deployed our Boy Scouts to help with traffic while our best First Aid instructor (LISA BASS!) triaged the victim.

At the scene of something like this, you immediately start thinking of the things you wish you had at the ready: the First Aid kit shouldn't be under all those packs and boxes! We should have safety vests stored with the emergency stuff. Water would be nice for victims & witnesses...

Then, what about after the accident? Here's a family who's vacation and rest of the month is probably now upside down. Traveling from out of state, first priority (beyond medical) is to contact the victim's family. Get the basics of medical alergies, current medical conditions and prescreptions. It is going to be a while before the victim can get back and take care of the simple stuff: feed the dog, cut the grass. All of these things turn upside down in an unforseen split second.
Howard Sadler has been busy writing about being ready for life-changing emergencies. His product, now in its second version and with 6 solid years of sales is Record Tree, a person's important life information. It's worth a look, even if you're not a Boy Scout.
Family , General
posted by  henry at  14:53 | permalink | trackbacks [83408]

15 May 2012
RoboParade feature
Saturday we hosted the 2nd Roanoke Roboparade at the Science Museum of Western Virginia as part of the outreach for STEM in the Roanoke Blacksburg Technology Council.

In this video you get a good feel for the event. We had about 70 folks attend, with a respectable amount of casual foot traffic stopping to see the parade. The Roanoke Robotics Club had several entries, and took some GREAT photos.

The video also shows my family at various points: Lisa is helping with workshops, Ethan appears in his panda hat, and Eric was featured as a Team 401 member with their basketball robot. I'm mostly with my back to the camera, helping build some robots in the workshops and announcing the parade.

Note the commentary at the end: Kalista's remarks about penguins eating you in your sleep brought the cameraman/interviewer to a halt!
Backstory: we were helping two sisters, ages 5 & 9, build a robot in the parade. Their mom told us that they had made a family decision to delay moving today in order to build a robot, which has been a dream of their daughters. As it turns out, their dad was so impressed with the activity that he drove in to work and got his camera gear- he's on the staff of Fox 21/27 news!

Original Fox 21/27 News Story on the Roanoke RoboParade

Roanoke Blacksburg Technology Councily RoboParade
ACI , Family , STEM
posted by  henry at  16:00 | permalink | trackbacks [399]

23 Apr 2012
Throw Down at BestBuy
Eric and Ethan square off at our local BestBuy.

Actually, it's pretty amazing that Kinect can focus in on two people at the same time, in a busy store, and translate their actions quickly to to the onscreen avitars.
First Person Shooters in the future?
Family , General
posted by  henry at  15:50 | permalink | trackbacks [544]

19 Mar 2012
Robot Competition Season
In the last two weeks, our family has been delighted to participate in two exciting state-level robot competitions!
March 3rd & 4th was the FIRST Tech Challange State competition. Ethan and the Tuxedo Pandas got their first look at this competition, and were delighted to finish 14th out out 24 in their division, plus be picked early for an alliance run-off team. Team 4924 is made of 5 Seventh graders, and 1 Eighth grader, competing against High-School teams from acrosss the state.
Here's a 14-minute video of our ALL DAY experience. Well, more like all year, since team 4924 is officially 1 year old today!

Then, last weekend, Eric participated with Team 401 in the FIRST Robotics Challenge Virginia regional competition, finishing 17th among 59 entries, and had the 4th highest hybrid-period score. This 2:15 minute clip briefly shows some of the field-level action. Team 401 is the tall robot you see in the clip still-frame below.

So what's next? Well, there's always something! Eric is going to the North Carolina FRC tournament in a few weeks, and Ethan's team is preparing for the Roanoke Robot Parade.
Roanoke Robot Parade: May 12th, 2012
Family , General , STEM
posted by  henry at  13:40 | permalink | trackbacks [166]

31 Dec 2011
Geocaching and Robotics Merit Badges
Remember when Boy Scouts were pictured holding signal flags atop a tower?

Although this image does predate my days in scouting, it was the common icon for Boy Scouts in the early 80's.

This Christmas Holiday, however, we got to participate in more modern scouting activities: teaching the newly approved Robotics Merit Badge (April 2011), and the Geocaching Merit Badge (approved in 2010).
Lisa, Eric and Ethan helped me put together a great program for 17 boys, competing in a short autonomous robot maze and object-dropoff competition. They flipped for it!

We also enjoyed introducing 10 boys to the sport of Geocaching. We logged their first cache, and launched three different trackables.

To see our trackables, visit:

Where could we do all this great stuff, plus 14 other merit badges? At the Claytor Lake Aquatic Base Winter Camp. Beautiful location, very good food (Really!), and an outstanding staff.

My prediction? Someday, the autonomous robot competition will rank alongside the Pinewood Derby!
Family , General , STEM
posted by  henry at  17:13 | permalink | trackbacks [72]

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