Friday, December 2, 2011

Make it In The Parade

***Update: A post highlighting the parade and our float are at Chickenblog! Go see FIRST 2102 Team Paradox Make another Spirited and Inspiring success!***

Our favorite FIRST robotics team, with help from Love and Rockets, is gearing up for a second trip to the Encinitas Holiday Parade. Good times making new elements for Lavender, the moving robotic arm!

Fresh faces

Everything is just about set for this year's Holiday Parade! There have been many work parties, though it has definitely been less intense than last year, when FIRST 2102 Team Paradox was a freshmen team in the realm of parade floats and giant robot arms.

Engineers, artists, crafts people, dancers, painters, builders... !

Last year, Lavender had to be designed and constructed, then wired, from the ground up. She was so shiny! The arm rose up and down and the claw could open and close. Well, this year Lavender is new and improved and extra shiny! Her base is being updated to turn degrees, and notice her team colors face lift.

Remember the mini-bot element of last year's *FRC game, LogoMotion? Now our practice tower is enjoying a new purpose as the lit up tower-tree at the front of the float.

*Hey! Bill's Blog just posted hint #1 for FRC 2012... there are clues in the new components list. So excited for Team 2102 in 2012!!

The many branches of FIRST 2102 Team Paradox have been busier than ever before... since September over summer since last spring every single day! They have built new machines, learned new machine shop skills, mentored FIRST LEGO League teams, organized community service events, brought a whole new class of fresh faces up to speed, represented at the Street Fair, and they are preparing to host a FLL Food Factor event in their high school.

I think last night we had the most new team members show up, and they went straight to work... cutting foam and cardboard for giant batteries and gears, painting, and tossing glitter. Our float is representing the spirit and tools of our community's busy and dedicated student engineers.

Maria brought out our cupcake papers, which make a good material for snowflakes, right Sam?

When seventy high school students organize themselves to build robots, learn programming, design parade floats, raise funds for cancer research, mentor grade school students in FLL, mentor fellow FRC rookie teams, clean beaches and parks, write grant proposals, make videos, embrace science, technology, engineering, art, music, and math... I gotta say, they represent their community in a magnificent way.

Whew! That's Busy Town. Go robotics! Go Team Paradox!

And one more new element for this year's parade entry... Team Paradox Robo Dancers! Lonnie choreographed a techno-jingle routine, and last night was the first rehearsal...


trailer ✓
truck and driver ✓
robotic arm ✓
dancers ✓
lights ✓
decorations ✓
Team Spirit ✓
Passion FIRST ✓
Engineering Inspiration ✓
sturdy shoes ✓
a winning robotics team ✓


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Make an Old Shirt New

A bleach pen... found ours at Tar-jay
Wax paper
A dark shirt

Sunday was sunny, and my children voluntarily cleaned the living room and the kitchen, and I fainted. Then I came to, and thanked them. Their industry was inspiring, and it got me in the laundry room sorting out worn and outgrown clothing... am I meandering to my point? Yes. Yes, I think I am. Sorry. It might be this frackin' cold I picked up. It's making me all meandery and snuffy, and last night I felt absolutely super meh.


Oh, yeah. I found a clean sweatshirt that Max has out grown, and is probably much too big for Maria. I was about to add it to the donate pile when I remembered the artsy-craftsy project I'd been wanting to try for about a year. I even had the supplies on hand, and cleared space to jump in and go for it.

The wax paper is to put between the layers of the sweatshirt. The idea being to protect the back of the shirt in case the bleach seeps through. Protecting surfaces from wayward bleach is an important aspect of this project. One tutorial I read even suggested wearing gloves. I did not wear gloves, but I did put on an apron. Also, I did this outside and on a bleach safe surface.

The bleach pen has two tips, and I used the fine point. I wish it were finer. Remember to shake the pen, and be aware: there will be bubbles and clumps, and every drop will leave its mark. This may not be the ideal project for a perfectionist, or anyone, young or mature, who freaks out about "mistakes."

And now some thoughts about Control. I am not a control freak. (Yes, I am.) I am not selfish, and I do not horde my crafty supplies all for myself, to use on a magical artsy-craftsy day, when all of my sweet skills and marvelous visions will come to life. (I am, and I do.) Okay, so honestly, it's not the easiest thing in the world to be approached by a perky six year old who wants to intercept my artsy-craftsy plans and make them her own, but some six year olds are hard to deny, so I relinquished the chalk and let her draw her pictures, on what is now her custom and personalized sweatshirt.

She drew, and then I traced. The clumps get a bit frustrating, and I think big and simple images is definitely the way to go. I have seen some very sophisticated results, which could be fun to try. I am also thinking that a certain robotics team may want to employ this technique to label and personalize their team jackets... FIRST 2102 Team Paradox... names across the shoulders, gears, details? Could be fun!

Maria's pictures have lightened to a pale-pale pink. Next up we wash it separately and then Ta-Da! Her easy peasy bleach squeezy jacket will be ready to wear!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Making Costumes for Halloween

Happy Halloween!

And in honor of The Five Days of Halloween, we have five festive personas to share with you... and a warning: Some of these images may be disturbing, particularly if you are not a fan of Clive Barker, or the book series Abarat. You may also find some of this objectionable if you firmly believe "beauty is skin deep."

Maria came downstairs this morning about as dejected and crushed as can be. "No costumes on Halloween" is her school's policy. Which in my mind begs the question: Can she wear a costume after Halloween? She announced, forlornly, "School on Halloween makes no sense." Then she yawned, and dragged her feet to the dining table, sitting down next to Miss Utah. Seeing Suki, strange as it may seem, was not the least bit disturbing to Maria, who perked up and said, "You look great, Suki."

Geoff and I took Maria to a party at Patrick and Mashid's yesterday. Geoff was a welder, Maria was a party cat, and she wore the mask she painted. I donned my top hat and mask. We had a good time, especially enjoying Maria's delight in being at "a real Halloween party!"

And, this morning...

Max is a plague doctor. I like how it sounds in Dutch... pestmeester. Interesting history those pestmeesters have. With the black cloak Lucas lent him, and his beaked mask, I think Max looks great, and he was quite pleased to achieve this effective ensemble.

We have all read Clive Barker's books from the Abarat series. They are brilliantly disturbing, both literally and visually, as they are illustrated as well as written by Mr. Barker. One character of a certain appeal is Christopher Carrion... seen in this link. Alex is a young Christopher Carrion today.

Writhing and wriggling in the fluid circulating through and around Carrion's head, are his own nightmares. Goodness, I know.

And, brace yourselves... Suki as Miss Utah a beauty queen whose beauty, unfortunately, really is only skin deep.

"If I win, I will work tirelessly until Land Sharks are declared an endangered species! I think she has her campaign zipped-up and in the bag.


Well. If anyone is still reading Chickenblog, I can give you a peek into how these special effects were created. I am nothing less than awestruck and delighted by homemade costumes and creativity.

All of us were painting masks this weekend, which yielded some really great creations, and was a lot of fun. I found sprinkling that much glitter to be quite therapeutic. And my Día de los Muertos mascara looked dandy with my top hat and rebozo.

The cat's meow.
And without even planning this, she and Amira are both kitties for Halloween!
Maria completed her ensemble with a magenta tulle skirt, and a black, witch's hat.

Alex woke Suki around five in the morning, with a text message, and she replied "Ungghh uhhhggrr," but she made it downstairs to begin applying a regular zipper to her face.

Patience, a steady hand, and spirit gum. That does the trick.

It probably helps to have a sense of humor too.

William was helping Alex assemble the double layer of plastic to create the face aquarium that is Christopher Carrion's head. Tubing, epoxy, and lots and lots of sealant were used, as well as clamps to keep everything together while parts were drying. At five in the morning Alex was doing the first leak test.

It leaked. Big time. So more sealant was applied.

And while the mask dried, Alex applied his make-up.

And a flowing, ragged, black cloak.

Suki's face is all made up, and she is ready for the talent show part of the pageant!

Even without the fluid, I think the effect is remarkable.

Suki and Alex make a third leak check... and this time it's close. Really, really close.

So determined! We got some pictures, but there is still one, pesky, little leak. Have no fear! Alex went to school, without swimming nightmares, but he has a plan, and will make it work today, after school...

Yes, we have a nail biting cliffhanger!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Grant's Geodesic Burning Man Eye Dome

This is a geodesic dome.

Also, known as a sculpture project designed, and built by Grant.

Grant and Suki came by last week with all the triangles, nuts and bolts to finish the geodesic dome. All those triangles needed to be painted. Lo and behold, there were cans of paint in our garage... so everyone painted triangles in our driveway. Maria painted. Alex painted. Suki painted. Grant painted. And when the white paint ran out, they switched to blue, and that is how the geodesic dome became an eyeball-dome.

I could launch into a detailed description of the geometry and engineering aspects of this project, but really we should let Grant 'splain all that. I will comment on things like, how fun it was holding up walls, looking for bolts in the long grass, propping parts with shovels and brooms, imagining how cool it would be to sleep in the dome... you know, the technical parts.

With many willing residents at the Bird House, assembling the geodesic dome went fairly smoothly. I think. I cannot imagine one or two people trying to assemble all those panels, balancing walls, while stapling or turning nuts on bolts. But with friends on hand, almost any endeavor is going to go better.

Pentagons were assembled on the ground, and then those larger panels were added together to make the long "peal" that made the base wall.

Supplies include: cardboard, 2x2 boards, nuts, bolts, staples, and duct tape... of course there is duct tape.

It also takes confidence and humor. Confidence and humor are staple ingredients in almost any worthwhile project.

Right, Suki?

The dome has a door.

Is anyone home?

A lot of the effort was about holding panels up while people were attaching them. I was holding a wall, and photographing. Actually, it made me feel very good to be so useful while standing and taking pictures.

Everyone was needed.

Maria was especially helpful when it came to passing parts, and finding parts.

If someone were to take a geodesic dome to say... Burning Man, that someone would have an artistic, shaded retreat that could last the week.

Suki is going to paint a pupil. I suggested a monocle in front of the eye,and Grant wants to add a top hat. Maybe those are obvious choices, but jolly good ones, I think.

And now we interrupt construction for shadow fun.
Can you guess who is who?








G is tricky, because someone does amazing shadow effects!

Maria brought out the duct tape.
She loves to help,
and play,
and laugh.
She laughs a lot.

... and the top goes up...

... and Ta-da!

An eyeful.
A shelter.
A playhouse.
A cozy place to sit while eating figs.
A Geodesic Figgy House.