One could go on and on forever talking about anything, but I'll just touch on it here.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

How Adafruit’s Circuit Playground Board has Changed My Life

(Guest post from my husband, Luke Hindman. He shares where his hobbies and interests have led him over the past five months and what it means for the coming year in his personal and professional adventures. Check out Adafruit and follow this link to see what the circuit playground board is and how you can get one:

It all started last November as I watched Ladyada walking through the design process of a new board we weren’t supposed to ask any questions about. I tuned in for every session to learn more about the design process. Then there was the prototype build and sessions on how to solder surface mount components by hand. I have loved electronics and programming since a very young age, so I thought this board was a brilliant idea for teaching kids.  

Later on, my wife and I invited a few friends over for New Year’s. My friend Shane, who is faculty at Boise State University, told me about working with a local middle school to start a programming club. Once I learned what he wanted to do, I told him about the circuit playground board and sent him links to the videos. I also showed him several of the wearable projects I had made for a steampunk gala my wife and I attended in 2013.

Shane and I exchanged many excited email messages, and he persuaded me to help him create an engineering club at the middle school. I’d never taught before, but it sounded fun. Instead of just programming in a browser, we decided to teach programming using wearable electronics. After many requests for a possible release date for the circuit playground board from Adafruit Customer Support (great people, but they unfortunately “didn’t know” anything about a circuit playground board), I designed a kit using NeoPixels, Flora and a few small sensors.

The class was 6th, 7th and 8th graders and they were blown away by what they could do. We had them customizing the sample code and playing with color gradients by the end of four weeks. They eventually built their own wearable projects and we taught them how to solder everything together. It was such an incredible experience.

While all this was going on, Shane was trying to persuade me to apply for a faculty position in the Computer Science Department at Boise State University. I told him there was no way. I am an engineer, not a teacher. As the months went by, February became April and I realized that I could in fact see myself as a teacher. After an application, interviews, presentations and an awkward conversation with my employer of seven years I am going to be teaching CompSci Fall 2016!

It is now the end of April and the circuit playground board went on sale this afternoon. I felt it was time to step back and reflect on the past five months. The November 2015 version of myself would not have believed the path that those late nights watching deskofladyada would lead to. All of that education and growth and the board wasn’t even released yet. I can’t wait to see what happens when it arrives next week!  :)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Wild Indoors

One of our greatest joys as parents is witnessing our son's amazing imaginative play. He morphs from puppy to lion to bird over the course of five minutes and a bowl of Cheerios. Or he transforms carrots, rocks, and washcloths into precious babies that he tucks into the couch where they are "shhhh, sleeping!" and we must turn down the audio on our voices.

Naturally he can't go about having all the fun and drags us into his pretend world with a simple, but persistent, "Pretty, pretty please." Soon we are crawling on the floor or hiding in the closet or opening the back door to boot monsters to the curb.

A recent adventure involved one of Geddy's favorite activities: going to the river to throw rocks in. He had been tossing and splashing and "getting all wet" for a little while when he tugged at Luke, engrossed in his laptop screen, and asked him to come to the river. Luke rose from the dining room table and walked three steps to the living room where he had to catch himself before slipping down the bank and falling into the swift flowing water. Geddy started pointing out the "big ones," so Luke squatted a bit and lifted a large rock to his shoulders and then, shot-put style, heaved it into the river where it made such a splash that even I got wet in the kitchen.

This imagination thing got so intense that as I went upstairs I heard Luke say, in all seriousness, "Geddy, don't throw rocks at me." I turned around and chimed in, "No throwing at people." Luke started laughing. You know you're a little carried away when you start admonishing your child for imaginary rock throwing!

"That very night in Max's room a forest grew" Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Geddy's World

Geddy: "I see the moon!"
Me: Hello moon!
Geddy: "It doesn't have eyes. It doesn't have a mouth to talk."
Me: Oh.
Geddy: "Is it coming to see us? Is it?"
Me: What would you do with the moon?
Geddy: "Play with my toys. It can pick them up."
Me: If the moon had a name, what would it be?
Geddy: "Hmmm, how about Pink? And blue nose and green head."
Me: And it could talk?
Geddy: "Yep."
Me: Where would you go with the moon?
Geddy: "A restaurant with Daddy with the moon."
Me: What would the moon eat?
Geddy: "Cheerios, I think. He will like Cheerios. He will like peas."
Me: Do you like peas?
Geddy: "No I don't. They make me like not yummy. They yucky."
Me: Why are peas yucky?
Geddy: "Cause, um, like a circle! Like peas!"
Geddy was picking up all of his toys in the living room and tossing them into a cardboard box. All the while he had a running dialogue with himself (or maybe it was his toys talking):
"Did you say marshmallow? Yep I did say marshmallow. You got it.  Duper. Did you say duper? Ya I did. Super duper."
Geddy burrowed his toes under the blanket at bedtime.
"Toes not sleeping. They're working in the garage."
Me: Ok, but Geddy needs to sleep.
Geddy: "Not toes. They're working."
Me: Ok, not toes.
Before church: "Mommy, can we go to the river after church?"
Me: Maybe.
He turns to Luke:"Daddy, can we go to the river instead of church?"
Luke: No, we are going to church.
Geddy: "I don't like people."

Monday, April 4, 2016

Dissecting the Rainbow

Ask me what I do and I might say I take care of my family, stay home with my son, and write a little. But I should add to my resume that I also work on the many projects that my husband would like to do but just doesn't have time for.

Oh, like mowing the lawn, cleaning the gutters, and buying parts at Home Depot?

No, he's all over that stuff. (Especially the Home Depot visits.)

I mean like dissecting rainbows.

See, pillow talk last night revolved around Luke wanting to know if it is possible—and how—to separate the red and the blue from a mixture of purple paint. He wondered if the colors really merged together or if, by using a high-powered microscope, one could distinguish the red and the blue as distinct separate specks, such as digital pixels. He also wondered if it could be done without adding anything to the mixture. I didn't know. I just told him that paint is really sticky. I thought maybe a chemist could do it. We then both pondered the idea of using a centrifuge or something like to sling apart the individual colors.

So far I haven't put in an order on Amazon for any materials, but my research online brought up the word chromatography. Something in the back of my mind tells me that I may have played around with paper chromatography in art classes way back when. Here's a page to explore for doing cool experiments at home: Colorful Chromatography.

When it comes to paint, however, is it all chemically bonded and thus cannot be separated? This may be the case.

I have a feeling if I need someone to help me figure this all out I can employ Geddy, our in-house color expert. He knows his colors and enjoys using chalk, crayons, and Play-Doh. We haven't done much with paint yet, but we could start with his Play-Doh. The problem is, he's more into color amalgamation than separation.

If we can separate this hodgepodge I think we deserve a prize. And a break from all these extra projects.