Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle

I can not believe that I have this blog and I have not posted about com yet.  Time to fix that.

For those of you that don't know, my mother teaches 5th grade and has always been interested in new teaching techniques.  She came up with the idea to create a web site that her students could create content for.  They would create lessons that went along with the class curriculum and post them on the site.  The students were the ones that came up with the name Homework Jungle.

So my mother approached me to help her with writing a grant proposal for the ING Unsung Heroes grant.  ING has created a great award structure.  From there site:
Each year, 100 finalists receives $2,000 while three of them are selected as Top Winners to receive additional grants of $25,000, $10,000, and $5,000.
The proposal entails writing plans for the use of each of the possible awards.  So we had to create a plan for using $27,000.  We entered with the hope of just being a state finalist and getting the $2,000.  So when her principal got a call from ING we were all surprised.  We got the state and third place national awards.  To top that off, her school district matched it.  With that money we were able to get 30 netbooks and several other cool toys for the classroom. 

In the next few posts I will go over what we have done with her classroom, what we have been doing with the web site, and what lessons we have learned along the way.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Back to the project list

Like so many other gnomes, I have an extensive project list.  Well, more of a project directory.  Many years ago I started to keep track of all the little ideas I had.  When I get an idea I create a directory then add notes, images, sketches, sketchups, etc.  As a result I have record of all those cool little or big, ideas that I used to forget.  But now I have a record of everything I have not finished.  Well it is spring and it is time to clear out some projects.

First one to be finished will be the last one I started.  Last August I promised a friend that I would make her some motorized steampunk wings for Halloween.  Well, I tried, but didn't quite finish on time.  Don't worry, she was sick on Halloween so it didn't matter. ;)  Then winter hit and my shed is not heated so work stopped.  Now I have heat again (thank you sun,) I want to get back to work.

I managed to get a lot done before winter.  Most of the structure and joints are complete.

Wings expanded.  About 36 inch span.

Wings in folded position.
They are dragon wings.  The holes on the left of the block are for mounting curved rods that extend out a few more feet.  I'm really proud of this joint design.  It moves incredibly smoothly.

I made pillow blocks that support bearings on both sides.

So what is left to do?  I had to rethink the power system.  Originally there was to be a motor mounted in the bottom of the center section that world turn a threaded rod.  There was a block that moved up and down on the threaded rod and some bars that pushed and pulled... Well that all failed.  The motor is a big 24v DC but it just did not have the torque.  My leverage ratios were way off.  The joints like to bind.  It was sad.

So now that I have had a few months I think I can fix it and not have to rebuild the whole thing.  I plan to add PFTE/Teflon washers to all the binding joints.  The motor was originally to be mounted at the bottom but by flipping it and mounting at the top, I can push and pull the "elbow" joints.  That would improve my leverage a lot.  I still might have to get a new motor with a built in gear box.  Now I just have to wait for my Teflon sheets to arrive.

Some more detailed images of the wings.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

So it begins

I guess this blog thing is not going away anytime soon.  At least not until someone gets around to creating a telepathic social network.  I often wonder how the blogging, Facebooking and social networking of today is any different than what Douglas Adams had to say about telepathy:
The Belcebron people used to cause great resentment and insecurity
amongst neighboring races by being one of the most enlightened,
accomplished, and above all quiet civilizations in the Galaxy.
As a punishment for this behaviour, which was held to be offensively self
righteous and provocative, a Galactic Tribunal inflicted on them that most
cruel of all social diseases, telepathy. Consequently, in order to prevent
themselves broadcasting every slightest thought that crossed their minds to
anyone within a five mile radius
, they now have to talk very loudly and
continuously about the weather, their little aches and pains, the match this
afternoon and what a noisy place Kakrafoon had suddenly become.
How is that so different from the inane postings I get so often on Facebook?  I have had to block many of my friends because I became so tired of, "Oh day please be good to me", and bring me a pony and raisins.  Some of these so called friends would post near a dozen similar useless things a day.  Sounds very similar to what Adams describes.  So all that being said; here I sit starting a blog.  My apologies to the universe at large.

I am not setting out this textual adventure simply to add more mindlessness to the cyber world at large.  I do this to force an expansion of my social mindset.  I am not the most social of creatures.  No, in fact I am downright misanthropic.  I however wish to change that.  From my earliest of years I have always wished to write but have always had an indefinable fear of sharing my writings.  Over the years, the many many years, this fear has led to the complete cessation in any writing attempts.  I feel that it is time to kill that fear.

This past weekend a friend "dragged" me to the Life The Universe and Everything symposium (See, another Douglas Adams tie in,) for writing.  I have been to several of them before... Twenty years before.  It was a wonderful experience.  Three days of spending time with average people that just enjoy the freedom of writing has again awoken in me that desire to tell stories.  So I have once again begun to let mind wander to new worlds, imagine new people, and discover new stories.  These tales may never be published but this time around I am determined to at least share them with others.