March 2006


Family Math Games!

For the past 2 days I've been participating with my boys D'Mar and D'Vonn at their school Collierville Elementary. Family Math Night is an annual celebration at the school where teachers, parents, and of course students,  participate in educational and entertaining math games. The games are developed by teachers, whereby basic concepts in estimation, measurement, algebraic equations, and use of calculators are illustrated in entertaining ways. The tools used in illustrating these math facts consist of LEGO built houses, party favorites, household scales, 4 function calculators, and the traditional  paper & pencil. The children participating in the 2 day event seem to enjoy the Math Game Challenges as well as the parents accompanied them.  After spending a 1-1/2 hrs each day with D'Mar and D'Vonn, as a comment statement written on the survey, I suggested a Family Science Night to compliment the Math Games event.  Math and science are essential tools in today's society and the future and I couldn't think of any other way of spending time with my boys then an important educational event as Family Math Night. If your child's school doesn't have such an event, volunteer to start one: You'll be Glad That You Did!!!


The Discovery Channel's Cosmeo!

This website was found by my wife while looking for educational websites for our 3 kids. Cosmeo is an educational homework website developed by the Discovery Channel with subjects in Science, Math, English, Social Studies, Health, and Art & Music. The site is easy to navigate and allows kids from grades K-12 research, explore, and learn about the aforementioned subjects. A drop down box in the science section allows for the target grade to be selected, thereby focusing on appropriate material for the student. The information is partitioned in several Multimedia formats: videos, pictures, articles, brain games, events, and links. I tried 9-12 grade, Technology and under articles there were 137!  The 12 Technology videos available require you to sign up for a 30 day free trial in order to watch them. Oh by the way, Cosemo is a subscription based service ( Darn!!). Try it out with your kids to see if there is any interest ( my kids seem to like, especially my 7 year old boy D'Vonn). Enjoy!!!

Robotis Bioloid Kit

The latest online issue of Robot Magazine has an interested article on a new robotics kit called Robotis Bioloid. The kit is made in Korea and it's truly an interesting construction set for the amateur roboticist, sci-tech enthusiast, hobbyist, and technology student or creative type. The kit was demonstrated at this years' Consumer Electronics show and created quite a stir in the technology ranks. Although Robotis Bioloid kit is awaiting a US Distributor, the Korean market will be the testbed for this unique robo-set. The kit consists of a CD with software, 20 digital servo motors, a wireless camera, and communicator. The programming language of choice is "C" language (on the CD). Robot Magazine has even posted 2 videos showing the kit in action. Just by looking at the pics on the Robot Magazine's website, it might give the LEGO Mindstorms NXT a run for it's money!!!


The History Channel's MODERN MARVELS Invent Now Challenge!

I came across this piece of info on Makezine's Blog about another Challenge for sci-tech families, hobbyists, and creative types. Modern Marvels is a very interesting Cable TV show explaining how various technologies we use or take for granted were invented by inquisitive folks. Inventing is the physical act of creating unique tools for solving problems. The tools evolved into products we use everyday that either provide convenience, entertainment, education, or security. The History Channel along with the Invent Now organization have come together to present the 100 Honorable Mentions, and 25 Semi-Finalists of this great competitive event. There is a couple of video clips posted on the site discussing the history of inventions, patent process, and other resources needed to capture your ideas for new gadgets and technology. Although the contest for this year is over, with the information made available on the website now is the time to start planning for next years competition. What a great opportunity for sci-tech families and creative types to get involve with the Spirit of Inventing and Inventions. Some of the finalists' inventions can be viewed on Makezine. Enjoy!!!


The Handy Cricket Robo Hacks Update!

It's been a while since my last post regarding the Handy Cricket Robo Hacks updates, so here's what's happening with the book.

bulletCurrently, I'm writing chapter 6 (The PICAXE Meets the Handy Cricket) which is turning into a lot of work but the results are great!  In this chapter, I'm discussing how to build a Distributive Computer Controller for a small Mini-Walking Bot(which I've discussed and posted info on in early blogs) using the PICAXE microcontroller and the Handy Cricket.
bulletTotal length of the book as of today is 95 pages. Currently, I'm putting a lot of tech info and focus on how to use software modeling to check robo controls logic prior to downloading the code to the target microcontroller. I'm devoting a lot of work on this section because minimizing software bugs is key to any Handy Cricket embedded controller application: GET IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME design & development mental Ya Know!!!
bulletI'm also deciding on if I should discuss using the Virtual Handy Cricket tool created by Fred G.Martin in this section of the book or another chapter. Again, I want this book to provide a lot of useful applications and techniques using the Handy Cricket. I'll get you posted on this one for sure!
bulletLast, I will need to decide  if I should sell the manuscript as an eBook or traditional paper. What format would you potential readers like to see this book in?: your comments are welcome!!

Well, back to grindstone. I'll provide future updates on this book as they materialize!

Another Great Sci-Tech Resource: Don Lancaster's Tinaja Website!

There is a terrific website that has sci-tech info and gear ranging from electronics to spelunking from the microcomputer pioneer Don Lancaster! Don Lancaster is prolific writer on both software & hardware topics for sci-tech enthusiasts, hobbyists, students, engineers, and teachers. Don was one of the original authors who coined the word "Hardware Hacking" back in the late 80's early 90's. His original creator of the TTL and CMOS cookbook series as well as pioneered the use of TTL ICs  in to the creation of the Teletypewriter (Radio-Electronics/Popular Electronics article series of the 70's). His website tinaja is a wealth of downloadable tutorials( .pdf documents) on Basic Stamp/PIC chip products, Book On Demand Publishing, the case of Patents, renewable energy, and Midnight Engineering. He also has several books on electronics design he publishes through his Synergistics Publishing Press as well. Check out his website and you will be overwhelm of the amount tech stuff he has posted. Also, read his daily blog on various projects he's working on as well as surplus equipment and components you can purchased through his eBay link. Enjoy!!!


I Have a New Office & Lab!!!

It's been a while since my last blog (2/16/06). As most of you know I recently moved to Memphis for a new Engineering Job, which by the way is going great!!! My family finally moved from MI to Memphis on 2/16. We've been unpacking boxes, doing basic home improvements and last night I've got my new Office-Lab up and running. Lots more space too!!! So, I'll be back in the thick of things regarding writing ( the Handy Cricket Robo-Hacks Lab book, and the Amateur Scientist "Citizen Scientist E-mag"), conducting experiments on sci-tech gadgets and other items of interest to the online community. Thanks for being patience during this time of exciting change for my family  and me.

Made In Express Contest - Win $10K

For all you sci-tech families, makers, and creative types here's a new contest announced on the Makezine website today. The Made In Express Contest is a exciting a new contest whereby Microsoft's Visual Studio Express Lite or SQL Server are the development tools of choice. Here's more info taken from the Makezine website.

 "Make is going to be a judge for this - go Makers go! - The Made In Express Contest is designed to capture stories about how people are using Visual Studio Express an/or SQL Server Express in innovative and useful ways. The contest begins with entrants submitting their cool ideas for projects built with Visual Studio Express and/or SQL Server Express. We want to encourage a broad range of ideas/projects-these include Websites or Window Applications built with Express, but also could extend to projects with games, robotics, devices, and more. The contest culminates when 12 selected finalists build and complete their projects and compete head-to-head. The Grand Prize winner walks away with $10,000. A Community Choice winner will be crowned as well, as voted by the public."

Here's a unique opportunity for you to get involve in a great competition, get awesome exposure as well as a chance to win $10K in cash!! For more info click HERE