Its been a tough year for Robotics

It has been a bit over a year now, since we were impacted by the 1st pandemic in over 100 years.

The FIRST robotics season started off with the normal excitement and after the Saturday kickoff, we off and running – trying to figure out what and how to build a competitive machine.

During the months leading up to January, we met with the students on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school for a few hours. We used that time to help teach fundamentals of various science, technology, math, and robotics subjects. We also used this time to recruit students for our FIRST Robotics team.

The methodology and approach we used, was to include a new topic each day, with a presentation that included a video or demonstration supporting that topic. We were able to discuss, teach, instruct, and have fun too.

The last month culminated in an event similar to a FIRST Robotics event. 2020 involved using a small programmable robot called mBot, which is made and sold by MakeBlock. The code was similar to “Scratch”, using drag and drop icons to define the logic needed to make the little robot function.

2020 Game

We invented a simple game that could be played using the mBot, and we built an 8’ by 8’ playing field that the mBots were to be driven on during the matches.

The students were divided into 3 teams and were each required to drive, during the competition. We had a multi-match tournament and kept score after each round. The students needed to work with an assigned mentor that would assist them in brainstorming, modifications, and also in building the mBOT.

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We had a lot of fun and I’m happy to say that it was a hit.

After our Christmas break, we met with great anticipation first the FIRST Kickoff. The game reveal and starting the chassis build soon followed. We would meet after school a few days each week and also a full day on Saturday. Brainstorming and design alternatives were discussed and developed – the build was moving along nicely. Our first in-person event was quickly approaching and we still had a bunch of work to do.

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Then, everything came to a screeching halt.

One of our newest mentors, Jeff Johnson – got really sick. We didn’t get a chance to attend our events.

Our robot never got completely programmed or totally finished being built, and de-bugged.
FIRST cancelledIMG_3456 all subsequent events, and our FIRST robotics season was done.

Then, to make things even worse, Jeff passed away.

Over the summer, the team leaders (Tom Reisner, Regina Himmelspach, Lewis Cole, and myself) kept in contact and monitored the FIRST notifications, to see what plans were in the works for 2021.

The students were being taught classes virtually online, when they returned to school in the Fall. Meeting in-person was not an option, as the school district, state, and local governments wouldn’t allow it. (Which was fine with most of the mentors, as we were still all a bit shaken up by what happened with Jeff).

Previous to the FIRST announcement for how the 2021 FIRST Robotics season would be offered to teams that registered, the mentors had determined that we did want to try and continue mentoring our team at Osborn High School. We didn’t want to see the program simply disappear, or have to try and re-start it again from scratch, in the future.
I proposed that we do a virtual learning and competition event prior to the FIRST kickoff, similar to the year before – but, instead of after school in the classroom, it would be completed virtually “at home”.

Our lead teacher (Tom Reisner) successfully recruited the students from the previous year that were currently in school doing virtual learning. He created a Teams website for our students and mentors to collaborate, communicate, share ideas, and meet.

team page

We completed the development of the curriculum, the training/teaching presentations, the “kit of parts”, the cost impact of the materials needed, ordered the materials, packaged the kits, and finished “The Final Challenge” Game competition. Each lesson had a theme which included famous scientists with a STEM based topic.

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We had a plan to maintain a FIRST Robotics team, regardless if there were any events this year or not.
Tom Reisner was contacted by numerous sponsors, requesting information of our status – and if we would be registering a team this year. We indicated that we were certainly hoping to be able to compete this year.

We did register with First in Michigan, and were informed that we would be eligible for sponsorship funds. We encouraged and assisted getting the students to register on-line on the FIRST Inspires website.
When the FIRST Kickoff occurred this past January, we collectively agreed that we wanted to participate in the “at home skills challenges” – if, we were able to get access to the robot, the controls, the team programming laptop, and an approved safe location to meet, build, test, practice, setup, and compete at.
I also suggested that we attempt to do the “Game Design” challenge. I would lead them through the process, as I have had a pretty extensive history in developing robotic games. I previously designed games that were utilized in the Chief Delphi Invitational, when I was a co-lead mentor on Team 47. And, I designed previous Fall Robotics club competitions for my current team, 6099.
So, that was the plan that we reviewed at our virtual team meeting and with our students and mentors.

team page 2
We have met every Saturday from 10am to noon, since Kickoff in January.
We attempted the Game Design Challenge, but were unsuccessful in meeting the deadline for submitting our design. That was mainly due to a lack of student participation and not having enough students volunteer to take on the additional work needed to develop and complete a submission of the game design.
Unfortunately, like many other schools, we have not had access to the various things previously mentioned, that would be needed to complete the “at home skills challenge”.
We have reviewed the scheduled curriculum topics for our virtual learning, and the students and mentors have completed the weekly build projects – which were included in the provided kits. We wanted to begin teaching the students programming, and felt the “drag and drop” logic used by MakeBlock would be the best 1st step. Here are a few examples of that type of coding.

makeblock coding (2)

We plan on teaching Python next, or using the ROMI robot kit provided by FIM and Magna to each robotics team in Michigan, to teach the students National Instruments Labview software.

That’s the software language our FIRST Robot uses.

I created a youtube video and revealed the “The Final Challenge” to the team this week. I notified everyone via our Microsoft Teams page and this Saturday, I will entertain any and all questions the students and mentors might have relative to rules or clarifications.
The Final Challenge video instructions.

The Final Challenge video instructions

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The “kit of materials” delivered to each student’s home this past December included a full size replica of the playing field, and everything else needed to complete the projects associated with the learning topic each week.

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The “Final Challenge”, requires the use of all the projects created over the past 9 weeks, plus additional necessary modifications.

Each student will be able to practice as much as they want to, before submitting their “best timed results”. We hope to be able to meet outside (in the parking lot at the school) or potentially in the gymnasium for an in-person competition and awards ceremony.

We are very, very grateful to our sponsors, FIM, and FIRST Robotics for the continued support – and the opportunity to try to influence & make a difference in the lives of our students.
Thank you,
Mike Aubry, on behalf of our Mentors and Students on Team 6099 Osborn Knight Riders

Why do they act that way?

Sometimes, I just don’t get it.  Why do people act the way that they do?

I guess it must have to partially be because of the way they were raised, or the environment they lived in, or maybe it’s just because that is the way they are made.

I always believed that people are born basically good, and not evil. That the way they end up, is the byproduct of what they are taught by others. A collection of morals and beliefs that have been accepted as the truth. Truth, being what we believe to be the ultimate truth.

I also believed that some very unfortunate people are born without the ability to learn, understand, and process abstract ideas – love, caring, truth, respect, ect.

Or, perhaps they just aren’t capable of understanding, that they cannot always get the amount (or type) of attention that they think they deserve.  After all, when you boil it all down to the basics, humans desire attention more than just about anything else.

When a person is born, they know nothing other than that they desire attention, in order to remain alive. The brain handles the life giving organs, so the baby’s lungs and heart, and internal organs work. But, in order to continue living, they must have food and nourishment – so they cry, to tell others to pay attention to me – I need something.

They don’t plot what their next move is, or hate, or try to hurt anyone.  They simply and selfishly – want sustenance in order to remain alive.

It isn’t until later, that these little humans brains develop beyond “just surviving”. During the process of developing, I think that they learn – and connect to the people that provide caring, love, and affection.

By the time the child is a certain age, I would think they have been taught certain things, more repetitive task oriented type things – but, I don’t think they have been “taught” the evil and hateful things that later in life become who they are, and what they are like.

Somewhere along the path, those hateful things have somehow been ingrained in their being.  I’m sure there are a thousand psychological opinions and reasonings for this. And, the rationalization is that there are probably just as many causes that may never be truly understood.

Try as we might, I don’t think we will ever understand evil and hateful behavior.

When bad behavior is not mitigated, it is allowed to become normalized and accepted. When encouraged, bad behavior flourishes.

We live in a world where norms, rules, and laws help define what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Sometimes, when not explicit enough people will try to work the shadow land between acceptable and unacceptable. When it isn’t exactly spelled out as to being unacceptable, the behavior might therefore be okay. Even when it most likely isn’t.

Seems to me, the gray area shouldn’t be reason to justify bad behavior. But, unfortunately – that is how the thinking of those perpetuating bad behavior, do indeed justify it.

It’s time to move on

This is a Republic governed by Rules of Law. 3 separate branches of government created to separate power, with each given specific responsibilities associated with the creation, execution, and interpretation of those laws, as defined by the Constitution.

The Constitution includes rights given to individuals, and to both the state and federal levels of governments. The Constitution provides everyone equal opportunities and protections, with peaceful processes in place to interpret the disputes that may arise. Disputes are settled by the judiciary branch, not by force or threat.

The people selected to represent the electorate, each swear to uphold and support that Constitution. To fail to uphold the oath taken, is a shameful and hopeless act of terrible political behavior.  An oath is a sacred vow, and should not be simply ignored or set aside when one feels the need to object to something. Promises and oaths must not have the same meaning to those folks that simply ignore or break them.

Those that encourage bad behavior are as guilty as those that perpetuate it.

This election is over, and the disputes settled in the court of law.

It is time to move on.

There is as much work needed to heal us from each other, as there is to heal us from the current pandemic.

A house divided

It is very disheartening to witness the ongoing attempts to over turn the Presidential election results. Normally, the election comes and people go to the polls to vote and then later that evening or the next day, the winners are announced and the political cycle starts over again for the next term.

This year distrust and conspiracy theories have drug the process out beyond any thing the founding fathers would ever imagine. People have lost all common sense and decency while refusing to accept the certified results of the election.

Losing isn’t new – it happens in every election. Sometimes the margin of victory is large and sometimes its small, but there is always just one winner. When the margin is very very close, there are means by which the voting results are recounted to assure the votes were counted correctly. Eventually, the results are certified and folks that I trust do a great job, regardless of their political affiliation. I trust the process and believe the results. We have been at this long enough and learned how to hold elections that are fundamentally fair and run with appropriate amount of oversight protections. Heck, we are so good at running elections that we often assist other countries when called upon to do so, to assure that their elections are run fair and square.

The Constitution clearly defines that rights for electing the president. And although those rights, rules, and guidelines have been modified a little over the years – they continue to support that each STATE will be responsible for assigning the electors that will eventually vote for the president of the United States of America.

Each state has the responsibility to hold the election and determine the outcome. I do not believe they gave other states the right to question those results. Each state has the right and responsibility to question their OWN state results all they want, but not other states. The electors in other states are NOT disenfranchised if people in a neighboring state vote and certify their results, the way they do it. It is ridiculous to even imagine how anyone would think that they have that right.

Abraham Lincoln paraphrased the following passage from the Bible, Matthew 12:25, when he spoke of a house divided:

And Jesus knew their [the Pharisees’] thoughts, and said unto them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”

We are at a crossroads where we must revisit this thought, to determine which way it will be.

Do we stand by and allow the house to fall, or do we unite in support of this great social experiment called democracy?

If we continue down the current path of mistrust and actions driven by unsubstantiated notions and lies, we will have failed as a nation. If we continue down the current path of uncompromising, selfish, rigid, stubborn, partison politics – we will have failed as a nation.

I am hopeful that the SCOTUS will return a very short and terse statement to the suit filed by the losing political party today. I am hopeful that they will indicate not only is there NO legal basis for the suit, but that actions like this are frivolous and do unmeasurable harm to the republic which we are all part of. I trust that the reason those people have been placed in such high authority to interpret the laws of this country is because they will put any and all political affiliations aside and do what the constitution indicates is the law.

I am hopeful that the Supreme Court judges that all took the oath to uphold the Constitution to heart and act accordingly, Unlike so many of the people that have supported the conspiracy theory notion being put before them.

Trust is the foundation of our democracy. Trust is included in the very oath taken by so many that seem to have forgotten (or never truly believed in) that oath.

I have to wonder what is really going on here?

News isn’t the only thing that has been Fake

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why so many people are doing things to protest the election results and blindly following along with the crazy unfounded rhetoric being spewed by the president and his cronies.

Their bad behavior illustrates their desire to dislike anything that isn’t what they believe or have told to believe. This in itself is concerning because one thing that they say is at their core beliefs is based on their religious beliefs. They are what I have determined to be Fake Christians.

What’s a Fake Christian?

Well…I think there are and always have been people that claim to be believers in Christ that ONLY believe the parts of the religions that they want to. Similar to sects of other religious groups that only belief in parts of their religion. There are Radical Muslim believers, Radical Hindu believers, radical Jewish, Radical Mormons, Radical, Seeks, Radical Protestants, Radical (fill in the Religion here) and there are Radical Christian believers.

Being radical, in and of itself, isn’t a terrible thing – but when that radical behavior disenfranchises and threatens other people, one MUST ask themselves – Is that behavior indicative of what their religion preaches?

I don’t need to state the obvious, that which is in our written word of God – the Bible. Anyone that truly believes, and is a real Christian knows what Jesus said about treating others.

Looking around at what is going on these days only leads me to believe that the people involved in so many of the events where people are being threatened and bullied, cannot possibly be real, honest, true believers in Christ. They simply cannot do and say and act like they are doing and fall back on their religious beliefs as the rationale for it. That is being hypocritical to the true and real values stated in the Christian religion.

Therefore, my conclusion is that those folks must simply be Fake Christians. Sad, pathetic people that have twisted things up in their minds, so much so, that they have lost sight of what the true and real values of the Christian faith are about.

The reality of the situation is that you CANNOT simply take bits and pieces of the entire belief and use only those to support what you are doing. That is wrong and should not be supported by anyone that says they are a true believer. Supporting these radical and unmitigated types of behavior, in the name of what they believe in, is NOT what we have been taught.

I hope folks stop and think about this. I pray they stop providing support.

I hope they call them what they really are – Fake Christians.

The reality of Trust

I am often concerned with the behavior of people that can influence others by simply doing or saying something that is construed as Truth, when it is not.

Opinions are often nothing more than false statements, based on a persons imagination and hopeful perspective. Facts are proven, and can be validated by others – but, opinions can only be validated by the person stating them.

Today, with the enormous impact that the internet and communications have in our lives, it is no wonder that people are being told Opinions and Falsities disguised as Truth. The perpetrators of these lies are asking the people to Trust them, and what they are saying.

I am amazed at the vast numbers of people that do just that, without question.

Lemmings simply following thoughtlessly.

It is so frustrating and sad, to see our democracy torn to pieces by a person (and his followers) with the misguided belief that whatever they say is True, when it is NOT. Most of what they say cannot be vetted by a reliable source. Even the courts don’t believe the accusations, and lawyers will NOT make the false accusations under oath – because they could be disbarred for lying under oath for doing so.

On a website, a twitter post, or even speaking to a news agancy – people are not held to the same standard for telling the truth. People say what they want and others are then forced to determine if it is true. Trust and truth should go hand in hand.

Today it does NOT, so each individual has to decide who to TRUST with the Truth.

Just because a person says it – doesn’t make it true.

When will we ever learn

If nothing else is learned from this pandemic, let it at least be this…
Our government has failed us, both at the federal and state levels.
We haven’t learned the lesson for truly being prepared, for over 100 years.
We got complacent and ignored better judgement and past experiences.
We thought we could out “tech” it, or out “think” it – and our Biggest and Best Health Systems could handle anything.
We ignored calls for re-stocking our arsenal of protective equipment and personal protection gear.
We did this to ourselves by allowing the folks that were elected to ignore it.
And, I shouldn’t have to explain that this problem resulted from the inaction of BOTH political parties – BOTH failed us.
100 years of ignorant bliss.
Multi-millions of dollars spent on the WHO, CDC, and FDA over the decades.
The BEST Medical Systems in the World, focusing more on profitability and cutting costs for warehousing seldom used “Emergency Preparedness” equipment and gear – like they were using some kind of factory “just in time” logistical mentality.
Federal and State Departments of Health and Human Services, and Public Health Departments were ignored until a disaster flung them into the forefront to explain and provide guidance, and assurances – but, ignored over the past decades when requesting more in preparedness.
When will we ever learn?

The needs of the many

The needs of the many…
Interestingly enough, I found myself watching an old Star Trek movie called the Wrath of Khan, the other day while hunkered down in this isolation state we now find ourselves in.
I like Sci-Fi movies, always have. I guess it’s because I love science stuff.
Khan is the “bad guy” in this one. He is a genetically engineered tyrant that has a death wish against Kirk. He is vengeful because of a past incident with Kirk. In an earlier movie, Khan is awoken by the Enterprise crew after 100 years of being frozen in stasis. He attempts to commandeer the ship and kill Kirk, for which he is marooned on an empty planet and tasked with its repopulation. Unknown to Starfleet, the neighboring planet was soon to explode, and in the interim between Space Seed and The Wrath of Khan, became an inhospitable wasteland in which most of Khan’s followers, including his wife, perished. Khan blames Kirk for their deaths and seeks vengeance during the film
Anyways, mixed in with the thrills, battles, and science – going where no human has gone before, is a human behavioral underscore that the overtly logical Spock just didn’t understand – until near the end of the movie.
Spock, whom is a Vulcan – saves the day, when he enters an extremely high radioactive area to repair the ships engine. In doing so, he logically reasons and communicates while he is dying of radiation poisoning – that the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few (or the one).
This is a concept that he found illogical earlier in the movie when discussing the idea with Kirk, yet in the critical time for action in order to save the entire crew of the Enterprise – he chose to sacrifice his life for theirs.
In this stressful time we are all encountering, this act of selflessness, and message that it brings – seems so apropos. Shared sacrifice of the few, for the betterment of the larger populous.
But, even more importantly it also reminds me of my faithful belief in Jesus Christ. Who died on the cross, to take away the sins of the world. He sacrificed himself for everyone.
The movie ends with a burial scene and Spock is sent off in a capsule which is sent to a barren lifeless planet. The capsule also carries a new technology that will regenerate life to that planet, called the Genesis Device. The planet morphs into a flourishing planet filled with water, plants, and animals. The capsule is shown broken open and an infant emerges from within. Spock is reborn.
We too will emerge from the imposed lockdowns and restrictions soon. I dearly hope that most of us understand that he needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
Live long and prosper…

The light at the end of the tunnel

 

The light at the end of the tunneltunnel

I think that I have figured out what the source is, of that desperately needed light at the end of the tunnel is.
It is a combination of 3 groups of 2 elements.

Just like in science, when elements cling or bond together they become more than simple single elements, they become compounds.

Compounds are what we are all made up of.
The first compound is made up of the two elements Hope and Faith.

The light at the end of the tunnel relies on each individual to hopefully continue to follow the distancing guidelines until the all clear is given. Everyone has to have faith in each other that they will do whatever is necessary to stop the spread. Hope and Faith in each other are needed in order to reduce the chance that anyone and everyone gets, or gives, the sickness to each other.
The second compound is made up of respect and trust.

The light at the end of the tunnel relies on each other to trust each other and respect each other’s health and well-being. These 2 elements have sadly been in low supply lately, and now is our chance to demonstrate that we not only can, but also desire to exercise both.
The third compound is made up of common sense and commitment.

The light at the end of the tunnel relies on everyone to get back to just using good old common sense. Don’t do things that you know will jeopardize other people’s health and well-being. Stay committed to doing whatever is necessary to limit exposure, by following the guidelines for washing hands, wearing masks in public, staying home when feeling sick.
If we are diligent in doing the things that are in each person’s ability,

that light at the end of the tunnel will soon arrive.

That Friday

That Friday

That Friday long ago,
The one which he knew how it would end, that was prophesized by others before him,
The one which left his friends scared, lost, and confused,
Even though he had foretold to them what would happen the night before.

That Friday long ago,
The one that wouldn’t be ignored, the one that couldn’t be denied,
The one that left a void, only to be filled 2 days later,
It changed the world, and will forever be remembered.

That Friday long ago,
The one that ended on the cross,
The one that paid the price for our transgressions,
The son of God, made flesh to walk among us, ended his time on earth.

That Friday long ago,
The one that John wrote of,
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

That Friday long ago