# Gas station without pumps

## 2016 August 12

### Playing with Nao humanoid robot

Filed under: Robotics — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:09
Tags: , , , ,

Yesterday I had an opportunity to play with a Nao robot in a three-hour workshop at UCSC, run by Dr. Denise Szecsei of the University of Iowa. I found out about the workshops through an article in Santa Cruz Tech Beat, an on-line publication about local tech events. (Santa Cruz Tech Beat is worth reading, with a high signal-to-noise ratio and only about 30 articles a month.)

The basic idea that Denise was pushing is the use of the Nao robots in introductory programming courses—she created a course at the University of Iowa called Dancing Robots that supposedly been successful in recruiting women into programming courses there (she did not give us detailed information, as the focus of the workshop was on getting us to experience programming the robots, not on academic justification). She was also looking for collaborators on either educational projects or art projects, so was glad to have some grad students from the Digital Arts and New Media project at the workshop.

You can see an example of the results of the dancing robots courses on YouTube:

I’ve always thought that the Nao robots were cute, but at $9000 from the US distributor RobotsLab (and$890/year for warranty), they are too expensive for me to buy as a toy.  So I welcomed the chance to play with one for 3 hours.

What the workshop was intended to be was a brief tutorial on Choreographe, the drag-and-drop scripting environment for the robots. That environment looks ok to use, with simple message passing along wires to trigger pre-written boxes for actions like “say” or “timeline” animation.  Most of the dancing work is done by using the timeline like stop-frame animation (at 25 “frames” per second), with the software interpolating between target poses.  The target poses are created by physically manipulating the robot, making the whole process accessible to 6th graders (though the fragility and cost of the robots makes me think that you would need careful supervision even for high-school and college students).

I was not interested in the dance aspects of the robots, so I worked with one of the workshop staff (Denise’s son) on diving into the Python SDK (there are also C++, Java, and JavaScript interfaces, but the Python one is best integrated with Choreographe and the best for rapid prototyping, which is all I had time for). I spent a little time the night before the workshop looking at the programming interface (which I did not really understand from the quick glances at the documentation) and at the capabilities of the robot in terms of sensors and actuators.

What I wanted to do was to program one action—shifting the weight of the robot onto one leg, then picking up the other leg, so that the robot stood on one foot.  I planned to do the weight shifting by coordinated motion of the hip roll and ankle roll actuators.  Initially, I had thought to do it on just one leg, but I ended up doing it on both legs, since the starting position had the feet approximately the hip distance apart, so rotating both hip-roll actuators one way and both ankle-roll actuators the other way results in a parallelogram linkage, with the hips and torso staying level while moving sideways.

To detect the weight shift, I used the force resistors in the foot.  There are several ways to access them through getData() calls: the processed “leftFootTotalWeight” and “Device/SubDeviceList/LFoot/FSR/TotalWeight/Sensor/Value”  or the raw sensor values “Device/SubDeviceList/LFoot/FSR/FrontLeft/Sensor/Value”, … .  I ended up using “leftFootTotalWeight” or “rightFootTotalWeight”.  The basic idea was to start a thread running moving the hips far to the left, and set up an interrupt routine triggered by the event footContactChanged. When that event fired, I checked the weight on the right foot, and stopped the motion if the weight was low enough (I think I used 300g, since the unloaded force resistor with the foot in the air was reporting something like 200g).

I did not have time to add a further refinement to the weight shift, to adjust the weight to be centered over the supporting foot, using the center of pressure sensor. I had the robot speak the values of that sensor, but did not use it to tweak the hip and ankle angles of the supporting leg.

Once the weight had been shifted on the left leg, I had Nao pick up the right leg by adjusting the hip pitch, knee pitch, and ankle pitch of that leg.  The posing software in Choreographe made it fairly easy to figure out what the correct signs were for the angles and for picking target values. The robot lurched a little bit as the right foot was picked up, probably because the foot had not been fully unweighted, but possibly because of the foot not being lifted quite vertically.

If I’d had more time, I would have done the centering of the weight over the supporting leg before lifting the other foot. I would also have moved the motion of the supporting foot into a separate script, so that different gestures could be made from the one-legged stance. In doing that, I’d probably want to have any one-legged boxes run a balancing thread to keep the weight centered over the supporting foot, so that sticking out an arm or a leg doesn’t topple the robot. Either that, or have a one-legged balance box that is runs in parallel with any gesture actions.  It would probably take me a day or two of programming to create one-legged action boxes robust enough for someone else to use them, and probably a few weeks of use testing before they would be worth adding to Choreographe.

Working with the robots definitely needs two people, as one person needs to spot the robot any time it is moving (remember, fragile and expensive!).

It was very useful working with someone familiar with part of the programming interface, so that I did not have to waste much time figuring out how to create a new box or test it out. He was the one who suggested outputting a string to pass into a “say” box for reporting the foot sensor values for debugging, for example. I started out just reading the sensors and reporting the weight, then tried figuring out how to interrupt an ongoing motion by raising one arm very slowly, to be interrupted by any of the touch sensors. Once I had the basics of starting a parallel thread and stopping it on an interrupt, I programmed the weight shift. Once that was working I added lifting and lowering the non-supporting leg.

I fully expected that the spotter would be called on to catch the robot as it fell during my development of the program, but despite a little worrisome lurching as the unweighted foot was lifted, the robot never toppled.

I doubt that the Python SDK is fast enough to do a closed-loop feedback system for balance, but it was certainly good enough for a slow weight shift onto a single leg, and the feet are wide enough that no dynamic balancing was needed. It would be a fun programming environment for a Python course, as long as the students were into humanoid robotics.

The Choreographe environment provides a reasonable interface for fairly simple sequencing and synchronization, but I suspect one hits its limits pretty soon. Being able to create new blocks rapidly, by copying existing blocks and editing the Python in them, makes the system a lot more powerful, though I got the impression that the “Dancing Robots” courses rarely get that far.

The Nao robots were, as I expected, a lot of fun, but I couldn’t really recommend them for a beginning programming class. At $9000 for each pair of students, they are way too expensive and way too fragile. For beginning programmers, you really want things that students don’t have to worry about breaking if they make a little mistake. One can get fun robot toys for students to program for$100 each, since wheeled robots are much cheaper and easier to make than humanoid ones. Not only is the financial risk lower with cheap robots, but they can be made much more robust (though educational robots needn’t be made to sturdiness required of combat bots).

### Lynxmotion

I like the Lynxmotion gear motors, because they provide such nice data sheets on the motors. Most of their motors have 6mm shaft with a long flat on them, and they say that the motors are designed to be balanced to have equal performance in both directions. (A couple of the motors have 4mm shafts.)

They have 5 planetary gear motors with max speeds from 14 to 300 RPM.  We’ve already looked at the curves for the PGHM-1, which is the fastest of those motors, costs $37, and weighs 8.23 oz. They also have 4 12v spur gear motors with max speeds from 120 to 253 RPM. The fastest of these is the GHM-12 at$30, which has a rated load of  1.04 kgf cm at 224 RPM (about 17% lower than the PGHM-1) and weighs 7.26 oz.

The Lynxmotion motors are particularly nice if you need low speeds.  For example, if the motor were mounted directly driving the pan head, 180°/sec is 30 RPM, and the PGHM-04 at $32 with an optimum efficiency at 46.8 RPM and 9.28 kgf-cm looks promising (that’s more powerful than the Johnson bilge pump motor, I think). It only weighs 3.59 oz. At maximum power it is still pretty efficient: 38.7 RPM, 12.73 kgf-cm, 1.83 AMP, 5.18 watts output, 24.11% efficiency. Gear motors have to be stopped before reversing, but that shouldn’t be a problem in this application, I think, except, perhaps for fine positioning, ### Batteryspace.com Batteryspace sells 3 12v gear motors, each for$12.  They all use the same motor, but with different gear heads.  Unfortunately, the Batteryspace.com specs for the motors are inconsistent, and I

• 50 RPM no load with 0.12 oz-in (0.008 kgf cm) stall torque.
• 200 RPM no load with 3.3 in-lb (3.8 kgf cm) stall torque.
• 600 RPM no load with 0.7 in-lb (0.8 kgf cm) stall torque.

With the same motor and different gear heads, the torque times speed should be roughly constant, but the 50 RPM specs are way out of line with the other two.  Even the 600 RPM and 200 RPM specs differ by 60% in power.  I don’t know which (if any) of these specs to believe, though it might be worth getting one of the motors ans testing it, since the price is lower than the other 12V gear motors I’ve looked at.

### Pololu and Solarbotics

Pololu and Solarbotics each have some cute gear motors, but they are 3v motors, not 12v motors and so not desired for this project.  They are probably also too low power.

### American Science and Surplus

American Science and Surplus has two motors that we first noticed in their print catalog:

• a 2500 RPM motor 1.3A no load, stalls at approx 9.5A.  No torque information given, but the power consumption suggests about twice the power of the Johnson Motor 500. “Output is through 1/8″ sq x 5/8″ deep ports at the front and back of the housing (we’ll include (2) short, square shafts to get you started).”  The motor is a bit bigger than the others we’ve looked at, being 5″ long.  It only costs $12.50 (plus shipping). The square shaft might be difficult to connect things to—all the pinions I’ve seen so far expect round shafts with a flat. • a 190RPM motor • draw 1.5A no load, and stall at approx 25A. • Threaded shaft is at a right angle and is 4-1/8″ x 7/16″. Shaft thread is non-standard, so treat it as a smooth shaft and mount pulley or gear with a setscrew. • Measures 5-5/8″ x 2-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ overall, not counting the shaft, and has power terminals opposite the gearbox with (2) 1/4″ mounting holes opposite the shaft. That shaft is pretty big and we might have a hard time finding something that would fit it. # Gears If they decide to use the bilge pump motor, it will need to be geared down a lot (more than 3:1). The simplest way to do this is with a pair of gears. A pinion gear is mounted on the motor shaft with a set screw, and a larger spur gear is attached to the wheel. Note: this seems to be the terminology used in the online catalogs, though so far as I can tell “pinion” properly refers to function of a gear as a driving gear and “spur” refers to the teeth being parallel to the axis of the shaft (and not slanted, as would be used with a worm gear drive). There are some real cheap gears on Amazon (24 gears for$8, 6 each of 40, 30, 20, and 12 teeth), but these are plastic gears to press onto a 2mm shaft, and would be difficult to use on the larger shafts of the motors we are looking at.  They probably also couldn’t handle the torques.  If you were doing something with the sort of 1.5–3V motors that Radio Shack sells, they might be quite suitable, as those motors have 2mm shafts.

The Tamiya gearbox kits are cool and cheap, but they have built-in 3v motors and are unlikely to be sturdy enough for this application, even if they could be modified to accept a bigger motor.

Tower Hobbies has a wide selection of pinion gears in 32P and 48P pitches.  The pitch is the number of teeth on the gear divided by the gear diameter in inches, so a 16-tooth (16T) 32P pinion would have a diameter of 0.5″. (Note: metric sizes use “module” numbers instead, which are the diameter in mm divided by the number of teeth.  32P would be module 0.7938, so the closest metric size is module 0.8.)

The 32P gears are sturdier, so let’s look at them.  The Robinson Racing pinions are the cheapest at $3.69 each and they come in every size from 9T to 21T (here is the link for the 15T pinion). They are spec’ed as 1/8″ (3mm), so should fit on the bilge pump motor’s 1/8″ shaft. Going directly to Robinson Racing gets a wider selection at slightly lower prices ($3.50 for the unhardened pinions 9T–22T, $4.95 for the hardened pinions 9T–23T). Tower Hobbies also has pinions for 5mm shafts, if we need them. Tower Hobbies has 32P spur gears in sizes from 48T to 72T (though not every size, unlike the pinion gears). The plastic spur gears run about$2.80 (for the Traxxas brand) to $6.79 (for the RJ Speed brand) and have holes for attaching them to wheels, but different spur gears have different hole patterns. Steel spur gears are available, but only in a few sizes and at about$24 apiece.

The Kimbrough Racing Products 32P spur gears come in every even size from 44T to 54T, 60T to 66T, and 64T to 72T, costing $6 each. The hole patterns look like they could fit a number of different wheel styles, but no specs are given on the hole pattern, so some guessing or measuring from photos may be needed to see if they would fit wheels other than the rather expensive ones they are designed for. # Bottom line The bilge-pump motors are looking like a surprisingly good deal. ## 2012 July 31 ### Robot wheels Filed under: Robotics — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:46 Tags: , , , The robotics club has continued building their automated foam-dart shooter (which I won’t call a Nerf gun any more—not because I fear trademark infringement, but because it won’t take Nerf-brand foam darts, needing the ones for the NXT generation crossbow). After getting a Lego prototype of their pan-tilt mechanism working, they’ve been building a sturdier one out of PVC and plywood. For the pan mechanism they wanted a wheel that was runnable off the 12v battery and controlled by the HexMotor board. Initially they built something using a small 12v motor I had (a Mitsumi M38E-3SC) for which I’ve been unable to find any specifications, other than the 2400RPM and 12V on the label. I did find bunch of specs for other motors on Mitsumi’s web site, but this motor has apparently been discontinued, and the manufacturer has no interest in keeping historical specs on their website. (I wish more manufacturers would, since it makes it easier to find out the specs for surplus and recycled parts, which in turn allows finding the closest currently manufactured model.) They mounted the motor with the pulley on the shaft rubbing against a caster wheel, which spun nicely with no load. Unfortunately, even the weight of the motor pressing the caster wheel against the floor was enough to stall the motor. (Based on the other Mitsumi motors, I’m guessing that the motor has under 80 mNm of torque.) We need to get a more powerful motor, but how powerful and how fast a motor? Today we looked at the design from first principles and started trying to spec the motor and wheel. They decided that they wanted a panning speed of about 180°/sec. They’re panning to do this by mounting a wheel at the end of a 60cm arm, so the wheel needs to move at about 190 cm/sec (75 in/sec). With a 3″ diameter wheel, that would require a shaft turning at about 470 RPM (a 1″ wheel would need about 1420RPM). If you have any trouble with this easy calculator computation, you could use Lynxmotion’s wheel-speed calculator. They could either get a faster motor and gear it down, or buy a gear motor that has about the right speed and is already geared down. There are a lot of hobbyist motors and gear motors on the market, but a lot of them are made for RC vehicles, and so run at 6v or 7.2v instead of 12v, or for kid’s toys and run off 3v. The 12V motors tend to be marketed for the automotive and marine market and are heftier and pricier (except for oddities, like the surplus Mitsumi motors). How much torque do we need? We tried pulling on the arm with a force gauge to see what it took to move it, but we couldn’t measure forces that low (under 0.1 N). Of course, moving it at speed will require more torque—I should probably set my son the task of estimating the moment of inertia and determining how much torque would be needed to swing the mechanism from motionless in one position to motionless 180° away in a second. Obviously we need more torque than we can get from the Mitsumi M38E-3SC, but how much is that? We measured the stalling torque by taping a string to the caster wheel and measuring the force with the motor stalled but pulling on the string. We measured about 0.7N and the wheel had a 5cm diameter, so the stalling torque was about 0.0175±0.003 Nm. Unfortunately, very few motors have their torques reported in SI units. Instead, weird units like in-lb, oz-in, and kg-cm are used. Translating, the stalling torque for the motor is about 0.15 in-lb, 2.5 oz-in, or 180 g cm. (Rather than remember or look up all the conversion factors, I used an online calculator for the unit conversion.) Any motor with less than 5 times that much torque (0.88 Nm, 0.75 in-lb, 12 oz-in, 900 g cm) is probably unusable, and we may need a much higher torque. Keep in mind that the torque when the motor is stalled is usually much higher than torque at the rated load (which is typically at the maximum efficiency point for the motor). I looked for wheels, gears, and motors for several hours today, in order to give the students in the robotics club some reasonable choices to consider. In this post I’ll just discuss the wheels, not gears or motors. # Motors I said I wouldn’t discuss motors, but I’ve already made one exception for the Mitsumi motor that stalled. We also currently have a spare 12v bilge-pump motor with a 1/8″ (3.2mm) shaft which is intended for a 500 GPH bilge pump. I have no idea what torque it is capable of nor what speed it runs at. We should be able to measure the speed with a light and a photodiode—this might be a good time to use a Fairchild QRE1113 reflectance sensor (I bought a couple for an idea I had for the circuits course, but that idea is not currently looking too promising). I think that the flat on the shaft of the motor should change the reflectance enough that we should be able to get a good pulse out of holding the reflectance sensor a couple of millimeters from the rotating shaft. Measuring the torque is harder (says the ex-computer engineer—electronics is always easier than anything mechanical!). We’ve got some 3.2mm collet adapters which could give us a 5mm shaft to tape a string to and the outside collar of the collet has a 1.2 cm diameter. I suppose if we need a longer lever arm to reduce the force, we could drill a 5mm hole in something and clamp it on with the adapter. We certainly have plenty of spring force gauges, so we should be able to find one that has a reasonable range. # Wheels There are a lot of pre-made wheels on the market, and there are some wheel systems that allow robot designers to match their needs for shaft size and wheel size with a standard hub in the middle. ### BaneBots wheel system The BaneBots wheel system has wheels that are 0.4″ or 0.8″ wide with hexagonal hubs that are 0.5″ or 0.75″. For example to drive a 2 7/8″ (73mm?) wheel from a 4mm motor shaft could be done with a 0.4″-wide 1/2″ hex hub for a 4mm shaft ($4), then a 2.875″D 0.4″ wide wheel ($3). To hold the wheels on the hubs requires a snap ring (included with the hubs), which means buying some snap-ring pliers ($5) as well.

Here is the description from the RobotShop web pages (Trossen Robotics has a nice summary of the BaneBots system with pictures, but their prices are not as good as Robot Shop):

The BaneBots Wheels were conceived for absolute versatility. They are constructed with a thermoplastic rubber tread bonded to a black polypropylene core making them light weight and durable while providing excellent traction. The variety of sizes and mounting options make it easy to find the wheel (or combination of wheels) that meets your needs. These wheels offer a low cost solution that is durable enough for a combat robot yet still light enough to be practical. These wheels can be used both indoors and outdoors and are maintenance free.

Wheels are available in various tread durometers (hardness):

 Green Rubber tread: 30 Shore A (soft and “semi flexible”) Orange Rubber tread: 40 Shore A (medium) Blue Rubber tread: 50 Shore A (hard and “stiff”)

Standard low profile hubs and bushings are available supporting shaft sizes from 2mm up to 1/2″ in both drive wheel and caster applications. Wheels can be mounted one, two, or even three wide. Mounting two or three wheels to the same hub gives the flexibility of creating wider tread or mixing different durometers. The hubs and bushings offer even more versatility, allowing you to connect to metric (2mm, 3mm, 4mm, 6mm) and imperial (1/8”, ¼”, 3/8”, ½”) shaft sizes.

0.4″ Wide x Diameter:

 Diameter: 1-3/8″ 1-5/8″ 1-7/8″ 2-3/8″ 2-7/8″ Green ½” Hex ½” Hex ½” Hex ½” Hex ½” Hex Orange ½” Hex ½” Hex ½” Hex ½” Hex ½” Hex Blue ½” Hex ½” Hex ½” Hex ½” Hex ½” Hex

2-7/8″ Diameter x 0.8″ Wide:

 Green ½” Hex ¾” Hex 3/8” Key ½” Key 3/4” Bushing Unfinished Orange ½” Hex ¾” Hex 3/8” Key ½” Key 3/4” Bushing Unfinished Blue ½” Hex ¾” Hex 3/8” Key ½” Key 3/4” Bushing Unfinished

3-7/8″ Diameter x 0.8″ Wide:

 Green ½” Hex ¾” Hex 3/8” Key ½” Key 3/4” Bushing Unfinished Orange ½” Hex ¾” Hex 3/8” Key ½” Key 3/4” Bushing Unfinished Blue ½” Hex ¾” Hex 3/8” Key ½” Key 3/4” Bushing Unfinished

4-7/8″ Diameter x 0.8″ Wide:

 Green ½” Hex ¾” Hex 3/8” Key ½” Key 3/4” Bushing Unfinished Orange ½” Hex ¾” Hex 3/8” Key ½” Key 3/4” Bushing Unfinished Blue ½” Hex ¾” Hex 3/8” Key ½” Key 3/4” Bushing Unfinished

### Lynxmotion wheels

The Lynxmotion wheel system also consists of hubs and wheels, but in a smaller variety than the BaneBots system. They also sell all their hubs and tires in pairs, so we’d be buying 2 hubs and 2 tires. Lynxmotion has 3 hub styles: universal hub (for 4 of their wheel types), 12mm hex hub (for one truck wheel), and mounting hub (for 7 of their wheel types). All the hubs are $8 for a pair of hubs. I believe that we would be most interested in the cheapest and most versatile of their systems: the mounting hubs (which are for 3mm, 4mm, or 6mm shafts) and NFT-01 through NFT-07 neoprene foam tires. The tire diameters are 1.5″ ($3.87/pair), 1.75″ ($4.10/pair), 2.25″ ($4.64/pair),  2.5″ ($4.86/pair), 2.75″ ($5.13/pair), 3″ ($5.36/pair). Both the BaneBots and the Lynxmotion systems come to about$7 a wheel for the larger sizes (around 3″), but Lynxmotion requires buying in pairs.

The universal hubs (which are used with their more expensive wheels) are interesting in their own right, since they provide 4 tapped screw holes in the aluminum hub, to which anything could be mounted with the 2–4  4-40 screws.  They even include 2 5/8″×4-40 screws for each hub and an Allen wrench that fits them. The universal hubs come in 3 shaft sizes: 4mm, 6mm, and 1/4″.

If the robotics club decided that they wanted a 6″ diameter wheel, they could turn one on the lathe and mount it with universal hub.  Better, they could mount the hub to the rough blank then turn that on the lathe, to make sure that the wheel is properly centered.  Of course, to do any of this we’d first have to clear all the clutter around the lathe (which I haven’t used for 20 years), and I’d have to get a headstock mount drill chuck ($30) and an adapter ($15), since my lathe has a 3/4″ × 10tpi headstock and most lathe accessories now expect 1″ × 8 tpi.

### Solarbotics wheels

Solarbotics makes 2-5/8″ diameter wheels for $4 that fit on 3 mm D-shaped shaft and on their double-flat 3mm shaft that is the output of their gearboxes. It seems to be cheaper to get the wheels from Pololu ($3.50).  Pololu also makes gearboxes that can drive the wheels that are a bit cheaper than the Solarbotics gearboxes.  Unfortunately, neither Pololu nor Solarbotics goes in for 12v motors, and their little 3V motors and gearboxes may not be suitable for this application.  I’ve not seen any adapters for mounting the Solarbotics wheels on larger shafts.

### Tamiya wheels

Tamiya, best known for their wide selection of toy gearbox kits, also makes wheels.  The wheels are cheap, but only fit on the Tamiya 3mm hex shafts.

### Pololu wheels

Pololu sells wheels that fit their 3mm D shafts and onto the outputs of Solarbotics gear motors.  The wheels come in 3.2cm ($7/2), 6cm ($8/2), 7cm ($8.50/2), 8cm ($9.25/2), and 9cm ($10/2) diameters. Pololu also makes universal hubs with 4-40 tapped holes, for 3mm ($6/2), 4mm ($7/2), 5mm ($7.50/2), and 6mm ($8/2) shafts. This looks like a slightly cheaper way to get a universal hub than the Lynxmotion ones. The 6cm and larger wheels have 2 holes that can be mated with the holes in these universal hubs, so the Pololu wheels can be put on other shaft sizes for$7–9 a wheel, depending on wheel and shaft size (similar to the prices for BaneBots and Lynxmotion wheel systems).

## Bottom line

It looks like we can get wheels for 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, and 6mm shafts with diameters from 3.5cm to 90cm for \$7–9 a wheel.  We can also use universal hubs to mount home-made wheels onto those shaft sizes.

## 2012 May 7

### Kids on Campus

Filed under: Robotics — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 12:25
Tags: , , , ,

Our local community college each year has a number of programs for kids (some for kids as young as 10 years old:  Kids on Campus – Cabrillo College Extension.

My son has outgrown these courses, and his 4 weeks of theater summer camp will make it difficult for him to register for any of the regular Cabrillo college courses.  He did take one of them several years ago: a Lego Robotics course using Logo and the old Lego Dacta serial interface board.  The same course appears to be offered this summer, with the same teacher.  Neither he nor I can remember now whether he had one week or two of using the serial interface—he does not even remember programming in Logo for controlling Lego motors.  I thought at the time that it was a pretty good course, and a nice variant on the mainly visual programming languages then available for Lego robotics.  (He has used a couple of those languages and NQC for programming Lego robots, though now he does most of his robotics programming in C++ on the Arduino, with Python and PySerial to communicate from a laptop.)

So far as I know, UCSC has not attempted to do much with education for children, other than the Seymour Center at the Long Marine Lab and the COSMOS program for high schoolers (which I discussed in a blog post about improving the science fair participation by high schoolers).  There are a lot of summer camps for kids on the UCSC campus, but most of these are from 3rd-party providers (like most campuses, they try to get money out of the dorms on a year-round basis).

## 2012 May 5

### Busy week(s)

My son and I have just finished a busy week, and he has another busy week coming up.

Last weekend (April 28 & 29) he had 3 performances of a “Fringe Show” with his teen acting class. The Fringe show consisted of 13 pieces selected or written by the students.  He was in three pieces: a deadpan rendition of “Sexy and I know it” as if it were an academic lecture (which some audience members told me was the funniest piece in the show), the father in Shel Silverstein’s The Best Daddy (which he also directed), and a non-speaking role as a hallucination in a short play written by one of the other students [Correction: he also had an off-stage voice part in that play].  This performance was just one week after an improv show that he (and several of the other cast members) was also in, so he’s been pretty busy with theater lately. I don’t have pictures from the shows up on his theater page yet—I’ve not had time to select, crop, and edit them.

The fringe show was unusual in that the cast on stage had six male and six female actors—locally there are usually far more girls interested in acting than boys, so the gender parity was notable for its rarity. It was also one of the best teen shows I’ve seen (though West Performing Arts has put on several good teen productions).

Right after the Sunday matinée, we had to hurry home to get a ride to the airport, to fly to Los Angeles for the California State Science Fair.  I already blogged about CSSF this year, and I don’t have much to add.  We missed the awards ceremony on Tuesday, but competition was stiff enough in his category that he didn’t get an award this year anyway.

The reason that we missed the awards ceremony was that we had to catch a plane to Oregon, to join his dramatic literature class’s trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.  I’ll do a separate post on the workshops, plays, and other activities later, when I’m more awake.  Suffice it to say that Wednesday through Friday we had 4 workshops, 4 plays, 4 “prologues”, a couple of meetings with actors, and the 8–9-hour bus ride home.

Today, we caught up a little on sleep in the morning, then spent 3 hours with the robotics club at the Simpkins Swim Center trying to get the underwater ROV to work, because the regional MATE competition is next week.  Tomorrow will be another robotics club meeting, for “dry dock” work on the ROV.  I also have to empty about half my garage, so that the garage door can have its hardware replaced on Wednesday.

Next week he has a return to Spanish class (catching up on the missed week), a meeting with the consultant teacher, 2 AP tests (Calculus BC and Physics C:Mechanics), the last meeting of his dramatic literature class, his home-school physics class, and the MATE underwater ROV competition. I’ll be doing the meeting with the consultant teacher, the physics AP exam, the physics class, and coaching the ROV team, plus an oral exam for a grad student and perhaps a couple of other meetings.

After that, things calm down a little, with him having just Spanish, physics, and finishing up the writing assignments for the dramatic literature class, and me being able to get back to my research.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.