Teaching Kids to Fly Micro Quadracopters, (and Perhaps a Life Lesson) at the Champlain Mini Maker Faire in Vermont on Lake Champlain.

documentation, General, How-Tos, Make & Fablab, Product Reviews, Video

As an experiment I gave micro quadcopter flight lessons to kids this weekend at the Champlain Mini Maker Faire. I learned a lot. My back is sore from picking up crashed drones ever 10 seconds for two days because it was a very popular booth! The lesson I learned (perhaps a life lesson) was, “When in trouble, turn off the motor; and fall gently to the grass, then get back up and try again.” In other words, resilience, persistence, and the practiced discipline to avoid uncontrolled crashes that prevent trying again, in favor of controlled crashes your craft can survive unscathed. 

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Photo Slideshow
Link to Slideshow

On breaks, I managed to get some video to test the craft’s camera. With a lot of crashes, I ended up with shots of a rocket launch, lake views, inside flights, and in-tent flights of the Northern New England Drone User Group next to my table.  

The micro quad I used for this test is about the size of my hand. It’s safe since its blades spin in place if they hit skin, leaving only a sting. And it had prop guards and I stood right next to the kids with my hand near the throttle. They cost about $70 (including an HD camera now, which amazes me). Here’s a great unboxing and review of the model I usedUnboxing the Hubsan X4 H107C v2 HD. Considering it’s cost and size, and that is it designed for mostly indoor use, I think the video is remarkable. But the site is remarkable too!

The experiment worked. Kids lined up both days. It was very exhausting, since I was the only one manning the table both days (note to self). I’m still sore from running around finding the crashed copters in the grass every few minutes. It took me a day and half to realize the kids loved finding the crashed copters…duh…

The kernel I found to the teaching was helping these young new pilots turn off the motors and have a controlled crash before they had an uncontrolled crash. Controlled crashes are when you stop all the motors and the craft tumbles out of the air. This little copter doesn’t usually get hurt if it lands from any height on grass. It’s spars have break away parts that clip back together and it’s very light. It does get hurt in high speed crashes with the motors grinding the props into the ground. 

It takes a lot of practice to fight the human instinct to power up when the craft starts to get in trouble. I saw almost 100% of kids and adults power up whenever the craft got out of control or near obstacles! And everyone, even ace pilots, get in trouble. Human nature though is to save the craft and keep it flying. But, powering up almost always leads to higher speed crashes, often with the motor on causing the props to try to spin the grass, on fingers, rocks, dirt, etc. Even worse, after a crash, our instinct is to rush over to the downed craft. Rushing over to a downed craft often makes one’s hand slip on the controller causing the motors keep on struggling. This then was our challenge, to practice fighting on initial instincts. 

We only broke one craft in two days of flying, and that was because it hit a metal bar on the tent roof at just the wrong angle at full speed and I wasn’t quick enough to stop the power that one time.

Most people quickly break small RC copters and miss out on the joy of flying. I hope now there are a few more folks you there who can control their crashes, try again, and slowly near to fly in interesting places and ever higher.

The Hobbit: Review of 48 fps “HFR” 3D IMAX version

Product Reviews

Made the Sun. Dec 16th, 2012 showing of The Hobbit in New York City at the Lowes 34th Street theater. HFR, 3D, IMAX screen with my wife. We had good seats in the front by the aisle before the last set of seats that are very close.

Thoughts

  • The movie went by fast, and I thought it was good. I had expected it to be worse, from hearing the mediocre reviews.
  • It lacked some of the heart of the Lord of The Rings movies, seemingly to skim over some times when I wanted some real emotional connections, vs stereotypical chunks of humor or meaning.
  • The 3D was very good, not over the top and set up for certain special “Spear throwing” scenes or the like. If you looked at the very edges of the screen the image did seem to be a hole into a new world.
  • The brights looked too bright, almost like reality, when the sun blinds you on snow, etc. But it felt almost video like, not “film”
  • I REALLY want to see the difference between 48 frames per second and 24, while NOT in 3D. The glasses are hard to handle with the cheap lenses.

More on the subject from those WAY more into than I in the Gizmodo article on HFR Failings and see the link to Vulture critic round up and the NYT long Review.

Baby Strollers We Love: Old Italian Pram and Old Jogging Tricycle.

Baby Shaw's Lessons Learning, Product Reviews
The Italian Super Pram/Rolling Crib/Carraige/Laundry holder.

The Italian Super Pram/Rolling Crib/Carriage/Laundry holder.

We LOVE this old pram. It’s a Peg-Perego Pram from Italy in the 1970s we think. Got it for $80 at an antique store after talking them down for a few weeks.  Amazing suspension! Can handle 8″ drops, and rocks him to sleep while in the house.

Italian super Perego pram/crib/dresser

Italian super Perego pram/crib/dresser

Very high off the ground so we use it as a rolling crib, or a traveling crib/stroller. He can be in the kitchen with us while we cook dinner, but way off the floor and safe, then back in the living room. The back third of the bed props up or lays flat. Doubles as a laundry storage underneath and sometimes inside.

Italian super Perego pram/crib/dresser at table

Italian super Perego pram/crib/dresser at tabl

We can then move it into the dining room so he can see us during meals. And then move it to widows with good views. The wicker part comes off, and it also actually folds up a bit too, but only a bit. We have to put it mostly on the roof of our car.

Our used Baby Jogger II-16 in our garden

Our used Baby Jogger II-16 in our garden

The older aluminum/canvas tricycle, a Baby Jogger II-16, was $45 used. Made for older kids, but we put in blankets to keep him from slouching too much. Big wheels, far apart, front tire has rear forks for front stress strength, very stable. Has done a cow field and the beach without bogging down. Holds up to 75lbs. Folds flat, but not for one handed carrying.

Both have large diameter tires, so big holes, sand, mud are not an issue because of the diameter of the wheels (like Land Rovers, Hummers, pro mountain bikes).

We also have an old Greco small-wheeled regular plastic carriage that will take our car seat. That is it’s main selling point, and that it points the baby towards us so we can all see each other. It’s functional on most side-walk like surfaces, but pretty plasticy.

I have a friend who works at Bumble Ride and recently confessed to being a “Stroller nerd.” Didn’t know there was such a thing, but I believe him, he was always passionate about his work. Maybe if one of these fails, we’ll get a modern one, but I definitely like tricycles over the four wheeled ones if the wheels are small.

Washing diapers in front loaders vs top loaders

Product Reviews

We got an LG 4801 top loading washer. We’re considering returning it for a LG 2650 Steam front loader. Our LG top laoder seems to work well, except for the disconcerting visual of not pushing the clothes a the top of the pile down under. We’ve been happy with the LG overall for three weeks, and with Home Depot’s solid delivery and pick up. Baby Shaw is using about half cloth diapers and we’re researching how to wash them best. Maybe steam? Here’s a great thread, especially the last post.

 

Movie Reviewlette: Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Special effects evolve another step further

Product Reviews

Rise of Planet of the Apes was pretty good. Two main points

  1. It was not a string of loud action scenes. There was some pacing, character development and story. Reminded me of the flow of “Batman Begins” vs the other Batman movies. Or Spiderman 2.
  2. The apes were AMAZINGLY well crafted CG from the LOR, King Kong and Avatar folks. We can now enable people play animal parts very well. They used arm extensions and actually brought actors suited up in motion capture suites onto exterior action sets. One more step closer to being able to do people, if we so choose and if it entertains. We’ll see soon.

Droid X vs HTC Incredible

Product Reviews

I’ve had an iPhone 3. I loved  it. I never like AT&T in Southern Vermont. Dropped calls, dead spots, but most annoyingly, denial from the folks at the local AT&T store about that. But worst of all? AT&T corporate seems top trying to be hip, fair, and a modern company that doesn’t play 1980s fake smile games – but they are not.

So, free of my AT&T contract, I entered “Smart Phone Freeze” mode as I called it. I just couldn’t decide! Is the awesome iPhone 4 worth bad service in Vermont here and not being able to try the Android OS, something I’ve been interested in since it was first mentioned.

Eventually I went with Verizon and Android.

I researched phones, looking specifically for good video with good LED flashes and mics. I believe having a camera that can upload is a huge deal, especially in my vlogging life. I settled on the Droid X, but when I got to the store it was so BIG that I spooked and bought an HTC Incredible.

The Incredible fit in my pocket, set up good, and worked OK. My Mac didn’t see it right  away though and I never figure that out. I soon found the interface a little buggy with things like moving around icons. Then I found out that it records lower quality sound then 44khz and has worse battery life then the Droid X. Also, Motorola uses a pretty pure version of Android, where HTC uses a very customized version.

I traded in my Incredible the next day. It’s bigger, but OK. I hooked to my Mac simpler as an external drive right away. I find the interface easier and the camera better. It also has better placed mics. Got to go make a call!

The Artist’s Way is like Ben Gay

Product Reviews
Cover of of Amazon.com

Artists Way Cover from off of Amazon.com

It soothes my irritating blocked artist rash, aka, “I could have done that!”

The book The Artist’s Way, By Julia Cameron, book is seriously, but in a calm and mellow way, rocking my world for the better. Interestingly, I’ve noticed the positive effects not so much in art production, but in my personal relationships. It helps me get from myself what I tend to want from others inappropriately sometimes. There’s a lot of use of “God” in it, but she puts it out as anything that means to you.

My summary of the book’s main lessons:

  1. 12 weeks
  2. Write, long hand!, on paper! (The physical kind) Every morning first thing. I’m relearning to write again, which is cool. This writing is like some forms of mediating. It is not judged, compassion is high, you aren’t doing anything with the writing, you are not saving it, it’s not a journal, it’s not shown to anyone. It is simply good and anything it simply is.
  3. Little exercises, quotes and writings to get one past the reason for not doing things, the “I could have done that!” reactions to other’s art, the wrong people who sap your energy and enable you to continue to block.

The Artist's Way is like Ben Gay

Product Reviews
Cover of of Amazon.com

Artists Way Cover from off of Amazon.com

It soothes my irritating blocked artist rash, aka, “I could have done that!”

The book The Artist’s Way, By Julia Cameron, book is seriously, but in a calm and mellow way, rocking my world for the better. Interestingly, I’ve noticed the positive effects not so much in art production, but in my personal relationships. It helps me get from myself what I tend to want from others inappropriately sometimes. There’s a lot of use of “God” in it, but she puts it out as anything that means to you.

My summary of the book’s main lessons:

  1. 12 weeks
  2. Write, long hand!, on paper! (The physical kind) Every morning first thing. I’m relearning to write again, which is cool. This writing is like some forms of mediating. It is not judged, compassion is high, you aren’t doing anything with the writing, you are not saving it, it’s not a journal, it’s not shown to anyone. It is simply good and anything it simply is.
  3. Little exercises, quotes and writings to get one past the reason for not doing things, the “I could have done that!” reactions to other’s art, the wrong people who sap your energy and enable you to continue to block.

Test: Canon 780IS 1280 video

Product Reviews

I just got a tiny Canon PowershotSD780IS. I’ve had several Canon SD models, all were stellar performers. They are truly pocket sized so I carry it everywhere and use it for documentation and video blogging. The photos are great, with only very occasional bluing in some pixels. The 780IS records 1280 pixel-wide video at 30fps, 16×9, which is totally cool for a backup video blogging camera. The small microphone is located on the front of the camera so you can get solid sound for interviews within 4 ft.

It’s smaller then the charger!