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

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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. 


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.

Google Real estate Setting

Home Buying Lessons Learned


My wife and I just successfully closed on our first home in Brattleboro, Vemont 200 miles north of New York City. We have the key. We have the deed. To find the home I looked at listings for two years at least several times a week, using the MLS, and Google Maps Real Estate setting. We drove by 30 some odd homes for a year and did full viewings of about 15 homes. We almost bought two home, pulling out at the last minute.

I’ve bought two condos I never lived in and still own one. I made a bundle off the first pre-construction condo in 2002 in San Diego. I flipped it and got one in Santa Fe during the height of the bubble. I still own it. It’s worth about 20% less then I bought it in 2005, but it’s rented and not losing money.

Google Real estate Setting

Google Real Estate Setting


Lessons We Learned

  1. House hunting is like dating in your twenties, full of drama, unrequited love, heartbreak, bad judgement, and things not seeming what they are after several nights of sleeping on it. Brace yourself.
  2. If you stay grounded in your values, you’ll eventually find a  house you just know is right and things will be simple and good. Don’t quibble too much on price, just buy it.
  3. Neighbors are key. Make sure your neighbors won’t stress you out. That can ruin any house.
  4. Pick your priorities and know what to sacrifice. You can’t walk to a vibrant downtown and live in the woods no matter how rich you are. We struggled, but remained fixed on being 1/2 mile from town, with enough room for a small garden and the ability to build a second unit for rental income.
  5. Beware of homes that have been on the market a long time. Best to focus energy on new listings in areas you like only.
  6. Watch the light. Drive by in the AM and PM. Imagine all seasons.
  7. Consider adding a rental unit. The numbers are very solid in terms of a place to put money, even from an IRA. If $30,000.00 can get you a room you rent for $700.00/mo, then conservatively you can make 20% on your money a year, and increase your real estate value.