The laser cutter has been seeing a lot of action lately.
It follows that we’ve been busy as well, which helps explain our rather sparse blogging of late. Apologies. So in this post, I will make an attempt at catching you up on all the recent happenings. There have been quite a few, so I’ll provide a table of contents for your selective reading pleasure:
- Austin wrap-up
- More sparkin’ in the Lone Star State: San Antonio + Houston
- Down 25%
- Mardi Gras in September?
- Monkeying around in Nashville
- Hello, Eastern Daylight Time!
1. Austin wrap-up
We rounded out our crazy week in Austin with a few impromptu workshops on a Saturday - because why not? We hung out with neighborhood kids at a Stanford alumni event, and visited the Magellan International School to do a stamps workshop with the second-graders.
When we were packing up, I noticed that our umbrellas don’t quite fit under the table in the truck for most convenient storage, so it was time for some “prototyping:”
So much better now.
Throughout the week, we got to meet some amazing kids. When we visited the UT Charter Elementary school to run some of our Vibrobot workshops, it was really cool to hear the kids reflect on what they learned in an hour of playing around with motors, batteries, and pipe cleaners.
Eugene: “So, friends, what did we learn today?”
Girl 1: “That you can make just about anything with some imagination and simple materials.”
Eugene: “Umm… yeah. Wow, that’s exactly what I hoped you’d say. Anything else?”
Girl 2: “That if something doesn’t work right the first time, you just keep trying things out and eventually you’ll make something great.”
Eugene: “Okay, that’s it, I’m leaving. You kids are clearly smarter than I am.”
All in all, Austin was definitely one of our favorite stops so far. Between meeting lots of cool kids during the first week of the school year, hanging out with awesome folks at places like IBM and 3M, going for a dip at Barton Springs, and playing board games with our wonderful hosts the Osborns, there was mighty little to complain about.
Oh yes, also there were brownies.
2. More sparkin’ in the Lone Star State: San Antonio + Houston
On the way to San Antonio, we made some important business stops.
And I made sure to be a contributing team member the whole way.
When we got there, boy did we have a treat waiting for us. We ran two workshops at Geekdom, and Joules orchestrated for us the kind of reception and mobilized such an amazing corps of volunteers that we seriously contemplated kidnapping the whole bunch and dragging them along for the rest of our trip.
Thanks so much, Joules!
At Geekdom, we ran our stamps workshop, but we added a twist. Instead of having kids design a personal logo to turn into a stamp, we had them brainstorm a list of problems in the world and come up with a logo for their campaign of effecting change on the issues they deemed most important. (We used the recycling symbol as an example - it’s a logo that champions a social cause and you know exactly what you’re supposed to do when you see it.)
The kids’ creativity and the fervor and seriousness with which they took up the call blew us away. Here is one of my favorites, a penguin on a melting ice cap, urging people to take action on climate change:
In Houston, we got to visit Edison Middle School to hang out with the science workshop after-school program. It was amazing to see some of the self-initiated projects that the kids were working on.
We also went to the Houston Children’s Museum. Upon entering, I immediately became very mad that we had to run a workshop instead of being able to play in the awesome museum for hours, butc’est la guerre, I guess.
At the museum, we worked with kids to re-imagine the ideal city, and used the laser cutter to help build it. There were some really interesting structures (I’m especially a fan of the car with googly eyes on it).
3. Down 25%
In what I am considering an entirely unacceptable scheduling snafu, Northwestern University decided to start their new academic year before the Sparktour wrapped up. They didn’t even think to check with us at all! This, of course, means that Houston was the last city in which we had Rachel before she had to fly back to get ready for classes to start. From here on out, she is officially a remote Sparkee, the truck crew is down to 3, and her presence on the trip is missed almost to tears.
Hey, Rachel, sure you don’t want to just come back?
4. Mardi Gras in September?
We couldn’t not go to New Orleans. Especially when we got this great email from the folks at 4.0 Schools telling us that. So on our way out of Houston, we drove to Louisiana for some beads, grits, and other cajun wonderfulness.
Considering this is how the city looks on a September evening, I can’t even imagine what Fat Tuesday must be like. I’m a little scared.
At least, there turned out to be no shortage of wonderful people to hang out with.
Oh, and I’m still having dreams about those beignets.
Thank you sooo much to Matt for inviting us and treating us to an amazing meal, and to the rest of the 4.0 Schools crew and community for such a warm reception. It’s experiences like these that make road trips so necessary and so unforgettable.
5. Monkeying around in Nashville
Speaking of unforgettable, Nashville made it clear very early on that it was not going to be outdone.
Alison, I will skip the “thank you” because they haven’t yet invented words to describe how grateful we are for the few days you lined up for us.
Ben, Haley, Robbye, Prof. Owens, and the rest of the DFA-Vandy crew, you guys rock! Thank you so much for putting us up and bringing us to Vanderbilt. Special shout-out to Guy for one of the most amazing uses of the lasercutter to date:
and for acrobatic encouragement:
For obvious reasons, I will skip any photographic documentation of our line dancing in a downtown Nashville honkey-tonk, and skip to the workshops.
The W. O. Smith Music School is definitely a contender for coolest building the truck has ever parked next to.
Our workshops at STEM Prep Academy and the West End Middle School were awesome. Just like at Geekdom, we ran the stamps workshop and had the kids write letters to an influential figure, explaining why they care about the social issue they chose to focus on, and what change they want to see in the world about it.
An especially wonderful moment happened at West End Middle, when Mr. Matt from the Mayor’s Office swung by, and said that he will hand-deliver the kids’ letters to the mayor. Talk about prototyping to make real impact in the world!
6. Hello, Eastern Daylight Time!
Today, we officially crossed the time zone line into EDT (which meant we had to leave from Nashville an hour earlier than we had previously calculated… oops). And this evening, the truck finds itself parked in Pittsburgh, PA, where we’re gearing up for a few days of fun and excitement.
Though, come to think of it, we always seem to be gearing up for a few days of fun and excitement. Can’t wait to tell you all about it.