Monday, April 7, 2014

Hockey, Science, and Boloco Burritos

We had a busy day yesterday, with lots of hockey, science, and burritos. My kind of day. The kids both had spring hockey, with a skills session in the morning and a game in the afternoon. Crazy, I know, but such is the life of a hockey family, even when the season is over. We had a gap of several hours between activities, so we stuck around the big city and had several options. First off, lunch. After the skills session, we went to Boloco for juicy fat burritos, and the place was packed. It seems like the entire planet was there. They had the Boston Bruins game on the big TV, so we ate and watched the game. I could have sat their for the entire two hours and watched, and they're cool enough at Boloco to let you, but that would have meant missing the science open house at Dartmouth, and mom would have killed me if we skipped out on enriching activities for hockey, especially hockey on TV. I can't say I would blame her.

So we reluctantly left the Bruins game and headed over to the Dartmouth campus. The science day was at the medical school and was sponsored by Dartmouth Women in Science. They were opening their doors to community to check out their program and all the projects that they were working on. I wasn't sure what the kids would enjoy, or for that matter, grasp and conceptualize. Certain things would speak to them, like robotics or biology, but others, like chemistry and physics, might be a little too esoteric.

I'm not sure how they organized the event, but it seemed like it involved a lot of walking, at least at first. We signed in at the med school, and then walked all the way over to the engineering school, on the other side of the campus. We were a little pressed for time, so I was bummed, but not deterred. I looked at the schedule and noticed that they had nanocopters on the itinerary, which I know the kids would get a kick out of. When the tour guide said anyone could branch off at any time and check out other things, I told the kids we would have to see the nanocopters, and they agreed. It would have been nice to see more of the engineering department and the sort of stuff they do, but we needed the abbreviated program.

We saw a robot they had designed to work in Antarctica, but the grad student was not very engaging, and didn't really exude the necessary enthusiasm to engage kids. The robot itself was impressive, but not visually so. It was basically a big box on wheels covered with solar panels. After that, we decided to seek out the nanocopters. This is a pic of the actual nanocopter.

The computer science department was clear across the campus, closer to where we started, so we headed back. We found the room and the guy was getting the copter ready for flight. Our timing was good, and it wasn't crowded at that point because the day was winding down. The way the nanocopter works is pretty cool. The guy set up a laptop with a infrared sensor. He programmed the sensor to detect motion in your hand, but only when five fingers are detected. A fist is not recognized. The sensor communicates with a computer that then sends commands to a tiny helicopter with something that I assumed was like Bluetooth technology. It was all wireless, and very cool.

The nanocopter was small and light, with a wireless sensor and a computer chip to interpret commands. You could steer it and make it go higher/lower with the positioning of your fingers and hand, which I guess is the same thing.

It was cool, and A&N had a blast. N's first flight went well, and even the grad student commented on how it was a great first flight. Usually people crash it their first time, and I confirmed that when I tried.

I wonder if we could build something like that? I'm sure the kids would be thrilled, but it's pretty high-tech, maybe too much so for us. Something to think about in the future, I would love to expose them to more engineering opportunities. I think it would really speak to the kids, especially N, who clearly has engineering in his blood. We left the science fair and headed back to the arena for our hockey game, which was fun, then home for supper: sloppy joes, cauliflower casserole, and steamed broccoli. Have to offset all that meat with some veggies.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Dartmouth College and Michael Fe Benito for the pics.

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