With the ABQ Maker Faire around the corner, I thought it would be neat to dress up for the occasion. Since I had an Arduino Lilypad sitting around, making a flashing LED hat sounded like a good idea. Starting with one of my new Avocado Electronics baseball caps and a bunch of LEDs and resistors, I went to work.
Since the last post on computer programming with kids, I've looked at three sofware packages that help you develop apps for Android or iOS: Kivy, Gideros, and Corona SDK. My first impressions follow. Of the three, Kivy is the least user friendly. I'll have to investigate further to find out how the code differs from the Lua programs, but it sure looks less inviting. There is no real user interface. You write up your code in Notepad, then execute it to see what you've got. This could be really awesome if it looked more like Gideros Mobile.
In the weeks since my oldest child began to use Alice, I have bought an Arduino and talked a lot about making and programming robots. This activity and discussion about microcontrollers is positively influencing the older two kids' interests in programming and electronics. Just last night, we pulled apart two old disk drives to see what we could salvage from them. We ended up keeping a couple motors, an LED, and lots of tiny screws that might come in handy one day. Today, they wanted me to hook up the Arduino and make some LEDs light up. There is opportunity to be seized here! Now that my daughter has finished her science presentation, I have a feeling that she is ready to move on from Alice. Today, I looked into several computer programming languages to find one that could be good for her to start off with.
In the past couple months, I've begun to teach my kids how to program. I have three young kids. The oldest is 9. I want to teach them to program because I learned how to program at an early age. While others had the good fortune of learning piano, I was messing around on Apple IIe computers learning Logo and BASIC in elementary school. A few years ago, I tried to have my oldest learn Logo. It did not work out too good. I guess it came down to lack of interest. She asked about it a few times, but never really got into it. For this second go around, I decided to change my approach to emphasize self-direction and initiative on her part. My role would be to facilitate her learning to program any way that grabs her interest. To find some programming tools for kids, I searched for "programming for kids."
The recent nuclear reactor problems in Japan reminded me of an important message from Weick and Sutcliffe's Managing the Unexpected. Their book is about how some organizations have built systems that are able to quickly and effectively adapt to unexpected events. In that book, Weick and Sutcliffe highlighted some of anthropologist Constance Perin's work in Shouldering Risks: The Culture of Control in the Nuclear Power Industry.
My wife recently found me a great deal on Bloomberg BusinessWeek to get a 3-year subscription for $18. While reading the first issue to arrive, I found a great story about a company in Silicon Valley that has created a flexible, U.S.-based manufacturing system for their product. The company is called SeaMicro. They make low-power servers for Internet companies like Mozilla and eHarmony. I liked what the CEO, Andrew Feldman, had to say about why they have taken the unconventional approach of building their servers onshore.
For all those people in California and the rest of the United States who are worried about radiation from Japan, I made this simple chart. It shows how radiation from Fukushima scales to other sources of radiation. The important thing to note is that everyone gets 3650 microSievert per year from natural sources. You can't escape that. This amount is 36,500 time greater than what a Californian might see from Japan.