Daily Archives: July 3, 2008

Mindstorms

A break from the norm today – a small group of IBMers went to an infant school in Berkshire to play around with robots!

I’ve written before about my enjoyment of working with schools and helping children to learn about technology. I do make an effort to get involved in these kind of opportunities when possible. I’m a regular helper at IBM’s annual Blue Fusion event in the Hursley lab, but this one was a little different. For one thing it was much smaller… just four of us. We were out on the school site, rather than having the children come to us. Finally, it was a significantly different age group to the ones I’m more used to dealing with – these youngsters were only 6 years old, and I’ve only ever worked with teenagers in the past.

The day was really successful. We were armed with several boxes of LEGO Mindstorms robot kits. We kicked off by talking about ASIMO and how robots work, the fact that they need bodies and brains and so on. After that the children worked in groups of 3 or 4 to build a basic wheeled robot base, making it as funky as possible with tubes and anything else they wanted to add, and then we did some simple programming. It was the first time I’d used the Mindstorms system and I have to say it’s absolutely superb – easy to use and with a lot of potential to do far more advanced stuff too.

A hectic day and challenging to keep children of this age group on track, but I was very excited to see the range of their imaginations and how they were able to work together. I hope they enjoyed it as much as we did – one child asked me “do you like working with computers?” and it made me realise that one of the things I do love about my job is the human side of it, as well as having the occasional opportunity to get out there and introduce technology to youngsters.

Still getting to grips with Posterous

One reason I’m still preferring Tumblr is that FriendFeed can aggregate Tumblr stuff, but not Posterous stuff. On the other hand, Posterous allows comments, and has some really cool image and music publishing features.

It’s an ongoing mental debate.

The finest TV sci-fi cliffhangers

1. Star Trek: The Next Generation “The Best of Both Worlds, part 1” (end of season 3)
Jean-Luc Picard captured and converted into a Borg. Borg en-route to assimilate Earth. Will Riker confronts his captain and says the words “Mr Worf – fire.”

2. Babylon 5, Z’ha’dum (end of season 3)
“If you go to Z’ha’dum, you will die”… just as the audience has completely invested in the character of John Sheridan and the series has really gotten into its stride… Sheridan jumps into the abyss and the thermal fusion weapon-filled White Star crashes into the planet.

3. Dr Who, The Stolen Earth (penultimate episode of “new” season 4)
Universe about to end. Davros resurrected. Earth stolen into a space/time pocket. Daleks everywhere. Realities collapsing. The Doctor and Rose about to reunite… the Doctor is hit by a Dalek’s extermination ray… collapses in the TARDIS and starts to regenerate.