Thursday, November 02, 2017

Parenting month 84: Now we are 7

It has been an eventful couple of months. T started at a new school, new classmates, new schedule, new bus.

Met new friends at the bus stop. The girl who lives three doors down turns out to be one grade ahead of T.  We were glad that it turned out there was someone else in his taekwondo class in the same rank and the same grade. And also one of the relatively calm kids
Double knife hand block
Double knife hand block

Front kick in Choong Jung 1
Jump kick

His new school is much bigger than the one he came from. So we are worried about him getting lost in the mix. There have been good days and bad days. Days where he comes home and goes on and on about what he did and who he played with, and days he played with noone and did not want to talk about it.  But he is getting more good days as he adapts and gets to know people, and there are some kids where apparently he is the playmate of choice (he still seems to attract kids who like quiet).

Looking at the solar eclipse at the Northland library
Looking at the near solar eclipse

We still try to encourage a making attitude.  At the solar eclipse we made our solar eclipse viewers, and at the library viewing party we were the ones teaching everyone else how to use them.  (it helps to know the physics of how pinhole cameras work)  His favorite birthday present was a Foldscope, which is a paper based microscope that we had to assemble.

Made a Foldscope
I made a Foldscope

And we had our now annual Makerfaire visit.  One highlight of the end of summer is we have a visiting colleague with a 5 year old boy, who enjoys having a playmate.  We went to Alcosan together, then the Science Center and their ropes course.

Things inside the body
Visiting the Science Center

And also MakerFaire at the Children's Museum

Playing in the web at the Children's Museum maker space
Playing in the web at the Children's Museum makerspace

Some issues, not as much as attention span as he used to have, although that may be regression to the mean, or it may be that with more kids at school, he is realizing how unusual he was and he does not have desire to do much more than blend in.

The little one is still in day care.  She still talks our ears off, and now she can do that with words. Lots of words.  Funny note: we got our annual evaluation from daycare. It indicates how she is quiet and shy, and encourages us to talk with her more.  We wonder if we are talking about the same kid, as this girl talks to use alot.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Making a Foldscope

We received our Foldscope yesterday, and this evening we made it after dinner.  The Foldscope project is a microscope with a paper base.  The concept was that using heavy paper, it is possible to mount a lens and a slide stage and that allows for fairly high magnification, and a fully adjustable slide stage while being durable for field use. While it may not be to the same specifications as a western research university, it is good enough for identifying cells, and especially cellular organisms that carry disease. (See TED talk)  So it is being sent around to field research groups in areas where the environment would quickly deteriorate conventional instruments, and areas where samples need to be visually inspected cheaply.  And also classrooms where you could cheaply give every student a microscope and not be worried about children damaging delicate equipment. Of course, we do not fall under any of these categories, but it is a cheap microscope that does not take mush space. So we are going to try it.

What we get in the box

The foldscope parts are in a bag. Take them out of the bag, and match them to the instructions.

Foldscope parts

Following the instructions, as well as the YouTube demonstration of its assembly, we started putting together the lens mount and stage.

Lens stage and sample stage assembly

Then put the whole thing together

Assembled Foldscope
And happy new owner

The Foldscope kit we got came with a couple of premade samples.  

dragonfly foot
dragonfly leg

Monday, September 04, 2017

Parenting Month 82: Hosting visitors

The last month of summer was spent being a host for others.  We had an author of a book that we have a signed copy of visit (he is a US Army Col (ret), his wife is an elementary school teacher who enjoyed the company of a rising 2nd grader).  The prior visitors from China. And more recently being host to people coming to Pittsburgh to work for a year.

Phipps Conservatory
Lagoon at Phipps Conservatory
Frog at Phipps Conservatory lagoon.
Frog in the lagoon. We were trying to decide it was real when suddenly it jumped

Part of maturity at the early elementary level is learning to take care of people other than yourself. So it one thing to teach them how to do specific tasks when called upon, or even on a regular basis (and this is hard enough!), but another to do mission type tasking, asking them to act on principles rather
than direct commands.  So the significance of having guests, is that we told T (6yrs old) that he could do whatever he wanted, but he needed to tell his guests what that was. So that is a bit open ended (I get trouble giving those instructions to my much older students) and he sometimes gets fixated on something and forgets about his new friends, or goes off like 6 year old boys do leaving his new friends behind.  But all in all, he does pretty good. (as long as he is fed and rested, but that goes without saying)

Getting harnesses for the ropes course
Getting ready to go on the little ones ropes course
Things inside the body
How long are intestines? What noises does the body make?

Another major event was that this was the month of the total solar eclipse moving across the U.S.  While libraries all advertised that they had hundreds of eclipse glasses available, all outlets (Lowes and Walmart) ran out weeks before the main event.  We modified instructions found on to make an eclipse viewer and tested it the weekend before and made a few modifications.

Solar eclipse viewing boxes ready
Eclipse viewer. Opening on side
We ended up going to our local library for the viewing. They had advertised a viewing party, and they were on top of a nice hill with grassy areas to stand around and look into boxes. We saw a few people with the glasses. A few people with super expensive solar telescopes or industrial equipment. And many people with the pin hole boxes.  We had the advantage of actually knowing how these things worked, so early in the afternoon we taught everyone else how to find the image in their boxes, and we got to get some good views.
Looking at the solar eclipse at the Northland library
Using his solar eclipse box

A (3 years old) is very sociable (at least with us). We get a range of concerts at the drop of the hat. Every morning she wakes up around 6 ~ 6:30 and is very happy to greet us with a good morning. (and she also wakes up at 3AM , but goes back to sleep).  Among her favorite activities are singing, dancing, taekwondo (using big brother's equipment) and taking walks. Oh, and getting big brother in trouble (whenever we yell at T (even if it is only through tone of voice), she feels compelled to provide commentary that T is a bad boy, A is a good girl).


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Parenting Month 81: Travels

The notable thing about the mid-summer months has been trips. Either they have visited others or others visit us. We have: One trip to perform at Carnegie Hall Guests from the Carnegie Hall recital staying with us Visit to Cleveland and Cuyahoga National Park to visit all the uncles and aunties and cousins who met us halfway. Red Crossers visiting Pittsburgh from headquarters.

Cranberry park
Front page of the Post Gazette.  Memorial Day 2017 at the USS Requin
Friends visiting Carnegie Science Center
Guest on the Ropes course
Friends visiting Carnegie Science Center
On the Carnegie Science Center Ropes Course
Friends visiting Carnegie Science Center
On the USS Requin
Friends visiting Carnegie Science Center
Looking at the submarine music selection
Friends visiting Carnegie Science Center
Bodyworks at the Carnegie Science Center
Friends visiting Carnegie Science Center
Controlling a robot at the Carnegie Science Center

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Setting up the Raspberry PI with the 7 inch touch screen and SmartiPi Touch display mount.

I recently got the Official Raspberry Pi touch screen and the SmartiPi Touch display mount. The main reason I got it was that I was getting a couple things that are intended to work with a computer, and I wanted said computer to be portable.  And the Raspberry Pi with Touch screen could be run off of a USB battery.  And this also means I (or my kids) won't be tying up a computer (or a desk) that I would rather be using for work while they do their explorations.

The standard references for assembling the SmartiPi Touch are the videos by the creator, Thomas Murray, and and a more complete video by Francesco Vannini (both videos embedded at end for reference)
However, many commentators have noted that there is not a good set of written directions, and I think the big disadvantage of an expert commentator is that they don't always remember to say things that a non-expert may have a hard time figuring out. I mostly followed Francesco Vannini's video, so here are a few additional notes.

Here are the boxes, with a Raspberry Pi. Not pictured is the Sense HAT that I will also put on.
Raspberry pi in a Smartipi Touch case with touchscreen display in boxes

Raspberry pi in a Smartipi Touch case with touchscreen display unboxed
All the components from both boxes. Note that not everything will be used.

Raspberry pi mounted in a Smartipi Touch case
At this point I have:

  1. Added rubber feet to the corners of the stand (back side of the part that is mounted on the hinges). 
  2. Attached stand to case body using included nut and bolt.
  3. Connected the display connector ribbon to both the display driver and the Raspberry Pi. I used the one that came with the touch display. I should have used the one that came with the SmartiPi case because it was longer and would have been easier. 
  4. Mounted the Raspberry Pi to the display case. the instructions state I could either use the screws to mount the Raspberry Pi or I could use the hinge cover (bottom of picture). The cover has plastic that is sized to touch the Raspberry Pi when closed so I choose that option. 
  5. Screwed the case back to the display. Note that one of the screws will be covered by the cover and any HAT so I tightened this now instead of waiting until the end to tighten everything.

Raspberry Pi camera module with mounted Raspberry Pi and SmartiPi Touch case.  Note that the ribbon that comes with the camera will be just long enough to mount to the top or side LEGO studs. A longer camera cable will be useful since the Raspberry Pi with display and case is going to be placed on a table top, which is not necessarily where you want the camera.

Raspberry Pi camera module with mounted Raspberry Pi and SmartiPi Touch case

Here is the camera attached to the Raspberry Pi. Note that it goes through the slots in the door and the Sense HAT.

Raspberry Pi camera ribbon connected through door and Sense HAT

Now, attach the door, then mount the Sense HAT and tighten the screws on the Sense HAT.  Note that the screws come with rubber spaces that put the HAT the right distance above the door.

Pi Camera connector ribbon attached through Sense HAT and door

Picamera added to Raspberry Pi in SmartiPi Touch Case on the top LEGO pieces. I used a 4X6 plate because it is long enough to reach the back LEGO mount for the top. (mounting to the side could be done with camera mount as is)

Picamera added to Raspberry Pi in SmartiPi Touch Case

Pi camera mounted to LEGO from back

Pi camera mounted to LEGO from back

The working camera.  Note that I have the whole thing running off a USB battery.  I usually have this connected to a keyboard, and use a touch screen to serve as a mouse.  It really needs a longer camera connector ribbon. I tried to mount it on a LEGO stand, but the SmartiPi case had to be right next to the stand.

Working Pi Camera

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Parenting Month 79: A voice and a will

Our little threenager is definitely willing to let her views be known.  Every day is punctuated by cries of 'Mine!' 'I want!  and the occasional 'please' and 'thank you.'  So not nearly as agreeable as big brother was at that age.  On the other hand, she is more daring, willing to try things for a moment.  More active in her play and coloring, less able to keep a long term focus on anything.  Also is as possessive as a three year old usually is (big brother was not)

Favorite song:  How far I'll Go (Moana)
Favorite toy: Duplos
Favorite food: Strawberries
What is mommy good for:  food and sleeping
What is daddy good for: reading and exercising
What is gege good for: hitting and pushing
What is laulau good for:  food
What is yehyeh good for:  playing

First media appearance - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Parenting Month 78: he is still a bean

Every now and then we get a startling reminder that our 6 1/2 yr old is still quite young, and not so big. In this case it has been in Taekwondo, which for him has been an arena where his sense of focus for his age has shined. Now, he has moved up to the 7-12 year old group (at our school, kids move up in age group from the 4-6 yr old group after they turn 7 or when they reach 3rd grade decided (i.e. the next testing is for brown belt ). T was the only one in his group to promote out of the 4-6 yr groupings (as opposed to aging out).  So he is the youngest one in his class, and the second smallest.

Doing the laundry
T is the bean in the second row, and smallest in the room

Being one of the two smallest in this age group class leads to a few oddities.  The mother of the smallest kid asking if T was going to be in the in-school tournament, because she wants to know if there will someone else of approximately the same size.  An earlier conversation with the same mom where we agreed to present a united plan about a class that we are pretty sure the kids will be asking about at some point.  Practicing self-defense techniques (arm bar) with someone about twice his size.

Our other highlight this month was being a host to his cousin. Said cousin is two years older, and that still makes a big difference as T is still the happy bouncing bean that you expect in early elementary.   But they still are close enough that they can play and explore together.

Section of Mysteries
What is in the Section of Mystery?

Doing the laundry
Time to unload the washer
Doing the laundry
Starting the dryer (and get the next load for the washer ready)