Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Organizational challenges...

While I like organizing, it's hard keeping all of the tasks and time lines and people and rules/regulations of supporting organizations in mind so that the project keeps moving with minimal time and gumption lost. I'm trying to learn how to use this project organizing software: http://ganttproject.biz/ it is pretty good I pick up things pretty well, but nonetheless wish there were someone to really teach me how to use it...

Permissions previously obtained were removed--I didn't talk to the correct person... I need access to the space where we will be setting up the thin-client networks. However, all teacher had to turn in their keys at the end of the school year. So now to get into my classroom I need to bother building engineers to unlock the door. They have their plate full of work, it isn't like they are waiting to open doors as I need them opened. I'm not saying that it is unreasonable to limit teacher access to a large building--some control is necessary. But, if the work-around is so difficult you will dampen staff dedication and motivation then that is a bad thing indeed.

Oh yea, and now I can't come in on Saturday mornings... I had gotten an OK, now that has turned into a, "Talk to the Principal first, liability you know...". I should have thought of this first... Though of course he's on vacation at the moment so I'll write him a letter, now...

Oh wait, this crazy computer at school has MS Word all messed up--cursor is invisible--so it's quite a pain to word process. I tried to download/install http://neooffice.org but school web filters wouldn't let me get there... There must be some kind of proxy... maybe http://macupdate.com? I'll try...How much of 'doing projects' is really about creating workarounds?

Good news! Got keys back so I'm free again :-)

Friday, June 20, 2008

98 pieces of wood doesn't sound that much...

I left my house at 7:08 this morning and except for lunch and quick soccer game with Johnny I worked until 4:15 this afternoon getting 98 pieces of wood. Well, I guess I got all the electrical and paint for the tables, too.

Some of plywood, 2x4 and 2x6's, extension cords, paint-stain-polyurethane...

Electrical stuff shown on top of one of the original computer-embedded tables.

Below is a screen shot of expenditures for the materials for 24 computer tables, minus the screws and glue (which I have). Next to that photo is an image of the wood stacked in the hallway at Roosevelt. Next wood-pictures will be in-process images :-)

Yesterday James, Ed and I final-final-finalized the design for the table, still making a few important changes. I can't speak enough for social intelligence, also called group intelligence or collective intelligence. As I don't see how it's possible to quantify quality unless it's referenced to some measurable criteria (and thus is no longer quality!), I oughtn't have said this team synergy improves the design 5 or 10 fold. How can you quantify creativity? Inadaquately, at best.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My first experience of prison

Today I visited the very excellent Computers for Schools project housed in Minnesota's Stillwater Correctional Facilities. I learned about this organization thanks to Gary who I met at the Tekne Awards Banquet last winter. The concept of the organization is simple and is win-win: inmates refurbish used computer equipment donated by Minnesota businesses and then this equipment is sold to schools. Their mission:
"To ensure that all Minnesota children in grades K-12 and children from historically under served populations have access to the computer technology needed to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence required for accomplished academic performance and career success in the knowledge economy."
Well, not only do they strive to achieve this but they also help inmates learn. There were about 20 inmates working on everything from hardware testing, disassembling, evaluating, recycling and of course upgrading and reassembling hardware. A few were sitting in front of terminals, with books opened, studying. It is an impressively calm and organized environment, especially considering the backgrounds of many of the workers.

The have all sorts of hardware that could be of use in our schools in general, and without their highly affordable products the GCoS project would be much smaller. Also, thanks to Gary for his idea about elevating the center--glass covered--area of the table to solve one of the pernicious design problems. Also, Tom helped build on this idea. Thanks also to Jim (as well as Gary and Tom) for showing me around and introducing me to their organization. It is uplifting to see places like this, unknown to many but plugging away, doing good.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Building prototype 2: wood

I must admit up front that the last time I built wood tables for this project I spent 6 weeks, full time so I felt a bit gun-shy committing to table building. Good news! It only took about 4 hours to build this prototype, out of scrap wood at that! With cutting/gluing/screwing jigs set up, I imagine a few people could create the 24 tables needed in a day. At most :)

As you can see this is a very simple design: 2x4's are 2 feet long, 2x6's are 4 feet long and the only cut required are the notches in the middle of the 2x6's to allow them to fit together.

Here it is a bit further along in the construction...

Like the color/design of the square support structure for the glass insert for the table top? Think: scrap wood.

And finally below that you see the top structure and bottom structure affixed. Really quite simple.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

So Ed said...

...so why don't you make it out of wood? This was after a discussion about PVC looking ugly and not its, non-enviro-friendly character. Here are a couple of picts of the prototype for these tables:
So, I told him that... and I realized that the reasons why I couldn't use wood were, well, outdated. Long ago, over 2 years for sure, I tried to figure how to make the table out of wood and I was scarred/scared away from it due to my previous, "6 tables in 1 summer" table-making venture. There were too many design challenges back then and I couldn't see solutions so I moved to PVC construction--appealing to my tinker-toy-assembling-kid mind. Here John is showing the structure of the table legs:

Here are a couple of picts of the scale model which I took around to parties for 2 years :) asking for feedback...
Well, over the 2 years of working on the PVC design I solved many of the design problems so now, Ed and I quickly and almost effortlessly hammered out a wood-based design. I was excited. Lower-tech, cheaper, nicer-looking, more-appealing on many levels including eco-friendly.

This is a perfect example of what I mentioned in my last post--2 minds are better (5-fold? 10-fold?)--than 1. We'll see how the construction goes, this weekend...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hmmmm... Back Blogging...

After school today I was reminded of how 2 minds are (much) better than 1. I've been trying to solve some intractable problems with the final design for the PVC computer table so I can get going on ordering and making them. Well, Ed and I sat down at the 1 prototype after school and launched off from where the 4 of us--Christen, James, Ed and I--left off 3 days ago: more great ideas but nothing solid.

Eddie starts off, "So what's the problem?" I describe it, that there wouldn't be a way to put wood in the middle of the table top and we analyzed the problem and saw it wasn't one.

It would have been interesting to somehow diagram the co-generation of ideas in our 45 minute session, somehow representing the way that the design would grow like an amoeba: extending and developing in 1 direction, then another and sometimes an appendage would withdraw/get erased, but then re-grow when one of us/we saw that it was actually the better solution.

I got very happy as problem after problem got solved and a very nice solution grew. Now, there is only 1 problemcito that hopefully can be solved with the new prototype I'll be building.

Anyway, I was wondering exactly why 2 minds are so much better than 1. I wonder if it has something to do with the limits of ones working memory--it can only handle so many permutations at one time but someone else can hold several more so with good team dynamics we, in some senses, have the capacity of 2 working memories added together, able to consider so much more simultaneously. Just like that sentence. Not only is it a double-sized working memory, but really a sharing of the ways-of-thinking of 2 distinct universes. Ok off the deep end, I know...

But it was fun :-)
And productive.

Here's a picture: