Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Building, day 13

Today, Ed and I got to the shop early, 6:15 in the morning. we plugged away until 3:30 and are "close" to being done. I really think so. I really hope so. Again, a template was useful. Below you can see me drilling holes using the template Ed created.
I placed screws in the pre-drilled holes so as to facilitate Ed's work as his was more complex and time-consuming. There are many examples of systems thinking in our work!

This picture shows Ed attaching the corner supports. You can see the shop mascot taking it easy in the chair. We finally got the mascot to help supporting the table from underneath, however he was not much help as he's missing his upper body.

This picture below shows three tables ready to receive the glass frame. The table in the foreground illustrates how how the two-piece, sub-tabletop is screwed on to the table assembly.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Building, day 12

Back from canoeing with John and Erika and my dad. It was GREAT and I've got a story or 2 that might trickle into this blog at some point...

Ed, Christian and I worked till 3:30 today, though Christian had to work around a morning and then a noon time meeting. We ARE getting closer (can't quite say "close", yet, however...)Ed's cutting corners...

Christian's pre-drilling the sub-table tops--she created a simple and effective drilling template.

Ed demonstrating 90ยบ nature of corner-reinforcers
After cutting more corners, lots of corners, Ed will be screwing than onto the table to reinforce the legs. That will be done tomorrow.

I've been framed...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Building, day 11--the notebook

A major challenge for a science teacher is how to handle student notebooks. The challenges are immense. The notebook has to be practical, work for all different students and all different class/sciencing needs. They should be helpful in one's sciencing, one's thinking. I'm not reflecting too much on the notebook today, however I wrote some in my notebook today, organizing and archiving my thoughts. Note--besides the coffee stain I added semi-random thoughts--there needs to be a place for all that in one's notebook... Not to mention my normul spalling.

Building, day 11

Building more jigs...

Since we are building 24 items with exactly the same design, efficiency is important. Everything we do is in multiples of 24. For example we need to cut off 96 corners in exactly the right place so that they line up with the leg structure. Building jigs to aid in many of these steps is important.

Here's the corner, cut

Here's the cut, marked

Here's the jig in place to mark the cut

Here's a jig to help make sure the "4th Leg" gets screwed/glued with the right angle:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Building, day 10

Painting still. Johnny and mi amor came to Roosevelt with me today and helped out for a couple hours. Maria painted 30 of the 42" pieces, black, while I painted the whole day on the table leg assemblies and at 3:30 only one table leg assembly lacks a second coat!

I brought home 16 of the primed, 42" pieces which Erika painted black in the garage. She also primed those few odds and ends remaining pieces. Tomorrow I might be able to do a little assembly!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Building, day 9 or,I take it all back

I said I didn't like painting, that's not totally accurate. Actually, I love to paint, and I spent most of today painting. What I don't like is the project slowing down to almost a halt, it seems. It was nice spending the day, alone in the shop, just painting. Not thinking talking or really anything just painting. I need an occasional day like that...

Meanwhile on the home front, Maria my wife, was surreptitiously painting previously primed pieces, black, in our garage. It was quite a surprise, I went in the garage to get some charcoal for grilling and there, like, well, I don't know what it was like, were many dozens of beautifully painted black pieces. Gracias!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Building, day 8

Painting, my favorite!

My daughter Erika is helping lots as time permits. Today she is in process, priming pieces. She refused to be in the picture ("I look so..."). Anyway, here is the setup:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Building, day 7

Today it was Johnny (my son) and I. We indeed are quite the team as you can see from this short video:
We assembled (glued and screwed) all 96 corner supports. Next we will prime then paint black. Things are really gonna start moving then ;-)

Another incredible idea...

Brian Dolan-Goecke said on the phone last Saturday, "You know, we could put your server on the internet for the summer and then people could work on it from wherever, whenever." I thought this could be very cool, and, as I started to consider this idea, reservations popped up in my mind:
  • What happens if something somehow messes up the system?
  • How much would this cost? The grant has a little wiggle room, but not much.
  • How exactly could this be coordinated?
Over last week Brian and I communicated via e-mail, then answers to all of these doubts became wonderfully clear. Brian works at TIES, one of the biggest providers of technology services to Minnesota schools. Brian was willing, through ties generosity, to put the server on their network as one of his, "projects". Thank you Brian and TIES.

The solution to the first and last concerns above are connected. Last weekend Conner came up with the idea of creating a wiki to provide a knowledge base to support the development of this project. This wiki idea developed into using Minnesota Ubuntu LoCo wiki site which, as of yet, hasn't seen much use. So, the idea is that as we work on the project we document what we do on the wiki, creating a knowledge base for this project which then, of course, is easily shared with anybody else trying to replicate part or all of what we're doing. Cool solution!

Brian's vision of what could happen with the server this summer was that people interested in helping out could experiment around, working to solve all of the needs and challenges presented on the wiki, documenting their efforts. Then, at the end of the summer, the computer would be wiped clean and a fresh system installed with all of the additions and modifications detailed on the wiki. Cool, ay?

This afternoon Johnnie and I visited Brian at TIES, carting that 80 pounds server along with us. Brian gave John and I a tour of the ties facilities and if I had a penny for every meter of cable in that building, well I could probably buy the building. Of course, the cabling is only as good as all the routers and switches and servers and it has those in spades. Cool that Linux has a significant role in what they do.

Brian hooked up the server to their network gave it an IP address and name and it is ready for some ssh action! if you are interested and available to help to start setting up the system, let me know! I'll give you an account and the IP address.

I've spent some time this weekend adding to the wiki on the Minnesota LoCo site. I've got a good bit more outlining to do for this project wiki to be ready for prime time, nonetheless this is an awesome means by which people with GNU/Linux knowledge can influence, in a very direct way, education in Minnesota.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Building, day 6

Christian and I ran the shop today--she primed and primed
and I cut lots of little 5 & 1/2" trapezoids, 96 to be exact, then pre-drilled their soon-to-be a-joined piece.
Part of my time was used to craft a gluing/screwing rig for the corner supports. That will come in handy tomorrow! No wood shop for me then, I'll work in my garage!

After a few hours in the shop we conferred on iGoogle, the Google Calendar to be exact. Ed and I had found out a cool way of using them to collaborate: each have our own "Team share" calendar we let others read for our own personal schedules (as it affects the team) as well as the project calendar where we put the things we do as a team. Poco a poco--many small details... :-)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Building, day 5

Today Ed and I finished off the jobs started yesterday: Ed finished cutting the 42" 2x4's for the glass frame, then cutting the glass groves;
I... primed the rest of the tables--it took about 5 hours to prime all table-leg assemblies. While the cutting felt fast, the painting felt like it moved at the speed of a glacier.
Ed also did some priming. He spent about 3 hours priming 2/3rds of the 42 inchers. These 42" pieces are also trapezoid shape, 42 inches being the long-side measurement.

Painting is really slowing down the project. Better said, neither Ed nor I estimated how long all the painting would take, and we still have tons more :-( to do.

Yeah, the reason why Fred couldn't cut all of the 42" inchers yesterday was because I had mis-estimated the amount of wood needed so he ran out of wood to cut. So last night I went and bought 9 more 10' 2x4's. You can get 3 pieces from a 10' 2x4, i.e. you don't need a 12 footer for this job. While there were about 2 feet left over on the 12' , using the 10' cut things pretty close: Ed showed me that there is about 1/8th of an inch of the 10 footer left over! Details! While, as they say, the devil is in the details, certainly therein abide the angels (and in this case, also the angles).

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Building, day 4

Fred, I guess, didn't have enough fun with computers when he helped out that first day we got the thin clients calling, so he volunteered to help in the shop, too! Ed, as well, put in a full day. We got lots done and I started to see that painting is going to take a lot longer than anticipated.

It seems like a big shape for this table is the trapezoid. Fred cut lots of trapezoids today. Since Ed cut squares, does that make him a square? ;-)
Together, we discussed the exact dimensions of the grove in which the glass will rest. While this seems straightforward, of course it isn't. Our biggest doubt was how deep to cut this groove. The glass for the tables is quarter inch tempered glass: sturdy stuff. We'll be using a thin foam strip laid along the groove to support the glass. How much will this foam, which is fairly cushy, compress? This of course affects our decision on the depth of cut. Ed and Fred cut lots of groves. Does that mean they had a groovy time? ;-)
We overestimated the amount the foam compresses and thus the glass rests a bit high we found in our tests afterward. Oh well, it's all great. There are ** always** workarounds.

I got at least a couple of hours of painting done and you can see I finished painting 2 stacks of three tables. Poco a Poco.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Building, day 3

Today I was on my own in the shop. You know, much of making these tables is very assembly line:

make 48 cuts, knocked out 24 pieces, drilled 5 x 96 holes, glue and screw on one set of legs,

test assembly of the leg pieces. Whoops! For some unexplainable reason the perfect fitting notches won't slide all the way together so, re-cut 48 diagonal pieces, screw and glue on 72 legs.

That was a quick day!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

They came, they saw, they carry on the battle...

Today Conner McCall and Chris Gloege came to my house to help with this initial-list attack. There really is a huge list, and lists of tasks seem to sprout from each item on this list. Thus, while it seems never-ending, I have faith that when one takes a step forward, one is a step nearer the end.

Upon booting the server our chandelier started to shake (actually, we don't have a chandelier, but if we did it would have been shaking mightily due to the multiple powerful exhaust fans in the server). Then, effortlessly, we booted a thin client; it sure works smoothly. Conner took up his position in front of the server, Chris in front of the thin client and I, hovered.

One of the key applications for the computer enabled science classrooms is called, CmapTools. This freeware software was initiated and its development guided by Joe Novak, the "grandfather" of concept maps. He's working at West Florida University right now I believe. As you can see from this concept map which I made with his software (link to whole map):
Interweaving Collaborative Communities
the style of concept maps I use is somewhat different from the style that Novak advocates. Below is an example of a concept map from their site (link to whole map). (A major difference between these two maps, besides style, is that the map above shows about three times more information.)
Concept from Novak's site
Anyway, this software is so cool because not only does it run on client machines, one can also concept map on a CMap Server on the net. Thanks again to Tom Marble and Jack Ungerleider for helping set up and maintain my Cmap server that's running over at the University of Minnesota in the office of my long-suffering adviser, Gill Roehrig.

The concept maps that you see above, while simple jpg images on web pages, are potentialy dynamic: if I make a change on my concept map using the CmapTools app, the jpg on the web page would also change! Thus, upon refreshing the page, or browsing back to it or even to this blog entry, the image would reflect those changes. You will see lots of CMapTools products in the students' work this coming year.

Anyway, Connor struggled mightily to make sure that this program would work well on the thin clients and in the end, it does! Also, he had the brilliant idea of creating a wiki for this project where the work can be documented and shared an improved upon list and by others--soon you will see an entry about this wiki. Brian Dolan-Goecke called while we were starting to wind down and came up with some excellent ideas which will be featured in future blog entries, no doubt!

Chris was researching some sticky questions on the web and figured out that we don't have to mess with the kernel and that is good news, the kernel pretty much takes care of itself. He also brought with him a CD loaded with different reference materials on thin clients that he found on the Web. Not only were these useful during our work session but, as a matter of fact, a book on thin client system management that he had loaded onto the CD turned out to be addictive reading! Strange, ay?

(note to self: cross off some of the items on the to do list... :-)

Thanks Chris and Conner.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Less Messy though still all over the place

Removing the 2 extra monitors leaves the under-table more open. Ed and I spent today working on learning more about my Google. We learned more about Google calendar, and spent more time setting up our high Google page. I helped set up a Google reader account and added a few blogs to his reader. The concept of the reader is a little complex and we discussed how we can teach the idea of a reader to students.

Completely interwoven with everything we did were discussions on how to teach science to students when they have such intimate computer access. How can you focus kids on the task, especially if they are ADHD, if they have the world before them? I'm a great experimental subject for that question.

We concluded that the first week of classes needed to focus on helping students set up some of their collaborative online tools. Each student would set up their iGoogle account, customize their tabs, filling out their pages with gadgets, setting up a reader, a blog, Google docs, and Google calendar Accounts.

We talked about ways to encourage the community value of helping each other. You know that each class will need tech savvy students to help others. An idea I had was to have some kind of a rating or election system where each day students could vote for a couple classmates who they felt had been especially helpful, to recognize these peer-elected people. Growing communities requires focusing on the positive.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Walking our talk/Learning to walk

Funny picture on cell phone

It was a messy, jury-rigged start; nonetheless it was exciting! The 4 of us got together, huridly cobbled together a first table from the parts we've pre-cut. Then we fired up the server and put together 4 thin-client setups at this table. While the telling is linear, watching this purposeful expert teaming is exciting. And cool. Reminds me of watching ant farms as a kid.

I had wanted all of us to increase our skill with using iGoogle as a central organizing tool and specifically adding a Google Calendar, Reader, Docs, Gmail and create a blog. Since I'm NOT a google-expert this 'activity' was quite messy but still good--perhaps especially good--as we are placing ourselves in the shoes of what our students will all-too-soon be experiencing.

We pretty much got all going but did run out of time so we'll be tying loose ends as possible. This is an interesting professional development model. We 4 won't have tons of time all together so we'll need to get good at using available tools to collaborate, to learn to walk.

James: "The position of the monitor makes people sit up straight."

Thanks to Kay O'Keefe

This afternoon I finally thanked a person who has been supportive of my professional efforts for many years. She has supported my not-too-traditional vision of science education since first I wrote a grant to Medtronic Foundation 10+(?) years ago.

While the grant $ from Medtronic has been critical in developing this project since it's first days my thanks to Kay is, of course, not for this. I've received grants from several different organizations and these organizations have always been positive and encouraging. Kay went beyond this, somehow, giving suggestions, asking questions and all the while providing unerring encouragement.

Money is crucial to projects, but never underestimate the power of encouragement...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Building, day 2

A chisel will nicely knock out this notch in the 2x6
Today just Ed and I attacked the job. A first and a second coat of poly to the plywoods' backside started and ended our day--same approach as yesterday.

Eddie, cutting 2 foot legs
Between these times we...cut. 96 legs, 48 cross-pieces, notched. The really fun part though started upon realizing that we needed to assemble a next draft of the table as there had been a few changes since the previous prototype.

a bunch of cross-pieces notched. Many to go...
Somehow, despite heaps of forethought, a few details of the construction process were still hazy. As the two of us assembled a table from the prepared parts we solidified the process a bit more. I really need to make a Flow map (a kind of 'Thinking Tool') of this process. We'll see if this materializes :-). After assembly (90% of it, that is) we continued to reflect on the details of the assembly process and further improved it. These improvements will strengthen the table and ease its assembly.

I wish we had finished constructing that 1 table! Maybe tomorrow morn...

about 11 person-hours of work

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Building, day 1

Ed and I finally got tools moved into the shop and got things set up. Nice of Brian N. to encourage broad use of 'his' school shop. After a couple of hours Christen arrived and joined the fray. Painting the hardwood plywood with polyurethane made these sheets even more beautiful. Although, perhaps it was the fumes effect on our brains that made things look...great.

Our painting process was good: One person applied the poly with a roller, the other person brushed it in with a 3" brush. This seemed extremely efficient. We waited about 3 hours and applied a second coat. It was important for the brusher to follow closely behind the roller, else the poly got sticky and brushing difficult. Having just the right amount of poly on the roller was critical. We left the polyed wood overnight to dry thoroughly.

Bracketed by the painting sessions, we started the wood cutting. We've got lots of wood to cut. We've got lots of parts to assemble.

I'd like to attribute a bit. James W. emphasized the idea of maximizing the distance between the lower and upper table tops--arguing the gain in space was more important than the excess in table height. The table is a collection in compromises between confilicting design variables. Gary U had also argued this point. This space is awesome--allows for the thin clients (ie old Pentium III's) as well as the LCD display's, keyboard and mice.

about 13 person-working-hours

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The old computer-embedded tables

A table about half constructed...

So, you've seen the new table design and that is the work of many people over the last couple of years. Well, Here's the old design, also the brain child of many. I built 6 of these over the summer of 2001 at Chiron Middle School and in my wood shop in the basement. They were expensive and took hundreds of hours to build. While they were a great initial design, you can see why I'm excited about the simplicity of the new design! Also, I like the smaller size and square shape of the new one.

Anyway, here's a few more pictures of the 'original' in action.

Maintain the body temp--an experiment in homeostasis

Check the graph...twice
Looking deeply into... What?