Saturday, April 10, 2010


It was either Maria, or it was Alex... one of them had the idea. But they both loved the idea, which is why the Bird House will soon have a windmill. They're in the kitchen right now... I could get some clarification, but I kind of like the mystery.

Anyway. Alex and Maria were inspired to build a windmill, and they spent an entire evening discussing it and designing it, and thinking up ways it will serve us. I love Maria's calculations and diagrams. I love Alex's calculations and diagrams too, but for slightly different reasons. I also love the budget :: So far he's made everything from found parts and bits. Next up are skateboard bearings. Do you have any skateboard bearings sitting around? Would you like to get rid of them?

The breeze already wants to turn it. He attached a drill to it and did a spin demonstration. He plans to hook it up to a generator. Max asked how a generator works, and Alex explained it. And I paid very close attention, but I pretty much think it works by magic. I kind of like mystery.

Mom: Alex, come here. Let me ask you something (points to picture): What can it do?

Alex: It's like a propeller in reverse... where instead of pushing the air, the air pushes against the blade and turns it. The spinning will turn a dynamo.

Mom: Dynamo? Isn't that laundry detergent?

Alex: A dynamo is a solid state magnet surrounded by coiled copper wires, that rotates and creates a positive and negative charge at its two poles.

Mom: Sounds illegal.

Alex: The charge it generates will go in the house's grid, and provide power to our home.

Mom: You are a good boy.

Alex: grins

Here are Maria and Alex painting the windmill. I believe Alex is holding the ladder, and Maria has the brush.

Mom: Maria, tell me about this picture.

Maria: Dat's about we paint the winmill.

Mom: What color will you paint the windmill(ignoring the obvious)?

Maria: I guess blue. Blue is Paradoxy.

Mom: You're a good girl.

Spring break at the Bird House, it's how we roll spin.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Something Beautiful

My favorite moment of FRC Las Vegas was in the pit, on Thursday. Some people were openly disappointed about the chaos, and by the difficult decisions that were made about the robot.

I thought it was beautiful.
Of course I always have loved seeing the team at work. No matter who was doing what, I always saw the team effort, the team spirit.

But Thursday was special, because it was a mess. Sort of. Depends on your attitude, I guess.

None of us is on target every day, in every moment, but we must always strive to do our best. Clearly we were not aiming for a safety award, and obviously the team did not arrive with a tested, smoothly operating machine, but I saw something else... I saw real world problems tackled with real world skills. (as a teen, I hated adults talking about "the real world" as though high school is a bubble-world, free of hardship and challenges, so know that I use this term only to emphasize that the students were not working in a bubble-world, free of hardship and challenges).

I saw students, teammates, confronted with failures and difficult choices. And the executive members of the student team chose decisively to make a major change in their strategy. I saw cooperation, intense industry, ingenuity, and teamwork under tremendous pressure. It was beautiful. They pushed. They held power tools and found parts, they improvised. They demonstrated that they know how to design and build a robot, and in a pit, away from a metal shop and breathing room... I doubt many other teams could have done the same.

I saw a team of new members and seasoned members taking initiative and risks. Agreeing to work together. When the team was making hands-on changes, adapting to the circumstances, and pushing to do better, it was the best team in Las Vegas. It's easy to say we want to inspire engineering, and we care more about learning than winning, but actually applying those beliefs in competition, and staying true to those goals is much harder when you are not winning, when things are not working as well as planned.

Thursday was It.
The goals, the visions, the capabilities of students, the groundwork set by the founding members... all of it was alive and thriving in that pit. It was truly awesome. And it worked.

I wish there were an award for students who never give up, never surrender, who stand by their decisions and their peers, in the pit and in the arena, and celebrate every loss and win, because it is all about learning and having fun. 2102 Team Paradox won that award Thursday afternoon.

What they dared to do Thursday worked. It was worthy of respect and celebration.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Family First
Naturally I have heard the expression family first before, but recently, a bright and wise young woman reminded me how important the meaning really is. No surprise she's a Robotics alumnus... Amy K. you are smart, and friendly.

In that spirit, family first, I want express my love and gratitude to some dear family. We have been immersed (such an appropriate word) in robotics. As you may have noticed, I went a bit bonkers with the love, leaving my personal comfort zone to pump up a program I believe in. I am not apologizing for my enthusiasm, but I do want to acknowledge that the heavy focus on robotics did take away time and energy from at least two young men, who are not actually on a team. William and Max were in scripted into robo immersion, and though I asked them to step out of their comfort zones, they have never complained. They have missed Alex, and Geoff. They have filled in around the house and taken care of a certain little sister. They have spent long days traveling to FRC events, and longer days in huge and boisterous arenas. They have contributed as much, perhaps more, than some certified team members, and they done this with quiet humility, and endless patience.

William, thank you for being kind and dependable, for caring so deeply about each of us, and for doing your best each and every day. I appreciate your intelligence and humor. I appreciate that you have been sincerely supportive of Alex's dreams, and his well being, and that in your own way, you have been a Gracious and Spirited team player.

Max, thank you for being patient and supportive. In our home, in school, no matter the challenges and distractions, you stay true. You work diligently, steadfastly, and you give us every reason to be proud of you. If it wouldn't make you terribly uncomfortable I would do a “cheer” just for you. You Inspire me to be ethical, reasonable, and to do my best, and better.

Geoff loves robotics too... well, just about anything Geek gets him charged, but I do want to thank him. He was happy to be a programming mentor, to extend his time to the build team, to build a mini-robo world in our home, so he could extend his hours even more... but, when things got extra intense, when Atlanta become an option, I asked him to take it to the next level. We certainly did not need to put off domestic duties, like moving in to our home, or repairing the roof, but I basically implored him to ignore all the *homeless* whining I did for the last six years, and turn all of our reserve energy and focus on Atlanta, the team and robotics. I promised not to make a single complaint about boxes, leaks, and domestic perils, because I felt such drive to see this through, for the team to get to the next level.

Thank you Geoff. You taught me that dreams can come true, that it takes work to make it so. Thank you for being a mentor, for being a father, for being my partner. Your time away is never easy, and volunteering to be away from home is a bit nuts, especially after your “regular” office hours, but I love what I have seen. I love the programmers you mentor, the talks about design, the energy and dedication, the metal shop industry... the teamwork. I love when ideas are made in to creations, and creations are tested and run... succeed or fail, the pleasure and rewards are in the journey and the learning. Thank you for the pleasure of being a witness to your grace and professionalism. (I love your mind)

Maria. Maria, you spirited, smiling, dancing, inventive robo-princess. Thank you for wanting to be in the arena, for stuffing plushy wings, for sitting through long meetings, and longer FRC events... actually, you hardly “sat” at any FRC event. Thank you for cheering, and building alliances with your chocolate eggs, for walking to the pit to “check on the robot,” for learning the songs, dances and cheers. It's such a joy to witness your Team Spirit.

Alex, thank you for bringing us in to this exciting world. Thank you for sharing your passion and excitement for robotics, for design, for build, for engineering, for creation. You have some sweet skills, and more importantly, you have challenged yourself to learn more, try harder, and push yourself. Thank you for letting me nudge you onto the “dance floor.” You are a quiet thinker, a reserved young man, and I greatly admire your willingness to delve in to high school, this new social world... it's a big world, and I know you are going to find a welcoming and appreciative place in it. Thank you for appreciating me, for welcoming me in to math, science, sportsmanship, and engineering... you are an inspiration in so many ways.

We are in Las Vegas on this Easter morning. And we will be heading home soon. Thank you Mom and Dad for flying here to meet us, to cheer! What Time is It?! I know we always have your support, but it made me extra stoked to share the event with you guys. It was fun for me to turn and see your faces, to know you were keeping score, waving pom-poms, tracking our Maria-Mini-Paradox, and sharing in our joy. Thank you-thank you-thank you!

And back home? Ruth and Holly have been our pit crew, feeding Betty and the Ratty-Rats, chasing cats, and keeping the peace at the Bird House. No team is complete without all of its supporters. Thank you Ruth, for bunking at the Bird House, for waiting to welcome us home. Thank you Holly for your support too. We'll see you all soon.

Overflowing with gratitude, and spirit... what a wonderful way to begin this Easter day.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Big News Day
A picture is worth a thousand words... here are at least thirty-four thousand words for 2102 Team Paradox, San Dieguito Academy, and NBC News in the Morning.

Go Robotics!



































Thank you Spencer and Nicole!!!
Thank you NBC!!! Thank you FIRST!!!
Thank you Team San Diego!!! Thank you SDA!!!
Thank you teachers, parents, and mentors!!!

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Robotics :: 2102 Team Paradox
This is an index for all things robotic, from the archives of Chickenblog.

Home School Science Fair: Alex's Tank-Bot: May 30, 2008. Alex challenged himself to make a robot from found objects and thrift shop salvaging. Then presented the results in a science fair.

The Best Made Plans: January 3, 2009. Alex attends his first FRC kick-off. Lunacy.

The Team To Cheer For: February 15, 2009. Introducing FIRST and 2102 Team Paradox to Chickenblog.

I Don't Have Time For This: March 5, 2009. Alex gets in to SDA. Life and details at the end of his first build season.

Brains and Spirit: March 7, 2009. Reporting from San Diego FRC, after 2102 takes The Team Spirit Award.

Up-up And Away! March 8, 2009. Very early the next morning, after SD FRC, I fly to Barcelona as an advanced scout for our summer family adventure. I will return in time to drive to Phoenix for an other FRC.

Oh. My. Goodness.: March 22, 2009. Phoenix FRC and a second Team Spirit Award.

Navigation, Forward Momentum and Balance: March 25, 2009. Life and details after Phoenix, and Alex's ride on a Segway, courtesy of Steve Sanghi, president, chairman and CEO of Microchip Technology Inc.

The Many Facets of Geekdom: January 10, 2010. Launch of build season for Breakaway. And getting Chickenblog organized for Geeks and Robotics.

After Breakfast, Before Robotics: February 12, 2010. Alex takes a quick break from robotics to attend the Sky Consortium Ball.

Look At Me Still Talking When There's Science To Do: February 16, 2010. Deep in build season, and enjoying the ride. Karen, Natalie and Tom grill lunch for the team. Life and details from the Bird House.

Me, Like A Chickadee: February 20, 2010. A good look at Geoff's programming and drive stations. He built them as programming mentor, so he could work more hours, more productively. Go Robotics!

It's In The Crate: February 23, 2010. Last night and morning of build season, before robot is crated and sent to San Diego Sports Arena.

BREAKAWAY! March 5, 2010. The eve before competition in San Diego.

Mini Parrot-Ox: March 6, 2010. From the first day of San Diego FRC, documenting Maria's team building skills.

More Than Spirit!!!!! March 6, 2010. Slowly realizing all of the merits of 2102 Team Paradox winning the Award for Engineering Inspiration.

This Is Big: March 7, 2010. Chickenblog celebrates 2102 Team Paradox and the invitation to compete in Atlanta.

This Is Getting Bigger: March 8, 2010. More about the Team, and FIRST, as Chickenblog rallies support for going to Nationals in Atlanta.

Paradox Colors: March 10, 2010. Describing FIRST Robotics, FRC and the personal journey 2102 Team Paradox takes to get to a regional competition. Maria and team mascots, a spirited relationship.

Robotics, 2102 Team Paradox: March 11, 2010. This is the internal index for most robotics posts in Chickenblog.

Faith, Family, and FIRST: March 12, 2010. What I love about 2102 Team Paradox and FIRST.

We Keep Springing Forward: March 24, 2010. A robotics introduction with Spencer and Cristina, before the NBC feature later in the week.

Big News Day: March 25, 2010. The Team, in pictures, the day of the NBC News in the Morning coverage.

Sadistics Statistics: March 30, 2010. A small pity party about declining readers of Chickenblog... who wouldn't want to read endless posts about robots?!

Family First: April 4, 2010. A love letter to my family, after FRC Las Vegas.

Something Beautiful: April 5, 2010. My favorite FRC Las Vegas moment, a positive spin on a difficult weekend.

Next Stop, Atlanta: April 14, 2010. Get everything packed and on the plane for FIRST Atlanta Championship.

FIRST in My Heart: April 20, 2010. An initial attempt to summarize the awesomeness of Atlanta FIRST Championship, and my renewed enthusiasm for FIRST.

Dear Atlanta, I think I Love You: April 21, 2010. Atlanta plays gracious host to FIRST and 2102 Team Paradox.

Top Ten Indicators You Need a Break From BREAKAWAY: April 23, 2010. Reflecting on some FIRST humor, and my own robo-obsession.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Faith, Family and FIRST

So, I am still on the Robotic high. I still get choked-up and emotional when reflecting on the magnitude of the awesomeness of all that has come to pass for this Team, but I think it is safe to say I am mellowing. A bit. I still blare I Gotta a Feeling at seven a.m. But the compulsion to raise my arms and shake pom-poms* has eased off. Either I am exhausted, or I have taken a calmer, more philosophical path.

*Personal side note: Pom-poms raised over head are an excellent distraction from my ahem "dancing."

Yeah. I got bit by the 2102 Team Spirit Bug, and it's swelling.

I don't know what blog traffic is doing here at Chickenblog. I do not monitor the statistics. I do know that comments took a nose dive. Oh my poor ego. So, I got a bit down about that, but then I see a link in Nikkipolani's blog, and I am blown back on course, bolstered, because someone gets it. And I read the emails and comments that have come in, and I open Beckie's sweet card... and I get psyched up again. You guys, and you know who you are, are good people. Good people say "hi." It's that simple. I know I am a bit crazed. My good friend Mark said... (hold on let me find it... ah, here it is:) "Jeeze, someone let a crazied hen loose on this issue. It's fun to see the fighting side of Natalie." I laugh out loud... he is right, though. I am like a hen on a junebug, fightin' for what I want. Feels good. So, I'll try not to let my tender ego get in the way of my hopes and goals. I'll keep trying to learn the Cha-Cha slide.

So, what are these pictures about, and what's this about "Faith, Family and FIRST?"

Well, these are a few images that exemplify a feeling... a feeling that we who support 2102 Team Paradox, who know FIRST, are privileged to enjoy. I have faith that we have made the right choices, for the Team, for our family. I have found that my family extends beyond the walls of our home. I love that because of 2102 Team Paradox and FIRST, my world has broadened.

I love that what began in kindergarten, and at home with Lego, grew. Robotics... it's been an interest and theme, a home school subject, a family pastime, for quite some time. And we have found a challenging, interesting, and active place to explore robotics... to be supported and supportive.

I love that we get to do this together... that we have time, or make time, or whatever... I love that. It does get hard. We do get tired and discouraged, but we can hold each other up, and catch our breaths.

I love that new people are inspired to participate, that they quickly realize how inspiring the Team is. I love that 2102 Team Paradox celebrates real skills, and homegrown spirit.

I love that 2102 Team Paradox and FIRST makes sisters in art and science, math and engineering.

I love that Maria wants to build a "Finding Robot," and that she wants cousin Izzy on the team too.

I love that someone will come forward to feed the team. Moms and dads that want what's best for students, and for their teachers and mentors, who give beyond the call of duty.

I love that a metal shop parking lot is a fine place to hang out on a Sunday afternoon... if you're building a robot, troubleshooting the design, grilling burgers...

I love that I get to live here, near my friends, in a beautiful community. The connections I have made here are more precious than I had dared to admit.

I love that FIRST and 2102 Team Paradox, are so good and worthwhile that even graduates will fly in for regionals, to mentor and cheer. I love that a dedicated team mom shows her faith by sticking with FIRST and the team she helped foster.

And now, laundry. Don't ever worry about me getting fancy... laundry, and other domestic perils, will always keep me humble.

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