For the last two weeks I was in a far away and mystical land some call “California”. This was a majestic place with many shrines and monuments to great people in this “Californian” culture of theirs. One of these places, known as the Reagan Library, was one of the first places I visited after my long and difficult trek across the continent. It was a wonderful experience. It was in memory of one of their Governors turned President name Ronald Reagan. The museum/library told the story of life from childhood to death. When we (my grandparents and I) enter the museum, we bought our tickets and were told to sit down and watch an introduction movie. It was about seven minutes long and had very epic music and dramatic video editing. We then carried on to rest of the museum. Next up was the section about his family heritage and his early life. There were many documents from his mother and pictures of his family. One of them happened to look very familiar and have a name that I knew. Going through the museum, one could see all the aspects of his life from his sports broadcaster phase to acting to politics. For a while he even went by the name Dutch, not bad. There were many, many articles of clothing that both he and his wife wore throughout their public life and meetings. Towards the end of the museum there was more about his wife and her life as well. She had many very nice looking pieces of jewelry and clothes which were kept in very nice condition. There was even recreation of the oval office with original seat cushions… how awesome. Nearing ever so closer to the end of the library, there were sections about his mark on the world from the cold war, which was really cool and had huge sections of the Berlin wall, and the fall of Communism. After the main part of the museum was seen and done with we went over to the Air Force One pavilion which contained… the Air Force One, and Marine One. We got to go inside the Air Force One, after a long line, and saw many jelly beans. Marine One was also neat because I could take picture inside of it, I think I could (they never saw me). I thought this was one of the most memorable days on my thirteen day long stay on the West Coast. Every day was an exciting adventure so I’ll post more pictures and story in the next couple (dozen) weekends. Phew… (I actually had twenty or so more pictures I couldn’t fit in this post)
I was in the unique position of counselor, which means I was actually in charge of something for once. My responsibility was to watch over two kids and make sure they were having a good, and safe, time. My kids were older than most though, as they were in middle school, so I didn’t have to do much; only help them every so often when they couldn’t screw something in or code something or the like. I enjoyed the experience and it gives me something nice to put on my college resume.
This summer I went to the Milton Summer Robotics / Programming Camp. I have always loved robotics and programming was always interesting to me, so I thought this camp must be perfect for me (plus my brother is on the Milton Robotics Team so he was one of the camp counselors). The camp was a week long and each day we did robotics in the morning and programming in the afternoon. There is a lot to tell, so I’ll get right in to it.
The first day was really exciting and a little scary because I haven’t ever really been at Milton High School for a school length day before. I still have one more year of middle school before I go to Milton. When my brother and I entered the building we headed to Mrs. Crowe’s room, the robotics and computer science teacher, where the camp would be held. After being bombarded by Alexander’s friends saying I look just like him, and that we are clones, and that I am mini-Alex, other campers started to arrive. I strained to find anyone that I knew and finally I found someone I knew, his name is Michael. Well, we were more acquaintances at the time, but still I knew him from school, so he didn’t feel like a total stranger. After all the campers were checked in, we went over the basics of the camp, got our counselors, and received our robot boxes. I opened my box and got ready to
build, but then we received instructions that we had to catalog our pieces first and then we could build. I checked over all my pieces thoroughly, but fast, so I could get started right away. Since the setup took so long the first day I only got two gearboxes done by the end of the robotics part of the camp, but I still felt like I accomplished something. The next day I continued working and almost got my whole robot done! And on Wednesday, I finished my robot with thirty minutes to spare just minutes after my friend Michael finished. With both of our robots done, we played games with them like chess and robot arm wrestling. Again on Thursday we played games with our robots like Jenga, Legos, and Tug-of-War. But on Friday, we set up in the cafeteria and invited parents to come see the robots that their kids built in action.
Oh, and I almost forgot, throughout the week we were designing and building a way to protect an egg from a 20-feet drop without breaking with only using a limited supply of materials like styrofoam cups, paper towels, toothpicks, popsicle sticks, a plastic bag, and some string. And to make things even more difficult we could not use any glue or tape to
connect the materials. My group’s design consisted of a egg wrapped in paper towels with coffee filters and cotton balls in side the big styrofoam cup with a parachute attached to keep it upright. Then we had a smaller styrofoam cup on the bottom with popsicle sticks in it, so when the whole structure hit the ground the bottom cup would break causing the egg to have a softer stop therefore not breaking. And with our elaborate design making a loud strange noise when it hit the ground, it was a surprise to everyone that our egg was crack-free!
But my whole week was not just robotics. After lunch everyday we segued from robotics into programming. The first day we did programming I was a little worried that the level we were programming on would be to basic for me because we were using a simple coding program called Scratch. In Scratch, programming consists of dragging and dropping blocks in certain orders to create a program. It is a lot of fun messing around with Scratch, but you cannot do that much with it as there are a small set of commands you can use. But it brought music to my ears when I learned that the next few days we would be using a program called Processing where you can do more advanced programming and we were even going to be able to programming small robots called finch robots from the computer.
On Wednesday, we were told that we had to make a program using Scratch or Processing to present to the parents on Friday. When they told me that I knew just what I
was going to do. I was going to make a finch that was programmed so it could say certain things and move around where I wanted, but after programming it for a while I realized there was not much I could do with the finch and decided to create another program in Processing. After thinking and thinking of what I could make my program I saw my brother messing around with a short code that would draw lines where you clicked on the screen and a thought came to my head. I needed to make a paint program! Then over the next two days and some time at
home I created my paint program learning many things I could do on Processing like how to make buttons for example, and when I stood back and looked what I created I was proud that I created a full-fledged paint program that had different sized pen sizes, ten different colors to choose from, an erase button that clears the drawing area, and most of all a save button that allows you to save your drawing into a jpeg pic on your computer. I also made quite an impression on all the counselors as well as they all loved my program and had to try it out.
I enjoyed programming so much that now in most of my free time at home I am working on my latest program or learning a new programming language like Visual basic or Java. I also loved making this robot and can do so much with it that I would like to build many more robots in the future. And most of all I will definitely want to do this camp next year, but after that I want to join the actual robotics team so I can build complex robots during the school year for competitions and be a counselor in the robotics camp and help kids with the same passion about robots and programming as me.
Going into 9th Grade Honors Literature I was given a summer assignment to complete before we go to class on the first day of school. This assignment, as it was for Literature class, was a book to read, annotate, and write an essay from a quote in the book. What is this book, you may ask? Well I was actually quite interested to read it. It is called Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, it’s an autobiography by Frederick Douglass, a famous abolitionist who escaped slavery, and his life up until his escape. The book didn’t talk about how he escaped as he was worried those slaveholders who read his Narrative would look at what methods he used to escape and be more alert in those ways. The book was quite short, only having 70 pages excluding the preface, letter, and appendix. It was, as the author of the preface explained, a very emotional book and any reader “who doesn’t have a soul of stone”, as Frederick Douglass used throughout the book, will have some form of sympathetic response. He described the ways the slaves were “punished” in great detail and how those who had “gotten held of” had backs with shredded and almost deformed backs and faces. There are a few less heart-sinking parts of the book, although scarce, where he tells of the kind white urchin boys he meets in Baltimore when he was living with one of his masters and how they taught him to read and write and had decent discussions with them. There were some parts of the book that sort of shocked me, not that I was surprised, I just didn’t know the extent to which the slaveholders’ actions were. It seemed to me that nearly every one in and around Baltimore, Maryland were extremely racist and hateful, more specifically the religious people. He states that religion gave these “pious people” a way to cover up the horrible things they did to their “property”. Some of the slaveholders he knew even said scripture to make their deeds seem morale as they unleashed their cowhides on the slaves. He then later, after the book was published, wrote an appendix where he says he does not despise religion as it sounds like in his writings but despises American Christianity as it was at the time. I also had another eye-opening realization, it wasn’t really it just sounds good when I say it like that . The slaves’ lives we were taught about in school are those of deep Southern plantation slaves. The majority of slaves were at the hands of their masters to be “rented” or “hired” to other craftsmen and farmers. These slaves worked for their bosses and directly gave their salaries to their “true” masters. Also a few “lucky” slaves could have their own housing and sought out work on their own and basically lived free except they had to give a majority of their salary to their masters and had to do what they say, even if it would be taking their home and being sold again. I really enjoyed the book and think all people should at least read it once in their life to fully realize the depth of the cruelty of slavery and bigotry in mid-19th century America. Well, that left you in a great mood didn’t it!