Monday, August 30, 2010

Links, Regs, Links, Regs, Links, Regs, ...Vorentoe!

Stiff competition was at the order of the day...

All our codenames have been chosen and name badges have been printed - thank you Stehan! (More about Stehan's hard work later). Therefor, from this moment on, all the members and myself shall be referred to by our codenames. Both here and at our club meetings. NOTE TO SELF: I'm sure Floppy Drive was standing on his toes here on the right - he can't be taller than I am. :-(

On the agenda for today was:
  1. Taking register
  2. Outstanding minutes
  3. Outstanding permission slips (yes, despite my efforts and begging, I'm still waiting for 2 more permission slips) ai, ai, ai.
  4. Name badges & thanking Gigabyte for his dedication
  5. ThinkQuest logins
  6. Robotics Lesson part 2

Unfortunately attendance was not up to scratch tonight with 3 members (iRobot; Shift; and Graphics Card) being absent without being excused. Parents and members are reminded about the rules of the club and the permission slips which were signed. Repeated failure to attend without excuses being made will not be tolerated and club membership may be revoked.

A beeeeeeeeg thank you goes out to Gigabyte for the design, layout, typing up, printing, and basically making our name badges which boasts our codenames, real names, and the club logo. Our name badges look really good. Baie dankie Gigabyte.

There will NOT be another computer club meeting on the 20th of September as I said initially. It was brought to my attention that the grade 6 learners only return from their outdoor education on the 20th and will surely be in need of some rest. This was probably the last meeting of the SCC for this term. The next date will be advised.


We recapped on what we learnt about robots during the last meeting before being introduced to the "prettiest and sweetest" little robot called Kismet. Kismet consists of just a head and a neck but, in those two body parts are 21 motors controlling her facial expressions, and 4 cameras which detect movement and senses human facial expressions. Her vision alone is controlled by 9 computers. She can listen, talk, blink, smile, and do many more cool things. She will lean forward when interested/curious and retract when she "feels" threatened. She will smile and raise her eyebrows when praised and bow her head and sulk when scolded.

Teams were formed and given a worksheet with three everyday objects and the question was asked: "Am I a robot" for all of them. Members had to use what was learnt and consider 5 requirements to determine if each of the 3 objects could be classified as being a robot or not.

We watched videos of industrial robots, one with the sole purpose of welding car parts and the other one spray painted cars on an assembly line. We also witnessed what was claimed to be the fastest robot. This video made it clear that robots have an major advantage over humans when it comes to speed and accuracy, especially when doing a repetitive jobs.

Navigate your robot - activity

Members teamed up in pairs for this activity. One was chosen to act as a "robot". The "robot" was blindfolded and was directed through an obstacle course by the "programmer" using only 3 predefined Afrikaans words (Links, Regs, & Vorentoe) and 1 "special command" which they could decide on beforehand to make the task easier and faster. Any other words from the programmer on his vantage point, or if the robot bumped into any obstacles led to immediate disqualification. To make this task more interesting the element of time was thrown into the equation. G-Force and Floppy Drive walked away with the prizes (2 packets of Liquorice Allsorts) this time with a record time of 1 minute and 4 seconds and incredible accuracy.

This activity made it clear that it was not so easy to have a robot do exactly what you want it to do when it can't think for itself and has to rely on our instructions. We take for granted how easy everyday tasks are when motion, and navigation comes from one person but it is a completely different story when we split the motion and navigation up into two entities who are now dependant on each other to get the job done.

Makes one think, doesn't it?

This is Motherboard signing off.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Look Mom, no hands... kinda.

This evening's lecture was Fun with a huge, big, fat capital "F".

On my way to the meeting, I stopped at the supermarket and bought the largest
slab of chocolate I could find to offer as a prize for tonight - thinking that I
would be enjoying that chocolate all by myself later tonight when I write this
blog entry - boy was I wrong. Matthys Keyter snatched it from me with his
nimble modified fingers. :-)

On the agenda for today was:
  1. Taking Register
  2. Outstanding permission slips
  3. Outstanding/Invalid codenames
  4. Name badges
  5. Stehan's name badge designs
  6. Computer Club logo designs
  7. ThinkQuest passwords
  8. Robotics Lesson part 1

Again - a big thank you to the parents. All the members were present and on time. Your support is immensely important to the SCC (Sunridge Computer Club) and greatly appreciated.

After the matter of invalid codenames, full inboxes, and outstanding permission slips were taken care of, Stehan Krause presented us with 6 designs to be printed on our name badges once we have received everybody's codenames. Thank you Stehan! We also decided on a logo for the SCC. But, more about that next time.

I managed to sort out the ThinkQuest problem and gave everybody their usernames and temporary passwords. The members were told to take it home and complete the registration process, changing their passwords, and becoming familiar with the ThinkQuest website.

Then onto our first official supper-dooper, cool, interesting lecture.

ROBOTICS - Part 1.

The question: "What is a robot?" was thrown in there for discussion. We classified robots into groups such as: TV & movie robots, industrial robots, space exploration and military robots, and of course commercial robots - as we saw on in the short movie clip we watched of "Titan the Robot".

We discussed what robots are good for and why. We also investigated what robots lack and how they don't compare to their human counterparts.

Then another question was brought up: "Robots perform their functions without feeling, thinking independently, or learning". What are your thoughts on this?" This was a heated discussion. Everything came out, from how robots could be so much more useful if they had these qualities, to the threat robots could pose to the human race if they were able to learn, have feelings, and could think for themselves. Where would it end?

This was a good time to discuss Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics which basically says that robots must obey humans, protect itself, but above all not injure a human or cause a human to be injured through its inaction. A fourth -somewhat unknown - law referred to as "Law Zero" was mentioned which in short protects humanity as a whole.

Now for the really fun part. We talked about how 'what robots can do' are limited by their own bodies/casings. We used the following activity to demonstrate this. 4 Members were lined up, each assuring me that they can tie their shoelaces fast. BUT, to their surprise, there was a catch. One member was given a pair of thick winter gloves to wear. The second member wore oven mitts. The third member had to use two pairs of long-nose pliers. And the fourth member had ice-cream sticks taped to the tips of his fingers. And as a crowd formed around the contestants, the race was on to see who could tie their laces the fastest. I did not think anybody would be able to do it. Believe me, if I did, I would have bought a smaller chocolate and purchased one for myself too. But Metthys showed us how its done. Hmmmm. Perhaps the Keyter family eats a lot of Chinese food giving him the unfair advantage he gets from using chopsticks. :-)

That's all for now. By the way - the members were given notices which details the dates of the next two SCC meetings. Please make sure you get these from them.

This is Motherboard signing off.

Ps. Please Email me @ with any comments you might have. As it is I work on Monday, present the SCC lecture in the evening and then rush home and stay up till late writing this blog before the clock strikes 12 but, I don't even know if anybody is reading this blog. Thank you.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Making decisions...

The computer club saw its first get-together this evening, and was off to a good start with all 20 members making their attendance. A BIG thank you to the parents for having the members at the club on time. It was wonderful to conduct our activities without the interruption of latecomers.

We sat on the floor as I welcomed everybody to the club and we made core decisions together regarding the running of the club. A lot was said and some good ideas surfaced.

First off, some appointments were made:

The Secretary: Anschia Pauw kindly volunteered her services. She will be responsible for taking shorthand notes during the administration part of club meetings and then neatly retyping them for the club to keep a record of.

The Webmaster: Nandi Steyn took on this task. The club as a whole will lay down the format for the club’s online presence. Nandi and Myself will design the artwork but, it is Nandi who will be responsible for updating of the club’s website after every meeting.

The members decided on preliminary rules and accepted behaviour. We discussed the reason for each rule to make sure that everyone understands the importance thereof.

Since the members are representative of two languages, a mixture of both Afrikaans and English will be used by myself and guest speakers. Given the nature of computer terminology I’m sure that English would be the prevalent choice. The club members will of course communicate in their own home language.

Members were given until Friday the 6th of August to email me with the nicknames (something directly relating to computers) they chose for themselves. It was also decided that – since we’re such a cool club – we’ll refer to these nicknames as “codenames”. We will use these codenames to address each other. Since I’m the leader of the pack, my codename will be “motherboard”. I have arranged for nice name badges which we will wear during meetings. It was also suggested that we rename the most talkative club member to something like “speaker” or “headphones”. ...Watch out Willem-Adriaan, I can just see that codename pinned to your collar. :-)

Members were also asked to come up with a logo which will represent the Sunridge Computer Club.

I guess that everything can’t always run smoothly. This was proven when we ran into our first hiccup in the form of our ThinkQuest registrations. I suspect that there might be a restriction of rights on our school servers. I’ll sort this out in this week. Just so that the parents know: ThinkQuest is a safe online portal where only myself and the club members can message, brainstorm, vote, collaborate, and Q&A with each other. I suspect that this will become the club members' primary means of sharing thoughts.

Lastly: Each club meeting will tackle a new computer term as part of our activities. As the Sunridge Computer Club, we need to get our geek talk straight. :-) “URL” was the term for this evening. It is something we use very often when surfing the net BUT you probably know it as the “web address”. That’s right, URL is short for Uniform Resource Locator and is the;;; etc which you type into your web browser.

Now that we have most of the administration and formalities out of the way, we can move on to some advanced learning with a dash of fun thrown in of course.

Till two weeks from now, this is Motherboard signing off.