Thursday, June 26, 2008

Scholar Warrior Citizen Day 3

Today we learned about the energy crisis....high oil costs, pollution, alternative energy. Many of our students were already pretty well informed. Up here in the Pacific Northwest, we already use a lot of hydro, wind & geothermal.

Still, we did our 'warrior' class on possible solutions to the energy problem. We learned how a turbine works, how different sorts of generation turn turbines (windmills can turn one, as do the chutes in a hydro dam; geothermal, nuclear and coal boil water for steam...). Then we broke into groups to think about possible new ways to turn a turbine. Some solutions:

  • Put turbines inside of old tires and roll them down a mountain.
  • Make inmates walk on treadmills (I rather liked this one).
  • Burn trash to boil water for steam (remarkably close to something we're already doing).
  • Well, first you get a million gerbils and a million gerbil wheels....
In the afternoon, we toured a local plant (thanks Solaicx) that manufactures the silicon wafers that go into solar panels. They have a new technology that looks like they can drastically reduce the cost of solar energy (high cost being the major barrier to widely adopted solar right now). We learned how they are made, how they work, and how hard it is to properly mix silicone (melting point 2000 degrees) in a vat made of stainless steel (melting point 1800 degrees).

The kids did us proud and asked a lot of questions. Who knows? Maybe one will grow up thinking about it and be the one who cracks the code...

Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Scholar Warrior Citizen Day 2

Tuesday was in many ways the hardest of our Scholar Warrior Citizen days. Tuesday was the day we looked at medical care. Our students learned how many people, whether due to poverty, isolation or disaster (including war) have no access to medical care.

What makes this hard is...they get it. These kiddoes, most in 2nd-4th grade, understand how awful that must be. A few of them have experienced it first hand, but all of them have the empathy to feel it for a moment or two.

We wrapped it up with a tour of the Medical Teams International world headquarters. MTI is a group that sends teams of doctors, nurses and paramedics to disaster areas, war zones and refugee camps. If Master McNeil hadn't already used the 'organization as hero' idea, I'd put these folks on my list of heroes in a heartbeat. They give up a lot to make a real difference in the world.

Define victory. They have a display in their museum that used to say 'a child dies of a preventable illness every 3 seconds'. Sometime recently, somebody crossed out the 3 with a sharpie pen and wrote in 3.6.

It's a start, I guess.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Scholar Warrior Citizen Day 1

We started our Scholar Warrior Citizen camp yesterday.

We do this each year...a week-long service learning camp where we volunteer in the community. At our school we define 'warrior' as 'somebody who steps up to solve a problem'. Each day we learn about a different problem, learn about people and organizations working to solve that problem, then go volunteer or tour at a place that's working toward a solution.

Yesterday we did pollution. We talked about global warming. We learned about industrial waste. We came up with solutions kids could work for. My favorite was 'Pennies for Pollution', where students collect pennies from everybody they know to fund awareness drives and advertising. Kids also came up with letter writing campaigns, karate demos for publicity, all manner of stuff.

We finished with a trash pickup at a local park. We rambled for two hours, alternately enjoying the greenspace and picking up litter. We got probably 100 pounds or so by the end.

A good day.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Celebrating Victory

It's been a rough couple of weeks. A lot of things are coming to a head, but I still dont have a couple vital pieces of info. It's like walking into a situation needing backup you don't know is going to be there.

So I figured I'd post this week and remind myself of some UBBT successes. I don't post often with my figures, so this will be news to many.

1. My wife finished her second Master's Degree this week. It was an accellerated program -- two years of work on 10 months. We made it through. To help, I cooked bout 150 dinners, read many of her assignments (either to type up summaries, or aloud to her while she did something else), took on most of the housework. I think it's appropriate that the #1 victory this year was a team effort between me and my honeybun.

2. Our karate school collected 10,000 cans worth of food in three months. (Thanks to Dan Sikkens whose studio provided a valuable assist).

3. I completed the Keep On Pushin' Challenge, doing 2008 pushups in a weekend and collecting $750 for the Alabama project.

4. I ran a karate lesson fundraiser in four local schools, raising more money in each school than the McDonald's Night fundraiser. (Take that, Mickey).

5. I got article accepted by a major national magazine (details still forthcoming on publication date).

6. I've planted a garden and work in it often with my family. (The wording of my goal was 'To eat corn on the cob from my own damn garden"...the corn's not doing so hot, so I may need to make due with the snap peas, red peppers and tomatoes).

Last but not least, though this doesn't count towards our tally...I've met, emailed, talked to and shared time with some of the best people there are.

Thanks for listening.