Robots and Agility

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firsttech_iconhorz_rgbThis past weekend, my son Carter had his first, and possibly final, First Tech Challenge competition of the year. It was in Lincoln, NE where his team (the Fellowship of the Loose Screws) has always been welcome and they have always had a good time. There are no tournaments in South Dakota, so our team has to travel out-of-state to compete in the hopes that they will qualify to go to the next Regional rounds.

Carter is a senior this year, and as such, he will be graduating high school this year and moving on from the Fellowship. This chapter for him is closing and he is moving onto another one. This is the natural order for young people. As they move through their world, they try things. Some they stay with…some they don’t. Some have a finite timeline for them to participate in.

Carter has competed for five years. He has learned so much during this time. He can program robots. He can drive robots. He can code robots. He can build robots. More recently, he can discuss them, promote them, and educate others about them.

He fell in love with robots and early on, he wanted to become an engineer and eventually work with robots. Somewhere along the way, as his role with the robots and the Fellowship changed, he found other passions with FTC and with life in general.

Although Carter may no longer want to become an engineer and work with robots, he has benefited from all the other lessons that his robot and team has taught him, which include some of the following:

  • How to solve problems
  • How to work with a team
  • How to collaborate with others
  • How to communicate on different levels with different audiences
  • How to teach others to do what they need to do
  • How to make friends and how to be a friend

Legoless (the Fellowship’s robot) has transformed many times during the past five years. He has morphed into whatever the team needed him to become. At first, he was simple and little. He was new and was learning what he was supposed to be. Eventually, he was stronger and dominating. He was growing. This year, he is agile and nimble. Not weak and he can handle his own. He is able to move into a better position to make more happen.

The Fellowship, and Carter, has transformed right along with Legoless. They started off simple and new. They grew and became more confident. The became a force on the field as well as in their community. Now they are agile and nimble. They need to position themselves for the future. Carter and four other founding members of the Fellowship are moving on. Both them and the Fellowship need to move into a better position to make more happen in the future.

The team did not win this weekend, so they did not qualify to go the Regional competitions. They have another tournament in North Dakota coming up, and hopefully they will qualify at that one. Carter won’t be attending this tournament. His new interests and his job do not allow him to go this weekend. If they don’t qualify at this tournament, Carter’s time with Fellowship will come to an end. The Fellowship will continue without Carter and the others that are moving on. The newer kids have been taught by the older kids. They have the knowledge and the skill to move forward — to be nimble.

It’s all relative

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New Underwood – 31 miles. Rapid City – 50 miles. Hot Springs – 100 miles.

These are mile markers found along Interstate 90 heading west. They are all towns in South Dakota. Towns that I have been to. Towns that are part of my history. Towns that my family have lived in.

Growing up in western South Dakota, I had family throughout the area. Most of the family were distant to me, not only in location, but also in relation. Second and third cousins, great aunts and uncles. Older than my parents and my grandparents. I know of them, but I don’t know them.

My grandmother was the wheel in the cog of keeping all of them together. She knew them all, was related to most, and kept them all in contact with each other. Ans she kept them informed of me and what I was involved in.

When my grandmother passed away, I tried to keep in touch with these distant relatives. I would send out a Christmas letter or card to them, for as long as I had a working address. As time moved on, I lost track of most of them. Many passed away and some moved without an address for me to track them with. Eventually, my habit of the Christmas card faded into a pleasant memory of something that I used to do.

My effort to keep in touch with my family was in an effort to not lose them. I moved to the other side of the state and moved on with my life. As it happened, my life overtook my time, and ultimately I did lose most of my family. Nearly all the distant family for certain, and some very close family as well.

I have attempted to rekindle my relations with my family. I have tried to “find” my family again. I find that as my life has a new focus, and my immediate family has changes somewhat, I am having some success in finding family. I have gained new family from my new Tiffany, I keep some family from my ex-wife Kelli, and I rediscover my biological family from a renewed effort to reach out to them.

I hope to continue to nurture my family and grow the relationships that I have. Time will tell, although I certainly hope that it’s tale is full of renewal.

Natural glitter

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I’m riding in the backseat of a car, writing another story, when I look out the window at the passing landscape and I am amazed at the beauty of South Dakota.

The prairie is snow-covered and wind-swept. The snow glistens like glitter-speckled glass. The wind has made it so smooth that the sun reflects effortless from it.

Parts of the snow is not deep enough to cover the sagebrush, and it pokes out from its white cover. It cases snow to drift slightly behind it, making it appear rough and bubbly. Where the snow is deeper, it covers all, making a smooth white blanket that continues on until the distant end.

I see hay bales left by the ranchers. They are buffeted by the snow and wind. They are iced on one side with the white snow, like they were dipped in frosting. The cattle they are left to feed are also frosted with the snow and ice as they meander along the countryside looking for feed.

Soon enough, the plains give way to the Badlands and ultimately to the Black Hills on the western most side of the state. These natural landscapes only increase the beauty of South Dakota.

I have seen all of these areas many times during my lifetime. I have experienced them in all weather and at all times of day and night. They still amaze me and take my breath away each new time that I look upon them. I especially love the winter season. The snow makes everything so clean and pretty. It shimmer in the moonlight. The cold makes you long for a warm fire and hot cocoa. It reminds us of winter wonderlands and harkens memories that we may never have really had, but long for.

Photo credit: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C026hkzUkAEoBXB.jpg

 

Reflections

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Every year people spend this time reflecting on the past year. Perhaps we had a bad year and we hope for something better. Perhaps we had a good year and look forward to continuing that momentum. However, life generally is not that neat. A year is not either good or bad. Some days are good and others are not. Even hours and minutes can change direction multiple times as we move forward in the year.

Overall, I have had a good year. I smiled and laughed more than I have frowned and cried. I experienced ups more than downs. I have had wonderful little moments that mean so much, and big moments that mean even more.

My family is healthy. We are fortunate that our biggest health concern is Ainsley’s orthodontics. Ian’s autism is certainly always on our mind, however, he does so well most of the time, it is easy to let it slip away from time to time. The children are getting older and bigger. They are growing up.

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My family having a taste testing

My family is happy. They smile and enjoy their lives. They share time with each other and with their dear friends. We eat supper together at the dinner table more often than not, and we experience what is going on in each others lives. Eventhough we share activities les than before, we still share many. And they politely endure my photography and my desire to continue engaging in community activities.

20160619_081126My family is safe. We have a wonderful home that is warm and dry. Our grass is green and our neighbors are friendly. We are protected from the outside in our home and it provides a setting for much of our lives.

So much has happened this past year, that it would be impossible to celebrate all the events and memories. Each of the kids had milestones and events. They are progressing in their lives, both socially and academically.

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The family at the Como Zoo in St.Paul, MN

We spent time traveling to various cities as either a couple or a group.

And in June, Tiffany and I got married! It was so much fun to celebrate this moment and memory with so many people and I am very lucky to have Tiffany as my wife.

Celebrating our new marriage

The happy couple

After spending time reviewing, and reliving all these memories, I have made a decision that I am intending to participate in the thought per day movement. I think that this is so much fun to do and hope that it will allow me to reflect daily on what my life truly means.

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My New Year Resolution

Here’s to a special 2017. God bless and hold hands!

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Picture perfect!

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Tropical flower taken at Como Park Zoo in St. Paul

Earlier this week, I submitted a number of photos to the Arts Exhibit at the Sioux Empire Fair (Minnehaha’s county fair). I am not a professional photographer, and I don’t intend to become one. I have never submitted photos before, so I was not sure what they would be looking for. I just take pictures for the fun of it, and so that I have a photographic reference of my life and history for myself and my family.

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Sunset taken from my front porch in Sioux Falls

It was fun taking the time looking at the photos and trying to choose which ones I would submit. I decided that I was only going to choose photos from the past year, nothing older (the fair requires that they be taken within the past two years). They have a variety of categories that you can submit your photos in, but you can only submit two per category. I had plenty of pictures to choose from, but had to narrow them down to a select few and place them in a category.

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Ainsley ballet dance at the Patrick Henry Middle School talent show

I chose my photos, get them printed and mounted, dropped them off at the fair office, and then I had to wait. I was surprised that I was a little more nervous and anxious than I thought I would be. Would they enjoy them? Would other people enjoy looking at them? Would they speak to anyone?

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Stream running through Mary Jo Wegner Arboretum in Sioux Falls

The fair opened two days later, and finally I get to see my photos on display in the Arts Center. We chose to go to the fair on one of the busiest days of the week, and traffic was a nightmare. It took us over an hour to park and walk into the fair. By the time we made it to the Arts Center, it was right at closing time (they actually had closed about 5 minutes earlier than when we got there). Sadly, I had resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to see my pictures this night.

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Tiffany enjoying the lily pond in Chicago

Tiffany did not have the same thoughts though. She was going to see the pictures tonight. So, we went to the door and as others were leaving the building, we “snuck” in to see the pictures.

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Ainsley downtown Sioux Falls

Although the lights had been turned down, we were able to find the pictures and sneak a quick look at the results that I had garnered. I had been awarded 2 blue ribbons, 3 red ribbons, and many white (participation) ribbons. Happily, we looked at the pictures, and quickly celebrated my small victory. It was nice to win a couple of ribbons to show that some of my photos had quality to them. I learned later that the judges had written critiques on the back of the entry forms, which I actually really enjoyed reading (although I may not fully agree with them all).

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My cat Mishka exploring the Christmas tree

At the end of it all, I was happy that I submitted the photos. Not because I won ribbons, but because I participated in the fair. It was fun reliving the memories that the pictures brought back. It was fun getting the photos printed and mounting them. It was fun dropping them off and picking them up. I hope that my children see what I did and realize that they can do something similar. Hopefully they will have a hobby that they enjoy and share that with others. Tiffany was proud that I chose to share my photos with the rest of the Sioux Empire.

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Tropical bird at Como Park Zoo in St. Paul

That was also fun!

Can you tell which of the photos were the two that won the blue ribbon? Comment your vote.

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Corner of 12th and Phillips on New Years Eve in Sioux Falls

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Cat in the Hat hat at Suessical the musical in Sioux Falls at the Orpheum Theater

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Japanese flower at the Japanese Garden at Como Park Zoo in St. Paul

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Church outside Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls

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Honoring fallen heroes at the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial

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Frozen Sioux River at Falls Park in Sioux Falls

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Sunrise taken on the road to Omaha

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Grapes taken at the Wilde Prairie Vineyard in Brandon, SD

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Fleur de lis globe taken at home in Sioux Falls