MFS Gameteam Charges Ahead

Students at Manhattan Free School, a Free School in Manhattan, plan to create an arcade video game for the school.

Inspired by Killer Queen Arcade, a multiplayer arcade game featured at the Museum of the Moving Image, a parent at the school, Geva Patz, asked some of the students if they would like to make their own game, and was met by an uproarious enthusiasm.

On a Tuesday, the four people making the game sit in a chilly room. This is the first meeting of the group dubbed the “Gameteam.” They begin to throw out ideas and get a shape of what the game will be. One student takes notes. The room is buzzing with energy and by the end of 30 minutes, the Gameteam has pretty much designed the entire game. It will be an arcade game wit platforms. Four to six players will participate on two teams, controlling either aliens or astronauts. With goals to destroy the opponent’s base, kill the opposing team all at once, or capture a central Beacon, each team will embark on an epic journey to conquer a little bit more of the galaxy.

The group is powering ahead, already having done 85% of the artwork and 95% of the game design. Who knows what lies ahead in one school’s quest for a homemade arcade game.

Follow along with this story to hear more exciting updates from the MFS Gameteam.

On the Internet, No One Knows You’re a Teenager

The internet is a very powerful tool. Weighing in at around as much as a large strawberry (seriously) this mind-bogglingly giant “network of networks” is a hugely important part of many people’s lives, and can be a great tool for good. People can dislike it for its creepy, strange, and NSFW content, but this is only one of the internet’s many glittering facets. The internet provides a global means of communication and can be used for amazing things.

Recently, I joined Reddit (watch this if you don’t know what Reddit is), and that gave me a very wide and thorough view of the way people and the internet work, and how it can be used to make the world a better place. Since then, I’ve been helping other people who don’t have 3D printers make use of 3D printing technology by printing things for people. This also lets me use the money from this to keep the 3D printer running and supplied with filament.

I found that while doing this and other things on the internet, I become a slightly different person. When I am allowed to intentionally select what I am a part of, and I have time to edit what I say and do (because it’s mostly in text) I am able to choose what people see of me. This has advantages and disadvantages. People that I interact with solely online will never know who I am in full, but they will also see a side of me that is more informative and polite than I could ever be in the flesh, simply because I have more time to think online. This brings us to the title of this post. Just like in the famous cartoon (except I’m not a dog), on the internet, no one knows you’re a teenager. The people I am 3D printing things for have no idea who I am. I have been told I write well for my age, and I would not be surprised if they thought I was an adult. And for all I know, I am taking 3D printing requests from extremely literate pandas with Reddit accounts. On the internet, no one knows that I am 15, and it doesn’t really matter. People think I am an adult, I act like an adult. I can’t see any disappointments there.

Pros and Cons of Homeschooling/Agile Learning

Now that I’ve been homeschooling/Agile Learning for over half a year, here are some of the pros and cons of the whole thing.

PROS:
Learning what you are interested in
When I homeschool, there are things that others say I have to learn, but for the most part, I get to decide. Because I can learn what I are interested in, my enthusiasm goes up, and I much learn better.
Learning at your own pace
A huge part of the value of homeschooling is that one are able to learn at one’s own pace. I am fast at some subjects, and I can speed ahead without worrying about having to wait for my slower classmates (they don’t exist anymore). When I am slow at other subjects, I can pour extra time on it however I want in order to get it done.
No travel to school
Last year, I spent an average of 1.9 hours each day just traveling to and from school. I spent around 14.25 days of my life each year on the bus. This year: 0.0. The nuisance and wasted time of bus rides, etc. is gone.
Customized schedule
Work better at 5 o’ clock in the morning, or at 8 at night? Need to sleep in in the mornings? Your schedule can be completely customized to your needs and how you like to do things.
CONS:
Social life
For me, homeschooling has not promoted any kind of social life. It is more difficult to make friends when I don’t have constant exposure to other people my age. This can be nice, I don’t have to deal with annoying/mean/immature people, but I also don’t get to hang out with as many with cool/nice/interesting people.
Frustration of doing things by myself
Teachers are one of the many things that you don’t realize are valuable until you don’t have them. It is a great privilege to have someone super-knowledgable to help you when you don’t understand something. Teaching yourself can get very frustrating. It’s a little bit of a paradox: you need to know stuff to teach yourself stuff, but you also need to teach yourself to know stuff.
Self regulation
Self regulation is a difficult part of homeschooling. Sometimes I think that I have not done enough on something, and then I over do it, putting too much effort into a thing with little or no consequence, and sometimes I don’t put enough effort into something when I underestimate its importance.
So those were some of the pros and cons of homeschooling/Agile Learning. I definitely like it more than my last years of “regular” school, but it has its tough bits.

A Look Into my Week

This will be a look into my week. There will be names of some of my Kanban Board sticky notes and short explanations as to what they were and what I did. I will be doing this sometimes when there is no other big event to write a large post about.

Scale of the Universe

Looked at Scale of the Universe for about 30 min. It was very enlightening. Especially the part about the sun (haha).

Scale of the Universe is a website that ingeniously represents the biggest and smallest things in the universe. I highly recommend you take a peek at that.

Quadcopter Aerial Videos

Went outside to film houses around the land with quadcopter. At some point I will make a video of  “QIVC from the air.”

Stream Trips

Went to stream with Eric Bear and others. Found Glass Bottles and Watercress. Tightrope-walked across stream on small bent over sapling. Fell into stream. Twice. Made prototype catapult out of bent over sapling. Found old boot. It was awesome to find old stuff and to be outside for a chunk of time.

Stranger in a Strange Land Paper

Wrote paper for Lit. Class about Stranger in a Strange Land and what people think of it based on reviews. It was strange to talk about a book that many people really love, and many people really hate, and try to view it from both sides.

Cool Tools

Looked at some cool tools on the Cool Tools blog.

Cool Tools is a blog where community members post about and recommend their favorite tools. It contains posts about awesome products such as this Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad and this Lithium-Ion Mini ScrewdriverIt is extremely cool!

Fix 3D Printer

Replaced broken motor on the 3D Printer. Took Printer apart, untangled wires, unplugged old motor, plugged in new motor, re-tangled wires, put printer back together. Frustrating but a relief to have a working printer!

Ice

Here begins the first of the weekly blog posts that I will do every Thursday. It’s late.

I’ll usually be doing these posts on Thursdays, but last Thursday I was outside walking around on a frozen stream. There I learned many things including the safety of ice thicknesses. If the ice is 2 inches thick, it is safe for a person to stand on. If the ice is 10 inches thick, it is safe for a car. If the ice were 900 meters thick it would be twice as tall as the tallest building in Chicago. We were standing on ice of about an inch of thickness. This led to practice using caution, and a few wet feet. I also found an old glass bottle which I have plans for…

This (last) week I learned some random stuff:

There is a flying car that is being developed for consumers! It will be able to drive and fly and even land itself. I’m starting to save up now!

There is a parasite that bites off a fish’s tongue and attaches itself to the stub that is left. It then becomes the fish’s tongue.

Ladybug wings are actually quite big. There is a video of this here.

So yeah. I feel like this post wan’t one of my greatest ones simply because of the lack of thing so write about, but I hope that it provided a glimpse into my week.

Space Invaders on the Ceiling, and the Rise of Arcade Games

As soon as Geva, Timo, and Douglas came to Cloudhouse from MFS for a week, the spirit of making cool stuff was activated and a flurry of creation begun. The place was buzzing with activity and that made it seem so alive and happy that it got everyone making. Douglas started on his elaborate Rube Goldberg Machine, Timo coded games in BASIC, and Geva and I poured our  hours into an almost-bottomless pit of a project. We intended to cover the ceiling in a grid of RGB LEDs (LEDs that can light up almost any color).

3 days, 240 soldering joints, 320 wires stripped, 40 wires cut, 170 staples, 2 trips to the hardware store, 1 taken-apart PC, and 282 lines of code later, we had this:

This is a game of Space Invaders, played on a 4×10 pixel, 8×24 foot, full color screen, on the ceiling. More programs are to come, in the making is one that fades between different colors and shades, creating an ambient glow in the whole space.

Another interesting thing about the screen is how each pixel is really 3 LEDs in a row, so that the pixel your ship is in is actually 2 different colors.

On the topic of old video games, I recently enlisted Geva’s help to get MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) running on my computer, started dabbling in some classic games that my dad played when he was a kid like Marble Madness and Qix. Here’s a video of me playing Defender:

Post Script: I will now be posting a post every Thursday, starting after Christmas Break (I hope).

Quadcopter Footage

Here’s some video footage from a remote control quadcopter I was given for my birthday. It has a camera on it and I was able to take a video of a flight. In the future I plan to fly all around QIVC and edit together a video of the land from above. The quadcopter is difficult to fly, but I am learning and getting better at it.