Tag Archives: Programming

Programming Summer Camp in Colorado, July 25-29

I went to summer camp orientation over the weekend for my elementary school aged children. I muttered to my husband afterward that I thought that the camp should organize a week for the parents. Sailing, swimming, lacrosse, soccer, archery … what’s not to like?

And then, I was reminded that I am going to camp this year too. Programming Summer Camp. A camp for grown-ups! It’s in Crested Butte, CO (which is in the mountains of Colorado and gorgeous!). Like my kids’ camp, it’s a day camp. Without family commitments, most of the folks will have some time in the evenings to hang out as well. In conferences that I have attended previously in Crested Butte, the attendees tend to hang out from early morning til late night, going back to their hotels or B&B’s or shared houses only to sleep.

The camp is set up to support “campsites” proposed by participants. I’m going to be involved with one of the 3 tents at the Scala campsite. Attendees are free to propose campsites of their own or join one that has already formed. (Note that we’re not talking about real “tents” here; this is not a rustic summer camp … it’s held indoors). The price ($200) was set super low, to cover costs only, with profit going to charitable organizations. Your travel to Crested Butte and lodging will be the majority of your expense.

While we’ll be working on programming topics during the days and into the evening, what is summer camp without some time for the great outdoors.  Mountain biking and hiking are amazing in the mountains during the summer, and groups will surely form. In fact, there’s time built into the conference for such activities. I’m looking forward to biking the legendary 401 trail, often described as the best trail in CO:  “At the top there are spectacular views, to the east you can see the Maroon Bells. From here, the scenery can’t be beat… start the narrow singletrack downhill through fields of wildflowers and aspen groves. There are about two more steady climbs after the long downhill back to your car, take your time and enjoy the views!”

I biked part of it once before, and I’m looking forward to tackling it once more. Without the thunderstorm this time!

Sometimes folks worry that events like this might be low on the learning, high on the play factor. I’ll counter that. I’ve been to many conferences and I have never learned more than at these interactive events. Yes, people head off to go hiking and mountain biking, but when they’re in the learning part, they’re truly engaged (and energized). It’s a great experience.

And so yes, the “parents” get to go to camp too. To register, sign the release form and it will take you to the registration. Yes, every self-respecting camp should have a release form!

See you in Colorado!

Rocks and Robots

A workshop at the Ann Arbor Computer Society

I had a truly fun experience last night at the Ann Arbor Computer Society. Dr. George Albercook of Rocks and Robots came to “speak” … OK, actually do a workshop on building robots. He typically does this for kids, but he did a fabulous job with the adults (there were 4 kids present).

We haven’t had a hands-on workshop at AACS for as long as I can remember. What fun! We sat down in 5 groups of 4-6 people each, and used his “Flutterbot” to build a little robot. This included electronics (putting components together on a breadboard, including a brief introduction to reading schematics), software (C programming, using the free WinAVR compiler (delightfully pronounced whenever), and writing to the EEPROM (using the AVR Studio). Armed with some really good (and sometimes amusing) manual that George wrote, students are able to follow directions to do several tasks, from getting the Flutterbot to display a name on the integrated LCD, to getting an LED to turn on and off, all the way to building a robot that can track a dark line on a white surface.

The adults had a riot (and the kids did too). George teaches home schooled kids during the school year, and does several summer camps as well. His summer camps, as the name suggests, include BOTH the robot-building and an outdoor adventure (rock climbing at Planet Rock, the ropes courses at UM, orienteering, etc.). All of these are targeted to students in a young age group (9-12) and an older age group (13 and above). He uses LEGO robots for the younger kids, and graduates them up to the Flutterbot. All in all, it seems like this is a summer camp experience that kids can really grow with. And the combination of classroom work and outdoor adventure is really good for the kids, I think. Well, it works well with MY learning style, at least.

The parts George uses are all readily available on the internet, but the value he adds is that he puts everything together in an integrated kit, and includes software and instructions. The real added value here is the documentation. His expertise means that you don’t have to be an embedded systems programmer already to figure out how to do a little embedded systems programming. Check out his kit at www.flutterbot.com (and a photo of the robot we built last night is on the site as well).

Ah, my daughter is only 3, but she LOVES doing the climbing walls at playgrounds. And she loves computers as well, at least so far. I just hope that she will want to do a summer camp like Rocks and Robots when she’s a little older … and that George is still teaching it them.

I did ask how many girls he typically gets at his camps. He said that they have averaged about 10-20%, but that he’s going to reach out to organizations like the Girl Scouts and Brownies and try to do some recruiting with them to try to increase those numbers. I know that I will be promoting his camp with the kids in my neighborhood who are of the right age … and with my nephews as well!

Rocks and Robots
Summer Camp Adventure
Electronics Kit for building a robot
Ann Arbor Computer Society

Dianne heads off to a conference in Colorado

Programming the New Web: An Open Spaces Conference in Colorado

I’ve been in Crested Butte, CO, this week for a conference. Bruce Eckel is running it. The format is “Open Spaces”, which allows the conference attendees to customize the content, rather than the other way around. The first day, we submitted ideas for talks, and we found that we had a full schedule of 4 “talks” per day. In a larger group, we might have broken out into multiple sessions, but we’re a group of 10 and that’s pretty much perfect for consecutive sessions. I’m hesitating on using the term “talks” for such informal discussions. It’s really been a sharing/learning experience and it may well spoil me for a more traditional conference setting.

The attendees span our industry, both in terms of size of companies and in application areas. We have everything from pure website development to embedded systems, in both industry and academia. Company sizes range from the sole proprietor to a Fortune 100 company. It’s been a great experience in terms of seeing what other people are doing, and small enough that we can actually get into more detail than would typically be possible at a conference. I would definitely attend an Open Space conference again!

Crested Butte, too, is an experience. It’s visually stunning and outdoor opportunities abound. Cross country skiing is one of my favorite activities, and I’ve been really happy to be skiing here. There are a lot of other random things that I am really enjoying in this town … the friendly faces (and paper cups) at coffee shops, the yoga studio in town, the metal roofs on all of the houses, the gorgeous scenery.

Check back for technical content, or check out the links below!

Ben's weblog
Attendee at Conference
Barry's weblog
Attendee at Conference
Mike's weblog
Attendee at Conference
Bruce's weblog
Organizer's weblog