Monday, March 31, 2014

Alex Preparing For High School



Song:  I Am...I Said

Artist:  Neil Diamond

(I was in Middle School when this song first came out)



Next school year...
Alex will begin High School.

He is excited at the thought of being a High Schooler.

This will be Alex's next school year's High School...
Coral Academy of Science High School.

Although the High School and his Middle School share
many of the same buildings...
as a High Schooler...
Alex will be able to take higher courses much more easily...
as his schedule will be in synch with the High School.






If you had noticed...
they, in fact, have a 100% graduation rate.

However...
this year's graduating class is 25 students  :)

It is a relatively young school...
and being a public charter school...
there is a lottery system to get in...
and performance and behavioral standards to stay in.

They have uniforms
(as ALL schools should...
as I had previously explained in an earlier article).

As a matter of fact...
Alex has a class with the whole of the graduating class
(Trigonometry...a required class for all seniors).

Alex got to take it with them because he is advanced.

He said everyone is friendly to him.

Alex has always loved being around much older children.
He says it is because he can talk with them on a variety of subjects...
and because they are so mature in behavior.


Spring is here...
and although it was much too tame of a winter here for my liking
(I love snow storms and sub-zero temperatures)...
it had snowed some last week in the mountains.

We may go skiing again on Mt. Rose later this week.


Alex cutting and arranging his Social Studies poster on the causes of WWI.




This was just a small project in relation to many of his other projects.

As this is Spring Break for his school...
Alex is doing his normal everyday home studies...
and then he just relaxes at home for the most part.

I have to get a new trailer hitch installed on our car
this weekend (they had to order one).

In a couple of weeks...
I expect we will resume our mountain rides.

We were going to take a train ride through the Sierra Nevadas this break...
but as it hasn't snowed much...we put it off until next winter.


Alex will be taking some special math courses this summer...
I will continue to work with him on his critical reasoning...
and I have a special writing exercise planned for him.

All in all...
Alex should be well prepared for what is to come as a student at...
Coral Academy of Science High School.














Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lessons Learned At The Science Fair



Song:  Embers

Artist:  Helen Jane Long



Although Alex's Science Project hadn't placed...
Alex learned how to arrange a Science Presentation Board for future reference.

We had gone back to the arena after the judging was complete.

We looked at the top place finishers...
 and we had seen a common thread among them.

Each, besides being very well laid out...
 was consisely explained.


This project had taken first place in the enviornmental science category
(a student from Coral Academy of Science).


This student had taken second in the Math/Computer Science category.

This student had used a laser in his experiment...
and had calculated the loss of speed of light through varying mediums.

Alex will most likely be competing in this category next year.

He will use all of the information gathered from his experience this year...
and he will adapt, and become more proficient in the designing and presentation
of his experiments, so he may have a much stronger showing next year.

However, as he will be in High School next year...
the competition will be even tougher.

He will, once again, have to really come up with something spectacular...
yet, he will have to be very concise with his presentation.


(Alex had Salt and Pepper Sea Bass)

Later in the evening...
we went out for Chinese and all you can eat Dim Sum (for me).

Alex may now relax a little.

However, as this is the start of his Spring Break...
even though we will be going to a few places...
Alex must still practice for the upcoming Nationals in MathCounts...
and he has one other project to complete for his Social Studies class.

In a few weeks...
Alex and I will be flying to Las Vegas to have a practice session
with the State Math Team in preparation for the Nationals.

This will be so they can get to know how each member operates
before they fly out to Florida to compete (in a couple of months).










Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Alex's 2014 Western Nevada Regional Science Fair Project Submission



Song:  The Aviators

Artist:  Helen Jane Long





This is from the Western Nevada Regional Science and Engineering Fair's
Facebook Page.

This picture was from last year's event.

Today, after I picked up Alex from school...
we headed over to the University of Nevada Reno campus
and submitted his 8th grade science project to this year's 
Western Nevada Regional Science and Engineering fair.


Each middle school may submit up to three entrants per discipline.
Alex's discipline was in the Physical Sciences and he was entered 
in the individual category
(not a group effort).



Alex with his Coral Academy of Science 8th grade Science teacher...
Mr. Wilson.


Alex and his Science teacher in front of his school Science Fair project
(This was his old board.  He has since revised it to emphasize the categories...
as well as to add images and some color).

Although Alex's board was not so graphically interesting 
compared to many of the other projects...
his Science Teacher (Mr. Wilson)...
had seen the potential in Alex's project because of the science
behind his project presentation board...
and as detailed in his findings and report.

He gave some very helpful suggestions as to the presentation...
and he said the project was worthy of competing at the 
Western Nevada Regional Science and Engineering Fair...
and that he would be recommending that it be entered.

I helped Alex revise his board by having him emphasize certain categories...
 add some of his experimental graphs and findings from his original report...
and to add graphics and to deemphasize his mathematical calculations
 on the presentation board.



This is his new presentation board...
and he included his original apparatus for display.


Along with the apparatus he added ways in which it could be improved
through available technology.

He added an explanation from his abstract on to the apparatus:

"This simple machine is a proof of concept.
It is used to demonstrate what is possible with a much more
highly engineered device using carbon nanotubes for the capillaries...
magnetic bearings to cut friction...
a beveled capillary to ease water transition...
and a finely weighted and balanced capillary
which would make a torque providing twisted thread unnecessary."



This is showing his new presentation board on the left panel.
He included far more experimental detail than on his original one...
and the pictures are labeled.


He posed his Question at the top...
and he had emphasized his Hypothesis...
as well as clearly labeling and explaining the categories.

His reemphasized Hypothesis:





The right panel had more of the same...
with one exception.




He had emphasized how his project was not ignoring two basic laws of Physics
(The Law of Conservation of Energy / The First Law of Thermodynamics).

We added cartoon graphics to immediately draw to it, the eyes of the judges...
and those of the spectators, so they would not immediately discount
his project because they might think that such an endeavor would 
be impossible.

Just under the policeman with the outstretched arm...
it states:


It's OK...
No laws broken here!


This simple machine does not violate the 
Law of Conservation of Energy
(as explained in the Conclusion / Abstract)...
as it neither creates energy, nor does it destroy it.
It merely manipulates the materials used to create
a disparity of force in molecular attraction and so...
the ability to take advantage of a natural movement of mass.

This machine also does not violate the 
First Law of Thermodynamics
as this is not a truly isolated machine.
Energy is input from the Sun...
as the Earth's ambient heat is high enough 
to keep water in a liquid state.
Also, felt Gravity is the result 
of the mass of the Earth.


(and then the graphic of a smiley faced policeman).




Alex and I just inside the competition arena.
We had just walked inside with the project.

Do you see anything missing from the apparatus?

Neither did we!

It was fairly windy outside...
and not until we set the project up inside the arena
did we notice that the extraction point
(the product of his whole second experiment)...
was MISSING!



Alex at the Science Project check in point.


Alex had set up his project...
and remained there while I retraced our steps...
in a vain attempt to locate the extraction point of the apparatus.

I went up the stadium stairs looking at each step...
I went through the corridor looking at the ground...
I went outside looking within a 15 foot wide swath...
I looked in the elevators...the whole of our path in the parking garage...
in the car...
NOTHING!


Alex and I leaving...
knowing nothing could be done...
that we would have to hope that the picture on the board of the extraction point
would be sufficient.

Just as we reached the outside...
I remembered how windy it was...
and that the extraction point was relatively light in construction...
so maybe...
YES!!!

Alex and I had walked a ways downwind to find it lying on the walkway!


Alex holding the Extraction Point of his apparatus.

We replaced it on the apparatus board...
and went home.


For the rest of today...
until this evening...
the projects will be submitted and set up
(we had submitted Alex's project fairly early).

The judges will then begin judging and rating...
and the results are supposed to be out tomorrow afternoon sometime.




This was from the Western Nevada Regional Science and Engineering Fair's Web Page.

It was an honor for Alex's project to be considered for this event.

Whatever result comes from it...
at least the judges are from science backgrounds.

As a result...
I am sure the judging will be based upon merit...
with the emphasis on the science aspect of the project...
and will be fair.

We will find out the results late tomorrow.


From this event...
Alex has learned how to structure future science projects for competition.

He will use this project board as an example
of how to present all of his future science projects.














Sunday, March 23, 2014

Alex At The 2014 Berkeley Math Tournament



Song:  Time In A Bottle

Artist:  Jim Croce



Alex participated in a High School math tournament at
the University of California Berkeley just yesterday.

The Davidson Academy team was short members
for this competition, so a member asked Alex to fill in on their team.

Actually, there was at least one other member of the team who is in Middle School.

It was a very LONG day...
but it was worth it

(we left home at 3 AM and arrived at 6 AM.
The registration started at 8 AM...
and the competition went from 9 AM until sometime after 7 PM...
when the award ceremonies completed.
We then ate dinner and drove home...
not arriving at home until 12:30 AM).

Alex loves competing, traveling to the competitions...
meeting others who love math, talking with them about math...
and learning new things at every competition...
if only to learn what a higher level competitive atmosphere entails

(this competition was for advanced High School students...
and some of the best in the nation are from the San Francisco Bay area...
the location of this tournament).



All I have to know is that Alex gets motivated by such events...
he learns more about the types of problems he will be facing in his future
so he may adapt his thinking to newer concepts...
and mostly because...
he greatly enjoys himself at such events.


I am a Father...
and as such...
my time...is my son's time.


Whatever I can do to make Alex's childhood...
not only productive for his advancement toward his dreams...
but to make his childhood one of magical memories...
I will do with joy and great gratitude...
as I get to see the great joy in his face as he experiences each new adventure.


I will gladly drive him to where he competes...
and to photo document his memories for his later perusal...
and for him to have something to show his children one day
(of course, it is also for me to always recall these times of enjoyment with Alex).


-------------

On the eve of the competition...
we went out for our customary pre-competition dinner.

This time we went to a restaurant called
Claim Jumper.







We started out with appetizers of Calamari and chips and spinach/avocado dip.


Alex had chosen the Coconut Shrimp.


I had chosen a barbecue combo platter of...
beef ribs (which were excellent)...
half a rotisserie chicken...
and a half rack of pork ribs (which Alex had half of).


We left here to go home and to rest before our 3 AM departure.

Although Alex will not normally eat dinner this late...
I knew we would need to fill up as late as possible to hold us over
until the next day, since the competition started early...
so we wouldn't be hungry until lunch.


Alex went to bed...
and although I had tried to sleep...
I usually stay up all night...
and so, I just rested until our 3 AM departure.

Alex slept in the car for the whole of the drive to Berkeley...
and while we waited for the public parking lot to open at 7 AM.



The parking lot was a short walk from the Berkeley campus...
and the first of two testing sites.


I signed the Davidson Academy of Nevada team in
(team name:  Quadrilateral Parallelograms)...
and Alex, and I, waited on a bench for the rest of the team to arrive.


Some of the math teams gathering at the first test building.


Alex only knew three of his team members before their meeting here.

The competition involved approximately 43 six member teams from
various High Schools around the San Francisco Bay area...
with some from farther away.




This group picture epitomizes the frequently observed nature of the highly intelligent:
highly spirited, fun loving, very energetic, and extremely quick and advanced thinking...
all of which lead to spirited discussions on a variety of topics...
and even lightening quick changes from topic to topic...
and all done with the open minds and candor of that which is typical
of highly intelligent youths.


The young man in the hat was the one who had qualified 
for last year's Mathcounts Nationals.

The three on the left are in the same Sunday math club as Alex
(Northern Nevada Math Club).

The young lady in the picture was not only a competitor...
 she was a person of exceptional maturity and energy... 
as well as someone who possesses tremendous interpersonal and organizational skills.

She was the group's coordinator...
and the social glue which had bound this group together.

The young man next to her (the tall one)...
was also very social and he helped coordinate things on site.

All were very friendly and relaxed...
and as a result...
Alex really liked spending time with them.

After the teams went in to the testing rooms...
I had nothing but time on my hands.

I walked around the campus a little bit...
and I took some photos.



While it was initially cool in the morning...
it quickly became a beautiful spring day.





I have always loved University campuses.

They are highly organized...
as well as very beautiful.

The people are friendly and open...
and the surroundings are peaceful.


The first of the many groups to emerge from the original testing building...
en route to the next building for the final phases of competition.


The Davidson team on their way to the final building...


and as they are entering it.



There were multiple auditoriums in use during the testing.


After the teams entered the new building...
I, again, had time to walk around until they had their lunch break.




This was their second of two buildings in which they competed.




The teams as they emerged for their lunch break.


The Davidson Academy team as they received their lunches from 
the young lady, and chief organizer, of the team.



The team enjoying their lunch just outside the competition site.

Although Alex would have loved to have eaten with them...
he doesn't eat certain foods...
and so, I took him to a local Subway for a Tuna sandwich.


After purchasing his sandwich...
 Alex, and I, sat in the shade on campus while he ate his lunch.



This was my view for the next 4 hours...
as the competitors reentered the building for the final phases of testing...
and had afterward, awaited the results.

It was a beautiful day outside.

There was a cool breeze gently blowing...
and there was the sound of numerous birds singing their spring songs...
and that was the last thing I remembered.

I had fallen asleep in the shade...
and had awakened in the sun.
It had tracked in the sky as I slept...
 to where I was no longer protected from the sun's rays by the tree's shade...
and so, I had gotten sunburned on my face  :)


I had waited until approximately 5:30 PM...
and then decided to check inside.



The team was killing time by playing cards...
doing puzzles, talking math...
and just having fun together.






Alex wanted to stretch his legs a bit outside before the award ceremony.

Although the team hadn't placed...
they had gathered valuable experience as to what to expect in such 
high level competitions.

As this was a competition of higher math for higher grade levels...
and very advanced students...
Alex was inspired to learn even more...
so he may one day compete well in future competitions here... 
and at the Stanford University Math Tournament...
in the years to come.


After the award ceremony...
the team wanted to eat at a not so local pizza place
(it was over a mile away...
and we speed marched there.
Ah...being young, energetic, fast and light...
I remember those days...
I just wish my legs did  :)

Alex was going to eat with them...
but they seemed to only serve one particular style of pizza a night there.

As Alex is very particular as to what he will eat
(part of his condition is being very sensitive to certain stimuli)...
we decided to say our goodbyes there and walk to a restaurant
 which served something more suitable for Alex.

We stopped in a Himalayan style Indian/Nepalese restaurant.




Alex had a platter of Salmon Tandoor...
and I had Butter Chicken...
and we had plenty of Naan.


Having had a full belly...
and a long day...
Alex had fallen asleep almost immediately once in the car
(we had taken along a pillow and a comforter for Alex to use in the car.
With the front seat in a fully reclined position...
Alex slept soundly and comfortably until I had awakened him
just one mile from home).

We got home at 12:30 AM...
 showered...and then went straight to bed.

I awakened shortly before Alex's Sunday math club practice...
and afterwards, Alex did some more math practice for the upcoming
MathCounts Nationals.

After dinner...
Alex and I are going to put in some more work on his
Science Project presentation board.

He will be competing in the Western Regional Science Fair
at the University of Nevada Reno in a few days...
and he will have to do some revisions on his board
to focus more on being concise with the mathematical portion...
 by adding some color to the board...
as well as by adding more emphasis on the original question...
his hypothesis and the experimental portions...
and especially on the ways of engineering a better simple machine
(using more advanced technology to eliminate
much of the friction).

This should prove to be an exciting competition for Alex as well.









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