Category Archives: making

Modding the Smoker

Last week, I caught up with an old friend who had turned me on to cooking with a smoker. I love grilling, whether it be over gas, over charcoal, or over an open pit fire. So adding a smoker to my collection of cooking tools was a thrill. My smoker is an old Traeger Lil’ Tex. This smoker burns wood pellets that are drawn slowly into an ignition well by an electric auger. The smoking temperature is regulated by a three position thermostat. Its setting are smoke, medium, and high. This doesn’t give much control over the cooking temperature. When my old friend said he had a couple digital thermostats gathering dust on a garage shelf, I jumped at the chance to upgrade. Here’s how it worked.

Thedeck

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Making and Edukating: an idea waiting to happen (revised)

<p><span style="font-size: small;">After more thought, it seems to me that this article,</span><span style="font-size: small;">&nbsp;'<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/19/business/a-summer-camp-to-draw-girls-into-manufacturing-careers.html" target="_blank">At This Girls' Camp, Crafts Take a Drill Press</a>',&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: small;">describes programs that superficially prepare young women for careers in manufacturing. &nbsp;But it's more about preparing girls to be makers, and opening doors to future careers that would otherwise go unnoticed.<!--more--></span></p>

Across the country, a handful of companies, nonprofit groups, public educational agencies and even science museums are trying to make manufacturing seem, well, fun. Focusing mainly on children aged 10 to 17, organizations including the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown, Pa.; and Stihl, a maker of chain saws and other outdoor power equipment in Virginia Beach, Va., run camps that let students operate basic machinery, meet workers and make things.

One thing I take away from this is the depth of experience there is out there in running these problems, as well as the enthusiasm for supporting (with money) the programs.  But down there at the foundations of the effort are passion (of the team of individuals who organize the programs) and a respect for STEM learning.

“Not letting your children learn the hands-on component of the theory of science is killing us as a nation,” Ms. Sharris said. “You have to stop giving kids books and start giving them tools.”

I’m not suggesting that STEM should get higher billing in these programs.  I suggest quite the opposite, that STEM programs should give these types of programs greater respect and higher billing.  Hell, we should start stealing some of their best bractices to appropriate in the ways we teach young people and college students.

Up and Up: Putting the Balloons to Bed

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My three-day science, math, and writing camp experience for thirteen and fourteen year-olds is behind me.  Reimbursement requests, invoicing, and report-writing still hang out on my to do list.  But this afternoon, I decided to use the last of my helium to send another trio of balloons into the sky over my home.  With my daughters (pictured above) assisting me.

It’s hard to say what they got out of it.  We talked a bit about helium and buoyancy, but mostly they helped with some of the mechanical things like winding the balloons up to and down from the sky with my drill rig.  Doing little things like this, I hope, will give them the confidence to use their hands to make, break, and build things.  And to learn from that process.  Just I like I’ve learned so much from this process of preparing this campus experience for those 28 Kansas City kids who hope to go to college in five years.