Tag: 032614

Oster Regent to Host Celtic Concert March 29

A Celtic band, bagpipers, singers and dancers are part of a free will offering concert to benefit the Oster Regent Theatre on March 29 at 7:30 PM. The band name, Banish Misfortune, also happens to be the title of one of the tunes they play. It is also an expression of the positive force of music from Ireland, Scotland and other Celtic nations.
Set aside your troubles, banish misfortune, and be energized by the music, which includes dance tunes (reels, jigs, slides, hornpipes, polkas, waltzes), airs, songs, and composed music within the Celtic music tradition. The band’s primary instruments include fiddle, accordion, flute, penny whistle, guitar, banjo, bodhran, plus vocals. Part of the concert will be recorded by Cedar Falls Cable Television.
The band is comprised of five musicians that all play multiple instruments. Chuck Berry (fiddle) is an engineer and Cedar Falls business owner who hails from Michigan. He alternates between two acoustic fiddles and an electric. He is a trained classical violinist. Berry has attended many east coast music workshops. One of his hidden talents is antique tractor engine repair.
Bill Gors (accordion) is a native of Waverly, currently lives in Waterloo, and works as a trim carpenter. Bill has been playing the piano accordion since the age of ten. His Italian-made Polka King sets the tuning pitch for the group. Bill is the proud owner of a vintage Norton motorcycle.
Kris Reints (flute, piccolo, penny whistle) is a classically trained musician originally from Minnesota and now lives in Waterloo. Kris is bassoonist for The New Horizons Band. Her field is social work. Kris also coaches girls’ volleyball.
Douglas Nichols (guitar, banjo, octave mandolin, vocals) is a secondary school educator, woodworker; and grew up on the river on Cottage Row in Cedar Falls. Nichols is the group’s recording engineer and manager. He likes to build instruments in his occasional spare moments.
Martha Nichols (vocals, banjo, ·guitar, bodhran) is a needlework author and costumer from Cedar Falls. She was fortunate to have had as a friend and mentor the reknowned Dublin singer and song historian Frank Harte.
Ross Schupbach has been playing the Scottish Highland Great Pipes for over nineteen years and teaches the pipes to various students in the Cedar Valley area. Schupbach will be playing a couple of tunes with the full band and will play some piper duets with Russ Clark who has been playing the pipes more than ten years.
Invited guest artists also include Zoe Edgington and Martha Easton performing Irish Step Dancing, Mike Thoma on guitar and vocals, Gaylord Stauffer on Celtic Harp, Matt Nelson on Cello and Fiddle, Matthew Bancroft-Smithe on Mandolin and Bazouki, and Zumba dancers.

Kids’ Are Wild About Books: Number the Stars

Number the Stars, written by Lois Lowry, is the discussion book on Wednesday, April 9, at 12:45 PM at Hawkins Library. In this story, as German troops begin their campaign to “relocate” all the Jews of Denmark, Annemarie Johansen’s family takes in Annemarie’s best friend, Ellen Rosen, and conceals her as part of the family.
Through the eyes of ten-year-old Annemarie, we read as the Danish Resistance smuggles almost the entire Jewish population of Denmark to Sweden. The heroism of an entire nation reminds us that there was pride and human decency in the world even during a time of terror and war.
Kids age 4th grade and older are invited to join in next month by registering at the library, and reading this book by April 9. Book Club kids will get together to share thoughts and talk about what they have read.

Jazz Concert to Feature Wartburg Knightliners

Union High School will offer an evening of jazz music on Saturday, March 29, as it hosts the Wartburg Knightliners Jazz Band at 7 PM in Matt Auditorium. Also performing will be UHS Jazz 1. Tickets are $5 in advance or $7 at the door and are available at the Union High School office or by contacting Mike Bistline, UHS Band instructor at 342-2697 or m_bistline@union.k12.ia.us.

Hawkeye to Host Career Fair April 2

Hawkeye Community College’s Career Fair will be held on Wednesday, April 2. The event is free and open to the public. The Career Fair will be held from 10 AM – 1 PM at the Health Education and Services Center, located on the college’s campus at 1501 East Orange Road, Waterloo. Wages for potential employees range from $10-$25 per hour. Job seekers are encouraged to dress to impress and to bring a copy of their resume.
The Cedar Valley has many employers who are hiring now. Additionally, it won’t be long before May college graduates will be out in the workforce. Businesses are looking for employees for variety of positions including accountants, welders, CNC machinists, nurses and healthcare workers, industrial maintenance workers, sales representatives, customer service representatives, test technicians, CDL drivers, and more. Approximately 45 employers with more than 100 job openings will be on hand to discuss job opportunities and to give interviews including HyPro, Thrivent Financial, Blackhawk Engineering, CBE Group, ConAgra, Fastenal, MediaCom, Omega Cabinetry, Veridian Credit Union, and many others.
For more information, log on to the college’s web site at www.hawkeyecollege.edu/go/career-fair or call 319-296-4297.

Playing to the End: First in a Series

“We have a great mix of different thinking and skill types on our team!!”
In the first of what would become hundreds of hours invested in the project, the team was off to a good start. The journal notation summarized the three initial tasks that defined their first hour together:

“Brainstorm robot designs”

“Figure out strategic plan”

“Get to know team and plan out our tasks accordingly”

When building a robot from the ground up, what design scheme would prove to be most efficient? When programming the robot’s movements, what sequence of action would allow it to score a maximum number of points? These were just some of the challenges that would test the team in the days and weeks ahead.
And while the parameters of designing and programming the robot were clear, and the process was deliberately left open to engage their considerable collective problem-solving skills, the team was not satisfied with just getting it to work. They wanted to win.
 
For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen and Woodie Flowers. Kamen, an entrepreneur and inventor, is perhaps best known for his work creating the Segway PT, the personal transportation vehicles more commonly seen in larger metropolitan areas. A not-for-profit public charity, FIRST is supported by a network of more than 3,500 sponsors which include corporations, as well as educational and professional institutions. FIRST’s outreach will exceed 350,000 students and $19 million in scholarships in 2014, through its educational programs and competitions. Its motto? To create a world where science and technology are celebrated… where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes.
In 1992, the organization launched the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), a contest designed to give high school students real-world experience working with engineers to develop a robot. By 2009, over 3,000 high school teams throughout the world participated in the annual competition. With entry-level kits and registration fees costing around $6,000 and rules that allow teams to spend another $3,500 on their robots, the competition is not cheap.
 
“Six weeks. Identical kits. No instructions. All assembly required.”
The program was called Gearing Up. Produced by KETC in St. Louis, the documentary film chronicled the behind-the-scenes action leading up to the 2008 FIRST Robotics National Competition. Flipping channels in his rural La Porte City home one day, Bruce Rempe came upon the robotics documentary airing on the local PBS station. It immediately captured and held his attention. As Vice President of the Bozeman, Montana-based company, Trakkers, Rempe’s primary responsibilities are mostly technology-related, from the innovative products the company develops for the Event Industry, to the infrastructure that allows members of the company to effectively collaborate from wherever they may be located in the world.
Rempe had watched, with admiration, the countless hours parents and coaches associated with the Marshalltown Football League invested in local youth, teaching them the sport of football. As he watched Gearing Up, the thought that students in the Union Community School District could successfully participate in a robotics competition came to his mind. The idea that such an extracurricular program could serve as an opportunity for him to give back, to use his expertise to help educate and inspire Union students also intrigued him. It was a commitment he was ready to make.
 
While it can be confusing for a newcomer to understand what happens at a robotics competition, the matches that take place do share some universal truths with the sporting world, albeit some with an interesting twist or two:

 Points are scored with the successful completion of tasks defined prior to the match. In football, for example, touchdowns are worth six points, field goals three. In a robotics competition, points are also awarded for the successful completion of tasks. The more challenging the task, the greater number of points awarded.

 The clock plays an important role in the game. When time runs out, so does the opportunity to score. In basketball, a shot clock can dictate how much time the team has to shoot the ball. At a robotics competition, there are also time limits that restrict scoring opportunities.

 Good teammates make a difference and increase the likelihood of success. In football, running backs typically credit their offensive line for the yardage they are able to gain. In robotics, the contributions team members make in the time leading up to a competition make a big impact on the team’s ability to succeed and advance. On the day of competition, however, the concept of teammates takes on a whole new meaning, as competing teams join forces to form an alliance.

Some six years after the launch of FRC, FIRST rolled out a new competition called the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Like the FIRST Robotics competition, the program involves the creation of a robot, though on a much, much smaller scale. The FLL is also designed to bring the robotics experience to a younger group of students, 9-14 year olds, who utilize LEGO Mindstorm sets to build small, palm-sized robots that can be programmed to complete simple tasks. Because of its association with the Lego Group and the program’s relatively low startup costs, FLL enjoys the most extensive participation of the competitions sponsored by FIRST. In 2009, nearly 15,000 teams from around the world participated in FLL competitions, almost ten times the number of teams participating in FRC.
Seven years after the launch of FLL, the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) competition was introduced. The FTC competition was created to bridge the gap between the elementary and middle school-aged students participating in FLL and the high school students engaged in the more costly, larger scale FRC program. Robots created in the FTC, while much larger and more sophisticated than their FLL counterparts, are just one-third the size of the robots that are used to compete in FRC.
In 2014, 3,236 teams consisting of more than 32,000 students in grades 7-12 will have participated in the FIRST Tech Challenge. Competing among them in the qualifying and championship tournaments, and hoping to advance to the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship held in St. Louis in late April, were two teams from Union High School.
 
Less than a month before the competition in Mount Vernon, the team was making progress refining the design of their robot, as noted in the journal entry dated 10-17-13:
Test Observations:

Servo moves gripper very slowly- need to increase servo speed in program & test again
 Wrist motor holds, but stopped working… troubleshoot
 Arm and wrist motor still jerky (new smoother program wasn’t tested) – need to redownload & test program

 
When Bruce Rempe first announced his desire to sponsor a robotics program for Union Community Schools in 2010, he initially thought school officials wanted to talk him out of pursuing the idea. There were no specific objections raised about the program itself. In fact, school officials agreed it had merit. There were, however, concerns about establishing and maintaining the program over time. What would happen to the program if Rempe had to step away from it? Another concern about adding a new extracurricular activity was funding. There simply weren’t any dollars in the budget to support a robotics program.
Undeterred, Rempe believed that starting with a group as small as three or four students, a robotics program could flourish at Union if it was established at a point that could allow for future growth. Given the distance between the district’s two elementary schools, it didn’t make sense to start the program at that level. Since the FLL program is designed for students through the eighth grade, let’s see if we can put together a middle school team, he reasoned. With the approval of the school district, literature about a potential robotics program was set out during registration for the 2010-11 school year, in hopes of attracting enough interest to form a team.
The rules of the FIRST Lego League clearly state that the maximum number of students per team be capped at ten. Following registration, Rempe was surprised to discover that 20 students had expressed interest and signed up for the fledgling program. Suddenly, he had two teams.

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