Have We Inspired A Future Engineer?

1/29/2011 - Shannon Park Lego League Showcase @ RMS

Yesterday, I had the privilege of hosting the Shannon Park Lego League Showcase at Rosemount Middle School.  The event was rescheduled from last December, due to a snowstorm.  I am glad we had the opportunity to have the event, even with the long delay.  Our attendance was down a little bit, but for those who made it, a good time was had.

I have been at this for three seasons now, as you can see in my blog site.  It started from some inspiration from Dr. Dean Kamen in the spring of 2008, and today my focus changes to getting a competitive team organized next fall (assuming my son Jacob is still interested).  My thought process in 2008 was trying to build an equivalent of an in-house program, which in theory is designed to reach a broad audience to start, then move to a more focused and competition-ready program (akin to traveling sports) once the foundation is in place.

After leaving the event yesterday, I believe the foundation is there at Shannon Park Elementary.  It is now up to someone else to pick it up and move it forward.  I am ready to start phase two, as described above.

The big question, which will remain unanswered for some time, is “By starting this program, did we inspire a young engineer of the future?”  I would like to think so, but only time will tell.  In my closing remarks to the Showcase attendees yesterday, I encouraged them to never stop asking the “What If?” question.  Maybe, just maybe, this effort will yield an innovation of the future that will improve our lives.

I took my shot on making a big play here.  We’ll have to wait and see if it was indeed a big play.  On to the next one!


Rest In Peace, Our Dear Family Friend

As a parent and a pet owner, I knew one day it would happen.  I just didn’t think it would happen so soon.  Our cat Margo, just shy of being six years old, passed away yesterday from extensive kidney disease.  It broke my heart to see the kids go through this, as I remember it well from when I was a child.

As I reflect on her time with us, it brings me great joy.  She was, from all reports, the runt of her litter.  Despite her size disadvantage, she was unafraid of her sister and would push her to wrestle and play.  Margo didn’t like to be handled much, but was most comfortable with our son, Jacob.  As a very young boy, he was not as gentle as someone older might be, but Margo went along with it and tolerated him like no one else.

Margo Relaxing in Her Favorite Spot
Jacob and Margo - 2005

As for me, what I will remember most is how she would come into our bedroom every night around 10 pm.  You could almost set your watch by her nightly visits.  She usualy spent just a few minutes with us, most nights wanting to lay on Debby.  Then, before we knew it, she’d move on to play with her sister cat for a bit, followed by settling in Jacob’s room for the night.

Last night, the Margo we said good bye to was not the one we knew and loved.  I saw it in her eyes — she was in pain.  We mourned together and shared memories of Margo.  We miss you already, kitty, but are glad you are no longer suffering.

YouTube Favorites from 2010

Those who know me well will tell you how much I enjoy a good YouTube video.  I think YouTube is an amazing site that enables sharing of video from a variety of sources and over many topics.  While there are some great business uses, I primarily view it for fun.

So, with that theme in mind, I would like to share a couple of favorites from 2010.  First, here is a video (I think from the Leno show originally) featuring President Obama.  It’s a spoof based on how he must have been feeling after the Republican victories in the mid-term elections.  No matter your political leaning, it’s funny stuff.

The second one is an ad from the UK (I think).  As a golfer, I got a kick out of this one as I would definitely drop a new ball should it be anywhere near an alligator.  The political incorrectness in this ad continues in a couple of subsequent ads which I will leave for you to search for on YouTube.  Enjoy!


Delegate The Important Stuff, Too!

This past week at work we hosted our division Vice President in our laboratory.  It was a presentation that was a couple of weeks in the making, and if you read my previous post you know I have been dealing with Bell’s Palsy.  When I got back from my holiday break,  we were just less than 2 weeks from the presentation.  I knew I wouldn’t be ready to do the presentation myself, so I made the decision to delegate responsibility for preparing for the visit to one of my team members.

He immediately took control of the planning, gathered the team and the technology we planned to share, and let him go.  Even though he was in full control, I was still able to guide and direct, but didn’t have to deal with the gory details.

This isn’t natural for me, as when a VIP comes to visit, I like to control it.  I have been successful in the past when I have control of the variables and take sufficient time to prepare.  So to have a great success last week without the sweat over the details was a valuable learning experience for me.  Furthermore, there are important ramifications to my team as I showed a level of trust that they would deliver on a very important objective.  Finally, it gives me the opportunity as a leader to recognize success by doing some public, informal recognition for a job well done.  Lots of good came out of it.

The reward for me?  I get to host the VP again next month as he wants to learn more and help us with our initiative.  This was great news.  I now know how I am going to approach it.

Cold Streak Ending

My Explorer - December 15th, 2010

I’ve been on a cold streak over the past month. The streak started with a car accident on December 15th, 2010. I was rear-ended on my way to work that morning causing damage to both the front and rear ends of my Explorer. At the speed at which I was struck, I was fortunate to avoid injury, other than being a little shook up.

After getting the truck on its path to getting fixed, I was looking forward to a holiday break from work. On the first day of my vacation, I found myself in the doctor’s office with strep throat. I got treatment for that, and was in pretty good shape for Christmas.

A few days later, I woke up and noticed the right side of my face was numb. At first, I didn’t think much of it, but it got worse fairly quickly. By New Year’s Eve, my right eye wouldn’t blink or close and I was having difficulty eating, drinking, shaving and talking. I felt like I was Elmer Fudd.

After doing a little research online, I learned about Bell’s Palsy. It’s an inflammation that causes the symptoms I was experiencing — facial numbness and inability to close the eye. Also found out there is little to nothing that a doctor can do, and it takes about a month to resolve on its own. I did end up going to the doctor after a few days and received an anti-viral. I do not know if this did any good, though.

I did get another drug prescribed — Prednisone – which is a steroid. After a couple of days, I started to notice some really wild side effects that were impacting me at work and at home. After figuring that out, I stopped that immediately.

Finally after two and a half weeks, I am back on my game. The symptoms have mellowed quite a bit, and I have regained energy and desire.

Here’s to 2011 and leaving this streak in my wake!

The Big Plays Blog Turns 1!

Didn’t think it would happen, but I managed to sustain this effort through the whole year.  For me, that was a notable accomplishment.  Welcome, now, to Year 2.

Whale Watching in Monterey Bay, October 2010

In 2011, I will work a little harder to add content.  More relevant content with greater frequency will be the approach here.  I noticed today that WordPress (the host of my blog site) has a contest to inspire more blogging.  I am going to make a goal of a weekly post.  Hopefully by simply writing it down makes it a stronger personal commitment.  Let’s see how it goes.