Author Archives: Anton-Olsen

Tech Fest This Weekend At The Dallas Museum of Nature and Science

techfest2010_sub

The Dallas Museum of Nature and Science will be hosting Tech Fest 2010 this weekend.

From the smallest conveniences to the biggest innovations, this annual event encourages visitors to rethink technology and get excited about future scientific discoveries and achievements. Join us for hands-on activities, crafts and more!

Arc Attack will be playing three shows on Saturday and two on Sunday. We’re competing in a VEX Robotics Competition in Tyler on Saturday, but plan to catch both shows on Sunday.

Video of a recent performance by Arc Attack in Austin Texas after the jump.


How It’s Made: Sheet Metal Robots

The Robowranglers, team 148, of Greenville, Texas and the Thunder Chickens, team 217, of Sterling Heights, Michigan show you how their robots go from concept to finished sheet metal. Both teams are long time competitors in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) and are sponsored in part by Innovation First, International (IFI).

In the interest of full disclosure, I work for IFI which is featured in this video.


Toy Fair 2010 is Coming – And GeekDad Will Be There

Promotional Image by TIA

Promotional Image by TIA

I’m excited to go to the NYC Toy Fair again this year and an thankful that I have more time to plan for it. Rumor is that one or two other GeekDad contributors will be there so a meet-up is hopeful.

The fair is growing this year with over 1200 exhibitors and a reported 7000 never before seen products. I’m skeptical of that last number, but it does promise to be a fun time.

I’ve already got appointments with LEGO, Bandai America, and Playmobile, and probably won’t book too many more. I’d like to keep my schedule open and spend more time cruising around in the cheap booth talking to startups and smaller toy and game companies. I missed the 20% of the floor last year that included most of the independent game houses and startups. This year I’ll start on that end so I can talk with the creators and owners of the companies and hopefully sniff out some cool new games for you all.

If any of you are going and would like to meet a GeekDad or two, ping me on twitter @AntonOlsen and we can coordinate when and where. Or just keep your eye out for the GeekDad shirt. I’ll be wearing one of the new ones from ThinkGeek.

Is there anything special you’d like to me to look at, or seek out?


Trossen Announces RoboticsToys.com

Screencap from RoboticsToys.com

Screencap from RoboticsToys.com

Trossen Robotics has launched a sister site, RoboticsToys. Much like the main Trossen site, Robotics Toys is definitely fired up about robots.

Roboticstoys.com aims to be the number one place to find all your robotics kits, toys, and decor for that budding roboticist in your family. Robotics is a great way to spark an early interest with children in mathematics, engineering, and the sciences. There is nothing quite like building your first interactive creation and watching it come to life to kickoff a lifelong fascination of discovery and invention. Just be careful with how much time they spend behind closed doors or you just might come home to find this thing “negotiating” allowance increases with you.

They’ve got everything from a $10 HEXBUG to a $1200 Bioloid with something in between to fit most any budget.


LEGO Toy Story Green Army Men

Photo by Anton Olsen

Photo by Anton Olsen

I may never understand why LEGO didn’t make it into the first two Toy Story movies, but they will definitely have a part in the 3rd one. What appears to be a geeky match made in heaven, LEGO Set 7595 merges three awesome toys into one great product.

There are no real surprises in Army Men on Patrol. About $15, 90 pieces, a slim pamphlet of build instructions and a lot of green LEGO. The instructions are very simple with no alternatives.

The Jeep is well constructed and durable. We “drove” it into the baseboards a few times before pieces started falling off. The army men, however, have a few problems. The plastic base will fall off after two or three “steps” in the standard little green army gate. Some of the accessories like the mine sweeper and rifle are awkward to pose.

WIRED: LEGO has recreated this iconic toy in a way that remains true to all the brands involved. The army men are visually appealing and retain the simple design of the injection molded plastic men we had as kids. The Jeep is durable, fun to build and well designed.

TIRED: Like some of LEGO’s newer sets, there are a few durability issues. The men easily lose their base, hats, and accessories with gentle play.

Recon tells me that the enemy is setting up an ambush north of our position. I’d better cut this short and get the drop on them before they get dug in. Anyone have some air support I can call on?


ThinkGeekDad In A Mailbox Near You

Photo by Anton Olsen

Photo by Anton Olsen

It still amazes me that our very own GeekDad shirt is for sale on ThinkGeek.com.

That amazement was kicked up an order of magnitude when I got home and my son showed me the latest ThinkGeek catalog. Right there on the 3rd to the last page, second row up, was the GeekDad shirt.

Just don’t get mixed up and buy the red “Expendable” shirt. We all know what happens to characters who wear one of those down to the planet. Unless of course you’re in space and have no intentions of accompanying a landing party, then by all means get that one too.


Bubble Wrap Calendar

Media Image from Bubble Photo

Media Image from Bubble Photo

A dream come true! A four foot tall calendar made of bubble wrap! Pop a bubble every day to mark the passage of time. Just don’t pop them too fast or you’ll screw up the space-time continuum. To avoid the temptation I recommend getting an electronic bubble wrap keychain.

The calendar appears to be sold out most places online, but BubbleCalendar.com has an email list to be notified when next calendar is available. Perpetual Kid says that more will be in stock in February.


10 Updated Colloquialisms for the Modern Age

A Bird In The Hand (Photo by: Robbie1 on Flickr)

While pop culture itself is full of colloquialisms, catch phrases, social niceties and even a fair share of vulgarities, it seems that many of us repeat, verbatim, the things that we heard our parents say. Many of these are still relevant today, but a good lot of the clichés we use today have no meaning to our children.

Take for example: “Don’t count your chicks before they hatch.” How many people do you know today who actually raise chickens from eggs? I wonder if people actually know what a doornail is, let alone how dead it is. Do you know what it means to wear your heart on your sleeve? How about its origin?

So my question to you is, can you think of any idioms that needs to be updated for the digital age? I’ll start of with one that I coined last week, add in some new ones a few other GeekDads thought up and let you take it from there.

  • Hindsight is always 1080p.
  • One #hashtag does not a trending topic make.
  • Too many hosts spoil the podcast.
  • That’s a hard act to unfollow.
  • 140 characters to the wise is sufficient.
  • The bandwidth is always greener on the other side of the firewall.
  • E-mail, Twitter, and Facebook are three best friends and three worst enemies.
  • People who live in glass houses shouldn’t check their address on Google Street View.
  • A fool and his passwords are soon parted.
  • He’s 10 bits short of a byte.

Please comment with your suggestions!

Photo: Robbie1/Flickr


SparkFun Free Day Aftermath

Back on January 7th I participated in SparkFun’s FreeDay and just barely got the order in before the closing bell. Below is a quick shot of the booty which includes enough parts for me to prototype my next small robot.

Photo by: Anton Olsen

Photo by: Anton Olsen

Pictured, top to bottom, left to right, is the Arduino Duemilanove, Two Nordic Tranceivers, an Arduino Pro Mini (3.3V 8Mhz) and the Joystick Shield (sans components). Total cost was just over $100 and I’d already blown my allowance for the month so the thumb-stick, buttons, and headers will have to wait for next month.

In the mean time I can work on getting the Arduinos to control the radios, develop a communications protocol, and work on my mini pro compatible motor shield.

For those who aren’t familiar with SparkFun, or Free Day, SparkFun is a cool electronics company specializing in the open source hardware and hobbyist market. They also are a decent source of breakout boards for components that are a bit beyond the average geek’s ability to solder. Free Day was a wildly successful publicity stunt that gained them a lot of praise, maybe even more criticism, and, I suspect, a fair number of new customers.


FIRST Announces The 2010 Game: Breakaway

Image by FIRST Robotics Competition

Image by FIRST Robotics Competition

Modeled loosely on Soccer, Breakaway brings a few challenges to the 2010 FRC Competition.

The game will be played on a 27′ x’ 54′ with each of three alliances standing outside their end-zone. Goals are located in the corners of the fields and there are two obstacles splitting the field into 3 sections. Robots score by herding or kicking the balls into the opponent’s goal.

While there will be many challenges for the teams to overcome, I am most interested in seeing how they decide to navigate over or under the barriers, and how they control and kick the balls.

Watch the video after the break and check out the Breakaway page on USFirst.org for more info.