Friday Flick: Flashmob on Recycling

Can you imagine if every gesture of conservation and kindness received such a welcome? Do it anyway.

Flashmob on Recycling a Bottle
Flashmob on Recycling a Bottle

Friday Flick: Drew in Concert

Full disclosure: I raised this amazing composer. And I would still love his music even if I hadn’t.

Drew Nichols is a “third stream” composer, combining classical and jazz, so to experience a piece of his, you’d better stick around for every note! Here he is conducting “Initiation.”

Drew Nichols conducting his Initiation Screen shot
"Initiation" by Drew Nichols, conducted by the composer


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All Rights Reserved.


FIRST Robotics Fans
FIRST Robotics Participants --- almost as creative as the ones I saw in person

While witnessing my first FIRST Robotics competition this spring, I was initially impressed by the enthusiasm. It’s a high school sport! Fans rock a basketball court while nerdish guys in imaginative costumes lead cheers and dance with abandon.

FIRST Robotics competition
FIRST Robotics competition

Next I was impressed by the engineering talent as giant robotic crafts negotiated competitive and cooperative tasks.

Then best of all–the part near and dear to a writer, and found only in the printed program–the mottos. They ranged from boring to inspirational to hilarious. Here are my favorites:

  • “Drive it Like You Stole It!”  (Cobra Commanders, Cactus High School, AZ)
  • “Pass the duct tape!” (Mecha-Knights, Casa Grande Union High School, AZ)
  • “There is No Spoon” (Falcon Robotics, Carl Hayden High School, AZ)
  • “Putting Others FIRST” (Beach Bots, Hope Chapel Academy High School, CA)
  • “Don’t Stop Believing” (The Phoenix, Queen Creek High School & District, AZ)
  • “Keep it simple” (Team Paradise, Paradise Valley High School, AZ)
  • “Si Se Puede” (Si Se Puede, Chandler High School, AZ)
  • “Make it work!” (Bearded Dragons, Verrado High School, AZ)
  • “Clamp it down” (Hamilton Microbots, Hamilton High School & Space Grant Robotics–ASU, AZ)
  • “GO NUTS!” (CocoNuts, Coconino High School & Flagstaff Unified #1, AZ)
  • “Dr. Gear–Sir, We Salute You” (Critical Mass, East Valley Institute of Technology, AZ)
  • “We put the ‘eek’ in Geek” (N.E.R.D.S Nifty Engineering Robotics Design Squad, Buena High School, AZ)
  • “Pride Determination Respect” (Bionic Bulldogs, Kingman High School, Kingman Academy of Learning High School, and KUSD #20, AZ)
  • “Hey this might work!” (BioHazards, Bioscience High School, AZ)
  • “Fueled by HotPockets” (Team Thundercats, Deming High School, NM)
  • “The 10th time is the charm” (Team CAUTION, AZ Community Robotics, AZ)
  • “It’s only temporary unless it works” (Sentinels, Seton Catholic, AZ)

And there was even a meta-motto:

  • “We make Robots, not Mottos” (Boxer Bots, Vail School District, AZ)

No motto was listed for 15 of the 46 teams; 22 teams named their robots: Beach Bot, Chipper, Heather, Score, Caprica, Neo, Velcro Radical 25, Dionysus, Pocket Protector, Robobuff, Aztecbot, Anthrax, Scorpio, Marmaduke, Thundertank, Goal-E, Beth, Panchobot, I, and Viper Prime. There was even a TBD–to be determined.

For those who joined the linguistic game, these mottos and names (of teams and robots) suggest the whole adventure: the thrills and heartbreaks, the persistence and resilience, the team spirit and mutual respect. Even the organization gets into word coinage, trademarking “FIRST” (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), “Gracious Professionalism” and “Coopertition.”

A study at Brandeis University concluded that FIRST Robotics participants are “roughly ten times as likely to hold an apprenticeship, internship, or co-op job in their freshman year. . . significantly more likely to expect to achieve a post graduate degree. . . more than twice as likely to expect to pursue a career in science and technology . . . more than twice as likely to volunteer in their communities.”

But win or lose on the robotics court, and pursuing whatever careers they choose, these young engineers obviously experience collaboration, sportsmanship, revision, and celebration. Sounds like a great way to build our next world leaders.


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Photos from

Friday Flick: “If I Should Have a Daughter”

Between sharing two of her own polished pieces, poet Sarah Kay shares her own creative emergence and that of her students. She suggests listing ten things you know to be true. Try it. See what you could write that only you could write.

Sarah’s also a great example of reaching out for mentoring and passing that on.

Sarah Kay at TED
Sarah Kay at TED

Friday Flick: To the Moon Before Dinner

I loved the premiere of this animated short by David Salin.

To the Moon Before Dinner
"To the Moon Before Dinner" by David Salin

The Poetry of Music

I’m just home from a university choir concert, aptly named “Waxing Poetic.” Several well-trained choirs from Arizona State University prepared sacred and humorous works, performed in a sacred space, and sent healing sound waves through my soul like a medicinal hot spring. Two of the pieces made me cry:

  • “Song for Athene” by John Tavener, combining text from the Eastern Orthodox funeral service and Shakespeare’s Hamlet
  • “There Will Be Rest” by poet Sara Teasdale, set by composer Frank Ticheli

We’re so spoiled, listening to recordings of music whenever and wherever we want–and naturally, we need those, too–but we can forget how long it’s been since we were nourished by live acoustic music.

If we want to write musically, there better be some music in our souls.

Stories from College Drop-In Steve Jobs

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something–your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever–because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.”  Steve Jobs

YouTube Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement 2005
Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement 2005

Can you imagine this decade without Steve Jobs? You’ve heard of Apple? Pixar? iTunes? Are you old enough to remember when our computers wrote in one font: computer?

What if Steve had never been born? Did you know he was adopted?

Steve tells three personal stories in this Stanford commencement address, one illustrating how following his passions (such as calligraphy), contributed to his adventures–and our collective global artistic/technology landscape. And he observes that we can only connect those dots in retrospect.

On the way to that story, he mentions his adoption story as a preface–it’s not the main point for him. He’s just explaining that his working class parents had promised his grad student biological mother that he’d go to college–which he did do for a while.

But my favorite part is that adoption story. Half of my two children arrived that way.

Abortion/adoption–how close the words, how different the result. As a teacher who warns students against logical fallacies, I get frustrated when both sides fall into the “either-or,” “horns of dilemma” logical fallacy, as though each child’s life and each unwed mother’s future are sworn enemies, locked in a literal battle to the death–as though there could never be a loving option to save them both. Every day, I bless the name of the young woman who chose to give our mutual son his life and a family.

I’m also struck by the story of a lawyer and his wife who decided at the last minute that they’d rather adopt a girl. The baby boy they declined grew up to be Steve Jobs.

Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011

Photo: Stanford’s YouTube post, screen shot easily captured by a Mac.