Day 73-77: HELL WEEK

January 7-Jan 11

Ah, returning to school. I’m super happy to get back to a regular schedule and seeing my kiddos again. I love teaching physics and have had a lovely week in all my classes. Robotics Build Season has begun, and the team is having tons of fun. Why is it hell? The combination of all of the things. I enjoy every single one of them. Just not necessarily all at once and with no help.

Physics: The calendar is a little weird this year, so students had an exam on Thursday of the first week back over material we mostly covered before break. BRUTAL. So my job this week was to desperately try to review that material and bring it all back to the forefront of their minds and start moving them toward synthesis. I do not think this went particularly well, but I did what I could given the circumstances. They took the exam as required, and then Friday we started the new unit on thermo with a calorimetry lab.

Honors Physics: Starting a brand new unit on Ray Optics. It’s been super fun. We did three days of learning the ideas of reflection and refraction, and for our double period on Thursday I put out every single reflection/refraction toy I had and let them loose to design their own experiments and see what they could discover. Listening to all the, “Whoa!” and “I didn’t expect that!” and “I can see the refraction!” and “Wait, what?!?” is super fun.

I gave them about 15 minutes to just play with whatever they wanted and see the different possibilities and then chased them back to their tables with some equipment to actually do some investigation into the phenomena to write their report, which is: what did you do? What did you see? What does it mean? They discovered that the two curved mirrors I showed them fit together, and when you put an object in the bottom it looks like it’s at the top. Clever kids. I love it.

I have been hit with a few stray laster pointers to the eye, but a small price to pay for the result. I gave them the safety talk at the beginning, and they are doing their best, but reflections sometimes are hard to control with a hand-held laser pointer.

Friday we did ray tracing with lenses and mirrors, which the students dug. I love ray tracing. It’s just so nice how it all works out and how those three specific rays let us make all the predictions. Yay.

AP Physics: Electrostatics! Woo! We did force and field algebraically in the first part of the week, and on Thursday I moved on to calculus with fields of distributed charge and just completely screwed it up on every single level of everything I tried. It was brutal. I forgot to take the x-component of the field, so was missing the cosine. I messed up the relationship between dq and dy, giving us a ridiculously difficult and strange integral we were trying to do things with. I got through an entire “example” problem WRONG and asked them to try one on their own before a student noticed I hadn’t taken the x-component into account, so I had to do the ENTIRE thing over again, plus the problem I asked them to do actually ended up being far more challenging and using completely different variable relations because they would be integrating over theta instead of an axis. Most of this was because I hadn’t had a chance the night before to go through and pre-solve the problems due to what happened on Wednesday night, which is related to robotics and will be outlined below. Friday I redeemed myself on the calculus and took the kids through the final pieces of electric field before we hit Gauss’s Law on Monday.

Robotics: Ah, yes. Robotics. The thing I love that also makes my life hell. Am I in an abusive relationship with robotics? Perhaps. ANYWAY, Season kickoff was Sat, Jan 5, and I’ve been running pretty constant since then. I had a meeting with the division head, dept head, and another adult who is assigned to the robotics team to talk about robotics and how we can make the program sustainable and reduce the load on me. So, could I please record all of my duties and responsibilities related to robotics. The div head said he wanted to make sure I didn’t have to operate in siege mentality. My reaction was a solemn nod.

The reaction I managed to avoid was laughing hysterically and screaming a few times, because I have been in siege mentality for months. Adding to that by asking me to take the time to sit down and write out all of the responsibilities and duties I have to do OUTSIDE actively working with the kids in the hopes of some future time being able to delegate some of those responsibilities DURING WEEK 1 OF BUILD SEASON is dangerously close to the straw that is going to lead to the hysterical laughter and screaming.

Tuesday I saw the team for the first time. We went over logistics of the season, watched the game videos, went through the rule book, took a rule quiz (which I took from another team and had way more questions than we needed to care about, so def a thing to think about next year making more tailored to our team), and then started having the discussion about what we wanted our bot to do. It was a long discussion with lots of opinions, but we figured out one thing we absolutely did want our robot to do and a handful of things we might want our robot to do that we’d have to choose between.

We started Wednesday with a VR tour of the game field, which is fantastic. I highly recommend that if you have VR capability on your phone or something like a Vive. Then we went through the handful of things from Tuesday and narrowed it down to two things that we could start actually making design decisions about. The VR was set up in the dorm common room, so after we’d finished there it was time to go back to the science building to finish up and work on brainstorming.

Then on the way back, I fell down the stairs. During the robotics meeting. And since there was no other adult around to take over and it’s Week 1 of Build Season, I just sucked it up and kept going. Once I got them started on something I limped to the health center to check in with the nurse, and then I limped back and kept going for another hour. I was pretty addled and in a lot of pain. It was only three steps, so it could have been worse for sure. I ended up with mostly superficial scrapes on knees and palms, but one ankle hit the ledge of a step very hard and is scraped quite a bit and also deeply bruised. I went home right after the meeting, took something for the pain, and went straight to bed. There was no “let’s do a few calculus problems to prepare for tomorrow” time or opportunity.

Thursday, still limping and quite in pain, but not willing to take the good pain meds, I met with the controller to talk about finances, taught all day, and then reoriented myself to the CNC mill so I could get through the fiddling with everything period and show some kids this year how to use it effectively. That night we worked until late on a bunch of things, but I did have an opportunity late on Thursday to check out the calculus and make sure I could do it well on Friday.

Friday was another day of teaching my classes, every spare moment being in the trailer, and then working after school for a few hours to finish getting everything organized and inventoried and put away and ready for the lock-in on Saturday. And the Lock-In is a WHOLE NOTHER ENTRY.

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