Day 83-86: The Piling of the On

Tuesday, January 22 to Friday, January 25

Holy smokes. Tuesday was a bad day. I was mad at everything, on the verge of tears all day, considering thoughts of finding a new job, possibly leaving teaching altogether, and general in a horrible mental place. It was bad. I had stayed up late on Monday night after being on duty getting comments written, and they weren’t great, but I did what I could with the time I had available knowing I had a few more days to update and improve them before the final final deadline after we had our proofreading meeting.

Of course, it got noticed, and I got scolded. That makes the third time I’ve gotten noticed and scolded for something that is directly related to the amount of time I’m spending and support I don’t have for robotics. It’s very, very wearing and directly related to why Tuesday was so bad. I did everything I could not to take my mental state out on my kids, and I still had a good time teaching the physics and doing robotics with the kids, but I was just about ready to pack a bag and walk away. January is a hard time.

I don’t know how much longer I can do this at this level of 80-100 hours a week of being a full time teacher, robotics coach (effectively a second full time job), and resident faculty member. Add non-job related responsibilities including being a graduate student, President of a professional organization, Outreach Coordinator of an organization for early career teachers, as well as a wife and member of multiple families and not to mention a person, and all 168 hours of every week are completely spoken for. I was able to handle everything before robotics exploded, since I’ve been going at that level for years now, but having an additional 40ish hours a week added with minimal support has tipped the balance just that last little bit too far into untenability.

Physics: This week we finished up thermal physics and had an exam on Friday. I super dig thermodynamics and phase change, and the Hewitt book does a good job with these topics. Our next unit is sound and light, which will also be super fun, so I’m looking forward to that.

Honors Physics: Physical Optics!! Interference, two slit experiment, shining laser pointers in my eyeballs on accident while trying to shine it through the 1-6 slit apparatus thingie we have, and finally having the best time bringing the entire term all together into the singular topic of thin film interference. We blew a lot of bubbles. It was super fun. Friday was the light and color day where I set up the overhead projector to cries of, “What is this? 1990?!?” from the students and then blew their freaking minds with the things I was able to make light do thanks to the PTSOS workshops. Used holographic diffraction grating to throw a big rainbow on the board and tossed different filters up to show what was absorbed and what was passed through. Connected the green filter to why plants are green. Then I took off the diffraction grating and made them all mad again with polarization and showing them the stuff with the third filter between and corn syrup. This was a pretty good week in honors physics.

AP Physics: Electrostatics, done! We finished up with capacitance (minus dielectrics, which we’ll do on Monday as we head into circuits, which is my favorite), which was the last topic in electrostatics. I did my absolute thousand percent best to give them all the heads up I wish I had gotten when I was taking this class and show all the relationships between force/field/potential energy/potential.

Robotics: We got started getting the drive train together and then ran out of rivets, so had to put that on hold. The kids putting the wheels together ran out of the right sizes of bolts. The kids putting together the game pieces ran out of the right sizes of lumber. I am failing hard core at inventory. I sent G to the hardware store to pick up some things, but they didn’t have the right sizes or quantities, because I tell you what I am not paying $2 for a package of two 8-32 half inch bolts! Two years ago we had a local lumber company sponsor us for some supplies, so we asked them again, but the student I tasked with that didn’t realize it was a “we need the wood today” and not a “I’ll contact them next week” situation, which is my bad. Got that cleared up, and they got back with a response, so I called and spoke with the manager. I should be able to pick that stuff up tomorrow and be back before the kids arrive, but who knows. I let the other adults know in case I’m late.

Four different packages came for robotics, so I spent a few hours today working in the trailer getting things organized and making room to put away the new things. It was all the bolts and rivets and connectors and fuses and little fiddly things that are utterly vital for the whole robot thing to happen, but also really tiny and easy to lose. I spent many, many hours organizing all the nuts and bolts we have into an organizer with a bunch of little plastic drawers. It took about a week, but I eventually got every nut and bolt organized and sorted with similar sizes, size identified, and drawers labeled. I ended up with about five drawers left over, so we also have some room to expand as needed.

I’ll be in the trailer a few more hours after school today continuing to work on putting the pieces together. The goal is, by the end of Saturday, to have a mechanically complete drive train and a set of drive train code that builds and can be tested on our electronics test board. Once we know the code works, we can then put the motors and controllers on the robot itself to get started doing the actual wiring. I feel like we’re in a reasonably good place. We have three weeks and four weekends left before we have to bag the majority of the robot. I think our allowance will end up being the intake mechanism and a few other bits. That should all be well less than 30lbs, so as long as we get the major bits of the frame and elevator working, things are so far not an emergency.

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