13 March 2006

A great start

by Anton Piatek

Bright sparks is over, and happened to go rather well on Friday.

My robots performed quite well, and all the other activities were wonderful. The finale was excellent as we had a computer rendered (very old school 2D rendering) triathlon using the athlete that the kids had been training all day. 2 heats and a semi-final later we had a winner and a hell of a lot of noise (we had convinced the kids that they had to cheer for their athlete to help him go faster, and while the microphone sensor did work it did not affect anything except the people above us). Upper management are somewhere above us as are human resources. One woman I spoke to said it was refreshing to have kids screaming as it is usually very quiet, but we were happy to have unleashed the screaming monsters all the same.

Monday saw the start of Blue Fusion (which is for the 15/16 year old group as opposed to the 12/13, and used to be known as Young Visions). We swapped out DIY Timepiece, in which one had to construct a timer and scales from random pieces of stuff, and in its place put in Eco Sim, in which the schools had to work out a compromise between avoiding global warming and taxing their population to revolt. Eco Sim had some serious problems during the day and was close to being pulled, but some fixes tonight will hopefully see it through the week.

My robots did well even though there was some confusion with the scoring and the scores had to be adjusted later which hopefully didn’t upset too many schools. All looks good with them for tomorrow – some more glue to hold certain parts together (the rubbery kind that peels off so as not to damage the Lego) and new hosts tomorrow to score it and help the kids and everything is set.

I had plenty of fun taking photographs of the event and if possible will (i.e. if I am allowed to keep copies and display them) I will put some up online. The best activity to photograph was probably Search For A Planet, as the room was dark except for a 80 inch (or so) plasma TV and two UV lights (or blacklights) to help illuminate everything. A splash of UV reactive paint here and there made everything slightly more colourful.

Search For A Planet is probably the only activity that actually asks the schools to attempt any maths, and some of the schools really failed spectacularly with this part. I really wish I knew what physics is on the GCSE syllabus as acceleration and gravity seem almost like alien concepts to most of the kids (apart form one who had long hair, a leather biker jacket and looked like The Fonse (how the hell do you spell the guy from happy days?), or quite like I did during my A level years. This kid managed to get most of the way to the perfect planet on his own, leading his school through all the astrophysics which he quite clearly knew well. It almost worked, until the other students in his school took over and started playing with the selections and then it all went pear shaped…)