Tech On: Summertime and the learning is easy

As summer settles in, it’s that cusp time when kids are still enjoying “the time off” but adults and no doubt some kids are also thinking about the fall.

Summer is always a great time to play, of course, but from many quarters come opportunities to learn and have fun at the same time.

This is not just about summer football camps that communities enjoy as a way to prepare young folks for the coming gridiron season.

Those programs are well-established and well-attended.

Other fun-while-preparing opportunities exist, specifically the Gorge Robotics program.

They let kids who want to have fun do just that, while also helping bridge that summer season gap between one school year to the next, and the dual needs of recreation and education. Meanwhile, kids and adults are preparing themselves for the full-on robotics programs in the fall.

Gorge Technology Alliance (GTA) is hosting two more robotics trainings this summer: July 20 at Columbia Gorge Community College in The Dalles and July 27 at Bambinos in Hood River. These fun one-day workshops for students ages 9 to 14 will provide hands-on programming experience and challenges on the Mindstorm LEGO NXT robots used in the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competitions.

Trainings are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Each is $10 and includes lunch; scholarships are available if needed. Pre-registration is required and each event will be limited to 20 students. Parents are encouraged to attend to learn this fun activity with your student.

A Google Community Grant helps make the event possible. The Alliance is a nonprofit professional organization that supports, connects and develops the technology community of the Columbia River Gorge.

It’s one of several examples of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs that help make the mid-Columbia Gorge such a vibrant place. Another example is the award-winning e-car program guided by Jeff Blackman at HRVHS; you might have seen the fruits of that learning in the July 4 parade, as the young drivers darted through the streets in their sleek, silent machines.

Robotics and other STEM programs are about year-round learning, and it is exciting to consider how they will dovetail (to use an industrial age term) with the programs and classes that will happen with the new Columbia Gorge Community College Regional Center of Innovation. The center, thanks to State Rep. Mark Johnson of Hood River, and others, received $7.35 million in funding in the Legislature last month for the 2013-15 biennium.

The center is designed to be a rural, bi-state model for manufacturing, innovation, investment, training and education. One of the main priorities of the CGRC is developing a training and education system for incumbent workers, veterans and at-risk youth in the Gorge.

In it, students will learn how math, science, reading and social skills apply in the real world, according to Johnson.

“The result will be a trained workforce and a vibrant regional economy,” according to CGCC president Dr. Frank Toda.

And, no doubt, they’ll have some fun while they are at it.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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