Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rajasthani Puppet Theater

by HouseBoy

I'm always amazed how kids can create something new and fun out of almost anything...

After the AES Science Fair, we were left with two large cardboard tri-fold displays...  Being a parent who is gearing up to move back from India to the US, I keep scrambling for ways to give things away. Recycling is something that is fortunately really easy to do in India... just about anything is adapted for a second, third or even forth use. When Audrey saw me trying to slip the cardboard displays out the front door, she would have none of it. I asked the typical parent question: "So these giant tri-folds are going to sit in the corner collecting dust until we move?" Audrey was not phased by my resistance to hanging on to yet another piece of school memorabilia.
"Don't worry," Audrey reassured me. "I have an idea."  Against my better judgement I let the subject drop, and Audrey held on to her beloved tri-fold displays.

This past weekend, Audrey and Evan began construction of a large structure in our living room. It was hot outside, so I let them go for it... not really knowing what the result might be. "It's a surprise, Dad," Evan told me.  Blankets, pillows, chairs were all placed in the center of the room. Held in place with string, yarn and beach blankets. Buried in the center, unmistakeably, were the two cardboard tri-fold display boards.

Voice recordings were made, music was practiced on a keyboard hidden behind the structure.. Lesa and I were shooed out of the living room on several occasions. Then finally the big announcement was made: "7pm Show time" exclaimed Audrey. " Right at the prescribed hour we were treated to a Rajasthani Puppet Show, with sound effects, incidental music, puppeteering (the kids dusted off their small collection of puppets from Rajasthan) and a very wacky, but original story.
The puppet stage looked great - complete with fringe, curtain and of course, the tri-fold cardboard displays! Couldn't have been a more perfect way for our kids to create some fun indoors on a hot Delhi Saturday.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The 2012 Pinewood Derby

by HouseBoy

Evan participated in the Cub Scouts 2012 Pinewood Derby race. It's probably the Cub Scouts biggest event of the year other than our campout... it generates a whole lot of excitement with the boys and their parents.
Pack 3060 (New Delhi) had about 33 entries this year... seven from Evan's Webelos 1 Den. A couple of US Marines from the Embassy agreed to help out by officiating over the launch of each four-car heat. Evan's green "Random Bus" is in lane 3 in the photo below:
These races have become pretty sophisticated.  Each car has an official weigh-in and measurement. The cars must be no more than five ounces, and no longer than seven inches. HouseBoy was a part of the "pit crew" this year, helping the boys with last minute weight adjustments and wheel/axle repairs. Power tools, hot glue gun, tweezers, and graphite powder for lubrication - we had it all! The track is timed and monitored via sensors and a laptop connection. Software automatically tracks the heat, den and the overall winners by both speed and time.

Evan's car was named the "Random Bus." It was his own design. Aside from a little help with sanding, he did it all... design, painting and decals. We had some speed issues last year, but I guess we learned from our lack of success. This year Evan's derby car burnt up the track!.

He placed first in his Webleos 1 Den competition (1st out of his seven) and 2nd in the overall "Grand Finals" competition (second out of 33 cars). Pretty amazing.
 Great Job Evan!

Monday, April 16, 2012

2012 AES Science Fair

Evan and Audrey both came up with some pretty cool projects for the 2012 Mary Kelley Science Fair Projects.  This year the fair had almost 200 participants from the AES elementary school. It's not a mandatory thing, so I'm glad the kids were both excited to participate.
Evan and his best friend, Dylan wanted to try creating a maglev train - not an easy thing to do. They conducted research on magnetism, and the properties of magnets and discovered that many ordinary, everyday tools use magnets to function. With the help of a local carpenter, and design ideas from the Internet, we created a track-base out of wood.
I went on a journey to the huge electronics market in Old Delhi to find a shop that sells magnets.  I discovered three stalls there (market opposite the Red Fort) that sell nothing but magnets -all shapes and sizes! The magnets (small, very powerful ones) were about ten cents each. The boys used these to make our track for the "hover" train.
The boys worked on building their own "car" out of Lego pieces, and put together a fact-filled information display. Great job, boys!
Audrey chose to dive into a lesser known discovery made by Charles Darwin - the properties of Phototropism. For those not in the know - this is how plants grow toward a source of light.
With just a little guidance from mom and dad, Audrey conducted the research in the Internet, and developed her own display board. Both experiments received great comments and reactions from fellow students, teachers and parents. It was fun to work with the kids on their exhibits - I learned more about these two subjects than ever before!
HouseBoy is glad both projects were a success...and are now just more happy memories of our lives here in India.