Friday, January 16, 2015

Kids and Teens Spotlight: Lego Robotics

This February, 4th through 6th graders will build a robot that really moves in a camp that will meet on Saturday mornings (Feb 7 – 28).  Campers in the LEGO Robotic Elephant Camp will program the model to walk, pick up an object and make a trumpeting noise.  Campers will engage in real-life problem solving and learn teamwork.  We still have spots available.
LEGO Robotics has been exciting kids since the MIT Media Lab programmed the first Brick computer back in 1994.   Come and experience the latest generation of that technology!

This is only one of our LEGO based classes.  For 4th through 6th graders more interested in fast cars than robotics, we will also have LEGO Sports Car Camp, where campers will learn how real cars are engineered, along with the history of sports cars. 
For the younger kiddos (1st – 3rd graders,) we will have LEGO Flight Camp.   Get ready for takeoff
You can also check on line for a full list of our LEGO summer camps, which will include building a working instrument in LEGO EV3 Electric Guitar (grades 4-6) and mastering math the fun way in All Aboard the LEGO Math Train! (grades 1-3).
Space is limited, so register soon.   Call 817.272.2581, or visit us on the web at

Since their beginning, LEGOs have always  been a gateway to creativity.  Here are a few ways you can pair them at home with modern technology:

Build Using Virtual LEGOs -- Build with Chrome allows you to rotate an on screen base plate and make your creation from different colored/shaped virtual bricks.

Make a Brickfilm -- Stop motion animation using LEGOs has become a genre unto itself.  Some of them spoof popular movies, such as Jurassic Park and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Others  tell unique stories.

Create a LEGO mosaic -- You can use the LEGO Photo App to  transform any photo into an on-screen mosaic.  Then, find an appropriate-sized base plate and build it in the real world!

We hope you are as excited about LEGOs as we are!  See you at camp in February!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Getting to the Heart of Your Characters

When you start a new novel or short story, sometimes it can be hard to tell your reader the right things about your characters to make them care enough to keep reading, without bogging everything down with an overwhelming amount of detail.  Sometimes, it can be helpful to work out a few things before you start.  Think about your character’s defining moment in the story.  What is the biggest dilemma they will face?  What one thought or piece of dialogue encapsulates the character’s role within your narrative?  Write out this scene first, then you will be able to pull from it to plant seeds (a.k.a. foreshadowing) of this idea or conflict from the very beginning.

Think about defining moments in your own life, when you have had to make hard choices that put you on a certain path or set half-formed moral boundaries down in stone.  What you found out about yourself may have surprised you.  A 2006 article from the Harvard Business Review explains the difference between an ethical dilemma and a defining moment:  “An ethical decision typically involves choosing between two options: one we know to be right and another we know to be wrong.  A defining moment, however, challenges us in a deeper way by asking us to choose between two or more ideals in which we deeply believe.”  Just because your characters are fictional, that doesn’t mean they should get off any easier.

While a defining moment can come at a number of different points in your story (and in a longer work, your character may face more than one), most plot arcs lead toward a dark moment, or black spot, where the reader should believe that your character may fail.  You can amp up the tension by combining the black spot with a defining moment.  Give your character the opportunity to have what they think they wanted for the entire story, or to achieve the story goal.  They can’t have both.  What are they willing to sacrifice?

Want more ideas on creating three dimensional characters, right from the start of your novel?  Sign up for Novel Preparation: What to Do Before You Start To Write, a five-session class that will also cover techniques for outlining and creating consistent worlds for your characters to inhabit.  Class starts on January 26, so sign up soon by calling (817) 272-2581 or register here.