Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Go Team Faculty!

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that the Office of Student Life organizes an Olympic Week, where different classes complete in competitions to win glory for themselves and their class. In the past few years, the Faculty has fielded a team, participating in events such as tricycle racing, Dance Dance Revolution, volleyball, handball, quiz bowl, lightning checkers, etc. I am usually involved in Opening Ceremonies, where we do two minute parades/skits to introduce our team. Opening Ceremonies is actually an event, with points for creativity and execution.

As always, we are going for the jugular. Here's an actual email that I sent to the faculty and staff of the educational institution I work for:

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Here’s an explanation of what we’re doing at Olympic Week Opening Ceremonies.

This email has live links: just click to follow. Some of the links go to youtube.com; you will probably have to authenticate through the firewall if you want to watch these videos at work. You should not have to deal with the firewall if you are trying to view these videos at home.

The Algorithm March is a little dance/exercise made famous on Pythagoras' Swich, which is childrens' show on Japanese public television famous for crazy Rube Goldberg Machines, that make you want to dedicate your life to engineering. (Click here if you just want to watch a full episode of Pythagoras Switch. I highly recommend it. It's a scream). Thank you (T) for passing it on to me.

There are two dances. The first one, which we will be doing, is demonstrated in this video; first individually, so you can learn it, and then with a row of ninjas. Click here if you want to see the same dance being done by professional soccer team, the Kawasaki Frontales. It takes about 60 seconds to go from beginning to end, and it is very easy to learn. There are only eight moves, and several people on campus already know it.

This version of the Algorithm March became a viral video and is being copied all over the world. People are filming themselves doing it, so if you search You Tube, you'll see people from Stockholm, Brazil, even 1000 Filipino prisoners (they were setting a record).

The second dance is slightly different, but even easier. It's based on partners. You can see it demonstrated by the dudes here, or here, with robots, but for the full effect you should watch it being done by Japan's National Polar Research Team.

By the way, there are plenty of examples on You Tube of people that are terrible at it. Here’s some teachers at a pep rally at La Sierra High School. They have problems with form, with rhythm, with execution.... We will NOT have the same problems! --jp

You know, I grew up with Sesame Street. To me Pythagoras' Switch (or "Pitagora Suicchi") is to physics and engineering what Sesame Street was to reading. It has all the same hallmarks: endearing puppets, catchy kid songs, and mesmerizing 60- to 120-second clips between each segment. Apparently the Sesame Street people realized that the kids in their focus group cared more for commercials than the programs themselves, which lead them to create the minute-long, information-packed spots. Of course, Sesame Street used those spots to teach letters, numbers, and memory, and even Spanish (French if you watched the Canadian broadcast).

Pythagoras' Switch does exactly the same thing, except they talk about things like static electricity and industrial efficiency rather than letters and numbers. I have, however, seen two segments where kids are encouraged to make their own "Father Switch." Each Father Switch box has five butons, each with different hiragana. Pressing the buttons compells the Father to do an action that starts with that kana's sound. Apparently, it works for grandfathers, as well.

So Mom and Dad, if you wanted me to become an engineer, you should have raised me watching Pythagoras' Switch. Instead, I watched Sesame Street, so I'm a freak with a phobia of ladybugs who knows how to count to 12 and never forgets to bring home a loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter. Is that my Jacket? I'm so glad Luis didn't drink that gross dirty agua.

This next one shows the origin of some industrial shapes. I'm not kidding.

And this one is about aerodynamics, industrial design, and material engineering.

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