This is topic Jack is back!!! (a landmark) in forum Landmark Threads at Hatrack River Forum.

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Posted by brojack17 (Member # 9189) on :
So, I am officially back. I had to quit Hatrack for awhile because school, work, coaching a robotics team, and organizing a robotics tournament just proved too much. I had to stop a lot of time consuming things that could distract me from my tasks. Movies and Hatrack proved to be the biggest time killers. I didn't quit cold turkey though, I posted a couple of times and lurked some while I was on marathon conference calls (I'm on one right now).

Work went well. I finished my task with the Orion Project (the crew module for the new space vehicle). I was on loan to Orion from Constellation Program (the entire space vehicle) for a year and a half to help Orion setup standards for Computer Aided Design (CAD) work and also to detail a process for transferring CAD from one Parts Data Management (PDM) system to another. I did those tasks and received a good review. Now I have to do more of the same but for all of NASA. It's going to be a huge task but I have some momentum now with the work I did at Orion.

My robotics team did ok this year. We got an earlier start than last year, but did not get a working robot together until the week of the competition. Our first competition went well and we got second place in technical presentation. This was how our robot was built and programmed. We felt good about that award, especially since our robot underperformed during the competition. We only scored about 1/3 of our possible points during the competition. I think it was the kids nerves. We had three weeks between the first and second competition. Our lead programmer took the robot and completely reworked the programs. We were consistently scoring more points in practice, but the robot did not perform again during the competition and we were shut out of awards. Last year, the kids learned a new phrase that stuck with them all season, it was catastrophic failure. This year, they learned a new one, sophomore slump.

The tournament was really a labor of love. When I grew up, I could be in sports or band and the band really stunk. I played sports until I injured my shoulder and really enjoyed band. I never had anything to challenge me mentally. Yeah, I could make good grades in school if I wanted to but we were poor and I wasn’t an athlete, so I knew college was out of the question. I figured I could graduate high school with a “C” average, so that’s what I worked for. Now that I am an adult and have discovered that college is possible for anyone willing to work for it and have discovered the FIRST Lego League (FLL) for kids who want something other than sports, I made it my mission to get math, science, and engineering into the hands of Oklahoma kids. I started the Oklahoma Science and Engineering Foundation (OKSEF) and hosted the inaugural tournament on November 15th. We had over 180 kids attend and had another 250 adult watching. I was a great day and I expect to see every team back next year. Since I operated as a qualifying tournament and not a championship tournament, I could not purchase the prebuilt trophies. I wanted to give the same trophies, so I ordered over 75 lbs. of Lego’s and started building. Each piece had to be glued down with PVC cement. The small trophies had over 380 pieces (there were 16 of them), the medium had over 600 pieces (4 of them), and the large trophy had over 800 pieces (just one of those). I also had four JrFLL trophies to build but they were small and had only 100 pieces. I did get a high school robotics team to build 14 of the small trophies for me, so I didn’t have to do EVERY trophy. I expect the tournament to double in size and triple in budget this next year. I have to start fund raising now. Luckily, we have our 501 (c) (3) now.

School went very well. I finished with one A and two B's. I finally finished Trig. I have taken it a couple of times but have had to drop because of work and/or family. Work and family was hard this semester too, but I made myself get through it. I am taking Calculus I next semester and I am a little nervous about it. I am working to get a degree in Mechanical Engineering (BSME). My goal is to finish my degree before my two sixth graders leave FOR college. If I keep to 2-3 classes a semester, I should finish just as they graduate.

People assume, and I have told some people, that I have my BSME. Most people in my position DO have a degree and I felt ashamed that I didn’t have it. If I have said on here that I have my BSME, I apologize. I am not going to hide the fact that I do not have a degree anymore. I have accomplished a lot without one and I am very proud of that. When I went to work for a CAD software company, I was only the second Application Engineer the company had hired that did not have a degree. I have held my own with NASA engineering since 2001 without a degree. I am defining the engineering process for the new space vehicles without an engineering degree. I don’t have to be ashamed. It took me awhile to realize that. At this point, a degree is not going to change my job description and I will not receive any more pay for it. I am on a mission to prove to myself that I CAN do this and to show my kids that ANYONE can go to college. Graduating high school was what was expected of me. I expect my kids to graduate college. Anyway, I’m sorry if I misrepresented myself to people on here, it won’t happen again.
Posted by Achilles (Member # 7741) on :
Who the heck is brojack17?
Posted by brojack17 (Member # 9189) on :
I'm me and I'm real.
Posted by Farmgirl (Member # 5567) on :
Great post, Jack!

(disregard Achilles trying to act like Slash)

I started the Oklahoma Science and Engineering Foundation (OKSEF) and hosted the inaugural tournament on November 15th.
That sounds extremely awesome. I have a close relative in your area who is an old retired college science professor. I should hint to him about donations [Wink]

My goal is to finish my degree before my two sixth graders leave FOR college
That's what I did, as well. I finished (finally) in 2000, shortly before my oldest son started college.

Hang in there with the studies. I'm rooting for ya!
Posted by rivka (Member # 4859) on :
Welcome back. [Smile]
Posted by brojack17 (Member # 9189) on :
Thanks Farmy. It is exciting and if you know anyone who would be willing to donate, please let me know. Also, since Tulsa is about as close to Wichita as KC is, teams that start up in Wichita can come to my tournament. Put the word out. The link above (and here if you need, is really good to show what FLL is all about.

I'm still trying to find a way to get up your way to meet.
Posted by brojack17 (Member # 9189) on :
Thanks rivka. And thanks for the link to the info about the dreidel. I shared that with the kids. They all want to play now.
Posted by Achilles (Member # 7741) on :
Originally posted by Farmgirl:
Great post, Jack!

(disregard Achilles trying to act like Slash)

I'm providing a valuable service. Scott's not here to eat anybody. [Dont Know]
Posted by Jhai (Member # 5633) on :
I think your educational goals are really impressive! I've been taking two classes while working full time this semester to finish up my master's and it's hard - even without kids to take care of, and with a reasonably flexible work schedule. I can't imagine facing the idea of taking a couple of classes a semester for years on end to complete a degree. [Hat]

Good luck!
Posted by ketchupqueen (Member # 6877) on :
Missed you! Glad you've been doing good things! Glad you're back!
Posted by ketchupqueen (Member # 6877) on :
Oh, and how are things going with the... stepdaughter? I think?

[ December 18, 2008, 06:08 PM: Message edited by: ketchupqueen ]
Posted by rivka (Member # 4859) on :
Originally posted by brojack17:
I shared that with the kids. They all want to play now.

[Big Grin]
Posted by T:man (Member # 11614) on :
Oooo CAD is the coolest program ever... i think...

inventor is the shit!
Posted by brojack17 (Member # 9189) on :
Yes KQ, it's my stepdaughter. There are highs and lows, but all in all, she is getting better. She stole some money from our change pot and got her cell phone taken away for that. She also had to rake the entire yard to earn money to pay that back.

She is so much like her mother was when she was a kid (at least according to all the reports). That makes me wonder about nature vs. nurture. My wife had a completely different childhood than my stepdaughter has had.

The good news is, my in-laws are starting to back me up more. Before, they always said I was too hard on her. I don't know what changed their minds but something has.

I don't even like calling her my stepdaughter. I always call her my daughter, but since I didn't want to use her name, I had to differentiate.

Thanks for asking.
Posted by Belle (Member # 2314) on :
I graduate this May, two years before my oldest starts college, so I know the feeling.

It's tough going to college as an adult, but you are setting a good example for your kids about the value of education. All my kids have seen us sacrifice a lot to pay tuition each semester, they know that education is worth giving up other things for...and I hope they take that lesson to heart. Especially since my main motivation in getting a degree and a job is to earn enough to send THEM to college. [Smile]
Posted by brojack17 (Member # 9189) on :
Thanks Belle and congratulations. It is important for them to see the sacrifice.

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