Community Service

Data Visualization for 3rd Graders

I recently had the opportunity to present to Mrs Neth's local elementary school class. There's a lot to be learned from 3rd graders. The subject of the presentation had to do with community activism and the future placement of a community walking trail that is planned to be constructed behind my house. Most of the presentation had to do with how I met with the local Parks Department and lobbied the City Council politely (not chest-thumping and finger-pointing like we see politicians on the news these days) to get the community's input on the exact placement of the trail.

But what struck me was the level of engagement that the 3rd graders had once I started showing them how I used an app on my phone to plot out the precise route of the trail, and how with Google Earth and satellite imagery I was able to show a "fly-by" of the trail. I even recorded a video of the virtual tour of the trail from the air. My point is that a picture (video in this case) captures the imagination the way nothing else does. Even 3rd graders get excited about civic involvement (they are all excited about saving a huge sycamore tree that is in danger of being cut down due to the trail placement) once they see a picture. They have a web page that is devoted to the project.

Thanks, Mrs. Neth, for the the opportunity to share with your classroom! You're doing a great job involving students in real projects in the real world!

Kansas City Oracle Users Group is Reassembling

KCOUG has re-formed and is inviting all Oracle users to their next meeting, being held on October 23 from 5:30 - 7:30 at Burns and McDonnell.  There will be refreshments provided, and it is a free event for users.  Christina Blincoe and the other new board members are excited about the renewed energy of the group and are looking forward to a great turnout for the next meeting.  Email kdrottz@vlamis.com for more information and to RSVP.

Presentation to 4th Grade Class

Well, this is not like most of our posts, but I thought some of you might enjoy reading about a presentation I recently gave to my daughter's 4th grade class. Her school teachers were having a "Communications Workshop" on a Saturday morning. Students could select from presentations given by local professionals on topics such as:
    Written Persuasion
    Using Facts and Emotion
    Public Speaking
    Effective Presentations
    Advertising and Marketing
    What's a Silly Band?
    Thinking On Your Feet
    Be a Presenter
    Captivating the Audience
    Presenting Through PowerPoint

The last one, Presenting Through PowerPoint, was given by me.

Students could select four of the above 30-minute "break out sessions". I had between 10 and 20 students in each of my four sessions.

What was very cool was to see these very sharp 4th graders learning the art of communicating effectively. Also, they paid attention and were very actively engaged.

If you want to see the presentation, check out our papers and presentations under the heading "Communications Workshop". I'll have it up there shortly.

Vlamis presenting Phun to local computer club

I help out with a computer club here in the Kansas City area that meets monthly, sharing computer concepts such as programming, HTML, how the internet works, etc. with kids in grades 6 through 9.  We're trying to attract more kids.

This month, I'm showing kids how they can use a software program called Phun, a free game-like 2D physics sandbox where you can simulate virtual worlds.  Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you can create all sorts of machines, games, comics, art, etc.  After a brief demonstration, everybody attending will create a “pumpkin chucker” to virtually launch a pumpkin.  Launch it hard enough and the pumpkin splats!

That's how we're advertising this to the community.  Sound like fun?  If you can't join us on February 14 here in the Kansas City area, download the software yourself--it's easy to install--just unzip to a directory and click phun.exe.  It's a lot of fun.  Check out the videos on the same web site for a sense of what you can do with the software.  Enjoy!

Vlamis in Kansas City Star

As mentioned in my blog entry about walking and biking to school, the September 5 issue of the Kansas City Star did indeed have an article on the front page of the local section titled "Liberty dad helps kids walk and bike to school" featuring a picture of the walking group I'm part of and my interest in kids walking and biking to school. 

I apologize if the link goes dead.  I'm trying to see if they will make a permanent link to the article.