Red Bull Soap Box Derby

We went to the Red Bull Soap Box Derby, which was held (Aug. 23, 2014) downtown on Yesler Way. The course was deemed the steepest Red Bull has ever used. A bit of trivia: the base of Yesler Way used to be known as “Skid Road” because of how logs would skid down the road for the lumber mill.

Soap Box Course

I was hoping to inspire the kids to want to learn about how soap box cars are constructed. They were indeed enamored by the concept of these cars. Alas, the crowds and long wait time for the races to start diminished some of their enthusiasm. But the experience will serve as a good reference point the next time we come across some materials we can transform into a rudimentary car.

There were some preliminary runs to test the course. The Seahawks mascot, Blitz, took the first run. We were able to wedge ourselves into a small opening in the crowd on the upper course, so all we could see was two seconds of the teams as they zipped by.

Blitz Runs Course

Derby test run

We discovered later that Red Bull had set up large monitors so people could watch the races — it was easier to see the teams run the entire course via the┬ámonitors.

Derby monitor

Red Bull posted a few photos from the event. We hope to check out the next Standwood Camano Island Soap Box Derby, which is part of the All-American Soap Box Derby series of events.

Kite Engineers

The kids wanted to engineer their own kites. The available materials: paper, kitchen twine, straws, tape, toilet paper tubes. Here’s what they created:

Engineering Kites 1

Engineering Kites 2

Engineering Kites 3

Engineering Kites 4

Engineering Kites 6

Engineering Kites 7

Kickstarter: Poppy 3D and iPhone

Shen is viewing a 3D movie through a Poppy device.
Shen is viewing a 3D movie through a Poppy device.

My friend Ethan Lowry and his co-developer, Joe Heitzeberg, launched a Kickstarter project for the Poppy, a device that turns your iPhone into a 3D camera. I backed the project at the $39 level and received my Poppy right after Christmas. The concept is reminiscent of the View-Master, which we all have probably played with as children. (The initial fundraising goal for Poppy was $40,000, but the project ultimately raised more than $190,000.) Poppy uses optics to create the 3D effect. You slip your iPhone into the slot and flip the front optics box and start shooting photos or video using the Poppy app. It’s an ingenious and affordable device that I thought would offer us a fun way to collaborate and create.

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After Poppy started shipping, Ethan and Joe sent an email to all the Kickstarter backers inviting them to submit Poppy photos and videos for a chance to win another device. I had just purchased the Animation Studio kit, a box that transforms into a miniature set for a stop-motion movie, as a project for the kids. I thought it might be fun to use the Poppy to make a 3D stop-motion movie. Meilee and I had made a stop-motion movie in the past using Legos and the Stop Motion Studio iPhone app, but we certainly had not shot anything in 3D.

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Animation Studio is a fold-out box that serves as a miniature movie set. The kit includes different backgrounds, a how-to book, and cut-out characters and props.

We decided to create a simple story using two Christmas ornaments and a gingerbread cookie. We shot it using the Poppy and then created the movie with the Stop Motion Studio app. Meilee proudly claims that she did the actual eating of the cookie. I ended up rendering two versions. In the original, the titles are hard to read and the pace is a little too fast. The second version has cleaner titles and a slightly slower pace. You can watch them as is to get a sense of the plot, but it’s best viewed through a Poppy, of course.

Version 1:

Version 2:

On New Year’s Day, we went to the beach near our house and shot this short movie about beach combing.