This year was the 19th annual Reading Rendezvous at the Anchorage library. We volunteered to lead a booth, along with a few FTC teams. We brought our robot to demo, along with a binary bracelet making station, and two paper airplane launchers.
At the booths, we had three activities planned. We brought tankbot, and planned on driving it around our booth, while occasionally giving older kids an opportunity to drive it. We had two stations that we planned on alternating, one which would build a binary bracelet, while the other was flutes. To build the binary bracelets, kids would write their initials on a piece of paper, and we would help to translate them into UTF-8 binary, according to a chart we had. They would select a color for 1, 0, and the delimiter, and then put beads onto a string, making a bracelet. The flutes we had used in the past, using straws and paper sandwiched between two popsicle sticks, which would make a noise when kids blew into it. We never got to use this though, as we had too many kids at the station to switch activities. Finally, we had a paper airplane launcher. Lawton made it off a concept of one he used when he was little, although using 550 motors instead of tiny 5v motors. The base was made from laser cut acrylic, and disks made from flexible 3D printer filament. It was insanely fast at full power, so we left it below 4 volts. It was powered off a Talon and an Arduino to supply PWM signal. Josh made a backup incase something broke, which used springs to launch it, resembling a crossbow. It launched farther than the launcher, however required one of us to launch it, so we didn’t use it as often.
Setup began at 10:30. We were assigned to the same booth we had in previous years, and got setup. We set up a tent, however swapped it once our second tent arrived a bit later. We hung our banner, and set out some business cards and stickers. The bracelet making was set up on the front table, and paper airplanes set up behind them, shooting away from the crowd. The tankbot drove behind our tent by where the planes were shooting. The event officially started at noon, at which time a mob of children and their parents stormed through. As kids came to our booth, we would either help them with making a bracelet or plane, depending on their interest. A lot also found interest in the FTC and FRC bots, so would have someone explain what we do to them, as well as give them a brochure with information on finding or creating FLL teams.
Kids continued to come through for most of the day. The kids loved making bracelets, and had a blast launching paper airplanes. We set up a scoreboard to keep track of the longest distance, which we had three kids particularly interested in beating. The longest distance of the day was 21 feet, which even we weren’t able to beat.
We also got an opportunity to read our book aloud on stage in front of a large audience. Josh and Alexa volunteered to read, and after some practice in front of a smaller audience, got up on stage. They did a fantastic job, and we were invited back to read aloud again next year!
By the end of the event, we had what must have been hundreds of kids come to our booth. It was fantastic watching the kids puzzle out how to make their bracelet, and their awe when launching planes. There were dozens of kids pleading to their parents to let them stay for longer. It was quite a fantastic event to be a part of, and we came away knowing we inspired a lot of kids today.