Replies to our MoE Experiential Student Research Grant

This year I applied for a Ministry grant for student driven experiential research. I’ve tried this before without much success, but this time we got OK’d!


We collected interested participants from schools across our board, some of whom we’d built VR computers for, and proceeded to explore the emerging technology of virtual reality from grades 4-12 across four high schools and two elementary schools.

To wrap up the project we had to complete a review of our work – below are my answers to those questions:


Describe how students were involved in designing or co-constructing the learning experience.

CW students were encouraged to volunteer for a school wide VR research group where they got priority access to the VR sets during lunch. 30+ students joined this group but only two finished their projects.  Many faded away after midterm when they needed to focus on missed school work rather than volunteer projects. Early self directed research led students into 3d modelling using VR applications, but subsequent groups and individuals looked at curriculum wide VR possibilities.

VR is also integrated into the software engineering courses we run in grades 11 and 12. Two groups elected to develop VR based applications using Unity & Blender. These groups were student directed and managed through the entire development process. HexVR is a reflex action game running on the HTC Vive. Co/Labs focused on creating a virtual classroom that would allow people to meet in virtual space from anywhere to problem solve collaboratively.

twitter.com/3204games
twitter.com/CoSlashLabs
ift.tt/2uvSjpY

Describe how students developed and applied the knowledge and skills associated with education and career/life planning.

Software engineering students follow SWEBOK and

engineering design process planning when developing their software. The purpose of this course is to develop real world planning, collaboration and leadership skills. Many of our grads take the software they developed in class and use it as portfolio work to get into challenging post secondary programs, and in some cases to earn income to pay for their post secondary educations. As a stepping stone into post-secondary and career skills, the leadership skills learned in software engineering are a vital stepping stone.

The engineering design process we follow in software is closely linked to the iterative career/life planning process outlined in the document above – both are self correcting systems.


Describe how students reflected on and applied their learning.

In the voluntary group a rigorous reflection process was not possible and probably led to the lower outcome. In the more structured software engineering class reflection is baked into the iterative engineering design process and students were pressed to constantly assess their progress and change their course depending on how possible their final goals were. This demanding process of reflection on student knowledge and skill, and how effective it was in realizing project goals, was vital to the positive outcomes achieved.

The ministry is particularly interested in projects that promote inclusion and foster equity by focusing on the role of experiential learning to improve outcomes for a diverse group of students. What strategies did you use to ensure that every student participated and was able to derive personal meaning from the experience? *

At CW we offer computer technology courses at open levels in junior grades and at essential to M level/post secondary focused at senior grades. Students of all levels were able to access our VR technology. In addition the VR set was offered school wide and was used by students of all levels in a variety of curriculum learning situations. Our computer teacher (who is writing this) is autistic, as is his son, and his program is especially welcoming to autistic and other neuro-atypical students. Computer classes at CW tend to have very high rates of IEPed students who are able to develop complex technology skills using advanced hardware like our virtual reality sets.

Describe the planned outcomes / learning goals for students.

Students designed projects that would develop virtual reality software. These students were already experienced with 3d modelling and rendering software (Blender & Unity), but VR is such a new thing that there is very little out there to support development. In many cases these student projects were using software that was only weeks old that no one else was using. As an engineering project this was a unique goal: to build something without online support or previous versions to copy from – a completely unique piece of software engineering. Both groups working in this manner acheived working prototypes, and one group has been asked to continue developing their project by a number of interested industry partners. This may end up being the most genuine kind of project imaginable – one that becomes a published piece of software.

Describe the skills, knowledge and habits that students demonstrated related to each of the outcomes / learning goals. Cite data that speaks to the project’s impact on students’ attitudes, achievement and/or behaviour. Refer to Appendix E: Evidence of Impact in the Community-Connected Experiential Learning Project Handbook at ift.tt/2uvHN1Z.

Resiliency and self-direction were the main goals of this research work, and the students who stuck with it developed a stick-to-it-ness that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. From our grade 9s who were researching and essential beta testing unfinished software in a brand new piece of hardware to our seniors who were trying to develop software for it, real-world engineering practices were vital to success. Organization and an adherence to the engineering process allowed our successful students to exceed extremely challenging goals while other students benefited from a truly unique set of peer driven exemplars.

Our greatest success came from seniors who developed software both in and out of class, but several juniors also stuck with the voluntary research and produced satisfying and complex results (shared in subsequent answers).


The failure to produce output rate of volunteer non-class related students was exceptionally high while the completion rate of students with in-class support and access was significantly better.  While student directed research has merit, it should be noted that teachers have a strong role to play in helping less developed students plan and execute such work.

Reflect on your collection of project artifacts. Select and submit at least one artifact in each category that you think would be the most valuable to other teachers who may have an interest in exploring community-connected experiential learning in their programs. Where applicable, ensure that you have necessary consents/permissions to share. Refer to Appendix D: What Makes A Good Artifact? in the Community-Connected Experiential Learning Project Handbook at ift.tt/2tWKgW5.

CW exemplars:
MEDIUM: Oculus Rift 3d modelling software: (grade 9 analysis & review)


Check out Co/Labs on Twitter

documentation: ift.tt/2uvv4w8
presentation:
ift.tt/2tWPaT2

Software research (grade 9):
ift.tt/2uvFJXy

Grade 11 VR software research
ift.tt/2tWGr2XiGC_cvbIoLc/edit?usp=sharing

Check out HexVR on Twitter

Grade 12 Software development:
ift.tt/2uvv53a

HexVR: The pinnacle of CW’s VR research this semester:
ift.tt/2tWK4WM




A good examplar needs to show not just student work, but how the student played a part in designing that work.  An exemplar of a worksheet designed and given by a teacher is probably aiming for the bottom of Bloom’s taxonomy and wasn’t what we were aiming for in this project.






Involvement of community partner: Describe the artifact you’ve chosen to submit. Explain why you selected this artifact. *

Our community began when our board SHSM lead offered to support us in rolling out VR sets to schools around the board as a pilot program. That roll out created a local community of users. Our grant application grew naturally out of our independent research as we already knew of each other and were keen to work together exploring this technological learning opportunity.

Some early adopters, most significantly TJ Neal at ODSS, had been into VR since before it went public using engineering samples of early VR sets, but he was working in isolation. Our local community, started by SHSM and then supported by this Ministry grant has created fertile ground for new technology research to occur.

TJ’s early work had also put him in touch with Foundry10, a Seattle based educational research group with an interest in VR. Their support early on in providing hardware and, more importantly best practices from other schools all across the continent, allowed us to quickly overcome or avoid obstacles and get our sets running in a sustainable and safe manner.

Community involvement both locally, at the board level, and even internationally online (and in person when Foundry10 came to visit) was key to our success in HexVR as well as our other projects related to this grant.


The artifact chosen would be Foundry10’s VR research which we both participated in and benefited from:  ift.tt/2li1qbC

Student involvement in the design/planning: Describe the artifact you’ve chosen to submit. Explain why you selected this artifact.

HexVR is an astonishing piece of software – a live action 3d game that already works well after only half a semester of in-class development by our senior software engineering class. Our valedictorian designed and built most of it while guiding and mentoring a number of junior engineers. HTC is interested in seeing if he can complete his development and our board SHSM has supplied him with a VR set for the summer to do that.


To technically understand what it means to design a working VR interface like this you have to understand how complicated it would be to ray cast both hands and head in 3d space in a continuous manner in a rendered virtual space.  It’s a complex and brutal piece of engineering.

This project was entirely designed and built by our valedictorian (who wants to go into software engineering). His work not only produced a working prototype, but also helped us clarify how and what to teach in future classes.  His understanding of how to implement object based programming will drive future engineering work in our class.   As an exceptional student about to pursue a professional interest, this is powerful exemplar of student directed planning, design and effective engineering process and helps define what is possible.

HexVR: ift.tt/2tWK4WM


Connection to the education and career/life planning program: Describe the artefact you’ve chosen to submit. Explain why you selected this artefact.

Up until three years ago we did not offer any software engineering course at CW. This course, which runs at cap each year, allows students to experience the engineering process involved in building software using industry rules, goals and expectations.

We already have graduates who have published software and many have gone on to successfully complete in-demand, high-expectation post secondary programs in digital technologies with great success.

Cameron’s work, like the work of other grads, will go on to produce a working software title.  The difference is that Cam did it using emerging hardware and software.  As an example of industry grade engineering by an Ontario high school student, there is little better.

Application of the experiential learning cycle: Describe the artifact you’ve chosen to submit. Explain why you selected this artifact.

A great example of the experiential learning cycle was grade 9 Kathryn’s research into Oculus Medium.

With less than a year under her belt in high school and with little experience in self directed research and while looking at days old software on weeks old new hardware, Kathryn self organized, planned an approach and executed it, all without any grades hanging on it (she wasn’t even my student at that point, she’d finished grade 9 computer tech in semester one).

A key aspect of experiential learning is self direction. In Shopclass As Soulcraft (a book any tech teacher or maker interested instructor should read), Matt Crawford proves the importance of self direction both in skills mastery and, ultimately, professionalism. Someone who is unable to self direct their work is not a professional. To see this kind of dedication and professional focus in a grade 9 student is exceptional and underlies the importance of offering the self directed planning of projects at the high school level.


What did you learn about the development, delivery and impact of community-connected experiential learning? What worked well? What will you do differently next time? *

Offer access to a large number of interested students, you’ll lose many of them in the process, but a big group means more people still working on it at the finish (we had 3 juniors out of 40 complete their research work).

Tying it to a course so there is more support (as in the senior engineering course) made a bit difference in completion rates (100% vs 8%). Offering more support to juniors might improve that, but I’m a big believer in a sink or swim approach to technology learning, and the students not willing to get organized will expect you to end up doing it for them, which isn’t the point of the grant, nor the point of why I teach technology. Having said that, I think I’ll still offer a bit more in the way of initial organizational support to juniors if we do this again because many of them can’t see the point of doing anything unless there is a mark tied to it (and sometimes not even then).  That would be a good habit to break if we’re in the business of producing life long learners.

How can the Ministry of Education continue to support your efforts to provide community-connected experiential learning opportunities that promote student engagement, improve achievement, and foster well-being and life-long learning? *

Emerging technology is a sign of our times. The nature of digitization means everyone currently in education needs to be conversant in it – just like literacy or numeracy. Digital Fluency in Ontario education is at best an afterthought. The MoE should be looking to support digital fluency in both its staff and its students. We make grade 9 Geography and Art mandatory but there is no mandatory digital technology course, yet every student is expected to know how to use it both in their learning and in any future career they might have. Thinking that students magically know technology because they were born into it is ludicrous. Do you know how to replace a clutch in a car because cars were prevalent when you were a child? Or even just change a tire? Basic digital fluency is an expected foundational skill in 2017, but we don’t treat it like one. If the Ministry wants to help at all, start there.

Digital technology is connecting us both locally and virtually in ways unprecedented in history. Teaching all of our students how to do the digital equivalent of learning to drive, change a tire or look after the oil means they keep themselves on the road and get to experience and exploit that connectivity.   You want community connected experiential learning opportunities?  Digital technology is the grease the makes that wheel turn.

I teach students from grade 9s with little experience or interest in computers to grade 12s who are going to make it their life’s work, and every single one of them across that massive spectrum of skill and experience would benefit from a province wide focus on digital skills; it would make everything work more smoothly in a changing world and prepare our graduates for whatever job they may eventually inhabit.

Experiential learning is amplified with technology (VR is an excellent example of just how

powerful that can be – try standing in a ruined Auschwitz on a misty morning alone in VR and see if it isn’t). Student engagement is spiked by technology (assuming they are capable of using those tools effectively), achievement is improved as technology skills open the door to opportunities like elearning and other non-geographically limited learning. Student well being is improved with the ability to communicate with like minded people and seek out help when it’s needed, and lifelong learning is encouraged and enabled when you can make effective use of technology and then apply it non-habitually and functionally in your learning. The future’s so bright, but only if we’re ready for it, and we get ready for it by developing our hard skills in a focused, curriculum driven structure.  We all become more literate if we’re all more literate.

Research work like we did in this project seems far fetched and theoretical, but it’s what is coming next, and allowing us to explore this emerging technology and see what it can do for experiential learning allows us early adopters to improve our advanced skills while laying the groundwork for wider adoption down the road. This is differentiated instruction that helps us all, and for that I thank you for the chance to do it.


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The Desperate American Cruiser

I’ve been reading Inside Motorcycles, Canada’s Source for Motorcycle News.  Their February/March 2015 issue has an article that underlines the desperation of the American cruiser.

In it they describe the Victory Gunner as over-priced, unable to corner and smooth.  They then go on to say, “…the Gunner is a bruiser, built to lurk about town striking fear into all those fancy Euro and Japanese machines.

If ‘fancy’ is code for motorcycles that can go around corners and out handle this ‘bruiser’ in every way, then I’ll go with fancy.  My tiny Ninja 650r with only 37% of the Gunner’s displacement, and not even a full on sport bike will trash this ‘bruiser’ in any straight line competition, and it corners nicely too.  It costs less on gas, less on insurance and looks fantastic.  I’ll bet it’ll have less maintenance headaches too.  So far, ‘fancy’ is looking pretty sensible.  

I’m not sure what the Victory Gunner is bruising (other than its rider’s tailbone), but Inside Motorcycles has managed to clearly highlight the desperate, reaching nature of the American Cruiser in one short piece.  This ‘bruiser’ is a pretty boy who is designed to make its rider feel like a dude, but not ride like one.

I welcome this ‘brusier’ appearing out of the shadows and attempting to strike fear into my ‘fancy’ (and significantly cheaper) Japanese bike.  I will be sure to reserve a little pity for the mediocre guy on the ‘cool’ bike who desperately hopes it’s working for him.

Game Mastery

I misspent an awful lot of my youth Dungeon Mastering. We often spent whole days, ten-twelve hour stretches in a row, playing Dungeons and Dragons in various basements. During the summer it wasn’t uncommon for us to do whole weeks of days (or nights) like that.

If you’ve never played the game before, it’s basically a combination of story telling, creative writing, map making, art and random dice rolls. You create a character with a set of statistics and you go out and adventure with them. As you gain experience, you get to improve your statistics and get better chances to survive battles and face greater challenges. The characters develop based on their experiences (and their luck). Over time people get mighty attached to them. The players control themselves, the DM is the story teller, the one who controls the world in which they find themselves. When it’s done well, it feels a lot like you’re all creating a fantastic narrative together, and none of you knows how it’s going to end.

I ended up falling into the role of the DM because I could story tell well, and I learned to roll with the dice, I didn’t try to force the story when a lucky dice roll would change my expectations. Early on I’d over-script adventures and then have trouble when the dice allowed characters to do things I didn’t expect (or shouldn’t have had a statistical chance of happening). It took a bit of practice (and developing confidence) to trust that the story would unfold before us.

In one case I planned to kill off all the characters in the first five minutes, and then have them adventure in the after-life trying to get their lives back. As I mentioned, people get mighty attached to their characters. Dying freaked them out, they fought and fought. Finally, a tiny little hobbit-thief was the last one standing, facing the Grim Reaper himself. I had to give him a chance, otherwise the dice (and game) are pointless, so I said he had to roll a natural 20 (a 20 on a 20 sided dice) to successfully attack death. He actually did it. Right then I had to throw away my plan and go in a new direction. It wasn’t as nuanced as what I had prepared, but it mattered more to the players because they were authoring it, rather than having it read to them. Giving players no authorship in the game made it empty, pointless. That game became infamous, as did the Halfling who foot swept Death.

After a while, DMing all came down to world building (those are two of dozens) for me. I didn’t worry so much about what they would be facing on a situation by situation basis, as long as I knew where we were and when we were. The more richly we’d develop the world, its politics, religion, history, geography, the easier it was to create a rich, interactive experience around my players (this was a very collaborative thing, players would bring maps, histories, heraldry, costumes and all sorts of other surprises to games).

Our first road trip at 17 years old was an adventure in a rickety Chevette from Toronto to Milwaukee for GenCon, the gaming fair put on by the makers of Dungeons and Dragons. In the ’80s, this place was the Mecca for gaming. Tens of thousands of attendees in the largest conference centre in town. We attended lectures on ethics in gaming, integrating history and geology into world creation, and we played tournaments with thousands of others. We met the artists and authors that we loved; a professional conference for geeky seventeen year olds!

We took that richness and turned it over into our game play. Our stories evolved from dungeon crawls for loot, to archetypal quests to modern day parables about the evils people do. At its leading edge one of our games could speak to our own alienation and sense of desperation, while simultaneously giving us a means to exorcise it.

All of this made me aware of how a game works on a fundamental level. If you apply certainty and destroy choice (and chance), you kill it stone dead. If you place one participant in a position of absolute power so that they become a teller, rather than a participant, you’ve killed it again. You play a game best when you play it within its own context. Any game that breaks the forth wall falls to pieces. Game coherency requires consistency, not to a person’s will, but to the circumstances of the game. The best games are flexible enough to become richer as players add their own content (experiences, objects, ideas) to the game.

I’ve seen players cry when their character dies, but not only in sadness, also with respect. A good death is a good story, it honours the player’s efforts, the character’s beliefs and the game itself. The nice thing about a game is that sometimes Valkyries can then bring that dead hero to Valhalla, and you never know what can happen from there… good games give you a chance to maximize people’s involvement in them using the full spectrum of human emotion and intellect.

This has been percolating since I met another former DnDer (@liamodonnell) at OTF21C a few weeks ago and said, “everything I know about teaching, I learned from DMing.” It’s the truth.

I wanted to turn this into a rant on gamification in education, but in looking back on this, I realize that these ideas are very important to me. I’ve always had a great deal of trouble believing, but my years spent as an acolyte of gaming have made me just that, a believer.

I’m going to leave the other bits below, but feel free to stop reading here. I’m happy with clarifying a good idea rather than attacking a bad one.

 

Notes that didn’t make the cut:

Games aren’t ephemeral, if you want them to work, you have to nurture coherency within the game context

Not knowing what was going to happen also, ultimately, made it easier for me as a game master. I got to share in the story instead of telling it. I wasn’t a transmitter, I was part of a cast, bringing a story to life.

Any of this sound familiar from a teaching perspective?

If you deliver your teaching with cardboard certainty and inflexible perfection, your students have no authorship in that experience, it means nothing to them. If you teach as a participant, the interaction has life, and everyone involved is authoring it. It might not be as efficient or technically perfect as you’d like, but then I think perfection is entirely overrated.

The real danger is when those cardboard teachers try to use games as if they were a sugar coating you can apply to make something edible. Gamification tries to use game play as a way of getting people to do things, but that is a disaster.

Gold stars aren’t a new idea, but they sound like one if you throw fancy terms like gamification on them.

A good game needs to work within its own limits, but those limits should be deeply embedded within the game dynamics, and they should be designed to be adjustable, games should evolve meaningfully as their players do.

Naked Connie: 3d modelling customized motorcycle bodywork

I’ve re-3d-scanned the stripped down ZG1000 Kawasaki Concours in order to better work out what the rear lights will look like.  You can wheel in and out and manipulate that model below with a mouse.  The scanner did a bunch of software updates which led to a much higher resolution 3d image.


I modelled it with the stock seat on with an eye to taking the pillion seat off and building a very minimal back end.  With some careful cutting I’ll be able to use the seat dimensions to figure out how best to render the rear light assembly.  I’ve been doing 2-d drawings but they don’t deal with the 3d complexities of the real thing.  I’m hoping this solves that.

Using the 3d scanner with cardboard body panel templates gives you a pretty good idea of how it will look when it’s done.


As far as electronic parts go, I think it’s time to get the lights sorted out.  At the moment I’m looking at some integrated LED head and tail lights to minimize stalks sticking out of the bodywork.

A single brake and indicator unit from Amazon.
Integrated LED headlamp from Amazon.



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Victory Lapping Like You Mean It

I’ve always struggled with the idea of victory lapping in Ontario high schools.  As someone who returned to high school to finish his final year in his early 20s, I understand the need.  Had I not been able to do that, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now and paying the taxes that I am.  I can see the value in a victory lap, but I did it with purpose, doing a full semester of school while also working a forty hour week.  For those victory lappers I see returning with that kind of intent, I have nothing but patience.

Find Rick & Morty hard to stomach? Your students don’t…

Unfortunately, this past year I saw a number of victory lappers who didn’t apply themselves in school and then did the same again on their victory lap, at great expense to the system.  If it’s to get credits needed to graduate or get into a particularly difficult post-secondary program and the graduate is attacking the opportunity like it matters, then it’s obviously a good thing, but if it’s for familiarity’s sake, as has been the case this year, then I have to wonder why anyone would want to chuck their final year of income (which is usually your best one) down the toilet so they can hang out in high school for an extra year.


Just think about that for a sec.  You’re not giving up your first year of income when you victory lap, you’re giving up your last.  Students (and parents) often misunderstand this fact.  You’ll always start off at the lower end of the pay scale, but where you finish when you retire is what you’re cutting a year from because you’re starting late.  Victory lapping isn’t just expensive to the system, it’s astonishingly expensive to the student, but in a world of helicopter parents and childhoods designed to protect children from the results of poor decision making, we continue to produce graduates who want to stay in the safe, no deadline, guaranteed success of high school.

In addition to this costing each victory lapping student tens of thousands of dollars, it’s also costing the system millions.  Victory lapping isn’t a very efficient way of resolving graduates, but we do tens of thousands of times a year in Ontario.


The other night I was at our graduation where I saw all sorts of students graduating who are returning next year.  If they’re graduating then it means they’ve already gotten the credits they need to move on, so why stay?  Some will argue that they’re staying to raise their grades.  Was it worth tens of thousands of dollars to screw around in your grade 12 year instead of buckling down and getting it done?  Some are staying because they simply can’t think of what to do next and couldn’t be bothered to make plans because the system is waiting to look after them yet again.  Those students (and their parents) are putting an awful lot of weight on an increasingly underfunded school system by doing that, in addition to flushing that year of income down the toilet.



Year over year I’ve seen some radically different approaches to victory lapping.  In 2018 I had some very strong students victory lap and in doing so they did incredible, portfolio building things that helped them get into nearly impossible to access post-secondary programs.  When students do that with a victory lap, ie: ride it like they stole it, then I’d argue it’s a brilliant strategy.  They might have lost a lower last year of earnings, but they’ve gained a new career trajectory that annihilates that loss.  In the case of 2018, where our victory lappers were winning their way to national titles and opening up career opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have considered, you’d be hard pressed to make an argument, economic or otherwise, for not doing it.


A few years ago I noticed that our victory lappers were often hanging around the computer tech lab having completed the course curriculum.  In many cases they were heading into digital technologies in post secondary and needed a final boost in terms of experience and an opportunity to build portfolio.  A few years ago I developed the TEN4M course, specifically designed for digital technologies students looking to build portfolio for post secondary.  Up until this year it has worked a treat.  An opportunity to exercise engineering process and lead a self directed project that raises digital literacy in our school has been very beneficial.

The first year we did it Zach, who had struggled earlier on, was able to direct his new found maturity into his development as an IT technician to the point where he dominated Skills Ontario provincials with the highest technical score and a gold medal, and then a top five finish in Canada.  In the years since we’ve had students who have helped hone the TGI Game Development course into the weapon it is today, medal winning co-op students who have developed programs with our feeder schools to enhance both their technology and their teaching of it and a wide variety of other students who have developed the hands on technical experience needed to launch themselves into a career in tech.  Cal, our most recent Skills Ontario champion, used his victory lap to help form our first CyberTitan cyber security team and land us a national finalist position, then he went on to win Skills Ontario and get another top 5 national finish.  Cam, another of last year’s victory lappers, also helped launch our CyberTitan program and then went on to a top 10 finish in our first ever attempt at coding at Skills.  In both cases these experiences launched them into Waterloo’s Computer Science program, which is notoriously hard to access.


Finding the time to develop and explore technical skills that require hands-on experience and space to develop is especially challenging in an Ontario secondary curriculum that is still very much focused on academics.  For the students (and there are many) who want to work with their hands rather than at a desk, having an extra year to focus on applied skills is invaluable in a system where every subject is mandatory except those that teach hands-on technical skills.  For students who are trying to expand their digital portfolio in order to access difficult post-secondary options, it really is a necessity if the curriculum is going to remain as it is.

It looks like we’ve got a pretty good handle on how to accelerate students accessing a victory lap into post-secondary options, but this past year has been a victory lap disaster.  In semester one my only victory lapping student wasn’t interested in leading projects or improving school technology access and learning (the point of the course: using your digital expertise, help to improve the school’s digital access and usage).  From the year before when I had students blowing expectations (both mine and their own) out of the water, I went to 2019s flaccid VLappers who were just looking for a free go-around with no initiative or effort required.  In semester two they were so shaky they just ended up dropping out – after flushing a year of income down the toilet.  In cases like this, it’s hard to justify victory lapping in any way.


For the students who need to make up credits or align their high school trajectory with a difficult to access program, I have infinite patience when it comes to victory lapping, but for the directionless, there needs to be something in place (a charge for dropped/failed courses?) that stops this being a year of doing as little as they can while draining a system that is already being strangled financially.  If students are victory lapping with purpose, developing their capabilities using focus from late blooming maturity, then I am more than happy to pay the taxes that enable them to fight their way into a world that is more economically inaccessible now than it has been for any previous cohort.


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Motorcycle Photography







Some recent photos that caught my eye from the digital motorcycle magazine and book realm.

Adventure Bike Rider is pretty ace with the off the beaten path photos.  BIKE magazine does the business as well.

One of ABR’s more extreme trips: Germans riding in Oman

Riding in Borneo

 

Ducati Scrambler… vroom vroom!

How rim size matters… courtesy of  Total Control: High Performance Street Riding Techniques….
so far an accessible and in depth look at all aspects of motorcycle riding and vehicle dynamics

ABR does nice photography!

Kawasaki’s 600cc supercharged maybe

Riding the Alps

BIKE magazine at the Bol D’Or, 2015

The new Ninja

Riding in Nepal

Sabbatical Rides: Riding the Americas

Previously I’ve thought about various ways I could do a four years pay over five years and then take a sabbatical year off work and still get paid.  From circumnavigating North America to tracing my grandfather’s route through occupied France in 1940 during World War Two, there are a lot of interesting ways I could take a year off with an epic motorcycle ride included.

One of the first motorcycle travel ideas I had was to do the Pan-American trip from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska to Ushuaia in Argentina, from the top to the bottom of the Americas.  This ride is an even more extreme version of the North American circumnavigation as the mileage is mega; over 56,000kms!  At a 400km a day average that works out to 141 days or over 20 weeks making miles every day.  With a day off every week that adds another 3 weeks to the trip.  Fitting it into 24 weeks would mean some rest days and some extra time to cover the border crossings and rougher sections of the trip.

Another way to look at this might be from a Nick Sanders angle.  He did Prudhoe Bay to Ushuaia and back again in an astonishing 46 days.  That’s 23,464kms x 2, so 46,928kms in 46 days, or an astonishing 1020kms average per day, including stops for flights over the Darien Gap between Columbia and Panama two times.  That approach (I imagine) gets pretty psychedelic and I might not really get the sense that I’m anywhere doing it that way, but there are certainly ways to tighten up the schedule and move with more purpose if needed.

The actual number of days needed if I ran it over 24 weeks would be 168.  The best time to hit Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean coast of Alaska is obviously during the long days of the northern summer.  If I left home mid-July I’d be up Prudhoe way eighteen days later at 400kms/day.  If I push on tarmac I should be able to get up there by the beginning of August and then begin the long ride south.

A good tie-up in South America would be to follow a bit of the Dakar Rally – this year running in Peru from January 6th to 17th.  After that it would be down south to the tip of South America in their late summer before heading back north.

The 2019 MotoGP season lands in Texas the weekend of April 12-14, making a nice stop before the final leg home in the spring.  Two weeks before that they are in Argentina.  Trying to connect the two races overland would be an interesting challenge.  It’s just over six thousand kilometres north to Cartegena, Columbia and the boat around the Darien Gap, or just over seven thousand heading through the Amazon.  Then another forty-five hundred kilometres through Central America to Texas for the next race.  In a straight run that’d be almost eleven thousand kilometres across thirteen countries in eleven days if I managed to get to Texas for the pre-qualifying.  That’d be a Nick Sanders worthy feat. 

The PanAmerican Trip Tip to Toe and back again in sections:

North America to Prudhoe Bay:  goo.gl/maps/RWn36jct6LT2
19,571kms July-August to Prudhoe Bay, August-November to Colon:



South America South:  goo.gl/maps/nx4i6MwUqYz

11,106kms  Nov-Jan to Peru for Dakar, Jan to Mar to Ushuai


South America North:  goo.gl/maps/P5wQzEND7US2
11,057kms  Via Circuit De Rio Hondo MotoGP race in March.


North America North:  goo.gl/maps/4ZAC686McuC2
6,989kms


56,357kms.  @400kms/day average that’s 141 days continuously on the road.


Leave July, Prudhoe Bay by end of July, Dakar in January in Peru, Ushuaia in February, Circuit de Rio Hondo for the MotoGP race at the end of March then a hard 11 days north through the Amazon to Austin Texas for the next race in mid-April.  Home by the end of April.   And I’d still have May-August to write about what happened and publish.

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Concours d’Elegance

After a couple of weeks of cleanup and repair, the Concours is back together.  I’m going to take it in for a safety this week and then see about getting it on the road.  I’m waiting on some replacement master cylinder covers and some clutch lever bits.  They should be in mid-week.  I hope to have the safety done by the end of the week.
































Lean Angle and Capturing the Dynamics of Riding a Motorcycle

Since starting the 360° camera-on-a-motorcycle experiment last year I’ve tried dozens of different locations and angles.  My favourite shots to date are ones that emphasize the speed and feeling of exhilaration I get while riding.  A bike in a straight line is a lovely thing with the wind and feeling of openness all around you, but when you lean into a corner the magic is suddenly amplified.  That thrill of leaning into a corner is something most people never get to experience.


The first weekend I ever rode a bike on tarmac (at the training course at Conestoga College in Kitchener) way back in 2013 I discovered this magic while working through a beginner’s gymkhana style obstacle course.  After shooting through the cones a few times at faster and faster speeds I said to the instructor, “I could do that all day!”  He just laughed.  I wasn’t kidding, I could happily spend all day leaning a motorbike into corners.  Each time I do it the complexity of what’s going on is fascinating as hundreds of pounds of machine and me lean out into space, all suspended on two tiny tire contact patches.  It’s when I’m most likely to forget where I end and the bike begins.


Lean angle in corners is an artform that many motorcyclists (but not bikers so much) practice.  Being able to use your tire effectively means you aren’t the proud owner of chicken strips.  Underused tires tend to show a lack of experience and an unwillingness to explore lean.  There are exceptions (knobblies on off road focused tires, anything made in North America) that aren’t about lean angle on tarmac, but it is a way to analyze your cornering comfort level.

Mounting the 360° camera on the bike is one of the only ways I’ve been able to catch the feeling of this complex dynamic in an intimate way.  MotoGP makes extensive use of 360 camera technology for on-bike photography and video, but they tend to be rear mounted.  Using a front mount means you get to see the rider’s face in the shot.  It would be fascinating to watch the rider/machine interface from a 360 camera mounted out front of the bike while various riders do their thing on track.


I’ve got good road tires (Michelin Pilots) and a tall adventure bike, so it’s not exactly ideal for exploring lean, though I think I do OK considering the weight and shape of the bike – the Tiger is surprisingly frisky in the corners.  But I’d love to get my hands on a sports bike and see just how more dynamic and exciting the on-bike 360° photography could be on a machine built solely for tarmac.


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