The Cub Report – Plotting a Summer of Science

Summer is almost here, and my wife Cassie has been looking ahead to what opportunities for fun and learning there will be for our 12 year old son. You know, the ‘Cub’ part of the Cub Report.

Her goal? Find something to keep him busy and off of Youtube all summer long.

As a side note, my mom did this too. What the heck is so wrong with spending a summer sitting on your butt watching TV or playing video games? Or reading comic books and sci fi novels. I know that’s all I wanted to do when I was a kid during summer vacation. But no, my mom wasn’t happy until I was out of the house and out of sight and earshot. Wait, I might have discovered the secret motive there….

Cassie has been looking for cool things for a 12 year old to do over the summer break. Amazingly, when trying to think of things the Cub would enjoy doing, the options are all coming up ‘science’.

Among the choices she’s looking into are the following;

1) Mad Science.

Mad Science is a very cool group. The Cub has taken part in after-school activities through them before, activities that included making and flying model rockets, building science projects with magnets or lenses or different types of soil, etc. For a summer program, the school is trying to organize a twofer, a Junior Robotics Engineer course, and an Amazing Chemistry course. Those would be week long camps, and make me wonder if they could do versions for grown ups because they sound cool.

2) Minecraft Java Mod Design.

There is this great sounding online course package that says it’s aimed at learners between the ages of 8 and 14. It’s goal? To teach young minds how to code and create their own custom Java mods for Minecraft. The description says they include the software needed for the work, and at the end of the course the student will have a working mod for Minecraft version 1.6.4 and will be able to take that mod and bring it up to date to work with the latest version, which is 1.8+ or something.

3) Project Spark (Xbox One or PC)

On a related note, as we have an Xbox One now (so the Cub can play online console games with school friends), one of the things we’ve installed is the ‘free to play’ Project Spark. it’s ostensibly a software system with community support that gives you the tools to design and build your own video games. It looks to me to be mostly for platforming style games, maybe some arcade smash em ups, and there is as you’d expect quite a lot of cash DLC available to play ready-made stuff or to get more content to use in building your own.

Alex loves building/creating and then playing his creations, as you do, and one of his biggest loves of the moment is the Steam game Besieged, where he builds siege engines and then uses them to complete missions requiring specific objectives of destruction. It’s also community supported, where you can upload your creations for others to try and can download theirs for your own fun. I think Project Spark may be another game along those lines for him, depending on the tool sets.

Whatever, I can easily foresee there will be designing, building, using and destroying in his immediate future, whether in Project Spark or Besieged.

4) Project Gundam.

Starting last year, I began to get the Cub involved in building giant robots. Gundams, of course. We’ve tried to set things up so we get two kits at a time, and we build them side by side. I have two nice worktables laid out where we can build them and admire each others’ progress as we go. His latest build was meant to be Master Gundam and Fuun Saiki which we gave him for Christmas, but midway through the build we lost one of the little pieces for the backpack. Just, I dunno, gone to carpet oblivion. I’m sure it’s warm and cozy in a nest of socks, but that stopped all building progression.

I took steps to finally correct this yesterday. I gave up trying to find the spare parts online, so I used some of my AR build fund to buy him another entire set. The build will continue! He’ll just end up having an entire second robot unicorn gundam, and really, is that such a bad thing? Can you even HAVE too many robot unicorn gundams?

5) Model Rocketry.

Picking up from where we left off before winter, we have an action packed summer of building models, shoving explosives up their butts and setting them on fire. Or, launching rockets in a refined, carefully precise and safe manner. Whichever works. We have several completed rockets already from last year and some left over engines all set and rarin’ to go. This year, I think we’re going to focus on what Alex wanted to do last time, and build an X-Ray model with the see through plastic cockpit so he can launch an actual payload into the sky. Putting an egg in a rocket and shooting it at a cloud never gets old.

If that doesn’t end up being much fun, Wisconsin is just a border away, and fireworks are legal there. It’s amazing how much trouble fun you can get into with a box of fireworks, a carton full of plastic army men, and some matches. Because as Lewis Black once said, “I don’t care about space exploration, I just liked seeing us lauching shit in the air.”

6) Ballistic trajectories and experimentation with physics. MATH!

Also known as ‘going to the range every few weeks and shooting bullets at pieces of paper’. Aside from Bill’s Gun Range in Hudson, I’ve found a few outdoor locations that allow the public to ‘go plinking’. Remember what I said about fireworks and army men? Yeah, that also applies to .22 rifles and army men. We also have been enjoying shooting games, literal games, where the target has tic tac toe on it, or battleship, or race tracks, and you compete on the same target against someone else to try and outshoot the other win the game. It’s AMAZING how this direct competition has focused all of us on pinpoint accuracy instead of being satisfied hitting somewhere near the bullseye.

Sadly, Cassie kicked my ass in tic tac toe on our last outing, legitimately. I was all proud of my leet planning skills in target acquisition, right up to the point where she says, “I don’t know why you didn’t just shoot to block me on the bottom middle.”

The answer is, “Um, because I didn’t see that. I, um, I didn’t see that move. Because apparently I’m not smart enough to play tic tac toe. Now I feel like a big fat stinky idiot.”

Of course, she could have missed.

Spoiler alert: she didn’t miss. I don’t know that she ever misses. Certainly not where winning a game and kicking my butt is concerned, anyway.

So… we’ve got some options. Cassie works hard at planning this stuff out.

Funny how many of her plans involve finding ways to engage his mind and challenge him with building stuff or making stuff… and my plans involve giving him choices to blow stuff up.

Gonna be a fun summer!

One thought on “The Cub Report – Plotting a Summer of Science

  1. Not sure if you’ve heard of it before, but if you both like rockets and explosions, you might want to check out Kerbal Space Program.
    It combines rocket science, orbital mechanics and little green people who like things that go boom.
    Might be a little too complex for a child to play on his own, but could be up his alley when plying with you.


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