Sunday, October 30, 2011


This weekend The Hitchhikers attended the first annual South Carolina Robotics Invitational and Workshops. I was able to convince the team to go after all the fun that I had at TNT last month. I volunteered to ref the event to get more experience before next season. After the long drive down Friday night, including a stop at FU to visit Lauren, we were all up before 7 so we could arrive at the venue right around when it opened at 7:30.
After we got to Columbia High School and got all settled in I went to go check out the field and was told by the event organizers that the SC/NC head ref, Terrell, who was coming to SCRIW to head ref was at a Lego League event and wasn't going to be in until the afternoon and until then I would be filling in as head ref. Naturally I accepted and got to train the rest of the refs and scorekeepers. Overall the event went really well and I once again really enjoyed being on the field crew. Even when Terrell arrived just near the end of qualifying he was cool with letting me continue to head ref and was more than happy to help.
Getting to see how another offseason event, besides TNT, is run was interesting especially since I am trying to put together an offseason event in North Carolina. It also showed how spoiled we are at TNT, not that SCRIW was badly run because it wasn't. At SCRIW the AndyMark guys were running the field and the rest of field crew was a bit shorthanded, while at TNT Krunch basically supplies the entire field crew made up of alumni and mentors. It showed me that not only do you need enough teams but you also need volunteers and hopefully North Carolina has them.
As for team 2059, we went 2-4 was seeded 17th and 17 and was not selected for elimination. It wasn't really that disappointing to me because I was working, what I was really disappointed about was the fact that we seemed to have the same problems, with the robot and the team, which we had at North Carolina. Despite having a bunch of new students and 6 months to work on the robot we still aren't up to our potential. Hopefully we can correct these problems and get the team firing on all cylinders by January.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Atomic Bomb Dismantled

Yesterday workers in Amarillo, Texas removed the uranium from the last B53 nuclear bomb. This marks a huge moment for this country because the B53 were the largest nuclear bombs ever created by the United States. The B53 which is the size of a minivan weighed in at around 5 tons and was 600 times more powerful then the atomic bomb that killed 140,000 people in Hiroshima, Japan. The size was due to the inaccuracies of older nuclear bomb, newer bombs are smaller but they are also better aimed to reduce collateral damage.

While the nuclear bomb was one of the most deadly technological advances of all time the science behind it cannot be ignored. Before nuclear bombs were created near the end of World War II nuclear reactions were completely unknown to the world. Through the development of nuclear bombs like the B53 we have been able to harness the power of nuclear reactions for electricity which releases less pollution then standard coal-fired power plants.

The dismantling of the bomb is part of the United States larger effort to reduce and possibly eliminate all nuclear weapons throughout the world. The two countries with the largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia, built most of them during the arm race that was the Cold War. The rest of the countries that have nuclear weapons recieved the technology from one of the original two countries. The UN has been trying to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and hopefully the START treaty that the US and Russia signed will lead these countries to reduce their nuclear stockpile as well.
For a list of state with nuclear weapons click this link.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

High-Speed Rail

During the late 1800s if you wanted to travel long distances trains were the way to go. Trains helped to shape the United States and make it what it is today. With the invention of air travel, which was much faster, trains fell out of favor and mainly served to transport cargo. The combination of rising gas prices and the recent recession have seen a rebirth of travel by railroad. Amtrak has shown record ridership over the last year and is looking to expand routes.

The other type of rail travel that has been gaining steam is high-speed rail. Basically high-speed rail is just the same as normal passenger rail except that the trains travel an upward of 200 mph compared to 60-80 mph. It has caught on in Europe and Japan because of the proximity of large cities in those two areas. Trying to recreate that success in the United States the Obama administration identified 10 high-speed rail corridors ranging from the California corridor to the Empire corridor. Both my hometown of Tampa and my current city, Raleigh, were featured in potential corridors. Tampa, as part of the Florida corridor, recently had the high-speed rail cancelled because of potential cost overruns. Raleigh, as part of the Southeast corridor, is still working on the rail route from Richmond. While high speed rail is really interesting and I have always been a big train fan, I just don't see the potential reward for the cost unless there is already a route between the two planned locations.