Robot Building on Windmill Hill

solderingFor those of you unfamiliar with my ‘Glowjan’ alter-ego, let me explain that in amongst the other stuff I get up to, I’ve been helping to facilitate a very loose grouping of home-educated kids called Glastonbury Learning OtherWise (GLOW) for a few years now.  It’s shifted emphasis, venue and membership many times and almost disintegrated on several occasions, but always somehow it’s risen phoenix-like from its own ashes and carried on.

I won’t bore you with the details, but it’s worth noting that the greatest and most positive transformation took place when I decided to stop attempting to run it as a business, to give my time voluntarily and to let it roll in whichever direction it wished.

Back then it was (for me) a source of frustration as I did constant battle with a charitable trust for funding, while many (though certainly not all) parents pushed their kids through the door with a mumbled, “I’ll pay next week – bit short today,” and escaped gleefully for a few child-free hours.

Now it’s a vibrant community where parents wander in to meet one another and chat, bake flapjacks for our snack break and willingly help with clearing up afterwards.  The kids too are relaxed and happier, as they’ve all chosen to be there.  Me?  I’m loving it!

The weirdest thing though, is that there’s always plenty of money!  No more grants.  Families pay a tiny amount to cover the very modest cost of hiring the hall.  Somehow, though, there’s always cash to spare for anything we really need.  The robot workshop is a case in point.

I was approached by a wizard from Devon who offered, for a price, to run this weekend workshop.  At the end of two days, children and their accompanying adults would each build a robot from scratch and be able to take it home.

It sounded like something several of my GLOW kids would love.  It sounded prohibitively expensive.  I decided to put my energy into the first of these facts and to focus on manifesting this workshop.

I talked to parents.   I looked at the magical GLOW funds.  I found several interested families.  I negotiated with the wizard.  He dropped his price.  GLOW put in a few subsidies where they were needed and people started to sign up.

On Saturday the venue was filled with eager parents and children.getting started

And me.

And the wizard.

I was paired with ten-year-old G.  Both her parents were unwell – one of them very unwell – so I got to be her accompanying adult.

As a group we ranged from those who had apparently been born clutching a soldering iron in one hand and a bunch of transistors in the other, to people like G and me, who had never laid eyes or hands on either.

The instructions were clear, though, and thorough.  Step by step we worked through components and circuit boards, gears and switches.  We watched inspirational video clips of robots from around the world and discovered what all the jewel-coloured bits and pieces did to make our robots go.

robot half builtI actually made thiscircuit board

Steadily, our soldering skills developed and we began to make progress.

The wizard warned us that not all would work first time; that some robots would fail to use their little light sensors to follow black lines across the floor and travel obediently around the track with LEDs flashing.

G and I looked at each other.  “Ours will work fine,” we agreed.  G’s getting great at putting her energy into positive places.  She’s discovering how manifesting works.

Others were less certain.  “The whole thing will fry!” announced an expert dad, gloomily.  “The circuit boards are so small.  It’s never going to work.”

Theirs didn’t.

Ours did.  and it works

Ok, it’s not perfect.  Usually it follows the black line, but sometimes it unaccountably takes off on its own across the room, seemingly intent on exploring a far-distant table or cupboard.  When curiosity is sated, it stops and waits for G to patiently retrieve it.

We decided we’d probably imbued our robot (Mad Mouse, she’s named it) with something from our own personalities – happy to go along with the rules until something more interesting appears!

So what insights does the robot experience have for us?

There’s the beautiful energy that forms when a group is brought together by a shared passion to create something new.  Friendships are created, email addresses exchanged and huge amounts of fun are had.

And while we’re on the subject of energy, there’s the analogy between us and the robots.  We learned how the raw energy of a cluster of AA batteries is channelled around that robot body, being modified, stepped up or down, switched and swooshed and diverted about the place until the desired outcome is produced.

I can’t help but notice that this is exactly what goes on in our own bodies as we select where to direct and how to use our energy.  Some of the functions (breathing, digesting…) are unconscious, like current running around a circuit.  Others require imput from the mind – our internal computer.  We have to decide on the desired outcomes and build the program accordingly.

How great that our system is so clever and intuitive, that we only need to hold an intention, then watch the energy flow just where we wanted it to go.

Let’s follow the track sometimes – but not always…

robots working