Super-Awesome Sylvia's picture

My CRAZY DC Adventure

Submitted by Super-Awesome Sylvia on April 27, 2013 - 5:44pm

WHite HoUse SCience FaiR? WHaaa? This month has been crazy!! Robogames 2013, TWO Science Fairs, and an interview with Bill Nye and Levar Burton... in the same week?! HOLY MOLY!!!

Sylvia posing with her custom made white cardboard box that reads "Super-Awesome Sylvia - WATERCOLORBOT - Evil Mad Scientist"Just a few weeks ago, I got a call from the White House staff, and they invited me to go to their 3rd ever science fair! Last year, Joey Hudy got chosen to go for making awesome kits, and got to show off his big orange marshmallow cannon. This year, MAKE magazine and Cognizant nominated me to come! The most insane part was that I only got one week warning, my school 6th grade science fair was on the same day as the white house one, and we’d have to leave on the last day of Robogames!!! OH NOEsS!!

Luckily my dad helped organize and put together a fundraiser on gofundme, and we raised the full goal amount in less than a day thanks to all the awesome people who donated and helped get the word out! WOO hoo!

Sylvia posing in her bicycle blouse at her hotel, ready to leave to the White House. On the Thursday before the Science Fair, I left to San Mateo to compete in Robogames 2013 with my WaterColorBot paint pen plotter (fill wrap-up post coming later). After an exciting couple days at Robogames (and winning a silver medal!), I boarded a plane to Washington DC, with my robot and project board all wrapped up in my awesome custom made carrying box. I was SOOOO excited!!

We got to our hotel at 2am, slept ‘till 6am, got dressed all fancy, then left for the White House! (Not much sleep. :P)

Sylvia standing behind her science fair table at the White House, ready to display the WaterColorBot.When we got there, I was checked by security and led to the room where I was supposed to set up in. I didn’t have much stuff to assemble, so I had a ton of time to figure out exactly how I would do my demo, and what the heck just happened. Craziness!!

After about an hour, some people started to come by and I showed off my WaterColorBot. My demo worked with a Raspberry Pi as the computer, and connected to the iPad with a WIFI adapter that my dad help me make into an access point. After all of the other kids set up and looked around, we went outside and had some lunch and talked with lots of important people. After lunch settled down, I got interviewed by Levar Burton and Bill Nye!! Oh My Gosh!

At 12:30, the science fair officially opened to the rest of the staff and VIP’s that got invited. I talked to a BUNCH of cool people and really had some fun talking with them all about how the bot works, how I came up with the design, and how I think it'll be perfect for girls my age to get into engineering with once we make it into a kit. I also talked lots and lots about other things I liked doing, plus all about my show.

Sylvia showing Nate Ball, host of PBS Kids Design Squad, and a group of onlookers how her WaterColorBot works

I hadn't had much sleep, but even though I'd been standing and talking for hours, I was totally pumped. It's hard to describe, but getting up there and talking about something awesome that you know pretty well, that people really want to hear, and have interesting questions about, is a lot of fun, and you wouldn't think so. But it is.... and I knew I had to hold out for the POTUS!

When it was time for the president to come in, all the regular people were moved into the entry hall. He then came in, said hello and started talking to the first booth. After a few teams/groups had talked with the president, I was next! He walked up, said hello and shook my hand. We talked, and then he held up my watercolorbot painted picture of the white house logo the press, and lots of camera shutters went off. He then talked with me a bit and drew something on the iPad for the bot to draw, “GO STEM!”. At the end he shook my hand again!! I was thrilled!

Sylvia standing behind her science fair table and her WaterColorBot while President Barack Obama displays the White House logo drawn by the bot.Sylvia holding the finished painting that the president made with the iPad WaterColorBot demo.The iPad showing what President Barack Obama drew for the WaterColorBot to paint.Sylvia instructs President Barack Obama as he draws the words "GO STEM!" on the iPad for the WaterColorBot to draw.

Meeting the president was so incredible and exciting! I had a TON of fun in Washington DC and I really hope to go there again. Even though I got to meet the president, I’m still just regular old me, and I think any kid my age could get to be where I was, if they just don’t give up and keep going at their crazy ideas. Even if nothing new happens because of my trip, I’ll be sure and keep my friends at the White House forever.

TechNinja's picture

TEDx San Jose Women welcomes Sylvia on December 1st!

Submitted by TechNinja on November 28, 2012 - 1:08pm

You heard us right, our very own "Super-Awesome" Sylvia will be speaking from the heart this coming Saturday December 1st, 2012 at TEDx San Jose California!

The official image of Sylvia for TEDx San Jose CA Women

Sylvia will be talking without a script; all about the show, the importance of summer vacation, and what she thinks is most important in learning. It won't be perfect, but she'll be doing her best, it's only a webshow after all! She'll also have a few tangible surprises for the audience thanks to our awesome friends over at MAKE Magazine.

She'll also be joined by some amazing people on stage, including her friend Jack Andraka she met at TEDx Redmond back in September. At only 15 years old, he helped create an incredibly effective and cheap test for various types of cancers, which helped him win over $100,000 and the grand prize at the 2012 Intel Science Fair.

If you think you can make it, click here to sign up! For the rest of the world, the conference will be streaming live during the event, with details to come on the official Facebook page.

Also, don't forget to keep up with Sylvia live during the event for thoughts, exclusive pictures, and more on her official twitter account.

Hope to see you there!

Super-Awesome Sylvia's picture

We're at Maker Faire Kansas City 2012!

Submitted by Super-Awesome Sylvia on June 23, 2012 - 7:51pm

Hey everyone! Even though we didn't finish our Maker Faire Bay area posts yet, here we are at another one, Maker Faire Kansas City!

Last year we didn't have nearly enough time to explore, so we this year we stayed for a whole week! We went to the absolutely incredible MCC FabLab and made wooden trinket boxes on their laser cutter, then off to the HMS Beagle Science Store for the MakeKC meetup, pizza and looking at all their amazing stuff.

Then I got to teach some Science City Day Camp kids all about squishy circuits, and how to solder for the very first time!! They all did really great, learened a lot, and left with their own blinky Maker Faire robot pins they made all by themselves!

Then we met up with our maker buddy Joey Hudy and did a bunch of other stuff, eventually getting to go to the absolutely amazing Hammerspace!!! Sooo cool!

A LOT happened so far, with even more still to come! Techninja will help write it all down in a blog post soon. See you out there!

TechNinja's picture

DML wrap up, MAKE Photoshoot, and more...

Submitted by TechNinja on March 15, 2012 - 10:49pm

Another amazing adventure in sunny San Francisco March 1st-3rd for Sylvia and I, off at the fabulous Digital Media and Learning Conference 2012!

Sylvia gives two thumbs up in front of the DML 2012 Sign in the hotel lobby

Getting up at 5am, and driving over Thursday morning, Sylvia was happy to take the next two days off school to be part of an amazing gathering of teachers, superintendents, professors, entrepreneurs and educators/students of all stripes smashing together to try and make sense of how the web and maker culture is transforming how learners teach, and how teachers learn.

Left to right: Gever Tulley, Super-Awesome Sylvia

The audience for the Democratizing Learning and Innovation Panel Thursday at 10am had Sylvia up on stage with her now good friend Gever Tulley, creator of brightworks school and all around incredimaker, and other new awesome best friend, Jess Klein, big brain behind Hackasaurus. We were the very first “featured” panel, and this was our very first panel ever! I found it pretty nerve-racking, but Sylvia had plenty of confidence for both of us though, especially after the cheers she got for her demo video.

Sylvia in front of her demo at the DML 2012 Science fair Once we finished the panel, we grabbed lunch with a few new friends from Mozilla, then headed back to our room to rest for the big event that night: the DML Science Fair! At 4:30pm we headed down to the floor to setup, with a TV, my laptop and three hunks of kitchen light diffuser with buttons and copper pads glued to them messily wired up to an Ethernet enabled Arduino, we were ready!Also setup on the table apart from our Squishy Space race demo (playable here) was a screen playing Sylvia’s Squishy circuits episode, some of our favorite MakerBot printed items, and a soft circuits musical instrument made of ribbon.

Sylvia pushes a button on one of the squishy circuit control panelsSoon, hundreds of eager Press and other science fair patrons began flooding the room, with almost every one at least glancing at the odd sight of three people occasionally jumping up and down and yelling at a TV screen trying to control space ships with lumps of green conductive dough. It thoroughly amazed me how many people enjoyed the game enough to stay for more than 5 minutes (one game last about 1 minute and automatically resets). Though we don’t yet have a budget for handouts or stickers, I think people still got to walk away with something memorable.

Sylvia reacts to an exceedingly cute turtle pictureSylvia sits silhouetted in front of a circular aquarium window at the California Academy of SciencesSylvia poses on a bronze Galapagos TortoiseA preserved transparent fish On Friday, after peeking in on a few sessions, it was off to the incredible California Academy of Sciences. Our very first time, Sylvia was unstoppably ecstatic. It is truly an incredible place, full of animals, plants, specimens, the worlds largest all digital planetarium, and so much more, we stayed until they closed and still didn’t see everything. Sylvia’s absolute favorite moments: Getting to ask a scuba diver questions while he was in the water (and anything else to do with the aquarium), the planetarium show (completely awe inspiring!), and the incredible butterflies and frog specimens in the rain forest room. We hope to make it back soon with the rest of the family and possibly see the rest of what it has to offer, but chances are by then there will be even more to see! Somehow, we're actually OK with that.

Sylvia reacts as a tyranosaurus rex skeleton looms above her

After a long day immersed in science and exploration, we retreated back to the hotel to prep for one final trip: MAKE Headquarters for a cover photoshoot!

Arriving only an hour late for getting lost, we found our way to the Beautfiul shooting location in Occidental California, where after a bit of hair and makeup work (and 4 changes in wardrobe), Sylvia was hung up on a harness and fussed over by photo professionals for at least 2 hours before they finally got just the right shot. Still, lots of of fun, and One day Soon Sylvia may just be on the cover of a Magazine.

Sylvia outside on a harness sitting on a ladder being photographed

Up next for us, we’re heading off to the The Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium in San Francisco for their OpenMake event all about Tools. We might just get to meet my childhood idol Tim Hunkin! Oh the places you can go, when you get out there to make something...

TechNinja's picture

Holiday Gift Guide 2011

Submitted by TechNinja on December 14, 2011 - 11:05am

Our latest Make Holiday Gift Guide is now out! Check it out at the link and let us know how you like it. It's a bit shorter than last years, but still quite fun.

Sylvia on

Be sure and leave a comment, and remember that even if it's a bit too late to grab these in time for you favorite holiday, any time is a good time to get the maker you love a fun kit or make a custom personalized thingamawhatzit.

Also as news goes, we'll be ramping things up a bit in the new year with more blog posts, more full episodes and better organization (we hope!) so that more people can get the help and inspiration they need to "Get out there and make something!"

Be sure and leave us a comment here if you'd like to see something cool or just want to say hi, or use the submission form above. We read everything and get back to everyone eventually.

TechNinja's picture

Off to Maker Faire, part 2: Kansas City!

Submitted by TechNinja on June 22, 2011 - 11:24pm

This year, the Kauffman Foundation has graciously offered to sponsor Sylvia and I to be a big part of their Kansas City Maker Faire. We incredibly honored to be brought halfway across the country just to see and be seen by our fellow makers.

Sylvia holds a sign that says "Maker Faire Super Awesome Sylvia!"

We plan on doing multiple group sessions on things we've done before (Molding/casting, ALTAlarm), and a few new-to-us classics (Mr. backpack, No heat lava lamp). We also hope to bring kids and adults together to make some simple things they can take home and be proud of (Crazy Putty, Chicken in a cup). It's going to be great! See you there if you're coming, and if you can't make it, we'll be posting some photos to Flickr and a video to come.


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