2017: Mark

FRC Steamworks

FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is an international robotics competition aimed at high school students. The goal of the FIRST program is to allow students to explore STEM concepts through hands-on application. Each year, a new game is released. After the unveiling of the game, teams have six weeks to design, build, and program their robot. The limited time period requires  students to develop excellent teamwork and time management skills. Students work with and learn from knowledgeable mentors, who have experience in certain skill sets such as, fundraising, CAD, engineering, or programming. The registration cost alone is $5000, with a maximum robot cost of $4000. The costs to participate in FRC can easily exceed $10 000. Most teams must form community partnerships in order to obtain the necessary funds to compete. This forces teams to develop skills skills such as marketing and budgeting.

This year, I competed as part of 1010 Robotics’ FRC team, 6364. The game for this year’s competition is named FIRST Steamworks, and fashioned in a steampunk theme. Robots score points by delivering gears to each team’s respective airship (platform in the middle of the field) or by delivering balls to their boiler (structure in the corner of the field). At the end of the game, robots can “hang” by climbing a rope attached to the airship. Below is a link to the game manual.


6364’s Robot:

The robot we built for this year’s game, was able to score both balls and gears, along with the capability to hang at the end of the match. The objects in Steamworks are not located close to where they must be scored. As such, robots must drive great distances, but they must also be able to be driven precisely to score gears or hang. To solve this problem, my team decided to install a two speed transmission. Our robot’s transmission has a high speed that is approximately 20 ft/s (20 km/h) while its low speed is 9 ft/s (10 km/h). The gears are shifted using two pneumatic pistons and can be shifted while the robot is in motion.

To hang, we designed a steel roller that is wrapped in velcro. We were forced to use steel instead of a lighter material such as aluminum, because the weight of the robot (upwards of 50 lbs) would have caused too much shear stress causing an aluminum roller to bend. The velcro sticks to the rope allowing the roller to “grab” the rope and initiate the first wraps of the rope around the roller.

Balls are collected using a roller made out of surgical tubing, and contained in a wooden structure we call the hopper. To score the balls, the roller is reversed and the balls are shot out, and into the goal.

Using a passive design, the gears can be dropped onto the robot and delivered to their “peg”.

The Electronics/Control/Pneumatic Systems:


Almost Compete Robot:


By participating in FIRST, I have continued to develop skills such as teamwork and collaboration, that I have learned in VEX robotics. I have also learned how to work with new systems, such as pneumatics and an electronic control system that is less restricted.
Following my team’s competition in Calgary I will update this post with more photos.

The Great Divide

In our world of prosperity and opportunity, its hard to imagine those who have very little, when so many people are extremely affluent. However, the void between the haves and the have-nots is forever increasing. Using A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, this writer will provide examples of how historically there was a divide between the lower and upper classes, and how in our modern world there is still a great divide.

A Tale of Two Cities exemplifies a period of history where the divide between the haves and the have-nots was most apparent. Dickens, opens his tale with the words; “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” (Chapter One) . This statement sets the tone for the rest of the novel. For the haves, it was the best of times. They were free from most of the issues that plagued the have-nots. In contrast, the poor, or the have-nots are experiencing the worst of times. The novel depicts a city of Paris, where the supply of food is short and the price of basic commodities is rising. This the haves can escape. They have the resources to buy food and basic commodities, even when the prices are high. However, no one can circumvent the political oppression being instituted by the reigning monarchy. Opponents of the monarchy were put to death as illustrated by these lines from the novel; “Along the Paris streets, the death carts rumble, hollow and harsh.” (Chapter 15). Perhaps the best example of the divide between the haves and the have-nots, is the inability for the have-nots to conquer and overcome the divide. A person born into a family of have-nots is extremely unlikely to ever become one of those exclusive haves. The nature of the divide is extremely cyclical, and creates even more of a void.  Dickens represents this in his novel by writing the following;

“Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seeds of rapacious licence and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.” (Chapter 15).

A Tale of Two Cities demonstrates the historical significance of the divide between the haves and the have nots.

In our current world, the divide from the past is reflected, and magnified as time progresses. Compared to the society of Paris from the novel, our world has changed drastically. Gone are the monarchs, and “social classes”, and in their space a democracy was created. Many consider a democracy to be an advancement in politics, however for the have-nots it was a step backwards. The happenings of the government is now shrouded in bureaucracy, where the officials elected by the people can be influenced by greed and hidden from the public eye. This allows for the haves, the people with influence in the happenings of the country, to create a system where they are the main beneficiaries. How does this help the have-nots? In fact, this extends the void between the haves and the have-nots. There is a limited amount of wealth in the world, money has to come from a source. As the void increases the the distribution of the wealth spreads out. Those who have lots, gain more, and those who have little, are stuck. As mentioned above, the nature of the divide is cyclical. How are those who have little able to gain more? This writer believes this idea is perfectly summarized by Dickens;

“Sadly, sadly, the sun rose; it rose upon no sadder sight than the man of good abilities and good emotions, incapable of their directed exercise, incapable of his own help and his own happiness, sensible of the blight on him, and resigning himself to let it eat him away.” (Chapter 5).

Even those willing to work hard and have the capabilities to succeed, have no chance. In today’s world the pool of workers is over concentrated, there are too many people and not enough jobs. Those vying for the job must compete against other people who are on paper identical. In the current world the void between the haves and the have-not is the widest it has ever been, and shows no sign of stopping.

In the novel A Tale of Two Cities the gap between the haves and the have-nots is depicted using a period of time where the gap is very apparent. The have-nots are suffering from a food shortage, rising prices, and political oppression. When we shift to modern times the divide becomes less apparent, but its impact is greater. We know the divide is increasing, but where it stops, nobody knows.

Carbon Emissions Associated with Electric Vehicles

  1. Introduction

The introduction of Tesla’s new affordable Model 3 electric vehicle is a sign of the demand for electric vehicles (Hereinafter referred to as “EV”). During the hours following the Tesla Model 3 event, Tesla received over 200 000 deposits to reserve a Model 3, and as of April 21st, almost 400 000. Statistics from Norway show EVs made up over 15% (Dauncey, Guy. “NORWAY VS. BRITISH COLUMBIA: THE GREAT ELECTRIC VEHICLE RACE”.) of all car sales in 2015. In Norway, EV owners are eligible to save $4 428 a year (Dauncey, Guy. “NORWAY VS. BRITISH COLUMBIA: THE GREAT ELECTRIC VEHICLE RACE”.) compared to an internal combustion vehicle (Hereinafter referred to as “ICV”) owner. Common notions about EVs are that they are more cost efficient to operate and produce less carbon emissions than their conventional counterparts. Recently, it has been debated whether EVs do in fact release the same or more carbon than ICVs; however, when the entire lifecycle of an EV is taken into account, EVs produce half of the carbon emissions of an ICV.

  1. Manufacturing Stage

The manufacturing stage of an EV’s lifecycle is the only stage that produces more carbon emissions than an ICV. For both EVs and ICVs, the use phase generates the most carbon emissions, 69%, and 96% respectively (Aguirre, Kimberly, Luke Eisenhardt, Christian Lim, Brittany Nelson, Alex Norring, Peter Slowik, and Nancy Tu. “Lifecycle Analysis Comparison of a Battery Electric Vehicle and a Conventional Gasoline Vehicle.”)(Hereinafter referred to as UCLA).  An average EV produces 31 821 kg of carbon over its lifetime, using electricity generated from non-renewable sources. Lithium battery manufacturing accounts for 24% of the total carbon emissions; that amounts to 7 637 kg of carbon (UCLA) . The battery manufacturing process requires the most carbon of any of the manufacturing processes for an EV. The batteries inside EVs contain numerous metals and compounds. These metals and compounds create the three-layer structure of a Lithium-Ion battery, the anode, the cathode, and the porous separator. Graphite and conductive additives comprise the anode, while metal oxides such as LiMn2O4 (Lithium Manganese Oxide), or LiCoO2 (Lithium Cobalt Oxide) are used in the cathode alongside nickel. Metals such as lithium, nickel, and cobalt are hard to extract. At the Jiangxi rare earth mine in Jiangxi Province, China, which mines metals used in EV batteries, useable metals make up only 0.2% of the extracted material4. In contrast, an ICV generates around 7 000 kg during manufacturing (Nealer, Rachael, David Reichmuth, and Don Anair. “Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave.” Union of Concerned Scientists.).  However, after driving 3 700 miles using renewable electricity, such as the electricity generated in British Columbia, the difference of carbon produced by manufacturing the EV and battery when compared to an ICV is zero (Nealer, Rachael, David Reichmuth, and Don Anair. “Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave.” Union of Concerned Scientists.). In less than six months of driving the EV the offset is roughly a ton of carbon (Based on a ICV generating seven tons, and an EV generating eight tones) (Nealer, Rachael, David Reichmuth, and Don Anair. “Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave.” Union of Concerned Scientists.). The rest of the manufacturing process of an EV is comparable to an ICV. Both vehicles will require raw materials such as aluminum, copper, or steel. The manufacturing processes for both types of vehicles is always evolving and becoming more efficient. Batteries contained within EVs might soon use carbon nanotube technology, or new battery compositions, helping to replace rare metals such as lithium and lowering the carbon emissions. (Amarakoon, Shanika, Jay Smith, and Brian Segal. Application of Life-Cycle Assessment to Nanoscale Technology: Lithium-ion Batteries for Electric Vehicles.).

  1. Operation

Operating an EV in America will generally produce less carbon than an ICV (Nealer, Rachael, David Reichmuth, and Don Anair. “Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave.” Union of Concerned Scientists.). Unlike an ICV, the emissions while operating an EV are impacted by the source of the electricity. States that use coal and non-renewable sources to generate electricity create more carbon emissions than those that use renewable sources. In the American Midwest, an ICV would have to achieve 35 MPG or better to produce a comparable amount of carbon as an EV running on the Midwest’s high carbon emissions electricity (Nealer, Rachael, David Reichmuth, and Don Anair. “Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave.” Union of Concerned Scientists.). In contrast, in the Pacific Northwest an ICV would need to achieve 94 MPG (Nealer, Rachael, David Reichmuth, and Don Anair. “Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave.” Union of Concerned Scientists.). A new system was created for comparing EVs and ICVs because of the discrepancy between electricity sources. Conventional ICVs use the standard of MPG, or miles per gallon. This unit relates the number of miles that can be travelled per gallon of gasoline or diesel. In order to assess EV, we must use MPGghg or the MPG needed by an ICV to be equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of an EV. An EV powered by coal-generated electricity would generate 29 MPGghg and one powered using hydroelectric power would generate 5 100 MPGghg (Nealer, Rachael, David Reichmuth, and Don Anair. “Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave.” Union of Concerned Scientists.). These two figures do not include the carbon produced during manufacturing, but do include all carbon produced during the generation of gasoline and electricity. In other words, these two figures represent only the emissions generated by operating the EV compared to an ICV.

Christopher Kennedy, a University of Toronto professor, published a study in the journal, Nature Climate Change. In his study an EV must be using electricity that produces less than 600 tons of Carbon per gigawatt hour. For reference a gigawatt hour is enough electricity to power 100 average homes a year. British Columbia far exceeds this amount; its hydroelectric sources produce only 20 tons per gigawatt hour. In British Columbia 93% of the electricity is generated through renewable sources. EV powered by electricity generated with only 33% renewable sources, produces 15 283 kg of Carbon. Theoretically an EV in British Columbia powered by the 93% renewable electricity would produce 1 541 kg (Based on a total of 22 012 kg on zero percent renewables, and 15 283 kg using 33% renewables. Rate of change was applied to generate the value of 1 541 kg). In comparison an ICV generates 60 351 kg of Carbon. This number is predicted to rise, as the source of gasoline is expected to become more reliant on tar sands oil.

  1. Recycling Stage

Raw materials that were used to manufacture the EVs can be recycled. The chassis of the EVs, made primarily from aluminum, can be recycled into raw aluminum and used again. Aluminum does not become chemically altered as a process of recycling, and thus recycled aluminum can be used in place of new aluminum. The battery in EVs takes a significant amount of energy to produce and generates a lot of carbon. Rare metals used in the batteries require mining to extract and must be refined before use. These metals such as cobalt, and lithium can be retrieved from used EV batteries. Companies such as Retriev have recycled over 25 million pounds of lithium batteries (Electric & Hybrid Vehicles.” Retriev Technologies.). Retriev operates a recycling plant in Trail, British Columbia where they disassemble batteries from EVs such as the Tesla Roadster and the Nissan Leaf. The batteries are first disassembled and then processed in order to recover metals such as aluminum, cobalt, or lithium. Similar to aluminum, these metals can be processed into raw materials and can take the place of new materials.

  1. Reducing Emissions

The carbon produced by an EV can be reduced at all points of an EV’s lifecycle. The primary contributing stage, the initial manufacturing stage, has the greatest quantity of extraneous emissions. The mining process might not be able to become more streamlined; however, the tools used in the process might too become electric or at least more environmentally friendly. Battery compositions are continually evolving; the current lithium battery technology is relatively new in consumer devices (Brodd, Ralph J. “Comments on the History of Lithium-Ion Batteries.”). New methods of producing the lithium batteries, or technologies that allow the use of less lithium would reduce the carbon emissions of EVs. Technologies that allow for higher electrical density, such as solid-state batteries, (batteries without the conductive liquid electrolyte) might allow for more than double the energy capacity of standard Lithium-Ion battery cells. Other than increasing the capacity and reducing the size, creating batteries that withstand more charge cycles will be a benefit. These batteries will allow the cars to have a longer operating lifespan and further the carbon discrepancy between EVs and ICVs.

Converting electrical sources to 100% renewables would also reduce emissions. The large initial carbon emissions of implementing sources such as hydroelectric dams or solar farms would be offset by the benefits of renewable energy.  The difference between 33% renewable sources and British Columbia’s 93% renewable electricity in terms of carbon emissions was large. Although 100% renewable sources would be optimal, it would be a far greater advantage to improve the electrical sources in places that rely on sources that emit large amounts of carbon.

The recycling process of every material can always improve. Recycling material requires energy and can produce carbon. Designing processes that alleviate the energy requirements and are carbon neutral will always be the end goal of any recycler. Recycling lithium can be hard, and the yields can be low. Increasing the yields and allowing for the demand for lithium to be augmented with recycled lithium will decrease the carbon emissions of EVs.  

  1. Total Carbon Emissions

Considering the entire lifespan of an EV, the total carbon produced using non-renewable energy is, 31 821 kg (UCLA). An ICV consuming regular gasoline produces 62 866 kg of carbon (UCLA). The EV produces about half as much carbon compared to an ICV. This differential increases as the EV starts using electricity produced using renewable sources. In British Columbia, an EV using the 93% renewable electricity would generate 11 350 kg of carbon, the ICV would still produce 62 866 kg of carbon. The EV generates about six times less carbon than an ICV in British Columbia.

  1. Benefits of an EV

There are several benefits of an EV that stem from their limited carbon emissions. The reduced carbon emissions will help to limit greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change. Less carbon will never stop climate change, but a reduced amount of carbon will allow for a longer time period for our world to become carbon neutral. Climate change has been shown to increase the severity of weather, raise sea levels, and lead to droughts. All of these events impact human health. EVs will also help to improve daily human life. No air pollutants are produced from operating an EV, which will contribute to a higher air quality in urban areas and areas with large usage of ICVs. Another benefit not directly tied to carbon, is near silent operation. EVs produce much less noise pollution than a ICV. This is due to the lack of moving parts and the absence of an combustion engine.  The most enticing benefit of an EV is the cost savings when compared to an EV. In British Columbia, electricity costs eight to twelve cents per kilowatt-hour depending on your usage (“EVs in BC: A Few Facts.” BC Hydro).  An EV such as the Tesla Model S can drive 425 km per charge, and it costs approximately two cents per kilometer (Based on 10 cent power in BC). In British Columbia, you would pay 8.80$ per charge. The Province of British Columbia will also grant a subsidy of $5000 to new electric EV owners, and allow all EV owners to use the High Occupancy Vehicle lane with a single occupant.

  1. Conclusion

Throughout their lifespan EVs generate less carbon than an ICV, by a factor of six. In addition, the EVs will cost less to operate and their owners can receive financial grants and privileges, such as HOV lane access, which is not available to ICV owners. Our climate continues to evolve because of the greenhouse gasses produced by human’s daily activities such as driving. If all vehicles on our roadways were to be replaced with EVs, our carbon emissions from driving would be substantially less. The decreased emissions would decelerate the rate of climate change and lead to a more healthy environment. EVs are touted as being “environmentally friendly”, and while they might not live up to this name completely, their carbon emissions are less damaging than ICVs’. This makes EVs a viable option for travel in the near future, that is until a 100% carbon neutral alternative is found.


Aguirre, Kimberly, Luke Eisenhardt, Christian Lim, Brittany Nelson, Alex Norring, Peter Slowik, and Nancy Tu. “Lifecycle Analysis Comparison of a Battery Electric Vehicle and a Conventional Gasoline Vehicle.” N.p., June 2012. Web. 2016. <http://www.environment.ucla.edu/media/files/BatteryElectricVehicleLCA2012-rh-ptd.pdf>. (Primary Source)

Amarakoon, Shanika, Jay Smith, and Brian Segal. Application of Life-Cycle Assessment to Nanoscale Technology: Lithium-ion Batteries for Electric Vehicles. N.p.: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2013. Web. 2016. <https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/201401/documents/lithium_batteries_lca.pdf>. (Primary Source)

Barrett, Brian. “Longer-Lasting Batteries Are Almost Here (Really!).” Wired. N.p., 26 Mar. 2015. Web. 2016. <http://www.wired.com/2015/03/batteries-last-longer-arrive-really/>.

Brodd, Ralph J. “Comments on the History of Lithium-Ion Batteries.” ElectroChem. N.p., n.d. Web. 2016. <https://www.electrochem.org/dl/ma/201/pdfs/0259.pdf>.

Daniel, Claus. “Materials and Processing for Lithium-Ion Batteries.” TMS. N.p., Sept. 2008. Web. 2016. <http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/jom/0809/daniel-0809.html>.

Dauncey, Guy. “NORWAY VS. BRITISH COLUMBIA: THE GREAT ELECTRIC VEHICLE RACE.” British Columbia Sustainable Energy Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 2016. <http://www.bcsea.org/norway-vs-british-columbia-great-electric-vehicle-race>.

“Electric & Hybrid Vehicles.” Retriev Technologies. N.p., n.d. Web. 2016. <http://www.retrievtech.com/batteries/electric-and-hybrid-vehicles>.

“EVs in BC: A Few Facts.” BC Hydro. N.p., n.d. Web. 2016. <https://www.bchydro.com/content/dam/BCHydro/customer-portal/graphics/info-charts-graphs/electric-vehicles-in-bc-facts-infographic.pdf>.

Isidore, Chris. “Tesla got 200,000 orders for the Model 3 in first day.” CNN. N.p., 1 Apr. 2016. Web. 2016. <http://money.cnn.com/2016/04/01/news/companies/tesla-model-3-stock-price/>.

Nealer, Rachael, David Reichmuth, and Don Anair. “Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave.” Union of Concerned Scientists. N.p., Nov. 2015. Web. 2016. <http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2015/11/Cleaner-Cars-from-Cradle-to-Grave-full-report.pdf>. (Primary Source)

Nikiforuk, Andrew. “Is Your Electric Car Really Green?.” Alternatives Journal. N.p., June 2015. Web. 2016. <http://www.alternativesjournal.ca/energy-and-resources/your-electric-car-really-green>.

Taylor, Phil. “When an Electric Car Dies, What Will Happen to the Battery?.” Scientific American. N.p., 14 Sept. 2009. Web. 2016. <http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/lithium-ion-batteries-hybrid-electric-vehicle-recycling/>.

Taylor, RJ. “Going green? Eco-alternatives could do more harm than good – it depends where you live.” University of Toronto. N.p., 5 Mar. 2015. Web. 2016. <https://www.utoronto.ca/news/going-green-eco-alternatives-could-do-more-harm-good-it-depends-where-you-live>.

“The kilowatt-hour defined, and what it means to you.” BC Hydro. N.p., 1 June 2012. Web. 2016. <https://www.bchydro.com/news/conservation/2012/kilowatt-hour-explained.html>.

Wade, Lizzie. “Tesla’s Electric Cars Aren’t as Green as You Might Think.” Wired. N.p., 31 Mar. 2016. Web. 2016. <http://www.wired.com/2016/03/teslas-electric-cars-might-not-green-think/>.

Westervelt, Amy. “Tesla’s new batteries may be harder on the environment than you think.” The Guardian. N.p., 10 June 2015. Web. 2016. <http://www.theguardian.com/vital-signs/2015/jun/10/tesla-batteries-environment-lithium-elon-musk-powerwall>.

Trouble Shooting and the Scientific Process

My electric motorcycle has stopped turning over… I think the cause of the stoppage is the battery, I get the tools and start to fix the bike. With everything apart this would be good time to fix the throttle… Using this method of thinking nothing would ever be fixed properly. In order to properly diagnose a problem, we must logically and methodically work our way through the problem. Using prior experiences only to better our reason and logic, not to create assumptions can we successfully resolve our problems. Below will be examples of why it is important to leave our assumptions behind, and the importance to taking a methodological approach to solving problems.


The above example was a great example of what not to do, when diagnosing and fixing problems. For starters; never change two variables at once. Let’s say the bike did not start after fixing what we believed to be the problem, the battery, and fixing the throttle. If the bike were to not start, we would no idea if we had incorrectly fixed the battery, or it was now the throttle causing the bike to not start. Now let us say it did start, we would have no idea what fixed our problem, the battery could have, or the throttle. When approaching a problem, it is critical that we use a methodological mindset. We cannot just start fixing, and hope our changes work, we must create tests, tests that are objective, and not influenced by human kind’s subjective nature.


Often it is here where people create their issues, and get hung up on problems. Past experiences do play a role in our approach to a problem. When faced by the unknown we fall back to what is familiar. However we must never rely on our past experiences solely. We cannot assume, that if our problem has similar symptoms to one we faced before that it is the same problem that we faced before. We can however, use past experiences to better our tests in order to diagnose your problem. Also after diagnosing the problem, we can use past experiences to solve it. A good example is when the narrator used a beer can to fix a mechanical problem on John’s bike. He diagnosed the problem, without making assumptions, and used past experience to design a solution. An interesting term used in the medical profession is pertinent negatives. If we have a checklist of issues and their symptoms, that commonly occur on a motorcycle, the absence of certain symptoms would allow us to rule some issues not the cause of the problem. Past experiences should not be used to create assumptions, but aid in the scientific process of solving a problem, or the carefully designed solution of the said problem.


To solve problems we must follow a process called the scientific process. First we must diagnose the problem, using past experiences, and observations. With the symptoms we can consult experts, technical manuals, or create tests that rule out certain causes. If we properly analyze the test results and our observations and cross reference them, eventually we will conclude the root of our problem. Once we know the issue, we can start to fix it, remembering to only change one variable at once. Finally once we have resolved the issue, making sure to repeat the tests that failed before the tests, and observing that the symptoms are gone, can we add the symptoms and solution to our bank of past experiences.
By using past experience, a methodological process, and reason, we can solve issues or problems with ease. If we were to guess at the root of our problem, we would never have the capability to fix and problem. Some might get lucky and resolve their problem, but they are not gaining any knowledge or learning the proper method. When the lucky people reach a problem, that their luck cannot solve, they have entered a gumption trap from which it is extremely hard to leave. They lack the knowledge of the proper process for fixing a problem, and thus the problem will continue to thrive. For those who know and follow the scientific method, no problem is impossible to solve, and they will never enter a gumption trap, of which there is no escape. Just as long as they remember to only change one variable at once.

Marlow’s role in Heart of Darkness

Marlow is a mechanism for author Joseph Conrad to express his thoughts and feelings. Appearing in several of Conrad’s literary works, Marlow is used as a tool for Conrad to express himself. However, it is not until Heart of Darkness, where the uncanny similarities between author and puppet become apparent. I will begin by exploring the similarities between Conrad and Marlow, and progress to why these similarities exist.

The lives of Marlow and Conrad share many similarities. Joseph Conrad started sailing at the age of 16. Conrad continued to sail for 19 years. The most notable and important voyage of Conrad’s, to us, is his voyage up the Congo River. Conrad’s uncle had obtained him the job with a Belgian trading company, as the Captain of a river steamboat. Marlow shared a similar path. He too started sailing at a young age, and eventually captained a steamboat up what is believed to be the Congo. Marlow received the captain’s appointment because of his aunt. Both Marlow and Conrad returned from the Congo, disillusioned, and disassociated with society. The book’s plot also shares many similarities with Conrad’s life. The setting is described as a river in Africa, although never explicitly named the Congo, it is commonly believed to be so. Joseph Conrad’s father was a playwright, and likely would have exposed his son to Christopher Marlowe, from whom I believe the name Charles Marlow was borrowed. Some of these similarities could be called coincidence, bar the fact that there are too many for these simply to be coincidence. This leads me to believe that Marlow was used by Conrad to express himself through his literary works.

Many authors find their inspiration for their writing from their own lives, however the themes in Heart of Darkness suggest Conrad’s life was more than just inspiration. Conrad’s upbringing would have exposed him to many revolutionary ideas. This would have allowed Conrad to interpret events and actions through a different lens. One that is not biased by solely conservative values, such as colonialism. As a result of this lens, the book takes on a tone that condemns colonialism. I believe Conrad used Heart of Darkness, and specifically Marlow as a tool to “preach” about the harmful effects of colonialism. If Conrad were to have spoken freely about his opinion on colonialism, he likely would have faced persecution, from the public or British Empire. Shakespeare used a similar technique to avoid offending the British Monarchy, and subjects. His plays often poked fun at the British, but the setting of the plays allowed the jests to go un-noticed. Conrad may have also decided that a book might be the best medium to reach the largest quantity of people (Which it did). If he were just to tell his story to an isolated group of people, the effect would be minimal. Instead, the book allowed an extremely broad group of people to be reached. Conrad’s experiences and beliefs are expressed using Heart of Darkness.

Upon reviewing this work, it becomes apparent that Joseph Conrad expressed his feelings and personal history through the main character Marlow. Both Conrad, and Marlow share extremely similar histories, and both witness the impacts of colonialism in the Congo. These experiences makes the re-integration into society a challenge for both Conrad and Marlow. The similarities between author and character are probably not just mere coincidence, it’s but rather an example of deliberate expressionism.



The Implications of the Special Theory of Relativity

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0exg2iVCmTk&w=560&h=315]


Above is my submission for the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, created by a partnership between The Breakthrough Prize Foundation, and Khan Academy. The challenge was to develop a ten minute video that explained a challenging theory or concept in a simplified way. The theory or concept must originated from the realms of physics, life sciences or mathematics. After submitting our own videos, the applicants were required to grade other’s videos. The top 75 rated videos would progress.

Through my involvement in the contest, the thoughtful and insightful comments left on my video, and my own perception. I have learned how to better myself in order to teach others. Next year, my video will include more visuals, and a different style. Going into the contest, I knew my “lecture style” of video was not the best, in terms of engagement. However, with limited time left, after spending more than half the allotted time thinking of a topic, it was my only option. The feedback I received has confirmed my preconceived notions, and I am currently exploring other options that will improve engagement.

While it may still be a year away, and not confirmed, I can’t wait to participate next year. The contest has also inspired me to create other videos. Using the feedback I received, I hope to make them some of my best videos yet.

Contest Link

Application Questions

Importance of Programming

Programming is often seen as something that only smart people are able to do, or it can been seen as uncool or “nerdy”. However programming in itself is actually quite simple. It is simply a structured way of telling an inanimate object what to do. Like many other skills if one is willing, and determined to learn they will be able to achieve success, and master the art of programming. To all those, who believe that programming is “nerdy” or uncool, it will be the most essential skill of the 21st century.

Now you are probably asking why would the average joe need or want to learn programming? Well like I said above, if not already it will become the most essential skill of the 21st century. I hate to break it to you, but all the applications on your phone or computer were not just magically developed, but were made by people who have mastered the art of programming, and turned an idea into reality. It may seem like a very distant possibility, but developers who are striking it rich creating mobile applications, all started with no previous programming knowledge. Most started young, but some saw the promise and learned the skill at an older age. Other than the fact that programming is fun and can lead to a sense of fulfillment, it has a very massive real world application. People who are proficient in programming, are more likely to be employed in a higher paying job, or will have an advantage over other people who do not have this skill. If not for that reason, learn programming so that you can promote yourself or your business, in a more professional way. So, you are an athlete? Have you created a blog or website showing off your success in your sport to potential sponsors? Or to the academic person, have you created a website or blog that shows off your academic achievements to potential university admissions staff? Even websites created using pre-developed templates or formats will benefit with custom code created by the user. Looking for the best deal on a product? Create a script that will search pre-determined websites for that product, and find the one with the cheapest price. Let’s say you have many photos on your camera, but you are too lazy to sort them. Have a program that creates folders and moves the photos off the camera and to a computer so that they are grouped in the created folders by date. These are just some of the many uses for programming and just skim the surface of what is achievable using the skill of programming.

In conclusion, you will benefit greatly from knowing the most important skill of the 21st century. Even if you are not a computer person, you will be able to find ways to speed up your workflow, or make a tedious task automated. Or maybe you want to create a game and put in on the app store. There are many possibilities, it only takes determination, curiosity, and the willingness to learn. Jump on the bandwagon, we who know programming have an unlimited potential.

For general programming using, Python is the recommended programming language as it can be used to almost any project.

For website development, HTML and CSS is recommended.

Places to Learn:

Edx (Intro to CS) – https://www.edx.org/course/introduction-computer-science-harvardx-cs50x

Learn Python the Hard Way (Not actually hard!) – http://learnpythonthehardway.org/

Interactive Programming Activities – http://www.codecademy.com/

Introductory Programming Courses from MIT – http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/intro-programming/


Discrimination of First Nations in Canada

The writer of this essay believes, that of all the minorities in Canada, the First Nations people were treated in the most unjust manner. The extent to which they were treated unfairly is far reaching, and extremely great. This topic was approached by the writer, with some preconceived notions that First Nations people were treated unfairly, however after the writing of this essay, the writer was left with a greater understanding of how mistreated they were.  In this essay the writer will first outline, the reasons why the impact was so great, and why some people think that they were not treated that poorly, and the extent to which they were treated was not so great.

When settlers came to Canada they “claimed” and gained ownership of the land, using what at the time, was considered standard procedure, of annexation or a hostile takeover. First Nations people had never heard of this notion of “hostile takeover” before, and in-fact had their own school of thought with regards to land ownership. They believed that no one could own the land, instead we are all just caretakers and users of the land. This would have lead to some confusion among First Nations groups, how could someone just come and claim the land? If the First Nations had known of the European method the writer believes that they might have resisted the takeover by the settlers more. Instead they unfortunately willingly gave up their land, through land treaties that most of the time they could not understand, or were tricked into accepting. After being given Crown Land for First Nations to use, that was either unusable or of very little value, flashpoints between the Government and the First Nations groups often occurred. While even though the First Nations land ownership concept would have falsified their ownership of the land, the settlers had no more right to the land than the First Nations. In order to be more fair the government should have tried to work with the First Nations and develop a strategy to reimburse or compensate the First Nations, better than the government of the time did. This argument is extremely important as for both parties it was their first interaction and experience with the other, and these first interactions might have caused some prejudice among either party, resulting in later decisions or feelings involving the other party, being affected.

One of the main goals of the government was to try and integrate or assimilate First Nations people into their ideal British society. The government wished to correct the First Nations into docile, and obedient citizens. First Nation’s children were forced to attend residential schools. The school’s primary objectives was to strip their culture from them and reform them into someone who adopted the government’s primarily British ideals. The schools were much like the modern day justice system, except that the justice system aims to reform criminals into people who fit into current day culture. The residential school system, is considered by many to have the biggest and most far reaching impact of all the unjust treatment they endured. Countless “students” of these schools have stories and experiences of mental, sexual, and physical abuse, that occurred within these so called schools. Aligned with the school’s objectives, laws such as the Indian Act were enacted, in hopes of converting First Nations people into Canadian citizens. However, in order to obtain the benefits, right to vote, right to hold land, and right to sit on a jury, they must abandon their old culture. While forcing their children to attend residential school might not have been unfair, children are currently forced to attend school in some form, the schools should have taught aboriginal subjects, and been taught by First Nations educators. While the residential school system might not have sounded like a bad idea at the time, and getting more educated First Nations children is not a bad idea, the execution of the schools was flawed, and completely unfair to the students who were forced to attend. Residential schools are thought to be one of the root causes of many First Nation’s problems currently. Many First Nation’s futures were greatly affected by the schools. People who did not even attend residential schools are affected by their impact, which makes this issue extremely far reaching. The fact that this is so far reaching adds more support to the writer’s opinion that First Nations were affected to a great extent.

The only counter argument the writer could fabricate (Which should tell you how valid it is that the First Nations were affected to a great extent), is that the land was never the First Nations in the first place. However technically it was not Britain’s either. For example if someone were to kill their neighbour and claim their house and land, they would be charged with murder and sent to jail, in modern times and even during the time period when Britain claimed Canada. So would what makes it different if a country claims land by force? Would it not just be the same crime but on a greater magnitude? There is no reason that the writer could think of, that would cause them to lessen the extent of unfairness that the First Nations suffered.

The First Nations were treated extremely unjustly, and the extent to which they were treated unfairly is far reaching and extremely great. The reasons highlighted above just skim the surface of the what they experienced. They had their territorial and historical land taken from them, and were encouraged to leave all traces of their past behind and adopt foreign ideals. There is no valid explanation or excuse as to why they deserved this treatment, and our Government has even apologized for what they were subjected to. This is why the writer decided that First Nations people, were treated extremely unfairly. Just thinking of attending, or having one of your children attend a residential school, should convince you of the amount of unfair treatment they were subjected to.

Works Cited

“The Indian Act of Canada: Origins.” The Indian Act of Canada: Origins. Goldi Productions, 2007. Web. 13 May 2015. <http://firstpeoplesofcanada.com/fp_treaties/john_fp33_indianact.html>.

Jacob, G. (2015, April 29). Personal Interview.

FCC Classifies Internet as Title II Utility

Today, in a three to two vote, the FCC passed a bill, that will reclassify the internet as a title two utility. This will prevent Internet Service Providers from leveraging traffic throttling, to extort money from other companies. While, this is happening in the US, it will affect us living in Canada. Some Canadian websites, operate in the US, and if this bill were to not have passed, it might have limited website expansion, and limit the services provided by said sites. This is because, the websites owners, would have to pay internet service providers money, in order to have their services be use the “fast lane”.

ISPs had hoped, to be able to charge other companies money, in order to have their services prioritized. For example a company could pay Comcast, or any other American ISP, money to have their website load faster, compared to another company who does not pay, and only has the basic bandwidth. Some companies may not be able to pay to speed up their services, and some may choose to pay instead of expanding their company or service. This would hinder competition between companies, or potentially cause some people to lose their jobs. Another issue is when the ISPs start to throttle traffic. This means purposefully slow the internet speed, in order to control the websites traffic. ISPs were doing this to sites like Netflix, in order to control the amount of bandwidth Netflix customers were using. Doing this hurts the customer, and after realizing this Netflix payed Comcast to stop throttling their traffic.

If you wish to find out more about net neutrality, here is a quick video that explains what net neutrality is:

Also, if you wish to find out more about today’s ruling, here is an article on the hearing that happened today: http://www.theverge.com/2015/2/26/8114265/fcc-ruling-net-neutrality-victory-internet-title-ii

What do you think? Was reclassifying the internet as a title two utility good? Or should we have allowed the ISPs to create a tiered internet speed system? Leave your comments below.

Vex Robotics – Video

Here is a video, of one of my team’s robots 2V, competing in the finals, at the recent British Columbia Provincial Championships. The teams that won the provincials, qualified for worlds in Louisville Kentucky, in April, making it a very important competition. This made it necessary for us to build backups for our main robots, and have other teams use them, in order to make our chances of winning increase. The robot that was part of the winning alliance 2V, was a backup for our main robot 2Z, and is featured in the video below.

This video, is the third match in a best of three, finals, that would determine the overall winner of the competition. The match also happened to break some world records. It has the highest combined points (both team’s scores added together), 170 points, in the world at the moment. The score for this match was 101 for red, and 69 for blue.

Results from the British Columbia Provincial Championships:



For the people who have no idea of whats going on here is a little background:

The matches are played with four robots, with two on each team. The matches are two minutes long, and start with a autonomous, or pre-programmed period. The object of the game is to score as many points as possible. Each yellow “section” is worth points, as well as the cubes that are on the tower built by the yellow sections. The yellow sections must be built by the robots. The cubes on the grey towers are also worth points, however not as much as the cubes on the yellow sections. The team who scores the most points in the autonomous period, also gets a point bonus.

For more information of how the game is played

Go to this link: http://www.vexrobotics.com/wiki/Skyrise

Or watch this video:

Graphical Imaging in Maus and American Born Chinese

In order to determine the success of the graphical imaging in Maus, and American Born Chinese, we were tasked with finding the major themes in the two graphic novels. My main themes were: ‘one generation’s past experiences’, or ‘actions affect the next generation’, ‘your culture is not a burden’, and ‘losing your culture means losing who you are’. These themes, I felt, were best conveyed when depicted in a graphic format, and were chosen from this list:

  • Your culture is not a burden
  • Losing your culture means losing who you are
  • One generations past experiences or actions affect the next generation
  • Racism in today’s society and immediate history
  • Abuse of Power
  • Relationships with other people
  • Loss of identity
  • The influence people have on each other
  • Entertainment at someone elses expense
  • Exclusion from groups or society
  • Relationships with other people
  • Difficulty adjusting to new environments
  • Feeling guilty for things that are out of your control
  • Segregation of different races
  • Nothing is worth changing who you are

In the video below, I discuss why the three themes I had chosen are best represented in a graphical format. However the video is long, so here is a brief conclusion of what is said in the video. Some of the themes would not have been possible to convey in a text format, because the pictures are what show the symbols, which in turn represent the themes. Also, I had a hard time piecing together what was happening in American Born Chinese with the pictures; so without them, I would have been lost. Lastly, some of the pictures helped set the atmosphere, and without setting the atmosphere, some of the stories’ meaning would be lost.

Here is the video:

Character Sketch – Henry Dobbins

On slow days, leader of Alpha Company Leader, Lt. Jimmy Cross often practiced what he would say to the parents of his men, if they were to die. In the event one of his soldiers was killed he had his lines already thought out and rehearsed. He hoped this would make delivering the news a little easier for himself. If Henry Dobbins were to have been killed, these are the words that his parents would have received.

Dear Mr and Mrs Dobbins,

This is probably the news you least expected, and wanted to hear. However I am deeply saddened that I must inform you of your son’s death. I never expected anything like this to happen, especially with everything Henry had been through, and that his stockings would finally fail him. Those things carried him through so much, he had stepped on a mine, however with his luck the thing did not trigger, and detonate. He was always the first into a firefight, and usually the last out. I still vividly remember the day he received news that his girlfriend had left him. But guess what he did, he just pulled the stockings up higher. It seemed then that his luck increased from that day onward. However looking back that might have been his ultimate downfall, he felt a false sense of security, which contributed to his rambo-esque mentality, of first in last out. I will distance myself now from his stockings, and focus on how good a man he was. I will miss the one soldier who showed any empathy or compassion to the people of Vietnam. He exhibited an ideal set of morals. I would hate to bore you in this time of grieving, however I feel I must tell you this story. One day after capturing a village we came across a girl dancing outside her home. We had just killed the rest of her family. Another one of my men, started mimicking her. Henry, understanding what the girl was going through, stood up for the girl, and forced the other soldier to stop. Then he explained that this was the girl’s way of grieving. He was the only one to understand what the girl was going through, and her way of coping. This just shows the amount of empathy Henry had. I decided to tell you this story because I feel it expresses Henry’s most important quality his morals. While I was initially scared of him when he first lumbered his way into AC, I began to realize even though he was so big, he would not hurt a fly. I think the rest of AC were scared too, until we got to know him for the extremely decent man that he was. I will always remember the image of him sprinting into battle. Carrying his massive machine gun, his girlfriend’s stockings, and his canned peaches, which rattled around in his pack. He would set-up behind cover and begin laying down suppressive fire to enable us to move up. He always put himself in the line of fire to protect his fellow soldiers, and I believe that is a result of the stockings. It gave him an aura of invincibility, as it rested tightly upon his shoulders. We all started to believe that nothing would ever happen to him if he had his stockings. However one day we were severely pinned down, when he decided he would try and suppress the enemy in order to let us move. He stepped up and must have fired at least two hundred rounds, bullets whizzed by, just narrowly missing him.  However nothing could have saved him, gun smoking and overheating he was hit. Fortunately he had given us enough time to move, before he went down. It was his decency as a man that made himself put his life on the line for the rest of us, however it was his stockings that was the death of him. They gave the big guy a sense of security that no one should ever have. That final image of him just standing there with chaos all around him, bullets flying, he never got scared, and never got behind cover. This just reinforces the power he felt from the stockings. After seeing him there, he seemed invincible, but then his luck ran out.

He will be remembered as a man who everyone wished they could be because of his morals. He will also be remembered as the rambo of AC. Henry was not someone who should have been in the War. I wish I could have done more, however like I said above, we all thought he was invincible.

I know this will not be easy to read, but I hope hearing how he died will give you some peace of mind, that he did not die in vain.

Kind regards,

Lt. Jimmy Cross

AC stands for Alpha Company