Wednesday, August 25, 2010

To the Future and Beyond...Team Just Ducky

Today, we aimed for the Sky and we don't think we missed, we were just off course today. We were disappointed, our robot, EPIC couldn't show you its' best three minutes of the past hour.

Our technical frustration shortly gave way to our ultimate understanding that overall Team Just Ducky has given its' finest to this competition for the past three months. The team developed skills beyond those originally anticipated. This MoonBots challenge provided the unique opportunity to further our enthusiasm into the STEM world.

We thank you many times over for all the efforts of those in front and behind the many facets of the MoonBots camera. We appreciate this wonderful joint program geared to the common goal of inspiring our next generation of rocket scientists headed toward Earth's off shore island. We were awed by the 3,023 total hit views to our Team Video Blogs that we humbly leave to our country's space heritage. To the Future and Beyond.... Thank You!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Thank You!!!!!

The Lunar Welcome Mat

Thank You From The Just Ducky Parents

The MoonBots competition has been an incredible, hands-on learning, STEM experience for our teenagers during a time we now fondly refer to as “The Summer of The MoonBots”. Lunar X Prize Foundation and LEGO Mindstorms opened a whole new world of exploration for our team.

We have listened intently to our government highlighting the “Educate to Innovate” campaign. We don’t know when this STEM initiative will reach our Midwestern farms and suburban side streets. But this program when implemented seems to focus on older students in high school and college. By this time it is too late for most students. We echo Dr. Bobby Braun’s thoughts in his August 9, 2010 open letter to college students: “Good systems engineers are not born; they are created over time”.

As 9th and 10th graders, our children are eager to develop their engineering and research skills to the next level (FTC) if they were to win a kit. With each competition, we watched our team tackle difficult engineering problems and solve real world issues. They worked with intense determination and energy. The MoonBots challenge launched these young minds into the future galaxy of endless creativity on their way to becoming the problem solvers of tomorrow.

As parents we want a better world for our kids. We want to encourage their ability to understand our world and beyond always. Thank you to all the sponsors and efforts of Google Lunar X Prize MoonBots for answering our educational call with this lunar spark. We are the parents of future global thinkers, inventors and aerospace engineers. MoonBots opened an important door for our teens. We will responsibly keep the door open, the welcome mat out and the Just Ducky cupcakes baking in our Midwest ovens J

Final Blog from Team Just Ducky Members

It is three FULL Moons later and we once again find ourselves racing to the finishing line, this time to the ticking time clock of MoonBots Phase 2. The bright Green Corn Moon of our August sky lies more than 252,000 miles away. This is where we set out to explore in earnest. We had some failures, some success and lots of fun. We learned more than we thought we would. We aimed for the sky and tried not to miss. This glowing moon is within our grasp. We want to continue our lunar journey. Thank you to the Lunar X Prize Foundation, LEGO Mindstorm and all of the sponsors for challenging the skills of our 9th and 10th grade minds. We tried our best and look forward to our EPIC robot run this week.

Homemade Space Fuel

Ducks who like cupcakes? Yes, that is us here at Team Just Ducky taking a break with our official space food. With each delicious bite of home baked goodness we are energized to keep tackling our MoonBots challenges and obstacles as we forge ahead toward the finish line of Phase 2 .

We will remember to pack a Midwestern bakers dozen in the Lego basket for our EPIC robot as energy to survive those long and cold lunar nights and install a program to leave a crumb trail ( Lunar artifacts) leading back home (Base) as a back up plan to the mission video. Perhaps the extra sweetness, creamy butter and frosting sprinkles will become ‘ Legendary’ to our Space Heritage.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010


We decided we had given The Tree holding our Legendary rocket section hostage ample time to give this rocket section back to us after the initial refusal to give back our rocket and parachute .

With our Team Just Ducky cooperative attitude we waited patiently for the natural winds and rains to persuade The Tree to do the right thing. However bargaining to resolution needed to be stepped up as our ongoing Midwestern humidity and heat could deteriorate the rocket body beyond reuse.

Of the numerous negotiating options suggested to us we chose the appearance of our farm chainsaw in hand in the hopes of ending with a win/win solution. Out of the woods appeared fawn twins as neutral mediators and the negotiations began.

As of this writing The Tree lowered the parachute several branch levels down as it showed the red parachute smiling against the setting sun. Compromise is a sign of strength not a weakness. We are confident all will end well as we keep learning the process of bargaining to satisfaction for all involved parties.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Final Cut Express

I am involved in the production and editing of our "ducumentary". The long weeks, days and hours is exhausting. After all of the hard work we now have 30 seconds of great film. With only 4o hours left, we will complete the last 4 minutes 30 seconds of our documentary.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hot off the Presses

Wednesday, August 18

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Preparing For My Future

The Moobots Challenge has pushed our team’s current knowledge to the limits and forced us to expand our (lunar) horizon.

Recently I was given the opportunity and privilege to visit a well-known and respected engineering school, Milwaukee School of Engineering. While my dad was working, the college students offered me a tour of the campus. My tour at Milwaukee School of Engineering allowed me to see science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) put to use. I was inspired by the student’s enthusiasm and aspirations while working on their “The SuperMileage Vehicle “(SMV) competition that is sponsored by Society of Automotive Engineers. The team was working on a vehicle to get the best miles per gallon at the same time meeting all the safety requirements. Their goal is to build a fuel-efficient car to get over 1,000 miles to the gallon. They also showed me SolidWorks 3D software program that helps them design the car. Given the chance to work with STEM and industry in research/development of new technologies is thrilling and valuable.

The link below is a link to learn more about their SMV.

The MSOE college students were positive role models for me. It was obvious it is a great engineering school and they all have a bright future ahead of them. The school has tough standards yet the students were passionate to participate in their chosen engineering field. This was a great learning experience that I wouldn’t have had without the Moonbot Challenge and I certainly never would have experienced in a textbook. Thank you MSOE and Moonbots!


Monday, August 16, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Members Out of Town..

Our team is scattered around the U.S. taking a ten day vacation. When we return we will have only four days to finish our programming and our duckumentary. It is safe to say, we need a four night sleepover in order to finish strong, requiring several snacks, caffeine, and moonbot cupcakes.

Team Just Ducky is honored to be featured on GeekDad Blog

Team Just Ducky is honored to be featured on the GeekDad Blog.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pay It Forward with Moon Beams

Lessons in Life: Everything we have learned we learned from someone, whether it was an adult, a mentor, a friend, a sibling, a teacher, a TV commercial , a You Tube video, an actor in a movie , etc. etc. Team Just Ducky believes knowledge is something not to waste and we believe in paying forward what we have learned from our robotic journeys.

On Tuesday, Aug 3rd, members of Team Just Ducky were asked to help the 4th graders at St. Ambrose School in Woodbury, MN program their robot for their upcoming FLL practice. Earlier in the summer, Team Just Ducky met with the parents and kids of St. Ambrose to show them their FLL experiences and how much fun learning can be. Shortly after this presentation, the St. Ambrose team was formed and they are now hard at work figuring out the many circles of robot programming. Just Ducky member, Steffan, got a huge laugh from seeing the youngsters hysterically laughing when he programmed the robot to do just that, twirl about in seemingly endless circles.

Team members have been following our belief in always sharing our knowledge we have gained throughout our FLL experiences. With each of the presentations we have done and will continue to do we always keep in mind to encourage all young minds to think out of their usual box and have fun learning the many lessons provided in these FLL and MoonBots challenges. It has been requested that we set up our challenge mat once again to example to the fairgoers of the upcoming MN State Fair in St.Paul, MN just how much fun our robotic learning can be. We look forward to paying if forward with moonbeams.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


-Single Motor Multi-Action Arm
- 4WD missing basket

Thanks to Karen Pavlicin, who has given us full permission to use any of her songs for our blogs and documentary!!!!!

Click here for Karen's website---> Link to Website

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Jim Flis comments on Rocket Negotiation Strategy

Jim Flis* of rocket company, FlisKits , Inc. sends Lars his email response to our Legendary Epic Rocket launch video blog.

“ I looked at your Just Ducky team page and video. Very cool J Man, what I could have done if I had access to this kind of technology and programs when I was a kid! It’s wonderful to see you getting so involved and working so hard. I loved the suspense aspect of the slow-motion footage with the voice over commentary like a real NASA launch followed by the humor of the tree negotiation. HINT: Go back and negotiate while holding a chainsaw. Trees tend to be much more agreeable in such situations..LOL

Keep up the great work and special congrats !

Warm regards,


* Jim Flis started his rocket company FlisKits, Inc. in 2002 after working 25 years as Principle Engineer at Digital Equipment Corp. He was following his dream that started when he built his first Estes Sky Hook rocket in 1963. In 1980 he started the rocket club, The Goddard Society, and founded the New England Model Rocketry Convention in 1985. Besides keeping up his growing rocket business, he teaches 4 days a week with his local New Hampshire Boys and Girls Club after school programs offering dozens of classes making learning fun! Learn more at .

Epic Problems Solved

For the past few weeks we’ve been working everyday for lengthy hours. We have run into a few snags, starting with programming and the new advanced sensors we ordered. First we started with the gyro sensor. We contacted a local programmer and asked for some help. With his help we understood the basic math needed to program the sensor; however, we decided not to use the gyro sensor because the offset was proving to be more difficult than we anticipated. So we replaced the gyro with the compass sensor. We were able to write a program that allowed us to point our robot accurately, anywhere we choose. We have made many prototypes for the robot arm. We encountered problems while trying to pick up the rings with several of our arm prototypes. We could solve the problem when the rings were facing one known direction; however, when changing the orientation of the ring it added more of a challenge. While experiencing frustration we integrated humor to reduce our stress level.

Click here for Link---> Youtube Video

We have finally finalized an arm, solved a difficult engineering task that can pick up the rings regardless of the orientation. This is a big milestone for us and deserves a celebration. We have now successfully gathered the first two water/ice rings from the crater and working hard to gather all the rings.

Nantucket Sound Wins Eau Claire County Fair

Lars enters the FlisKit rocket he made for the Eau Claire, WI County 4-H Fair. It is the a lighthouse titled

“Nantucket Sound” which is a 2009 NARCON Commerative Kit in the Robert H. Goddard Historical Series. It is a whimsical lighthouse rocket reflecting the beautiful New England setting. It is 12.67” in length, and 5.02” in diameter with a fin span of 7.85” and weight of 4.12 oz . The rockets uses a parachute recovery system. Lars has painted it per the design specifications rather than using the paper shroud skins. A C11-3 to an E9-4 engine is recommended for launch although Lars will keep this in his personal not-for launch rocket collection.

On Wednesday , July 28th, 2010 ,the aerospace 4-H judges awarded Lars’ rocket a Blue Ribbon and the special distinction of selecting his “Nantucket Sound” lighthouse rocket to advance onto the WI State Fair competition 8-2-2010.

Jim Flis of FlisKits, Inc sent Lars this email message “ Congratulations on your blue ribbon! That is fantastic! I am STUNNED with how well that came out and knowing that you PAINTED the spiral pattern on the body shroud is simply amazing. You did an incredible job and should be VERY proud of yourselfJ Best of luck and success in your endevours! “

“History in Our Hands"

Click here for video link---> Youtube Video

At our post rocket launch cupcake meeting, Team Just Ducky spent some down time reading what we now realize as awesome archives of the NASA space program.

Last February, Lars’ uncle, Tom Kewan, had dropped off a 12” x 12” old box filled with memories of his youthful interest in rockets and anything related to space and the NASA space program. Lars immediately started thoughts of using these as a 4-H project on a history of rockets , space and robots to be entered in the July Eau Claire County Fair . Little did Tom know his memories became a history lesson 45 years later for Team Just Ducky as they progress through their educational quest of space travel to the moon and all things lunar in this Phase 2 of the Google Lunar X Prize Foundation Moonbots challenge.

Bit by bit, the members of Team Just Ducky carefully unfolded newspaper clippings dating from 1965 to 1972 chronicling the USA and world race to the Moon, beginning with news of the first manned space mission, Gemini 3 to Apollo 17, the last mission to land men on the Moon. We all took turns reading these headlines from the Eau Claire , WI Daily Telegram and Milwaukee Journal piecing the clippings on the living room floor to form a time line of man’s attempt to land on and explore our Earth’s one and only Moon. Forty five years and a generation apart, these headlines told us the story of the pioneering spirits of these early astronauts through the trials, the failed attempts, the successful launches and landings and the grim reminder of the human cost of space exploration detailed in the tragic Apollo 1 fire killing the three astronauts on their launch pad.

We read with interest each story but were also fascinated to learn that even grown ups in the real world have technical failures maybe of different proportions than finding our Legendary payload and parachute stuck high up in a tree but problems turned into lessons. Gemini 3 fell 60 miles short of splash down target because of incorrect calculations in the wind tunnel tests, the pilot of Gemini 4 had trouble closing his hatch after taking the first space stroll because of unforeseen friction on the metal parts which were eliminated for future missions, Gemini 5 had problems with a broken heater in its power producing fuel cells. We read about weather and technical delays . We were intrigued to learn that the Apollo 15 astronauts for 6 ½ hours drove their $8 million lunar Rover 1 even though its front wheel steering did not work making due by steering with the rear wheel apparatus to explore the lunar surface of Hadley Base. We were quietly awed when reading Apollo 15 Astronaut David Scott’s words upon landing on the dusty lunar surface: “As I stand out here in the wonders of the unknown of Hadley, I sort of realize there is a fundamental truth to our nature: Man must explore, and this is exploration at its greatest.”

Forty five years later, it may be the hands of different teenagers holding these space stories, but they are the hands of holding space interest in their minds and souls. Let’s race to the moon and back to continue this history we were holding in our hands! Go Team Just Ducky, keep on learning!