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Garnet Hertz
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The classroom at Brea Olinda High School was a cacophony of high-pitched beeping coming from electronic toys playing “Silent Night” and other tunes.

High school students were altering the sound boxes of the toys as part of a “toy hacking” workshop, led by UC Irving research scientist Garnet Hertz.

“It’s hard to figure out how computer chips work – how to get them to work the way you want,” said Liam Gillanders. Gillanders and fellow student Michael Hannum were trying to get the sound box inside their Mozart-playing crib toy to make some other kind of noise.

The goal for the students isn’t necessarily to learn how electronics work, though that could be a byproduct of the workshop.

The idea is for the students to try something new and get creative, said their high school computer science teacher, Todd Salesky, who offers these kinds of enrichment workshops as part of the school’s Global IT Academy.

“We’re trying to appeal to a broader audience,” he said. “I’m trying to teach them to be technical.” Students in the Global IT Academy program at Brea Olinda take one elective each year in computer science.

Salesky is aiming to prepare students for college and the job market. “The idea behind the program is to have experiences beyond the classroom,” he said.

On this day, UCI researchers were conducting a study to see if their handson toy hacking workshop boosted the students’ interest in science. The researchers surveyed the students before the class and had planned to survey them after.

The toy hacking project is funded by a National Science Foundation grant. The UC Irvine researchers plan to take the workshop to other schools and train teachers how to do their own, said Amelia Guimarin, a UC Irvine graduate and anthropologist who assisted at the workshop.

Hertz assisted the students in making use of a potentiometer, which regulates the flow of electricity.

The potentiometer can make “Silent Night” sound like it’s dying.

The toy hacking workshops were originally designed for adults, Hertz said. He has four children, and after observing his daughter go through elementary and middle school, he thought he could make science more interesting for school-age kids.

He’s still got kinks to work out, such as how to make toy hacking less dangerous.

It’s possible to start a fire. “There is physical danger. The kids totally love that,” he said. “It adds to the excitement.”
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speaking at the Berkeley Institute of Design in one week (Tuesday Feb 26th, noon-1pm) - and in Eric Paulos' class the following day: "How Critical Making is Done" http://bid.berkeley.edu/
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This bears a strong resemblance to a project I built in real life 3.5 years ago: http://conceptlab.com/outrun/
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Were you not contacted about using the design? I imagine that you couldn't patent the vehicle itself as Sega owns OutRun, but I think it would be courteous to ask to use your modifications.
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Thanks!
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It's easier than trying to find a real restaurant. Good for curing orange chicken withdawl.
Public - 2 years ago
reviewed 2 years ago
I had a Toyota truck that had electrical problems and was stranded in Pasadena, and I Googled around and found Kevork. After looking at the shop's cheeky website (built by the owner's niece's ex-husband) I decided to give him a call and chat. I had phoned a number of other shops in the area, and ended up decided to get my truck towed to Kevork for work - I liked him better than the other people that I talked to. First of all, the AAA tow truck driver dumped my truck in the parking lot of the shop before I arrived - Mr. Kevork, approximately 60 years old, pushed the truck on his own into a stall. I came a few minutes later and felt bad that I wasn't there to help him - he just chuckled about how he thought it was strange that the tow driver wouldn't help. I then explained that I had swapped the battery and scanned the truck with an OBD II scanner. He said he'd need about half an hour to diagnose things, and I gave him the keys and wrote my name and number on a sheet of paper in his office. The space reminded me of my grandfather's shop - a radio playing, a few tools, a simple desk, a calendar on the wall. It seemed apparent that this guy wasn't doing his work to become rich - it seemed like he simply loved his work. I took off and phoned him back in 30 minutes. He told me it would cost between $50 to $90 to fix it. I thought I heard him wrong - it had been a long time since I had heard a mechanic quote me a two-digit amount for fixing something. I happily said "yes - go ahead" and he said that he'd have the vehicle fixed in a couple of hours. I had to get back to work, and phoned him back to see how things were going. He said the work took a lot longer than he had expected, but would charge me $90. I was completely happy. He also said that he fixed the truck without needing to replace parts - in my opinion, this is a lost art: the ability for a mechanic to actually accurately diagnose problems without just simply starting to replace components. I had to work late, and couldn't pick up the vehicle right away, so asked him if I could pick up the truck at about 8pm - he said that he'd be closed, but he'd be happy to come down to his shop, open it, and give me my truck. It was totally beyond the call of duty for him to do this. I was so amazed and pleased by the work done at Kevork that I ended up giving him more money than he requested - I was very happy to leave him a tip for his quality work. I'm positive that if I would have taken my truck to a shop like Pep Boys etc. that it would have cost 5 times to 10 times as much since they would have likely just started to replace the battery, solenoid, starter, alternator, etc. until the problem was fixed without really understanding the cause of the problem. Kevork does amazing work. He is from an old-fashioned era in the best way possible: an era of workmanship, quality, integrity and honesty. Guys like this should be respected and supported. Go there!
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Public - 4 years ago
reviewed 4 years ago