Motorcycles, tools, and garages! A little bit of everything mechanical and technical.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Where do I go from here?

So I wrote this a while ago not really to anyone specific.  More of a chance to get all my questions and ideas about a masters degree that might suit me down in one place.  While writing it kind of morphed into a letter to Mike Rowe- I've been kinda hooked on his profoundly disconnected website.  Absolutely *love* the S.W.E.A.T pledge- but more on that some other time.  

I truly am open to suggestions as to what I could do for a masters degree.  Our band teacher is working on a masters and I love the way it works-  He spends 3 weeks at a university in the summer.  They do a bunch of stuff there, and then he has all kinds of assignments to do during the school year with his class.  Ideally that is what I'd like to find- a school I could go to for a couple of weeks in the summer to get the hands on experience, and then do the "online" portion during the school year using my students as "lab rats".  :)  

I'm still looking...

I sent the letter to the address provided on the website.  Didn't really expect a response, and didn't get one so here it is for all y'all's reading enjoyment.
Dear Mike (or whoevers reading his mail today)...

I'm looking for a little advice.

I've been teaching at a middle school for almost 5 years.  Its a hoot.  I *love* my job.  I get to spend all day with a buncha kids and basically goof off in a fairly well equipped shop- we do sheet metal, welding, small engine repair, bicycle repair, leather working, and a whole slew of tech and design related things- 3D printing and CAD, robotics, flight, catapults, and gobs of other things.  

Here's my problem.  I've managed to teach myself a ton of new things over the last 5 years.  I've also realized there are several more tons of things I want to know more about.  I'd like to get a Masters degree for a couple of reasons- one, to make me a better teacher, two, to help me understand my students better, three, to learn new skills (metalworking, blacksmithing, and more tech type jobs are high on the list), and four, to increase my salary.  

I've done a cursory search and talked with a few of my old professors and some other friends I've found along the way.  I haven't really found anything yet that fits me.  See, there are a few more problems.  First and foremost, most non-education masters degrees are going to require me to quit my job (and possibly leave my family for a while) and devote all my time to the program.  For me, that's not an option.  Quitting my current job to get a better education, then hoping to find a similar job where I get to play in the shop and get all greasy, and then the same day go over to the computer lab and run projects off on the 3D printer?  Jobs like this don't come along very often.  

Wait, you might say.  Non-education masters?  Why not get a masters in an education related field?  Well, that is an option.  It would even get me 2 or 3 of my 4 reasons fulfilled, but I really, REALLY want to learn more about the science behind the vocational type stuff AND get some actual shop time to build a little skill in those areas.  

Sure, I could (and would love to) take some night classes at a local community college.  Heck, I'd even be able to get credits that way that may or, depending on who's doing the review, may NOT count as credits to help increase my salary.  Problem is, the difference between the top of the payscale with a masters and the top with a bachelors is fairly substantial, especially if you get your masters degree early on in your career.  

Is it only about the money?  Well, I have to pay for a masters degree somehow...  and lets be honest.  My family income now is just barely above what I used to make in the private sector- by myself.  My wife is also currently teaching, and between the two of us we bring home just barely more than I could make myself.  'Course, everyone will automatically wonder why I'm a teacher instead of being out in the real world, making real money.  We'll save that can of worms for a different day.

Wow.  I'm really all over the map here.  Maybe you can sense some of my confusion.  I would love to make myself a better teacher through continuing education, and plan to.  Is a masters degree the solution?  If so, do I settle for a standard education related masters degree and hope I can pick up the vocational skills on the side?  Is there another way that I'm missing that can help me help my students succeed without costing me my sanity and my family their needs?

Anyways, there's a peek into the scrambled thoughts of a crazy middle school shop teacher.  I would love to hear any ideas, even if its just pointing me in the general direction.  I'm pretty good at picking up some pieces and building something useful out of it.


aka Mr. T.

p.s.- In the process of writing this letter I've discovered a few masters degree in "Career and Technical Education" that seem promising.  I'm definitely still open to other avenues if you know of anything else that may work for me!

And an obligatory picture because too many words is boring...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dan's Chariot #12: Powder coat!

Finally had a chance to drop the frame off at the powder coaters over Christmas break.  Yesterday was Martin Luther King day and we had it off this year, so I ran in to town and picked up the frame.

Fresh from the powder coater. Big kudos to Eastern Idaho Powder Coating for doing a great job!

Went with a slightly textured finish. I think it turned out great!

Ready for final assembly. Theoretically, these are the only tools I should need to get the job done.  Got some better hardware- allen button heads mainly- so a few of the bolts will be left over.  Added a dob of blue thread locker to the bolts without nylock nuts just to be safe.

Step 1. Install basket holder.  It's kinda hard to get to the screws when the seat is installed.  Not impossible, just hard.

Step 2. Install Seat.  Used some big 'ole allen bolts.  Still need two more slightly longer ones for the front.

Step 3. Attach seat belts.  The nut on the back is a nylock, and the brackets can move freely on the bushing.  Figured some allowed movement here would keep them from coming loose from repeated tightening / loosening of the belt.

Step 4. Attach leg pan.  Nice smooth button heads.

Step 6. Wheels and fenders.  A few spacers in between.  This is one piece I wish I had done a little differently-  the fender and the wheel have to come off together as a unit.  Makes it a bit awkward, but I couldn't see an easier way to do it without adding a bunch of junk to the frame.

Step 7. Put the caster on the stroller attachment.

Step 8. Drop the handlebars in.  I'm guessing they will want different handlebars / grips.  That's the reason I used a bicycle stem like this- pretty easy to order whatever set of handlebars you want and drop 'em in there.


Just a few small things left to do. Need to put some reflective stickers here and there, have to pick up 2 longer seat bolts, and cut the excess strap off the seat belts when Dan tries it on. WOOT!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Think first...

 photo Portraits-Warren_zpsb88fcd97.jpg

I *love* this picture.  I remember finding it when I was maybe 15 in a book about airplanes.  The man had invented a helmet to help protect pilots in the event of a crash.  What better way to prove how it well it works than to run full tilt into the side of a BUILDING!?  LOVE the looks on the spectators face.

Some of my students finally found it again for me a year ago while working on their flight history research.

Made me stop and think.  Sometimes, you might have to do something stupid to prove your point.   Part of the design process, as I'm always telling my students, is EVALUATE.  You can't know if something works unless you test it.  Hopefully you can find a little safer way to do it though.

In other news, we are already halfway through the 2nd trimester.  Sheesh, time flies.  I dropped off Dan's Chariot at the powder coaters last week and they already have it ready!  Need to figure out how to go pick it up, our hours don't make for easy access.

Lots of new projects to bring in the new year.  Got "Dad's Fiero" to get on the road, planning a motorcycle sidecar build, hoping to finish a couple of my truck projects, do some (little more) serious gardening with the John Deere, and with some luck installing a CNC plasma cutter in the school shop.  Still hoping to figure out a way to do a Masters degree.  Thoughts have been percolating on that a fair bit lately- more to follow I'm sure.

Have a great 2014, y'all!