If you can believe it - even though I have had more time this summer, it was incredibly busy as well. Summer is when I get a bunch of travel done but also lots of kit manufacturing. Usually we do the cutting and final assembly of a Frostings Box as well as doing some kit assembly.
Covid made that tons more complicated. Usually I hire my robot team past and present members to come by and watch movies, laugh and talk and put stuff in boxes. Now we couldn't be inside or close to each other. So like many businesses, I had to improvise to get things done. And honestly, it was as important to cut and pack soutache for some kit as it was to have the kids together for their own mental health.
All of our parents are scientists, doctors or engineers and so we are all on the extremely careful end of the spectrum about the virus and of course we were hit very hard in our locality with one of the super-spreader events early and while 'well under control' for the US, we look like a nightmare for Europeans and those from Australia and New Zealand where we can't go out in public without a mask. And no end in sight.
Thinking ahead to now when the Robot Team would have to either go forward with the season or forgo a year of competition, having the group work for me this summer was a good way to test the waters of being together. It took calling and talking to all the parents about their risk aversion, talking to the board of health, coming up with rules and procedures and then getting the infrastructure put together outside. Cardboard trays of work units planned out ahead, duplicate tools, tents and tables. Fans as it was SOOOO HOT. We ended up with internal tent lights, a fan that hung to give us downward ventilation, and all kinds of other things to keep us safe. But we made it work. We had pods based upon who lived with each other and for a short time our next door neighbor had strong antibodies so he was part of our pod. Every work session kids rotated in and out as we were capacity limited. Rain sucked and I have to say the weather was very unpredictable this summer (if you know how weather models are done - the pressure measurements by commercial aircrafts are inputted into the big models - so weather isn't as well predicted right now as our aircraft are so grounded!)
It was very helpful to have the kids work, although I think I may have put in almost as many hours doing the preparation work at times. But I think the best effect was that it was a HUGE mental health boost. After spending about four months without seeing each other - they were so starved to get out of their homes and with other people. The conversations were intense, wide reaching and the smiles ear-to-ear that were reported by parents when they go home were worth it all. For several of the kids - this has been the ONLY place that they have been allowed to go since March 12th. So it was an enormous pick me up. Again - I thank all of you who may note a crooked label and wonder what kind of 'operation' I am running. Well - one with heart. I know I wasn't able to go by and make a suggestion to reposition a label this year as I couldn't go within a radius of all of them and it could be hard to peer at things held up at me from more than six feet away.
We would plan out how we were going to do robots this year as the conditions aren't going to get better while we cut silk fabric. And it was awesome as the kids were so starved for human contact that they would follow any rule I could put out. Now the entire group is totally trained for starting robots tomorrow. We have now all kinds of ways worked out to work virtually and the robot field will be out on the deck for the next several months. The competitions will be virtual as well and that is going to be quite a change!
In the process we figured out how to turn the trellis of our deck area and fire pit into an outside movie theater and we have been hosting one family at a time for new releases (Mullan last night). Another total pleasure that we have so enjoyed to see a movie under the stars with someone else and a roaring fire. We can't wait to have this all over and turn it into a regular thing with the team and do outdoor movies with them all at once. We won't be able to meet all at the same time other than a half hour cross-over with home brought food in chairs in a huge circle in the drive to pass info back and forth and enjoy people. Our kids will all be virtual for school for at least two more months and so this is just so important to give them purpose and things to look forward to.
Again I thank you all for how you are tolerant of me spending time with a group of kids mentoring them and sometimes waiting for my work sessions to end so I can get that package out or answer that email. I think about all the lives saved because a large group of teens thought it was more important to stay clean and safe for each other instead of running around town without masks on.