Saturday, June 27, 2009

SkillsUSA Nationals Day 5: Awards

Friday was our last day of the conference. Our students met with the competition advisors and judges in the morning to debrief the contest. It was interesting to see what the judges had to say. They were really good about identifying good and bad trends in people's work, and laying out next steps for their careers. In the evening we attended the closing ceremonies at Kemper Arena - it was nuts! Thousands of students all bouncing around in near 100 degree temperatures and humidity. Here's a movie clip of our view from the floor of the arena.

Every competition is announced and students go on stage to receive gold, silver, and bronze medals. Many of the top 3 finishers get full-ride scholarships to excellent colleges and trade schools. It's cool to see all of the emotion from the kids who win - it's a big deal. Unfortunately, our student were not medal winners but they still did really well. As they say, you're a champion for just being at nationals. We had a great time this week, and I think the students learned a lot about their respective fields of work. Already we're talking about which competitions we should enter next year. I'm so proud of these students - they are incredibly talented, mature, and ready for a successful life after high school. Good job guys! Here's a little montage I put together this morning in my hotel room using Picasa. Apologies for the cheesy soundtrack, but it was the only audio clip I could find on my laptop.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

SkillsUSA Nationals Day 4: Competition

Today was the big competition for our district students. We had a contestant in Advertising Design, Architectural Drafting, and Computer Maintenance Technology. All three students spent 8 hours competing in their different areas along with 50 other students. Everyone did a great job, although it was hard to watch these guys suffer through all the tasks - it's intense. My co-worker and I spent the day touring the competitions, meeting with colleagues and generally fretting over our student's success.

My student, who was competing in Advertising Design had to create an energy drink juice logo and package, along with a complicated mechanical reproduced from an original ad. All of our students did a great job and I'm really proud. Tomorrow we'll debrief with the judges on each contest and attend the closing awards ceremony in the evening. Here's a pic from today's Ad Design competition.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

SkillsUSA Nationals Day 3: Setup and Testing

Today was less intense for most of our team. We had a little issue last night at 1am with a registry file and had to burn a DVD and install Windows 7 on one of the laptops. Luckily everything was up and running by the time we hit the convention center at 7:30am. We started the morning setting up our computers in the competition areas, making sure that everything was working correctly. Later I toured the main competition floor - and wow! It's pretty massive. There are 16 football fields of space in which students are competing! I'll post some pics later in the week.

I attended two classes in the afternoon. The first was a presentation on the future of graphic design and digital media by Brian Alves at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. Brian's presentation focused on key skills that the designers of the future need, as well as a model for the creative process. He's launching a new program next year based on the research of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and Adobe titled, "Defining the Designers of 2015". Digital design is becoming so fragmented and crazy, it was refreshing to see that someone had spent some time doing research and figuring out an appropriate program of study for students - lots of thought provoking ideas, and some good fodder for my graduate class with Miles Inada at SOU this summer. I'm know where I'm headed next year with my curriculum.

The second class was in regards to the Adobe Certified Associate program. Adobe tests and certifies students in Photoshop, Flash, and Dreamweaver. I'm going to get certified this year, and then become a testing center so that my students can do so as well. This will be a great way to validate their skills and knowledge with potential employers, and it may allow me to award a ton of college credit during high school. Many community colleges offer 6 credit hours or more when a student get certified.

KC is under siege! Lots of heat warnings over the last two days and night thunderstorms like I've never seen before. It rained so hard tonight we got soaked walking twenty feet from the rental car to the restaurant. The streets are rivers... flash flood warnings... why hath God smoten KC? I'm stumped, good night!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

SkillsUSA Nationals Day 2: Opening Ceremonies

Busy day, and still hawt as h-e-double-hockey-sticks. We spent the morning touring the booths at the Techspo (technical expo). Lowes dropped a sweet backpack on every attendee, pretty impressive shell out I must say. We also attended an orientation session that covered the 8 hours of competition my student will go through on Thursday of this week. The advertising design contest is highly detailed and creatively brutal. These kids really have to be on their game. Apparently, Hallmark Cards is headquartered out of Kansas City so they will be judging a lot of the competition. It was kind of a shock to see 50 students at the orientation, dead serious, focused, taking notes and asking intelligent clarifying questions. At the conference there is an insane tradition of trading state chapter pins with other attendees, which results in all kinds of hucksterism. More on that in a future post...

Later in the evening all conference attendees whooped it up at the opening ceremonies in Kemper Arena. It was a crazy soup of corporate promotion, motivational speaking, high tech multimedia, and all things SkillsUSA. The cult of the red jacket was at full throttle! I feel like we're in a vocational ed version of High School Musical. I'm kind of at a loss for words, so I'll just let you watch this clip which shows the lead-in to the first set of student speakers.

Monday, June 22, 2009

SkillsUSA Nationals Day 1: Hello from KC!

Got up at 3:30 this morning, hopped on a plane with another teacher and three students to attend this year's SkillsUSA National Leadership Conference in Kansas City, Missouri (ed: mizzurah to my peeps, as I was born in St. Louis). MY GOWD it is sweltering hot here! Temp is in the mid 90's and the humidity is like a sauna. KC, I'm sorry that I doubted your heat... my poly-blend red SkillsUSA "sport jacket" is going to kill me this week.

I'm surprised how cool the architecture is here in KC. A surprising number of buildings designed by famous architects - interesting brick facades, amazing fountains and statues. I'm impressed.

Our hotel is just outside a section of downtown called the country club plaza. Very cool high-end shopping area with many good restaurants. I ate a yummy dinner at Jack Stack Barbecue. I had a burnt end barbecue sandwich and a new evil side called cheese corn (tasted like corn cooked in velveeta). I highly recommend Jack Stack, but yer gonna need to wash up afterward to get all the sauce off yer face.

The Oregon chapter of SkillsUSA is meeting tonight for a quick orientation and then our talented students will be competing against students from around the nation this week at Kemper Arena. Students from our district will compete in Advertising Design, Architectural Drafting, and Computer Technology. I've already met some hilarious people - a student from Kentucky just rode the elevator with me, stared me down and said, "Ski-yulls or vaycayshun?". After a couple of beg your pardons I said, "Oh, we're here for SkillsUSA". She replied, "Ima stait awfisir from Kentucky... naise to meet yoo..."

More riveting news as it happens... stay tuned.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Manage Your Cell Phone with Mobiledit

I don't own an iPhone (yet), so hang in with me here Luddites. I've always had problems downloading pictures and movies from various cell phones that I've owned over the years - not to mention all the issues with managing contacts! If you've ever been frustrated with carriers lame bloatware and problematic connectivity via USB and bluetooth, then Mobiledit is a great solution. It allows you to open up all the features of your phone from Windows. You can easily back up your data, transfer files, manage and sort your contacts, and even create and load ring tones.

Their demo version, named Mobiledit Lite is available via this link... I'm not sure if it ever times out, but it allowed me to do everything I needed from just the demo.

Danny McBride's Pile of Awesomeness: Eastbound and Down

The brothers Inada hooked me up with a season 1 DVD of "Eastbound and Down" - Danny McBride's new series on HBO. This is one of the most crass shows I've ever seen but it is damn funny. This guy has been in a lot of films lately including, Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder, and Land of the Lost. He's a friend of Will Ferrell's and appears in a lot of stuff that he does with Adam McKay.

Eastbound and Down is the story of fallen baseball player Kenny Powers. The story begins after he has thrown the winning pitch in the world series and then quickly falls from grace due to a dead arm. The whole series is an experiment in low. Low hanging mullets, lowered expectations, low brow humor and language, low income, low self-esteem, yada yada... This show is the ultimate saga of a man trying to recapture his youthful talents while rejecting who he has become. It's a great show, and his motivational cassette tapes are worth it alone. Plus Will Ferrell plays a insidious BMW dealership owner who becomes sort of a nemesis for Kenny.

Disclaimer: This show is not for kids! Check out the trailer...

Dot Com Has Been Downsized

There comes a time when all fads have to be put into the back of the closet so that we can laugh at them later. Our GMC Denali (aka "the dotcom mobile", "mid-life crisis mobile", "big pimpin") went in for some major surgery last week. I was having some trouble with my O2 sensors and engine misfires. It turns out my fuel injectors needed replacing, and few other issues. While in the shop I traded out my huge rims and tires for a stock set. Dubs were cool at one time, but I started to feel like I was wearing a rhinestone "Ed Hardy" t-shirt everytime I'd drive around town... best to put these away. The car runs like a champ now! I like the new family truckster style, and I'll bet my gas mileage skyrockets. I think we should rename this the "Grocery Getter".