Monday, March 25, 2013

Perspective Taking

My wife challenged me this past weekend to explain to her what I was thinking about when it comes to perspective taking in this project and how I thought this project would help our son and the other kids involved.  It's an excellent question and one I've been thinking a good deal about since the project's inception.  I thought it would be good to note a few of my thoughts here in case others have something to share or can help refine our focus.

A Definition
First and formost I think a definition is warranted so we're clear about what we're actually talking about.  I believe perspective taking refers to our ability to relate to others. It is our ability to perceive someone else’s thoughts, feelings, and motivations. In other words it refers to our ability to empathize with someone else and see things from their perspective.

See Yourself Through Another's Eyes
An initial step into this vague area of perceiving other's thoughts is the simple act of seeing yourself through another's eyes.  In this project, however, the other person's eyes are literally your own as you you look at yourself from above in the hexarotor.  It's a bit like one of M.C. Escher's paintings of the hand drawing itself or the infinite staircase. We will do so and then discuss what we thought about seeing ourselves.  What looked different?  What did we learn about ourselves?

See What You Know Differently
Another step will be to look at things we know to exist but to see them different.  By flying, we'll be able to look down at the playground, the creek, the school or ourselves and see what these things look like from the air.  The act of seeing what's on the roof of the building or the top of the tree will help illustrate that just because we can't see something doesn't mean it doesn't exist. 

Prior to flying, we will work with the kids to predict what we may see and what each of us will notice.  When we're done, we'll revisit our predictions.

Video Rewind 
Not only will we experience flying in real time but we will have opportunities to replay the video that's captured by the hexarotor.  We will discuss what each of us sees, what jumps out at us, and what we liked about it.  We'll use the video to stpo time and

Becoming a Bird
We'll use birds as our first proxy for taking another's perspective becuaes we will be them.  We will be acting like them.  We'll ask questions like "What do you think that bird thinks/feels when it sees you on the ground as it flies by?  What did you feel when you flew by?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Flight Simulator - A Quick Intro

Here's a series of quick videos explaining the flight simulator software we have purchased for the project.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Drones - Social uses of what are often thought of as killing machines

The Obama administration has greatly expanded the use of drone technology in warfare.  Those drones are completely autonomous machines with incredible ranges, flight capabilities and technology.  The media has also positioned drones as killing machines - focusing on the military applications.  I certainly have thoughts on the issue (privacy, security, etc.) but I'm not going to debate the political or military strategy issues of drones here on this blog as that's not our focus here. 

That being said, I can't help but think about how many technologies that we use today were developed initially through the military.  GPS and the Internet come to mind first off... Again, I'm not condoning that but rather simply stating that it's a reality - and that it has been so for a long time.  Also, the radio control hobby market has been around for a long time and is now really taking off as the technology develops further. 

This project is intended to leverage the peaceful and social applications of all this technology.  We want to showcase the positive impacts this technology can have so people don't just worry about helicopters taking pictures of them in their backyards, spying on them, etc.

Recently, I was driving to work and cruising the radio stations and came across a talk show on our public radio station.  They were discussing a memo that had come out from the government about the possibilities of using drones on American soil to go after citizens who are assisting Al-Qaeda here in the US.  Again, there are strong arguments on both sides of the issue and I don't care to address them here.  I simply wanted to call in and promote other applications of the technology so people can keep perspective.

Take a listen.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Beginning

Below is the entry I submitted to KickStarter in mid-February 2012 to get this project launched.  I've been so impressed by the generous contributions of pledgers that are supporting this project.  We have another 9 days before the campaign wraps up on KickStarter. Then the real work begins!

Like Icarus who longed to take flight and see the world from above, we want to give a small group of kids on the autism spectrum a chance to fly and experience their world in a new way and then to pass that experience on to the world through a short film.

People with autism struggle with perspective taking, empathy and change. They often see the world as black & white, desiring predictability and struggle with understanding other people's point of view. They also experience the world in very concrete terms. We want to convey this issue of perspective taking in a pragmatic, physical manner that makes sense to them. We want them to see their world from the air. We want to take autism to the sky.

Different perpsectives!
Epiphanies come from looking at a situation in a new way, taking a new perspective or finding a new insight. The pursuit of creative activities often leads to epiphanies. Sometimes, it feeds them. This project is a search for a fresh perspective through the act of flight. We want to give these kids (and all who see the film) a new insight into the human condition through a creative and technical endeavor - creating a short film comprised of footage of this group of kids building, practicing, planning and flying a hexarotor helicopter (6 props) as well as the footage they capture from the air.

The team will be comprised of a small group of kids on the autism spectrum - likely 3-4, myself and possibly another adult or two. With adult guidance, the group of kids will build a hexarotor helicopter from a kit that includes GPS, high definition video, and flight planning software. After building the hexarotor helicopter and learning to fly it, they will plan a mission, fly it, and then produce a video both of their time building the helicopter and learning to fly as well as the flight itself. The video will be provided to their school district to put on their web site demonstrating the team's skills.

Flying With Adult Help!
Flying With Adult Help!

How will the money be used?
We will use the money to purchase the following things:
  • Hexarotor helicopter kit
  • GPS
  • Camera and mount
  • 2 transmitters (radios) - adult and child to fly together
  • On screen display (to see as if you're in the cock pit)
  • Flight planning software
  • Flight simulator
  • Batteries
  • Battery charger
  • Spare parts
  • A few snacks along the way to feed the flight team
We have thought through our budget quite a bit and have kept it as lean and mean as we can. We know times are tough and want potential backers to know that that this is a do-it-yourself kind of project with a frugal approach. That being said, we have big ideas of where this could go. Just picture this type of club existing nationwide for kids with autism!

We believe there will be ancillary benefits to the project as well. One major benefit is that this project will showcase a positive, peaceful, enlightening application of "drone" technology that is often viewed in a negative light given the military's use of it. The term drone conjures up negative images of surveillance, bombing and description. This project, however, looks to humanize and personalize the technology. To shed light on and feed the human condition.

In addition, this project will provide these kids much needed opportunities to work with others in a small team as well as exposure to geography and electronics. The project will also afford these kids an opportunity to be seen by their peers as 'the experts' and afford them an opportunity be the cool kids. Something that is rarely the case. Finally, the project will provide exposure to a technology that offers much needed employment opportunities down the road.
In the end, this project will culminate in several key things:
  • A short film of the experiences of these kids that will be shared with others
  • New insights for these kids of the world in which they live
  • Occasions to work together, share tasks and practice social skills
  • Development of basic electronic skills like soldering and wiring components
  • Chances to learn about the mechanics of flight, mission planning and the need for safety
  • Video production skills
Join us. You just might get a new perspective as well.