Monday, February 27, 2012

Learn More About FIRST Robotics in Today's Word Search!

Let your mind leap into the new week before Leap Day arrives — can you believe the second month of the year is almost over already? Well, every Monday we post a little puzzle to get your gears a'turning, and we based this week's search on a recent press release about how we're Diamond Suppliers of a few local high school FIRST Robotics teams. Read up on the article [ here ] before diving into our word search. Have fun!

[ Click here to download the word search and get started! ]

Need an answer key? Let us know by emailing us at To play previous weeks' games, check out our archive of 'em on this blog. Good luck! And happy #MotionMonday!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Our Weekly List of Top 10 Twitter Posts — Week 8

We chitchat all week on Twitter, discussing things from the silly to the scientific. Whatever catches our eye, basically, and hopefully what captures your attention. Keep up with the buzz by following us @BWCnews. Happy Friday, tweeps!

Credit:  Venture Beat
1. Cyborg Anthropologist Brings People, Computers Closer Together on Venture Beat News: Ever heard of a cyborg anthropologist? Yeah, neither had we. Apparently, it's a budding field that examines the connection between humans and computers. And some people are turning this into a career. Read the article to find out how.

2. New Family of Amphibians Discovered via The Bishop-Wisecarver Daily: Scientists recently found a new family of amphibians that don't look like frogs... more like big ol' earth worms. Creepy! But also fascinating because they're part of a rare 180 species of legless amphibians. Ick. Checked it out again and, yup, that picture still makes us squirm!

3. Faulty GPS May Have Detected 'Faster-Than-Light' Neutrinos in Discover Magazine: Remember when those CERN scientists said they detected neutrinos that whizzed by faster than light itself? Well, unconfirmed rumors suggest that may have been because of a faulty GPS receiver. We'll see how this plays out. But yup, that's the latest!

Credit: Gentlemint
4. Tactical Beer Mug w/Scope Mounts on The toughest-looking beer mug around? We may very well have found it right here on the "Pinterest for men" that is It's a metal beer stein with scope mounts and AR-15-style handles — can't get much fiercer than that!

5. Reinvent Event Marketing for Higher ROI on A lot of us spend a fortune on trade shows to put our names out there and interact with potential customers. It's a pricey investment, and we only do it because it pays off. But how do you maximize your returns at trade shows? Here's a handy e-book that shares some tips about how to get the most out of the time and money spent at one of these events.

6. Driverless Cars are Sneaking up on You on CNN Money: Everyone from Wired to the network news agencies are buzzing about driver-free cars this week. More and more, it's looking like this will become a common trend in transportation. And it's less scary than it sounds, the experts say. Robots are safer drivers. But it could have a tough time gaining traction just because we value our own autonomy behind the wheel. Would you let a robot chauffeur you to work?

Credit: AOL Jobs
7. Does Undercover Boss Shelly Sun Have Bright Star Power? on AOL News: We read this business profile because the subject, Shelly, is a WPO pal of Bishop-Wisecarver President Pamela Kan (the Women Presidents' Organization, Mt. Diablo Chapter). The story details Shelly's path to success as founder of a care-giving company. Very inspiring!

8. Five Ground-Breaking Competitions for Innovative Youth on There's a lot of support out there for young people trying to get into the science, technology, engineering and math fields since there's a shortage of talent there. Part of that support comes in the form of competitions like the ones we've linked to here — contests that encourage people to submit innovative STEM-related ideas. We're so excited about this. Encourage young people in your life to check 'em out and give it a shot! Who knows what ideas they'll come up with!

9. Driving with Your ... Tongue? on Product Design & Development: We talked about robots getting behind the wheel, but now this?! Yup, it's a mechanism that allows you to steer with your tongue. Only this isn't for a car, it's for a power wheelchair. This could obviously change lives for wheelchair-bound people everywhere. The closes thing to this technology so far include a chin control, finger control, analog, touch pad and a breath-controlled type that folks call "sip 'n puff." It's not the type of motion technology we deal in, but it's cool to see other people advance the idea of "motion without limits!"

10. DNA Robots Could Kill Cancer Cells on Researchers have been talking about nanobots as a weapon against cancer for years, but recent breakthroughs have brought that vision closer than ever to reality. There's the art of DNA origami, as they call it, whereby nanobots use a similar structure to cells in your immune system to target receptors on the cell wall. That's when it delivers an antibody payload. It's a revolutionary concept, really, and worth reading about since it's likely to become more commonplace in cancer treatment and research!

Linear Guide Wheels and Track for Woodworking

When you're sawing, drilling or carving wood, chips and debris are gonna fly. That's why a self-cleaning motion system is a must. A story in this month's issue of Custom Woodworking Business magazine about the latest woodworking technologies, namely computer-programmed boring, drilling and cutting machines, prompted us to take a coffee break with our Senior Project Engineer Ariel Oriel to talk about the subject. Here's a wrap-up of our conversation:

THE CHALLENGE In an environment choked with sawdust and wood chips, jamming becomes a problem. Pair that with required speeds of up to 600 inches per minute and loads ranging roughly from 50 to 300 pounds, and you've got yourself a linear motion challenge — because of the speed and load, these machines need a motion system with quick field adjustment and durability.

APPLICATION EXAMPLES Think about all the different machines that go into manufacturing wood products — something to drill panels, solid wood or composites and another to make dowels or insert them. Manufacturers turn to CNC machines to do all those things and more.

A three-axis XYZ movement CNC router allows for a full array of cutting actions for materials like wood, plastic, composites, non-ferrous metals, aluminum, ceramics and foams. These computer-controlled routers often have drill spindles, some type of design software, a control center and different sized tables.

SOLUTION Some of our customers use six DualVee wheels on each slide plate to make it sturdy and long-lasting. The wheels allow the X and Y axes to move along the table with the Z axis motion of the cutting tool.

Oriel told us during our talk that one of the most discussed issues in woodworking machines for linear motion solutions is debris and how to deal with it. Basically, how do you keep your CNC machine from clogging up? Linear guide wheel technology is a proven solution for many woodworkers. The 90-degree design creates a velocity gradient (because the circumference of the wheel is greater at the major diameter than the minor diameter) that causes a constant sweeping action that cleans debris off the track.

"The inherent self-cleaning attribute of the [ DualVee ] guide wheel and track components make it the ideal choice for this type of environment," Oriel said. "Basically, it's just not prone to getting jammed up. The rolling elements are impervious to the wood chip debris that's just unavoidable in the industry."

The article in Custom Woodworking Business also touches on another important element: quality. Vibration is reduced when the design engineer uses high quality tools and tool holders elsewhere on the machine, extending the life of the router motor bearings and other important elements.

PRODUCT BREAKDOWN A variety sizes and types exist when it comes to linear motion components, so it's important to talk specifications with a project engineer when considering your perfect fit. From one machine using 80 to 100 DualVee wheels and track [ view story ] to a DIY cnc router with just a dozen linear motion components, we've helped many designers create their perfect woodworking solution.

Want more on the DualVee product line? Check out this video example posted below. DualVee can move more than 30 feet per second, and can withstand temperatures ranging from 20 below to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The track and wheels come in a variety of metal, including stainless steel, ideal for heavy industrial applications like woodworking.

[ Click here to read more about DualVee — and don't miss the video! ]

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Leadership Role for BWC Board Member

Credit: Pioneer Motor Bearing Co.
A VOTE OF CONFIDENCE — In its 91-year history, Pioneer Motor Bearing Company has had only four presidents, so you can imagine that it's a big deal when someone new has been appointed by the California-based company. It happens that the latest person voted in as president is someone near and dear to us here at Bishop-Wisecarver: Ray Harrington.

Ray worked here as our Vice President of Business Development for a few years before leaving the post in 2010 to start his own consulting business. The British-born veteran in the power transmission and bearing industry kept ties with BWC by continuing to serve on our Board of Directors. As a board member, he helps sets the policies and long-term goals for our company. As the new president of Pioneer Motor Bearing, he'll take on a similar task, implementing the vision of the company's chairman and shareholders.

We found out about his good news at the most recent board of directors meeting at the BWC headquarters.

EXPERIENCE AND FRESH VISION — Gordon Bardet, who preceded Ray as president and will continue as the company's chairman, said he couldn't think of anyone better for the position.

"I am delighted that Ray has joined our team full time as president," he said in a statement Pioneer published last month. "I've known Ray for 20 years. It's funny looking back on it now because originally he immediately impressed me when he was consulting with a competitor we were considering acquiring."

Ray has a knack for working diplomatically with competing companies, though. It's part of how he made a name for himself at the outset of his career in executive management, he told us during our chat this afternoon.

FROM LAB TO FLOOR — The metallurgist major (at Brunel University in London) moved from working in the lab figuring out how to make metals stronger, to the manufacturing floor figuring out how to make them run more efficiently. He quickly rose into leadership ranks after helping to kick-start a 1,500-person plant in Liverpool in less than a year. From there, he moved into another management role at a bearing company and began accumulating experience from a variety of workplaces.

Something he noticed from plant to plant was that competing manufacturers making similar products were more efficient in different areas. He used that fact to spearhead a sort of gentleman's agreement between several companies, getting one to take over a part of production that another plant struggled to make efficient. It's a practice that became commonplace in the industry over the ensuing decades.

"We called it production interchange," he said. "It turned into multi-million-pound, or multi-million-dollar returns for several companies."

A NATURAL LEADER — His work as liaison opened up many doors into top-brass leadership — and more opportunities to travel. His first shot at jet-setting came in the early days when he represented an alliance of companies that met in Geneva, Switzerland. From there, he was offered a job in Toronto, Canada, to revive a struggling manufacturing plant, a first of what he called many "marvelously interesting assignments."

"My line of work has opened so many opportunities for me," he said. "I'd always been drawn to general management roles. I'm not an expert in anything, but I get to work with people who are and manage the overall process of things."

It's his ability to see the bigger picture and passion for enacting a company's vision that endears him to the leadership teams he works with, they say. For Ray, it's the innovative vision of the people he works with, both here at BWC and with Pioneer. He appreciates the similarities between the two companies he helps lead — both are family-owned, both are experiencing positive culture shifts, both aiming to become more customer-centric, he said.

"I'm very excited for what Pioneer is doing," he said. "But I've also been very excited to see what Pamela has been doing [at BWC]. She's really changing the culture of the company and bringing on incredible new talent and figuring out how to best utilize that talent to make the company stronger. It's a real, major shift."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Our Weekly List of Top 10 Twitter Posts — Week 7

We spent the better part of this week roaming the floor at WestPack in SoCal, enjoying the cool robotics demos, chitchatting with other engineers and welcoming customers to our fabulous 20x20 booth. So Friday surprised us when it got here ... time to sum up the week of tweets already! Sweet! For a more complete retrospective of the past five weekdays, check us out at @BWCnews. Because we said so.

Credit: BBC
1. Fast-Walking Slows Dementia on BBC News: OK, well that's cool, considering the author of this post is a fast-walker herself. Hopefully this means guaranteed lifelong sanity, right?

2. Hello Kitty Jets on CNN: Um, hello! Cutest airplanes ever! A Taiwanese airline launched a small fleet of Hello Kitty-themed jetliners painted with the ever-so-adorable mascot of cuteness and staffed by flight attendants donned with matching attire. Even the seats and food fits the theme. Sounds like a dream flight for Hello Kitty superfans!

3. Small Satellite Clean up Junk in Space on the Bishop-Wisecarver Daily: Space junk gets a lot of press, especially when anything new we launch out there has to dodge all the trash floating around. So a team of Swiss researchers are building a series of small space junk-seeking satellites that could help tackle the problem. Seems like a step in the right direction!

Credit: NASA
4. NASA's Robonaut Has a Twitter Account on If you're up to date in the world of science news, you've probably heard that NASA just launched a Robonaut into space to explore places too dangerous for people. Well, you can keep posted on what the robotic explorer is up to in space by following it on Twitter at @AstroRobonaut. Stay safe, robonaut!

5. Many Jobs Will be Gone With Wind Energy Credit on Bishop-Wisecarver Daily: It seems people are expecting that breakneck growth in the wind industry to come to a grinding halt, according to this NPR report. That's because the boom was propelled by federal subsidies, which are slated to run out. Interesting report. What's your take on the news?

6. Blogging Trumps Tradition Advertising on Duh. That's because blogging is more about voice, personality and relationship as opposed to the one-way broadcast of, say, a TV commercial. This article uses a case study to prove a point we've known all along — that social media is far superior in terms of ROI. Cool story!

7. How the sPINer Magnetic Deburring Works via YouTube: Here's a quick video from our friends at @TechniksUSA that demonstrates how their magnetic deburring machine works. They joined us this week at MD&M West, so we tweeted back and forth a few times. In the spirit of our Twitter friendship, here's a shout-out and a link-out for the folks at Techniks!

Credit: PopSci
8. Robot Paw Learns How to Throw on Popular Science: A robot that learned how to pick stuff up has graduated to throwing coffee grounds-filled balloons. Awww ... they grow up so fast! Click through the link to check out a video of said throwing robot in action.

9. Where Science Meets Imagination on Could the sci-fi wonder of Star Wars ever become a reality? Well the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana, CA, is putting together an exhibit to explore that very question. If we were closer, we'd swing by for a visit!

10. A Heating Robot to Warm You Up on Fast Company: Now here's a useful gadget to keep you cozy for what's left of winter this year. It's a roving robot that finds the cool spots in your home, wanders over there and works its heating magic. Seems like a worthwhile investment for folks sequestered up north this winter! Check out the video ...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A lot of This, A Lot of That at West Pack 2012

Packaging, medical and aerospace — oh my! This week's conference at the Anaheim Convention Center is packed with everything from electronics to plastics and beyond. With nine shows all under one roof, you've got the best technologies from many industries in arm's reach. It's day two and we're still going strong here at booth #5305. From espresso chats with our Project Engineer Brian Burke to mingling with the good and the great, we're having a grand time talking it up with attendees on everything that is linear and rotary motion technology related.

"A great thing about this event was that there were so many different types of ideas since the show doesn't focus on just one industry," said Bishop-Wisecarver President Pamela Kan, who spent Valentine's Day at West Pack. "This show brings in a real diverse group of visitors, and since we're in so many different types of markets, it was good for us. There's such a wide array of industries that benefit from our motion technologies."

Tomorrow is the last day of the show, so if you haven't already stopped by, please do! We've got some handy WD40 pens and microtool giveaways. And if you're traveling light, go ahead and nab one of our USBs packed with all things Bishop-Wisecarver — everything from catalogs and technical data sheets to pictures and videos. Our resources are your resources.

"We have a tremendous amount of engineering support and expertise to offer our customers, and it's great to see attendees stopping by the booth with drawings in hand," said Michael McVeigh, our Vice President of Sales. "I want people to know we're here to help. Our ability to solve these unique challenges brought to us is what built our company, and that's why we are here this week."

[ Want a visual recap of our first day? Check out this Storify timeline of our trip! ]

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Coffee and Conversation at West Pack 2012

Today's the first day of West Pack in Southern California, where we're exhibiting all week at booth #5305. You're welcome to stop by anytime, but we'd also like to invite you to the booth at specific hours for one of our "coffee chats" when one of our engineers will discuss a range of topics. Here's the schedule, for all of you cruising WestPack this week:

  • 11:15 a.m. — PRT2, a focus on precision ring and track components
  • 1:15 p.m. — DualVee, a focus on linear guide wheels and track components
  • 2:15 p.m. — LoPro, a focus on low-friction, low-profile actuated linear guide systems

These espresso-sized shots of information will provide you with a better understanding of our linear motion technologies — a quick jolt of data overload on actuated linear guides, components and curvilinear solutions. These are our first sessions ever, so we'd appreciate your feedback and look forward to seeing you at the booth!

Happy Valentine's Day From Bishop-Wisecarver!

Ah, love is in the air, so we'd like to take this time to remind you — our customers, our readers, our employees and anyone else out there — how much you're appreciated. We made this fun little graphic for you to print out and share with your coworkers, friends and loved ones. With that, we wish you a lovely and loving Valentine's Day!

[ download ] the greeting cards

Monday, February 13, 2012

Learn About DualVee Guide Wheels in Today's Word Search!

Any plans for Valentine's Day yet? You're running close to deadline if you haven't planned anything by now. Quick, get your brain a' brewing with this #MotionMonday mind game! This one's based on a lovely infographic we created to teach you all the basics about our signature product: The DualVee Guide Wheel.

[ You can get a head start on the puzzle by reviewing that infographic here ]

Ready to go? Then [ download ] the puzzle and get to work! If you're stuck, hit up Jennifer Wadsworth for an answer key at While you're at it, visit our game archives to catch up on all the fun you missed. Have fun!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Our Weekly List of Top 10 Twitter Posts — Week 6

The middle of the month snuck up on us — any plans for Valentine's Day? It's only too bad it doesn't fall on a weekend, right? OK, switch from looking ahead to looking behind at the past week of memorable Twitter tidbits, from the newsworthy to the quirky and trivial. We got you covered, just stay in the loop by following us at @BWCnews.

Credit: Maker Faire
1. The Maker Faire 2012 via Want to see what some of the nation's most creative, inventive minds are up to? Visit the annual Maker Faire in the Bay Area this year if you're around. It's a fascinating event that showcases brilliant inventions, from the whimsical to the utilitarian. Bishop-Wisecarver attended last year and plan to give it another go this May. Hopefully, we'll see you there!

2. Berkeley Company Aims to End an Age of Waste in the New York Times/The Bay Citizen: Here's another local story, one about a company in our own backyard that re-sells pretty much anything except guns, car parts and hazardous chemicals. It's a great place to find slabs of marble, old claw-foot bathtubs, industrial parts and anything else that folks choose to drop off. Pretty neat!

3. Black Inventors Video on YouTube: In honor of Black History Month, here's a look at some everyday items you may use that were created by African-American inventors. So next time you use your cell phone or pick up a microphone, realize its place in African-American history. Some food for thought.

Credit: Bazaar/Getty Images
4. Helicopter Parents Hover in the Workplace on NPR: Talk about pushy parenting! This article talks about a growing trend of meddlesome parents calling employers to give their beloved grown children a reference. Hmmm ... maybe this is why millennials are so slow to grow up?

5. Getting a Caffeine Fix as Easy as Taking a Deep Breath on PD&D: Sick of coffee? How about inhaling your caffeine! A new product developed by a Harvard professor compresses caffeinated air into a lipstick-sized tube for people to huff. Don't know about you, but this doesn't sound like the healthiest thing — we'll stick to our morning cup o' joe.

6. U Penn Hosts FIRST Lego League Robotics Tournament on We're proud FIRST sponsors in the Bay Area, so we always stay on top of the nonprofit's news. Did you know they have a Lego League, too? It's pretty cool — kids engineer robots composed of the popular building blocks. Here's an article about one of the league's recent competitions on the East Coast.

7. Can American Manufacturing Really be a Cornerstone to Modern Economic Revival? on the Christian Science Monitor: Here's the latest in the national news coverage of U.S. manufacturing and how well it can drive the economic engine or compete in a global economy. Interesting angle here!

Credit: Discover Magazine
8. Why Robots Need Psychologists on the Bishop-Wisecarver Daily: Robopsychology is generally defined as the study of an intelligent machine's behavior and personality. It's a profession that popped up in some of Isaac Asimov's sci-fi about artificial intelligence. But now, some researchers are starting to fit that role in reality, one of them says she's coaching her robot to do stand-up comedy and other developing artificial intelligence and fixing maladtaptive behaviors as they crop up.

9. BWC a Runner-Up for National/International B2B Manufacturer Twitter of the Year Award: We were thrilled to land a runner-up spot considering the winner was the Twitter-master Kyle Thill of @ToyoaEquipment. By the way, big congrats to you, Kyle! The winners were nominated, voted on and judged based on all-around personality and some other factors. It's a pleasure to come in second to one of our favorite Twittter pals!

10. Wanna Figure Out if Your Product is Any Good? Think Like a News Editor via Fast Company: As former journalists, we can vet this idea. Got a new product in the works? Measure its relevance by asking whether it would be newsworthy. If it's truly innovative, it will be and you'll get a whole lot of marketing play out of it. Interesting point — does it apply to any of your about-to-launch products?
Credit: Fast Company

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

FIRST Robotics Boosts Academic Confidence

Keep it simple. That's the strategy this year for Middle College High School's robotics club going into the FIRST Robotics Challenge (FRC) this year. It's a lesson the group  learned a couple years ago when they built a robot too complicated for the tasks at hand.

"We learned the hard way and more isn't always better," said 17-year-old senior Megan Spears, who's got a few years in the robotics program under her belt. "This time it's all about narrowing down the functions, figuring out what it needs to do and just making it do that."

So what does the robot need to do in this year's "Rebound Rumble" contest? Balance, for one thing, and shoot basketballs through hoops.

"It seems like a little, but there's a lot of strategy that goes into it," Spears told us during a visit to the San Pablo campus last week. "There are so many other teams — it's really, really competitive."

This means every detail is all that more critical. Interesting to us because that epiphany stemmed from a throwback video game, and the suggestion to stop playing and get to work by their math teacher and robotics adviser, Eric Reed.

"I was playing Tetris before class one day, just killing time, when he told me to put the game down," Spears said. "Well later that night, he had the idea to make our robot L-shaped, like a Tetris block, because it may help it balance during one part of the challenge."

Spears said she credits Tetris for putting the idea in Reed's head.

"I told him later he should thank me," Spears joked.

The national robotics contest isn't just about the challenge on game day — at regionals or nationals. It's more about the journey, said Spears. She reluctantly joined her school's FIRST team a few years ago, bribed by the promise of extra credit. Over time, she was rewarded with skills she never expected to acquire — engineering know-how, design, mechanical problem solving.

"And a strong sense of how to work as a team," she added. "I've learned how to brainstorm ideas and solutions in new ways, and to think creatively or just to not be afraid to come up with out-of-the-box ideas."

Bishop-Wisecarver has had the privilege of watching that intellectual growth throughout the years since we first sponsored her team a few years ago. Just last year, one of our engineers, Brian Burke, stopped by her class to check out the progress on their build.

[ Read Burke's takeaway from that visit here ] Burke said he was nothing short of impressed by the team's work. The robot's sophistication surpassed his expectations, he noted, and demonstrated the ingenuity of the students. Last year, he wrote:
Truly professional engineering level software is provided and utilized for the FIRST robots. One student was working on full 3D models of the robot build using AutoCAD Inventor. Another student was working on the control and feedback system in LabVIEW. The introduction of these tools and their real world applications is invaluable for students to experience.
The same holds true for this year's group, which is comprised of several of the same students, who spend many weekday evenings and Saturday mornings poring over their sizable robotic creation or computer screens, designing, tinkering, figuring things out.

We write a lot about the FIRST teams we sponsor, especially since we've stepped up as "Diamond Suppliers" for FIRST in addition to our independent team sponsorships. Every robotics club we support has its own dynamic, its own personality or mix of personalities.

Middle College High stands out to us because of their around-the-clock dedication to the project, it's the type of commitment that means adults don't have to remind them to get their work done.

Spears feels like they're doing it on their own, mainly because they're curious, creative and competitive. "These students do a lot," Reed agreed. "This isn't your ordinary high school."

Middle College High has a special curriculum, designed for students with lots of potential but have poor grades. Counselors, teachers and parents identify those students, help them apply and get them enrolled in college courses alongside their regular schoolwork. By the time Middle College kids reach senior year, many of them already have their Associate's degree — Spears included.

Extracurricular clubs like robotics are part of what makes the school an intensive precursor to college. The hands-on experience is priceless.

"I'm sure it's prepared me in ways I can't even imagine yet," said Spears, who plans to major in astronomy or chemical engineering. "I'm really confident. I feel ready ... I definitely have a head start."

Monday, February 6, 2012

Blast to the Past With Our History Crossword Puzzle

Welcome to the new week, friends! To continue our new routine of sharing weekly games to get your mind moving, here's the latest in our #MotionMonday series. To prepare for this crossword puzzle, go to the history page on our website and read up about the origins of Bishop-Wisecarver and the signature product that helped launch it all: The DualVee Guide Wheel.

[ Download ] the puzzle to dive right in! Need an answer key? Fire off an email to to request an answer key. To check out past puzzles, visit our blog games archive. Good luck!

Friday, February 3, 2012

FIRST Student Spotlight: Aspiring Engineer Peter Heath

A HEAD START When Peter Heath sat down to write his college admission essay, the topic was a no-brainer: FIRST Robotics. The program taught him the fundamentals of designing and building robots that actually work.

Today, four years after his first competition in a FRC challenge, the 18-year-old aspiring aerospace engineer is wrapping up his final year at California High School in San Ramon. Heath told us during our visit to his campus this week that he just found out that his application to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology's mechanical engineering program was accepted.

"That was my first choice," he told us during a break from coaching younger students in a robot building session on Wednesday. "So I'm pretty excited about that. It's one of the top engineering schools in the country."

Since Bishop-Wisecarver sponsors local FIRST teams, including the team at California High School, we've known Heath for a few years and have watched his skills develop. As FIRST Diamond Sponsors in 2012, we're excited to see him apply his talents to this year's competition.

THE CHALLENGE AHEAD FIRST attracts more and more teams each year, and the 2012 competition is tougher than ever. The theme, Rebound Rumble, requires kids to build robots that can shoot basketballs into hoops.

Heath is one of the lead designers, and on one recent afternoon he spent his time after class fielding questions from his peers and younger students, trying to work out some wiring difficulties on the 4-foot-high rolling robot.

"The game is very different this year," he said. "We just have to build a robot with different functions. The challenge always changes."

Four weeks into the build, Heath said he and his team are still trying to figure things out. But all those years of leadership and problem-solving have come in handy for Heath. When another student asks a question, Heath has a ready answer.

As Heath prepares to leave his high school career behind him for a new chapter in college, his robotics teacher John Reed is just getting started. Reed spent years as an engineer for Intel before deciding to pursue teaching two years ago. This marks his first school year at Cal High and his first foray into the world of high school robotics competitions.

"Honestly, I just let them do their thing," Reed said from his office. "They've been doing this a while, so they know how to organize, how to figure things out on their own. I'm just here to advise if they need it."

The classroom mentor, mechatronics mastermind Stewart Leicester, says that's the best way to get kids to learn engineering — let them figure things out.

"It's the hands-on stuff they'll take with them to the workplace," he said.

Heath agreed.

"So many practical things I've learned in FIRST, like how to operate mills, lathes, laser and 3D printers," he said. "I can use all those things in a real workplace. Even if I don't operate them directly, I'll manage people who do, so it helps knowing how they work."

A LOOK BACK AT FIRST COVERAGE OF CALIFORNIA HIGH Take a look at some of our previous interviews with Cal High students in this video — [ Having Fun: That's What Counts ] Read up on our past FIRST coverage that is archived [ on our blog ]

Our Weekly List of Top 10 Twitter Posts — Week 5

February — it's a Leap Year this time around, so let's leap into the month with a band-up roundup of our favorite tweets this week. Think we missed something? Next time, nominate your tweets of note straight to us @BWCnews. Happy tweeting!

Credit: Popular Science
1. People Flying, Superhero Style, Over New York City on the Bishop-Wisecarver Daily: No need to re-check your meds — you may actually have seen what appeared to be people looping above the Big Apple skyline. The flying figures were actually human-shaped remote-controlled aircraft flown around by some PR agency to promote an upcoming feature film. Marketing magic!

2. The Math/Science Degree Shortage on It's an oft-storied discrepancy, but we haven't yet seen it in infographic form. Here's the problem  laid out from top to bottom — pretty eye-opening and an interesting way of looking at it from a fresh view. According to the studies that made up this chart, most high schoolers interested in science, technology, engineering and math choose not to pursue those degrees in college. What can we do to buck that trend?

3. Factory Careers Are Where It's At on An uptick in post-recession factory orders and a coming wave of retiring workers mean young people should seriously consider factory jobs as a career, according to industry experts trying to attract new blood to a growing field.

4. Pinterest Drive More Traffic Than G+, YouTube and LinkedIn Combined on Who woulda thunk? That online "vision board" where people tag things that inspire them? Yup, according to this survey, the booming online bulletin, which received about 7.2 million unique visitors in December alone, directs more viewers to your site than some of the major brand social media channels like G+ and YouTube. Of course, we had to jump on the bandwagon — follow us on Pinterest at

5. Rap Music Powers Rhythmic Action of Medical Sensor on When music and science unite! This article explains how the rhythmic bass from music — rap in particular — can be harnessed to power a mini medical sensor that could help people recovering from an aneurism or suffering from incontinence because of paralysis. I wonder if the scientists who discovered this should solicit Dr. Dre to fund their research!

6. AOL/HuffPo to Launch a Live Online Broadcast News Network on PD&D: HuffPo founder Arianna Huffington touts it as a new media game-changer. The plan? Start a 12-hour-a-day streaming news network to compete with other broadcast channels. What do you think of the plan? More and more people get their news online anyway, right?

7. Introducing Infographics for Engineers on Yeah, we know we plugged this feature earlier this week already ... but bear with us! It's really cool! We're going to create a new engineer-related infographic every month this year and upload it online. From everything on linear guides wheels to curvilinear technologies! Your job is to download, print and hang up at the office. Tell us what you think!

8. Using Morse Code to Tweet on There's actually a 19 Century-lookin' device that allows you to tweet via Morse Code. Talk about some crazy steampunk contraption! It's call the Tworse Key, and it's worth checking out as a gift for maybe the tech geek/history buff in your life.

9. Have You Thanked Your Mentors Lately? on January, as we previously wrote, was National Mentoring Month, a time to think about the people who have been influential in your life or a time to take someone under your wing for a little guidance. BWC President Pamela Kan penned a list of her own mentors, which we found very inspiring. Who do you look up to?

10. An Apt Musical for the Age of Information Overload on We play the social media game like pros, so we totally relate to the frenzy of texting, Facebooking, Googling, tweeting and all else alike. It's why this little number landed on our to-watch list — Digitals: A Musical, Sort of by filmmaker Chris Crutchfield. As put it, "Being wired has its perked, but there are times when it can feel pretty intimidating." Take that as a reminder to unplug this weekend!

Credit: Chris Crutchfield

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Catching Up With Our Heritage High Robotics Team

Five years ago, the Heritage High School robotics team in Brentwood, CA, went into the FIRST Tech Challenge with robots literally held together in some places by rubber bands. Their coach and robotics teacher Robert Pardi barely had enough money to sign up for the FTC, a national small robot contest. In fact, the only reason he could even start that year is because a parent of one of his students worked at Bishop-Wisecarver and offered to put him in touch with the company in hopes of a sponsorship.

"You guys helped get us going," Pardi told us this week when we stopped by his class for a visit. "With that money, we were able to buy a basic kit ... and yeah, it really took off from there."

Did it ever!

This year, his students created a sophisticated 25-pound remote controlled robot made up of 1,200-plus parts. Some of the students who have been there since the beginning are now high school seniors with years of experience in design, club politics, strategy, marketing and community involvement, plus all those little things one can only learn from logging in hours on a project.

"We've definitely made a lot of progress since I first started," said 17-year-old Michael Kintscher, one of the robotic club's lead designers and a member since his freshman year. "There's a lot you can't know until you've done this, until you've tested things in the field."

A BIG WIN Affirmation of that progress came in the form of a big win last weekend (which we blogged about on Tuesday). We took that as our cue to swing by after class to catch up with Pardi and his students. The Patriots, as the team's called, took home an Inspiration Award — the top prize at the regional FTC contest on Sunday.

The victory was unexpected, Pardi told us, and it's proof that his students are on the right track. Now the kids are all fired up, more than ever, for the next phase of the competition: Another regional showdown in March.

Kintscher told us he's using what he learned in the heat of battle to come up with a solid strategy for the team's next bout. But he feels confident that his team has an added advantage already since most of the team has years of experience and they use CAD software to design their robot.

"Every year the game is different, but there's a lot you can carry over that helps," he said, adding that what really caught the judges' eyes on Sunday was a digital animation of their design displayed on a monitor for all to see.

"No other team was doing that," he told us. "It definitely made us stand out."

KEEPING MOMENTUM Now that the team has been around for a few years, Pardi told us, they've earned a stellar reputation on campus. With about 20 members this year, word's getting out that there's something cool going on in the engineering lab. Friends of friends who were too late in signing up this school year are helping out on their own time without credit and plan to enlist next fall. One of those volunteers was at the lab on Tuesday when we popped in.

"The biggest appeal initially is the wow factor," said Kintscher. He believes that students are initially drawn in by the fun of making a robot but what keeps students is all that FIRST has to offer through it's competitions, celebrity involvements and scholastic opportunities. "If you keep it interesting, you get more people coming in wanting to find out how they can get involved."

That initial spark of interest often evolves into something longer-lasting, Pardi said, as soon as parents and the students themselves find out how much they glean from being part of an academic team. He looks to his current students as proof.

"They've improved so much in attitude, intensity, the way that they work with one another," he said. "They're able now to encourage each other and work out their disagreements. There's been tremendous progress, even in their personal life. Some of them have really come out of their shells."

Introducing Infographics for Engineers

Exciting development here, people! We just launched a new feature on our site — an infographics page! Just one of many pages being added to our new website this year.

Ever heard of an infographic? They're basically a printer-friendly poster that lays out an idea with bold images and punchy text, concepts tougher to explain using just words. Think of a map, advertisements or educational charts — they're often presented as infographics.

So why'd we start making them? We noticed there aren't really any engineering-related infographics out on the internet ... at least none that we found. So to buck the trend, or lack thereof, we decided to launch a yearlong series of different posters with a chart that lays out the history and features of our signature product: The DualVee Guide Wheel. Each month we will share a poster on various linear motion products, technologies and other related engineering stuff!

Tell us what you think! Print our a poster, share it online and zap us an email if you've got an idea for a future topic. We had fun making this one — can't wait for the second installment!