THE BIG-BRAINED SUPERHEROES CLUB
A Tower of Teamwork Power

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It’s no secret that without our superpowers The Big-Brained Superheroes Club would not exist today. Why does this matter? Because superpowers beget superpowers. For instance…

Yesterday, one of our beautiful Big-Brained Superheroes went from stagnation to meltdown when it came to getting her homework done. It was NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. And while we are officially on record as being homework-ambivalent ourselves, sometimes a superhero’s gotta do what a superhero’s gotta do. In steps a fellow young BBS with her healthy dose of Empathy, Leadership, and Teamwork—not to mention a small arsenal of peanut butter crackers. Less than an hour later: crisis averted, mission accomplished, Empowerment superpower activated. Go Team Big-Brained Superhero!

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Our homework problem persists. But even our problems have hidden strengths…Teamhomework!

Our homework problem persists. But even our problems have hidden strengths…Teamhomework!

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It Takes a Village to Go to Mars

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Yesterday, a few Big-Brained Superhero volunteers met over 70(!) unofficial big-brained superheroes at East African Community Services in New Holly. It was an amazing two hours in which we travelled to Mars…and Venus…and Mercury…and every other planet in our solar system via rocket ships of our imagination. In the process, not only did we exercise all of our superpowers, but we talked a bit about design and development, chemical reactions, forces and motion, and our solar system. (We even briefly discussed what “NASA” stands for and what its scientists and engineers learn from launch failures.)

So, how does all this happen? Well, if we were Carl Sagan, we would start by acknowledging the origins of the universe. But since we’re The Big-Brained Superheroes Club, we start by acknowledging our shared superpowers. And then, we recognize the hours and hours and hours of work done by BBS volunteers and EACS staff, volunteers, and community members. And then, we appreciate the wide variety of in-kind contributions from a whole host of big-brained superheroes present and past:

  • We love Cappy’s Gym for rescuing over 40+ water bottles from their recycle bin to serve as our rocket ships!
  • We love EACS and BBS volunteers for providing over 4 1/2 gallons of vinegar for rocket fuel and 16 ounces of baking soda for rocket engines. Not to mention Julianna of SPACE for, so long ago, providing the paper towels we used for engine casings.
  • We love Starbucks on Capitol Hill for handing over a handful of corks to BBS volunteer Mr. Measurement Man, who went door-to-door in search of serviceable containment methods for our rocket engines and fuel.
  • We love EACS, BBS volunteers, and our old Gasworks Kite Shop for providing tape, markers, and streamers used to accessorize our rocket ships. Plus the sidewalk chalk and tin cans for the launchpads.

And finally, we love EACS staff, volunteers, and community members (Elizia, Connie, and everyone else) for giving us the privilege of meeting so many new big-brained superheroes! (And for letting us accidentally use the roof as a landing pad for so many unmanned recyclable vehicles…sorry about that, EACS.) You all really know how to party!image

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A Room with Adaptability

So the grittiness went out of life…At the last minute, when the social machine was clogged hopelessly, one member or other of the family poured in a drop of oil.

-EM Forster

It may not make for a spectacular story, but more than anything, the value of our superpowers lies in their humble ability to take a bit of the grittiness out of life. To unclog the social machine. And so it was on Wednesday, when—thanks, in part, to the Kindness and Teamwork of our friends at Jigsaw Renaissance and Seattle Radio Control—we were able to take a step back from our more grueling superpower exercise and just play…

We soldered:

We K’Nex’d:

We LEGOed:

And we built things out of squishy shapes:

And every once in a while, when we’d have a minor dispute…maybe over a particular building block or an electronics part…we’d exchange that thing for the chance to exercise one of our superpowers. Who would willingly trade a LEGO for an Adaptability superpower? A Big-Brained Superhero that’s who.

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"FUNNEST DAY EVER!"

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Sometimes, it takes a lot more than Willpower to accomplish a mission. In the case of our first ever robot-making field trip, it took the combined superpowers of at least five different organizations and 10 big-brained superheroes to turn our plans into reality.

Thanks to the sponsorship of Brown Paper Tickets and the incredible Kindness of amazing Maker Advocate Tamara Clammer, four of our finest Big-Brained Superheroes got to create their very own mouseybots at today’s Xbot Robotics workshop. On our walk down from Yesler Community Center (which opened early just for us!), we picked up trash in coordination with Nature Consortium for Earth Day. Once we reached the Inscape building, we bided our pre-workshop time by hanging out with the folks at Jigsaw Renaissance, checking out their Arduino library and other fun stuff. Whew! And we did it all before lunch.

When it comes to building robots, Big-Brained Superheroes jump right in…

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Goodbye wire insulation…

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Hello circuit creation…

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It’s time to heat things up…

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Or maybe fog things up?…

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A flurry of activity…

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And mission accomplished…

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Thank you again, Tamara et al! We have to agree with one of our young big-brained superheroes…this was, indeed, the “funnest day ever!”

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Big-Brained Superheroes Harness Renewable Energies

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including our big brains…

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our superpowers…

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oh yeah, and the sun…

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Big-Brained Superheroes vs. Pandemonium

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Yesterday saw a blur of activity in The Big-Brained Superhero Hall of Justice (a working title; calm yourselves, DC fans). And while the search rages on for more, more, MORE amazing Big-Brained Superhero volunteers, we can’t help thinking how useful our crazy kid-to-volunteer ratio can be in providing opportunities to exercise our superpowers. To some extent, this is by design. We want a club—not a tutoring center, per se.

However, when your lair has porous borders like ours does, it can be a bit disquieting to see five big-brained superheroes suddenly morph into 10 big-brained superheroes…and then into 15…and then 20… And that’s when our Adaptability superpower kicks into overdrive, so that, when we hear, “Can I have some work?”, we have options.

Sure, you can have some work. Come help this 4 year-old (technically below our age range, but Adaptability!) big-brained superhero learn to count, add, and subtract, using big-brain bucks. Teamwork!:

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…Or learn how circuits work using the Electronics Playground kindly lent to us by Jigsaw Renaissance. More Teamwork!:

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And then, stick around for The Big-Brained Superheroes Club after party where we have WAY too much fun testing out the augmented reality graphic novel kindly gifted to us by the good folks at Anomaly. Even more Teamwork!:

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Pandemonium, while assiduously avoided in all the respectable circles, is a superpowers playground. Dilemma.

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Tapping into the Hidden Strengths that All Humans Have

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Admittedly, the mission of The Big-Brained Superheroes Club is primarily directed toward young people. But one of the more bracing aspects of being a big-brained superhero is that it frequently puts us in a position to discover and value the hidden strengths in adults as well. And these fun and surprising discoveries often go well beyond our select volunteer circle (which you should still join, of course!).

Over the weekend, a member of our extended big-brained superhero community exercised her Kindness superpower in thoughtfully sending us a notice she had found about an upcoming theatre arts supply sale. And yesterday, a couple of us swung by the event on the off chance that we’d find a few BBSC project materials that our tiny budget could afford. When we arrived, however, we were immediately overwhelmed by a myriad of materials and tools of which our club is constantly in need: namely, office supplies. Paper, that is. White/off-white gold. Pressed wood pulp.

Now, typically, one might find a story of the sale of paper goods to be not at all bracing. But that presumes the seller of said paper goods to be not at all bracing. Such was not the case here.

Here enters our newly discovered extended big-brained superhero community member, Julianna, of SPACE. In the process of discussing Julianna’s supplies and materials, we began discussing arts, culture, and people helping people. Like us, Julianna is a volunteer. And her volunteer work is dedicated to helping preserve the space of Warren G. Magnuson Park for the community. Listening to her talk about all of the work her group has done and continues to do was incredibly inspiring. Her Sense of Adventure, Teamwork, Leadership, Empowerment, and Kindness superpowers have clearly been well-exercised. So much so that, upon hearing what we were up to in The Big-Brained Superheroes Club, Julianna offered to simply give us all the paper goods our little car could carry. FREE, that is. Gratis. On the house.

So, with paper, paper clips, pens, markers, scissors, etc, we loaded up the little car until the back windshield was a faint memory. Fresh in our minds, however, were the continually resurgent thoughts of how Kindness begets Kindness. Teamwork begets Teamwork. Empowerment begets Empowerment… Superpowers, that is. Like Julianna, let’s exercise them daily.

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The Kids in the Hall Do Math

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"Can I have a math problem?" is, as we mentioned on Twitter recently, probably our favorite big-brained superhero FAQ. How this tradition got started we don’t recall, but we’ve pretty much given up on making it through the halls of Yesler Community Center without being stopped by this question at least once (mostly at least thrice). And having zero interest in looking a gift horse in the math, roll with it we do. Even if it means scheduling an extra 20 minutes for a trip to the bathroom.

Why do we love this question so much? Well, we know that number talk is important in our early years, and apparently, ready access to basic math knowledge correlates with success on the PSAT. But our love of this question goes much deeper than that. This question, for us, is all about our superpowers:

  1. Sense of Adventure: Anytime big-brained superheroes are eager to solve a problem, they’re exercising their Sense of Adventure. And it all begins with a Sense of Adventure.
  2. Kindness, Empathy, Teamwork: Somehow some way we’ve learned to use math as a means of communication. A point of connection. Contra approaches like this one, our hallway math is a group effort. We suspect this cooperative approach may be good for all our big-brained superheroes but most especially for our girls (who, BTW, are our most frequent inquisitors by far). 
  3. Critical Thinking, Creativity, Adaptability, and Persistence: Hallway math, sans pencil or paper, creates an interesting challenge for us. How difficult can we make it for our big brains and still keep it achievable? How far can we test their boundaries and even their sense of themselves? How can we, ever so briefly and subtly, blow their minds? While it may sound ridiculous, these really are the questions we ask ourselves. All in this quintessentially transitory space.

We love these indisputable reminders that thinking, learning, and connecting can and should be happening everywhere, maybe even especially on the way to the bathroom.

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Big-Brained Superhero Designs: Part 1 of X

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This drawing of a “holographic chat watch” was created by one of our big-brained superheroes after a meeting in which we focused specifically on exercising our Creativity superpower. Although that meeting was at least a couple of months ago, we hadn’t seen this drawing until last week. That’s because the big-brained superhero to which this homework had been assigned had gone missing from club meetings throughout all that time. Nonetheless, he carried this drawing around in his notebook until he was able to return. We’re hoping this means he’s serious.

Part of our mission to “tap into the hidden strengths that all young people have” involves helping our big-brained superheroes turn their big ideas into reality. The above drawing represents one big-brained superhero’s idea. That’s a huge first step! And if he’s serious about his idea, our goal is to help him draw up design and requirements documents for a prototype that gets him as close to his design as he can get. From there, we plan to help him find the resources to create his prototype. And finally, we hope to help him build and test it.

Obviously, this project presents a huge test for all of our superpowers—Persistence and Adaptability, in particular. One big challenge will be getting us through the “boring” parts. To that end, we’ll be deploying all of our Leadership and Teamwork superpowers for keeping everyone maximally motivated. Another exciting question we’ll be exploring is how well we are able to adapt our design to fit within price, materials, and engineering constraints. We have no idea whether or not we’ll be successful in this endeavor. But luckily, we have our Sense of Adventure. And that’s a start.

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