A Master's College student recently wrote a very nice article about the Robotics course I teach. She hit the nail on the head: critical thinking, creating solutions, analyzing problems, and communicating effectively are the real core of this class.
Beyond SciFi: Master’s students building robots on campus
By Emily Rader

By 9:30 p.m., the end of class had come on the first night of professor Eric Mack’s Introduction to Robotics course with hardly any notice from the students. The 17 computer science majors were so engaged in the course that to stay late to work on test robots in the lab was a no-brainer.

The opportunity to learn about robot application programming, make functioning robots and battle in robot competitions might intrigue anyone. However, a robotics class that simultaneously trains students in problem-solving and life skills from a biblical perspective makes this class unique to The Master’s College.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Thank you, Emily, and all my students!

More on Robotics:

26 years of piano have lead up to today

Thursday, April 30th, 2015
Baby grand.jpg
26 years ago, I purchased this baby grand piano for the purpose of hacking it into a computer-controlled player grand piano. Before I could begin that project, however, I married the lovely Kathleen Mullen, who promptly put a stop to the notion of piano hacking, saying that we would need that piano someday for our children to play.

I'm glad I listened to Kathy, as all four of our daughters grew up plunking or playing that piano in one form or another. I believe that having that piano in the center of our home provided endless opportunity to satisfy musical curiosity and encourage musical skill in my children. I never tire of my daughters playing the piano, and I appreciate the special relationship that I have with Wendy as she will often play hymns or other songs to encourage me when I am in my office.

I am so very thankful for the many teachers who played a part in Wendy's musical education along the way. Each gave of themselves as they invested in Wendy and encouraged her along the way. Some even volunteered to do so. All made a tremendous impact on Wendy.

Tonight, we will celebrate the culmination of four years of study in Music as Wendy presents her senior piano recital. Soon, she'll graduate from The Master's College with a Bachelor of Music in worship music ministry and a Bachelor of Arts in music and communication. I am so proud of our Wendy, for her focus and determination and for the lovely woman she's become.

Wendy piano recital.jpg
Not pictured: about 120 people in the audience.

Don’t "like" this post

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015
A few days ago, I was talking to my Robotics students about the posts made in our Facebook group. I didn't want to come across as the old guy bashing social media, but I told them I was surprised at how little discussion was actually taking place online. Students would post, but usually others would only respond by "liking."

If my students were only posting cat videos, I wouldn't have a problem with people clicking "like" as cat videos lend themselves to that behavior. On the other hand, because most of the posts were intended to start a discussion or get feedback clicking "Like" is less useful, in fact it's often meaningless.  

Before Facebook and Twitter, if you wanted to engage with somebody's post, the only way (on nearly all platforms) was to make a comment. Writing and posting a comment takes at least a little thought and effort.

I'm not saying that "Liking" is bad and everyone should stop it. What I am saying is this: think about what your "like" means.

Continue Reading "Don't "like" this post" »

Getting a robotic arm to solve a puzzle might not seem like much, but two students in my CS328 Introduction to Robotics course have been learning how challenging stuff like this actually is. That's why I'm proud of what they have accomplished.

The classic "Towers of Hanoi" puzzle was invented by the French mathematician Édouard Lucas in 1883 and involves moving blocks or discs from one place to another according to certain rules. This is often difficult for a human to figure out -- just imagine programming a robot to solve it!

Here's a quick video of the robot in action:

The Towers of Hanoi is a common problem assigned to computer science students to help them organize their thinking about problem solving and iterative logic and most especially recursion.

The above video shows step one, which is to solve the problem by discrete programming moves. The next step, if they are up to it, is to take what they have learned and write the algorithms to solve this problem automatically. In any case, they are off to a fine start.

Yes, most of the equipment is older than they are, but it's all they need to learn the fundamentals. And it builds character!


If I may brag for a moment...

Saturday, February 28th, 2015
The Light Princess premier small.jpg
That's Amy in the pink dress in front of the symphony orchestra last night. She's narrating George MacDonald's classic story of The Light Princess, which she adapted into a narrative performance accompanied by a complete orchestral score, all written by her.

She also designed and commissioned the paintings on the screens so they could be displayed while she presents this work. It was very well received, and 700-800 people attended the world premier of The Light Princess.

Not to brag, but Kathy and I obviously have the most talented and hard-working daughters in the world.

For more highlights from the concert, you can check out Amy's blog here.

And a couple more pictures for good measure:

Amy light princess headshot small.jpg

Amy light princess headshot FB.jpg
One of the personal projects that has taken quite a bit of my time lately has been helping our symphony orchestra prepare for their mid-winter family concert.

This year, the all of the music including the featured work, The Light Princess" was written by my daughter, Amy, who is a music composition major at The Master's College.

Amy has been working for years on the arrangements for this concert which is called "Tunes, Tales, and Truths." The concert will feature the World Premier of “The Light Princess,” an adaptation of George MacDonald's beloved fairy-tale into orchestral music and narration.

The concert will also include a sweeping suite of original music: pirate legends, great awakenings, swinging jazz, and powerful tales of redemption and new life.

T3 poster - painting with title text

See that painting above? That's an original painting -- one of 10 -- that Amy commissioned for the concert. Working with the artist, Jay Wegter, Amy designed the theme and sketch for each piece of art which Jay then masterfully painted. These will be presented on giant screens during the concert. After the concert, the original score and the 10 paintings will be available in the lobby for closer inspection.

Continue Reading "Of Tunes, Tales and Truths -- and The Light Princess" »

Why I love teaching at The Master’s College

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015
Eric Teaching 2 (small).jpg

Imagine returning to your old college – seeing students learning what you learned so many years ago, maybe even from the same professors, getting the same education you did. Imagine returning to be part of their journey!

That's just what I've been doing for seven years as an adjunct professor at The Master's College. Obviously, I have the best students in the world, and I love my subjects and the school's commitment to Biblically-based teaching.

The Biblical perspective shapes everything about teaching here, from how the material is presented to how professors engage with the students.

Continue Reading "Why I love teaching at The Master's College" »