Legos + Computers = Robots

With a great First Lego League season behind us, it is time again to shake off the dust, replace the batteries and start creating amazing Lego Robots.  That’s right, Gangplank Jr’s Lego Program is starting back up.

If you are can operate a computer, snap Legos together and like to have fun, come out for our Introduction to Mindstorms event on March 6th from 1:00-3:00pm at Gangplank.  We will be covering everything from the the physical sensors to the system used to program the robots.  In Gangplank Jr fashion this is a hands on event, meaning you will have built a working robot by the end of the day.

Look forward to seeing all of you, veterans and new comers alike.

Exploring Skate Art [Cancelled]


The gallery is closed today so unfortunately we will not be able to have the event.  It will be rescheduled.


You don’t have to be an expert at the kick flip or 50-50 grind to appreciate the skill and tenacity of skateboarding enthusiasts. Nor do you have to know anything about skateboarding to marvel at unique artwork.

The ‘Full Deck: A Short history of Skate Art‘ exhibit opens up the behind-the-scenes world of skating, with an array of eclectic graffiti and graphics on boards, as well as photography of events.

Gangplank Jr will be making a trip to view the exhibit and learn more about the skating culture on Monday, February 21st at 1:00pm. We will meet up at Gangplank and then head over as a group.


Whenever we here at Gangplank Jr receive feedback, it always seems the most common request is for more fire.

Well, we heard the cry and answered the call with a flameworking class.

Glass artist Laurie Nessel provided a live demonstration on how to shape glass beads using a propane torch. Children were invited to ‘pull stringers’, which involves putting a glass rod in the flame, then pulling the ends apart while rolling the ends. This makes a thinner rod which is then used to decorate the beads.

Children aged 9 and over where then permitted to try their hand at making a bead, which meant heating the end of a glass rod and then attaching it to the ceramic holder to shape.

If you weren’t able to make the event, Laurie also teaches classes through the Mesa Arts Center, as well as private lessons.

Story Writing Workshop #2

The first story workshop in 2010, which resulted in stories of candy and dinosaurs, was such a success that we have planned another for this Saturday, January 22nd at 2:00pm.

Kids will learn basic story mechanics, then collaborate with one another to write a story. This activity is suggested for ages 6+. Materials will be provided at the workshop.

Bring your outrageous ideas and big dreams to share! RSVP on the Facebook page.

2011 Gangplank Jr. Kickoff Recap

Talk about starting the year off right. More than 20 parents attended the Gangplank Jr 2011 Kickoff, providing valuable feedback and ideas that will drive our programming this year.

The meeting began with Gangplank Executive Director Derek Neighbors providing background on the organization, as well as how Gangplank Jr fits into the larger vision of Gangplank as a whole. Gangplank began as a place for adults to break out of the traditional corporate sphere, challenging themselves to learn new skills and collaborate with one another. As that concept grew, it became apparent those ideals needed to start being taught much younger, as the state of education continues to decline. Gangplank Jr offers an opportunity for kids to explore, be creative, and most importantly, fail in world that increasingly bars them from those experiences.

A recap of 2010 events followed, along with a discussion on what types of programs parents would like to see in 2011. Afterward Mike Benner, Gangplank Jr initiative leader for 2011, shared his goals for the year. Both the feedback and goals can be found at the bottom of this post.

The evening closed with a description of volunteer opportunities for parents. As the organization continues to grow, Gangplank Jr will rely on parent involvement to maintain structure and communicate effectively with its members. If you are interested in reading more about current volunteer opportunities, visit our Volunteer page and fill out an interest form. Please keep in mind we need parents not only for leadership roles, but also to help out with single events. If you have expertise in an area listed within our ideas or goals section below, please contact us.

A huge thanks to all the parents that took time out of their busy schedules to attend. We are blown away by the level of participation we’ve seen right off the bat and are excited to get cracking!

Big thanks to Floridino’s and Jeff Weninger for donating food for the evening.

Programming Ideas

  • Learning to/from Fail
  • Cooking
  • Basic Mechanics – car, house, “handyman”
  • Audio/Podcasting
  • Xtranormal
  • Glass Fusing
  • “Take Apart Box”/Break Down Day
  • Manga/Comic Create/Go Animate
  • Ice Skating/Roller Skating
  • Hiking/Rock Climbing
  • Running
  • Falconry/Reptiles
  • Adventure Racing
  • Tech+Art (ie claymation)
  • Creative Writing
  • Volunteering/Charity
  • Photography/Videography
  • First Aid/Safety
  • CPR
  • Bullying/Self Defense
  • Orange Picking for the Food Bank
  • Local Orphanage Tour
  • Music+tech
  • Financial planning
  • Music appreciation
  • Theater

2011 Goals

  • Full robotics curriculum for FIRST LEGO League
  • GP Jr Camp during school break
  • Highschool internship/shadowing program with Gangplank anchors
  • Tutoring/mentoring program
  • At least two Gangplank Jr events per month
  • DangerScouts / Monthly Big Events, not weekly little events / Badges
  • Diversify activities (Art, design, video, tech)
  • Track membership
  • Work with GP Health for more kid’s health activities
  • Movie and Game Night (family night/open house)
  • Work with under privileged groups and orphanages
  • Contests (best game, design, art)

(Re)Introducing Gangplank Jr. Initiative Leader Mike Benner

Gangplank Jr is growing – expanding programs, taking on volunteers and looking to change education in the Valley. Our goals are big for 2011, even bigger for 2015.

It takes a passionate and courageous individual to step up and volunteer to take on these goals. Fortunate for us, he’s been volunteering and running Gangplank Jr programs for more than a year.

To ensure our vision continues on the right track, Mike Benner has volunteered to head our Gangplank Jr initiatives. Mike has been with the program since the beginning, running events from Scratch Programming, to Castles & Catapults. He designed the younger kids track for our Lego League and is a key influence in starting DangerScouts.

2011 is going to be a banner year for the kids and we’re glad to have Mike on board.

Gangplank Jr 2011 Kick-Off

In just under a year, Gangplank Jr has grown from one event every few months to an event every weekend. We’ve successfully funded and mentored two FIRST LEGO League robotic teams. These activities are successful because of involvement from parents.

From building a drum to designing catapults, Gangplank Jr promotes a range of activities that exploit a child’s natural curiosity, something that is becoming less and less available in schools. As we continue to grow, it’s important to us to have parent feedback and participation at all levels.

Gangplank Jr has big goals for 2011. Come be a part of putting them into action.

Food and activities for the kids will be provided. Please RSVP to attend.

Volcanoes, Fire and Fun

Note: This post is written by ASU Business Senior, Sabrina Scott. Sabrina is one of five interns that elected to do their senior project with Gangplank. Check out her first post, ‘Best Gangplank Work Day‘.

Hosting a Gangplank Jr. activity was one of the most interesting days at Gangplank for me. Fellow intern Dev and I started off the morning with trying to launch a rocket – causing the whole back classroom to smell like smoke – and ended the day with lava oozing off the work tables.

As part of our Gangplank internship, we were dividing into pairs and tasked with planing and hosting a Gangplank Jr. event. Dev and I decided a science day fit in with Gangplank’s mission for its youth program.

Our initial plan was to make volcanoes and matchstick rockets. Due to windy weather conditions, we were not able to make the rockets with the kids. We did, however, experiment ourselves before coming to that conclusion. We were not successful at getting the rocket to launch but instead were surprised by the amount of fire and proceeded to fill the room with a smoky aroma for the rest of the afternoon.

Although the rockets did not work, we were able to make volcanoes with three boys.

These three boys were very creative and made the activity a great success. They sculpted awesome volcanoes out of clay, and created bright colored lava to fill their volcanoes with food coloring, baking soda and vinegar. We proceeded to erupt the volcanoes, learning that when you tell nine-year-old boys to add as much vinegar as they want, be prepared to have a mess to clean up.

Needless to say, their volcanoes had awesome eruptions.

This Jr. event was an exciting afternoon for us interns. We got to hang out with some fun kids and were able to act like kids ourselves. Gangplank is a great place for these kids’ activities. They have all sorts of stuff for the young ones to do and learn. I am glad I got to experience and enjoy an event first hand.

See the video of the eruptions.

Turn up the heat – Science style!

Science has never been so…messy. Sure, the science fair at school may have you build a volcano to show chemical reactions, but it has to LOOK like a volcano. At our ‘Turn up the heat – science style!’, participants were given markers and food coloring to design the volcano of their dreams, as well as display how vinegar and baking soda interact with each other. We also added dishing washing soap to create a more viscous, slow-moving lava flow.

Check out the video of the kid’s volcanoes erupting and join us for our next Gangplank Junior event on December 5th, 2010.

Stories of Candy and Dinosaurs

ASU Senior’s Doreen Zhao and Dan Dilizia hosted our first ‘Story Writing Workshop’ this past weekend. The event taught kids the basics of writing story and then put them into groups to collaborate on a finished product.

The class began by covering the essential pieces of a story: setting, protagonist (good guy), antagonist (bad guy), conflict and resolution. Students provided the example of Harry Potter to help illustrate the various pieces.

Then…they were off!

It was boys versus girls. Noah and his friend Dylan teamed up to create a Grand Theft Auto, Aliens and Jurassic Park theft thriller that was very elaborate in nature with lots of violence. Three of the girls collaborated on a story centered on the game Candyland, in which a king must compete in a candy eating contest with the evil Dotty that is trying to kidnap the Fairy Princess. One participate chose to work on her own and outlined a action thriller about a man that must complete a quest or the whole world will remain frozen.

Good times were had by all and the creativity was flowing. We hope to continue the collaboration at the next writing event, scheduled for Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 2:00pm.