Music Ministries Internship

Sunday, January 26th, 2014
Children's choir.jpgThis semester, I am completing a music ministry internship at a large church.  I am serving as an assistant to  the Director of Instrumental Music and Children's Choirs.  I will be assisting in planning and organizing church music ministries, services, and special events.  I will be aiding in the recruitment and payment of personnel needed for worship services and events and will be assisting the volunteer Children's Choir Directors in planning and organization as needed.  I will be attending the worship planning meetings and will be observing the adult choir, orchestra, and worship team rehearsals.

cello.jpgOver the past two weeks I have already been stretched a lot and have discovered that there is so much that I have yet to learn in tis field.  Our worship pastor and instrumental music director have strongly recommended that in addition to my required classes for my major, I sit in on the instrumental technique classes so that I can learn as much as possible about how to play every instrument.  I do not have to reach an advanced level in each of the instruments, but I do need to be able to play simple songs and sight read simple music. This will help me be:

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What is Worship - Part 4

Saturday, January 4th, 2014
Baptist Church.jpgOne of the largest misconceptions about worship today is that it something that only takes place at church, but this could not be further from the truth.  Worship can and should be done everywhere – not just within the church building.  The tabernacle and temple of Israel were designed to be symbols that reminded the Israelites of God’s presence among them – not the sole places of worship.  This concerned the Samaritan woman who asked Jesus where the acceptable place to worship was:  Israel or the mountains of Samaria.  Jesus responded by declaring “Woman, believe me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.  You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.  God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:20-24).  1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us that the Christian’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in us, and Romans 12:1 tells us that we are to present our bodies “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual worship.”
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What is Worship - Part 3

Friday, January 3rd, 2014
Matza Bread - Photo Credit <a href=></a> .jpgIn a previous blog post, I discussed the importance of having a God-centered worship.  A God-centered worship should then take time to reflect, not only on the person of God, but also on the works of God.  God actually commanded the Israelites to include reflection in their special feasts of worship.  During the Feast of Booths, the Israelites were commanded to live in tents to remember that “the sons of Israel live in booths when [God] brought them out from the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 23:43).  The Feast of Unleavened Bread was created to celebrate the day God brought out the Israelites from the land of Egypt (Exodus 13:9) because this feast would “serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder to you on your forehead, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt.  Ark of the Covenant - Photo Credit <a href=></a> .jpgThe Passover was designed to be a “night to be observed for the Lord for having brought them out from the land of Egypt; this night is for the Lord, to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations.” (Exodus 12:42).  The temple and Ark of the Covenant were filled with symbols that reminded the Israelites of their history and dependence on God for salvation.  

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What is Worship - Part 2

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014
Hands raised in worship - Photo Credit <a href=></a>.jpgIn the previous post, we discussed the fact that worship is first knowledgeable:  you must know something about the One you are worshipping so that you are not worshipping blindly.  Knowledge alone, however, is not enough to give us the right focus for worship.  The Bible tells us that even the demons have knowledge of and believe in God, but this does not save them (James 2:19).  We must choose to make God the focus of our worship:  we cannot worship God and something else simultaneously (Matthew 6:24).  When we try to worship God in our own way we are actually worshipping ourselves:  this is false worship and not pleasing to God.  In Matthew 15:7-9, God tells us that “this people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.  But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”  

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What is Worship? - Part 1

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014
Christians WorshippingIn a class at The Master's College, we studied the history of the Christian church and the development of hymns and worship.  While we read several good books on worship including John MacArthur's book "Worship: The Ultimate Priority" and David Peterson's "Engaging with God", we also were required to develop our own philosophy of worship based on the Bible and personal experience.  I wanted share my philosophy on my blog.

 I have broken down my philosophy into five separate parts and I will be highlighting each point of worship in the following blog posts.  Worship is:

     - Informed
     - God-Centered
     - Reflective
     - Responsive
     - All-Encompassing

Today, however, I will be addressing our first point:  Informed Worship.  

Continue Reading "What is Worship? - Part 1" »
Music_practice_rooms.jpgI thought I would share a bit about how I benefited from the Lenovo Tablet 2 last semester as a music student.  While there are not quite as many apps in Windows 8 as there are for Apple devices, I was able to find several piano apps that allowed me to again be more mobile:  I was no longer tied to a physical piano in order to complete some of my music homework and I cannot begin to describe how freeing this was.  In addition, I found a free app called "Winterval Trainer 8" which plays a series of notes and allows you to quiz yourself on intervals and gives you tips for how to recognize them.  This was a huge help in my Aural Skills class when we had to be able to identify and correctly write down a series of notes that are played for us.  

Piano KeyboardI was able to download pdfs of music and play some songs off of that.  I found that the screen size made it difficult to read a full piano score, however it was possible to read chord charts.  I was not able to test this feature, but a friend of mine wound up scanning his music for choir and reading off of that so that he did not have to worry about turning pages or finding the correct page/book.  This was very effective for him and I hope to do the same next semester.

Mozart ManuscriptI also wanted to expand a bit on my experience with the Surface Pro as a musician.  While I am not a composition major, I do have to compose for various school projects.  As a test for the Surface, I downloaded a free trial of Finale, the primary music notation program we use on campus, and proceeded to engrave the first page of a Mozart sonata.  I tried various methods of entry (touch, stylus, mouse, and USB piano keyboard) and determined that the best way to enter music into the Surface was via a USB piano keyboard and a mouse.  Entry was rather slow without a number pad, and the size of a screen only makes it realistic to enter music for 1-3 instruments, but the software worked and proved that the surface can be used as an effective idea capture tool.  (Note, I only used the free Finale Software and did not install the Garritan Sound Bank.)  It would be interesting to see a Finale App for a tablet so that I could split my screen and have on half be a piano keyboard for entry and the other half be the Finale software.

TMC Handbells perform "Rain"

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Take Me Out to the ’Bell’ Game!

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
Last spring, I took a course in Event Planning, and for my final project, I had to coordinate either a real or imaginary event. I chose to coordinate The Master's College Spring Handbell Concert and learned a lot about planning an event from start to finish, managing a group of people, and creating a logical flow that engaged the audience. I will be posting several videos from that concert over the next few days. Video credit goes to Peter Johnson for spending several hours taking and editing the video.

The first song I wanted to share was actually the finale of the concert. It is an arrangement of "Take Me Out to the 'Bell' Game" in the style of a cheesy waltz, Pink Panther, and Magnificent 7. It was arranged by myself and a fellow student, Morgan Ruthard, as a final project for our Handbell Directing course. We really enjoyed adding a bit of drama to this song and I hope you enjoy it.
Poetic Slimbook Case for Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2In a previous post, I mentioned that my employer at Computer Services was allowing me to use a Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2 for both work and personal use.  This tablet has greatly changed how I use technology on a daily basis, however I found that I was still limited do to the flimsiness of the tablet.  In fact, I even had to send two tablets back to Lenovo as they developed hardware problems from just normal use.

I finally decided to spend some of my own money to purchase a case for the Lenovo to see if that would help make the tablet more durable.  I was primarily concerned with finding a case that was lightweight, but still protected the screen and weak back.  I also was curious to see if any of the cases I found would help me get a better screen angle as I was not pleased with the angle the Thinkpad Bluetooth Keyboard provided.

Continue Reading "The Productivity Toolbox: A Case Makes All the Difference" »
I mentioned in a previous post that I have had the privilege of using both the Microsoft Surface and the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2.  I have been using the Tablet 2 for about three months now, and it has completely revolutionized the way I do work or take notes in church or school.  In this post, I will list a few pros and cons of this particular tablet.  I hope to get into how I use the tablet specifically in future posts.

The Thinkpad Tablet 2:

The Thinkpad Tablet 2 is significantly lighter than the Microsoft Surface, and therefore even easier to take with you wherever you go.  While I have a desktop at home for major projects that require multiple screens, the tablet is powerful enough to allow me to use it Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2as my primary computer.  Its small size has allowed me to use it in meetings without being a distraction and the ability to type or switch to drawing mode has let me take more effective notes in school.  But more on that later.

Unlike the Surface, however, the Tablet 2 is rather weak and very fragile.  The backing of the tablet is not very strong and I have already had to send two tablets back because of hardware issues that have developed behind the screen as I simply carried it around.  I finally solved this problem, by purchasing a case for the tablet. The case only cost about $20, but the extra protection it afforded allowed me to be comfortable taking the tablet with me wherever I went or storing it in a backpack - very important for a college student.

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Tips on preparing a score

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013
The ConductorThis past school year, I took both Beginning and Advanced Conducting classes at The Master’s College.  While these classes were required for my major, I honestly didn’t think I would enjoy conducting.  After all, it’s much more fun to play an instrument than to stand up there waving your arms to keep the beat, right?  And who watches the conductor anyway?

I had no idea how wrong I was.  After the very first class period, I realized that conducting is so much more than being a metronome.  It’s about creating music, much like the way an artist creates a painting.  As the conductor, I can “play” all of the instruments in the orchestra, or all of the voices in the choir.  I am not limited to one instrument and I have the ability to fine tune every sound of every instrument.  Through these classes, I not only grew to appreciate my conductors more, but I also realized how much I loved conducting.

Shortly before beginning the Orchestral Conducting segment of my Advanced Conducting course, I met with my orchestra conductor at Grace Baptist, Lisa Hernacki. Every two weeks our orchestra prepares several songs for the Sunday Services in addition to our Christmas, Easter, and special concerts, and I wanted to understand how she could get to know all of the scores that well in such a short amount of time. Mrs. Hernacki’s advice was so helpful that I thought I would share her steps with any other interested musician.

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In addition to being a student, I also work for the Computer Services Department at The Master's College as a Special Projects Coordinator For the past several weeks, I have had the amazing opportunity to test and use a few different types of tablets through my work.  I have been primarily using the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2 (blog post on this coming soon) , but for the last week, I have been able to use the Microsoft Surface Pro while a coworker was away.   I love the concept of using a tablet in college and in the last 4-5 weeks that I have been using tablets, it has revolutionized the way I have used my computer to take notes for classes or meetings, study, or research information.  I will be blogging about how I have used the tablets in my classes in future posts.  I thought I would share a few of my initial thoughts and impressions as both an employee and a college student on the Microsoft Surface Pro.

The Surface Pro:

Microsoft Surface ProThe Surface Pro is the perfect size to fit in a backpack, purse, or just grab and go.  It is somewhat heavy, but what the device loses in desired weight it makes up in power.  Having both a tablet for drawing and media consumption, and a full laptop is fantastic.  As a student, is helpful to be able to have my textbooks, computer, and notes on the tablet so that I have fewer things to carry/manage.

I appreciate the Surface's robust design.  While it is heavy, the firm casing protects the screen and electronics enough that I don't have to buy an Surface Pro Kickstandextra case to protect it - which saves weight and room in my backpack.  I love the built-in stand which is a part of my casing, and the only change I would like to see in this is the ability to adjust the angle of the stand for various purposes.

Continue Reading "The Productivity Toolbox: Microsoft Surface Pro" »

Building up the toolbox: Pinterest

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013
PinterestFor one of my assignments in the Event Planning class I took, I had to sign up and begin using Pinterest.  While I definitely use social media, I tend to be pretty slow to jump onto new tools as I know that these tools can be as much of a hindrance as they can be a help.  I had not heard of Pinterest before and was apprehensive of adding yet another tool to my toolbox.

Pinterest is a "virtual pinboard" that allows you to collect and store information visually.  The saying "a picture is worth a thousand words" really applies here.  Pinterest allows you to digitally store links to articles and instructions pictorially and organize those pictures in digital pinboards for future reference.  It is much easier to find information when you can see a picture of it, rather than have to read a text description.

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Adventures in College: Event Planning

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013
2012 Event Planning ClassThis past spring, I took a class in Event Planning which was a complete learning experience for me.  I took the class both because it fulfilled a GE requirement for me and because I thought that it would be a good skill for someone in ministry, or in life in general, to have.

On the first night, I realized that I had completely underestimated the class.  The professor, Sam Neylan, was not only going to teach us how to coordinate weddings and baby showers, but was also planning to teach us how to become more organized in our own lives, pay attention to detail, begin with the end in mind, become more professional in our writing and communication, be creative in everything we do, and coordinate events so that every moment is intentional.  

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The Making of a Masterpiece

Friday, December 28th, 2012
The Final ProductEvery year, we love to create clever themed Christmas cards to send to our friends and family.  Each year has been a bit of a challenge to create, but this year's card posed some unique problems.  Namely, the theme was of the four Mack girls posing in a gingerbread house in a winter wonderland.  The problem?  We now live in Santa Clarita where it doesn't snow...ever.

Behind the scenesSince giant gingerbread houses are in short supply at this time of year, we built our own out of wood and thick cardboard.  We designed special candies for the front of the house out of tissue paper and colored cling wrap and spray painted the house to look more authentic.  On a bright, windy day, the four of us carried the house into the backyard and posed in front of our palm tree (not very Christmassy, right?)

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Sing We Now A’Wassailing!

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012
The Fellowship of the RingThis past Christmas, The Fellowship of the Ring had the incredible privilege of performing in The Master's College 2011 Come Christmas Sing. Our quartet, which consisted of Lindsay Christoph, Wendy Mack, Amy Mack, and Morgan Ruthardt performed both outside as the audience was standing in line waiting to enter and inside during the concert. The theme of this year's concert was the 1920's, so during the prelude our quartet dressed in fur coats and top hats and stood in front of the building. We performed numerous four-in-hand pieces that Amy arranged for our group.

As part of a class project, Morgan Ruthardt and I edited a handbell piece arranged by Paul Ellsworth. We auditioned the piece and were accepted into the concert. We had a wonderful time being a part of Come Christmas Sing in this way and we are looking forward to hopefully doing it again in the future.

Mack Family Update: First Semester Completed!

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011
It has been quite a while since I have been able to blog as I have been incredibly busy preparing for and going through my first semester of college.  I thought I would share a little bit about what that has been like for me:

 Wendy talks to friends while waiting for her student ID on the first day of collegeMy first semester in college has been a dream-come-true!  I am a double major in Worship Music Ministries and Liberal Arts and it has been amazing to be able to focus on areas that I really love.  I have just finished taking twenty units which has been intense but incredibly worth it.  This first semester I mostly took general education classes and a few of the basic classes required for my major and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
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Government Regulation: Good or Bad?

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
Dollar bills and coins.jpgIn his video, Max Borders shared his concerns about rampant government regulation and its effect on small businesses.  Borders mentioned that it is essential to our economic welfare to encourage cottage businesses to grow and prosper and to remove the government regulations that threaten to crush the small business and entrepreneurial spirit.

Borders declared,
"The urge to regulate is nothing new...but the extent of the regulatory state today is unprecedented in history.  The problem in all of this is that regulation is like a hidden tax...when taxes go up it becomes more difficult for companies to succeed.  Likewise when these hidden taxes - these regulatory costs - go up, it becomes harder and harder for entrepreneurs to thrive.  What I would argue is that cottage industries are at the beginning of wealth creation."

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Please help me win a scholarship!

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
I have been working very hard to raise the money that I need to attend The Master's College through scholarships.  My goal is to double major in Worship Music Ministries and Liberal Arts.

I recently applied for a $3,000 scholarship through WyzAnt, where I write an essay about who is my most important teacher and receive votes on my essay.  I need to make it into the top 10 to be considered for the scholarship.  Will you please help me earn this scholarship?

Just go to this site and vote for my essay entitled "Dr. Englin - Bringing the spark back into learning".

Thank you so much!
Front of my Mickey Mouse Pop-up Birthday CardIn a previous post, I shared a pop-up design I created using a cylinder technique to create a patriotic hat.  I had a request to share my templates and instructions, and since I have wanted to post a pop-up card tutorial for some time, this seemed like a great opportunity to try my hand at one.  As this is my first attempt, you'll have to be patient with me as a lot of the steps are very difficult to photograph.  I'd love to hear any feedback about this tutorial!

Inside of my pop-up birthday Mickey cardAlthough the request was for instructions to construct Uncle Sam's Hat, I needed to make a birthday card  and decided to kill two birds with one stone.  I used the exact same template and technique to create my Birthday Candle, and I will include a few notes along the way of how you can modify it to make the patriotic hat.  

Continue Reading "How to Make a Pop-up Candle for a Birthday Surprise!" »

Don’t Knock It ’Til You Try It!

Sunday, January 30th, 2011
These are the pieces of the first sweater that I knit before I sewed it togetherHave you ever thought about what you might be missing out on by not trying new things?  A few years ago, my mother signed me up for a knitting camp at our community's clubhouse.  I wasn't really enthusiastic about this as I thought that knitting was just something that old people do and that I would never like or wear anything that I had made.  I was quickly proven wrong and by the end of that camp I was knitting scarves, towels, and dishcloths with whatever yarn I could get my hands on.  I was hooked!  

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How to get Wisdom

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011
For a writing assignment, I had to write an extended definition about a topic.  I chose to write about Wisdom.

King Solomon and the Bee“How much better is it to get wisdom than gold!  And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver.”  (Proverbs 16:16)  Wisdom is something that can be very hard to define because it encompasses a number of different qualities – each working together to strengthen the others.  In today’s society, the word “wisdom” is often used interchangeably with the word “knowledge” – but this is a gross misuse of the word!  Although knowledge is a small part of wisdom, wisdom is not the collection of facts and figures to be foolishly spouted off to anyone who will be made to listen.  A wise person will share his knowledge at appropriate times so as not to humiliate or embarrass, and for the sole purpose of helping others – not to draw attention to himself.  This knowledge is used to give him the ability to make good decisions or to be discerning.  Francis Bacon said that “A prudent question is one-half of wisdom”.  A wise person is always ready to learn from others no matter how young or old for he realizes that he does not always have the right answers.  

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Book Cover of A Tale of Two CitiesFor school, I had to write a critical book review of  Charles Dickens' classic A Tale of Two Cities. I thought that I would share that review on the blog.

ATTENTION: Review contains a spoiler

It is easy to understand why Charles Dickens is listed among the great authors when one reads his classic A Tale of Two Cities.  This exciting novel is the story of a family during the French Revolution and their struggles to survive.  Dickens quickly captures and maintains the reader’s attention throughout the entire book, then masterfully shapes his emotions so that he experiences the same curiosity, nervousness, horror, and awe as the main characters.

        Dickens begins his novel with a puzzling enigma to catch the reader’s attention.  This opening statement has become one of the most famous lines in literature:  “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”  How can it be the best of times and the worst of times?  And what times?  These questions puzzle the reader as he next reads about a man who was buried for almost eighteen years then  “recalled to life”, about the curious actions of his caretakers, the Defarges, and about the love of a daughter who, having never met her father before, willingly takes him in and cares for him.  In just a few short pages, the author has peaked the reader’s curiosity and is ready to help him experience the unrest of the age.

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Ringing in the Christmas season

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010
This Christmas was full of music for Wendy and I as we performed with seven different groups over the holiday season.  All but one of the groups were in handbells - the most handbells groups we have ever been in at one time.  
Amy watches the conductor during a handbell performance
Through The Master's College handbell groups, we had the privilege of playing in the annual Come Christmas Sing concerts - a week long concert series put on by the college and featuring a wide variety of music and instruments.  We were also able to expand our musical abilities under the direction of Professor Claire Blackwell and enjoyed playing songs such as, "Angels We Have Heard on High", "The First Noel", "Joy to the World", and even a funky version of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas".

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What Child is This?

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010
This past semester, our handbell trio The Fellowship of the Ring  had the opportunity to perform in the prelude of The Master's College annual Come Christmas Sing Christmas Concerts.  We performed Wendy's and my arrangement of "What Child is This".

From left to right:  Wendy Mack,  Amy Mack, Morgan RuthardtThis particular song really stretched the three of us as we had to come up with creative ways to cover as many bells as possible while still making the piece look easy and sound good to the audience.  The song included everything from the very lowest bells (weighing nearly sixteen pounds apiece!)  to some of the highest and each of             us covered over an octave of bells.

Through this semester we have been able to expand our repertoire as well as enjoy practicing challenging pieces together.  This next semester we are looking forward to playing a Lord of the Rings medley (since our group is named after it) and to pulling off another fun song!

Twelfth Annual Master’s College Bellfest

Sunday, November 28th, 2010
This month, my sisters and I participated in the 12th annual Master's College Bellfest, a fun listening and learning opportunity for handbell ringers and lovers.   We had over ten choirs and small ensembles from all over southern California share their works, including a special mini-concert by renowned solo ringer Christine Anderson.  While there, each choir was able to sight read through a new piece while learning many new and fun techniques as well as participate in a mass ring of Joel Raney's arrangement of "We Three Kings".

We'd like to thank Claire Blackwell for coordinating the event and Christine Anderson for directing and teaching us.  We all learned a lot and really appreciated all the hard work that was put into this.

Continue Reading "Twelfth Annual Master's College Bellfest" »

Andantino - The Fellowship of the Ring

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

This year, Wendy and I have had the opportunity to experience small ensemble ringing through our group - The Fellowship of the Ring. We started this trio last year with our friend Morgan Ruthardt and enjoyed it so much that we decided to continue this semester. At the beginning of the semester, the three of us made the decision that the trio would only play music that was either written or arranged by someone in the group, allowing us the freedom to play whatever song we want in whatever way we want to play it. Because we are all either music majors or music lovers, writing our own music has been great and has helped us all grow in our music abilities. It has given us a better understanding of the pieces we are playing (how they work and fit together) and has also been a lot of fun!

Last semester we started our first performance off with a comedy skit on "I've got the Joy". In the skit, Morgan is trying to be very professional and solemn while playing this Sunday school song - without the joy. The other two players (Wendy and I) aren't exactly thrilled with that and keep trying to take over the song to "liven" it up a bit - much to Morgan's frustration . Throughout the song the three of us constantly go back and forth - each one trying to take control of the song and play as they think it should be played until the climax, where the three ringers finally all agree on the best way to play the song.

This semester we decided to do two new songs. Over the summer, Wendy and I arranged "What Child is This" for the trio while Morgan worked on arranging the song "Andantino". We have really enjoyed playing both of these beautiful pieces and have had the opportunity to play in the annual Master's College Bellfest and are looking forward to performing in the Master's College Come Christmas Sing this year. Below is a video of our trio performing "Andantino" at Bellfest.

We have really enjoyed this special opportunity both in increasing our skill with the bells and in building friendships and have already started planning some very special (and fun) pieces for next year!

We Three Kings (Mass ring at Bellfest 2010)

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

What do you get when you combine three timpanis, several percussion instruments, a synthesizer, and several full bell choirs? Some great music and a lot of fun!

This fall The Master's College held their 12th annual Bell festival (Bellfest) which we had the opportunity to participate in. Each of the several choirs and small ensembles performed their works and there were some amazing pieces! We even got to hear a small mini concert by Christine Anderson, a renowned solo ringer who wowed us all with her quick playing and juggling bells!

The concert ended with a mass ring where all the participating choirs played together along with the percussion and synth. Under the conducting of Christine Anderson, we played Joel Raney's mystical arrangement of "We Three Kings" which uses a variety of techniques and sounds to make you feel as if you were on the journey with the wise men.

The Jubilant Four

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

At the beginning of this semester an interesting problem arose for Master's College Jubilation Handbell Choir. While the group was scheduled to meet twice a week, class conflicts prevented all but four of us to meet for the second rehearsal. Our handbell director Claire Blackwell decided to use the time instead to help the four members who could make practice learn how to do four-in-hand ringing. The result? The Jubilant Four was formed.

The four of us (Wendy Mack, Amy Mack, Steffie Hydanus, and Hannah Knapp) decided that we would become a four-in-hand quartet. Four-in-hand ringing is a special technique where each person holds four bells (two in each hand) and keeps holding them for the entire song. While only sixteen bells can be played per song, we are able to use those bells in combinations to make the sound lively and full. Unlike most choirs, we do not use tables, allowing us the freedom to walk around and stand with the audience. We have all enjoyed learning this new technique from Mrs. Blackwell and have had a lot of fun getting to know each other better!


This summer, my sisters and I decided to prepare a special piece to perform at the Master's College annual Bellfest and chose the song "O Holy Night". While Wendy and I have been ringing bells for a long time, this was Emily and Kelly's first time to ring handbells and they were very eager to learn. We had a lot of fun practicing together and filling the house with music (although I think Mom and Dad may have gotten a little tired of the same song being played over and over) and were able to pull it off. It was amazing to see how quickly the piece came together and how smoothy it went.

We were able to perform our song in the Master's college Bellfest and really enjoyed it! Below is the video of us all playing this piece.

Playing this song was a lot of fun and the four of us are looking forward to doing more together soon!

Blogging from the Pit

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010
Wendy poses with her violaNo, not that kind of pit.  Amy and I are very excited to be a part of the Grace Baptist Church Praise Orchestra!  Ever since we were little, I've wanted to be a part of this special ministry.  I remember always rushing up to the musicians after the service to ask and learn about their instruments and I especially remember one Easter when I told Don Valentine, the percussionist, that one day, I was going to join the orchestra.

My opportunity came in my freshman year of high school.  Because we are enrolled in the A Beka Academy program, we were able to take many courses through DVD.  When I learned that there was a DVD course to teach me how to play any stringed instrument, I was really excited and, after discussing it with Lisa Hernacki, the church orchestra director, Amy and I decided to learn the viola.

At last, our DVDs arrived and as we started studying under the Jaffé Strings Program, screeches filled the house as our family and neighbors had to put up with - not one - but two beginning string players.  I am so grateful that they did support me, and that they never made negative remarks.  It didn't take too long, however, for us to begin experimenting with our instruments.  We were so excited when we were able to sound out Pirates of the Caribbean (the original song from the ride) on our instruments as well as several other songs!

Grace Baptist Church Praise OrchestraAs we finished up the second year of our study under the strings program, we began preparing to audition for the Grace Baptist Church Orchestra.  The first violinist in the orchestra, Patti Graham, was such a big help and encouragement, and she helped us go through an intense three month "viola boot camp" to help us get ready for our auditions.  At the end of August, Amy and I auditioned for Mrs. Hernacki and were accepted into the orchestra!

It 's been a wonderful experience to be a part of this incredible group of people.  It has been such a big blessing to me as I start to pursue music more seriously, and, although we still hear the regular viola jokes (what violist doesn't?), all of the musicians are so positive and encouraging!  I am grateful for the privilege to be a part of this special family.

Directing My First Bell Choir

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010
Wendy directing the bell choir"Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young.  Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity." - 1 Timothy 4:12

For several years, a set of two octave handbells have been sitting in the attic of the local church, just waiting for someone to come along to start a bell choir - I guess that someone was me.

The bell choirLast year, one of the members of the church mentioned the bells and asked if Amy or I would be interested in directing a choir.  At the time, while I really wanted to help, I couldn't imagine myself directing a bell choir where I would be the youngest person there.  
Continue Reading "Directing My First Bell Choir" »


Saturday, October 2nd, 2010
LabVIEW for LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT In a previous post, I mentioned that I was going through Michael Gasperi's book LabVIEW for LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT.  I just finished it, and I thought that I would share my take on the tutorial.

As I have read and gone through a few technical tutorials, I realized that it is extremely difficult to present technical information in a way that keeps the reader's interest and attention while exciting him with new concepts or ideas.  I have read books concerning three different programming languages (NXT-G, ROBOLAB, and LabVIEW,) and have found that, while the programming languages are different and unique from each other, the basic information and exercises are the same, causing the various tutorials to seem to blur together.  this book did an outstanding job of keeping my interest while presenting the information in a new and creative way.  

Continue Reading "LabVIEW for LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT" »

The babies have arrived!

Sunday, September 5th, 2010
I'm posting this birth announcement exactly 18 years later...

Amy & Wendy's first day home - can you tell them apart?On Saturday, September 5, 1992 at 5:54 PM. and 5:55 PM. The Lord answered our prayers and brought us two very healthy identical twin girls.
Two years earlier, our Sunday school class did a series on Parenting Perfect Children. That's a pretty presumptuous tittle but the presenters of this class were half a dozen older couples who had already been through the trials of parenting and whose children were a testimony to their accomplishments.

Each Sunday, one couple shared from their perspective the things that had contributed to the well being of their family. One couple who spoke shared how they began to pray for their children before they were born. Not only that, they continued to pray regularly for their children's friends, and even their spouses to be - unknown at the time.

Always together and always adorable - Amy & Wendy at age 2This lesson hit home. I have seen the power of prayer work miracles in my own life and in the lives of others who call upon the Lord. Kathy and I decided that we would begin to pray for a child even though we knew that the time would be far off. During these times in prayer together, we found that we both had a desire to have twins - something that we had each desired since our early days and yet never discussed between us. The Bible says “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." PSALM 37:4. Believing this desire to be sincere, we decided to express these desires in our time of prayer.

Amy & Wendy with Daddy on the first day of PreschoolKeep in mind that there are no twins in either of our families for at least 4-5 generations that we know of. The instances of “twinning” in normal conception are very low. They are hereditary or can be the result of advanced aged (38+) or fertility drugs taken at the time of conception. Neither of these were the case for us.

Like two peas in a pod. Close friends in all things.By the time of our second pre-natal visit to the doctor, Kathy's womb had already grown quite large. We shared with our doctor that we had been praying for twins and that we suspected that Kathy had twins. Our doctor suspected that we had miscalculated the date of conception. An ultrasound examination quickly resolved the issue - identical twins! Identical twins are NOT hereditary but are the result of one fertilized egg that splits during the early weeks. Our babies shared the same sac and a common placenta - which is extremely rare (1 in 30,000 births) and often very dangerous.

Amy & Wendy, true best friendsBy Kathy's 5th month of pregnancy, she was approaching the size of a full term single birth! Our doctors became very concerned about the health of the twins. We began a routine of examinations which would bring us to the hospital once a week and 3 times a week in the last stages of pregnancy. Although the babies were expected to arrive a month short of their calculated due date of Labor Day (no pun intended), the babies held out until Saturday, September 5th.  

Meanwhile Kathy kept growing and growing and growing ... Fortunately, the babies remained in good health and both remained in the head down position thus allowing us to plan for a normal childbirth.

Amy & Wendy helping their Dad at a conferenceEarly Saturday morning, I took Kathy to the hospital. She immediately went into active labor. They brought in all of the equipment and staff and everything stopped. After several procedures and another 10 hours of difficult labor, the decision was made to perform an unscheduled C-section.

Twin births are already classified as high risk pregnancies. With a C-section now things really got hopping. The staff at St. Joseph's Medical Center were terrific. Within minutes, a medical team of 9 people were assembled and ready. Moments later, our two daughters, Baby A :7 lbs. 4 oz. and Baby B: 7 lbs. 2 oz. were born.  Our prayers for healthy twins had been answered!

Amy & Wendy at 17 - beautiful godly young women who love the LordTheir names are:
BABY A: Wendy Anne Mack
BABY B: Amy Elizabeth Mack
Born Saturday, September 5th at 5:54 &  5:55 PM.

Kathy is greatly relieved to no longer be carrying such large babies. The hospital staff was also quite amazed at their healthy size - apparently uncommon in identical twins. Identical they are. I can't yet tell them apart. If I don't return one baby to the same crib from which I took her - forget it, I'm lost!
Kathy and the girls will remain at the hospital for the next few days. Then the real excitement begins.

Kathy and I want to thank you for your friendship, your encouragement, and your support.

Sincerely yours,

Eric (Proud Papa), Kathy, Wendy, and Amy

Mom’s Precious Jewels

Sunday, September 5th, 2010
Birthday Cake.jpgEighteen years ago this very day, two precious jewels were added to my life.  The twins were born!  After 14 hours of labor, and finally deciding you were just too tangled up to come out on your own (trying to get out first, Wendy?), a C-section was performed, and two beautiful little ladies came into the world.  

Amy and Wendy, I'll never forget the moment you made me a mom - a role I have and always will cherish.  I don't deserve to have such wonderful daughters like you two, but I'm thrilled that I do!  I've loved every moment of it - pushing you around downtown Burbank in your twin stroller, sitting on the couch at the condo reading to you, and all of the "bonding" moments in Pine Mountain.  You have become incredible godly women, and I am proud of both of you!  Happy Birthday my precious ones!

Recession: A Blessing in Disguise?

Saturday, July 31st, 2010
20070216_GTDBreakfastClub (small).jpgFor a scholarship, I wrote an essay about the effects of the current recession on the family.  I really enjoyed writing it and thought I'd share it.

While initially, one would expect the current recession to have an adverse effect on the average family, I have found that my family has grown more creative, closer in our relationships, and wiser in our decisions as a result.

I've heard of studies that claim that television and video games “reduce” creativity and I believe that there may be some truth to that.  Several years ago, in order to better manage what we consumed, my parents made the decision to get rid of our cable television.  We still had videos to watch, but the television was on far less frequently than when we had cable.  Suddenly, my sisters and I found ourselves with abundant time on our hands.  Kelly is wearing the cardigan I knit for her as well as my hat and scarfWe all read more and began to discover interests or talents that we otherwise might not have known we possessed.  Although I did not enjoy the home economics course I took in high school, I realized that once I had the freedom to experiment, I loved cooking and baking.  I also learned how to knit and have enjoyed making sweaters and scarves for family and friends.  We encouraged friends to get rid of their cable subscription and they, too, have found themselves being more creative.
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Fashion, Clay, Books, and more...

Thursday, July 29th, 2010
These last few weeks have been rather busy for us.  Amy and I are hoping to audition for our church's orchestra and have spent many hours practicing.  We are also starting a bell choir at the Pine Mountain Club church, and have been going through materials in preparation for that.  Amy also designed another fantastic clay box which I will be sharing soon.

Both Emily and Kelly received some fashion kits and dress models for their birthdays and they have been going to town creating new fashion designs.  Emily had so much fun wrapping the fabric around the small doll and twisting it to make new fashions that she decided to pull out a sheet and wrap the fabric around Kelly to create life sized fashions.

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Uncle Sam’s Hat

Sunday, July 11th, 2010
Front of Card - God Bless America!In honor of our countries birth, I designed a new Fourth of July card - Uncle Sam's Hat.

This was my first time using the cylinder technique.  While it was easy to assemble, it took me a while to develop a template with the right proportions. Uncle Sam's Hat - First VersionAs you can see, in my first attempt, the top of the hat didn't quite pop up all the way.  

Later, I tried adding a support brace inside the card to push the top of the hat up - and met with success!

Uncle Sam's Hat  - Second Version With Support BraceThe hardest part about creating a pop-up card is visualizing - not what it will look like when it is open - but how it will fold.  It's hard to tell in the picture but the hat is perfectly round when the card is laid flat, however, it needed to lay flat when I folded it. How Uncle Sam's Hat Folds I thought I'd post a picture of the hat as I folded it to show how the hat flattens itself.  The top of the cylinder folds inside the hat, the support pushes down, and the base of the hat lays flat.

I'm excited to have learned this new technique and have already come up with several ideas to incorporate it into new designs.  Perhaps a candle on a birthday cake?  Or maybe a Fourth of July Firecracker?  If I can figure out how to put a cone on top I might even be able to make a spaceship or rocket!  I'll keep you posted on my designs!

A Case for Homeschooling

Thursday, July 8th, 2010
I have never liked writing a paper for school and never doing anything else with what I've written.  I thought I'd post the argumentative essay I just finished.  

Many of our schools are dangerous and inefficient.  Often in the news there are reports about shootings and drug abuse in schools.  Children as young as elementary school are familiar with several curse words and are hearing about subjects not appropriate for their age.  Students are being taught that there is no God who created the universe, and that they are a result of random chance which diminishes the value of their life.  It has become popular throughout our society to refer to education as boring or torturous, and students have little incentive to read or experiment outside of school.  Students are graduating with few writing or math skills and without the knowledge of how to discover answers for themselves.  Yet despite this grim situation, a movement has been growing to repel it.  More and more parents have decided to pull their children out of public schools and to educate them at home.  Critics of this movement claim that homeschooling children are ill equipped to handle situations in the “real world”, socially deprived, or that parents are unable to meet the special needs of a child – yet with homeschooling it is quite the opposite.

Continue Reading "A Case for Homeschooling" »

Are You Wise?

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
Fourth Wiseman.jpgA while ago, my parents watched a movie called, "The Fourth Wise man". It was based on a story by Henry Van Dyke called The Other Wise Man. They were so impressed with the story, that they wanted my sisters and me to watch it as well. Here is the summary:

A magi named Artaban leaves his home and sells everything he has to go look for the Messiah. All the other magi taunted him for his decision. A reluctant servant accompanied Artaban only for a reward of his (the servant's) freedom. Artaban brings three gifts for Jesus; a ruby, a sapphire, and a pearl. Along the way, he stops and helps needy people and gives the gifts away to provide for them. He got sidetracked, and for 33 years, Artaban lived with a colony of outcasts and lepers using his medical skills and farming abilities to help them. Artaban learned that Jesus was in Jerusalem and set out to meet him. Many troubles prevented him from seeing Jesus before the crucifixion. Before Artaban’s death, Jesus rewarded his faithful servant, Artaban, with his heart’s desire.

        My dad gave my sisters and me a challenge of how many verses from the Bible we could find to support this movie. He said if we found enough verses, we could earn the new Nancy Drew computer game for the four of us to play together. My dad also said that if we write a blog post about it, we could earn another game. These are the verses and the reasons why that we found:

John 3:16- For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth on Him will never perish but have eternal life. –Answers why Jesus came.

Isaiah 9:6- For unto us a child is born. Unto us a Son is given and the government will be upon His shoulders and His name will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. –The prophecy that Jesus was Born.

Matthew 11:5- The Blind receive sight, the Lame walk, those who have leprosy are healed, the deaf her, the dead are raised and the good news is preached to the poor. –Blind man received his sight

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A Pop-up World...

Friday, July 2nd, 2010
Lady Bug Card front coverA few years ago I was talking to my mom about opportunities for learning engineering techniques and she suggested that I learn how to make pop-up cards.  Her reasoning was that pop-ups are very complex how they fold and that the practical application of the geometry I was learning would reinforce it in my mind.  At the time, I was thinking only about robotics and didn't really consider what she was suggesting.  Lady bug card full inside viewHowever, the thought stayed in the back of my mind.

A year later it was Emily's birthday, and as our whole family has a tradition that we give hand-made cards, I had to come up with an idea.  For some reason, all I could remember was that conversation and decided Close up of the ladybugto search the web for instructions on making pop-up cards.  I discovered Robert Sabuda's site  and made the birthday cake pop-up card.  I was instantly hooked!

I went to the library and checked out two books:  Paul Jackson's The Pop-Up Book, and The Elements of Pop-Up by David Carter and James Diaz.  These two books have become an essential part of my pop-up kit.

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Soil, Sheep, and a Rainforest?

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010
SonQuest Rainforest logo.jpgAdd together almost 16,000 cookies, 1500 children, 500 workers, and five parables - and what do you have?  Vacation Bible School at Grace Baptist Church!

The girls and I were extraordinarily blessed this past week to attend Vacation Bible School (VBS) at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita.  I certainly had a life-changing week.

Wendy and I shared a sixth grade classroom of 19 girls - in which Kelly was a student.  Emily led a table of first graders, and Amy sang and played the keyboard for Outdoor Music.

When the children arrived each morning, we attended a 35 minute assembly of music, drama, and information on the missionary that we were supporting.  The contest between the boys and girls was held each day to see who could donate the most money to our missionary, Ashley Ruffner, who works at a school in Ecuador.  The over $19,000 the students brought in will go to supply sports equipment, VBS materials, Bibles, and some new sound equipment to the school.  The donation also paid for a plane ticket home, so Ashley could see her father who had become ill and needed surgery.  Ashley was able to join us at the assemblies on Thursday and Friday.

After the assembly, our group went to our classroom (which our family had a blast decorating with rain forest themed decorations!) for craft time, then outside for some wet recreation time.  After a quick snack (some of those 16,000 cookies), we headed in for a message from one of our pastors or a drama group.  After that, we headed back to our room for our table time.

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"Chip" Comes to Visit

Saturday, June 26th, 2010
Chipmunk in the Front RoomFor the past few weeks I have been hearing noises behind the walls and in our ceilings.  Then, a few days ago, I caught sight of the intruder.

"Chip" seems to have been living behind the wall in my office and using a route'Chip' hides in the corner over my dad's office ceiling to get to our front room which currently serves as a greenhouse. One of the hazards of living in the forest is that "critters" love to move in with you.  Late last year we had a family of raccoons move in under our deck and now it appears that some chipmunks have decided to follow suit.

'Chip' prepares to hop into the flower pot for a snack
I was able to catch several great pictures of him before he dove back to his home, and it wasn't until the camera made a noise that he ran.  Oh well, we'll see how long this guest decides to stay at the Mack Family Bed and Board.  

How do you build an all-terrain robot?

Friday, June 25th, 2010
Build Your Own All-Terrain Robot Book CoverI recently finished another robotics book entitled Build Your Own All-Terrain Robot.  It was written by Brad Graham and Kathy McGowan and takes people with all levels of experience through the process of creating their own all-terrain robot with as little expense as possible.  This book provides great resources and is packed full of good advice and ideas.  Beginning by helping the reader understand exactly what he wants his robot to do, Graham and McGowan take the reader through the process of building two  robots, and leaves him with a reminder of the endless possibilities of all-terrain robots.

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Amy and Wendy Display their Awana Citation AwardsMonday, May 24, marked the completion of 12 years of hard work and service for Amy and Wendy.  That day they were each presented with the Awana Citation Award.  For young people involved in Awana, earning the Citation Award is the ultimate achievement. The Citation is their reward for thousands of hours attending group meetings, working with children, getting involved in their communities, completing 10 years of biblically grounded curriculum and learning more than 700 Bible verses.

The awards ceremony was held at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita.  Wendy was the first of three students to speak.  She shared what the various stages of Awana meant to her spiritual growth and development.  Amy delighted all by playing the piano before and during the ceremony, including two of her own compositions.  

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A Tribute to My Dad

Sunday, June 20th, 2010
This Father's Day, I wanted to share how much my dad means to me.  

Eric and Wendy pose for a pictureFor as long as I can remember, my dad has made it clear that the family is important to him.  Dad chose to work at home so that he can spend more time with the family.  He welcomes us at all times of the day to show him a craft or a test grade and he works hard to make sure that we don't feel like a nuisance but that we understand that he values our attention.

God has given my dad a passion for teaching.  Everything is a lesson, and it is rare that I walk away from a conversation without learning something.  A couple of days ago, while setting up a pantograph for my mom, he was excitedly explaining to Kelly and me the device's historical use by President Thomas Jefferson.  Family dinners are so much fun - especially now as Amy and I are approaching voting age.  We are often discussing or debating something, whether it be our stand on a political issue, or a historical fact, or how our government works.  Dad encourages us to pay attention in school by eagerly listening to anything we share - especially about history or physics.  It is not uncommon that we find ourselves the teachers and our parents the students!  Earlier as he was helping me with some technical aspects of a blog post - he took some time to teach me how to understand some of the code that he was entering.  Dad also practices what he preaches.  He not only tells us how important education is but he proved it to us by going back to get both a Bachelor's and a Master's degree!

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A tribute to my mom

Friday, June 18th, 2010
20080315 - Kathy's Turkey Pot Pie.jpgIn a society where so many are unreliable, lazy, or proud, my mom is the opposite.  She possesses the rare gift of a servant’s heart.

Mom’s days are spent serving others, with little time reserved for herself.  It is very rare that one can wake up before her as she is up preparing food for the day or working on accounting.  I have often woken up to the aromas of fresh muffins, bacon, and eggs with the realization that she woke up early just to make a “family breakfast”.  This morning, she woke up at 6:30 to do the laundry so that we had clean clothes to wear - all after going to bed at 1:00!

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I thought I'd share a paper that I wrote for my English class.  The requirement was to use at least two methods (I decided to use reasons and comparison and contrast) to develop the paper.  The assignment was to write a paper about why I prefer a vacation at the mountains rather than a a vacation at the sea shore.   I do want to clarify that, while I still would prefer a visit to the mountains, I do enjoy visiting and learning about the seashore.  (And I love to visit aquariums!).  Just thought I'd mention that.  Here's my paper:

For a vacation, I prefer a visit to the forest rather than a visit to the seashore.  The variety in color, sounds, and sights in the mountains are much more appealing to me than the variety at the seashore.

The color scheme of the forest is extremely varied:  green trees burst into a brilliant gold, orange, or red in the autumn and scatter their leaves; the brown forest floor teems with insects and animals in a splattering of blues, grays, blacks, pinks, browns, reds, and many other colors; flowers poke their heads out to dazzle the world with their delicate colors and beautyPoppies pop with brilliant color - Wendy Mack (2010); and berries pop out in delicious arrays of reds, greens, and blues.  While the seashore has a beauty of its own, there is very little color variety to keep me interested.  All is a blur of blue water, blue sky, white sands, white rocks, and white seagulls.  Most of the different colors in the seashore comes from the shells which have strips of pale pink or pale blue, and from the dirty brownish-green seaweed that washes up on the shore, and perhaps an occasional starfish that is washed into tiny pools.  There is an assortment of color, but not as striking as the collection of color found in the woods.

Continue Reading "Mountains vs. Seashore - Which Do You Prefer?" »

A few years ago, I went through the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT:  The Mayan Adventure.  I wrote the following review of the book and of my experience, but was unable to post it at the time for lack of blog.  When we finally finished setting up the Mack Academy blog, I decided that even though several years have passed, the book was so good that I had to post this review.  I decided to post it as is and not change anything in it, so please bear with me on the grammar.  

Mayan Adventure - Book Cover.png

When I first started reading the Mayan Adventure book and noticed that the user level was for beginners, I assumed that this was just an easy workbook.  (I soon changed my mind when I saw project two)

The way the book is written, you follow Evan, a kid summer vacationing with his archeologist uncle, through his adventures and challenges as he and the team try to reach the tomb of an ancient Mayan king.  Several traps were set up in the tomb so that only someone with a trained monkey could reach the burial chamber.  Evan uses his new NXT robotics kit to build innovative and creative robots to disarm the traps and get them into the chamber.

Continue Reading "A Mayan Adventure with LEGO Mindstorms NXT Robotics" »

Popping out of Easter Eggs

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010
For Easter, I decided to design a new pop-up card.  I have really enjoyed making animals and creatures, and especially enjoyed designing my Ladybug Card.  I wondered if I could use the same techniques that I used for that card to create another animal.  

Front of Easter Egg Pop-up CardMy mother bought some glitter foam Easter Eggs, and I used some special grass paper to create the effect of an Easter egg lying in the grass.  I decided to cut the egg so that it looked like it was cracking open to make it appear that a baby chick was just waiting to "pop" out.

The inside of the card proved to be a lot more difficult  to create.  I used the same body that I used for the ladybug for the body of the chick, but I needed to create a larger head.  I also needed to discover a way to make it appear as though the head of the chick was connected to the body.  The inside of my Pop-up Easter Chick CardAfter much experimentation, I achieved this by not gluing one side of the head so that it did not fully pop up and tucking the unglued side under the body of the chick.  This meant that the head had to be glued on before the body of the chick.  I created several different prototypes, and experimented with having the feet and wings pop out as well, but decided that I liked the simpler version of having the feet and wings glued flat to the background with the head, arm, and beak sticking out.  Finally, I got the beak to pop out by using a simple pop-up tent technique and by attaching it to the head. Some stick-on wiggle eyes completed the effect, and I was quite pleased with how the card turned out. I hope that it will bring a lot of joy to people as they open my card.

A Carol for Today

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Tonight, my three sisters and I sang at our local church for their annual Candlelight Christmas Eve Service.  The song we chose to sing was "A Carol for Today".  The song recounts the story of Christmas and asks us this challenging question:  "Can we like the shepherds and angels say... Glory to God on high"?  Christmas is not about Santa, presents, decorations, or even about visiting one's family.  It's about God's incredible love for us.  Love so strong that He was willing to come to earth as a baby to pay for our sins through his death and resurrection.  So we on this night - as we should every night - praise God and say "Glory to God on High!"

Merry Christmas from the Mack Sisters!

Emily, Amy, Wendy, and Kelly

LabVIEW Education Edition is now available!

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009
National Instruments Labview Logo.jpgNational Instruments just announced that they have released the LabVIEW Education Edition software, which is focused on helping students learn how to program robots with software used in today's engineering industries.

20091111 - Labview for highschool image.jpgFor the past few months, I've had the privilege of beta testing this software as I learned more about LabVIEW.  Having come from FIRST FLL, I had experience with both MINDSTORMS NXT-G and ROBOLAB, but LabVIEW was completely new to me.  It's been really exciting to work on learning a new programming language.  I feel that National Instruments and Tufts University did an outstanding job making the integration between FLL programming and FIRST programming easy.  

This has been a really exciting experience for me and I definitely plan to continue learning LabVIEW.  

You can learn more here.

Today, my sister and I rang in The Master's College 11th annual Bellfest, led by Artist in Residence Christine Anderson. (We're in the back row, at 1:19 on the video).

My sister and I had the double treat of ringing not only with our own church handbell choir, the Master's Hands, but also with Jubilation, one of the handbell choirs at The Master's College.

This is the last song that we rang.  It was written by John F. Wade, arranged by Cynthia Dobrinski, and conducted by Christine Anderson.
For the past year or so, I have undertaken the challenge of learning the LabVIEW programming software from National Instruments  I was invited to participate in the beta program in Tufts University  and play around with the new Robobooks and Robolab (Based on LabVIEW software for NXTs).  In addition to going through Michael Gasperi's book, LabVIEW for LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT,

To help me reinforce what I was learning, I decided to create a video tutorial to share with others. I based it on one of my favorite ROBOLAB tutorials from Carnegie Mellon University.  

I have only a few weeks left before my LabVIEW trial license expires, so I don't know if I will have time to create another video before it does. In any case, I really enjoyed working with LabVIEW and I met many friends along the way as I learned and shared what I was learning. I also had fun learning how to use Camtasia Studio to create the video tutorial as well.

(Disclaimer: I have permission to share this video, however, please note that the software I am using is still in beta and may look or work differently when it is released on November 9.)

Click on the link below to watch the tutorial video. (It's 11 minutes long.)

I love my new GTD Note Taker Wallet

Thursday, September 10th, 2009
20090320-GTD_Wallet_Wendy_001.jpgAs a thank you gift for working at the GTD summit, my father bought me a GTD NoteTaker Wallet.  For years I have always been jealous of the fact that whenever my father wanted to capture an idea or record information, he would simply open his wallet and write it down.  In order to accomplish the same task, I used to carry a small pad of paper in my purse but soon abandoned the idea for its bother.  It seemed easier to try to remember something or have my father write it down than to lug a notepad around in my purse and deal with bent up, loose, or torn papers.

Continue Reading "I love my new GTD Note Taker Wallet" »

You Gotta BE WiSE

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009
Two years ago, Wendy and I had a wonderful opportunity to share with others what we had learned through our years in robotics competitions.  We were asked to go to San Diego and teach forty girls of the BE WiSE group a one day seminar.

The BE WiSE science alliance is a group dedicated to engaging and teaching young women in science and technology and providing them with valuable experiences, background, and skills to pursue their goals.

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Why yes Wendy, it IS Rocket Science

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007
Tonight, after the NASA KM conference, many of us went to dinner at Burger Continental, a local hangout for CalTech folks. Wendy joined me, Jeanne Holm, David Pender, and others for dinner.


Later in the evening, Paul Caraccioli, Program manager of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center Propulsion System Department (PSD)* KM System came over and sat down and started to share with Wendy some of the problems his group is facing getting the engines for the Lunar lander to work. Wendy listened attentively, as she's very interested in engineering and space exploration. What a treat, thank you, Paul, for making engineering real and for inspiring a future engineer.

* Long title; they deal with engines - fast ones