Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Memphis First

I had the real privilege to help with the Memphis First Robotics competition Quick Build session this past Saturday at the University of Memphis.  Students from Memphis high schools came together to begin building robots as the first part of the competition.
The instruction manual

The hardware

Students from the Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering begin work on their robot frame.

Craigmont High puts the motors on their assembled base.

Teams work on the programming and electronic components
It was wonderfully rich mix of young, middle, old, female, male, black, white, Asian, Latino, student, teacher, parent, mentor, sponsor, friend coming to together to learn, build, do, redo, make, program, share, talk, meet, eat, compete, cooperate, collaborate and create with each other.  Most surprising to me was the growing enthusiasm from the student teams as the day progressed.  By the end of the build at 4 p.m., teams from Hamilton, St. Mary's, Manassas, Craigmont and Memphis Business Academy had their basic robot going, and the rest were very much on the way.

While it was a scheduling coincidence that the build happened on the Martin Luther King birthday weekend, the event still demonstrated a great new Memphis that MLK's legacy is helping build.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, January 01, 2012

The Weal of Memphis

This is the second part of a list I've been trying to put together that to list the pros and cons, ups and downs, bad and good, ill and weal of Memphis.  It is a personal, emotional list and I provide no empirical evidence for anything I write.  Also, it is about Memphis as a whole, as a complete platform for destruction, decay, change and creativity, and not about any one detail.  Memphis is a city of a bazillion great and some horrible details, but I will anoint none as the ill or the weal of Memphis.

Preface:  As it's heavily focused on possibility, much of what I write here may not be on anyone else's list as a good Memphis thing.  But they are the soil, seed and climate for a great Memphis if we want to grow it.

The Weal

Grassroots creativity, of business, art, film, music, food, and so on.  Wherever it comes from, everything in our civic power should be set to grow it.  Every Memphian a Creator.

Guerrilla street sign in Cooper-Young

Modern change. Newcomers, oldcomers, hybrids, their ideas and acts are creatively colliding in ways probably unseen since the founding of Memphis. Geographic sprawl and and the ungainly heft of Big Memphis threaten to swallow the seedlings of change, but dynamic change has a workaround for both in the live web.
Bike lanes on Madison

Room to experiment. An advantage to our existing urbanized sprawl is our ability to use the under- and unused for experiments in urbanism, agriculture, art and hopefully all 3 at once.  Always at risk of being pushed out by speculative hoarding by dull and unimaginative public and private owners, but there's more where that came from.

Small enough to change -- stolen from Corey Booker. Memphians, especially natives like me, tend to think of Memphis as bigger than it is.  It's not so big, however, and we can change its trajectory (whatever that is) so much easier than other cities can.  If we want to.

Low cost of living. A pro that is only in combination with other pros. Therefore a pro.

The food. Whenever I've lived in other places I've missed our food. It was great then and it's only gotten better (to our old school comfort food restaurants we've added the breadth of international and heights of fine). The local food movement promises to make it only better.

The music.  

The water. This includes not only our excellent tap water but the abundance of the stuff that flows past and falls on us.  We are rich in the stuff of life and it's tasty too!

The thunderstorms. The west to east suspense of these cataclysms is for the ages.

A beautiful, rich, fertile, exquisite natural environment.  

Good bones -- stolen from Jeff Speck.  Memphis remains a well laid out grid until it reaches the far edges of Cordova and Hickory Hill.

A Name. Memphis.  I'm a citisan but I believe Memphis is one of the great city names of the world.

A River of inspiration. The Mississippi River.

Texture. The intersection of our built form and a hot, humid and rich natural environment.  It's there in a million details but still remains to be created as the Memphis Look.

African-American foundation and majority.  The struggle for freedom and prosperity, and the creativity, of African-Americans has made Memphis a better city.  It's also a huge reason that the name Memphis resonates

Creativity of our myths.  When we get past the corporate genuflection, the myths and legends are ours to build on.  Build on.

Kid created mural in the Children's Museum of Memphis