July 26th, 2016
Frederick lee brooke presents (Drones) (1)

Dancing Drones: When Performance and Piloting Merge Forces

by Drone Reporter Rachel Borene

During week two of auditions for the popular reality show America’s Got Talent, audiences were treated to a spectacular performance by modern dance group Eleven Play, who mixed dance with drone piloting.

Based in Japan, this talented team of dancers and pilots is headed by choreographer Mikiko, who has worked professionally with musicians such as Suzuka Nakamoto and the Japanese band Perfume.

America’s Got Talent has seen its fair share of dancing mixed with technology. In 2015, dance teams Animation Crew, Freckled Sky, Freelusion, and Siro-A all hit the stage. Interacting with animations that were projected onto the stage, the dancers were able to create illusions that were both innovative and mesmerizing.

Of course, with so many dance crews utilizing this technology, what was once a fresh idea quickly threatened to become stale.

That’s when Eleven Play threw an entirely new flavor into the techno-dance world with their drones.

Rather than interacting with projections, these drones were physically present, adding an extra level of challenge for the dancers and backstage pilots. Eleven Play successfully utilized pinpoint precision and timing, which earned them a round of applause from the audience and a “yes” from every judge.

With so many new hobbies evolving to include drones—including photography, racing, and builder’s fairs- it was only a matter of time before the world of dance followed suite. Of course, being the first dance group widely known for such an incredible feat is what gives choreographers such as Mikiko a highly competitive edge.

Now that America, and the rest of the world, has seen what drones can do for dance, productions from small local theaters all the way to famous Broadway shows are sure to take note!

July 12th, 2016
Frederick lee brooke presents (Drones)

Shields in the Sky: Defense Against Rogue Drones 

by Drone Reporter Rachel Borene

As more drones take the sky, concerned citizens, as well as military officials, are
wondering what steps can be taken to protect people from rogue drones. Did you know that it’s currently illegal to destroy an unknown drone that’s flying in the airspace above your private property? Though it may seem like you own the airspace above your land, a properly registered drone is considered to be an official aircraft by the Federal Aviation Committee, and you can be punished for destroying a drone with fines or even up to twenty years in prison.

That’s right: blasting away a peeping drone can get you in trouble, rather than the pilot! Feeling offended or even frightened? As the need for protection against rogue drones increases, so too have the efforts of researchers to create methods that stop drones without destroying them. This is especially important in the case of drones that are spying for opposing military forces, as the government will need to capture and inspect the drone for evidence.

Perhaps the most obvious solution to intercept an uninvited drone is to catch it with
another drone, and that’s exactly what officials in Tokyo have done. Using what appears to be a DJI Spreading Wings 900 equipped with a 3 x 2-meter net, the drone in Tokyo scoops the enemy drone right out of the air.

Catching a drone may still be considered tampering with an aircraft, however, so
another solution is to set up alert systems that warn someone if a drone is on
their property. Using acoustic technology, Washington-based company Droneshield can
detect a drone from up to 150 miles away. The program then sends an alert by SMS,
text, or video to the property owner. It can even detect drones that are invisible to radar, and has been implemented in several prisons to intercept drones that are smuggling contraband to inmates. The Droneshield program was even rumored to have gained the interest of producers during the filming of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, in an
attempt to keep curious fans from filming in the air space above the studio, though it’s reported that the program was never actually implemented during production. (4)

The next step after being alerted to a rogue drone is lead by the company Skysafe, who is working on a program that can safely take control of drones, overriding the
commands of the pilot. Once its controls are overridden by Skysafe, the drone can then be landed and any of its additional functions- such as filming- can be shut down. (5)

If an emergency situation occurs where a drone must be destroyed, researchers at Boeing, an aircraft manufacturing company, have developed a laser that blasts drones right out of the sky. Though invisible to the human eye, the laser strikes the drone with deadly precision, setting it on fire and rendering it completely useless.

Now, it may become obvious that several of these programs could be used against one
another. In the Netherlands, however, their drone defense system can’t be taken over
by competing technology—because they’re using birds! The Dutch National Police
Corps has partnered with a company called Guard From Above, and together, they’re
training large birds of prey—such as eagles—to snatch drones out of the sky.

No matter what the future holds, the journey of discovering a good defense system against rogue drones is just as exciting as drone technology itself!

May 30th, 2016
Frederick lee brooke presents (Book Reviews)(1)

Book review: Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

Fuzzy Mud, by Louis Sachar, is a middle-grade novel with a big story hidden beneath a romp of fright and friendship.

At the prestigious Woodridge Academy, fifth-grader Tamaya Dhilwaddi is a top notch student who yearns for a place to belong. Struggling to adjust to the changes brought on by the divorce of her parents, her life is further complicated when her best friend starts teasing her for not being cool.

Her only refuge is Marshall Walsh, the seventh-grade boy who walks home from school with her every day, but even Marshall’s attitude has taken a sour turn for the worse. Chad Hilligas, resident bully, has picked Marshall as his new favorite punching bag.

When Chad dares Marshall to meet him in the forbidden woods near town, Marshall decides to prove that he’s not a coward, and trick Tamaya into coming with him.

But what started as a prank turns dangerous when the kids unwittingly stumble into the grounds surrounding SunRay Farm, a factory that secretly produces a renewable energy source called Biolene. A mysterious occurrence has allowed the Biolene to escape the factory and take over the surrounding area, leaving the forest covered in a strange fuzzy mud.

After a treacherous venture through the woods ends in a fist fight between Marshall and Chad, Tamaya defends herself by shoving a handful of the fuzzy mud into Chad’s face. As the kids run off their own way, Tamaya gives little pause to the tingling sensation left in her cuts and scrapes, and washes them off at home and goes to bed.

The real nightmare begin when she wakes up the next morning, covered in a blistering rash and a bizarre white powder—the dust of her own decaying skin.

Then the school’s headmistress delivers the disturbing news that Chad never went home the night before, and Tamaya must decide if she should forgive the pain he caused her in order to save his life.

Fuzzy Mud is a morbidly sweet tale of friendship and forgiveness, where Sachar reminds us that people are more than who they seem to be on the surface and that healing can come in the most unexpected of ways.

Though a short book, this novel contains some moderately graphic details of disease and would be best recommended for readers who can handle such material, especially if their reading interests include age-appropriate horror. But beware: love for Louis Sachar is sure to spread, driving young readers to devour his books at a speed that would put even the fuzzy mud to shame.

Learn more about Louis Sachar and his books!

May 23rd, 2016
Frederick lee brooke presents (Drones)

Money in the Air? The High Flying Sport of Drone Racing

written by Drone Reporter Rachel Borene

Ladies and gentlemen, start your motors!

Welcome to the world of drone racing! Did you know that the first U.S. National Drone Racing Championship was held in 2015? This sport has quickly become a favorite past time for both drone pilots and fans watching from the sidelines- or from their computer screens.

In this revolutionary new sport, drones twist and turn through obstacle courses using a method called First Person View. In First Person View, a pilot attaches a
camera to their drone and must use only the live video feed to guide their machine through the race track. This creates an exciting challenge, giving the pilot a view as if they’re sitting inside the drone itself, zooming through the race course… and in drone racing, anywhere is a potential race track!

Whether it’s through a forest or an abandoned building, on an amateur obstacle course or a professional one, drones can go where other machines can not. Of course, this creates some unique challenges when trying to involve fans. When watching a NASCAR race, viewers can sit in a stadium to watch the cars go around the track. With drones being but a blur through the air, it can be difficult or even impossible for viewers to see them, especially if the drones are heading through buildings.

The sport has gained enough attention, however, that financial backers are becoming willing to finance better technology for racing teams so that fans can watch competitions. In fact, in New York, The Drone Racing League was backed for $1 million by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

So, just how enthusiastic are the fans of this new sport? Enough that winners of big races can earn some seriously sweet cash. The inaugural World Drone Prix was held on March 11th and 12th, 2016, in Dubai. The first place winner, fifteen-year-old Luke Bannister, from England, won a prize totalling $250,000 U.S.
dollars. The total prize pool available to split across all categories was a cool $1 million.

If you’re a fan of video games, technology, and racing, try picking up a racing drone today! You never know where your skills will take you!

May 16th, 2016
Frederick lee brooke presents (Book Reviews)

Book Review: Masterminds by Gordan Korman

Masterminds, by Gordan Korman, is a new middle-grade novel full of adrenaline-fueled action scenes and jaw-dropping plot twists.

In the town of Serenity, New Mexico, kids have everything they need. The town sits like an oasis in the dessert, full of modern homes and swimming pools, tree houses and swing sets. In this blissful community, poverty and crime are unheard of, and the only thing the kids have to worry about is passing their classes at school and what they’ll do in their free time.

If only they could leave.

Masterminds by Gordon Korman (cover image)Eli Frienden is bored out of his mind. Living in the middle of nowhere, he and his best friend Randy have learned to create their own amusement—but after yet another risky stunt leaves their boomerang caught in the filter of Randy’s swimming pool, Eli thinks the excitment of the afternoon is over.

Then Randy confesses that he snuck out of town and found a rusty old car in an abandoned shed. Eli worries that breaking the rules and leaving Serenity will enrage his strict father, who is the mayor of the town, but the promise of adventure lures him into hopping onto his bike and following Randy down the road.

That’s when Eli’s life is changed forever.

As soon as they pass the town limits, Eli is struck down by a shockwave of pain that sends him crashing to the ground. A black security helicopter appears in the sky above him, and while Eli is taken to the hospital, Randy is punished by being kicked out of Serenity forever.

Scrambling for answers, Eli is further shocked when a lightning storm causes a brief glitch that allows him to see a website full of uncensored American history, and he realizes that his entire life has been a lie.

With his own father as his greatest enemy, Eli rallies the other kids in his school to break into the Serenity Plastic Works, the factory in town that claims to make orange traffic cones.

Once inside, the truth comes crashing down, delivering a unique plot twist that will leave readers stunned. Having learned the gut-wrenching truth of who they are and where they come from, the kids are faced with big questions about the purpose of family and what it means to take control of your own destiny. The kids concoct a plan that sends the action speeding forward, leading to a break-neck finish that will leave readers gasping for a sequel.

Author Gordan Korman once again earns his place among top middle-grade writers, weaving a thrilling tale full of expert foreshadowing, relatable characters, and creative plot twists. The work of a practiced and imaginative author, Masterminds is a darkly whimsical tale that will play in the imaginations of readers long after the last page is turned.

Learn more about Gordon Korman and his books!