17 January 2009

Volunteer Work

I thought my days of volunteering at my son's schools were over when my boys were finished with elementary school. Oh my was I mistaken.

T is in grade nine and in the robotics club. In this club they build robots using Lego Mindstorms and program their robots to accomplish specific tasks. I think they can program the robots and use remote control or something. Anyway, they registered for the First Lego League championship where they will compete with other schools using their Lego robots. The FLL has these as their Core Values:

We are a team.
We do the work to find the solutions with guidance from our coaches and mentors.

We honor the spirit of friendly competition.

What we discover is more important than what we win.

We share our experiences with others.

We display gracious professionalism in everything we do.

We have fun.

During the competition the teams will be marked on the number of points accumulated with each task the robot completes in the heats, robot design, project presentation, and teamwork. Judges will be roving around to see if there is good sportsmanship in the competitions as well as in the pit areas. They will also be judged on whether or not th
eir team exhibits the Core Values. Last year T's school won the award for best robot. The award was made of Lego. Good so far?

Well, there were two teachers in charge of the robotics club. There are two teams in the club, junior and senior. T is in the senior team. One teacher had to drop out because his wife is sick. He didn't leave any information for the remaining teacher in regards to t-shirts, banners, robot ideas, parent help, or really, anything. This leaves the one teacher, Mrs S, floundering. From the sounds of things, and from experience in last year's FLL, Mrs S is a better follower than leader. Mrs S didn't want to ask the parents for money to get the t-shirts printed, banners printed or for the entry fee to the FLL competition. She also said the principal refused to use the school's money for anything. There was no fund-raising done to collect money to cover the costs either.

So T has been put in charge of designing logos for t-shirts and banners. Part of the FLL is decorating your pit area with a banner of very specific measurements. All the t-shirts have to have a team logo with name. The junior team has yet to choose their design and T
has finished the designs for the senior team. The competition is now one week away.

Mrs S left T in charge of figuring out how to get the logos on t-shirts. The place he called would charge $30 a shirt. Mrs S said that was too expensive. Nothing more had been decided on the issue. T asked me if I'd be willing to iron transfers onto shirts that Mrs S bought. I said I would. He brought the shirts and transfers home. I check the bag to discover the transfers haven't been printed yet. Well crap.

Last year they had white shirts and it was evident that the transfers had been ironed on. None of the team really liked them and felt Mrs S did a crappy job with them, so this year the team was adamant in having black shirts. Ok. No problem. Mrs S bought black shirts and iron-on transfers designed for colored shirts. The transfers are used in an ink jet printer. Did I mention I have a laser printer? S got it for free from work so we are using it until it dies.

I told Mrs S that I didn't have an ink jet printer, she said the school might and would call me back. She did call me back and told me the school will allow her to use the laser printers to print the transfers. Yep, laser. I patiently explained to her how a laser printer uses a fuser to heat the toner onto paper to create a picture whereas the ink jet spits ink onto the paper to create a picture. Putting a transfer into a laser printer will melt the transfer to the rollers. Sort of counter-productive.

After several frustrating conversations with Mrs S involving color of shirt, transfer options, professional printers, considerations for fund-raising next year and general planning, I sat down with T and told him his options. Either: use white shirts and have them printed professionally for cheap (color shirts are way too expensive), use black shirts and find somewhere to print the transfer, or not go to the competition. T eventually agreed to use his own money to buy ink refills for his printer - an ink jet - and have the transfers printed here and ironed on by me. Ok. No problem. I explained how he may or may not be re-imbursed for his costs. I will submit the receipts anyway and hope for the best.

Did you know that printers don't print the colors exactly as you see them on your monitor? Yep, they don't. Usually duller. So here is this vibrant design that T created looking faded and dull. But the printer actually printed it. So then I follow the instructions (sort of) to get the transfer onto the shirt. They said that if text is involved then you have to be careful of mirroring. So I reversed the image with the team name and printed it onto a transfer. For some reason unknown to me I'm not supposed to use an ironing board. Instead I'm supposed to use a pillowcase on a hard surface, preferably formica. I don't have any formica in my house. Next best thing was my kitchen floor, so I put a towel down on it and a pillowcase on top, then the t-shirt. Now, S was kind enough to let me use one of his black shirts to practise on before using one of the shirts Mrs S bought.

Ok, so I put the transfer ink side down on the shirt with the tissue paper on top a
nd ironed according to directions. I couldn't see the ink bleeding through the transfer at all and begun to wonder why the tissue was sticking to the transfer. Did you know that transfers for dark shirts have glue on the back? Yep, they do. They are white instead of clear. Because printers don't print white ink you need a white transfer in order to see the picture on a dark shirt. A regular transfer is printed, laid on the shirt with the ink down, and ironed on. A dark shirt transfer is printed, laid ink side up with tissue on top, and ironed on. Hmmpf. So now we had a shirt with a white square ironed on, picture side down, and tissue stuck to it.

Next try. We printed the transfer as you would see it on a paper. Cut the border off. Tore the paper backing a bit (the transfer doesn't tear at all). Peeled the backing off. Laid
the transfer glue side down, print side up. Placed tissue on top. Ironed. Now we have a shirt with the proper transfer on the front. A bit lopsided, but adhered properly.

That was enough for one night. I turned the iron off and put it away. I grabbed the towel off the floor and wondered why it was making an odd ripping noise. Did you know the iron is hot enough to melt the finish off my kitchen floor? Yep, Future floor polish just doesn't stand up to direct ironing. Now I have a rough spot on my floor.

I will attempt at getting all the shirts done tomorrow. Oh and I'm using my ironing board. I don't want to melt the rest of my kitchen floor or burn my carpeting anywhere.

1 comment:

The Hyperlexian Aspie said...

wow. sorry. you had me rofling. seriously! that was so well-written!

but please know that you could ask to use my inkjet printer... and i even have dark shirt transfers! so if you run out of supplies, or need to try a different printer, come on over and i can help you out, okay? i can even just help you do it if you want.

also, i've done transfers before (i used them to make shirts before, and i used them for clothing tags), so i'm kinda familiar. but i have to say, they are never perfect, because it's not possible to iron them as evenly as big companies can.

i think they don't recommend ironing boards because the heat dissipates underneath instead of getting trapped to maximize the transfer effect. a counter may work - it's what i would do, with a towel underneath to prevent burning of the countertop.

what an adventure!