GeekMom Smart. Savvy. Social. Thu, 31 Jul 2014 19:57:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 I Wish! First Trailer for Into the Woods Thu, 31 Jul 2014 19:57:18 +0000 A film adaptation of Into the Woods is coming this Christmas, and if the first trailer is any indication, the film strikes just the right tone.

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Chris Pine is a very nice prince. © Disney

I was a drama club geek in high school. One of the first Broadway musicals the club fell in love with collectively was Into the Woods, which at the time was a little known show. But now, thanks to Disney, theatergoers everywhere will meet a Cinderella, Prince, and more characters very different than their fairy tale counterparts in the film adaptation coming this Christmas. And the first trailer looks magical.

Although at first glance Into the Woods sounds simply like a humorous re-telling of classic fairy tales, it’s obvious from the trailer and the film’s tagline (“Be careful what you wish for”) that Disney is striking the perfect tone for the film. Sure, there’s humor and fantastic musical numbers, but there are also themes that go beyond the fairy tale and into the real world.

If you’re a longtime fan and you’ve been put off by the rumors that significant edits were made to the original play, take heart. Stephen Sondheim recently dispelled rumors of cut songs and “Disney-fying” of the musical:

“…[H]aving now seen it a couple of times, I can happily report that it is not only a faithful adaptation of the show, it is a first-rate movie.”

Into the Woods boasts a cast that includes Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife, Chris Pine as the Prince, Meryl Streep as the Witch, and Johnny Depp as the Wolf.

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BeSpoke Innovations: An Artistic Take on Prosthetics Thu, 31 Jul 2014 12:30:30 +0000 Now that prosthetics have become more functional, it's time for them to become beautiful.

The post BeSpoke Innovations: An Artistic Take on Prosthetics appeared first on GeekMom.


Photo: 3D Systems

Last week I told you about a series I’m excited to share with you. Having accumulated many links to new designs that are happening in the prosthetic world, I decided to share a few of them.

Photo: Survivor

Photo: Survivor

The first company I want to share with you is one that I’ve known about for several years. It’s called BeSpoke and it’s based in San Francisco. One of the spokesmen for BeSpoke, and one if its happiest clients as well, is a guy named Chad Crittenden. Chad was the first amputee to appear on the show Survivor, and after he found out about the exciting new things a guy named Scott Summit was doing at BeSpoke, he jumped aboard.

BeSpoke designs something called “fairings.” They don’t build prosthetic limbs. They build covers for limbs. Which means an amputee can get a leg that fits well at his prosthetist’s office, then click on the BeSpoke covering on the days he wants to dress it up or show it off. Adding just over six ounces, it’s a lightweight fashion accessory. At BeSpoke they say, “Fairings invite an expression of personality and individuality that has never before been possible.”

chad skateboard 1

Photo: 3D Systems

I was happy to have my old foot replaced by a limb that worked and I’ve never been shy about showing it off. More and more amputees are putting away the long pants and displaying their bionic limbs proudly. A prosthetic limb can now become a work of art, a way to express someone’s unique character. I’ve shown you some of the creative things that can be done by laminating designs onto a prosthetic socket, but with a fairing by BeSpoke, the design is removable, and much more 3-D.


Photo: 3D Systems

deb_5527_FPO_0 (1)

Photo: 3D Systems

A fairing by BeSpoke comes in two parts, which are screwed together. In theory, an amputee could have many different designs, to represent their mood or outfit of the day. Some clients want to get back on their motorcycle, and having a leg that blends in to the metal is right up their alley.

Many women amputees want to feel pretty again. Instead of covering a flesh covered socket with pantyhose or long skirts, the lacy designs on some fairings can actually complement their outfit.

The 3-D printer makes this all possible. To begin the process, a patient comes into the office and has their sound leg scanned. This gives the fairing an exact shape to follow, to make both legs symmetrical. Here is a video that shows the process. This is an important part of the process.

Many times people are drawn to look at my leg in public because it’s a different shape than my sound leg. It’s smaller, thinner, and visually distracting. Chad, who wears his fairings often, noticed immediately that even though he was technically showing more metal, he got fewer stares.


Photo: 3D Systems

In fact, it changed the way he played soccer. With his black fairing, he was able to run out onto the field with two legs that had the same shape. He stopped being “that amputee guy on the other team” and just became “that awesome player on the other team.” Many opposing team players didn’t even know he was an amputee.

Once the shape is scanned, a person picks their design. Some like masculine, some like feminine. Some like dainty and subtle, some like aggressive and loud. You can pick leather, metal, chrome.. The possibilities are almost endless. Whatever design is chosen is then made with a 3-D printer. It’s that easy.

Here are some of the designs that BeSpoke has already created:

Photo: 3D Systems Photo: 3D Systems Photo: 3D Systems Photo: 3D Systems Photo: 3D Systems Photo: 3D Systems Photo: 3D Systems Photo: 3D Systems Photo: 3D Systems

Although not often used in the United States, the word BeSpoke means custom made. It’s an appropriate name for a company that has changed the idea of prosthetic limbs from purely functional, to specific, creative, personal works of art.

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Product Review: Oregon Scientific Grill Right Bluetooth Thermometer & Mobile App Thu, 31 Jul 2014 11:00:09 +0000 Read about GeekMom Patricia's adventure with a Bluetooth-enabled grill thermometer.

The post Product Review: Oregon Scientific Grill Right Bluetooth Thermometer & Mobile App appeared first on GeekMom.


Image Credit:

In June I received the perfect gadget to improve my summer grilling experience: Oregon Scientific’s Grill Right Bluetooth BBQ Thermometer. If you thought having a standard meat thermometer was serious foodie geekery, you haven’t had the chance to connect your thermometer to an iPhone or Android device!

I received a model AW133 thermometer, Oregon Scientific’s newest thermometer, and the company’s only Bluetooth enabled model. Read on to learn more about my family’s experience with this gadget.

What Comes in the Package


My Grill Right arrived in that annoying clear plastic clamshell packaging. Make sure you have scissors handy, because if you think you’re going to rip it open with your bare hands at your beach barbeque, think again. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

The Grill Right thermometer includes the following:

  • Thermometer display unit
  • Temperature probe: 40″ wire with a 6″ rigid probe
  • Two AA batteries
  • User Manual
  • Warranty information

I’m so glad it included batteries! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.


Setup is very simple. Insert the batteries into the back of the thermometer display unit and plug in the temperature probe. There are two outlets for temperature probes: a Channel 1 and Channel 2. You can use two temperature probes simultaneously, which is quite nifty! The display unit will illuminate, ready for programming. The instructions will recommend you use a paper clip or other thin wire to depress the RESET button on the back near the battery compartment, but my display unit turned right on with the new batteries.

There are three “programs” available to you with this thermometer:

  • “Meat Profile” mode, in which you can set what kind of meat and what “doneness” you’d like. In other words, you can set “Beef” to be cooked to “Medium.” (See photo at the top of the post.) The type of meat will be displayed as a caricature of the animal, such as cow, lamb, pig, or chicken.
  • “Target Temperature Profile” mode, where you set the temperature for which you’d like the thermometer to alert you. This is my favorite setting, since I usually know already what temperature I want. I’m a math person, I am happiest with such precision measurements.
  • “Timer” mode, which is more or less self-explanatory. If you are, say, smoking a brisket, you might need to add smoke chips to the smoker every 30 minutes, irrespective of temperature. I used this setting for the beginning of our brisket last weekend, then changed it to “Target Temperature Profile” mode for the last hour.

I’m not going to go through all the button-ology of how to set what you want on the display unit, it’s somewhat complicated. However, the instructions clearly spell out exactly how to switch between the modes, and how to set the precise times and temperatures in each mode. In addition, you can set your temperature to display in °F or °C.

For a much easier experience setting up your thermometer, download the accompanying Oregon Scientific Grill Right app for iOS or Android for your Bluetooth-enabled mobile device. This is a far-more intuitive process, with simple finger sweeps and scrolls to get the settings you want.


When properly set, the thermometer operated as advertised. On July 19th I cooked Huli Huli chicken thighs to 165°F and they were perfect, neither undercooked nor dried out. The five brand new Air Force Academy basic trainees we had over for dinner were very happy and 20 chicken thighs disappeared in no time.

Without a mobile app accompanying it, the display unit will beep for you when the desired settings are reached. However, when I’m smoking a brisket, the display unit is tethered to the smoker outside, and I can’t necessarily hear the beeping if I’m inside the house. With the ability to connect the thermometer to a Bluetooth-enabled device, I was able to get the same beeping from my iPhone in my back pocket when my brisket reached 180°F.

You’ll need to connect the thermometer and mobile device together via Bluetooth. Do not try to connect the two through your Bluetooth settings directly. Rely on the app to connect the devices; it will walk you through quite well.


This is from the “Target Temperature Mode” on the iOS app. I was baking chicken in the oven. Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.


When the target temperature is reached, the phone will vibrate, ding, and present you a popup such as this one. If you don’t immediately run to the food and remove the thermometer, it will continue to vibrate, ding, and popup. You can’t stop it. This thermometer means business! Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.


This grill thermometer is a fantastic gift for the grill master in your life. But it isn’t without limitations. Here are some of the observations about this product.


You can’t see this quite as well as I wanted, but the screen on the display unit blacked out when it was sitting in the sun. The top of the smoker isn’t excessively warm. Thank heavens for my iOS app so I could see what the meat’s temperature was. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Overheating. The user’s manual appropriately advises you: “Do not subject the unit to excessive force, shock, dust, temperature, or humidity.” However, I’d think that a grill thermometer can sit outside. In general. This was not the case. We had our thermometer spend the better part of an afternoon outside in the Colorado July sun (around 85°F) sitting on top of our smoker box. The smoker exterior doesn’t get very hot, so this would be no different than the unit sitting on a black table in the sun. The unit couldn’t handle the heat and the LCD display turned very black in color. Luckily, I had the iOS app running and could readily. see the status of my brisket.

How do I turn it on? I don’t know how to normally turn on the temperature display unit. All I could figure out was to pull the battery cover off and hit the “Reset” button, or remove and replace the batteries. There are no instructions in the user’s manual. Since it isn’t as if I needed a screwdriver to open the battery compartment, so it actually isn’t too difficult to reset the thermometer like that. Unfortunately, if you wanted to maintain a history in the temperature display unit, resetting the unit in this way will clear the history every time.

Kinky probes. The temperature probe will kink up pretty easily. This is the nature of the flexible wiring, but I fear that if you aren’t careful avoiding the kinks, the connections could get compromised. Be careful with this.

Mobile app issues. Once I plugged in the temperature probe while I had the mobile app running. For about 10 seconds, my iPhone showed me this:


Whoa! Hot! What happened here? Don’t worry, give it about 10 seconds and the app will display the correct temperature. Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.

Don’t worry. Give the app about 10 seconds to accurately display the temperature. It can be a shock to see it, just the same!

I also had a chance to explore the numerous social interactions available through the app. For example, you can search through the app, and you can photograph the food and share it with a graphic of the current temperature at photograph time.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 7.16.08 PM

I got a kick out of sharing my not-quite-cooked chicken on social media. I have several Facebook friends who would appreciate this, judging from their dozens of photos of grilled and smoked food. Image capture: Patricia Vollmer.


This gadget will make a great gift, but it has its share of limitations about which users need to be aware. This doesn’t necessarily keep the thermometer from working accurately; on the contrary, it worked perfectly well for the four meals I had prepared for family and friends.

The Oregon Scientific AW133 Grill Right Bluetooth BBQ Thermometer retails for $59.99 and is available through the company’s website and other retailers such as Amazon.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Cast Reach for the Stars Wed, 30 Jul 2014 12:49:32 +0000 Guardians of the Galaxy stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, and Benicio del Toro talk about what the film meant to them.

The post Guardians of the Galaxy Cast Reach for the Stars appeared first on GeekMom.

Guardians of the Galaxy © Marvel Comics

Image courtesy Disney.

If there’s one thing director James Gunn got right when making Guardians of the Galaxy (and he actually got a lot right), it was the casting. From top to bottom, the assembled group of talent on screen is truly impressive. I mean, we’re talking big names like Glenn Close and John C. Reilly in supporting roles with very little screen time (they make it count, naturally). As for the main cast, the film relies on each of them to bring a range of complex, sometimes even contradictory, qualities to their characters. They all have the capacity to be both noble and roguish, tough and vulnerable, deathly serious and lighthearted. Part of the fun of the film is watching the titular team come together as a group.

A couple weeks ago I got to watch many of those actors come together in real life at a press conference to promote the film. In attendance at the event were stars Chris Pratt, Michael Rooker, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Benicio del Toro, and director James Gunn. According to Gunn, it was the first time they’d been assembled in one place (Diesel provided the voice of Groot but didn’t play the character on screen and del Toro’s role is basically an extended cameo).

Pratt grounds the film as Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, an ordinary human who was abducted from Earth as a child and raised by Yondu (Rooker), the leader of a group of intergalactic outlaws known as Ravagers. When Peter steals a mysterious orb he becomes the target of multiple pursuers, including bounty hunters Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Diesel), as well as a trained assassin named Gamora (Saldana). They all eventually cross paths with Drax the Destroyer (Bautista), a convict seeking to avenge the deaths of his wife and child, and must put their differences aside to face an even greater threat that could mean the destruction of the entire galaxy.

“I’m like so emotional right now,” Gunn said as the press conference began. “Because I’ve missed these guys so much. I luckily got to spend some time with Zoe and Dave last week, but everybody else I haven’t been around and it’s just an amazing moment for us, I think.”

Gunn wasn’t just passionate about his cast, he animatedly talked about the origins of the project and what it meant to him to bring these characters to life on screen. When asked about taking on a lesser-known property from the Marvel universe, he said that it was “liberating.”

“I think I would have had a harder time trying to fit into the regular Marvel scheme of things,” he said. “This gave me a chance to take what I loved about Marvel movies and Marvel comics and create a whole new universe, which really has been the most exciting thing in my entire professional career.”

Guardians of the Galaxy © Marvel Comics

Image courtesy Disney.

For Pratt, it was also a big step. Until last year he was probably best known as lovable doofus Andy in Parks and Recreation. Then, he lent his voice to the lead role in the blockbuster film The Lego Movie, followed by this starring role in Guardians of Galaxy. He’ll next be seen on the big screen running from dinosaurs in next year’s Jurassic World. Despite all the increased attention, Pratt taking this new career direction in stride.

“I’d been sort of having an identity crisis as an actor,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was, if I was a action guy or a comedy guy. And I thought maybe I could do a combination of both, but there’s nothing out there that’s like it. [I thought] maybe I have to develop something, And my manager just kept saying, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, man.’ I said, ‘All right, maybe you’re right. Let’s go meet on it.’ And then James said, ‘I just want somebody to do their thing.’ And part of me thought, ‘Okay, well then I’ll just do my thing and if it’s not right, that’s okay.’ But I had an idea what that thing was and it was the thing that I got to do in this movie.”

Each of the actors in turn got a chance to talk about what their role in the film meant to them and what attracted them to it. Though Saldana was cast late in the process and arrived last on set, she said had a very specific view of how to portray Gamora when she arrived.

“I just didn’t want Gamora to look like any typical action person that’s just like very martial artsy and just does that Underworld jump and lands and the ground breaks and shit,” she said. “I wanted her to be a little more graceful and sleek, very classy in the way that she fights.”

The inspiration hit her, she said, as she was watching some footage of a Spanish bullfighter in action: “I’ve never seen somebody move so smoothly. It was just such a seductive dance. And I thought, ‘Well, that’s Gamora.’ She’s a woman and she just has to be very seductive in the way that she tricks her enemy into falling into their own death. And I thought. ‘Well, that’ll be interesting to do. I’ve never done that.’”

Guardians of the Galaxy © Marvel Comics

Image courtesy Disney.

Just as Gunn gave Saldana the freedom to play with her character, del Toro also appreciated the way the directed allowed him to take chances with the smaller role of Taneleer Tivan, aka The Collector.

“I felt like I could explore the character in every way I would have wanted to,” del Toro said. “And James was very supportive to taking chances and trying different things. And I felt like an animal that grows up in a cage and suddenly you open the door and he comes out and he’s tentative to take chances. James was very, very nice to me to allow me to like go, go, go, go, go. And so at the end I was like, ‘Oh, I could have done this, I could have done that.’ But it was a great feeling.”

One of the most heartfelt moments in the press conference came when Diesel talked about the timing of the project, coming as it did on the heels of the death of his friend and Fast and Furious co-star Paul Walker in November of 2013. As a gentle, humanoid tree, Groot symbolized growth and regeneration in a way that spoke deeply to the actor at the time.

“It was at a very important time when I did this movie because it was in December and it was the first time I was coming around humans again and the first time I was working again,” Diesel said. “And there was something very therapeutic about in my personal life— I guess in my professional life, too—dealing with death and then playing a character that celebrates life in the way that Groot celebrates life. I took my kids to a screening to see this movie and they walk around the house reciting Star-Lord, Gamora, and all the characters. Something very beautiful happened in playing this role. Something that as an actor I never would have imagined.”

Guardians of the Galaxy opens in theaters on Aug. 1.

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Stop Buying Birthday Cards! Easy Print Making for Kids Wed, 30 Jul 2014 12:30:39 +0000 Make your own one-of-a-kind designs for kids' birthday cards with just a styrofoam plate and a pencil.

The post Stop Buying Birthday Cards! Easy Print Making for Kids appeared first on GeekMom.

Print Making for Kids from GeekMom

All photos: Kelly Knox

Birthday parties are a happily unavoidable part of childhood, but party after party can add up financially with presents for each of your kids’ friends and classmates. To save money ($5 for a card, seriously!) and add a more personal touch for my 5-year-old’s friends, we draw and write our own birthday cards.

My daughter has been getting bored with making the same old cards lately, so I thought she might enjoy painting a print on her cards. As a bonus, it saves a lot of time to simply paint and press the design to the card! Prints can be used not only for birthday cards, but little notes to say thank you or hello. And if your recipient has a favorite character from a TV show or movie, you can simply trace the design to make the print feature a familiar face. Here’s how we did it:

What You Need

Print Making

  • Styrofoam dinner plates
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Paints and paintbrush
  • Blank cards

Get Printing!

Trace the blank card (we used 4-by-5.5 inches) on the inside of the styrofoam plate. Then, cut out the rectangle. Flip the rectangle over so that the inside of the plate is facing the table. The corners on the back should be slightly curved up to help you or your kids remove the little printing plate easily when it’s pressed against paper.

Then, it’s time to grab a pencil and draw! Be sure to draw deep lines in your plate so that the lines show up well when paint is applied.

Print Making

Once the styrofoam plate design is complete, you now have a mini-printing plate to create a practically limitless supply of wallet-friendly birthday cards. Paint the design, flip the plate over, and press to the blank card to print your custom birthday card.

Print Making

If the birthday boy or girl is a big fan of a certain TV show, you can trace an image from a coloring book on top of the styrofoam to make them the perfect card.

Print Making

Do you have any other tips for saving money on birthday cards? Let your fellow GeekMoms know in the comments below!

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Would You Survive Order 66? Wed, 30 Jul 2014 12:00:00 +0000 Would you survive the famous Order 66 from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith? Take my quiz to find out!

The post Would You Survive Order 66? appeared first on GeekMom.

Poor Plo Koon....\ Image: Savanna Kiefer

Poor Plo Koon….\ Image: Savanna Kiefer

Order 66 is the order that was given by Darth Sidious (the evil ego of Chancellor Palpatine) to the clone troopers to kill the Jedi they had been serving alongside during the Clone Wars. The desolation of the Jedi is one of the most significant events in the Star Wars universe. Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda famously escaped their own executions, while many younglings and other Jedi were not so lucky. Master Aayla Secura was gunned down by her squadron, Darth Vader (Anakin Skywalker) lead the 501st Legion into the Jedi temple to kill everyone they came across, and Master Plo Koon was killed by Captain Jag. It was a dark time for the Jedi—to survive, you had to be good or pretty darn lucky.

The question I have for you is…would you survive? Take my quiz to find out!

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GeekMom: Comic Book Corner — Storm, Wonderland, and The Unwritten Wed, 30 Jul 2014 11:30:00 +0000 Today on Comic Book Corner, a storm is brewing with Storm, Wonderland, and The Unwritten set to take the stage.

The post GeekMom: Comic Book Corner — Storm, Wonderland, and The Unwritten appeared first on GeekMom.

Storm #1

Storm #1, Art by Victor Ibanez © Marvel Comics

Happy Comic Release Day! Welcome to another installment of GeekMom Comic Book Corner, where we recap our adventures in comics for the week. Today on Comic Book Corner, a storm is brewing with Storm, Wonderland, and The Unwritten set to take the stage.

Dakster Sullivan — Grimm Fairy Tales verses Wonderland #1 of 5 by Troy Brownfield and art by Luca Claretti

GFT vs. Wonderland \ Image: Zenescope

GFT vs. Wonderland \ Image: Zenescope

I’m not a huge fan of Zenescope’s Wonderland series, because it’s a very dark and can be a pretty gruesome story-line to read. When I realized that Wonderland would be going up against Sela in this mini-series, I put aside my feelings about the art and started down the rabbit hole.

My curiosity was rewarded with not one, but two strong female leads, one of whom is also a mother.

The overall first book seems to be just a huge misunderstanding after Sela (Grimm Fairy Tales Heroine) decides to kick tail before asking questions. I’m not surprised though, because she states early on in the story that she hates “Wonderland crap.” The violence that was there wasn’t overwhelming like watching a slicer horror flick. Considering how this issue ended, I’m excited to see what happens next. I might even have to pick this up when it comes out in trade.

Curious to know what I’m pulling this week? Check out my pull list on Comixology.

Kay Moore — The Unwritten Vol. 8: Orpheus in the Underworld and Vol. 9: The Unwritten Fables by Mike Carey and art by Peter Gross
In this collected volume of issues (42-49 of The Unwritten), the story spirals around, with many main characters, including Tom Taylor, visiting Hades. He discovers that right and wrong and debts and gifts are not read the way we write them. Carey subverts my unconscious ideas of the underworld, minions, dark lords, sidekicks, and dozens of other tropes while simultaneously honoring them—an approach that had me wondering about my own interpretations. With The Unwritten series sprawling through all of fiction and all of the world, I was afraid that as it progressed, it would become unreadable, but this graphic novel answered some of my questions, gave me some new moves to admire, and had me breathless again for the next installment.
Age recommendation: 17-years-old and up.

The Unwritten Vol. 8 \ Image: Amazon

The Unwritten Vol. 8 \ Image: Amazon

The Unwritten Vol. 9: The Unwritten Fables by Mike Carey, Bill Willingham, Peter Gross, and Mark Buckingham is a cross-over between The Unwritten and Fables, both iconic, idiosyncratic, and entertaining comic storyverses. Our story begins with Unwritten‘s Tommy Taylor seeking to mend the wound that threatens the bonding of stories and the material world. At the same time, in a Fables storyverse, the mundane Earth and many other lands have been overtaken by a dark lord and a small surviving contingent of Fables are using spells to resist him. When Tommy’s and the Fables’ paths and purposes cross, another ingenious story is set in motion. In the Unwritten series, I enjoy the richness of literary references; in this telling, there are all sorts of childhood fables incorporated from Bill Willingham’s popular Fables mega-series. I read it as a natural marriage of stories, weaving the strands of other stories and creating one beautiful tapestry that entertained and occasionally surprised me.

Age recommendation: 17-years-old and up.

GeekMom received a review copy of these titles. 

Kelly Knox — Storm #1 by Greg Pak and Victor Ibanez

X-Men was the first title I read as a kid, and the reason I really got hooked on comics. I loved the team dynamics, and found the characters endlessly fascinating, especially Storm. Ororo Munroe is compelling and mysterious, but always seemed aloof and enigmatic. Storm #1, out last week, re-captured the feeling I had then toward the title character, but is filled with the promise that I’ll finally get to know Ororo Munroe.

Storm #1

Art by Victor Ibanez © Marvel Comics

The first issue of Storm’s ongoing series opens with her floating in the clouds, and thanks to Victor Ibanez’s gorgeous art, you feel like you’re hovering alongside her. In every panel she seems regal and powerful (which is no surprise since she was once a queen). In this first issue, you see Storm on her own for most of the story, but still get the team dynamic that I love so much about the X-Men as Hank McCoy provides support.

The action also shifts to the mansion, or The Jean Grey School for Higher Learning as it’s known now, showing you both sides of Storm’s life as a hero and a headmistress.

Storm #1 is an excellent place to get into (or back into) comic books. The story is clearly just getting started, and there are no references to other goings-on in the Marvel Universe that might make you feel like you’re missing out on something. If you’ve ever loved the X-Men, pick up Storm #1 to get back into their world.

DRM Free Backups Available from ComiXology…Sort Of

ComiXology announced the latest update to their service allows for you to download DRM free backups of “some” of your purchases. By some, they mean none of the major publishers are included. I can understand why Marvel and DC Comics wouldn’t want their customers to back up their comics. It’s like giving us a paper copy of it to pass along as they…wait…ohh that’s what we do with our regular comics isn’t it? Okay. In that case, I don’t understand why they wouldn’t let their customers have their comics in a form they can back up.

I currently have over 1,200 comics in my ComiXology account, and of those books only about 20 are available to back up. You could say I feel a little bummed and cheated by this new service. Especially since the books that I’m able to download a back up of, I don’t care about because they were free to begin with. Hopefully Marvel and DC Comics will work something out so their customers can actually own the comics they buy, but until then, I’m not holding my breath.

Looking for something else, readers? Check out this week’s listed books:

DC-Comics-Old.jpg marvel-logo1.jpg

Adventures Of Superman #15
Ame-Comi Girls Vol. 2 Rise Of The Brainiac TP GM
Aquaman Annual #2
Batman Eternal #17
Batman Li’l Gotham Vol. 2 TP Kid Friendly
Batman The Dark Knight Vol.  3 Mad TP
Batman The Dark Knight Vol. 4 Clay HC
Batwing Vol. 4 Welcome To The Family TP
Bodies #1 (Of 8) New Mini Series
DC Comics Presents Batman Adventures #1 Kid Friendly
Detective Comics Annual #3
Doom Patrol Omnibus HC
Harley Quinn #8 GM
Justice League #32
New 52 Futures End #13
Red Lanterns Annual #1
Sandman Overture #3 (Of 6)
Sinestro #4
Smallville Season 11 Special #5
Vertigo Quarterly Magenta #1
Wake #10 (Of 10) Final Issue
100th Anniversary Special Guardians Of The Galaxy #1 Movie comes out Friday!
All-New Invaders Vol. 1 Gods And Soldiers TP
All-New Ghost Rider #5
Avengers #33
Avengers World #10
Cyclops #3 New Series
Deadpool Dracula’s Gauntlet #4 (Of 7)
Guardians Of The Galaxy #17 GM
Hawkeye #19 GM
Human Torch By Karl Kesel And Skottie Young The Complete Collection TP
Iron Man Special #1
Iron Patriot #5
Marvel Masterworks The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 8 TP
Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy The Art Of The Movie Slipcase HC
Mighty Avengers Vol. 2 Family Bonding TP
New Avengers #21
Original Sin #3.3
Runaways The Complete Collection Vol. 1 TP
Secret Avengers #6
Spider-Man The Complete Alien Costume Saga Vol. 1 TP
Superior Foes Of Spider-Man Vol. 2 The Crime Of The Century TP
Ultimate FF #5
Uncanny Avengers #22
Uncanny X-Men #24
X-Men #17
X-Men Magneto Testament TP
idw-logo.jpg Dark-Horse-Logo-2.jpg

Cartoon Network Super Secret Crisis War #2 (Of 6) Kid Friendly
Danger Girl May Day #3 (Of 4)
G.I. JOE The Complete Collection Vol. 5 HC
Ghostbusters #18
Infestation Omnibus TP
Jinnrise Vol. 2 TP
Locke And Key The Covers Of Gabriel Rodriguez HC
Metal Gear Solid Complete Deluxe Edition HC
Rip Kirby Vol. 7 HC
Samurai Jack #10
Star Slammers Re-Mastered #5
Tales Of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 5 TP
Transformers Robots In Disguise #31
V-Wars #4
Well HC
Wraith Welcome To Christmasland HC
Zombies Vs Robots Z-Boyz In The Robot Graveyard Prose TP
Baltimore The Witch Of Harju #1 (Of 3) New Mini Series
Captain Midnight #13
Deep Gravity #1 (Of 4) New Mini Series
EC Archives Two-Fisted Tales Vol. 3 HC
Emily And The Strangers Breaking The Record #2 (Of 3)
Gasoline Alley The Complete Sundays Vol. 2 1923–1925 HC
King Conan The Conqueror #6 (Of 6) Final Issue
Massive #25
Mind MGMT #24
Pariah #6 (Of 8)
Star Wars Rebel Heist #4 (Of 4) Final Issue
Veil #4 (Of 5)

Acronym Key: VC = Variant Cover / HC = Hard Cover / TP = Trade Paperback / GM = GeekMom Recommended Reading

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Mommy and Me Time With Pokemon XY Wed, 30 Jul 2014 11:00:20 +0000 Thanks to a Nintendo 2DS and Pokemon XY, I've rediscovered my long-lost love of trying to "catch them all."

The post Mommy and Me Time With Pokemon XY appeared first on GeekMom.

My son has all the best badges! \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

My son has all the best badges! \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

Pokemon XY reintroduced me to my love of the Pokemon world. Not to age myself, but I loved playing the original Pokemon Red on my Game Boy color when I was twelve years old. Over time though, I lost my love of Pokemon somewhere between my teenage years and my adult years. Thanks to a Nintendo 2DS and Pokemon XY, I’ve rediscovered my long-lost love of trying to “catch them all.”

In the past few months, my life has gotten not only complicated but stressful, and one day while looking for a way to relax, my younger brother brought over his old Game Boy Advance and his Pokemon games for me to play.


My love of Pokemon instantly came back to me like an old friend who had been away on vacation. I carefully changed the battery in the game console, blew it out to rid it of any dust, and then I sat down and got to work trying to catch them all.

A funny thing happened that day. Not only did I rediscover my love of Pokemon, but my 8-year-old son discovered his love as well. He was intrigued by the old Game Boy system and instantly wanted to play. Of course, he was a little disappointed when he asked if it would work with the iPad and I told him no <shaking my head>. Despite the fact that his newer Nintendo 3DS is fancier and has two back-lit screens, he was still excited to sit down and play on my old Game Boy Color and learn how to capture Pokemon of his own.

As I started to play, I remembered the fun I used to have playing video games. You see, as the years have gone by, the consoles have become more advanced and the graphics more realistic, causing me to get migraines from a few minutes of play…

With the video game trend growing in terms of graphics and realism, I was afraid I would be stuck playing my Game Boy Color for the rest of my life (or its life, whichever ended sooner). Then…I saw the light in the form of the Nintendo 2DS and Pokemon XY. With the gentle graphics in Pokemon XY and the non-3D effect of the 2DS, I’ve learned I can play for up to 45 minutes without any regret.

It didn’t take long before my son discovered my shiny new hardware and a few days later (and a lot of begging on his part), I downloaded the game onto his DS so we could play together.

I’ll admit that I was a little skittish giving my son his own Pokemon. After all, he doesn’t know the difference between the types, their unique powers, or how to level them up to defeat the gym leaders. I decided to put my fears and worries aside and let him find his own way. Turns out, that wasn’t such a bad idea, because the game pretty much taught him everything he needed to know. With the exception of choosing his first Pokemon because it was “cute,” he’s battled his way through more gym badges than I have and captured a nice array of Pokemon (in my defense, it’s my lack of time, not skill, that has allowed him to pass me in gym badges).

After playing for a few days, I realized a few differences in this Pokemon game versus the ones I grew up with.

The first difference I noticed was the ability to choose between a male or female lead character and whichever you chose to be, your companion will be the opposite. Something else I noticed was the inclusion of a few more friendly characters, mostly trainers your character’s age, to help you along the way. Each of them has a different reason for catching Pokemon, just like each player in the real world has a different reason for playing.

Pokemon XY also has a few new faces, including three new starter Pokemon. In case you’re wondering, my son chose Chespin and I chose Fennekin (whom I’ve nicknamed Fen). There’s also a wide range of game-version-specific Pokemon, and a few other features that the previous games I’ve played didn’t have, including fancy boutiques, gourmet restaurants, and five-star hotels.

The boutiques are special, because they sell a wide variety of fashions in which to dress your character up, and further personalize the game character to its real-world player. I didn’t think I would care too much about the fashions, but then I realized I could get everything from my hair cut, to contacts, to jeans, and t-shirts that reflected my own style instead of the boring default style the game developers give you.

The restaurants are also pretty neat to check out, as some of them only cater to special Pokemon types. Make sure you check them out when you run into them because some of the food provides special energy to you and your Pokemon.

Of course, no game is perfect and I found a couple of things particularly annoying.

First the gym leaders are sometimes easier to beat than the ordinary trainers you find on the paths to the city. I have four badges, and so far I have yet to lose to a gym leader in a battle. Actually, the further along I get in the game, the easier it seems to be to beat the gym leader. Kalos City is the exception, because before you can get to the gym leader you have to answer three quiz questions and beat three trainers. If you choose the wrong answer to the question, you have to retry the question and face another trainer until you get it right.

The second thing I found annoying was how many times I would talk to someone and they would say “here’s something to help you along your journey.” For players who get stuck, this is great. For those who prefer to battle their way to the top with minimum interference, this will hinder your experience. If you prefer to train your Pokemon the old fashion way, you know, through battles…talk when you want and skip around. There are times when talking to someone is required and most of the time, the game will clue you in.

In the beginning, I found the amount of cash you win from various trainers to be a little excessive. After visiting some of the boutiques for clothes, Pokemon gear, and other items, I realized the insane amounts of money you win is actually necessary if you want to purchase any of the upgrades.

There are a few other added bonuses to this game that I haven’t played with much, but seem like they would be fun for younger players. One of those features is Pokemon Amie, and it reminds me of Nintendogs for the DS. Basically this is the area where you get to play and feed your Pokemon like it was a virtual pet.

It’s been fun getting back into the Pokemon world and teaching my son everything I know about the game. And next to reading comics, it’s become one of our favorite ways to spend time together.

Overall, Pokemon XY has given me a way to relax and spend some quality time with my son. What more could a mom ask for in a game?

Pokemon XY is available for Nintendo DS consoles. Check your local game seller or Amazon for pricing and availability.

Disclaimer: GeekMom received a review sample. 

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Phineas and Ferb Creators Talk About Taking on Star Wars Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:30:22 +0000 The force is strong with this Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars crossover special. GeekMom had a chance to speak to the creators about it.

The post Phineas and Ferb Creators Talk About Taking on Star Wars appeared first on GeekMom.


Image provided by Disney Channel.

Building on the success of last year’s Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel episode, creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh set their sights on a new crossover subject, this time with the Star Wars universe. Those plans have now come to fruition with Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars, a brand new animated special that parallels the events of Episode IV: A New Hope.

GeekMom had an opportunity to talk with the two of them about the special, their inspiration, pleasing fans of both franchises, and the challenges that they faced when coming up with the story.

GeekMom: What was the inspiration for taking on the Star Wars universe? Were you looking to do another crossover episode after the success of the Marvel one?

Povenmire: That emboldened us to ask. We had just finished [the Marvel episode] when the announcement was made. Our post-production supervisor was in a mix with us and she’s always wired in on a BlackBerry and she said, “Oh my gosh, I just got an alert. Lucasfilm bought by Disney.”

Marsh: It took about 30 seconds for Dan to draw a picture of Doofenshmirtz as Darth Vader, take a picture on his phone, and text it to the head of the studio with a note.

Povenmire: “I smell a crossover!” It was literally the very first thing that I did upon hearing that. And the head of the studio texted back immediately and said, “That’s a great idea. We were just talking about that.” So it got fast-tracked rather quickly, and we were glad for that because to us it’s such a culmination of our boyhood dreams of playing in that sandbox.

GeekMom: How closely did you work with with Lucasfilm on the project?

Povenmire: They were very, very easy on us as soon as they heard that our version of it was not going to be making fun of theirs, but having our characters in and around their story and leaving their story and their characters alone. Once they saw the reverence with which we were treating their characters I think they were really happy to let us go on it. And they had very few notes. I think in the grand scheme of things there were many more issues with Marvel because we were using their characters in ways they had not used their characters yet.

Marsh: The Marvel universe is so much more fractured legally and rights-wise.

Povenmire: So compared to all of the rules going on there, this was so much easier.

Marsh: And the Lucasfilm guys got to see what we did with the Marvel episode and I like to think that that gave them a lot of confidence, because they looked at it and realized, “Oh, they’re not going to go out and mock these characters.” And it was clear that we love Star Wars, the whole universe, and the guys in it.


The force is with Povenmire (l) and Marsh (r). Image provided by Disney Channel.

GeekMom: What about them? Were they fans of your universe as well?

Povenmire: The ones that we dealt with were familiar with the show and just such nice people. I did sort of an impromptu pitch with them. I came in just to meet them, just like for a meet and greet, and the head of the studio said, “Can you pitch them the whole story?” And we hadn’t quite worked out the whole story but I was like, “Okay.” And I just started pitching, and as I was pitching I was actually solving story problems. There’s a couple of things I pitched in there, lines that I pitched in that room that were just ad libbed that got a laugh and I kept them in. Like, I think Doof says, “You can lead a dianoga to garbage but you can’t make him drink.” I did that and it got a laugh and I was like, “Oh, I’ve got to remember that.” And I wrote it down and it’s in the episode.

GeekMom: Were there any challenges fitting Phineas and Ferb into the world of Star Wars?

Povenmire: There were some challenges. When we decided to do it the way we’re doing it, with a parallel story, it was a lot of work to get that story working and connecting to Star Wars the way we wanted it to connect. We don’t write scripts, so our first draft is really the first storyboard pitch. And when we did the first storyboard pitch we realized we were really missing a lot of Phineas and Ferb’s characters. We worked this all out so the story worked and it was gratifying to see that, but Phineas and Ferb didn’t feel like Phineas and Ferb, they just felt like two kids. So we had to go back and put in the kind of stuff that they would do and the kind of stuff that Candice would do. We really had to do a whole pass where we brought it back into our world. We’d been so involved in the Star Wars part of it and making sure that the mechanics of the plot actually worked. That was the hard part. We know Phineas and Ferb. It’s easy for us to punch it up in a Phineas and Ferb way. So it was very challenging, but very rewarding.

GeekMom: Are you happy with the results?

Marsh: That would be a radical understatement.

Povenmire: It’s one of my favorite things we’ve done since we started doing the show.

GeekMom: Being fans yourselves, did you put any references or Easter eggs in there for other fans might get?

Povenmire: It’s chock-full of Easter eggs for Star Wars fans. We tried to make it so that it was still funny and it still moved along even if you’ve never seen Star Wars. And we’ve actually shown it to some kids who had never seen Star Wars before and they still liked it. So I think that’s still working. But if you’re a Star Wars fan there’s so much more humor in it for you. There’s so many things that just go by and you realize, “Oh! That’s where Boba-Fett started looking for Han and Chewie. And that’s why the dianoga let go of Luke in the trash compactor. And that’s when the trash compactor started closing. Doofenshmirtz pressed that button. And oh, that’s how the Death Star plans got stolen from the Empire in the first place. It was Perry the Platypus.”

Marsh: That was really the trick, though. And one of the reasons why we spent so much time on it. It had to work on all those levels. It had to be satisfying for Phineas and Ferb fans, even if they didn’t care about Star Wars. It had to be satisfying for Star Wars fans even if they didn’t care about Phineas and Ferb. And it had to be satisfying for both. And we really agonized over which jokes to tell and how to include it all. We knew that not only were the fans were going to be critical but we are those Star Wars geeks and those Phineas and Ferb fans ourselves. So it had to be something we were excited about.


Image provided by Disney Channel.

GeekMom: Is this now going to be considered canon?

Povenmire: At the end of the crawl at the beginning that sets up the story, you know, with the John Williams music behind it? It tells the whole story and there’s one line at the end that says, “And none of this is canon, so just relax.” But we did it so that it could be canon. It doesn’t interfere with any of the canon.

GeekMom: Did you get to use any sound effects or voices from the original film?

Marsh: We were given access both to the sound effects library and much of John Williams music.

Povenmire: We had access to about seven minutes of the John Williams original score, which was great, which we loved being able to use. And almost all the sounds effects are original Star Wars effects. Unfortunately, we were unable to use the actual voices of the original cast members because they’re all shooting Episode VII.

Marsh: And they don’t sound like they did when they were in their 20s.

Povenmire: So we got sound-alikes for the young Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill. And some of them are just incredibly talented.

Marsh: Harrison Ford is good enough to fool Harrison Ford’s family.

Povenmire: I think so. I was very impressed.

Marsh: He asks you when you start, “Which age Harrison do you want?” Because he can do them all absolutely perfectly.

GeekMom: What else can fans look forward to?

Povenmire: Swampy and I have a cameo in the show as the tractor beam operators.

Marsh: And we are brilliant. We elevate that script.

Povenmire: It’s not just our voices but it looks like us.

GeekMom: So you basically just did this to get yourselves into Star Wars, right?

Povenmire: We’re just trying to make ourselves laugh, is basically how it works. That what we’re going for.

Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars premieres on Disney Channel on July 26 and on Disney XD on August 4.

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Modular Robotics Makes Building Robots Simple and Fun With MOSS Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:00:52 +0000 MOSS is a system of blocks and spheres that can be connected magnetically to create robots right out of the box, no knowledge of electronics or programming necessary.

The post Modular Robotics Makes Building Robots Simple and Fun With MOSS appeared first on GeekMom.

After an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign, this month marked the official retail launch of MOSS. This block-based robot building kit produced by Modular Robotics reached its $100,000 goal in 12 hours last winter and ended more than tripling their financial objective, not that they needed the money—Modular Robotics had already received enough to get them started the old fashioned venture financing way. What they needed was exposure, and they sure received it! It was well deserved, with a smart product and American-based manufacturing.

MOSS Zombonitron Kit. Photo credit: Modular Robotics

MOSS Zombonitron Kit. Photo credit: Modular Robotics

MOSS is a system of blocks and spheres that can be connected magnetically to create robots right out of the box, no knowledge of electronics and programming necessary. Note that the magnets are inside of the cubes and the spheres are simply steel—no Bucky Balls here. Different types of blocks do different jobs, such as a light sensor block and a motor block. The faces of the blocks are color coded to represent their function. A green face routes power, brown routes data in, red routes data out, and blue is a neutral “pass-through” which can route data or power, but not both at once.

For example, let’s say you wanted to make a robot that followed a light source. You can connect a red face (data out) of a light sensor block to the brown face (data in) of a motor block, that will send the light sensor block’s data (light present, light absent) to the motor block which will turn in one direction or the other depending on that Boolean value it receives. Both of the blocks will need to have a green face (power) connected to a green face on the battery block. The robot can be made more complicated by adding more sensors and pass-through blocks to create fun behaviors and looks.

I had the chance to ask Eric Schweikardt, CEO of Modular Robotics, about his company and products. I asked Schweikardt how he got into the business of making Cubelets, the company’s first robotics kit.

“Cubelets were my PhD project at Carnegie Mellon, and they were inspired by complex systems like environments or financial markets or social networks. I think people have a really really hard time thinking about complex systems where there are lots of little elements all interacting with each other and creating some sort of emergent behavior like ‘climate change’ or ‘a bad economy.’ Complexity science is crazy and abstract, but I think that for a lot of people who learn well by building things, that building and manipulating little complex systems like a Cubelets robot can be a really effective way to gain intuitions about the natural world, about how patterns emerge, and about how the world is a complex place that often requires thoughtful analysis and not simple good/bad, black/white, red/blue solutions. Oh, and, er, tiny robots are just fun.”

I agree, tiny robots are just fun!

The MOSS comes in two packaged kits, the Zombonitron 1600 and the Exofabulotronixx 5200. The former contains 16 blocks, include light sensor block and a proximity sensor block for input, two motor blocks, and a hodgepodge of other less exciting but still useful blocks. The latter contains, you guessed it, 52 blocks, including two light sensor blocks, two proximity sensor blocks, a microphone sensor block, two motor blocks, two pivot blocks, two flashlight blocks,  and again completed with the miscellaneous array of blocks that play a supporting role. If you’re going to want to write your own programs, you’ll want the Exofabulotronixx because that’s the package with the ever-so-important “brain block.” That’s the block containing the Bluetooth connector that can be used to link your robot to your computer for programming (using MOSS Scratch or MOSS C, to your preference) or to your mobile device for remote robot control and monitoring.

I had the chance to play with the Zombonitron kit. The experience was mostly positive. Because our kids are still way too small for this toy, my husband and I waited until they were in bed to break into the box. Getting started was incredibly easy. You don’t even need instructions to figure out how the blocks can connect together using the metallic spheres, and can get going snapping blocks and spheres together right out of the box. You might want to read the manual though, if you want to be able to make a robot that behave as you were expecting! The short manual explains how the blocks work and gives the steps for constructing three different robots. A quick read through and we were good to start building. It’s possible that our two postgraduate degrees in Computer Science have somewhat skewed our opinion of the ease with which one can plan in terms of input and output and data transfer through blocks. Nevertheless, the beauty of this system is that even someone who experiences difficulty thinking in these terms can learn do to so through simple trial-and-error. After all, that’s the goal! You can’t possibly fail. Just keep playing with it until you get more comfortable with how the pieces work individually and together.

My only negative criticism is that I did experience some frustration with the blocks falling apart during construction. Here’s the full picture: I connected my blocks together and everything was sticking together well. I turned on my robot to test it and realized I put one of the motors in backwards, so I needed to remove the motor block and put it back the other way. That’s when, with a little bit of pressure, not only my erroneously-placed motor block but all the blocks break apart and little steel balls go rolling off in all directions. It’s an unfortunate reality of the design. It sticks together well if you’re building up, it sticks together well while the robots is moving around, but it’s a little harder to modify a robot. It’s definitively a trade-off because, while this aspect may be frustrating, it doesn’t render the toy unusable and you gain the capability of hinges in return.

I asked Schweikardt about this issue, to which he replied, “I’d like for the magnet strength to be a little greater, though, since it can be frustrating. Unfortunately, we’re using the highest strength neodymium magnets available, but we’re playing with a few other approaches. Soon we’ll be launching a much larger variety of BRACE pieces that can reinforce a wider variety of constructions. We’re also exploring using hollow steel spheres instead of solid. These work great, and since the spheres make up most of the weight of a MOSS construction, super-light spheres allow you to extend cantilevers much longer and create robots that are more robust during construction.”

I suppose there is one more negative point: the cost. The Zombonitron 1600 retails at $149.95 and the Exofabulotronixx 5200 at $479.95. I was sticker-shocked at first, but then again, electronics kits rarely come cheap. Compare MOSS to, say, the littleBits kits that start around $100 for a handful of modules, and MOSS isn’t out of left field. On the plus side, Modular Robotics’ kits are manufactured in the US.

After a trip to China in early 2013 to inspect the manufactories where the Modular Robotics parts were made, Schweikardt made a big decision. “On the long flight home, I convinced myself that we could build our own factory, right here in Boulder, to make our tiny robots. I convinced myself that on a certain level, it’s pretty much insane to build products all of the way around the world just because the people there are poorer. I convinced myself that it would be fun, interesting, and a generally good thing to do for the world. I convinced myself to make a really unlikely decision.” Schweikardt’s kooky idea was received with some skepticism, but in the end it was one his team and board of directors were proud to support. And one I personally find refreshing.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

The post Modular Robotics Makes Building Robots Simple and Fun With MOSS appeared first on GeekMom.

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