What can be better than candy? Automated candy!
We normally get lots of kids trick or treating on our street. It's usually lots of fun to give out candy and see all the costumes. One year, we even ran out of candy (rookie mistake) and had to run to a nearby grocery store to get more last minute.
Sometime over the summer after COVID started, I realized that Halloween wouldn't be the same this year, and that was even before trick or treating was banned by the city and CDC. But I didn't want to totally kill all the fun of Halloween. So I came up with the crazy idea of building an automated candy dispenser. Even if it didn't work, it would be an opportunity for me to learn about Arduino and Alexa, a couple technologies I was interested in.
Apparently several other people had a similar idea and built their own contraptions all over the country.
Some people have asked to go through my engineering process and design, so I'll do a series of blog posts about that so others can learn. I certainly benefitted from the "prior art" out there and hope this can benefit future candy dispenser designers.
Below is a little promo video I shot. I made it to serve as a little "invitation" to our friends and neighbors, and it was really just an excuse for me to practice flying my drone and editing some video. In future blog posts, I'll go through the results of how Halloween went, some of the prior art, my overall design process, and potential areas of future work.
I couldn't have done this without the help of my father-in-law who spent many hours helping me to construct the mechanical assembly, so I owe him a huge thanks. And I also owe thanks to the rest of my family for their supporting me to work on such a silly idea.
I just finished reading Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool by Emily Oster. It was sort of a meta-analysis of a bunch of published research and scientific studies on various parenting questions related to the early years. It was written by an economist (whose husband is also an economist) who loves to look at data and approaches a lot of publications with a healthy dose of skepticism.
It was a concise tactical summary of each major area of early parenting and where there is enough quality evidence to suggest one approach is better than another and where there isn't. An important point is that throughout all the decisions she discusses, there is a large role for a parent's own preferences, and she points out how each child, parent, and family situation is different, and that usually is a much bigger determining factor than anything else.
The book covered a lot of things I've read about in other places, and her list of references and books she refers to is pretty good. Below are my limited notes (my "crib sheet") on Cribsheet.
I just finished reading Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell. It was recommended to me a while ago by many people I worked with before.
I had previously enjoyed and gotten a lot out of Chris Fussell's book One Mission, which I guess is sort of a sequel to Team of Teams. Even though I read them "out of order," both books still made a lot of sense. I actually enjoyed One Mission more because I found it to be more tactical and down to earth; Team of Teams seemed to be very heavy on theory and background, which I suppose makes sense since it came first. In Team of Teams, I enjoyed learning more about the history of Scientific Management and Taylor, and it was interesting to learn a lot of the details around how the special ops teams transitioned to a more decentralized and transparent system of management as well as how they set up their physical spaces (SAR, O&I room, etc.).
My notes and main takeaways from the book are below.