04/09/2014 12:12 pm ET Updated Jun 08, 2014

Part 4!: 826 Valencia's Student-Journalists Release Issue 49 of the Valencia Bay-farer

826 Valencia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 in the San Francisco Bay Area with their creative and expository writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.

The writing on this blog comes out of the Valencia Bay-farer journalism workshop, a free workshop for elementary and middle school students that produces 826 Valencia's one and only in-house newspaper. To learn more about 826 Valencia, visit


California Inventor Builds Robot for NASA
By Isaiah Diaz, Age 9

A man who lives in Claremont, California, made a robot that is named RoboSimian, which is able to do pull-ups and can go to dangerous places.

RoboSimian is a robot that is built like a combination of a monkey, a spider, and a panda. Its remote control operators look at 3D maps on their computers that RoboSimian created with his camera eyes.

Brett Kennedy, who is 40 years old and a supervisor at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, got $4 million from the government for getting to the finals in a robot contest.

RoboSimian is formed kind of like a monkey because it would be easier for it to fit through tight spaces. "Monkeys and apes do a really good job of getting around in cluttered spaces and grabbing things," Kennedy said. "The big difference is that RoboSimian won't get tired as long as it has a supply of electricity."

He has made fourteen robots. Each one of them has its own feature. For example, his first robot could pick up ping pong balls. He made that one while in graduate school at Stanford University.

He said that his robot does not have emotions because "we haven't found any place that they'd make RoboSimian better at its job."

But some robots can copy human feelings, said Mathis Lauckner, from Stuttgart, Germany, who is studying robots for his doctorate.

In some movies robots take over the world. But these robots couldn't do that, Kennedy said. "It's really difficult to make a robot do anything, let alone take over the world."

His next step is to make the robot different for the finals later this year.

"We'd like to make even stronger hands, but the big improvement will be in how long it takes the operators to direct the robot," Kennedy said. "Right now, the people are the slow part of the story."


A Trend Like No Other
By Ivy Lynn Corvin, Age 9

Fashion Lolita is a trend like no other. It has more ruffles and lace than you could ever imagine, and poofy, frilly skirts like Little Bo Peep, but is dark like Alice in Wonderland. The look originated in Osaka, Japan, but became big in Tokyo. It started with young people rebelling and then turned into "cosplay," which is a mixture of costume and play. Teenagers would go to parks and malls and show off their own unique style or dress as their favorite anime characters.

"All over the world. It's very big here in America, Europe and Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines," says Miss Carlyfornia, a Lolita dress designer. When asked where she would wear these elaborate fashions, she answered, "Just about anywhere you feel like. It's a lifestyle."

There are many different types of Lolita, such as Cutie Lolita which is pink and frilly in style, Punk Lolita, which is dark and shadowy, and Gothic Lolita, which is both of those combined.

There are always elaborate details and very full skirts, usually with petticoats or crinolines.

"All the ruffles and lace take hours to make. Then, sewing them onto the dress itself is another hour or two. It is very labor- intensive," says Miss Carlyfornia.

All that work means expensive dresses. Baby, the Stars Shine Bright, a boutique in Japan Town, sells dresses that cost between $280 and $658, and the petticoats cost a few hundred dollars more.

Are such expensive dresses worth buying? I think so. I guess I better start saving!


All About 3D Printers
By Jason Tan, age 8

I'm writing about 3D printers. 3D printers are machines that can print three-
dimensional things like toys, car parts, shoes, skin, and food. They make things layer by layer with plastic and other materials.

3D printers are new and expensive. They cost from between $100,000 and $500,000. A lot of people do not have 3D printers. In the future there will be more 3D printers and they will be cheaper.

Chuck Hull is the inventor of the solid imaging process called stereolithography. Stereolithography is another name for 3D printing. 3D printers can print objects that are fifty by fifty by sixty centimeters, but a mammoth printer can print objects more than a meter in length.

I asked why anyone would want to use a 3D printer. Martin Malloy, 29 wants to print a computer with a really big screen. I would like to print devices like an iPhone and iPad because I like them.


The Taliban
By Brian Moore, Age 9

Listen, people. I know global warming, fashion, and technology are pretty important, but the lives and freedom of millions of people are in jeopardy, and the more serious of these other topics can and will likely will be solved by science.

Do you know who the Taliban are and what they have done? The Taliban are a terrorist group who operate in Afghanistan and enforce many strict and unfair rules. I mean, who doesn't let girls go to school?

The group started out as an Islamic fundamentalist movement. The group came to power in 1994 when the Soviet Union retreated from Afghan territory, leaving Afghanistan destroyed, in a total mess, and without any type of government. That is when the Taliban rolled in and took over the whole country.

While the Taliban were in control they made a mess of things. For instance, the Taliban enslaved women and did not install any type of social programs throughout their society, such as health care, unless you were very wealthy. They also banned listening to music, and enforced amputation and stoning for such a small crime as shoplifting. In other words, the Taliban are very strict.

According to Kim Jung, a former medic in the war, Afghan women were in powerful positions and had as many freedoms as American women, but that was before the Taliban came to Afghanistan and took over.

Because Afghanistan is in a time of crisis, the U.S is giving the Afghani community millions, if not billions of dollars. "We also send a large chunk of our army into Afghanistan to help with the Afghan's everyday needs," said Kim Jung, a former medic in the war who also helps women with their everyday needs. Kim also said, "it's hard to figure out the woman's needs without their husband's or father's opinions."

Recently, adults have been getting kids to do their nasty work, such as soldiering and suicide bombing. Adults are getting lazy, which means the kids are the ones who are suffering. By the end of 2014, we should be pulling out of Afghan territory, so we are now training Afghan security to protect them from the Taliban. "Even if you overcome the Taliban, they will always come back. They live off a set of ideals. It's not people you need to conquer, but the ideals that you need to conquer."


A Time for Weird Watches
By Lola Morrell, Age 11

With watches these days, you only have four choices, it seems: to wear a watch because it looks cool; to wear one with weird features that are useful but make it hard to change the time; to wear one so you aren't late to a meeting or something; or just to not wear one at all.

Watches have changed a lot. Today they are used for more than telling the time.

Trendy and stylish, watches tend to have large and fancy faces. Watches with many features can do things such as telling you how far you walked and letting users play games on a little touchscreen.

As you may know, hipsters are associated with a lot of things, and now they're associated with trendy watches. Watches with wooden bands are in style. I don't know who comes up with these ideas, but a lot of them tend to make me confused.

To add on to that, watches with many features can also confuse some people when trying to search for the button that fixes the two minutes it's off by. Some of the features are useful, like Fitbit's smartwatch that tracks how far you walked, but some come with downsides. According to an article by Russell Goldman for ABC News, Fitbit Force smartwatches gave many people rashes where they had worn it.

But really, when you're trying to pick out a watch to wear, it all comes down to your opinion. There are many questions to ask, and simply choosing between analog and digital can be one of the hardest choices. But if you're stuck between a fancy-looking watch or one with a lot of features on it, there are a lot of choices in the middle.

One option is a watch designed by watchmaker George Daniels, called the Grande Complication. Two of its many features are a thermometer and the phases of the moon. Another watch by George Daniels is the Space Traveller, which includes the age and current phase of the moon, as well as other "complications" as Daniels called them in an interview back in 2010.

Even with a lot of variety in wristwatches these days, it's pretty much impossible to make a watch to suit everybody, simply because individual people have such different opinions. To illustrate this, I collected interviews from different people, asking about their watch preferences. The results ended up varying a lot.

Tiffany J., a tutor at 826 Valencia, simply says, "I want to be able to tell the time." She continued to explain that she doesn't like watches that are too small, because they make it harder to read. She also likes her watch to be stylish. On the topic of watches like Samsung's smartwatch and Fitbit's exercise tracking watches, she says that buying it or not depends on your choice, but, "You already have a phone that does all that stuff."

Holland Stacey, 10, likes when watches have the date included. She also likes them to be digital so that she can read them easily.

Joy Cooper, a math teacher, likes to wear a watch when she exercises, but not all the time. She likes analog watches, but when purchasing a watch, tends to buy digital. She likes a timer feature as well.

Alyson Won, who was 10 at the time of the interview, thinks that smartwatches are complex, but she would possibly wear one.

Hopefully, these were enough examples to see that everybody's watch preferences vary, even if you have some opinions in common. That's also why I think there is no need for a debate between digital or analog watches; some people's opinions are going to end up being different than yours.

Whether you end up enjoying a stylish watch or a smartwatch or just a simple watch, that's your opinion, and you should be happy with that. I think it's interesting to learn about weird, different, and new watches as well as enjoying the watch I have, and I hope you enjoyed reading this article and learning a little more too.


The 49ers Are Moving to Santa Clara
By Calvin Tan, Age 10

The 49ers are moving to Santa Clara. Their last game at Candlestick Park was played on December 23, 2013, against the Atlanta Falcons, and they won. They will play their first game at Levi's Stadium in the fall of 2014.

On June 8, 2010, people in Santa Clara voted to allow the 49ers to build their new stadium in their city. One of the main reasons that a new stadium wasn't built at Candlestick Point was that it would have been way too expensive. The team decided to build it in Santa Clara, right next to their administrative offices and their training facilities. In an ESPN article from October 3, 2013, team owner Jed York said, "It's going to be the coolest arena in sports."

Fans were infuriated because the 49ers were moving out of San Francisco. Martin Malloy a fan of the 49ers said, "I think the 49ers needed a new stadium." He continued, "Although they are leaving San Francisco, I think that it's a good thing they got a new stadium." Jin Zhou Tan, another fan of the 49ers, agrees that the new stadium is a "good offer." Mr. Tan and Mr. Malloy are still going to be 49ers fans, even though they are moving out of San Francisco.

Candlestick will be destroyed in late 2014 or early 2015 with a few special events happening before then. People will be able to look at the stadium and take tours of it as well. There will be a 5K and a 10K run as well as other sporting events. They are also trying to get Paul McCartney to play a concert. In 1966, the Beatles played their last concert at Candlestick Park.

Levi's Stadium will host Super Bowl L in 2016, which will be exciting. Although Candlestick will be destroyed, it will be remembered.


Mobile Devices: Creating A Lack of Awareness
By Jessica Berrios, age 11

It was a Thursday I would never forget...

On January 9, 2014, I was on the 49 Mission/Van Ness bus heading home with my mother and it felt pretty normal. I was counting the stops, 21st Street, 22nd Street, 23rd... The bus didn't move for about a minute when an old man pulled off another man's Beats headphones and broke them. The old man yelled, "This lady fainted and all of you [pointing to the people who had headphones on or were too distracted with their iPhones and tablets] idiots didn't notice her!"

All of the people on the bus were in complete shock with how the man reacted and went to give aid to the lady.

Mobile devices are the best and worst things that have ever been invented. They can help with quickly accessing information from the internet. Also, they can be very helpful when collaborating with others on online documents. Mobile games, videos, and online newspapers are other ways to amuse yourself on mobile devices.

Angie Rivera, an 826 Valencia staff member, said, "If you use your time wisely and know deep down inside that you can control yourself then you don't need to exercise extreme caution towards your mobile device."

However, when people are not cautious with mobile devices, bad things can happen, such as car crashes, pedestrians getting hit by cars, and stolen devices on public transportation. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Greg Suhr, chief of the San Francisco Police Department, said that two out of three robberies in the city involve mobile devices.

According to researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, when young people use mobile devices a lot, they are prone to stress, sleeping disorders, and other mental health problems.

Marcus Farage, an 826 Valencia staff member, thinks people should be aware of their surroundings, especially on public transportation. "People aren't aware of the outside world because they spend so much time on a screen," he said about obsessive phone use.

What I learned is that mobile devices are great, but users should be cautious of their surroundings when they are handling them. I also become distracted when using my mobile devices, but when I found out the dangers, I decided to be more careful. It can come to the point where if I turn off my phone, it could literally save my life!


The Big Issue with Climate Change
By Jasper M. Bettag, Age 9

Feeling dry and molten hot in the West? A chilling Arctic freeze in the East? You'll find answers to your questions about climate change here, not anywhere else in the newspaper. So if you want to find out, stop reading about Afghanistan and popular fashion, and start reading about climate change.

So you're probably wondering why it's happening. In short, human activity, such as burning coal, natural gas and oil, as well as deforestation, is causing climate change, according to Mel Fitzpatrick, a climate scientist for The Union of Concerned Scientists. You've probably heard this a lot, but that's because it's pretty much true.

And if you don't believe it's happening, Ms. Fitzpatrick said it's because, "Mostly, people haven't been educated well, and generally climate scientists are not very good communicators."

One thing that's been happening is the polar vortex, which is blowing the wrong way, causing the jet stream to stall and accelerate, which accounts for the strange weather in the United States. The polar vortex is basically what it sounds like: a swirling mass of cold air located around the poles. The jet stream is a fast-moving path of wind, which separates cold northern air from warm southern air.

Climate change itself is not necessarily bad. Some of it even happens naturally. It's the climate change which is caused by humans that is hurting the environment, and the world is expected to be pretty darn different in the future, (2050-2100).

According to the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee (NCADAC), if current trends continue, it's going to get warmer in the north, colder in the south, wetter where it's already wet, and drier where it's already dry, which basically means stuff like Hurricane Sandy and this drought in California will happen more often.

And if you're wondering what you can do about it, Ms. Fitzpatrick says, "One of the best ways to combat climate change is for us to become active in our communities."


Which Is Better, the Books, or the Movie?
By Isabel Aguirre, Age 11

This article is about Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket, his books and movie. I will be talking about criticism, interviews, and Lemony Snicket himself. If you do not like the books, then I would suggest not reading this. But, if you like the movie, you might as well stay.

Lemony Snicket lives in San Francisco, California. His A Series of Unfortunate Events books are about three children who lose their parents in a fire and go through a bunch of harsh and unexpected labor. The books are rather sad, but exciting.

Lemony Snicket has written other books, like All the Wrong Questions, Why We Broke Up, and Thirteen Words. Lemony Snicket thinks, "The story is more interesting when something terrible is happening." I also asked Lemony Snicket if he enjoys writing, and why, and he answered, "Yes, I do. 'Why?' is a good question. It might be because I see blank paper as a challenge."

There are thirteen books in the A Series of Unfortunate Events series. The three siblings in the books have to uncover a mystery about their family and get through challenges that they shouldn't be put through. It took Lemony Snicket about eight years to write the thirteen books in A Series of Unfortunate Events. That's almost one and a half books per year! Lemony Snicket says, "I would rather write books than do almost anything."

Some critics say that the books "bring fresh adult themes to children's stories," but some people say the books are bad for children's minds. The A Series of Unfortunate Events books have been restricted at some schools, but, "Lots of people young and old have responded to Snicket's books with a mixture of shock, horror, melancholy, resignation and enthusiasm," according to HarperCollins.

The movie is based on the first three books. Lemony Snicket wrote part of the screenplay, but he says in an interview with AudioFile magazine, "Movie-making is a director's game."

However, he was as excited as everyone else to see the movie.

When I asked him if he liked the movie, he said, "I am always more interested in hearing if other people liked it."

I, personally, like the books better than the movie, but who knows, you may have a different opinion.


826 Valencia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 in the San Francisco Bay Area with their creative and expository writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.

The writing on this blog comes out of the Valencia Bay-farer journalism workshop, a free workshop for elementary and middle school students that produces 826 Valencia's one and only in-house newspaper. To learn more about 826 Valencia, visit