Batteries vs Hydrogen

Hydrogen vs BatteriesThere seems to be a lot of confusion about the difference between electric-powered battery cars and hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars. It's really quite simple! 

Both cars are ELECTRIC; which means they have a motor, not an internal combustion engine.  The only difference is that electric cars store their energy in batteries, and fuel cell cars store their energy in gaseous hydrogen.

Elon Musk of Tesla has been making a lot of noise about the superiority of batteries over hydrogen. Not sure why he is trying to create a divide in these clean alternative energy storage systems, when he should be joining forces with the hydrogen innovators.  Shouldn't the "bad guy" be the oil companies?

It's curious to me that Musk prefers batteries when, if all things were equal (motors, car bodies, tires), batteries lose substantial charge over time while hydrogen will never lose any potential energy. You know that batteries die off in just a few days, but hydrogen stays constant forever.

What's worse is that at the end of the battery's life, it needs to be taken to hazardous materials sites because it contains dangerous chemicals and rare earth or highly toxic metals like cadmium, lithium or lead. Hydrogen, on the other hand, simply combines with oxygen to make electricity and the only by-product is pure water.

Electric cars that run on batteries have a prohibitively short range -- around 40 to 100 miles per charge. Fuel cell cars, on the other hand, have an average range of 300 miles per tank. Charging batteries takes anywhere from 4-20 hours (depending on the battery and the power source), while filling a hydrogen tank only takes about 3 minutes.

This isn't a battery vs hydrogen battle.  Hydrogen fuel cell cars use a few small batteries to power accessory devices. I just find it aggravating to see so much misinformation being put out there about hydrogen when we should be doing everything possible to stop using petroleum and natural gas

H2 Conversions

H2 ConversionWith over one billion internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles on the road -- and spewing CO2 into the atmosphere -- today, the most efficient way to reverse this is to convert ICE cars to use gaseous hydrogen

The team members at Kids 4 Hydrogen are actively finding safe ways to do these conversions. Because it's not practical to junk all of these cars, we really do need to convert them in order to have any positive effect on our atmosphere.

Simple, right?

Yes and no.  Yes, there's only one way to deal with the one billion cars on earth.  We need to change the energy they use to something that has zero emissions. Yup. ZERO EMISSIONS.

Well, we all know gasoline is NOT THE ANSWER. It's too expensive to remove an ICE and replace it with an electric motor. So, the only viable way to continue to utilize the one billion ICE cars is to convert them to use gaseous hydrogen.  That would mean that all billion cars on the roads today would spew ZERO EMISSIONS.

So what about the NO? No because the oil companies don't want us to convert our ICE cars.  That would mean that we wouldn't be buying gasoline at the corporate gasoline stations around the world. Which would in turn mean that they wouldn't continue to enjoy the billions of dollars of profit they make each year on gasoline sales.  These oil companies are so powerful that they have a stranglehold on car manufacturers and our government officials are in their pockets. So it's not going to be easy LOGISTICALLY or POLITICALLY to convert our cars to using gaseous hydrogen.

Several scientists and innovators have successfully converted ICE cars in the past. It's not a difficult process.  They're testing storage tanks to find the most efficient way to store hydrogen in existing cars. I am so excited about this that I am donating my own car to the project.

I can't wait to drive my own hydrogen-powered ICE car!

What is a Fuel Cell?

Fuel CellIn a nutshell, a fuel cell is a device that takes gaseous hydrogen and converts it into electricity. This electricity can then be used to power anything that is normally powered by electricity, like cars with electric motors, ice cream makers, etc.  

Watch the excellent one-minute video at the bottom of this post to learn how a fuel cell works. 

In 1998, my eldest daughter Nicole and several of her 8th grade classmates received a Dept of Energy (DOE) grant to build a hydrogen fuel cell.

They contracted Schatz Energy Lab at Humboldt State University to design and build the 15-cell fuel cell for Merit Academy.

The students gave fuel cell demonstrations at universities and conventions in 1999 and then Nicole continued to promote hydrogen fuel cells for the next 4 years:

Hydrogen Collage

Out of the Mouths of Babes: Our Hydrogen Future

H2 KidI just test drove a Toyota Mirai -- the first hydrogen fuel cell car to be sold in the United States! It has an electric motor but is powered by gaseous hydrogen instead of batteries.

Wondering what hydrogen power is?

Listen to what the kids say about why we should drop oil and embrace hydrogen!

Back in 1998, my eldest daughter Nicole built a fuel cell with her classmates at Merit Academy. They were fed up with the Gulf War (and that was just the start of wars over oil) and after a class debate, they launched a campaign to educate the public about clean alternative energy sources like solar hydrogen. Nicole and her friend Joanne became the first middle school students to ever build a hydrogen fuel cell.

Nicole continued to do educational outreach throughout high school and gave demonstrations at the Hart Senate Building before Congress in Washington DC and across America at conventions and college/high school campuses.

Intrigued by alternative energy possibilities, my youngest daughter Jaclyn invited energy experts for a forum at Merit Academy. She explored alcohol fuel, biomass, and other alternatives but came back to hydrogen as the cleanest and most promising energy solution. Jaclyn started Kids 4 Hydrogen in 2004 and focused on converting internal combustion engine (ICE) cars to use gaseous hydrogen. Getting resistance from the Dept of Energy, auto manufacturers, and oil companies only fueled her passion for converting the 320 million cars on the road in the United States. 

In 2012, Michael Beck took the helm at Kids 4 Hydrogen. He researched the revitalization of hydrogen as an energy source and led the team on a 10-Day tour with a Mercedes F-Cell through California.

In 2013, Lexie Lyons created a whiteboard video that best describes why hydrogen is going to be a vital part of our energy future. Although this Indiegogo campaign is over, the message still resonates:

In 2013, the Kids 4 Hydrogen team wrote "In the Year 2050" -- a song based on the Zager and Evans's 1969 number one hit "In the Year 2525." Vocals by Nicole D'Arcy, lyrics by Rebecca Fang, instrumentals by Daniel Kodama and Nicole D'Arcy, and music video by Zohar Wouk.

Affirmative Consent on College Campuses

Affirmative ConsentBefore heading back to campus, protect yourself by understanding your responsibility with affirmative consent!

AFFIRMATIVE CONSENT is a knowing, voluntary and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity. That means everywhere, including on college campuses. And, if a student is really drunk, she cannot give her consent to sex because she is incapacitated. This is a new law that went into effect in early 2015 in California and New York, and affirmative consent bills have been introduced in New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Connecticut.

The good news is that even if consent to engage in sex is given initially, the woman has the right to decide when she would like to stop. "Yes means yes" means that sex can advance until you hear "no." Silence or lack of physical resistance does not demonstrate consent.

Hello! Is everyone paying attention here?

So if you're a guy, it's probably a good idea to make sure your partner would like to continue at different stages of sexual activity.  Ask, "Do you want to do this? Is this okay?" to be sure you're not misreading your partner's intent.  A good way to think of it is like borrowing a friend’s car. You don’t just take someone else’s car, right?  You would ask permission first and then take the car after they confirmed their assent by handing you the keys.  

Don't rely on nonverbal cues. Just because your partner appears to be enjoying the sexual activity or is wearing sexy clothing does not mean that you have permission to move to the next level of intimacy. You still need to get verbal permission to have sex in order to protect yourself.  In other words, if you take the car without getting the keys first, you’ve committed a crime. Capiche? 


"Crush Your Child's Dreams" Says Article. Umm, No.

Crush your child's dreamsI read the article "Why you shouldn't tell children they can be whatever they want" with trepidation.

Tim Lott suggests that instead of telling children they are special and can be superstars, we should emphasize self-control and hard work.

Frankly, I don't see why we can't do both.  I believe that we should encourage kids to reach for the stars AND that they'll have to work really hard to get there. 

Lott's mentality kind of reminds me of the helicopter parents who stop children mid-game in order to spare them the feelings of defeat, should they lose.  

Just because all children don't become astronauts doesn't mean that they will grow up feeling like failures.

Whatever happened to the "If you don't shoot, you won't score" philosophy?

Start Applications EARLY to Find All of the Hidden Supplemental Essays!

Start the Common App NowHeads up, parents! There's more than just personal statements to write! Watch out for the sneaky writing supplements!

Now that just about all college applications are up and ready for students, here's a quick tip to avoid 11th-hour crises when your kid finds out that there were supplemental essays that they didn't know about -- a few hours before the application deadline. Yes indeed. As if college applications aren't confusing enough!

You probably know that the Common Application is used by 519 colleges. It's the largest organized system for college applications so there's a strong possibility that your child will be using it. On the Common Application, they'll need to write a personal essay using one of five prompts. This essay will be seen by all of the colleges.

Some colleges have a Supplemental Application, which is another short form that asks more specific questions that relate to their individual colleges. This is where you'll learn about additional essays, portfolios and interviews that this college recommends or requires. Ask your child to fill out these supplemental applications right away so they can see all of the additional essays that are required. Depending on how  they answer these questions, they may receive new pop-up windows requiring more essays or information.  That's why it's important to open the applications early and become familiar with their contents right away.

I've had many panicked students calling me at 10:00 pm -- just 2 hours before the deadline -- wondering how they're going to write these essays! Yikes! To minimize stress during the next few months, open all applications now and plan out how each one will be completed in your planner!

4 Study Skills Tips To Get Your Pre-Teen On Board This School Year

Motivating the post-summer kidWant your kids to start this new school year with good study habits? After a summer of rolling out of bed in the late-mornings and having no homework, it can be difficult to get your kids' mindset to change, so they'll start planning how they're going to get homework, test prep, and chores done.

Here are 4 tips to reset their patterns so they'll be on track for this school year.

#1: Start homework as soon as they get home
Sure, give your kids a snack when they arrive home to let them decompress from school and share with you the highlights from their day.  But after that last sip and bite, that's when they need to check out their planners to determine what needs to be done and in what order. They need to see what assignments are due first, and tackle them right away.

Don't let them argue that they want to play a few video games or check their social media outlets before they do their homework.  You know that these distractions will suck them in and zap the energy they need to take care of their academic responsibilities. Don't give in!

#2:  Do homework on the day it is assigned -- not the night before it's due
While doing homework on the same day it is assigned may  sound logical to you and me, it's surprising how many students insist on doing their homework the night before (sometimes the morning that) it's due. This is a bad habit because inevitably something always comes up -- it's pizza night out with the family or a surprise visitor invades the house or they get sick -- and then the homework doesn't get done. Besides, if they do the homework on the day it's due, the concepts will still be fresh in their memories and there's a better chance that they'll get higher scores and retain the information for tests down the road. This also gives your child the opportunity to meet with their teachers or friends to get more clarity about things they didn't understand BEFORE they need to turn in the work or take the test.

#3: Don't do the weekend's homework on Sunday night

Another really bad habit is doing the weekend's homework and test prep on Sunday night.  It's almost an epidemic among high school students to save all of their work for Sunday night. They say that they need a break and would prefer not to do any work until the end of the weekend. But, set up good habits now.  Insist that all homework, test prep and projects get done after school on Friday. You heard right!  Be prepared for a lot of whining about this but stand your ground. Who's the boss? (ProTip: It's not Tony Danza!)  

If they wait until Sunday night, think of all of the reasons that the work won't get done:

  1. They won't have the book or worksheet (and it's too late to get it from a friend)
  2. They won't have time to finish it because they underestimated how long it will take to complete the assignments; and
  3. They won't have time to study the material to really understand it before the test. Besides, wouldn't they rather have a stress-free weekend knowing that they have already completed all of their work and can really decompress and have fun?

#4: Homework and test prep first; then video games, social media, or TV
Insist that all homework and test prep gets done before they engage in their social outlets.  If that means taking away cell phones and video games, then so be it. This is a vital piece to instill in your kids before they become independent teens with terrible study skills. After they become teenagers, it's going to be really difficult to get them to embrace these helpful habits, so get them started now while you have control over their activities!

Seniors: Sign Up For Your SATs or ACTs Now!

Crack Those BooksThis is just a quick & friendly reminder for seniors (the high school variety, not the geriatric type) to sign up for the upcoming SATs/ACTs.  

The October 3rd SAT deadline is September 3rd, the November 7th deadline is October 9th, and the December 5th deadline is November 5th.  Sign up for the SAT here

The September 12th ACT deadline is August 7th, the October 24th deadline is September 18th, and the December 12th deadline is November 6th.  It's best to sign up for all of the tests now so you won't miss deadlines and have to pay late fees.  Sign up for the ACT here

If you aren't familiar with the testing process, I strongly recommend that you work with a private SAT or ACT tutor.  Like anything else that is important to you, you want to be prepared.  Understanding the format and rhythm of the test will help you improve your scores.  You might also like to expand your vocabulary and review math skills (Algebra I and II, and Geometry). The best way to increase your essay writing score is to learn how to include the writing mechanics and style that the readers prefer.  And most importantly, it's time to take lots of practice tests so you're prepared. 

Here's a handy table with test dates and deadlines:

Test Test Date Deadline
ACT 10/24/2015 9/18/2015
ACT 12/12/2015 11/16/2015
ACT 2/6/2016 1/8/2016
ACT 4/9/2016 4/4/2016
ACT 6/11/2016 05/06/2016
SAT 10/03/2015 09/03/2015
SAT 11/7/2015 10/9/2015
SAT 12/5/2015 11/5/2015
SAT 01/23/2016 12/28/2015
SAT 03/05/2016 02/05/2016
SAT 05/07/2016 04/08/2016
SAT 06/04/2016 05/05/2016

Tips for Cutting the Cord/Sending Your Kid Off to College

Cutting the CordEven though raising teens can possibly be more challenging than say, running a country or fighting terrorists, when you actually drive your child and drop them off at college, it can be heart wrenching. When I dropped off my youngest daughter, Jaclyn, at Claremont McKenna College, she was in tears as I drove away and I felt like I'd left my infant on the side of the road.  Sigh.  Although she transitioned beautifully, here are some tips for making your transition less painful for you, and your college-bound kid.

Before they Leave:

  • Put together a photo album or scrap book that includes pictures and mementos from birth to today. By combing through your albums or boxes of photos, you'll find all kinds of treasures. This is a great exercise for your child too. It helps put into perspective, this big step for them. They'll appreciate their lives to date and better understand who they are.  This makes for a great foundation to start their next phase in life: college!
  • Invite family and friends over for a farewell party during the last week at home.  Share the photos and video clips with the guests so they, too, can enjoy the walk down memory lane.  It also provides a great opportunity for your kid to invite friends that they might not be able to see before they leave.  Take lots of photos so they can have them to share with the new friends they'll meet in college.
  • Help them pack for college.  The college will email a list of things to bring, as well as a list of things they provide. Most dorms have extra long mattresses so your regular twin sheets won't fit.  If you can't find extra-long sheets in your hometown, order them online or near the college campus.
  • Create a bucket list of things you would like to do with your kid before they leave.  That way, you can eat at their favorite restaurant, prepare a homemade tradition, have a bonfire on the beach, watch new movies, do a movie marathon, or bake their favorite cookies. By honoring the things they love to do with you, you're also creating new memories.

At the College:

  • Help them set up their dorm rooms. They'll probably need a container for their toiletries so measure their cubbies so you can get one that fits in the space provided. If your kid is anything like Jaclyn, buy a shoe carousel or something that fits in the limited space they have. They may need an extra dresser for their clothes, especially if they are moving to an area that has all 4 seasons. This will help satisfy that "mama bear" instinct and your kid will appreciate you paying for it all!
  • Tour the campus so you feel comfortable knowing where they'll be hanging out when not in classes or their dorms. Check out the bookstore and buy that t-shirt.  You know the one -- Stanford Dad or Claremont McKenna Dad.  My husband still has at least a dozen shirts from each of our daughter's colleges. 
  • Take them out for dinner in town.  They'll be eating on campus and getting tired of the same ol' thing soon enough.  Treat them to sushi or something they probably can't afford on their budgets.
  • Say goodbye. Most colleges have activities for parents to help with the separation anxiety that so many of us feel. That way, the kids start bonding with fellow students in their dorms. After your activities, you need to leave.  Yup. Hugs and kisses, and then be on your way.

Back at Home:

  • Spring clean your house.  During transition periods like this, it's nice to go through everything and throw out stuff you don't need to make room for new things. This also gives you the opportunity to create new spaces for things that you've always wanted to do.
  • Convert your child's old bedroom to a multipurpose room by installing a Murphy bed. I built one in each of my daughters' rooms. Now I have a sewing room and a massage/facial room. When the girls come home to visit, we pull down the Murphy bed and they get to enjoy all of their mementos like stuffed animals, photos, books, and souvenirs from our travels on the book shelves inside the Murphy Beds. 
  • Stay in touch with your college kid but let them lead the way.  In other words, don't text and call them every hour. Let them text you to set up a routine that works for them.  Then, reach out to them in those increments.  It's probably best not to call them early in the morning or late at night on the weekends. They won't pick up and if they do, you really don't want to know what they're doing! When you do talk with them, ask about college life (classes, friends, etc) but also share with them what you're doing too.
  • If this is your last child and you're now an empty nester, reach out to old friends or make new ones. Fill your calendar with getting together for dinner, going to local events, or taking trips. Sure, you'll miss your baby but there's nothing like getting out and having fun to help you transition to this new phase in your life!