An 'Oscar' of an idea | July 19, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

- July 19, 2013

An 'Oscar' of an idea

Barron Park rolls out the red carpet — and robots — for outdoor movie night

by Sue Dremann

Once upon a time, drive-in movies were a big family pastime, and they were part of the collective culture. But those big outdoor screens and community affairs have largely disappeared. Not so in Barron Park, where the big screen will return on Saturday, July 27, for Neighborhood Movie Night under the stars.

That's when the popular movie "Wall-E" will be projected onto a 12-foot inflatable screen at Bol Park. Real robots, built by residents, will be demonstrated, too, said event organizer Lydia Kou.

Movie night is sponsored by the Barron Park Association, with a $1,000 grant from the City of Palo Alto's Know Your Neighbors program. And yes, there will be free popcorn — for as long as it lasts, she said.

Kou has been looking for ways to celebrate Barron Park's cultural diversity and get neighbors acquainted. She spearheaded a Chinese Lunar New Year celebration that included lion dancers and traditional foods earlier this year. This time she's going for a more universally appealing experience, and the drive-in represents American tradition, she said.

"It's a fun thing to do; it's a wholesome family event that we don't have much anymore. So I thought, 'Why not have it in the park?' Instead of driving, we can ride our bike or walk in," she said.

Residents sent her movie ideas by email.

"Shrek" received the most votes. Barron Park donkeys Miner 49er and Perry, who was the model for the donkey in "Shrek," were to be in attendance.

"I planned to have them come in on a red carpet and have a photo opportunity," she said.

But she could not obtain a movie-rental license for the film.

"'Wall-E' was a close second, and it's just as fun," she said.

Real robots are welcome to attend, she added.

Trevor Nielsen, a Gunn High School junior and member of the Gunn Robotics Team, said he will bring "Omega Supreme," a waist-high, crab-like creation made of aluminum, Lexan, steel and fiberglass. About 40 students created the red-and-black robot, which can shoot Frisbees and climb a pyramid. In March, the team won the FIRST Robotics Competition regional award in Utah for its work. They also competed in other regionals and the world championship in St. Louis, Mo., he said.

Nielsen plans to show off the robot's Frisbee-shooting capabilities as part of the July 27 event.

"I want to get middle school kids excited about it," he said.

Building the robot was "incredibly challenging." It took the team six weeks of working every day after school until 9 p.m. and 10 hours a day on weekends, he said.

July 27 is also International Dance Day, and Kou hopes kids and their parents will teach others the dances of their cultures.

With any luck, Kou said, people will be inspired to get to know each other better and to venture out of their comfort zones.

"It's about respecting each other and everyone — being a neighborhood and helping neighbors. It's about learning the other side of these people. We see one side of everybody, but there are so many private things you don't know."

Barron Park's Neighborhood Movie Night will start at 7:30 p.m. with the robot viewing and a social. The film will start at dusk. Residents are encouraged to bring their own snacks and blankets.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at


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Posted by Patty
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 19, 2013 at 8:36 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]