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6 Summer Camps for Exceedingly Wealthy Children

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For many, summer camp means a week sleeping in a cabin that doubles as a sweat lodge, spider-infested communal showers, and swimming in a scummy pond. But if you have lots and lots of money, you have options.

1. ActionQuest

Typically about $5,170 for 5 weeks (plus airfare and other expenses), but the transatlantic voyage is $6,570 for 39 days (plus airfare and other expenses)

ActionQuest runs marine-focused summer camps in the world's most exclusive locations. Some of their trips include swimming with sea turtles in the Galapagos Islands, sailing through the South of France, whitewater rafting in Australia, or snorkeling in Bora Bora.

But the ultimate adventure is the transatlantic voyage on a 112-foot yacht manned by 24 high school kids. The ship leaves from Bermuda, stops for a few days each at the volcanic archipelago of The Azores, in Gibraltar, and Corsica, before finally coming to port in Rome. Of course you still have to pay for airfare to Bermuda and from Rome back to the states, plus spending money for souvenirs in all those exotic locales. But for those who can afford it, it's a small price to pay for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Or twice-in-a-lifetime if they want to do it again next summer.

2. Princess Prep

$3,995 (plus airfare) for 7 days

If your little princess wants to be a real princess, she can start her training with seven days at Princess Prep in London, where she'll learn to properly smile, stand, sit, walk, serve and drink tea, as well as the importance of proper thank-you notes. Of course, she'll also learn how to curtsy should she ever run into the Queen Mum. All meals are served by Jeeves, a real British butler, while the girls discuss the lives of famous princesses, like Kate Middleton, Princess Kaiulani of Hawaii, and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.

Campers stay in the Kensington & Chelsea borough, one of the poshest places to live in the UK, and tour many royal hotspots like the State Apartments, where they'll see Princess Diana's dress collection. They'll also go horseback riding in Hyde Park, tour the Tower of London, see the Crown Jewels and Buckingham Palace, and attend a night at the theater in London's West End. But being a princess isn't all tea parties at Kensington Palace. The girls will also make time to deliver cookies and flowers to a local children's hospital as part of their philanthropy instruction.

3. Camp Laurel

$10,800 + $2,400 in additional fees

Throw a rock in Maine and you'll hit an expensive summer camp. Just to name a few: Kingsley Pines ($6,995), the all-girls Tripp Lake Camp and its all-boys companion, Camp Takajo (both $10,850), Camp All-Star ($2,999 – $6,999), Camp Skylemar ($10,750), Camp Wawenock ($7,500), and Forest Acres for girls and Indian Acres for boys ($10,700). But the most expensive and most action-packed out there is Camp Laurel in Readfield, Maine.

If you're into sports, Camp Laurel boasts two baseball fields, two soccer fields, a lacrosse field, a hockey field, five basketball courts, a roller hockey arena, a beach volleyball court, a 3,000-square foot indoor gymnastics center, an 8,000-square foot indoor fieldhouse with an additional 10 basketball hoops, and 15 all-weather tennis courts.

If you'd rather spend time on beautiful Echo Lake, you can enjoy swimming, sailing, canoeing, windsurfing, tubing, and water skiing behind one of four competition-level ski boats, or cast a line off the two fishing barges.

For the adventurous type, there are high and low ropes courses, 15 mountain bikes at your disposal, and two 55-foot climbing towers connected by a zip line.

The artistically inclined have their own art studios for painting, ceramics, and metalsmithing. There's a 2,500-square foot dance studio, a full stage production starring campers, and wannabe DJ's can hone their record-spinning skills at the camp's own FM radio station.

The Equestrian Center features two 12-stall barns, two outdoor instructional rings, and a 3-acre riding pasture for the camp's 22 horses. Courses are available for advanced riders to perfect their techniques, while those who have never been on a horse can learn the basics.

The camp runs a little longer than most – from June 23 until August 11 – but by the time you add in additional fees for laundry, personal expenses, the equestrian package, and field trips, you're looking at about $265/day for summer camp. If that's too long away from home, Camp Laurel South, near Portland, Maine, offers 4-week sessions for $6,300 plus expenses.

4. Pali Adventures

$1,695 for a one-week session, $3,295 for two weeks, and $6,295 for four weeks

Pali Adventures in Running Springs, California is like a bunch of different camps rolled into one. Kids make their camp experience unique by choosing from any of 16 specialty activities to learn over the course of a one-week or two-week session. But this ain't macrame.

In Secret Agent Camp, kids learn combat techniques in paintball campaigns, ride dirt bikes and dune buggies, and train for covert raids on the other camps.

Hollywood Stunt Camp teaches kids how to safely jump off buildings, fake fight choreography, and swordplay techniques.

Rockstar Academy helps young musicians with songwriting skills and instruction on their instrument of choice, culminating in a CD or music video of their original song.

The Fashion Institute trains fashionistas to sew, to use patterns, sketching designs, and preparing a final collection to debut at the fashion showcase attended by everyone in the camp.

Among others, there are programs for young filmmakers, dancers, actors, chefs, watersports enthusiasts, and even those who wish to learn the flying trapeze.

5. Stagedoor Manor

$5,545 for a 3-week session

Not every aspiring star that goes to Stagedoor Manor, an exclusive theatre camp near the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, will make it in Hollywood or on Broadway. But with alumni like Natalie Portman, Lea Michele, John Cryer, Robert Downey, Jr., and many more well-known names, the camp's track record speaks for itself.

Over the course of three weeks (though most kids stick around for a second session for twice the price), young performers will take classes from professional instructors in acting, singing, dancing, television production, stage lighting, set decoration and more. Meanwhile, they're rehearsing for either a full musical or dramatic production to be performed during the last week of camp in one of eight indoor and outdoor theaters. In addition, workshops with agents, managers, and casting directors help them learn the do's and don'ts of show business, so they'll be ready for their close-ups someday.

6. International Riding Camp

$14,700 for 10 weeks (includes both riding trips); $8,500 for one week in Russia

Polo has often been called “The Sport of Kings.” At these prices, you'd have to be royalty to learn how to play at the all-girls International Riding Camp in Greenfield Park, New York. Not only does the camp offer polo, but young riders can also learn horse show competition skills, and more advanced riders can take on the cross-country jumping course complete with obstacles like ditches, stone walls, and log fences. The girls have riding lessons for three hours every day with various arts and crafts or sports like tennis and water skiing filling the rest of their time.

The highlight of camp, though, are the special riding trips. The first has the girls riding through Central Park in New York City, and then they spend the rest of the day being chauffeured in a limo to some of the biggest shopping and dining destinations in the Big Apple. The second trip takes campers to The Hamptons for three days of riding on the beach, water skiing, shopping, and relaxing in a luxury condo overlooking the bay.

If that's not enough, the organization also offers a one-week trip to Moscow. Riders learn from Russian trainers while staying at the 4-star Morozovka Hotel, a mansion that was once part of Joseph Stalin's estate, before making their way to St. Petersburgh to ride and stay at the Hotel Astoria. While in Russia, the girls will dine at the finest restaurants, tour historic sites, attend the ballet, and have plenty of time to soak in the local culture.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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