Back when Jake was just a tot, the show Bob the Builder was a staple in our household. And whenever Bob asked his enthusiastic and optimistic question, “Can We Fix it?,” it was near impossible not to answer with a confident “Yes, We Can!!”
But in the real world, things are not always as easy to fix.
Over the past few weeks, Jake has been working on a project for school. The high school Physics Olympics remind me of the Engineering Contests of my college days where once a year, all of the Engineering students gathered on the roof of the tallest building on campus, and dropped eggs off of the ledge. These aspiring engineers had each built some type of protective vehicle to shield their delicate egg from harm as it fell five stories to the hard ground below. For them it was a day to prove their engineering prowess. For those of us outside of the Engineering school, it was a day to either avoid the area entirely or to test our ability to dodge debris falling from the sky. I was never that fast of a runner so I hated egg drop day!
But these modern Physics Olympics pose many other complex problems in addition to the classic egg drop scenario. Jake was charged with creating a car with no electronic parts that could self-propel and travel a predetermined distance and then stop on a dime. The winning vehicle will be the one that gets closest to a wall without hitting it.
Jake’s car is powered by rubber bands and wing nuts and some mechanical engineering stuff that I only half understand. Frankly, when he explained it all to me, I only heard Charlie Brown’s teacher saying “Waa Waa Waaa Waaa Waaa.”
But by golly, it worked. That super light combination of balsa wood and Elmer’s glue made it to within an inch or so of the wall, every single time.
And then, yesterday….Physics Olympic tragedy struck. Walking in the hall at school, after testing his car again, Jake stumbled. And sadly, balsa wood and a fragile egg have a lot in common when they hit a hard tile floor.
So at 5 pm, the night before the competition, Jake sat with his vehicle in pieces; many pieces.
Taking in the remains of what was once a competition contender, I asked, “Do you think you can glue it all back together or maybe use duct tape?” My tone wasn’t very optimistic.
“Nope,” he replied, but without a hint of defeat. “I asked Dad to go to the hardware store for supplies. I’m gonna build a new one.”
Now that seemed impossible to me, knowing that the first car had been built in stages and remembering that glued pieces were often left overnight on my dining room table to dry.
But then I saw that spark in Jake’s eye and before I knew it, he was sawing and drilling and sanding once again. Of course, modifications had to be made, so instead of allowing glued pieces to dry overnight, he shortened the drying time for each stage to a mere thirty minutes and added hot glue in places as a quick replacement. Jake was upbeat as he worked and he seemed confident that things would to come together okay.
He was channeling that optimistic YES WE CAN attitude that Bob had taught us way back when.
I, however, watched the clock and quietly panicked. Pessimistic thoughts were racing in my head. He is going to be up all night. This will never work. He is going to have to go there tomorrow with no sleep. This will never work. How can he possibly get this done in a few short hours? Oh this will never work.
But to my amazement, by 9:30 pm, Jake was holding a finished car. And to my further amazement, car #2 performed just as well as the original.
It remains to be seen how the actual competition will go today. But win or lose, Jake and I (mostly me) learned a valuable lesson about the power of a positive attitude. Without my negative-nancy mindset, Jake managed to keep a cool head and focused on the task at hand.
So good luck to the West Deptford Physics Olympic team today!
And a special note to the egg drop competitors: if you need additional materials to protect your fragile egg, just go see Jake. For transporting his car to the competition, he isn’t taking any chances and that little car is packaged in corrugated cardboard and enough bubble wrap to drop a dozen eggs from a roof!
Also- take a look below before you drop. If you see some slow moving social work student passing by, please give her some time to get out of the way before you let that egg go!
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