Sunday, March 30, 2008

Good Heavens, Miss Sakamoto!

I have very mixed memories about my Science Fairs. Some years, I completely half-assed my project, and I still won a 3rd place ribbon. No big deal. I did a lot of science work outside the school system, and that was what really kept me interested. But one year - 8th grade - I went all out.

I made a working seismograph and conducted experiments into to its sensitivity. My father helped me build the basic structure of it, but the rest was up to me. I stripped the gears out of a robot toy I had, and figured out a way of continuous recording with a felt tip pen on adding machine paper rolls.

I tried it out on the plywood subfloor of our unfinished addition. The kicker of it all was that the thing actually worked. The larger or closer the disturbance, the greater the distortion of the recording line.

I got second place. Second F*&^king Place!

So my nervous projection onto Sam's first Science Fair had nothing to do with leaving the entire project until the 24 hours before it was actually due. The truth be told, I had no clue what we were going to do until I saw a piece of scrap lumber sitting in our neighbor's yard.

Levers: The Simplest Machine

Experiment: Can Sam Lift Dad?

"No way," says Sam.

Dad can lift Sam.

Sam can't lift Dad. (don't say a thing, bastards)

Or can he?

Up . . .

Up . . .

Up! With a lever, Sam CAN lift his Dad.

Sam's Principal actually quizzed him on what he did. He took her through the panel with all the pictures on it.

"And what did you learn, Sam?" she asked.
"I learned that I can lift my Dad," he replied.
"But how did you do it?"
"We moved the fulcrum. The longer the arm length, the larger the load you can lift," he answered.

At that moment, I think she realized that he could very well be smarter than she was.

Sam stayed by his presentation for as long as his little kindergarten mind would permit. He taught his friend Rhys how to balance an uneven load by shifting the position of the fulcrum of the lever.

But the remainder of the night was spent on his own. Leah took the twins home to bed, and I let Sam go off with his friends. I would see him every few minutes or so, off in his own world with one of a dozen different kids. When it was all over, we packed up and went for an ice cream.

It was an absolutely wonderful night.

This is our next door neighbor's project. The boys have all tried his home grown lettuce. But it occurred to me after reading this little section of his project that maybe his Mommy bought those lights to grow something entirely different.