The (4th Grade) Engineer In Me

I had planned a real post for today, but it didn’t get written.  What?  You’re looking for an excuse here?  Sure, I’ve got one for you:  I’ve been busy playing with testing the engineering projects for this week’s scout meeting.  You know…I had to make sure they actually worked before I had the boys try them.  (It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.)

I managed to cut five milk cartons for a marshmallow catapult without injuring myself or the dining room table.  If you remember my glue gun fiasco, then you’ll understand why this is such an accomplishment for me!

I even fully assembled one and performed several successful launches.

Marshmallow load...
Fire!

High on the success of my catapult, I tackled the electrical circuit project.  I have to admit, I felt like a female McGyver as I gathered the flashlight battery, the sheet of tin foil, a wooden clothespin, a quarter and my Swiss army knife.  Oops, didn’t need the knife…I just got carried away with my Lady McGyver-ness.  (For the young ones who have no idea who McGyver is, click here to get in the know.)

I followed the written instructions through the folding and cutting of the foil.  I taped the foil pieces to the battery, then clipped the foil around the base of the flashlight bulb and clamped with a wooden clothespin*.  I won’t lie – I was shocked, and giddy with excitement, when it actually worked.

I can make simple seem oh-so-complicated!
Watch out, Benjamin Franklin....

As a Pharmacy School dropout, I basked in the glow of these recent accomplishments.  Okay, truth is, I never made it to pharmacy school.  I changed majors after Chemistry jumped me in the back of the lab, by the Bunsen burners, and smacked my beakers stupid with a mortar and pestle.  I knew it was time to run, because Newton’s Law and the Theory of Relativity lurked in the hallway; Physics roughed me up in high school, and I knew it meant business.  I ran all the way to the Psychology building complex without looking back or stopping to catch my breath.

My pride in mastering these fourth-grade projects all by myself is further affirmation that perhaps I should spend some time with a Psychologist 🙂

* I purchased the clothespins at a dollar store and they are flimsy.  I suspect if I hung my laundry with these guys, I’d find my wet clothes in a crumpled, muddy heap on the ground.  The clothespins I remember as a child would turn fingertips a deep shade of purple if clamped to a finger…um, so I’ve heard.  Now, I see these clothespins were made in China.  I’m not going to bash the quality of Chinese manufacturing (however, I did wash my hands thoroughly with American-made soap after using…just in case.)  Perhaps the clothing worn by the people of China are lighter weight, so these wimpy light-duty pins suffice?

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20 thoughts on “The (4th Grade) Engineer In Me

  1. suzicate February 7, 2012 / 6:29 AM

    Ha, they don’t make anything like they used to, including clothespins. But then again I’m sure when we were small our clothespins were American made!

    • jannatwrites February 7, 2012 / 9:27 PM

      My parents used to have tons of clothespins, but my mom said she made my dad get rid of them since they never used them. Too bad for me!

      Thanks for visiting, SuziCate 🙂

  2. Tori Nelson February 7, 2012 / 7:56 AM

    I’ve been banned from using a glue gun… after I maybe accidentally glued the dog’s tail to a coffee table. I am SERIOUSLY impressed with your project, lady!

    • jannatwrites February 7, 2012 / 9:32 PM

      I’m sure it was the dog’s fault, Tori. Their tails get into everythng.

      These projects weren’t too bad. I’m not so sure about the March projects…cutting, stamping and punching leather provides lots of opportunities for an ER run (and possibly a blog post, if I survive) 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, Tori!

  3. nrhatch February 7, 2012 / 7:57 AM

    This post is shocking . . . and electrifying. 😯

    go you!

    • jannatwrites February 7, 2012 / 9:35 PM

      Aren’t you “punny” today, Nancy 🙂

      Thanks for reading, and sharing your comment, which made me smile!

  4. pattisj February 7, 2012 / 11:04 AM

    I remember those clothespins well. 🙂 What I want to know is, how many marshmallows did you HAVE to eat following this experiment? (and during) I love your writing, Janna, so much fun! I wish you lived closer. The house next door is on the market, btw. Curiosity is getting the best of me, I have to check out the glue gun link…

    • jannatwrites February 7, 2012 / 9:50 PM

      Well, Patti, I actually didn’t eat any marshmallows…somehow they don’t seem that appealing after a cat has pounced on them 🙂 Yes, Busy Lizzy was my assistant, but not a very helpful one. She tried to chew my rubber bands, too.

      Thanks so much for your compliment on my writing. I have so much fun writing, and it’s nice to know others have fun reading it!

      Aw, you’re so kind…I’d love to live in your area. If our DC trip works out, I’ll at least get to visit the eastern US next year.

      • pattisj February 8, 2012 / 9:18 AM

        Yay! DC is only four hours away, 90 minutes from my daughter’s. 🙂 Do you plan to see the National Zoo? (free)

        • jannatwrites February 8, 2012 / 9:55 PM

          When I read ‘National Zoo’, I first thought of Congress 🙂 We haven’t decided what we are going to do – but the free stuff is appealing to me. We just might go there. I did want to see the Smithsonian, too. Thanks for the “free” suggestion, Patti!

  5. philosophermouseofthehedge February 7, 2012 / 11:06 AM

    Lots of giggles! Bet they loved this project and now you are officially considered “cool”

    • jannatwrites February 7, 2012 / 9:53 PM

      Our meeting is Thursday night, so I’ll find out then if my status is still “LL” (lame loser) or if these projects ‘catapulted’ me into super-cool territory. I’m pretty sure if I say ‘super-cool’ I’m destined to remain “LL” for life.

      Thanks for reading, Phil 🙂

  6. Debbie February 7, 2012 / 11:37 AM

    Lady McGyver, I’m proud of you! Proud you undertook a project that most of us would have avoided like the plague, proud you actually made it work. Your Scouts are going to love this one — all that electricity and building and “boy-stuff.” See, you probably could have done the physics after all! No? Well, it’s their loss!

    • jannatwrites February 7, 2012 / 10:06 PM

      Thanks, Debbie! I hope they have fun, because it makes it fun for me.

      No, I definitley cannot do physics. I took a physics class in high school (barely got a D, which stood out amongst my A’s and B’s). We had to build a bridge out of popsicle sticks and it had to weigh less than 2.5 pounds, or something like that. Anyway, I teamed up with a friend, who also turned out to not be very physics-minded. We ended up boiling a bunch of our popsicle sticks to make them pliable so we could form ‘S’ shapes and circles.

      There were some impressive designs at the competition – sleek and structurally sound. Ours was neither of these things. It was bulky and only held 55 pounds before cracking. Oh well. Thank goodness I’m not a structural engineer, right?

  7. Widdershins February 7, 2012 / 2:48 PM

    You, scientist, you!!! The marshmallow catapult looks truly awesome!

    • jannatwrites February 7, 2012 / 10:07 PM

      Thanks, Widdershins! I can’t imagine the boys not liking something that will hurl marshmallows across the room 🙂

    • jannatwrites February 7, 2012 / 10:10 PM

      You’re kind to say that, Carl, but if that partnership would have happened, we’d probably still be reading by candlelight 🙂

  8. Sandi Ormsby February 8, 2012 / 8:43 AM

    re those clothespins…yes, purple…not that I’ve tried that or anything…

    If you notice, they don’t make anything sturdy anylonger. Remember that HUngry Hungry Hippos game? Back in the day, The plastic was indestructable so you could beat the heck out of it…well today’s verison, is so cheaply made…the hippos get stuck and you can’t slam you hand on it…you have to press with your fingertip and the heads still stick from time to time. 😦

    Oh, and awesome on your projects! I am so not the science person. I have no clue and was reading not understanding all you were doing. My first thought was, oh, that would be something passed to my husband to do…

    YOU ROCK! (thumbs up!) 🙂

    Sandi
    http://www.ahhsome.wordpress.com
    Lake Forest, CA

    • jannatwrites February 8, 2012 / 9:50 PM

      Of course you haven’t tried the clothespins, Sandi. Neither have I 😉

      I thought maybe I just remembered toys as being stronger because I was young, but I have also noticed the flimsiness of toys. We have had to throw away so many broken toys – great for reducing clutter, but bad when it is their “most favorite toy in the whole world.”

      Luckily, the catapult instructions including some diagrams. I had to wing it on the circuit one. I’d have loved to pass this off to hubby, but I don’t think he’d take them. Thanks for the support, Sandi 🙂

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