February 21st, 2008
|08:34 am - I was a teenage science geek, just not very good at it|
This totally hilarious photoblog post about kids’ science fair exhibits with titles like
WHAT IS MY DOG’S FAVORITE COLOR?
THIS PROJECT STINKS
MOSQUITO LARVAE BEWARE!!
THE IDEAL PANCREAS
GLOBAL WARMING… YEAH RIGHT!
CRYSTAL METH: FRIEND OR FOE
THAT WILL LEAVE A STAIN!
brought back a lot of old memories. For you see, I, too, was once a junior high school science fair geek.
What’s most disturbing is apparently the recommended requirements for a science fair exhibit have not changed one iota since I was 13, eons ago: you still make your presentation on a three-panel standing cardboard display. And if you think some of these were lame, mine was something along the lines of “CHANCE AND PROBABILITY: IS IT REAL?,” which entailed doing stuff like rolling dice and flipping a penny 100 times and charting the results. My conclusion? Yup, “Probability” is real and it works, kinda just like gravity.
The other disturbing/scary thing is that my project, as lame as it was, was determined to be one of the two best in the class, and as such I and my exhibit would go on to represent Clement Junior High at the regional science fair in Indio, California.
We boarded a bus and drove off to the dusty desert town, known back then for its groves of date palm trees, and all the handpainted signs along the access road that ran through the area advertising DATE SHAKES at the ramshackle roadside stands dotting the landscape. (It’s now known as the dusty desert town next door to the dusty desert town of Coachella that hosts the big alt music festival.)
This was pure excitement for me, it was one of the first times I had ever been away from home without my parents, even though there were school chaperones and little opportunity to get into trouble. We make a rest stop at some drugstore along the way and I make a beeline for the paperback book rack, since I had already discovered that books were my salvation and road to enlightenment beyond what they taught us in school (as George Carlin later so aptly put it, “They’re only telling you what they want you to know!”). This was the late 60’s and a revolution was being played out (although little got on the nightly news), which in a couple more years I would learn all about through early issues of Rolling Stone and The L. A. Free Press. I saw some titles that I could tell were adult in nature – probably from the likes of Grove, Zebra, and Freeway Press – but they were too dangerous, too forbidden for me to actually purchase them – and I probably didn’t have the money anyway.
We pull into a vast dirt parking lot of some place with big industrial buildings probably used for agricultural fairs and tractor shows, and set up our little displays alongside hundreds and hundreds of others on the seemingly endless rows of tables in the exhibit hall. We had to dress nice to impress the judges, and stand by our tables forever all morning until the judges came by, at which time we gave our presentation and answered their questions to the best of our abilities. Then we were free until a set time in the afternoon where we would pack everything up and get back on the bus. I took the opportunity to walk around the hall and check out the many, many other science fair projects from other kids. There were, as you might expect, at least five volcanos, and there were also at least five angel hair (spun glass), mayonaise jar, and tubing apparatuses that would simulate a human being’s lungs and prove that Smoking was Bad. Later someone knocked one of these over and it crashed on the floor, and the overwhelming stench from the stale condensed smoke and tar of a carton’s worth of cigarettes filled the entire building to the point that they had to evacuate the hall and open up all the huge doors to air it out for a couple hours.
When it was finally safe to do so, I returned to pick up my exhibit and was flabbergasted to see that it had been awarded an Honorable Mention ribbon. I also got a lapel pin for my participation – what was I supposed to do with it, pin it to my lab coat when I became a scientist? – which I still have, along with pins for perfect attendance from Presbyterian Sunday School. They reside at the bottom of a big jar of pins, now mostly from leather runs and events. What’s the chance I can bring myself to finally throw them out next time I uncover them?
|Date:||February 21st, 2008 02:08 pm (UTC)|| |
What a great post. And I'm dying to find out more about the "Foot Fetish" project!
|Date:||February 21st, 2008 05:48 pm (UTC)|| |
Do ya think . . .
she will end up serving animal magnetism boy's boots (or the other way around)?
that (curiouser and curiouser) SpencerBear
|Date:||February 21st, 2008 05:45 pm (UTC)|| |
I, too, won my classroom Spelling Bee in 4th grade. My prize was a Parker pen that was an aquamarine color I even then associated with cars made in the 50's, and written in gold script on it were the words, "Spelling Bee Champion". I was totally thrilled since this was probably the first actual thing my smarts had ever won for me, besides gold stars. My delight, though, was short-lived when the next day it proceeded to ooze its ballpoint ink all over my pocket, my hand, and its aquamarine case. I had to throw it out.
I wasn't a genius or anything. The truth is most of my fellow students were just incredibly stupid.
My projects were something to do with Mendel, genetics, breeding of irises, and stuff like that. I got significant ... ahem ... "guidance" from my parents. Not that I didn't understand the material, but they pushed me to include way more content and spiffy up the presentation. Annoying. ;-)
I never liked Science Fair projects. I'd always just do the bare minimum and get on with my life. Usually the night before was the start and end of the project planning and implementation. I did have fun doing something with Darwin and birds once, but it was always more of an arts & crafts project that I pasted a few paragraphs on. :)
One summer (5th grade), there was a hornet's nest in a tree right in front of my house. It was horrible. We spent the entire summer running to and from the car. NYC wouldn't come take it down because they didn't want their guys getting stung. Sucked.
That winter, my brother hit the nest really realy hard with a snowball, and half of it came crashing down. *SWARM CLOUD*, then *DEAD FROM COLD*. We left it outside for a few days, sealed it in plastic, and I did a Science Fair Project on hornets and how they build their nests. Least amount of work, best project ever.
|Date:||February 21st, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC)|| |
A few comments:
#1 - That tie in picture #1! Lemme guess, sun & moon?
#2 - The kid with the video game looks like he's been affected SEVERAL years now.
#3 - ROFLMAO at the foot fetish project! I bet she sell shoes now! Who knew? It's gotta start somewhere!
And to shoot myself a few times, when I was in Junior High we didn't know what a dot com was! It never existed.... yet.
Oh the times!
*goes back his Atari...
|Date:||February 21st, 2008 07:04 pm (UTC)|| |
The one summer I was in the Boy Scouts I earned my electricity badge by making a static electricity detector out of a mayonaise jar, a paper clip, a cork, and a foil gum wrapper with the paper part removed with rubbing alcohol. I spent so much energy assembling all various materials and dealing with the gum wrappers that I failed to notice that the usefulness of such a device was really pretty ridiculous.
|Date:||February 21st, 2008 06:45 pm (UTC)|| |
pins for perfect attendance from Presbyterian Sunday School
that is seriously like the hottest thing ever..
|Date:||February 21st, 2008 07:00 pm (UTC)|| |
It's possibly the oldest thing I have from my childhood (other than photographs from the family albums). I guess size/bulk has something to do with it, since I was able to throw out trophies, yearbooks, and even my bible. Some place I still have all my report cards, although after the 6th grade they're on NCR paper and have all probably faded to blank....
|Date:||February 21st, 2008 07:10 pm (UTC)|| |
"I'm really worried about 'Dialing for Toast' -- NOT"
|Date:||February 21st, 2008 07:19 pm (UTC)|| |
Is it wrong of me to think at first that the kid in the “Animal Magnetism” photo was you as a kid?
|Date:||February 21st, 2008 07:26 pm (UTC)|| |
I was far geekier looking.
|Date:||February 21st, 2008 07:44 pm (UTC)|| |
Oh man, memories. One year I made a gravity-fed rat feeder but didn't have the good sense to feel ashamed.
Oh, man... :)
For my junior high project, I found a way to put my modeling hobby to good use. I painted a six-panel backdrop of planets and star fields, and arranged my science fiction spaceships in one group, and the real Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Soyuz models for comparison. A few paragraphs of bullshit comparing the two, and I had a blue ribbon.
It looked like a lot of work, but ... I fooled them!
|Date:||February 21st, 2008 09:08 pm (UTC)|| |
Six panels?! You totally rock!
I have this image of some descendant of yours eventually going through all the leather pins and hitting the Presbyterian Sunday School pin. All bears were young once...
|Date:||February 22nd, 2008 02:53 am (UTC)|| |
The line between SCARFs and leather bears is very fine indeed....
I absolutely *loved* this post. I am so jealous of you Americans for having such things as science fairs! Brazilian geeks don't have this kind of outlet.
* * *
Did you know that this frequentist
interpretation of probability, though the most intuitive, is the subject of bitter controversies
What great memories and observations - fantastic post, from one Geek to another...
|Date:||February 22nd, 2008 02:56 am (UTC)|| |
My VCR is stuck on channel 1200!
Or is that the frequency?
|Date:||February 22nd, 2008 02:57 am (UTC)|| |
Nah -- it's all about rockin' the mustache at 15....