Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Succeeding to be Successful: Scientifically avoiding a gooey mess

Andrew struggled into the minivan in front of his school – a fully loaded backpack, violin in one hand, and a lunch bag of scientific achievement in the other.

“I succeeded to be successful,” he said in a confident voice. I could tell he had decided exactly what he would tell me. He couldn’t wait to tell someone.

“Really?” I replied. The words were nonchalant when they left my brain, but somewhere along the way a little emotion and leapt onto them.

“Yep. BOTH of my eggs survived.”

“Wow! Did the parachutes deploy?”

“Yep. Well, I had to untangle them for Mr. Edwards, but once I had them set up, they worked great. Even some of the other kids had the SAME ideas as I did, but theirs didn’t work.”

“Really? What was the difference?” (I half expected an ‘I-dunno-must-have-been-luck’ response, but it was the right question to ask).

“Well, one kid did Jello also, but they put it in a Cool Whip container. It was a Jello Bomb! The thing splattered 20 feet in all directions, I even got Jello on me.”

“Oh, wow.”

“A couple of kids made parachutes out of grocery bags, but the strings were too short. They didn’t deploy.”

“A couple kids just put their eggs in cardboard boxes and stuff. Some of the eggs fell out on the way down. I was so glad I brought my own tape because Mr. Edward’s tape was not good enough for the lids. He just had freezer tape there.”

It became vastly clear that most of the eggs found a gooey demise on the pavement below the back of the high school football stands that day. Only a few made it, and Andrew could describe their designs with precision. Then he said something very interesting.

“Even some of the kids who get perfects on everything - theirs didn’t make it. Even Joey Chan’s eggs broke. So did Rahul’s.” (Rahul is his ‘best friend’ in school, or so I’ve heard.)

He called his dad right away and gave a similar story with great detail. As for me, I was proud of both of them. Andrew’s assignment was to protect an egg from an approximately 40-foot drop of the stadium stands. They could only use one other item in the container besides the egg.

On Saturday he started working on it. The truth is that he had wanted to work on it all week, but I wouldn’t let him do it until his other work was done – and it seemed that was about the time we had to go to some other activity.

Besides trying to clean-up, prepare for Lego League (which I coach), and figure out a menu for the next week, I really didn’t have it in me to work on a science project. I normally like those kinds of things, and I’m pretty good at NOT doing it for them. But, it takes a lot of energy to NOT do it for them. I was in the mood to just be done with it.

“Honey, do you want to take this one?” I pleaded to my husband in the next room.

He was more than game, almost surprised that he had the honor to help. I moved out of the way, merely overhearing the progress.

My husband walked into the kitchen, asked Andrew to make a list of possible choices of containers and cushioning, and then went back to watching the football game and folding laundry. Later, I heard Andrew defending his choices.

“Why would that work? How are you going to do it? What do you need? Can you test it?”

I was sent to the store for bubble wrap and Jello. I was asked for some scrap cotton. I heard my husband telling Andrew to go find a picture of a parachute on the internet and think about what is important about it. I watched as a tomato can came flying over the loft balcony with a cotton parachute attached. Again. And then again.

It was bedtime on Sunday when the can, parachute attached, was ready to fill with Jello. Can #2 already had the bubble wrap carefully nested and the lid attached with a gorilla tape hinge. I stood in the family room ready for instruction. Andrew had to go to bed. I didn’t think the Jello would protect the egg anyway, so making it didn’t seem like I was helping him much.

“So, do I use the regular recipe, or do you want it a Jello wiggler?” I asked with seriousness.

“What’s a Jello wiggler?” my dear husband interrupted.

I think I said something about viscosity, or maybe I just rolled my eyes to the back of my head. Anyway, Andrew knew exactly what I meant.

“Jello wiggler. Any color. Please.”

I admit that the survival of both eggs surprised me. He did it himself. Yes, he was required to defend his thesis, but we really didn’t think it would work. We just wanted him to think about it, to make it his own. His final comment to me was really the best.

“Mom, I think I spent a lot more time making mine work than the other kids.”

He said it with satisfaction.

I didn’t need to answer.