One of the pitfalls of sending your kids to a school where most of their classmates are in a higher socioeconomic range is the disparity in science fair projects. We gave up trying to keep up with the Joneses years ago, but it’s still impossible not to look at my kids’ homemade, hand-made projects like they are Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree in comparison to the store-bought projects they are competing with.
That being said, this was the most fun year ever.
Trillian, self starter that she is, conceived and executed a pretty in-depth study of taste buds, and whether they change as we age. She had men and women from 10 different age groups at church take part in a blind taste test of Coke and Diet Coke, and lemonade sweetened with sugar and Splenda. Amazingly, the data showed something we didn’t expect – there was almost no difference in taste-ability with age, but there WAS with gender (girls/women were typically more accurate). Trillian made a great display, and I’m quite proud of her.
But Zaphod really made things fun this year. He had originally chosen a project that was FAR too complex (it’s something I might have attempted at the end of trade school), so he quickly found a very simple backup project. He wanted to measure the relative electrical conductivity of several materials, including different guages of pencil lead.
This is right up my alley, something I studied extensively in my time at Nashville Vocational Tech. I was quite pleased when he asked me for help.
I had a ball, teaching him about conductivity and resistance, about Onhm’s Law, voltage and amperage. He already understood A/c and D/C from our trip to the Edison house in Ft. Myers, FL. Zaphod had really gotten into a film about the current wars between Edison and Westinghouse in the 1880’s from a film we saw on the subject, so he ahd a basic understanding of the two types of current.
We rigged a rheostat using a 6v battery, 16 guage stranded wire, and the bulb from a 6v flashlight. Zaphod loved learning how to strip the wires. We measured conductivity by placing the bare leads 2.5 inches apart, then 1 inch apart. (He was actually measuring in centimeters, but metric measurements never took with me). We recorded the brightness of the lamp visually on a scale of 0 to 4. We couldn’t afford a light meter, so exact measurements were not possible.
We even used materials like stainless steel and aluminum foil. I did, however, draw the line at a glass of water (although this, too would have been fine with me), because I knew Lintilla wouldn’t be comfortable with it.
In short, Zaphod and I found something we could actually bond over. Those things are getting few and far between, so I savored every moment of working on this project with him. He is, in general, smarter than I, so it was nice to venture into an area where I am confident in my knowledge, and he trusts me. It also brought back a lot of good memories from 1983 for me.
Zaphod took his Explore test last week, and he and Trillian are taking the Iowas next week. That’s the downside of this time of year. Their brains have to be about to explode. In two weeks, they are on spring break. I am going to order them not to do any heavy thinking during that time.