Saturday, February 21, 2009


Dear machine shop, I love you. I know we gave you short notice that we were bringing 60 or so kids through for a tour on a Saturday when you're not normally open, and we didn't have a time estimate until the week before. Apparently you weren't even sure what time the first group was going to show up (uh, oops). But I came in to give you advance warning while you guys were eating your lunch, and you promptly dropped your sandwiches and ran for your lives to turn things on. That's devotion. Even though you usually give tours to much older students, you put up with my incessant questioning and helped me explain everything in terms the kids would understand. You were friendly and approachable and the girls felt comfortable asking you questions. Oh, and you were so cool that the girls made a card as soon as they got back to the room about how cool machines are.

Stand-out moments:

  • Our older girls (grades 7-8) - They're usually harder to impress, but as we were walking above the shop they were practically begging for us to take them in there and show them around! I'm so happy to see them so excited about things! They were originally skeptical that the water jet cutter could cut steel (would I lie about that?) and when the pieces came out, they were so amazed that they had to pass them around and hold them for the rest of the day!

  • Grades 5-6: One of them said that her mom told her it isn't safe for girls to use power tools! They didn't get the chance to use any equipment themselves (helloooo safety!) but I hope that they gained something from seeing us use a bit of equipment and the projects we've made in the shop. Next year I'd like to do some more planning ahead of time and see if we can get the older girls using some of the simpler equipment.

  • Grades 3-4: I took the student vehicles apart that I was showing you before we got to that part of the tour so that you wouldn't be tempted to turn them on and hurt yourselves. I am impressed that you re-assembled a motor behind my back, put the shafts back in the gearbox, and turned it on. You are so brilliant. Why did you have to stick your finger in the gear box?

  • I also enjoyed when the shop staff asked this group if they had any questions. They spent the next several minutes listening to:

-a story about someone's cat

-questions about what kind of cars they drive

-another cat story

-a story about the moon

Pants-shitting moment:
  • I was looking down for a moment, and I noticed that one girl had these awesome toe-socks on. WAITAMINUTE! WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR SHOES? I think the shop staff would have had a heart attack if they had noticed her standing in that pile of metal shavings without shoes on.
Overall I think that the older girls gained the most from this experience. The younger ones were less impressed by some things because they didn't know how unusual or difficult they are to achieve. For them, it seems like everything is about equally unfamiliar, confusing, and interesting at the same time. The older ones were in awe of the water jet cutter and the 3D printer. The younger ones are pretty sure you can cut the moon (what IS it with the moon this week?) with a garden hose if you squirt it far enough and that their dad could make their home printer print out cheeseburgers if he tried hard enough.

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