Mousetrap Car Debrief

Not really the science fair, but the same principles apply.

Not the science fair, but the same principles apply.

Earlier this month I wrote about my high school freshman’s physics assignment. Here is the sum total of what my child learned from the mousetrap car assignment: Nothing.

Ok maybe nothing is a stretch, but I know that I got more out of it than he did. Here’s what I learned from the mousetrap car assignment. I will apply this knowledge to the next set of children who go through this torture assignment. Because one of the most important pieces of any idiot group project at the office or at school is the Lessons Learned debrief. That’s where you track all your dumbass mistakes and swear on the name of all that is good and holy that you’ll walk through a river of fire before you ever put yourself through this agony again.

  1. No matter how much of a non-helicopter “do it your own damn self” parent you try to be, you’ll still end up involved with the mousetrap car assignment. Make it as easy as possible on yourself and your student. Don’t reinvent the damn wheel. Find something on Wikihow, Pinterest, or YouTube, and follow their specs to the tee. I found out way too late in the game that you can even buy mousetrap car kits on the web.
  2. Work this shit. Cameron, who will be a freshman in three years, can invest in his college education by making these bad boys and selling them down by the downstairs bathroom where rumor has it all the weed smokers linger and other illicit dealings take place. 200+ kids in physics classes at $50 a pop (a VERY reasonable price) for a completed mousetrap car would turn a nice little profit. Work it for all four years of high school? That’s a hell of a nest egg.
  3. Self-awareness is important. If your kid knows he’s not up to doing this on his own, make sure he partners up early and quickly. Go find Sheldon Cooper or Malcolm in the Middle. Or the kid with the engineer mom.
  4. Unless your child has NASA ambitions, this assignment is not about building a mousetrap car. Because who the fuck needs a mousetrap car? Toy designers have come up with working Hot Wheels cars and race tracks for a reason, namely so you don’t have to MacGyver your own ridiculous hillbillyass car toy out of Bic pens, balloons, and CDs. This assignment is about taking other people’s ideas and executing them to the best of your ability. Think that’s not a real world application? Ask Nikola Tesla how he feels about Thomas Edison.
  5. Find your minions – parents, lab partners, peers, teachers, or the people at Ace Hardware, and command them to do your bidding. This goes way beyond Physics. David might be a step ahead of me on this one.

Anyway, I still don’t know anything about physics, and I’m not sure my kid does either. Well played, Eastern Carver County Schools.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2015

 

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