My 7 year old’s latest obbsession is electricity. It started with wind and solar power and then reading about Ben Franklin and now he scuffs his feet on the carpet constantly and shocks people. He likes to feel and see the spark. Then he learned about Van de Graff Generators, naturally we took him to see the one in Boston:
He got a real zap out of that when the demonstrator used one to shock people. They told him how we could build one. And that’s what we are doing.
Now, I’m not the best candidate for this stuff. I *hate* doing home repair, or car fixing, or improvement projects or anything really. I get very frustrated when the physical world does do what I will it to do. I don’t have many tools, and I get zero satisfaction out of “doing it myself” when I could get an expert to do a much better job.
But this project seemed simple enough; hell, it used PVC pipe and a soda can, two things I have plently of. So we built it. It worked pretty well at first, but wasn’t consistent. While it worked my son was uber excited and enjoyed the shocks. But it eventually failed and I couldn’t figure out why, and while trying to make adjustments, things broke and it just started to go down hill fast like many of my other projects. I did really well containing my frustration and not modeling my hot headedness (I didn’t slam anything, break anything, throw anything, or yell out loud). When a glass part broke, and we didn’t have more I said, “sorry sonny, we are just going to have to wait until next weekend to get more parts.”
He groaned “Ohwwa,” as if to say this sucks, and angrily grunted out, “I guess I’ll have to go back to scuffing my feet.” And he scuffed his way accross the room in frustration.
I suddenly realized that we were not building this thing as a father-son bonding project, we were not doing it so he could learn about electricity, apparently the only reason we were doing it was to save him some effort on creating shocks. As if it was a moral imperative that he create static electricity and we were just trying to make it easier for him.
Why doesn’t this kid like computers?
More photos of the Generator in Boston: