Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Double Standard

The picture shows what one of my favorite gifts of all time. It helped shape who I am today. I spent hours with this thing, running wires from one component to the next, first following the schematics in the book and then trying out different things. By the time I was working on similar project in college, I knew enough to teach some of the other students in the lab. What could I do with this thing? Well, I would make some lights turn on and off. I could make a radio. And yes, I could make a clock.

If you’ve been watching current events, you probably know where I’m going with this. A fourteen year-old kid took a prototype clock to school to show an engineering teacher, but the kid was arrested and suspended because another teacher thought it was a bomb. There have been mixed responses. Oddly enough, some of the same people who cried foul when a kid got in trouble for shaping a Pop-tart to look like a gun are saying, “It looks like a bomb to me; he should have been arrested.” Some are basing that on the fact that the boy is Muslim, but not all.

Here’s the thing. That 200 in 1 project set in the picture has enough components for a person to build a timing device for a bomb. Of course, that isn’t one of the projects in the book, because Radio Shack would’ve had to have sold it with some kind of explosive material. Of course, I never used the project set to build a bomb because bombs tend to go “Boom!” and I like having my fingers and head attached to my body.

I find it disturbing that a school would suspend a student for building a clock and bringing it to school. If we were to take 100 Electrical Engineers and we told each to make a clock, the would all have something that looked very similar to the one the kid built. All electronics projects look something like this until someone decides it needs to be refined into a product that can be sold. If we’re going to encourage students to take an interest in science and engineering, we’d better expect to see some projects that look like this.

When I was working with my 200 in 1 project set, I was fortunate to have a father who took an interest in what I was doing. But what about those students with absent fathers? Who are they going to turn to? Their teachers is who, but those teachers don’t make house calls. For the students to hear their teachers say, “Good job!” they have to take their projects to school. If that means they’re going to get arrested and suspended, that is no encouragement at all.