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The Automation LearnPipe – Part Four, Your Contribution

Interest, inspiration, self determination, basic learning tools and opportunity… Which of these can you influence, within or without?

Interest begins with a “Curiosity”…

A curiosity is an ungerminated “seed of interest” that needs a little external love to sprout into an “interest” that is actively seeking nourishment (knowledge). All curiosities have an initial moment but do not necessarily germinate into an “interest” immediately. I honestly believe that these curiosities are a gift. Ask anyone around you, “Have you ever wondered how a television works?” Not everyone will respond with “yes, I always wondered how those crazy things work!” Some will respond with, “It never entered my mind”, or something close to that. Everyone has curiosities but they are different for each individual; each person has been gifted with curiosities. The source of these gifts is another topic and not part of this subject. Someone else has provided the seeds; we just need to provide the initial elements to germinate them.

Everyone has curiosity. You might take the “left brain, right brain” approach to explaining the category of an individual’s seeds of curiosity. I choose to believe the seeds of curiosity are gifted, and we are identified as “left brain, right brain” based upon the curiosities that have germinated into an interest.

If you took the time to watch some of the videos from Part Two of this discussion, you learned that within the environment of a FIRST team, everyone has an opportunity to express their curiosities in the form of an interest. This could be the initial moment of a curiosity, a need to nourish a sprouted curiosity, or even to nurture a growing interest. On some occasions, it is all three within a short span of time, within several hours. Some participants are drawn to the call for social reasons and had no interest in anything other than the other people who themselves already had an interest. These attendees, for social reasons, will discover additional interests in the process.


Pinewood derby is a good place to start if you want a manifestation of curiosity within a group. Many corporations use a type of pinewood derby to identify their employees’ interest and as a team building exercise. What makes this approach so successful is the richness of the “seeing is believing” examples available to demonstrate with a track and a couple of rolling chassis. If you do not think that there can be a lot of serious science behind pinewood derby, check out this website.

Or… click on this link and download Lecture 1a and Lecture 1b, the first of 26 lectures on the physics of pinewood derby cars.

Although you would not present this information as it is to any and all age groups, the fundamentals are there for you to forge into word pictures and real life examples, not to mention actual “eyes on” demonstrations in front of your group. The published book is not free but the lectures are free, in PDF format.

The most classic of physical demonstrations available with a track and two cars is that of two objects falling, one heavier than the other, but both arriving at the ground surface simultaneously. This must be done with a track that has a slope and a horizontal section.

  1. Build two light weight cars of identical design, polish the axles and wheel hubs, and tweak the weight on the slowest car to speed it up until they arrive at the finish line simultaneously.
  2. On both cars, bore holes to mount two short vertical pegs, one just behind the front axles and the other just forward of the rear axles. Double check the equality of the two cars with another trip down the track, alternating lanes to verify total equality.
  3. Add an ounce of weight on the front peg of one car and race them. Within reason, they will both reach the horizontal section of the track simultaneously, but the car with extra weight will pull ahead of the other.
  4. Swap the weight from one car to the other and race again to prove the concept.
  5. With an ounce of added weight on the front peg of both cars, race again.
  6. Move the ounce of extra weight from the front peg to the rear peg on only one of the cars and race again.

The moral of the story here is that two objects of equal shape and surface characteristics will arrive at the ground surface simultaneously, but the heavier of the two will reach the surface with more force. In addition to that, the higher the point from which an object is released, the greater the force it will have when it reaches the surface. If you are not that familiar with the concepts and language of physics, enlist someone who is. As you need to add elements to your event that you cannot support, enlist people. Everyone has something to offer.

Look for an event or any opportunity to germinate a curiosity. If you cannot find one, create one, and invite one and all; everyone has something to share and everyone has something to learn.

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