From the Braver Institute
Lately it seems that all I have been writing about are my memories. I don’t want to write about the weather. It has been too cold for current events and that is why I have only memories to work with. As I’ve said before, if you don’t like it, write your own column.
Let’s get this show on the road.
When I was in eighth grade a new elective class was introduced in the industrial arts department. Sure, there were the standard industrial arts classes: wood shop, drafting, and hot metals, but this class was something entirely different. This class was called industrial design.
Mr. Humpula – Hump, as we called him – was the coolest teacher the world had ever known. He was the hot metals teacher. He taught us how to braze, weld, solder, forge, harden, and temper metals, which was great, but I think that he really wanted to play. He figured out a way to create a class that was about playing but was disguised as learning, and he somehow managed to sneak it into the curriculum with a fancy name like industrial design.
I had a heads-up about the class because I was in hot metals before the advent of industrial design class and Hump had told us what it would be all about. Industrial design was going to be a class where we built model rockets and jet-powered race cars. How cool would that be? Very cool is how cool. As soon as the class was available, I signed up.
The jet-powered car was the first project. Each of us received a triangular wedge of wood made from a 2x4 roughly sixteen inches long. It was up to us to shape that chunk of wood into a design we thought would most likely win a drag race.
The only rules were that the car had to be a certain length and a certain height at the back end. To ensure compliance, Hump had pre-drilled the blocks with holes where the axles would go and another hole at the back for the jet engine. Other than that we could cut and shape it in any way we saw fit. We could sand it as smooth as we wanted and paint it if we were so inclined.
The idea was much like that of the Cub Scouts pinewood derby races, except that these cars would be powered by CO2 cylinders (small metal canisters of compressed carbon dioxide, usually used in BB guns) instead of rolling down an inclined track.
Hump had made a special launcher that would puncture the cylinders in two cars at the same time. The compressed CO2 escaping through the punctured hole would propel the cars along a guide string (the cars were fitted with screw eyes on the bottom for the string to pass through) to the end of the track in the school parking lot, where a foam rubber block had been placed to stop the cars and keep them from getting damaged.
Most of the cars, mine included, were a slightly modified version of the original wedge shape. Hump’s car (yeah, he built one too—I told you he wanted to play) was the original width only at the point where the axle holes were drilled and there was just enough wood left to house the jet. It looked like a stick. He called it the Widowmaker and it did look really cool.
Mine looked cool too. It was painted royal blue with a yellow stripe. I thought that the Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron was the coolest thing going so my color scheme was a homage to them. My car needed an awesome name too so I named it Food II (there is a story behind that, which I will tell at a later date).
On race day, Hump was the favorite to win but we all remained hopeful that we would beat him. As I recall, Hump’s car broke in half at the end of the track and he didn’t win. I didn’t win either. The race really wasn’t the best part of the class. Everything leading up to it was.
Of course there is still the rocketry portion of the class, but that will have to wait until next week.
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