I have to take a moment to say I’m so proud of my amazing son. Lucas had a huge win
earlier this month way back in December when he presented his eighth-grade project to his classmates, family, and our school community. He spent five months of 2015 fabricating a CNC mill, with two of our dearest friends, Thomas and Jeff, as mentors. He wrote a big paper, made a working milling machine, learned about electricity, circuits, and Arduinos, learned how to write G-code, and presented his 10-minute speech and his machine on December 3.
This project was hard work. It required perseverance and investigation into lots of new territory for Lucas. During the course of this project Lucas and his mentors did something really amazing and unlike anything he had ever done before, but they also suffered delays and setbacks, and occasional back-to-the-drawing-board moments. What a gift it is to learn about failure with someone who will help you pick up the pieces, emphasize what you learned from the mistakes, and then begin again on a better path with you! It’s priceless!
They worked nearly every Tuesday evening for five months. Lucas had approximately 80 hours invested in this project. Furthermore, they had a great time doing it.
His paper deftly explained some pretty technical stuff, and his speech quickly walked his audience through what Computer Numeric Controlled machines are, how they work, and how he and his mentors made the machine. Then, for a grand finale, he turned it on and it cut a picture stand out of foam core, which was decided upon because the tool could accomplish the job in under two minutes. If they had demonstrated the CNC mill with a more complicated project, or with a denser material, it would have taken too long for his allotted speaking time. With flourish, he punched the picture stand out of the foam core, creased it along the center line, stood it up, and then placed upon it a wooden sign engraved (by the CNC mill) with “Questions?” The applause was wild and he beamed. I wish I had a good shot of that moment.
Lucas got an A+ on his eighth-grade project. It was so wonderful to see his hard work rewarded! The best part perhaps is that he is still so interested in the project that he and his mentors continue to work on it, refining it, refining it. Recently Lucas learned how to solder. He’s expressed an interest in learning to code, and that’s terrific.
Over the four nights the eighth graders presented, we heard about so many wonderful topics: fly fishing, competitive road racing, cosmetology and hair cutting and styling, drones, a diesel ’68 school bus converted to run on vegetable oil, wood duck nests and conservation efforts on the Pacific Flyway, the effects of sleep deprivation on a young teen, rowing and crew, drumming, music therapy, natural horsemanship and horse training, building a computer, and many more. I’m so very impressed with these young people, and so grateful that their first major research project and paper was on topics of their own choosing, which I believe made the whole experience as reinforcing as possible.