Friday, January 05, 2007

My Daughter's Dad is Such a Nerd

No Myspace or Facebook or instant messaging. I don't have an iPod, but I do have a portable cd-player. I don't know how to text on my phone, but I did receive a text message once about a year ago. I drive a minivan...slowly. I thought The 88 was a highway. Oh, and don't ask about my pants... the waist is way too high and the legs are far too straight.

Yes, Weird Al's White and Nerdy is my theme song.

But when you've got a physics project, who ya gonna call??

Yeah, who's your daddy now?! Uh-huh, uh-huh!! That's right, I'm tight!!!

My daughter's Freshman Physics class has a project to build a little car powered by the spring of a mouse-trap. The rules are simple: use only basic supplies from around the house, and no power provided by anything other than the mouse-trap spring. She asked me for help. Cool!! For those of you that are not blessed with any teenagers in your house, you don't really know how significant this is. Asking for help?? Actually acknowledging that a parent might know something useful?? Wow! So I dropped everything and got to work. Immediate trip to OSH for dowel, wood, screws, and of course, a bunch of mouse-traps. Many hours working late in the garage drawings, weights and balances, protoypes ...I doubt even the Space Shuttle was as meticulously conceived.

The anticipation was high for the roll-out of Version 1.0 on the kitchen floor. This thing was a beast of a vehicle, a veritable Hummer in scale and mass, ready to crush the competition (literally) if they got in our way. Except for one problem... it wouldn't move. Hmmm, forgot about that darned inertia stuff. The spring would decapitate a little mouse, but it couldn't budge our Version 1.0 car. Damn, now I was both nerdy AND a failure in my daughter's eyes. But I'm not a quitter, so back out into the garage I went, and soon we had version 2.0 ready to rock. Now this one is a sleek vehicle, with CDs for wheels and minimal structure weight. And this one could roll across the garage floor and back. Uh-huh, I'm cool again, uh-huh!!

Here's my top-secret engineering drawing of our Version 2.0 car:

So yesterday the car went through its first test at the school: it had to roll across the floor, straight enough to hit a little ramp at the end, and then go up until its rear wheels were on the hill. It made it easily across the floor to the ramp, and started up the hill, but then ran out of power before getting far enough up. It seems we built it for plenty of endurance, but not enough power. Your basic long-distance road racer with no jump or sprint. Back into the shop it goes. Shortening up the lever arm should do the trick. Only trouble is, now my daughter has taken over and is keeping it at school so she can do all the work. I was just used and then pushed aside. Layed off like an expendable contract worker. Oh well, I guess that's a parent's job, right?


velogirl said...

priceless moment and you'll remember it forever (especially when she becomes an evil teen).

Marco Fanelli said...

What do you mean when she becomes an evil teen!?! Just kidding--she's a great kid!

Olaf Vanderhoot said...

will version 3.0 be hybrid?

cool f'in dad, yo.

Marco Fanelli said...

Update: She moved the rear wheels closer to the mouse-trap and then the car made it up the ramp. No hybrid version necessary...

BTW, I forgot to mention one other part of the story... after a couple of beers at our "team meeting" last month, I was babbling on to teammate Ben Haldeman about this physics project and how I was helping my daughter with it, which might be just slightly against the rules. Then I remembered a crucial piece of information... Ben was actually roommates with my daughter's Physics teacher!! Oh sh!t!! I made him promise not to tell...