Every year the big university near us has a huge open house where the students in each department have activities for the general public to teach them about what they do. It is Nerd Disneyworld (So, OUR Disneyworld). So naturally we arrived a completely over-zealous hour before it started so we could spend some time acquainting ourselves with the schedule and getting into position for our first activity. We were twenty minutes early for the tour of Aerospace Engineering's aircraft design lab, but fortunately someone had scattered little balloons all over the hallway outside that the kids immediately began rubbing on their hair and sticking to the walls and ceiling. Even James got in on it. He may be practically non-verbal, but his intuition for electrical charge is quite astute. Sadly, we did not get a picture of James, but here is one of Wes.
The kids sat through a thirty-minute talk about airplane design given by three graduate students. Just as I was starting to wonder if they were getting bored (I thought it would be more hands on), Charlie and Wes started asking questions. So many questions. Some made more sense than others. I tried to encourage them to wait until the end, but the students took them in stride and soon Charlie and Wes were competing with a middle school boy for question-asking time. The grad students did not know what to do but the kids loved it. I told Charlie he couldn't have his lunch yesterday until he told me the four forces that affect aircraft movement. With only a few hints he rattled off "Lift, Drag, Thrust, and Weight."
The rocket-building activity we'd planned to attend next was full, so we went outside and had our picnic and sat in the solar-powered race car then played with these robots that play soccer.
I call this one "Little Kid, Huge Controller."
Then we went inside to build circuits out of playdoh. They asked the kids to find a buddy to work with and Wes and Charlie claimed each other quickly. (By the way, is there anything more hilarious than little kids sitting in a lecture hall? Somebody get those kids a Red Bull and a five o'clock shadow!)
Charlie was right at home. For a kid who often feels out of place at school because of his love for science and learning (updated to add: his friends all love Star Wars and Minecraft, which he has never been exposed to, so he often complains of feeling left out "because I like science more", which is so sad), being surrounded by hundreds of other kids who love science and lots of grown up grad student kids who have chosen science as a career was a wonderful experience. He took the little pre-activity lecture very seriously. Good little student.
Wes was also an eager little student.
So was Ryan, who kept trying to guess the direction of the experiment and then pass along little nuggets of information to the kids. Like, "Put those side by side, like this Wes. See? Capacitance!"
It wasn't all sunshine and capacitance, though!
Later we moved across the hall for a motor-building class where we met the nicest college kid in the universe who helped James wind the coils for his motor so patiently and kindly that James followed him around talking to him for the whole time we were there. The kid briefly tried to help Charlie and Wes but then James took him gently by the hand and led him back to "their" table. Funny story: the student went to the same high school as me and grew up in the same neighborhood. He was majoring in Electrical Engineering and looked like a younger Ryan. Ryan stopped me before I could invite him over for dinner.
Next we went up on the roof of the astronomy building to look at the telescope (this was one of my favorites... the view from the 17th floor was beautiful), then we went to see the portable planetarium, which was a huge hit for Charlie and Wes. James fell asleep in the stroller a few minutes before the show.
And then we hurried to watch a rehearsal of the marching band. On the way there we had to walk up a huge long hill. It was the end of the day and the kids were wiped out, so I was worried about coaxing them up the hill. Little did I know that they would find an even BIGGER hill to run up (and roll down) for several minutes.
When we arrived at the practice field I was so excited to learn that we would be PART of the band, out on the field. The kids picked up the commands quickly and soon were going through attention (CALL 2!), parade rest (they yelled "BOOM!" but I'm not sure what the rest of the band was yelling), horns up, horns down, mark time, and march. We practiced our 8-5 strides forward and backward (I've still got it!), then marched for ten yards while the band played the fight song. It would be hard to tell who was having a better time, me or the kids.
James did not have fun until he'd convinced Ryan to join them out there.
But Charlie was the happiest kid in the UNIVERSE when we got to march back to our car with the band.
Note that his feet are not touching the ground.
This is his game face.
We stopped for dinner on the way home where I commented to Ryan about how awesome the kids had behaved all day and how tired they must be. "I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop," I said, foolishly. Sure enough, ten minutes later someone slighted someone else and soon everyone was screaming at top volume and trying to hit each other. Ryan ushered them all out the door while I quickly cleared the table and then we drove home where the kids went to bed at 6:15. When we went up to bed later there was a thank you note on our bed that said "Dear Mom and Papa, Thank you for fun. I love you." Next to it was a motor they made out of pipe cleaners.