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Saturday, February 14, 2009

It's electric!

Yesterday, when I was instrumental in what was perhaps one of the lamest physical demonstrations of all time.

A guy had come to our school to talk with the second and third graders about electricity. He had several props to ooooh and aaaah the kids, including Van der Graff generators, power cables, and tube lights. Most of these props were used quite successfully, especially the ones that generated visible static electricity -- little bits of "lightning" -- for the kids to observe.

I was standing at the very back of the auditorium, attempting to serve as a menacing presence for the rowdy second graders in that section. The guy said he would need the assistance of the teacher in the striped shirt and pointed back at me.

Naturally, the kids all started going wild -- in anticipation, no doubt, of their math teacher getting fried by an overload of static shock. No, I kid. I think the kids were all truly excited to see me take part in a demonstration.

The guy running the show handed me a long fluorescent tube light, the kind you find in office buildings. He made the announcement that I was going to hold the light pointing at his generator, and when he turned it on, either the bulb would light up, or I would.

From my vantage point, I could see that the bulb was lighting up. However, all of the auditorium lights were still on, so except for the few kids in the front row who could see a small difference in the bulb, I think that most of the kids could not see if anything was happening.

The kids, being the paragons of politeness and refinement that they are, began screaming, "Turn the lights off!!" at the top of their lungs. One of the teachers went up on the stage and behind the curtain and spent the next five minutes attempting to turn the lights off.

Unfortunately, in our auditorium, the lights aren't controlled by a simple switch. One must actually flip circuits on the breaker panel, and that panel is not very well labeled. So I got to spend the next five or so minutes,holding an impotent lightbulb, in front of a crowd of almost 300 growingly restless children, while watching the stage lights flicker on and off.

The guy finally decided to just do the demonstration with the lights on (with plenty of children still demanding loudly that the lights be turned off), and I was released from my duty.

Not really satisfied with how things had turned out, I jumped up on the stage and started playing with the breaker switches. I was able to pretty quickly turn the lights off in auditorium, but I also killed the electricity to the stage outlet that was powering the gentleman's props. So I had to turn everything back on and just accept the fact that I had done a pretty poor job as the stereotypical "lovely assistant."

Please don't forget to take part in the February Learn Me Good Sweepstakes, which began earlier this week. I'm giving way books and T-shirts! All you have to do is leave a comment, sign the guestbook, or, best of all, put a link to somewhere on the net. For everyone who already links to Learn Me Good, please change your link to


Anonymous said...

Why didn't someone holler,"GET STOKES"?


Priest said...

Hehehe ... no good deed shall go unpunished. All the guy had to do was buy some construction paper, tape a few of the dark colored sheets end to end, create a partial wrap around to serve as a dark field background, and the demo would have gone just fine. He would simply hold the apparatus up the audience with the open surface facing them and the dark background would have shown plenty of light.

Jason Oller said...

I linked to your blog twice and posted two links. That should get my name in the hypothetical hat 11 times(Im assuming the names aren't really going into a real hat)-Jason Oller

Was the assembly cheesy?