My friend Aubrey called the other day with a problem... She was working on a Science Fair project (ten years old, give or take) and needed Uncle Art's help to build a harmonograph, bless her heart!
Over a day and a half I encouraged her to guess, assume, test, guess again, assume again, question other's results, and generally have a good time.
She learned why a lathe is better for drilling holes than the drill press right beside her; why a bandsaw cuts curves and a table saw does not; why mass rules; why balance is everything; what a vector is; what proportion means; what a ratio is;
And despite better judgement and rules she cut the parts on a bandsaw, herself; drilled holes with a lathe, herself; filed notches, herself;
Of course this was hardly my first association with my buddy Aubrey. When she and her identical twin sister were adopted from a Chinese orphanage I was the first person to meet them as they landed in Anchorage. Of course that may have been related to the fact I was the only one willing to meet them in the middle of the night!
Some time later I took the sisters fishing and it was a classic time... The fish were willing and the girls caught many... but Aubrey's sister Summer stole the show by hooking a small stocker rainbow and tossing it in the air to catch with an out-size landing net, unassissted. She was perhaps six years old.
While we worked on the Harmonograph we had to stop for a short break while I turned a hollow Easter egg box for Aubrey to color. She chose water color "pencils" and created a beautiful egg with lots of subtle color variations and glitter washes carried out to extremes. We giggled that her mother surely thought we were still harmonographing... And laughed louder when Mom caught us nearly done with a gorgeous egg box.
She also spoke at length with the old guy about the egg she had colored when she had to stand on a chair to reach the lathe... and how much fun she had coloring it.
She has tied a number of flies, caught some fish, and seen some "stuff" with Uncle Art.
Several times during the later evening I thanked her for gifting me the egg and she was incredibly sophisticated in trying to keep the egg and still be thankful and polite. She left with the egg well secured and a harmongraph that drew beautiful designs... and an old man's heart.
You see, as she left, she gave that old man a hug. And she also whispered in his ear that she had more fun than she could remember because she loves breaking rules and getting things done.
And in the end she came away with a machine that draws the prettiest patterns... And if you look carefully at any pattern drawn by that machine you will see a damp-eyed "Uncle" grinning and helping break rules...