Ever since I was about eight years old I loved building things – bird houses, plastic model cars, mousetrap-type mazes, plastic model planes, and for my grade school hobby fair – a fort made from sharpened dowel rods for the walls with balsa wood houses assembled inside the walls. I got a kick out of the process (although I didn’t know the word meant at that time): taking the instructions, following them carefully, getting all of the components lined up – including glue, paint, and paper – just made the time to build the project even more exciting. The time seemed to pass so quickly back then. I guess it had to do with the idea of building something, whether it was for use (bird houses), for show (model cars, model planes), or for competition (model fort). Each and every time, the idea of building something captivated me.
As we started studying science in grade school a new fascination evolved. I found I liked how things moved. The balsa wood airplane (not a Styrofoam airplane) was one of my favorite toys until it smashed into a wall or clipped the side of the house. It was back to earning enough money to purchase another plane. After a few months, I tired of taping the wings or finding a new rubber band to make the airplane fly. Despite this, my love of flight continues today. We live about 10 miles from the local airport and for years I’d take my children to the airport and watch the planes take off and land. Museums like Wright-Patterson National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio or the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. became prime destinations years later.
My mom would take us to the library. She was a big believer in reading at a young age. It was at the Sycamore Library in Blue Ash, Ohio when it happened. I discovered a book that talked about magnets, magnetism, electromagnets, and direct current (DC) motors. I could not wait to ‘check it out’ and take it home to read. Once home, I read about how two magnets would attract and repel each other. Through a series of events my grandpa found me some magnets from where he worked and I tried the experiment. It worked and I was hooked. My brother and sister thought it was amazing, especially if I put one magnet on one side of a piece of cardboard and another magnet on the other side. Then, I would move the magnet on the underside of the cardboard and surprise – the magnet on the top would move – just like magic. This wasn’t all. Making an electromagnet with a 1-1/2 volt dry cell (do you dads remember those days?) that picked up paper clips and other metal objects caused me to investigate even more.
Next time we’ll find out what happened when I turned to the chapter on direct current motors. Maybe you’ll find a similar book that will hold your interest and imagination like this book did for me.