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Engineering a Son December 11, 2012

Posted by TimTheFoolMan in Learning, Love, Parenting/Children.

This past weekend, my younger son brought home a project that he had been working on for class in college. To the uninitiated, the device below might appear to be a simple pneumatic motor, a mechanical device that converts air pressure into rotational movement.


However, further inspection will reveal it to be much more than that. What appears to have been constructed in a matter of weeks actually took many years. Construction of this pneumatic motor actually began before my son was born.

It’s quite possible that the construction of this motor began with my grandfather. He had a love and fascination with mechanical things, and a wide array of tools that he was competent in using. To this day, some of those tools grace my own toolbox.

Perhaps it began with my father, who was a degreed mechanical engineer. Like my son, he took delight in illustrating and drawing mechanical devices and structures, but loved even more watching them become actual objects people would use.

Growing up, I learned that a drafting table and a T-square was as common a household artifact as a workbench or toolbox might have been in someone else’s house. I learned that moonlighting in the evenings to supplement income was something to be expected, and not something unusual.

However, at the very least, construction of this motor began with me. In high school, I studied drafting and immediately found the same fascination that my father had withdrawn mechanical things. This fascination continued through college, and on into the workplace, where I learned to use AutoCAD and computers for design and drafting.

Interestingly, most of the information above was never shared with my son explicitly. I never sat down with him and said “Son, it’s time for us to pass down the skills and talents from one generation to the next.” In fact, after his first semester of studying AutoCAD, he was anxious to come home and tell me about this amazing piece of software.


No. Somehow, the gifts and abilities that my younger son has developed for imagining three-dimensional objects, committing them to paper (or electrons), and wanting to see them become real objects, was passed on through genetics and some mysterious, subtle process that bypassed his older brother. It’s a process that I cannot begin to explain or understand, even though I was a direct participant in it.

Instead, I just sit back, watch the motor run, and smile. Something tells me I’m not the only one smiling.


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