Launch of a multistage model rocket.

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This is a little late, so please forgive me.  It took me a while to turn this idea around in my head until it was ready to be written.  Here it is.

I was musing this morning on the importance of hacking.  I don’t mean computer hacking, though that’s one part of it.  Hacking, to me, encompasses a great deal more than writing a computer program or breaking through software.  Hacking represents subversive or unusual usage of existing technology.  For example, turning a set of cardboard tubes and scraps of wood into a model rocket is hacking.  In an era in which we are being handed prepackaged tools and systems that “just work,” hacking is more important than ever.  I’m guilty of using that prepackaged tech, and it’s hardly a sin, but every so often I remind myself that I can do neat things without the permission of a corporate overlord.

So, where does Father’s Day come into this?  Well, my father is probably my greatest influence as far as hacking goes, followed by Dean Kamen and John P. O’Brien (holder of the seven millionth patent and my mentor).  Ever since my days as a wee lad, Dad tried to get me interested in the shop.  In the way that boys do I remained unable to concentrate on any project for long, but the most success I had working on any task for more than a day was when building model rockets in the basement or gluing the wings onto a balsa-and-tissue competition airplane for the Science Olympiad.  The remains of my forays into model building and construction litter our basement to this day.

I think it’s fair to say that without my dad’s influence I would not have persisted as long in or as been supported in my love of science and making things.  Today I tend to make art or short stories, but the feeling of accomplishment is the same.  Whether I wanted to build a P-41D Mustang kit (one of which is still half-finished and I’ve been meaning to get back to it for ten years) or a payload rocket, my dad was (and is) behind me every step of the way.

In high school, I joined my local FIRST team.  For those not familiar, FIRST is Dean Kamen’s and Woody Flowers’ brainchild that has inspired and educated more than 150,000 students since its inception in 1992 (not to mention countless parents and mentors).  My team was Miracle of Engineering (MOE) 365, and for three years it was my life.  At every competition, before and after every practice session, my dad and my mom made sure they were there.  Even when I went through my whiney, rebellious high school phase (I can just tell how surprised you are that I was ever whiney) my parents stood by me and never let me falter.  Through it all, my dad reminded me how good it felt to make things.

To this day, I love getting a chance to get my hands dirty and build something.  I don’t think that either my father or I really realized the effect that his frequent exhortations to join him in the shop or help change the oil would have on me, but in hindsight they helped me learn to think for myself and approach a problem effectively.  When I work on a new project, whether it’s this here blog or something professional, I use the same approach and somehow it always works out just fine.  Thanks, Dad, and a belated happy Father’s Day.

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