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Hi All!

(This story should be subtitled: "What you don't know....")

Christopher's school just held its third annual Invention Convention. Anyone from 4th-5th grades can join in. The rules are simple. Find a real world problem and develop an invention to solve the problem. Provide a model or diagram for display and be able to talk about the benefits of your invention at the Convention. Parental involvement must be minimal, non-existent if possible.

OK. Remembering my elementary school projects, I informed Chris that we would have a "first draft" done *before* I signed the permission slip committing him (us?). Since Christopher had forgotten to feed Fluffy the same day the notice came home, he decided that she needed a cat-activated feeder. OK. First step, draw a design. No problem. Next, acquire supplies. Chris hit the recycle bin for a soda bottle. We walked down to the corner and scavenged in the construction dumpster until he found a base and a backboard. I drove him to Home Depot and turned him loose in the Plumbing aisle for misc. supplies and fasteners. THEN the fun started....about a week of Christopher trying to fit pieces together, with me looking it over periodically. "Ain't gonna work". We'd gotten a 3' piece of flexible piping (the silver stuff that goes from the drier to the outside vent) and Chris was bound and determined to make an S shape between the bottle and the bowl because it would "look COOL!" It wasn't until he cut the piping in half and went for a straight line that he could put the other parts in place so that gravity would carry the cat food from the bottle to the bowl.

Next, assembly. Hoo boy. I made Chris saw the bracing struts to the right size. (LOL) He started the cut with the saw, then discovered that he remembered enough karate to kick the piece down to size! (ROFLMAO) He made tatters out of several soda bottles before he seized on a thicker juice bottle. I let him deal with one awful discovery: "Mom, it HURTS when you hit your thumb instead of the nail!" "Well, why do you think I showed you the sandpaper trick? If you use a thick piece of paper to hold the nail upright, your thumb is nowhere near the nail!" However, after his accident with the utility knife (no stitches required, but just barely), I figured that having *me* make the cuts into the juice bottle was justifiable parental involvement. He learned how to deal with nails, and l-braces and screws, and plastic strapping.

Finally, it was all together, and everything was attached to the supporting backboard. We'd cut a trap door into the bottom of the juice bottle so Chris could put in food, and a slot towards the front. Chris had cut a circle of cardboard that sat inside the bottle and tied a string to it. The string ran through an eye hook and a cat toy dangled from the end of it. Cat pulls toy, cardboard pops out of juice bottle. The freed cat food then rattled down the piping into a bowl.

We even tested it by baiting the kitten with the toy. Fluffy pulled on the feathers, and her food fell down into the bowl. Dog was in heaven!!!! Cat played, dog ate the spillage! (ROFLMAO) We were pretty proud of ourselves....Chris for doing it, me for not taking over the project and doing it for him.

We delivered the project to school yesterday morning. Chris came home from school truly excited. "Mom, I got to get out of the class for almost 2 hours because all the grades came in to see our inventions." It was quickly followed by: "Mom!!!!!! Everybody loved my project!!!!"


Oops....somehow, we'd both missed that minor detail: there was NO requirement that the invention WORK! (ROFLMAO) Since this was our first year in the school, we hadn't been to the prior Conventions.

When we attended the night session of the convention, it became clear that Christopher had far and away the best invention, that no other child was close to the amount of thought and work that he'd done, and that Chris had now raised the bar for future entries.

A small part of me wished I could have skipped much of the aggravation, but the major part is pretty darned happy with what we achieved.

On other fronts, we are finally starting to pull things together. It was a major test of family relations when my laptop died. Suddenly, all our online and offline computing needs were concentrated on ONE PC. We're now set. I got a Dell on Ebay, got the upgrades I wanted from Dell, popped a router onto hubby's Cable connection, strung 75' of fast Ethernet.....and I'm just blazing away! (Chris is already trying to kick me off THIS computer when the other one is available!)

Happy to be back,
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