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On Failing to Make a Wind-Powered Car

We were supposed to apply our mathematics to the real world in our skill level. This skill level included a spattering of trigonometry, statistics, and calculus. Be original, be creative. Have fun. “Well,” I thought, “this is going to be dreadful.”

For the rest of the class, we brainstormed ideas on a piece of paper. Math was the last class of the day, and the room was positioned so that warm sunlight could just begin to create window-shaped boxes on the floor. My scratch paper was a mess of ideas. Two general categories, “music” and “books,” had spidery lines connected to more specific ideas. I could work with sound waves, chords, the use of specific words in specific poems.

However, in one corner of my page I wrote, “Can a car reuse its energy with wind power?” Naturally, this is the topic I chose.

I wish I could say my idea seemed bad in hindsight. Unfortunately, I knew it was bad before I even decided my topic. I was a senior in high school and had mostly avoided science classes. I had two years of biology. My last experience with physics was during my freshman year.

All of my friends, those who pursued subjects like physics and even those who didn’t, told me my idea was bad.

All of them.

“It won’t work,” they told me at lunch. I had helpfully drawn a diagram of a wind turbine attached to an electric car. “In fact, this would probably burn more energy. Just… no.”

Ha. Ha ha. Watch me.

It’s a miracle I got a passing grade on that paper. I scraped by on a technicality: I had an original idea, an equation, and a results section. The fact that my conclusion, boiled down, was “this is (obviously) a dumb idea” did not inhibit showing an example of my math skills.

It did show my ability to reach high levels of obtuse foolhardiness, but that’s irrelevant.

Hindsight does help me understand my motivations for approaching this idea. While I was not excited about the paper, I did want to contribute to the world. I thought tackling issues related to environmentalism meant focusing on science. It wasn’t until I took a class in college that I truly realized environmentalism had multiple areas of approach, including legal work, advocacy, and – yes – scientific studies.

It is Earth Week. I’ve enjoyed listening to other members of Her Campus discussing their ideas to celebrate this. They are writing on so many subjects related to environmentalism that I often disregarded in high school: consumerism, makeup, ways to minimize waste. They are using their skills and interests to approach environmentalism.

That… seems like the way to go.

I am a sophomore at Gustavus Adolphus College, majoring in English. I enjoy reading, listening to music, and spending time with family and friends.
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