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Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Stories of Imagination, Invention, and Accomplishment

Recently, the man behind the Weed Eater passed away. His invention, which we can't imagine yard work without, wasn't invented by a lawn company's army of engineers in search of a marketable product. Instead, an Air Force veteran of World War II and the Korean War who, two decades after his service, was enjoying success managing dance studios came up with the idea for a string trimmer. Why? His lawn worker was bitten by a copperhead as he was using shears, which got him wondering about an alternative tool. George Ballas got the idea for his trimmer from watching the spinning bristles in a car wash and rigged up a prototype with a tin can and wires. His is a great American story of invention.

For a couple of other stories of great American invention and accomplishment, on a larger scale, we've taken some time to read The Empire State Building and The Hoover Dam, by Elizabeth Mann. Part of a series of books called "Wonders of the World Books," both books captivated our boys. We marveled at the courage of the New York ironworkers who were perched high above the city working in four-man teams assembling giant steel beams. The heater grabbed a hot rivet from the charcoal with tongs and tossed it to the catcher. Sometimes 75 feet away, the catcher snagged the flying hot rivet with his bucket, then handed it off with tongs to the two-man hammering team. Using gloved hands, one man put the hot mushroom-shaped rivet into the hole while his partner air-hammered in the softened iron rivet. Sometimes teams could install two rivets per minute. Amazing.

Just as the Empire State Building was rising above the Manhattan skyline in the early 1930s, over in the West workers were blasting diversion tunnels into the sides of Black Canyon, preparing to divert the mighty Colorado river so the new dam could be built. Mann tells the incredible tale of the how the Hoover Dam was built in life-threatening conditions by workers who, in spite of the suffering, were thankful for their job.

Both books highlight the human side of these engineering accomplishments, all the while explaining the inspiring design behind the process. Whether it be the trailblazing design of steel-frame skyscrapers rather than the old design of brick bearing-walls, or the twin objectives of water-management and electricity-production met in the giant dam, Mann's books make these concepts understandable to even our five-year-old son.

Next up, The Brooklyn Bridge. Mann's book series also includes books on more ancient wonders such as the Pyramids, Machu Picchu, and the Parthenon, for starters.

1 comment:

Tor Hershman said...

Cool tale, I dig me weed eater.

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