Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ending the School Year with a Bang!

... or at least a lot of smoke!

I was working with my advanced physics students building a bicycle generator. We had all the wiring purchased and ready to set up. We were about to hook it all up to the alternator, when...

We got one of the connections switched, and in the process of pulling it out to fix it there were some sparks, and then there was some smoke, and then there was LOTS of smoke.

Long story short, we got to pull the fire alarm, use the fire extinguisher, and evacuate the entire school. That was an exciting day! It really was the best possible situation though.  No one got hurt, no property was damaged (except we melted some wires), and some genuine (and I mean genuine) learning occurred as a result. In hind sight there were at least three things we should have done differently: 

1. Don't bolt down the wires until you're sure they're where they should be.
2. You can never have too many fuses.
3. Don't forget: the frame is negative.

The best part was we couldn't figure out why it happened until we were outside, and THEN we realized it. Ok - the best part might have been that everyone was SUPER supportive: the superintendent, all the teachers who were outside with me, all the students. It was awesome. And there's no better advertisement for physics!

But there's one more portion of this story to write. The rest of that day we had class outside because my classroom was COVERED in fire extinguisher dust. For anyone who's experienced that stuff, oh man, I commiserate. That stuff gets EVERYWHERE, and it's NOT easy to clean up. The custodial staff at the high school did a _great_ job cleaning things up, but the thing they were not excited to touch: my closet.

Unfortunately, the door to my closet had been open and every surface was covered in white powder.

Truth be told, I have never cleaned out my closet in 8 years of teaching. There are boxes in there that I inherited which were never opened when I arrived, and I have never opened them. There were objects in there for which I have NO CLUE what they're for or how they work. So here was my opportunity. After school was out I got a couple of supplementary custodial workers to help me go through EVERYTHING in my closet and make the decision to either wipe it off or throw it out.

I didn't think to take a "before" picture, but here's the after picture with everything cleaned out:

And the rest of the room: 

I was able to donate a lot of the stuff I didn't want - most of it was electronic equipment from the 1980's, like oscilliscopes, multimeters, a centrifuge, etc. Great stuff. I hope some shopper at Resource in Barre will want those things!