A Tale of School, Romance, and Wearables

School Daze

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright April 2015


Troy walks into the classroom in zombie mode. He is not alone, there is a file of boys and girls walking in and all have their attention on their communicators as their legs take the steps that get them into the classroom and into their seats. He doesn't bother to focus on Eloise Klandis, the teacher, until she flashes a signal to all the communicators in the classroom that she is ready to begin.

"Class, today we are going to be working on how to make a better seesaw. You did your research yesterday, now I want each group to design one and we will print out your results on the class 3D printer. That done, we will put them up in the playground and see how they work.

"Are there any questions? If not, gather in your groups and let's get started."

Troy is working with Nancy, Jimmy and Paul. The foursome take about ten minutes to finish their design. Proudly, they wave to Eloise.

Eloise comes over and inspects their work. "Hmm... a ten centimeter thick board. That's going to be big and heavy. It will use a lot of material, and... can you carry it out? Check out much it will weigh."

They do, on their communicators. "Fifty one kilograms." says Troy.

"OK. What weighs fifty kilograms in this room?" Eloise asks.

More research, "Two desks." comes back the answer.

"Go try lifting two desks." The kids do, "This is hard." she hears.

"OK... what can you do about it?"

The kids do more research. Nothing comes to them quickly. After a minute, Eloise says, "I'll give you a hint: foam." This group now begins discovering the virtues of foam cores and composite fibered exteriors. They get busy redesigning while Eloise moves on to another group.


For recess the printed-out seesaws are carried by the kids out to the playground and field tested. One group was inspired by a design they found was used in Korea. It was low slung and designed to be jumped on, not sat upon -- something different and curious to the whole class. Most work out as expected, but there are surprises. For one, most groan when they move and a couple squeak too. Two break, and one proves unusually wobbly and bouncy. The kids are loving that one!... until it breaks, too. Troy and his group ask this other group that made the wobbly one if they can work with their design and see if they can improve it. Eloise hints that is both acceptable and a good idea. The design is shared around and next week they will all try again.


After playground Troy has a history class. Today they are studying The Civil War. Kansas Kanab is teaching.

He says, "As you have been told before, the goal of learning history is to learn from the mistakes. To do that you need to learn what really happened. That is often difficult because to many people history is a form of editorializing -- they have an opinion and they are going to shape the history story so that it supports their opinion.

"What can you, a learner of history, do to get an accurate story?"

Nancy, sitting next to Troy, raises her hand, "Read and listen to many points of view."

"That's a good start. That will give you many choices. Then what can you do?"

Troy raises his hand, "Read about what else is happening at the time. Then see if the stories fit together well."

Kansas is impressed, "Very good Troy! How did you come up with that?"

"My grandfather is a history buff. He loves this stuff."

"That's a blessing, indeed. So... how does that apply to why the Civil War got started?"

"Well... a lot of what I read says the war got started because of slavery -- the people in the Northern States all said it was a bad idea and the slaves should be freed, and the people in the Southern States all said it was a good idea and they shouldn't. ...I've seen that in a lot movies, too."


"Well... I've read other things, too, and those other things make a lot more sense. One thing they say is that lots of people in the South didn't like slavery, either."

"Good, and what else?"

"Well... there was a lot of economics involved, too. How to treat cotton was a big one."

"Why was that big?"

"It was big because it was both big business and new. Something called the cotton gin had just been invented by Eli Whitney in 1793 and it was spreading around."

Kansas interrupts, "His wasn't the first, but it was the first mechanical one."

"Yeah, and it worked a whole lot better. So much better that growing cotton got real profitable. It was replacing wool as a standard fabric."

"A big change, indeed. So... what does this have to do with the Civil War?"

"Well, according to some of the things I read, the people of the Northern States wanted the South to sell cotton just to them. And the Southern states people wanted to sell it to the whole world, France and England in particular."

"And so..."

"And so this was a pocketbook issue as much as a slavery issue, or maybe even more."

"Interesting... do you have anything else to support this assertion?"

"Yeah. There was a bank panic in 1857. From what I have read these bank panics always scared a lot of people... their money was getting messed with in really bad ways. So, add everyone in the country getting scared about money, to the South getting scared the North would cut them out of lucrative cotton markets... People could do some really crazy shi... er, stuff, and start a war is one of them."

"Nice insight, Troy. This is something you can write up for your paper."

Troy is happy, and so is Kansas.


In his geography class, the topic is the Suez Canal.

"Today we are going to do two things: Simulate operating the canal and simulate planning to build an enlargement of the canal so it can carry more ships."

Troy and the other students get deep into zombie mode as they use the on-line canal simulator to schedule ship traffic and see if they can improve throughput. Once they get the hang of the scheduling, they use that insight to add input to the canal enlargement planner to design ways of increasing the canal capability at low cost.

By the time they are finished, the afternoon is half gone, and it is time for athletics.


Troy is happy to move from brain building to body building. He is walking down the main school hall headed to the locker room to get ready for soccer, when he sees Kathy Denitch. Nowadays when he sees her he gets a new feeling, something he hasn't felt before. He is feeling like she is a pretty girl. Just a year ago girls were irrelevant to his life and the romance he saw in movies was icky stuff. But his body is changing, and his thinking is too.

"She's cute." he whispers to himself, and Ace-432, his cyber muse who constantly listens in on his communicator, picks up the whisper.

"Do you want to talk with her?" Ace asks back.

"No!" Troy quickly whispers back, "She's a girl, and I don't have any projects with her."

Ace has nothing to say to that, and Troy goes on to his practice.


At soccer practice he spends most of the time exercising. He'd love to be playing, but Coach Katzin says building his body is the best way to spend his time on the field -- he can play the game at home using his avatar suit. They will play in real life on a real soccer field for the two days before they have a game with another school.

The end of the athletics, and the school day, comes. He showers and then takes a driverless taxi home.


When he gets home his two-year older brother, Paris, is there, in his avatar suit, in his room. Troy heads for his own room. Once there, he unlimbers his avatar suit and starts playing soccer, mostly to ease his mind. As usual, school has been a busy, hard-thinking day.


After some vigorous soccer playing it is dinner time. Troy heads down to the living room where he joins Mom, Dad and Paris at the dining table. They spend a lot of time eating, a lot of time in zombie mode, and a little time talking with each other.

"What did you study in school today, Troy?" asks Mom.

"We made a seesaw." he answers as he pops out of zombie mode.

"What did you learn?" asks Dad.

"We learned about composite materials. We made our board a fifth of the original weight by using a foam core."

"Neat stuff." says Dad, "Knowing that kind of thing will come in handy."

"And we studied the Civil War. Kansas said I was very insightful."

"That's high praise coming from him." says Mom.

"I just saw a good show on the Civil War." says Paris, "It's here." and he sends over to Troy's communicator the link.

"Thanks." says Troy, "I'll catch it later."


After dinner Troy goes back to his room and works on his secret project: He is building an insect-size flying drone with a camera. When it is finished he will send it over to land in a tree outside Kathy Denitch's bedroom window -- he may be shy about talking to her face-to-face, but that doesn't mean he doesn't want to see more of her!

He mixes the parts for this in with other school projects he makes on the home 3D printer. His parents and Paris think these parts are just more homework.


The drone is finished, and tested. Troy has flown it around the backyard, landed in the tree outside his room, and peered into his window with it. "Most excellent." he mutters as he looks through his viewer. He checks the time. It is late, but perfect for a quick scouting trip to Kathy's house.

He flies it over, and gets it landed on the third try. It peers into her window. She is in zombie mode. First she is talking with friends, then she says bye and starts watching something with a lot of concentration.

"I wonder what she's looking at?" mutters Troy.

"I can check." says Ace. A moment later he says, "She's watching you play soccer at the last school game."

"You lie!" says Troy.

"Well... yes." says Ace, "But she does play with you in avatar games. And she does pay attention when you walk by her in school."


"Really. You two really should say hi."

"Hmm... OK, I'll do that tomorrow."

He flies the drone back home and goes to bed. It has been a really good day, and he has sweet, sweet dreams about tomorrow.



--The End--