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Xellers

  • Date JoinedFeb 12, 2007
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kelseymh3 years ago
Given your latest I'ble, I've got to ask, so what's your degree in? I can see both physics and EE influences, but some of your past Questions (see above), seem much more physics oriented.
Xellers (author)  kelseymh3 years ago
Unfortunately, I don't have a degree yet =(... I'm still stuck in high school (just turned 16, actually), but I'm a little bit ahead in math and science.

My interest in physics started when I took physics B the summer following 8th grade and chemistry as a high school  freshman. I became fascinated with quantum mechanics and my teacher recommended I read Hameka's Introduction to Quantum Theory (where one of my questions came from, can you guess which? ;). Although I didn't manage to get through the whole book, I got far enough to write this program that numerically solves Schrodinger's equation for my programming final project that year (perhaps it would make for a good instructable too?).

The year after that (this past year), I took physics C mechanics and E&M at school (something that I was sadly not allowed to as a freshman) and multivariable calculus and linear algebra through Harvard Extension. It was lots of fun and got me even more interested in physics.

It's a real shame that I only get to spend one or two days a week devoting myself to the classes that I love and am motivated to do well in, while the rest of the time I need to bore myself to death sitting in high school English or "wellness education" classrooms where memorization of lecture notes and readings is given priority over conceptual understanding and problem solving ability. Don't get me wrong, these are useful skills too, and everyone has to take English at some point, but I think I'd rather spend more time pursuing the subjects that interest me and will shape my life in the future rather than those that I have to take just for the sake of completing.

There's also the issue of the atmosphere in high school. When I go to Harvard to take a math class, the professor treats the students as more or less equals with whom he is willing to rationally solve problems with and talk to on more or less an even ground. It's OK if you need to step out of the lecture hall to go to the bathroom once in a while, you're responsible enough not to cause trouble, and you certainly don't need to raise your hand to ask permission and get a "bathroom pass". Similarly, the TA, a Harvard student, regularly corresponded with us, the students, via email and was always friendly, polite, and willing to answer questions. On the other hand, in high school, teachers, and especially office administrators, condescend towards students by default and bark orders like military commanders. When you're in college, you're treated like someone who is worth talking to and worth listening to, but when you're in high school, you're automatically assumed to be some sort of teenage hooligan-troublemaker who needs to be babysat and yelled at. I'll admit that there are some outliers who do fall into that category, but it doesn't justify the general attitude of teachers towards students.

I could go on about this for days, and I've got dozens of stories, so I'll save it for another time =)

My background in EE comes probably from years of devoted tinkering, disassembling, trash picking, and scouring the internet for ideas. I've never taken any sort of formal electrical engineering course (although I'm signed up and very excited for "Analog Circuit Design" at Harvard Extension this coming semester). It started with computers in 7th grade, turned into radios and vacuum tubes in 8th grade, and then shifted to Tesla coils and high voltage towards high school. Unfortunately, my school teachers never really seemed interested in my projects, so I got help here and on 4hv.org. I did manage to demonstrate one of my audio modulated SSTCs and one of my SGTCs at school for my physics final project, which was met with general approval =)

After reading about Fred Niell's projects years ago on his website, it's been my dream to build my own particle accelerator, and I think the work I did for my latest instructable brings me one step closer to this goal.
That's quite a lot of information :-) I suspect you're going to be a little bored and frustrated for the next five or six years, until you get into graduate school. It is really awesome that you're in a school where you have access to outside classes, including being able to take college/university courses during the term. I got to do that my last two years of high school, and it was a great experience.

You make several good points, but there is a "bigger picture" that might help you to understand (not like, of course) why you're encountering some of the issues you are. First off, you are clearly many sigma away from the mean (as I was too, thirty years ago :-/).
You are not going to be challenged by, or happy with, an educational system which is necessarily designed to handle the majority of students.

High schools are overstretched. Even the best schools in the safest neighborhoods have more students, fewer teachers, and less funding than they were designed for, or than they can use most effectively. The teachers and administrators don't have the time or resources to cater to your individual needs effectively. What's more, if they did try to make special exceptions for you, then all the other "average" students (and those students' "average" parents) would question why you were getting special treatment, and why they weren't. That doesn't make for a happy school, or for happy school board meetings.

Why do you need to take all those "boring," "useless" classes? Everyone needs a broad, basic skill set and background knowledge in order to be successful in the world. You don't know what you might be doing, whether for a career or just to make ends meet, in five or ten or twenty years. Having a good grounding in language use, health, mathematics (for those who aren't like you) will give you a bigger toolkit, and more opportunity to make choices.

As for the English classes, the primary job of a scientist is to communicate. If you can't write proper English, you won't be able to produce a thesis, you won't be able to produce a publishable research paper, you won't be able to write a successful grant proposal to get funding for your research. The math, the science, the ability to ask good questions is critical, but so is the ability to use language effectively to explain to others what you have been doing.

The bottom line? Don't give up. If you can suffer through the next year or two of high school, then you can get into university and start to do more of what you really want to do (you will still have required courses, for all the same reasons!). If you get fed up and bail, it will be extremely difficult for you to find a college that will accept you without a high school diploma.

The population is much larger, and the competition is much greater, today than it was half a century or more ago. The basic numbers (high school GPA, SAT or ACT test scores) are used by admissions to reduce the size of the pool to something manageable. They won't even look at the details of your experience or ability, because that cover page didn't make the first cut.

Is that unfair? Yeah, of course it is. But there isn't enough space for everyone, so some kind of filter has to be applied. So the best thing you can do, with respect to the "long view," is make sure that you don't put yourself on the wrong side of that filter.

Blargh. That sucked. I sound exactly like a guidance counselor, don't I? :-(
ewilhelm7 years ago
Thanks for sharing your project, and welcome to Instructables!

Let me know if you have any questions.

You've probably already found your way around, but in case you haven't see these, here's a guided tour of Instructables and an Instructable for making Instructables.