10 points if you can name where this video was taken before reading the rest of this post:
Yesterday was the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby. Egan is in Pack 274 in South Berkeley/North Oakland. Because our neighborhood sits atop the sinuous Berkeley/Oakland city lines, we love the community we are developing among kids who don’t go to school with Egan, but yet live just a block or two away. As you can see from the above video, judging which car comes in first through fourth in each of the numerous heats is a task requiring years of developing your meditation talents in order to truly clear your mind and focus only on the finish line. Luckily our pack leader Alison Wellsfry has developed her laser focus and more importantly her eyes in order to have earned our complete trust. For each heat there are 3 judges, Alison calls the finish while one parent verifies the 1st and 2nd place cars and a second parent verifies the 3rd and 4th place cars. There are winners among the Tiger, Bear and Webelo Scouts and then championship heats between the winners of each. By the time we got to the championship heats, there was VERY little difference among the speeds of each car. A kid suggested filming the finish using the slow-mo feature on the iPhone. Check this out:
Since we used only eyeball judging for the rest of the races, we didn’t rely on the slow-mo video. The real story here is that although I’m sure there were some adults in the room who knew that the iPhone has a slow-mo feature for taking videos, it was a 7-year-old who thought to use it. I actually had no idea that filming in slow-mo was as simple as pressing a button while filming. It didn’t occur to me to use it, but I would have assumed that was only a feature you could use while editing in iMovie, not live, in the moment.
But what this really makes me think about is how rarely we encourage our kids to use technology to IMPROVE upon what we are doing without it. Kids practice skills like shooting times tables as they fall from a pixelated sky, playing chess against an opponent with infinite patience, or watching a show while the babysitter puts their younger sibling to bed. But what if we offered screen time as a way for our kids to improve upon what they’re trying to do without it? Or we handed over the iPad with the caveat that they have to create something new with it instead of it being a passive endeavor?
What so excited me about a Tiger Scout suggesting that using slow-mo video would help us judge was that it later led to a debate among us about where the ideal placement of the video camera would be. Why are photo-finishes never filmed with aerial footage? Since I held my phone above the track, but not perfectly perpendicular to the finish line, were my results slightly askew and not accurate? Should I have laid on the ground and held my phone vertically at the finish line instead of holding it aerially? Egan was excited to figure out the best way to film it and at some point we’ll probably investigate. He’s not-so-secretly hoping that we’ll clean out the garage so we can offer to store the Pinewood Derby track at out house and have year-round trials to determine the best camera-placement in addition to him having year-round access to testing out the speed of different construction ideas for his next car. He’s got about 12 bikes, 4 pairs of skis, a bike trailer, a major beer brewing setup, and a lawn mower to contend with before that wish comes true. He came in second of all the Tiger Scouts and advanced into the finals against the older kids. He’s proud, but already planning for next year.