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August 4, 2016

Eureka!!! -Chris Cohoon ’16, TLAD

by chriscohoon

Eurecka!!!  Louis Pasteur forgot to close the window to his laboratory and discovered penicillin.  The pacemaker was invented when Wilson Greatbatch was working on a heart monitoring device and pulled out the wrong resistor.  And the new, hybrid, paddle-board hull was created during a serendipitous moment in a buoyancy testing session.


Our high school class gathered to discuss the scale models for their paddle board designs.  Most students created 1/10th scale prototypes while one group went with a 1/5th size.  As we talked about how the features of each form would affect the performance of the board, we decided to conduct a test in water.  The tide was out, which allowed us to find just the right tidal pool in which to conduct our tests.  Everyone set their boards in the water and weighted them with water bottles.  We knelt around our test-pool, pushing foam boards around and discussing how each reacts uniquely, but none contained just the right combination of qualities we were looking for.  The flat boards were less likely to tip but were more difficult to propel.  The v-shaped hull cut through the water but was easily tipped.


Shaping the stringer (central wooden board) to initiate the building phase!

When the focus shifted from observation to the discussion, the kinesthetic students started playing with the boards like little kids playing with toy boats during bath time.  One of the small v-shaped boards got lodged underneath the large flat-bottom board.  Someone picked it up and said, “What if we align the small board down the center and see what it does?”  Held by water tension, the boards stuck together.  They placed the new design back in the water, gave it a shove, and EUREKA!  We found the attributes we had been looking for, all along!  Suddenly, a new energy and excitement came over the group and we spent the next two hours spooling up for the full-scale prototype.While the high school class continues to rock the design process, the marine class has been less successful.  Work and duty schedules, island-wide travel restrictions for military personnel, and constrictive communication channels on base continue to inhibit young marines’ participation.   Each week a new combination of students shows up, which makes continuity difficult to maintain.  As I have pondered this development, I’ve wondered how to work around it.  Rather than an eight-week program, one or two multiple-day intensive sessions might work better.  If the program were to go all day over the weekend, and then during the next two evenings during the week day, scheduling may be more manageable.  It is difficult to say for sure without trying it.  A leader who is here long-term also has the advantage to scheduling sessions throughout the year.  Although attendance is unpredictable, good conversations continue each week, and we all continue to learn from one another.



Hank, and Airman, uses a broom to “paddle” as he checks out the size and shape of the adult class’ board

During some of my down time, I have been able to enjoy the island and local culture.  Last week, I received news that a friend would be on island.  I met him during a random pit-stop in Iowa, while on a road trip in 2003.  Two or three years later, we randomly ran into one another, again, in Mainz, Germany.  This time around, I heard through mutual friends that he was coming to Okinawa for a meeting.  We caught up over Japanese curry for lunch, where I discovered that he collects pottery.  I took him up to meet my good friend, Mitsunari Miyagi, who generously gave us a tour of his studio and 40 year old family kiln.


Miyagi-san is a master potter and long-time friend.  This awamori (Okinawan sake) flask displays his crab design, for which he’s well known. 

Miyagi-san is a traditional master potter.  His grandfather was designated as a national living treasure for helping to save the traditional craft after WW II.  When I previously lived in Okinawa, Miyagi-san was my neighbor.  Even though we spoke very little of one another’s language, we grew to be good friends through art, baseball, and cooking (he’s a fan of bratwurst).  One of my dreams is to open a gallery to show and sell the incredible pottery that Miyagi-san and other Okinawan artisans produce.


More of Miyagi-san’s amazing work in his studio

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