Height Matters!

How do you inspire the next generation to take up engineering as a profession?

Well, when there’s a problem you solve it! With whatever materials are at hand. And even if it doesn’t look graceful or artistic (that’s the job of the marketing guys), if it works, you’ve succeeded.

Yesterday we got tired of getting up from whatever we were doing, probably once an hour or more, and going to the bathroom to turn on the light switch. That’s what one needs to do while potty training a youngster too short to reach the light switch. So, problem encountered … solution engineered … problem solved. Sit back down to your book or newspaper.

Ingredients:

  1. Paint stirring stick split lengthwise to make two copies. (One complete stick was too heavy in the first prototype: another useful engineering lesson.)
  2. Small metal document clip. (The larger ones slipped off of the light switch.)
  3. Masking tape. (Even the small document clip could be pulled off the switch by too strong a tug.)
  4. String. (The string not only attaches well to the document clip, but allows the user to push the stick upward to move the switch to the ‘Up’ position. A derivative invention from the original patent!)

Sand the paint stick to remove all burrs. Use only enough tape and string to make the mechanism robust but not too long. Test thoroughly with more than one user (varying the user height across a wide cross-section of potential clients).

And so, now we have a solution which should stay in place until the user is a bit taller and can reach the original switch.

Through careful marketing and an attractive data sheet and brochure, we soothed the concerns of the other members of the household who at first objected to the tape-and-string-and-stick appendage on the light switch. And so we all worked together!