Aeronautics 101

Universities like to offer a rounded education. As a result, students are required to select a certain number of courses from various categories as part of their major. The problem is that picking university courses is a little like online dating; you get a headline and brief description before signing up and hoping for the best. Enter physics for non-scientists. At first glance, this seemed like it would be a promising course. I like science but am not what one could call a science person and definitely did not have the background for any intense science courses, so it sounded like the perfect match to fulfill this particular category requirement…Boy, was I wrong!

The first couple of months were spent trying to keep my head above water, which I managed to do well enough, and then came the group work. In a class of 200+ students, finding someone to team up with was a basically trying to find a needle in a haystack. Sure there seemed to be many options, but most people had signed up with friends, and those of us who hadn’t were left to try and convince others to work harmoneously with a total stranger (did I mention university courses are similar to online dating?).

If I’m being honest, the team dynamics of my group were not the best . Most of the time, they were late to meetings, blew off group responsibilities, or just couldn’t care less about putting in any significant effort. One time I had been waiting outside their residence building for half an hour before the slightly more responsible one of the two came tearing around the corner at a flat run. The other team member had decided to blow off yet another meeting, this time without informing me or telling the other guy that he hadn’t and that I would be there expecting to do group work.

I spent the next 5 minutes listening to excuses of why their portion of the assignment wasn’t done (a typical conversation between us). After waiting around for so long, and after rearranging my day to accommodate them, I had started to reach my limit. Luckily, all it took was a deep breath followed by me saying, “Here’s my problem,” before the poor guy left defending his slacker friend went into full panic mode and started quickly making assurances that the work would be done by the end of the week….and I didn’t even have to finish my sentence!

After this, things did start to get better (if only slightly) just in time for our end-of-term project. The project was really more of a gift before the holiday break. I hadn’t realized this was what the professor was doing until I was reading the brief to my dad, and he pointed out that they were talking about making paper planes. It turned out to be a pretty fun project. I took great joy in the multiple prototypes that were made, each one improving on the previous version until we ended up with the pinnacle of paper plane perfection. 

On presentation day, we happened to follow another group who had also gone with the plane option. Their main argument was that pointy ones work better than anything else simply because they were pointy. I almost felt bad for them since we completely demolished them with our presentation and superior product (which was a non-pointed feat of engineering).

The real beauty of this project came after the presentation was done. My dad and I lived on the 6th floor of an apartment building and decided that we would release the plane into the wild by tossing it off the balcony. The aircraft immediately shot upwards and out of sight, which was a bit of a disappointment…until it came back. After a good five minutes and after we had written off the balcony experiment as a wash, we looked out the patio door, and there it was, hovering in mid-air like a scene from a spy thriller movie before flying straight back into the apartment.

So you see, whether you are a paper plane who has been cast away, or a fed-up member of a group whose members insist on jerking you around, sometimes you just have to put your foot down and show them whose boss.


3 thoughts on “Aeronautics 101

  1. Thank you for sharing a very interesting post, Brie. You make a good point how a title of a course may be misleading. I also found it challenging to work with total strangers. Work ethics may differ. Excuses already make my skin crawl. I love how you brought this story full circle. Truly….full circle.


  2. I recall sitting bored in geography one day in high school and making paper planes and throwing them out the window to fly. It went well until they began coming back in again… oops.


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