California loses the science fair

January 16, 2010 1:16 pm

So I stumped across this article on Hacker News titled “Science project prompts SD school evacuation“.  This is why the US can’t produce enough good engineers.  Read this and tell me if you aren’t pissed off at the American educational system.

Students were evacuated from Millennial Tech Magnet Middle School in the Chollas View neighborhood Friday afternoon after an 11-year-old student brought a personal science project that he had been making at home to school, authorities said.

Maurice Luque, spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, said the student had been making the device in his home garage. A vice principal saw the student showing it to other students at school about 11:40 a.m. Friday and was concerned that it might be harmful, and San Diego police were notified.

I have a couple of questions:

  1. If you are the vice principal at a school that calls yourself a “Tech” magnet school, shouldn’t you be able to tell if something is a bomb or a science fair project
  2. If you are a teacher at a “Tech” magnet school, shouldn’t you have some technical aptitude and understand a project a kid puts together?  I mean maybe not a high school student, they’re wicked smart, but at least an 11 year-old!
  3. Can the USA as a whole realize that everything with a wire sticking out of it isn’t a bomb?  I’d imagine most people that create bombs don’t leave the wires hanging out…

When police and the Metro Arson Strike Team responded, they also found electrical components in the student’s backpack, Luque said. After talking to the student, it was decided about 1 p.m. to evacuate the school as a precaution while the item was examined. Students were escorted to a nearby playing field, and parents were called and told they could come pick up their children.

A MAST robot took pictures of the device and X-rays were evaluated. About 3 p.m., the device was determined to be harmless, Luque said.

I have a couple more questions:

  1. Shouldn’t the bomb squad be able to look at a 11 year-old’s science fair project and realize its not a bomb in about 30 seconds?
  2. Do you need to take an X-ray of a kids project?  I’m willing to bet that as a science fair veteran I could diagnose what it is in a few minutes.

Both the student and his parents were “very cooperative” with authorities, Luque said. He said fire officials also went to the student’s home and checked the garage to make sure items there were neither harmful nor explosive.

So even after they decide the kid didn’t build anything dangerous, they go do search his parents garage?  Really?  C’mon California, your state is ridiculously in-debt, in fact it costs more to insure a California municipal bond than a Kazakh bond.  Yes, that Kazakhstan, the Borat one…  Try wasting less money investigating science projects and maybe you wont be in quite as bad fiscal shape.

The student will not be prosecuted, but authorities were recommending that he and his parents get counseling, the spokesman said. The student violated school policies, but there was no criminal intent, Luque said.

This is the part of the story that really pisses me off.  They aren’t going to prosecute the kid and recommend he gets counseling?  Maybe they should pay for him to go to a better school where he can build devices like this and not get the police called on him.  I mean isn’t this what we need in America?  I personally think kids should be rewarded for showing some engineering curiosity.

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