“For a mechanic, you seem to do an incessant amount of thinking.” – C-3PO, Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones
Padawan Learner wants to be an inventor. Maybe I should say PL is an inventor, because he’s been imagining improvements to just about everything that comes his way since he was old enough to declare something “to be when he grows up”. His inventions/improvements are often fantastic (lovely word, that – multiple meanings), frequently push the laws of physics, and sometimes lead to quite interesting discussions – occasionally heated discussions when he feels that Dad Windu and I are just not getting the point.
Once or twice a year, I hear this refrain, “Why am I learning about (insert annoying topic o’the week here)? I’m going to be an inventor.” My answers usually run along these lines:
- Who cares if my spelling isn’t right? Only the people reading your grant proposal.
- Why do I need to learn calculus? Do you think you’ll ever need to calculate things in motion?
- Do I have to learn the metric system? Only if you want people in the scientific community to take you seriously.
- Is good grammar really a big deal? It is only if you want patent clerks and investors to fully understand your invention.
- What’s the point of learning history? You might find a new solution by exploring an old problem.
One of the best things to help stem this tide has been talking about all the different shapes that ‘inventor’ can take. Is a chemist working on a new cholesterol-lowering drug an inventor? Is a biologist who designs a test for resistance to a new pathogen in trout an inventor? Is a writer an inventor? Where is inventing an important part of success in a person’s job – even if they don’t think of themselves as an ‘inventor’? Did you know that Uncle Owen has invented processes and contraptions to further his research? Does that make him an inventor of sorts? Would a person who creates a new computer language be an inventor, a linguist or ‘merely’ a computer programmer?