The quiet brains

Ever been to the mall?

Course you have. You’ve parked, walked inside, made a b-line for that one item you had to go to the mall for – a video game you couldn’t find on Amazon or a new pair of jeans – and left. The end.

But have you ever listened to the traffic, the voices in the crowd as you walked?

Again, course you have. That’s why you hate the mall. You’re 30 now. Ancient. The opus of shrieking teenagers that live there is the Eighth Circle of Hell, a soundtrack the military could use to interrogate terror suspects. Half your life ago, you were part of that tidal wave. You yelled and thought you were hilarious and couldn’t understand why the 30-year-old Medicare recipients were throwing holy water in your direction.

Now you get it. And from where you’re sitting, it’s gotten worse.

These creatures have new weapons now. These are the 2.0 cyborg models. Smartphones, tablets, $100 dubstep-cranking headphones and Nintendo 3DSes are attached to their flesh. Think Robocop minus the lethal force and pensive quiet and well-constructed, concise sentences.

Yes, you’re one of those “Ugh, kids” people now.


But you shrug it off. You’re fine. Because guess what? You have proof of a different, more focused youth, ones that, unlike their counterparts, aren’t slowly evolving into robots. Instead, they build their own.

Yes, this team of kids from St. Mary’s School – aptly named the Argonauts after the shipbuilder Argus – is the reason you can shrug the rest of the mall crowd off.

They’re hard to spot, kids like these, but that’s only because they’re too busy thinking to scream. They’re thinking about a smartphone app that could tap into the wireless emergency alert system and warn coastal dwellers of an incoming tsunami. That idea netted them first place in the project research division of Oregon’s 2014 FIRST Lego Robotics competition.

Yes, first. Out of 120 teams.

Additionally, they’re thinking about the life they’re breathing into machines made from servos and Legos while writing hundreds of lines of code.

Oh, and they have to get along while doing it. Picture that: a group of smart, inventive people making the conscious choice to collaborate instead of adopting the more adult “us-versus-them” mentality. You know, the mindset that’s turned this country into a war zone.

Argonauts coach Catherine Dauterman may have put it best: “They have to really consciously think about what it means to work on a team, how to be good team members. How to support each other, work together, find solutions on their own.”

So while the overwhelming mall mass of kids – the one you’re admittedly being a little unfair to, because, come on, they’re kids – is likely causing problems, the Argonauts, the builders…they’re solving problems.

And they’re doing it all with grace and curiosity, ever inquisitive about what’s next.

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  • Blog Author

    Ryan Pfeil

    This is a blog for southern Oregonians to check in on all things geek. Sci-fi, history, comics, movies, video/photo and anything else that would have gotten you shut in a locker in high school. Have fun. Read Full
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