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Letter to the Judges
Hello, my name is Brandon Baker. Ever since I realized my strongest subjects by far are math and science, my life goal has been to become an engineer. While I have yet to decide what specific field of engineering I will pursue, I firmly believe that this is what I want to do with my life. Having said this, when choosing my senior project, I wanted to do something that pushed me to my limits within these areas of study. Also, I wanted to select a project that had never been done before by an Etowah student. After some contemplation, I chose to construct a rustic style grandfather clock.
Due to the fact that I am in AP Literature, I did not have to write a research paper; however, I was still required to write an annotated bibliography. The overall topic I wrote about is the history of timekeeping techniques. While researching, I learned about several techniques that ranged from extremely basic, such as the ancient sun dial, to more complicated ones – atomic clocks, for example. To sum up the majority of my research: accurately keeping time prior to the age of digital clocks was not an easy task. More specifically, the science and arithmetic behind what makes a grandfather clock tick is much more complicated than one might think. Furthermore, at this point in time I knew that creating product would be far from a simple task.
The product that I created for my senior project is a four-foot tall, roughly sixty pound, wooden grandfather clock. This relates back to my annotated bibliography because I learned that, for a long period of time, grandfather clocks were the most convenient way for people to accurately keep time. Throughout the building process, I came across several obstacles. The obstacle that imposed the most difficulty, however, was getting the mechanism (which is the advanced set of gears and levers that makes the clock tick) perfectly in place in the wooden base so that it is in equilibrium. To do this, I had to ensure: that it was perfectly level both vertically and horizontally, that it was “in beat,” that it lined up with the pendulum, etc. After hours of careful adjustments, the longest I could get the clock to run accurately was twenty-five minutes (this was due to the fact that the pieces I was working with were not meant to go together). While this may not seem like a huge accomplishment, one must keep in mind that initially the clock ran for a mere forty-five seconds and the minute and hour hands did not move whatsoever. Henceforth, I am proud of how the finished product turned out.
My topic and research can be related to a variety of different fields, including mechanical engineering, architecture and design, construction work, clockmaking, etc. The main thing that I learned during the completion of this project is that although I am impatient, I am also very perseverant. As soon as I realized that the pieces of the clock were not meant to go with each other, I could have taken the easy way out and purchased a new set that was guaranteed to work. However, I decided against this and continued to work diligently in an effort to make what I had work. After this whole experience, I can say with confidence that I will never pursuit clockmaking as a profession. On a more positive note, though, constructing my product has allowed me to realize even further that I enjoy encountering difficult problems and attempting to solve them through the use of applied mathematics, which is the heart of all engineering.
In conclusion, Senior Project has been an eye-opening experience regarding the difficulty of and effort required to solve large-scale, real-world problems. This is something that grade school does not prepare students for, seeing as how not much actual application is needed. This project has taught me that in order to succeed in life, you must stay open-minded and persevere.