Toys That Make Science Fun: The Solar Airship Soars to New Heights
With the beat of Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me With Science" blasting in the background I eagerly opened each of the three science projects I was assigned to review. Technically, my two sons were probably supposed to be present. But being the cautious parent that I am, I decided to try them out first sans kids. Besides, the boys wouldn't be home for several hours and the Solar Airship I got from Wild Creations looked like way too much fun to wait for school to get out.
Upon opening the box I discovered what was a long (26 feet!) black garbage bag. Definitely too thin to be one of the sturdy name-brand bags, but most certainly garbage baggish (my word, not Mr. Webster's). The premise is that when taken outside and inflated with air, the sun heats the trapped air, causing the Airship to rise. The instructions were simple, and warned that "pylons, substations, cables, roads, railways, trees and buildings" were to be avoided. Examples of ideal launch sites included a sandy beach or a recently mowed lawn (recently mowed?).
Living in a sub-arctic region like I do there was nary a sandy beach to be found, and my recently mowed lawn (a relative term if ever there was one) was buried under three feet of snow. So naturally I put on some socks to wear with my sandals and stumbled out the back door onto the frozen tundra that just weeks before had been a lush green (and recently mowed) lawn. Because the plastic was extremely thin (12 microns), the instructions said the launch site must be clear of all obstacles. I did a quick scan of the surrounding area—Trampoline? Securely buried under the snow. Patio furniture? Also buried. Pylons? My wife is afraid of snakes. Cables, roads, and railways? None. I was good to go.
I unfolded the entire length of plastic, and then sealed one end with the included zip tie. Next I was to fill the ship with air by holding the remaining end open and running a short distance. The instructions showed a father and son gently waltzing through the park, pulling the sheet of plastic behind as it quickly filled with air. In keeping with my life theme of making even the simplist of tasks difficult I decided to do precisely as they had done, but while running backwards to make sure the airship was properly inflating. It was during this process that I was suddenly attacked by a giant black crow causing me to crash to the ground, followed by the magnificent airship crumpling on top of me. Okay, it wasn't a crow. The severe temperatures caused me to forget that our backyard was terraced, and I had just fallen from one of the tallest points, landing on something buried in the snow.
With my pride dented, but not demolished, I quickly surveyed the perimeter of the yard to make sure none of the neighbors had seen what had occurred. Having learned from my therapist that holding anger inside can be damaging, I gave a swift kick to the obstacle I had landed on, thereby releasing negative pent up feelings into the universe. Immediately after that kick that however, I was reminded that I was wearing only open-toed sandals (albeit with socks), and the obstruction turned out to be the business end of a wheelbarrow loaded with stones I had intended to discard before the seasons changed.
Limping and with the beginning signs of hypothermia setting in, I began the process of laying out the 26 feet of plastic once again. But as the air began to fill the chamber I discovered the airship had suffered damage during the accident as well (Oh, the humanity!). It had snagged on something during the fall (most likely a pylon) and several tears had occurred as a result. Thankfully, due to the miracle of duct tape, I was only momentarily delayed. It might not have looked pretty, but within a few moments the tears were repaired and the airship took to the sky—and it was amazing!
The solar airship was everything I had hoped it would be. Simple, fun, and even educational. I was definitely impressed and quickly phoned my wife and told her to look outside to behold the magnificent black tube now soaring through the airspace of our frozen backyard. She slowly came to the window, poked her head outside, and said, "Is that all it does?" Hmmph! Haters gonna hate. No matter what she says, this is an awesome product.
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