Why Would I Want to Work With a Team?

Dylan wanted to be an engineer when he was younger.

We bought him every building kit known to man: blocks, train tracks, marble tracks, hydraulic kits, electronics kits and Lego robotics. He built amazing structures with all of them. And when he wasn’t building inside, he was building things outside – mostly “rides” that Shane would be forced to test drive.

Dylan had plans to go to MIT – (“Mom, what’s the best engineering college in the world?”) – and took two engineering classes in middle school. Dylan gave up his engineering dream when he realized it required math and forethought – two things he didn’t enjoy using.

Meanwhile, Shane wanted to be a magician. But after three years of obsession with magic tricks, he suddenly stopped performing, almost overnight. He didn’t turn to anything new, really, but Shane started fiddling with stuff that he found around the house.

At first, he built marble tracks with his friends. Then he built marble tracks with Dylan. Now Shane is building marble tracks every day. They are long, complex, jumping-over-stuff marble tracks. They are combination tracks, sometimes where the marble transfers mid-track to a completely different track. Shane has made tracks that I couldn’t have conceived in my wildest notions. I had no idea marbles could do such things!

Often, the marble tracks fall down, or get knocked over by a dog, or just collapse in mid-build. Shane – who used to give up easily – doesn’t give up. He sighs. Sometimes he complains. But mostly, he just starts over and builds a new track.

I am awestruck by his patience, by his imagination, by the complexities he’s both developed and conquered. Whereas Dylan’s multitude of tracks explored speed and distance, Shane’s tracks tend to favor curves, drops, tricks, and veering up or around before dropping down.

So I said, “Shane, you could actually do something like this for a job when you grow up. You could design roller coasters and then ride them!”

“I like to ride roller coasters,” he said.

“I know – but maybe you could design your own. STEM starts next week.”

Dylan was in STEM for two years, so Shane knows that the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics club is a place to design and build robotics with friends.

“Would you be interested in joining STEM this year?” I asked.

“Not really,” he said, never looking up from his track.

“Are you sure you don’t want to try it? Wouldn’t you like to build a robot with a team?”

“No,” he said. “Why would I want to work with a team? I just like building tracks by myself.”

And that was the end of Shane’s engineering career.

I am looking into American Coaster Enthusiasts instead.

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