It's strange. When you're young - and I see myself doing this when I look at the folks I teach and tutor - your value is in your potential; not what you do, or what you are, but what you could become. How much of the world is open to you? What's the best you could reach? When you're young, nothing's impossible; you just haven't tried a lot of things that are possible yet. You don't know.

When you're older, glorious amounts of future potential don't appear by default, because you've gone down some of those paths and found that they don't work for you. Some doors close. Deeper doors open. Your potential and worth stands more on what you've done, because that's an indication of what you could do in the future. I might be listening to my father too much, but I get the impression that many people look down upon dabblers past a certain age, because if you've got a track record of mini-hacks in lots of subjects, it bodes ill for you settling down to work on whatever they're interested in having you work in. But if you're young, that's ok. You just haven't seen the world yet, and you don't know what you can be interested in.

Incidentally, I'm often jealous of my classmates who seem like they've got that focus. They know where they want to go. Grad school in this! Research in that! You can see them narrowing down on something and getting ridiculously good at it, be it cell biology, robotics, webdesign, or python. All the doors down that path are open to them. They can skyrocket as far as they want. They've got clear skies for the rest of their lives if they want it.

I'm nineteen now, and I feel like I'm getting too close to the border of "respectable dabbling age." I want to hack at thousands of things for the rest of my life, but I feel like I've got to make that "respectable" somehow. This is why I'd like to work for a product design firm for at least a number of years; I have a vision of it as a happy intellectual playground where I can do a million things, one at a time, one after another. Need to find out if that's really the case, though. I don't want a dream that doesn't correspond to reality. I'm looking forward to IDEO's visit to Olin tonight. I also need to find what else is out there in the world. I don't know what I want to do when I grow up because I don't ever plan on growing up, so I need to find what there is out there for a Very Big Kid to do.

I promised Tim I'd purge some thoughts on the AHS capstone out on this blog. As I understand it, AHScap is about making or doing something AHSlike that's an indication of a fair amount of mastery in the AHS field(s) of your choice.

My AHS capstone is in a bit of a pickle, as it's cross-disciplinary, multi-semester, mushed-in with NINJAing and OSS, and in something I haven't taken any classes in. (I tend to be an idiot and not do things the easy way.) In a nutshell, if it all works out, I'm going to help Gill and Brian compile the ECS textbook and lab manual. I hope.

I claim this draws on art and graphic design (because someone's got to do diagrams and photograph labs and layout the book, right?) which I've got lots of informal experience in but only Seeing and Hearing on my actual transcript for, and also education, which I've got lots of TAing experience in but no classes whatsoever for, even if I've been reading a fair number of textbooks on educational theory since high school. I'm doing an OSS during the first semester of next year to make up for that and learn the things that will give me "formal background" in those two disciplines, the education one in particular; the actual AHScap will start in the spring. Gill and Brian (even if they're the people I'll be working directly under) can't be my advisors, because they are not AHS people. So I need a design/art advisor and an education advisor in addition to Gill and Brian, which brings me to a total of 4 mentors thus far.

It's an interesting situation. I know this is what you get for trying to build a plane while flying it, but I think it'll work out, and it's all part of the fun. I'm doing AHS cap prep right now in an attempt to get this cleared up before next year, so I'm learning about the process (which seems wonderfully self-defined) as I go along, but there are still a few things I'd like to find out.

  1. Absolute expectations. There's nothing more frustrating than a vague homework assignment that has an explicit rubric behind it that the teachers don't tell you. If something's open-ended, it should be clear that it's open-ended, and it should actually be open-ended. If something has restrictions, those should be listed as well. I'm still not clear on the AHS capstone restrictions, though I have some thoughts on what those should be.
    (Seniors, what are your perceptions on the current "rubric" for AHScap? What makes a "good" one? What "should" we do?)
  2. Current time breakdowns for students and faculty, especially faculty. There's buzz that faculty spend so much time on AHS capstone advising - what is that time spent on? I'd like to ask a few faculty to post their AHS capstone timesheets so we can see if there's something that can be done to make that more efficient.
  3. Seniors, if you were going to email yourself at the start of your AHScap semester, what would you say? What didn't they tell you or what didn't you know that would have made life much better?