Monday, July 03, 2006

One Time At Physics Camp

My wife and I have been empty nesters for this past week. Last Sunday morning we put our son on a plane to California. As dedicated readers of this blog know, our family does a lot of traveling, so he is no stranger to airplane travel. Starting when he was about five, my mom or dad would fly up in the summer and escort him back to Florida for a few weeks with them. As he got older, we got comfortable booking a direct flight between Baltimore and Florida and putting him on the plane at one end knowing my folks would pick him up at the other end. He has also flown with us plenty to places like California, France, and Vietnam.

A few summers ago, we made the mistake of visiting the Stanford campus (remember, I like to visit colleges and bookstores on vacation) and took the campus tour. My son liked this whole techie-fuzzie metaphor they spieled, and there is something impressive about standing on a corner where the Gates Computer Science Building is across the street from the William R. Hewlett Teaching Center. He took a liking to the campus and the alleged laid-back California lifestyle and added Stanford to his college wishlist.

This year he took the PSAT which gets him on the mailing list to every college in the country. Many of these colleges also run summer programs for high school students. When Stanford e-mailed him an application for a summer enrichment program, our son expressed an interest, especially since one of the courses was in relativity and physics was his favorite course this year.

The application was fairly involved, requiring essays, transcripts, and recommendations. We told him that if he could get the packet together with a minimum amount of nagging on our part, and he was accepted, we would think about it. Well, he and Stanford both called our bluff and we agreed to send him.

That leads us to getting him out there. There are no direct flights to San Francisco from Baltimore, so we booked a flight with a connection in Columbus and a one-hour layover. When we arrived at the airport bright and early at 5 am to check his luggage, I got real nervous when the e-ticket machine kept telling us to see an agent. It seems the first leg of his flight was delayed several hours and they had to rebook him through Newark. The new itinerary only gave him 15 minutes to switch gates for his connection.

Fortunately in this world of cell phones, we are able to maintain contact across the country. We told him to call us when he was on the plane in Newark and when he was on the bus to Stanford. In the meantime we called the summer program and let them know about the change in flights. We got both calls and know he arrived safely. My wife wants daily phone calls or e-mails from him, but I don’t know how often that will happen. One night he called us from the middle of a game of four square to say he couldn't talk long because it was his turn. That is truly clever passive-aggressive behavior.

Physics Camp lasts for three weeks, which is three weeks he won’t spend in the den slack-jawed playing Warcraft and downloading anime. I think it will be a good experience and hopefully keep him focused on academic goals for the next two years.

We only bought him a one-way ticket. We plan to pick him up on our cross-country road-trip. More about that soon.


Anonymous said...

Nice job following up the "one-time at physics camp" bit with a picture of the universe's most phallic building.

I'm biased as a former UC Berkeley student (grad, and drop-out, so it's not like I'm that emotionally invested, but still), and I only visited the campus a couple times, but I thought it had a weird vibe. Lots of low-slung buildings surrounded by vast expanses of open space and you had to drive to get anywhere. Call me prejudiced, but a college campus should be pedestrian-oriented. Did I just not really wander to the right places?

HRH Courtney, Queen of Everything said...

Physics camp. Awesome.

Your Mother said...

sounds excellent! Good luck on the road trip too. Travel safe.

Impetua said...

(Remembering my summers spent watching cable tv while picking at my toenails, wishing something interesting would happen which never did) You guys are the best parents ever. I can only aspire to your greatness. I hope your son appreciates you, if not now, then eventually, when he realizes that a lot of kids' parents wouldn't even think of sending them to any camp, let alone one at Stanford.

Anonymous said...

I did a summer program at Cornell U when I was a sophomore in high school. It was a really great experience, actually.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

I wonder if your son plays my son on Warcraft? That's all likes to do.

Heh, "slack-jawed" - perfect description.

Anonymous said...

I just typed in physics camp and found you. My son is 14 and loves physics, I'm trying to figure out what the next steps are. He's homeschooling because the school I put him in was less than impressive. We have a physics camp downtown here in Utah but only summers I believe. One of my other boys went to it and loved it so this one will go to...
MAYBE. This one is not comfortable with other people but, more than that, we can't wait until summer! I don't know what a good step is for him after introductory physics, he's just now taking algebra. He needs more than a textbook or course, he needs a lab. We're in a rental townhouse so he doesn't even have a yard right now to do his experiments, something he considers a major drawback in life. Just rambling as I try to figure out how to make sure he gets the opportunities he needs.

Silas said...

It can't work as a matter of fact, that's what I suppose.
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