Mr. Chase, the director of the GEARS robotics programs in Granger and Elkhart, picked up a scissors and a long cardboard box wrapped with plastic bands.
“Who would like to do the honors?” he asked.
Nick considered this question for about a millisecond and then raised his hand, well before either of the other boys moved.
“All right,” Mr. Chase said. “Come and get it!”
“You have to be faster,” one of the moms said to her son, who watched Nick with envy as he carefully snipped the plastic bands and opened the long box. He began to lift out the bags of LEGO’s, labeled with numbers that corresponded to instruction packets.
It was last Thursday night. I had taken Nick to the first night of Lego Robotics. We watched a video about the program. The three young students began to yawn as Mr. Chase explained that there is more to being on a robotics team than playing with LEGO’s.
After an hour of introduction, we headed into the yellow room. The walls of the room are giant blocks that can actually be taken out and rearranged. The boys had visibly brightened as we entered the room, just before Mr. Chase pulled out the box and scissors.
With the LEGO’s unpacked, each of the boys sat down with a section of instructions and a Lego set. Nick opened his bags of LEGO’s, arranged them with a practiced eye, glanced at the first page of instructions, and took off like a well-oiled machine. Using both hands, he assembled piece after piece with a speed that I am quite certain I could not have approached. At one point I unluckily pointed to something on the diagram.
“Be sure you get this little piece,” I said.
“I already got it,” he said.
Oops. Apparently he snapped that in while I was blinking. I decided that the most helpful thing I could do was stay out of the way.
What kills me is that Nick is slow in almost everything he does. He talks slowly. He picks cucumbers slowly. He reads slowly. He gets special assistance at school. He spaces out so badly that recently I’ve been snowed under helping him with school assignments that he, for whatever reason, hadn’t turned in on time.
I’m not sure that I have ever seen anyone transform like Nick with the LEGO set.
After a time, Mr. Chase swung in and glanced at him.
“A two-handed builder!” he said. “A professional!”
Later he came by again.
“He’s a machine,” he said. “I’ll go get the crane for you. I think you would enjoy that.”
The crane was a hard piece to put together, and the child who had assembled one earlier that day had botched the job. Nick took off with zeal once more. A few times he had to correct a mistake, but he proceeded, undaunted, until the crane was complete and functional.
Last week, I took Nick to an information meeting about the eighth grade class trip next June to Washington D.C. We are in a bit of a quandary about whether we should sign him up, especially since it isn’t clear when his mom will be finished with her things and ready for him to move home. Not everyone in the class goes to D.C., since it is about $1000 per child to sign up.
Unfortunately, he is supposed to sign up by next Friday if he wants to go. The opportunity was also presented last spring, so a number of students signed up then and had a chance to earn money over the summer.
Nick wants to go. He is quite excited about it, even though I told him that if he goes he needs to read books about Washington D.C. first.
“I want to be surprised,” he said.
“You will be,” I said.
A Chance For You To Help
We’ve set up a GoFundMe for Nick to see if there is any interest in helping him go on this trip. We do want him to work for things like this too, and we are considering getting him involved in other fundraisers as well. Nick likes to draw (especially semis, blueprints, and dragons). I haven’t told him about this post, but I know he will be delighted to design a Thank You card for anyone who gives him a gift toward this trip.
If you would like to help Nick go to D.C., please do so before September 13. It will help us decide if we should sign him up by the deadline. If the response is very small, we will keep whatever money is offered in a special education fund for Nick and Dracko for robotics or future educational trips or classes. Dracko is also in robotics, but his is through school and so does not cost like Nick’s does.
Thank you so much!