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Youthful creativity is a gift

Kevin Duggan

One of the knocks against this and other newspapers is we do not write enough stories about the "positive" things young people do.

We're too focused on "negative" things associated with youth, such as crime, substance abuse, ugly haircuts and music that sounds like an industrial accident, critics say.

The complaint goes we don't acknowledge "good kids" who concentrate their considerable energy on helping others and/or pursuing academic excellence.

As a mature veteran of the news biz for nearly 20 years, I can answer those criticisms with a heartfelt, "No way, dude. That is totally lame."

We, as in the news media, do stories about good kids and their good deeds all the time. The thing is, unless your kid is directly involved, you probably don't notice.

This is the way of the world.

Throughout the years my kids have been involved with academic-oriented programs such as Science Olympiad and Odyssey of the Mind.

I've spent many a Saturday hanging around schools that buzzed from the collective brain power of gifted and talented students as they worked out brain-twisting problems I certainly couldn't handle when I was in school.

Heck, I couldn't handle them now. I don't know how to build a robot or a catapult or a balsawood bridge that can support hundreds of pounds of force. I probably never will.

I've always been impressed with the students' energy and creativity. Yet I've often wondered what will become of these brainy kids.

Will they continue their scientific and intellectual pursuits as they go on to college and, eventually, the nation's workforce? Will they still have as much fun?

Last week I saw an Associated Press story that assured me creativity can indeed survive a college degree and a real-world job.

The story described how John Cornwell, a 22-year-old graduate of Duke University, invented a device that, with a couple of clicks of a remote control, will toss him a cold beer as he sits on his favorite spot on the couch.

Cornwell, who has a real job as a software engineer, rigged a mini-fridge with an elevator and catapult.

Building the prototype took about 150 hours and $400 in parts, according to the Associated Press. It will launch a beer up to 20 feet with astonishing accuracy.

As an undergraduate, Cornwell took robotics classes at Duke and was known for his inventiveness. I'd wager he also participated in academic teams in his younger days.

It's nice to see him putting his intellectual energy to good use. That's the kind of good news about brainy kids we need to see more often.

And as my hero Dave Barry once said:

"You can only be young once. But you can always be immature."

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