Useful things

Why is it that auto manufacturers can make a vehicle that can be unlocked or started remotely, that can parallel park itself and can notify response teams in the event of an accident, but they can’t make one that doesn’t suck snow onto the seat when you open the door?

I can spend a half hour wiping snow off my SUV, scraping windows and getting every tiny flake off, but when I open the door, there’s that sucky vacuum sound and snow appears out of nowhere and lands on the driver’s seat. Then I have to try to wipe it all off before I get in. It never comes off entirely, and I end up sitting in it.

I’ve been told that necessity is the mother of invention, which tells me that no one out there finds it necessary to go to work without a wet bottom. Odd, especially when they are mothers involved.

I received a news release yesterday from the University of Minnesota about a robot show which will take place from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday in the McNamara Alumni Center in Minneapolis. The show is the culmination of six weeks of work for U of M engi-neering students, who created computer-controlled machines that “do something interesting.” Students received a kit, including the computer, and could add no more than $30 worth of their own materials.

“The students had to be creative, prowling the back aisles of Target or looking in dumpsters,” the professor said. “There are seri-ous objectives to these limits, because in the real world, these future engineers will have to deal with cost restraints when they design things.”

Apparently, each robot has to act for no more than 60 seconds and have at least one moving part, but it is up to the students whether the machines do something useful or exist solely to amuse.

So what did they come up with? The examples given in the news release include an electric can-crushing robot, an automatic strumming guitar, something that measures yarn and robot dancing frogs.
I went to the Web site and looked at some of the photos from last year’s show, and while I did see a stuffed whale strapped to a sling-shot device, some cardboard ballerinas and a fishing pole with a Rapala attached, I couldn’t discern any of the tasks the inventions were supposed to accomplish.

I do know there wasn’t a single picture of a machine that would stop snow from landing on the driver’s seat of my car. Bummer.

A quick thought – I would like to see those dancing frogs.

Just out of curiosity, how many of you got through reading the part about the dancing frogs and didn’t start thinking “Hello my baby, hello my darling, hello my good time gal.” And for those of you who don’t get that, it’s the song the Warner Brothers dancing frog (whose name happens to be Michigan J. Frog – I looked it up on Wikipedia) always sang.

And there you go. Your important fact of the day. I like to make sure that Dirty Laundry is both entertaining and educational.