Erector Sets, YouTube, and Neil deGrasse Tyson

Jonathan Padrazo, Electrical Engineering, Freshman

It wasn’t exactly a glamorous moment for me when I discovered I had a passion for the universe. I remember I was under a heap of blankets, trying desperately to keep warm as my body shivered slightly. I had stayed home from school, sick with something that kept me in bed. I was watching Netflix to keep myself sane, scrolling through the documentaries (I was desperate at this point in the day). I happened to stumble upon a documentary by Neil deGrasse Tyson, a name I managed to identify with astronomy. The documentary itself was called “Cosmos,” and seemed to be centered around unraveling the secrets of the universe that brought humankind to where it is today. I think I remember physically shrugging and flipping it on.

It’s kind of embarrassing to recall a life-defining moment while watching Netflix, but it’s hard for me to attribute my sitting here today to anything else. I binged nearly the entire series, captivated with images of plants, stars, organisms, and history. I was exposed to every school of science, acting altogether in perfect harmony to illustrate the beginning of time. And, of course, the narration from Tyson made it all the better. This was junior year, the time where adults of all shapes and sizes would begin to usher you into thinking of how you would spend the rest of your life. Watching that series seemed to unlock something within me, a passion for astronomy that I never truly knew I had. I was hooked. For a time, I believed that my future lay within the studies of astronomy. I even enrolled in a college program that allowed me to sit in on college-level astronomy classes. But, of course, there is more to any decision than a Netflix special.

When I was younger, I loved playing with erector sets. These were those collections of nuts, bolts, and metal pieces that could become anything you would want them to. I made all sorts of cars, planes, and other contraptions. I couldn’t help it. I loved working with my hands; seeing what I was creating appear before me. I always had considered myself an artist and playing with these sets seemed a great way to combine creativity with a dash of engineering. In fact, crafting things was how I spent most of my time. I was a “tinkerer,” as my parents called it. Art and science, as far as I was concerned, were not quite so different from each other after all. Of course, at the end of the day, they were just erector sets. But I say again; inspiration hides itself in all sorts of ways.

Leafing through those memories pushed me in the direction I wanted to go. I poured huge amounts into astronomy, and after a while, I began to see some faults within it. I loved space, and still do, finding myself gaze through my telescope whenever I get the chance. But, when I was honest with myself, it wasn’t someplace where I could see a career. The field was too competitive for me, required time and resources that I just didn’t have. And, just as I made those erector sets, I craved the opportunity to create. Then, there was the whole…math thing.

For those of you unfamiliar with the ways of astronomy, allow me to briefly sum the field up. Astronomy is, for all intents and purposes, math and physics. I wasn’t exactly known for those two areas. I was a good student, for certain, but they just didn’t come as easily for me as they did to others. I was your classic “right brain” individual, exceling in English, art, and music. For me, math and science were just things I had to do. Not to mention they weren’t fun at all for me. For a kid discovering a passion for a unique field of science, you can understand the problems I ran into.

Enter my final epiphany, or as I call it, the “YouTube Principle.” This refers to the nights I spent when I was unable to fall asleep. I could have spent this time doing any number of things, from reading books to playing games, just waiting to eventually knock out. But, as it were, I found that during these nights I spent a lot of my time browsing documentary YouTube videos. These would range anywhere from robots tasked with skipping stones, documentaries of the ocean’s sea creatures, to an exploration of how radio waves worked.

There was of course lots of trepidation when I realized I was considering devoting the next four years of my life to the subjects I had the most difficulty with. But in remembering back to the nights I spent traversing YouTube, I came to a sort of realization. It’s true that I had a passion for space and building and everything in between. But, above all else, it became clear to me that I had a true passion for learning. I relished the thought of not knowing, and I knew that if I devoted enough of my time and effort, I could surpass my own expectations every time.

This, as I write to you today, is the point of my long (and admittedly convoluted) origin story. If you were to ever feel unsure about where you stand academically, I promise you, you’re not alone. They say success is measured by the amount of effort you put into what you do, but half the battle is believing that you can. I won’t say that my first semester wasn’t overshadowed with doubt. But what I will tell you is that a willingness to learn and to grow will always overcome any obstacle. Wentworth has countless resources devoted to allowing a student to succeed. I can promise that if a student is committed enough to their own success, they cannot fail. Trust in the things you know and the things you do well; believe that you can reach the things you don’t.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *