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Critique please - essay on a problem you solved (senior)


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Concerning Light Switches


I was all snuggled up in my fortress of a bunk bed, pajamas on, teeth brushed, and reading my favorite book series, Fablehaven. Just as my eyes began to droop, and I instinctively marked my place in the book, I remembered the light was still on. I couldn’t fall asleep yet. And thus, I began the treacherous journey down the ladder, across the room, then back again in the dark, stepping on Legos and bumping into corners I could have sworn were not there a second ago, and finally back up the ladder only to realize my venture had woken me up and that I was no longer tired.


Knowing that TVs had used remotes during all 12 years of my existence, it made little sense to me why the same invention was not commonplace for bedroom lights as well. Of course, looking back on it, what didn’t make sense was the fact that I didn’t have a reading light, but at the time a remote control light seemed the more obvious solution to me. One day, I realized I didn’t have to sit around and wait for someone else to give me a remote controlled light - I could just make my own, and so I did.


My plan was to affix a pulley to the ceiling and then run a string through it attached to a lever that, when pulled, would hit the button to turn off the lights without my ever having to leave the warmth of my bed. With this in mind, I set out to collect my resources: a drill, screws, a pulley, a long piece of ribbon, a wooden train whistle block, a Nerf dart, and last but not least, some tape. I set about the process first by taping the middle of the train whistle block to the wall, one half off and one half on the light switch panel. The edge of this panel acted as my very short fulcrum, which only worked after I taped the Nerf dart to the bottom of the train whistle to extend its reach (this also solved the problem I was having with the block always hitting the button at an angle, causing the it to stop before pressing the button down all the way). Initially I used a pulley for this next step, but halfway through I realized that it was unnecessary, so instead I simply wrapped a ribbon around a screw placed in the ceiling and attached the ribbon to the top of the train whistle. After that, I cut the ribbon off the spool and voilà, I had extended the reach of my light switch all the way across the room and into my bed. With my handy little remote of sorts, I had solved my problem!


That one invention was like a spark for my imagination. Immediately following its completion I began work on more ideas and built more things just for the sake of it. Half of these inventions didn’t even serve a purpose, but because I had built them, they fascinated me. The idea that I could make whatever I thought of was new to me. Sure I had drawn before, I loved to draw, but it was two-dimensional. It was a concept for the real thing, which always felt beyond my reach. Since I was used to having everything built for me by professionals in factories working for years on end, I never imagined anyone but adults had the intellectual capacity to invent functioning machines. This simple light switch changed how I saw the world. I no longer saw anything as too big to accomplish.

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I really like it! I like the indirect statement of the problem/thesis in the introduction. The details make it all vivid, you're right there with him.  I like the mildly self-deprecating humor in the second paragraph. And the conclusion is great, showing how solving this problem affected his whole view of the world and his place in it. Nice job!

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