There were two things I was sure I knew when I was young. Being a nerd wasn't cool, and I was a science nerd. When I was 11, I studied the aerodynamics of various of airfoil wing shapes as my first science fair project. Admittedly, it was just a little more exciting than building a volcano. I, along with my science fair partner, meticulously fashioned a variety of various wing shapes (keeping the wing area as consistent as possible) to see the bernoulli principle in action, constructed a launcher composed of rubberbands (had to keep the force consistent) and proceeded to the gym after school to launch paper airplanes across the gymnasium (had to minimize the impact of the wind). I was ready to see which wing shape would launch my carefully constructed paper airplanes the farthest. It was a horrible mess as the planes circled back, banked left and crashed headfirst into the ground.
Physics easily caught my fascination. It was one of the few sciences I felt I could experience with my own senses. In high school, for 2 years I was excited to be selected as a handful of students to participate in classes at the Fermi Lab. This was the laboratory with its own particle accelerator. The top and bottom quarks were discovered here. And they had buffalo roaming around the grounds-- legend has it they acted as canary in the mineshaft, like living geiger counters. Although untrue, I still choose to believe that fact (very unsciency of me).
Taking classes at the Fermi Lab, meeting scientists who discovered the things that make up our very existence, hearing them talk about the processes and their passion was mind boggling. I ate it all up. In these classes at Fermi Lab, I was surrounded by my compatriots. I didn't feel as ostracized for things that fascinated me. I felt cool here...words that I never would have used to describe my self in a high school setting. This probably continued on into college where I still found myself at home in labs and science lectures but incredibly awkward in college keggers and flippy cup tournaments. You NEVER want me on your flippy cup team.
I remember when I first discovered Mythbusters, a welcome break from the reality show influx, I was instantly intrigued -- this goofy science fair reality docu series that took the goofiness of a science fair project and made it seem as cool as I wanted to actually be outside the classroom. Even more so when Grant joined the cast. Here was a guy that looked like me (well... yes... when it comes to things like this all asians look alike), appreciated the same things I liked, and well, if I do say so myself, looked damn cool doing it. And he got to work with Kari Byron, who it kinda goes without saying that every self proclaimed nerd/geek probably had a crush on. so...yah ...Go Team Grant! I probably lived vicariously through him on that show once or twice.
That casual confidence, and his goofy assurance taught me that it's cool to just be who you are. Being a nerdy asian could be cool. Sometimes you don't realize the impact of those incidental role models until you look back. Grant was definitely one of those.
To Grant Imahara, who taught me it's not how many times you fail... it's how many times you fail spectacularly...