On tragedy and young geeks
I rarely get emotional while fact-checking a story, but after confirming the details of a 16-year-old boy's death, I silently sat at my desk for a while.
The boy was described to me as "one of those kids," the clever type who'd often take apart all sorts of electronics and put them back together (or build entirely new things). A whiz kid. A true geek. Someone similar to how I was at that age — and someone very much how I imagine my future children might be.
This boy died while doing what he loves and what he'd done so very often — dismantling a computer. He'd done this often enough to know what he's doing and how to do it safely. Unfortunately, this last time he happened to get too close to the device's power supply. Maybe he was careless this once, maybe he was distracted, maybe he was just unlucky.
It's not known what exactly happened in the fatal moment. We simply know that the boy's father arrived at home to find his child dead.
The story broke my heart for far too many reasons. I wanted to weep for a child I've never met, and for parents who were left wondering if they failed to protect their clever son somehow.
And I wanted to scream, too — because I know that every story of this sort threatens the ability of some child somewhere to explore an activity he or she might love. How many parents will read about this tragedy and pull their sons and daughters away from hobbies now suddenly viewed as dangerous?
"When stories like this happen, it's easy to become afraid of things we don't understand. But the future of our society depends on young tinkerers experimenting and getting excited about engineering," +Kyle Wiens
, co-founder of repair site +iFixit.com
, said to me in an email exchange. "Rather than telling people not to disassemble electronics, we should be teaching them about electricity and how to work with capacitors safely."
Here's the story, about the young man who died, if you'd like to read it:http://digitallife.today.com/_news/2012/10/09/14321140-teen-electrocuted-while-taking-apart-unplugged-computer?lite
And here are details on constructing a capacitor discharge tool, which could help prevent a fatal shock during computer repair:http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Constructing+a+Capacitor+Discharge+Tool/2177/1Image by Michelle Martin Overcash.