Learning to Love the Process

By Stella Haffner   |   October 12, 2021
Solomon Drucker enjoys 3D printing and is a freshman at George Washington University

I’m tired of this right brain, left brain nonsense. First, we have to address that this “creative self” and “logical self” segregation is a complete fiction. But it’s doubly misguided when used as propaganda in the wildly artificial arts-science divide; humanities scholars must be analytical, and science people must be creative. Here to serve as our case study is the effortlessly fun and truly erudite Solomon Drucker.

Solomon is a 19-year-old computer science major with a keen sense of scientific curiosity and, just as importantly, a penchant for adventure. From science to science fiction, Solomon and his friends have a long history of controlled mischief, and I for one could not be more supportive.

Dear Montecito, 

I’ve spent the better part of my childhood growing up in that little slice of heaven we all know and love. Now living in Washington, D.C., I’m left with this feeling of awe, wishing I could spend another day brainstorming various new ideas in my backyard in Montecito. I’d lie there, thinking about my next Lego build or redstone circuit in Minecraft for hours. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an affinity for technology and engineering, which has made me the person I am today.

I remember so much about growing up in this community. It still feels like yesterday that I gave the best man speech at the Rosewood Miramar Hotel for my father’s wedding to my amazing stepmother; walked to class with my mother and sisters; or listened to Jewish stories from my grandmother with my kindergarten class at MUS.

Currently, I am a freshman majoring in computer science at George Washington University, and right now I’m really missing all the fun, half-genius, half-stupid things I used to do with my friends. These still make me smile, like the time I created an underground gambling ring with dreidels as a first-grader at MUS, or the time I had my then two-year-old sister run over one of my best friends (voluntarily) with a battery-powered car for a group video project about Shakespeare’s Macbeth. However, my personal favorite was the time I attempted to get a 3D-printed model of my own head to top Santa Barbara High School’s flagpole.

It all began sophomore year. I had just graduated from Santa Barbara Middle School, and I felt like I was at the top of the world. Heck, I had literally just climbed Mount Whitney while at SBMS, and I needed a new project to occupy myself. 

A couple friends of mine also shared a passion for engineering projects. Fellow SBMS and SBHS Alum, and victim of my two-year-old sister’s driving, Nathan Cohen, was one in particular. When we weren’t working on a particular project for computer science at SBHS, we would talk about 3D printing, design, coding, and whatever science fiction book or show we absorbed the previous night.

At some point, my father introduced me to the concept of 3D scanning, a process which essentially takes thousands of pictures, combines them and makes a composite 3D file that you can 3D-print using a PLA Plastic Printer. I was fascinated! I knew I had to find a way to scan myself – even if it meant it would only be a file on my computer. Make no mistake, the primary reason I wanted to do this was to see if I could. To quote Cave Johnson, a character from the game Portal 2, “Science isn’t about why, it’s about why not.” Unfortunately, the closest place I could potentially get a scan was in Los Angeles, and it was far too expensive for me to even consider getting scanned for something as trivial as my own egocentricity.

While on family vacation, out of pure luck, I found a place that was able to affordably 3D scan my head. I was floored. I coughed over the money, stood on a pedestal, and a few weeks later received the file that would inspire me to try to get a model of my head onto the flagpole. I didn’t have to think twice about whom I would ask to help me complete this strange task.

Nathan and I immediately began planning and designing prototype models to fit on top of the flagpole, mostly made of PLA Plastic, and ranging from glue to a multi-piece locking system, which was going to be placed via drone. We would use trigonometry to calculate the size of the flagpole and the scale we would need to complete our mission.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down Santa Barbara County a month before our planned date of execution. And, to top it off, as things began opening up, I ended up stuck in the hospital for over a month due to non-COVID health complications. There was no opportunity to complete what I had been trying to do for years.

Like that, Operation Flagpole (as it was affectionately named) failed before it could even be tested. However, after spending three years plotting, designing, and investing into this admittedly weird plan, I saw a silver lining. The most valuable thing I learned from MUS and SBMS was that these processes are all about the journey, rather than the destination. It was about the friends I spent time with, that I worked with, and that I laughed with. Even knowing the outcome of my endeavors, I’d still do everything the exact same way if I had the chance. Besides, legend has it there is still a model of my head somewhere hidden at Santa Barbara High School, just waiting to be found. 

And while I choose to tell a story about a personal setback, I’m now at an amazing school, in an amazing program, and who knows what I’ll do next. If there is one piece of advice I could give to the next wave of high-schoolers: remember you will fail. 

Don’t let it stop you from continuing to do what you love – whether it’s losing a game or trying to immortalize yourself through STEM.




You might also be interested in...