Kai Staats - Building a Dam, Buffalo Peak Ranch In working at the Buffalo Peak Ranch this summer, I am again reminded of the value of my skills in carpentry, given to me by my father and a lifetime of home remodeling; drafting learned in my first year of Junior High; and mechanical engineering—a way of thinking learned through experience far more than any classroom activity.

Kai Staats - Building a Dam, Buffalo Peak Ranch

With carpentry and wood working, I can rough-in a form for a concrete pour, frame a house, and repair or create a fine piece of furniture. With drafting I can quickly, effectively communicate in two dimensions an idea for a 3D construction. With an understanding of the application of force, applied to static and dynamic interactions, and the basics of volume, pressure, and time I can design basic mechanical or structural systems which perform work or provide foundation for shelter.

Without these basics, the world would for me be comprised of buildings that stand for no apparent reason, combustion engines which move us forward and back with magical motivation, and transmissions whose means of transferring the energy of rotation to linear movement—a complete mystery.

In a culture of specialization, fewer people are given these fundamentals, not enough time in the nationalized education programs or time with parents at home to teach the basics. The result is unfolding generations who can use a smart phone, drive a car, or turn on the tap to produce a steady stream of warm water, yet, they have no idea why these amenities function, taking for granted what is made available to them.

There is a joy in understanding, a pleasure in knowing how things work. There is a confidence in knowing I am able to build from the ground-up, remodel, or repair a toy, a piece of furniture, or a permanent structure.

Will an increasingly complex future of gadgets and gizmos disable an increasing number of people from these basic pleasures, from rudimentary confidence in their hands and tools?