Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Hamsters And Engineering

By Catya
Catya is a judge with the California Hamster Association. She shares her experiences in hamster ownership from a high school student's perspective.

Winter White hamsters on laptop
These Winter White hamsters seem to revel in technology.
moving alarm clock robot
Photos Courtesy Catya
Catya uses some of the same engineering skills to care for her hamsters as she did to create this alarm clock robot.

Hello again, everyone! I’m back from the last camp of the summer, and I am so glad to see all of my hamster friends again! I had a ton of fun at engineering camp, but I missed my fuzzy buddies.

I spent the last three weeks at engineering camp — actually an introduction to engineering program — learning about engineering, all the different kinds of engineers, and what they do. My classmates and I got to hear lectures from experts in the fields of civil, aerospace, chemical, mechanical and electrical engineering. We even got to try our hands at some engineering ourselves, participating in a competition to see who could build the best robot, and the bridge that was both sturdiest and cheapest.

My team built a moving alarm clock robot and, in the process of building it, we had a ton of fun and learned a lot. We all got to think about which kind of engineer we would like to be. Some of us had already decided on a favorite kind of engineering, others were equally fond of them all. I think that I know what my favorite kind of engineering is, but not many colleges offer majors in it: hamster engineering!

You see, during my time at engineering camp, I realized that I’d already used a lot of the basic engineering skills just by taking care of my hamsters.

Back when I used the colorful, plastic modular cages, I built elaborate tunnel systems for my Roborovski hamsters. Although I never used an equation to do this, even back then I was using the engineer’s way of thinking, finding the optimal setup for the tubes and working out the best way to build the tunnels. My hamsters had some crazy tunnel networks, and they loved running through these works of engineering (now they engineer their own by digging real tunnels in their bedding).

Another way I’ve been using engineering skills with my hamsters without realizing it is in making the cleaning and feeding schedules for my hamsters. We’ve got a system worked out where every one of our many hamsters gets their cage cleaned and checked at the proper intervals. The cages with more hamsters living in them need to be cleaned more frequently than the cages with just one or two hamsters, and the older hamsters need more soft foods and treats, but less dry food and seed mix. Add together all the components for over 100 hamsters (at our peak capacity last spring) and it starts to look like a word problem from math or, more accurately, an engineering problem.

I don’t know if being a hamster owner has made me a better engineer, or vice versa, but I do know that, strangely enough, they go together quite well! When I go away to college to study engineering (along with my other passion, music), I know that I’ll be glad on so many levels that I’ve had hamsters.

I’d bet that my readers who are poets, artists, dancers or singers find that their passion and their hamster ownership inform each other. What about you? What do you do or study aside from owning hamsters, and how does it connect to your furry friends? Leave a comment below.

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