Fun example and certainly one that could and should be used to encourage interest in STEM among girls. While the math may play out, I like your mom's version that the slippers were magic. Afterall, some fairy tales are better left to just that--fairy tales.
Beth, I agree. Its cool to use engineering to solve old and new problems. Its also important to maintain a creative mindset through imagination foster by fairytales. Also, the problem illustrates that not only men are good engineers but women as well. This problem should be presented to the Myth Busters to validate the math behind the solution.
Your point about the King Kong example got me thinking that using these well indoctrinated, childhood stories as a basis to explore engineering concepts and mathematical theories could actually be a solid way to introduce kids, boys and girls, to what's possible in an engineering career. I'm not sure they'd hold ground for those who've moved beyond the introductory stage, but by exposure, they could definitely spark initial interest in the field, especially for kids who might be bored or not fully become engaged with traditional examples.
There is one Fairy-Tale that I have referenced in the engineering work-place quite often, being "The Emperor's New Clothes". Remember the story of a unbelievable fabrication of events that only the most royal and eloquent could possibly understand? How many times have I challenged the Program Manager's Schedule, using the line of the little boy in the fairy tale: "I Can't See 'em-!!"
I had a similar reaction, perhaps helped by the fact that I grew up with Cinderella clear plastic "slippers" for little girls, which were actually pumps with sort-of-high heels on them, as shown in the illustration to this article. That also makes me wonder about the assumption that these shoes have high heels on them. Perhaps the word "slipper" in the fairy tale means flat shoes, as it does today? They'd be a lot easier to dance in, especially if made of glass. Perhaps the enigineer should recalculate based on that assumption.
My concern about glass slippers (since I knew I would never wear them) was that they would be uncomfortable because they are not flexible. Obviously Cindarella had to be careful how she walked. I'd like to see the analysis of Cindarella turning into a pumpkin!
The most puzzling part of the story for me is the "lived happily ever after" part. Will there be a sequel?
I'm having flash backs. This is the type of problem my mechanics teacher (Dr. W.K. Stare) would give us on a pop quiz. He loved to pull these things out of someone's hat and see our faces when we would silently begin to scream. He was an absolute tyrant when you did not state your assumptions FIRST. Then DISPLAY your work in a complete and readable fashion. I can hear him now. My first pop quiz was returned with so much red ink I thought he bled on it. Actually, I learned a great deal from Dr. Stare and there came a time when the class was eager to see what torture awaited with the next one. Very interesting post.
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