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I belong to a secret community, one where nobody has seen another’s face or knows the other’s name, yet we still support, motivate, and learn from each other. I belong to NerfHaven, an online community of “Nerf Modders.” As Modders, we modify toy Nerf guns to make them better, which could mean removing an air restrictor to increase shooting range, installing a spring with a greater spring constant to increase power, or reinforcing the plastic plunger rod with metal to increase durability.
I began modding in fifth grade, after stumbling upon YouTube tutorials, but struggled initially under the guidance of amateur Modders. Fortunately, I discovered NerfHaven, the home of modding gurus CaptainSlug and Forsaken_Angel24. They forced me to think innovatively. I never would’ve imagined fabricating homemade darts out of foam backer rod, traditionally used to insulate buildings. Or constructing a semi-automatic clip configuration out of PVC pipes, commonly used for plumbing. I was excited to apply these concepts to my own projects and became more passionate with each one I completed. I would stay up past my bed-time, envisioning my next modification, then wake up sleep-deprived yet eager make it a reality. As projects became more complex, I realized my dad’s standard toolbox was limiting my modding potential. I needed the Dremel, with its versatility to cut, sand, and drill from seemingly impossible angles. My parents purchased this $100 power-tool for their ten year-old son, understanding that Nerf Modding provided me an output to express my creativity. I didn’t sing, draw, or paint, but I was an artist nonetheless, with power-tools as my paintbrushes and a Nerf gun as my canvas.
Now I see everything as an opportunity for enhancement. Modifying Nerf guns has taught me never to settle for the standard. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it; rather, improve it. I realize that, with some innovate thinking and effort, anything and everything can be improved. With my cycle of modifying a Nerf gun, including conceptualizing, selecting and assembling materials, testing, then analyzing the results, I’ve been an engineer since the fifth grade.
In my college studies, I want to continue what I’ve been doing as a Nerf Modder. I want to develop solutions, increase efficiency, and craft new technologies while optimizing existing ones. I want to fail, then return to the drawing-board and tackle problems from alternate angles. I want to find my next NerfHaven, to be surrounded by others who share similar aspirations, to critique one another, to learn from each other, to progress together. I need to become an Engineer, to make a difference in the world, to impact someone else as profoundly as my fellow Modders impacted me.
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