Fair and Square

Today was Spring Fling at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Nashville, which meant a chance for the Building Cosntruction Technology class to redeem ourselves after our disappointing outing in the all-school volleyball tournament at Fall Fest 2016.

In the first round, we squared off against the Automotive Collision team, and just about the time we were closing out the match with a W, one of the Auto guys pointed out that the volleyball court was not perfectly square. The Auto team claimed that their side was much larger than our side. We claimed it was an optical illusion.

There was a heartwarming esprit de corps among the BCT team, as we argued with the Auto Collision guys about the unevenness of the volleyball court. Sportsmanship aside, I am delighted by how our class has coalesced since Fall Festival.

What struck me as funny about the whole contretemps was that the BCT squad was more than capable of settling the issue with a tape measure. After all, we’ve spent the six months since Fall Festival learning precisely how to make sure things are square. Any rookie can hammer together a wall of studs 16 inches on center, but it takes a seasoned BCT student to make sure that wall is actually square, with four perfect right angles. You gotta square it; otherwise, you’ll end up with a wobbly lean-to instead of a perpendicular structure.

To check the squareness of a wall, you simply pull a tape measure between the two diagonals, and if the corner-to-corner measurements are identical, then you know you have four 90-degree angles. Because, Pythagoras.

If your measurements are off a little, you figure out which axis is longer, then you stand on a corner and use a hammer to bang the opposite corner until you straighten it out. It’s not exactly scientific, but it’s kind of fun.

Team BCT, aka the Mighty Miters, knew perfectly well how to figure out if that volleyball court was square and even, but we also knew perfectly well that it was not in our best interest to do that math. We had just won our first match and were on a path to redemption from the disappointment of Fall Fest 2016, when the Welders hammered us.

As we stood there basking in the glow of our dubious 15-12 first-round victory, watching the referees re-draw the boundaries with a can of spray paint, I heard one of the builders say with complete conviction, “Hey, it’s not our fault nobody brought a laser level.”

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