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Greek teacher inspires students with large mechanical pencil collection

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During the pandemic, Kampanis found spare time to count the pencils, take photographs and organize the collection so that in the future it can be put on display.

Greek mathematics teacher Nikos Kampanis has his own way to inspire his students: by creating a unique mechanical pencil. As a mechanical pencil lover, he now owns a collection of over 5,000 such pencils.

Over the past 32 years, the teacher has bought a few and made by hand the overwhelming majority. Each mechanical pencil is unique: Kampanis uses his imagination and materials gathered from across the world, he told Xinhua in a recent interview.

His collection includes pencils made of medical tools, souvenirs, parts of antique silverware, jewelries, scientific equipment, heaters, embalmed lizards, pebbles, or an hourglass, a toothbrush, an umbrella, a wooden slingshot toy and many other objects.

Kampanis decided to start the collection in 1990 when he noticed he owned about 50 mechanical pencils from the years he was studying drawing. At first most of the pencils are bought from different places. However, he wanted variety, so he started creating his own pencils.

Photo taken on Jan. 22, 2022 shows a mechanical pencil with a self-test for COVID-19 made by Greek mathematics teacher Nikos Kampanis in Athens, Greece. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)

The first one was made in 1992 from wood. "The pencil was made from lemon tree wood. It is comprised of many small parts. Definitely, it is my favorite one, as everything started from this," he said.

It can take him a few minutes to turn an object into a mechanical pencil, or up to 5 years, as he is searching for the correct combination of materials, Kampanis explained.

"My latest creation, which is timely, is this self-test (for COVID-19). I have used all parts of the self-test, including the swab," he said.

Kampanis' students challenge him to make pencils with the odd materials they bring in the classroom, and he challenges them to achieve high marks in exams in order to receive a mechanical pencil as an award.

Many of his students excel and his pencils travel with them around the world, as they continue their studies and careers abroad.

He is happy and proud when they tell him that, thanks to his work inside the classroom or the life lessons they got through his passion for the collection, they became mathematicians, architects or artists.

During the pandemic, Kampanis found spare time to count the pencils, take photographs and organize the collection so that in the future it can be put on display. To date only a few of his pencils have been exhibited in Athens.

Greek mathematics teacher Nikos Kampanis holds a mechanical pencil in Athens, Greece, on Jan. 22, 2022. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)

"We had so much spare time at home, so instead of cooking and gaining weight, I opted to focus on painting, creating pencils and counting," he said.

Kampanis' collection also includes pencils made by Chinese objects.

"I have Chinese bookmarks one of my students gave me. I folded them and created a pencil. I have a doll and a dragon. Of course, I had to include a traditional dragon," the collector said.

In the final stretch to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, he also sent his wishes to China and the world.

"I hope all this (pandemic) will be over and that people can watch (the Games). I wish health above all," he said. 

Published : January 31, 2022

By : Xinhua