Modeling the Unknown is High Adventure Science, Teaching and Learning Heat Transfer with Energy2D, Teaching Future Nanoscientists in Today’s Classrooms, and more in Spring @Concord
Students working toward a technical degree need to master certain routine skills before they can manipulate more complex systems. In electronics, for example, the ability to read a resistor color code and to use a multimeter must become second nature. Unfortunately, instructors do not have time to stand behind every student, mentoring them during the many hours that it takes for novices to become experts at operating lab equipment.
Everything comes full circle. That was the thought on the minds of some when Apple recently released its newest product. As its creator famously remarked, using the iPad seems very much "like holding the Internet in your hands." But as futuristic as it feels, the iPad owes a great deal to ideas of the past. It provides a number of useful lessons about the gradual progress of educational technology. It can also teach us about the conditions that support technology adoption.
To celebrate its 125th year, Science published a special issue entitled “What Don’t We Know.” The issue features articles on the 25 top unanswered questions in science as identified by a panel of scientists and lists 100 additional questions. What scientists don’t know is no small matter. These are big questions and there are a lot of them!
Everyone experiences heat transfer. Indeed, we constantly seek thermal comfort. Because heat transfer is so common in everyday life, one would think that the science and engineering of heat transfer should be easy to teach and learn.
Satellites can stay in orbit almost forever, but only if they are high enough. Because it is so massive, the International Space Station (ISS) has to stay in low orbit, about 350 km above the Earth. At this altitude, air friction causes the ISS to lose over 30 km in altitude every year. So thrusters have to give it a boost every few months to keep it in orbit. Otherwise it would enter the atmosphere, burn up, and rain more than 300 tons of flaming debris onto some unlucky location on the Earth.
In current classroom materials, genetics looks far too much like a dusty science of the nineteenth century. Students first encounter this modern science by reading about a monk studying wrinkled peas a century and a half ago. Historical perspectives are important in understanding modern biology, but current curricula rarely do justice to biology’s recent transformations. Entire new fields within genetics and DNA science have appeared in the period since existing national science curriculum standards were published, and Mendel’s rules from the 1800s have been exposed as very narrow exceptions to the true, complex process of inheritance.
The new field of nanoscience promises to solve many critical problems in medicine, electronics, and energy production. Advancements in nanoscience and nanotechnology will require creativity from scientists and technologists for many generations, which puts nanoscience education at a pivotal point in the field of science education.