December/January - Vol 69, No. 4 - International Technology and ...

December/January - Vol 69, No. 4 - International Technology and ...

the creative classroom • breaking boundaries with tsa • electric vehicle challenge



T h e V o i c e o f T e c h n o l o g y E d u c a t i o n


December/January 2010

Volume 69 • Number 4



Activities that

Teach Mathematics

Also: Charlotte Conference Preview

The Mastercam Innovator of the Future Competition provides students

with a real-life manufacturing challenge, a celebrity judge, and some big

incentives. The 2009-2010 Mastercam Innovator of the Future competition

challenges students to design and machine a shift lever to be judged by

Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, and Brad Harris of Stewart-Haas racing.

The Prizes:

• All entrants receive an exclusive Mastercam IOF shirt.

• The winner receives a $1000 scholarship.

• The winner and their instructor receive a trip to tour the

Stewart-Haas Racing headquarters

Entries Must Be Received by March 31, 2010!

To get all the details, please visit

Photos by CIA Stock Photography TM 2009 Stewart-Haas Racing

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December/january • VOL. 69 • NO. 4


Designing Technology Activities that Teach


Mathematics taught within well-designed technology

education lessons provides students opportunities to

learn math in contexts that they understand and that

can lead to cross-disciplinary connections.

Eli M. Silk, Ross Higashi, Robin Shoop, and

Christian D. Shunn


Web News




3 Calendar

5 Resources

in Technology

35 Classroom





Breaking Boundaries and Sparking Enthusiasm with TSA

Presents the benefits for initiating a TSA chapter and outlines the steps required to start a

new club.

Timothy R. Hess

The Creative Classroom:

The Role of Space and Place Toward Facilitating Creativity

This article focuses the importance of space and place toward facilitating creativity in the

classroom or lab.

Scott A. Warner and Kerri L. Myers

INSERT – ITEA Charlotte Conference Preview

Publisher, Kendall N. Starkweather, DTE

Editor-In-Chief, Kathleen B. de la Paz

Editor, Kathie F. Cluff

ITEA Board of Directors

Ed Denton, DTE, President

Len Litowitz, DTE, Past President

Gary Wynn, DTE, President-Elect

Greg Kane, Director, ITEA-CS

Joanne Trombley, Director, Region I

Michael A. Fitzgerald, DTE, Director, Region II

Mike Neden, DTE, Director, Region III

Patrick McDonald, Director, Region IV

Michael DeMiranda, Director, CTTE

Andrew Klenke, Director, TECA

Ginger Whiting, Director, TECC

Kendall N. Starkweather, DTE, CAE,

Executive Director

ITEA is an affiliate of the American Association

for the Advancement of Science.

The Technology Teacher, ISSN: 0746-3537,

is published eight times a year (September

through June with combined December/January

and May/June issues) by the International

Technology Education Association, 1914 Association

Drive, Suite 201, Reston, VA 20191.

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World Wide Web:

New On the

ITEA Website:


February 1 is the deadline to preregister for ITEA’s Annual Conference in

Charlotte, NC on March 18-20, 2010. Why preregister? Save $$, receive

an advance link to the conference program, have your packet waiting for

you when you arrive in Charlotte...and if those aren’t enough reasons to will also be eligible to win a preregistration prize drawing!

Preview the speakers, sessions, workshops, tours, events, council

programming, exhibit floor, housing, and more on the conference page:

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T h e V o i c e o f T e c h n o l o g y E d u c a t i o n


Editorial Review Board


Gerald Day

University of Maryland Eastern Shore

Lori Abernethy

Andrew Morrison ES, PA

Byron C. Anderson

University of Wisconsin-Stout

Chris Anderson

Gateway Regonal HS, NJ

Steve Andersen

Nikolay Middle School, WI

Laura Morford Erli

East Side MS, IN

Jeremy Ernst

North Carolina State


Kara Harris

Indiana State University

Marie Hoepfl

Appalachian State University

Laura Hummell

Manteo Middle School, NC

Doug Hunt

Southern Wells HS, IN

Petros Katsioloudis

Old Dominion University

Anthony Korwin, DTE

NM Public Education


Thomas Loveland

St. Petersburg College

Linda Markert

SUNY at Oswego

Randy McGriff

Kesling MS, IN

Doug Miller

MO Department of Education

Steve Parrott

IL State Board of Education

Mary Annette Rose

Ball State University

Terrie Rust

Oasis Elementary School, AZ

Bart Smoot

Delmar MS/HS, DE

Andy Stephenson, DTE

Southside Technical Center,


Jerianne Taylor

Appalachian State University

Ken Zushma

Heritage MS, NJ

Editorial Policy

As the only national and international association dedicated

solely to the development and improvement of technology

education, ITEA seeks to provide an open forum for the free

exchange of relevant ideas relating to technology education.

Materials appearing in the journal, including

advertising, are expressions of the authors and do not

necessarily reflect the official policy or the opinion of the

association, its officers, or the ITEA Headquarters staff.

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All professional articles in The Technology Teacher are

refereed, with the exception of selected association

activities and reports, and invited articles. Refereed articles

are reviewed and approved by the Editorial Board before

publication in The Technology Teacher. Articles with bylines

will be identified as either refereed or invited unless written

by ITEA officers on association activities or policies.

To Submit Articles

All articles should be sent directly to the Editor-in-Chief,

International Technology Education Association, 1914

Association Drive, Suite 201, Reston, VA 20191-1539.

Please submit articles and photographs via email

to Maximum length for

manuscripts is eight pages. Manuscripts should be prepared

following the style specified in the Publications Manual of

the American Psychological Association, Fifth Edition.

Editorial guidelines and review policies are available by

writing directly to ITEA or by visiting

Publications/Submissionguidelines.htm. Contents copyright

© 2009 by the International Technology Education

Association, Inc., 703-860-2100.

1 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010


Green Technology: STEM Solutions for 21st Century

Citizens—March 2010

Join ITEA in Charlotte

Preregister now

for the one event

you must attend

in the new year.

ITEA’s 72nd

Annual Conference

in Charlotte, NC,

March 18-20, 2010, promises you three days of the best

professional development and networking opportunities

available. A preview of the conference is located in the

center section of this issue of TTT. Special preregistration

pricing is available until February 1, 2010, and special,

deeply discounted room rates are available at the ITEA

official conference hotels. You will find the latest conference

information at


ITEA Will Be “Tweeting” in Charlotte!

Attention all Twitter users! Be sure to “follow” ITEA both

before and during the conference for the latest news and

event information. Twitter is a free social networking and

micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and

read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based

posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s

profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who

are known as followers. Users can send and receive tweets

via the Twitter website or via mobile phone text. While the

service itself is free, text-message service fees may apply.

ITEA will be sending late-breaking news and helpful tips

to help you make the most of the Charlotte conference

experience. Sign up today at

Back in Charlotte by Popular Demand: EbD Labs

The Engineering byDesign Labs (EbDLabs), having

been sell-out successes in Louisville last year, are being

continued this year in Charlotte. These labs are an excellent

opportunity for teachers and other educators to experience

one of the EbD courses in a workshop environment.

Foundational professional development is provided for

each course or instructional component. A small fee ($25)

is requested to cover supplies and can be paid through

the conference registration form. Whether you are in a

Consortium state or not, whether you are currently teaching

an EbD course or just want to find out more—these

workshops are not to be missed. These sessions are handson

and minds-on, with the fundamentals necessary to

implement the units or courses.

Thursday, March 18 – 1:00pm – 4:50pm

• Engineering byDesign – Invention, Innovation, and

Inquiry (I 3 ) (Grades 3–5)

• Engineering byDesign – Technological Systems

(Grade 8)

• Engineering byDesign – Foundations of Technology

(Grade 9)

• Engineering byDesign – Advanced Technological

Applications (Grades 11–12)

Friday, March 19 – 2:00pm – 4:50pm

• Engineering byDesign – Exploring Technology

(Grade 6)

• Engineering byDesign – Technological Design

(Grades 10–12)

• Engineering byDesign – Advanced Design Applications

(Grades 10–12)

Saturday, March 20 - 9:00am – 11:50am

• Engineering byDesign – Technology Starters


• Engineering byDesign – Engineering Design

(Grades 11–12)

ITEA Member Receives Rawlings Outstanding

Distance Education Teaching Award

Mary Annette Rose, associate professor

of technology at Ball State University, has

won the Rawlings Outstanding Distance

Education Teaching Award in the School

of Extended Education. The award,

established in 2002, honors a full-time

professor who has proven to be the most dedicated to

teaching continuing education courses at off-campus sites.

Rose received the award for her ongoing commitment to

distance education and her concern for developing and

improving instructional materials. In 2009, with funding

from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Rose

orchestrated a Web-based seminar series for practicing

teachers across the country. This professional development

experience, EnviroTech, enabled 20 technology teachers

and more than 400 students to examine the environmental

and health impacts of their technological decisions. The

award was named after Joseph Rawlings, Dean Emeritus of

the School of Extended Education. Rawlings worked nearly

20 years to create and develop the university’s distance

learning program.

Teachers: Share Your Passion!

Are you ready to share your passion for STEM education

at the Federal level? Bring that passion to Washington,

DC in your role as an Albert Einstein Distinguished

2 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

STEM News - Calendar

Educator Fellow. This prestigious fellowship program

brings outstanding K-12 science, technology, engineering,

and math (STEM) educators to Washington, DC for a

school year to share their practical insights and real-world

perspectives in offices of Federal Agencies or Capitol Hill.

As an Einstein Fellow, you will receive a monthly stipend, a

moving allowance, and a travel budget. You are the perfect

candidate for an Einstein Fellowship if you…

• thrive on personal and professional challenges.

• love to network with creative, passionate, intelligent


• recognize the importance of experienced educators

sharing their knowledge in the national education


• have the desire and the confidence to work on

educational programs and/or issues at a national level.

• want to learn more about the role of federal agencies in

education and influence decisions.

The program is administered by the U.S. Department of

Energy and is managed by Triangle Coalition for Science

and Technology Education. Visit www.einsteinfellows.

net to learn more about the program and meet this year’s

Fellows. You will find additional information and the

online application (under the Information tab) on the

Fellows’ website. You can access the application by clicking

on the word “apply” in the box on the left side of the page

once you link to the Department of Energy’s page. Create

an ID and password to begin, and you are on your way to

joining the elite cohort of Einstein Fellows! If you have

any other questions or would simply like to talk about the

program, please contact Kathryn Culbertson, Program

Manager, at or by

telephone at 703-519-5963.


February 14-20, 2010 ITEA will again partner

with the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)

for National Engineers Week. Founded in 1951 by the

National Society of Professional Engineers, this event is a

formal coalition of more than 70 engineering, education,

and cultural societies, and more than 50 corporations

and government agencies. Dedicated to raising public

awareness of engineers’ positive contributions to quality

of life, Engineers Week promotes recognition among

parents, teachers, and students of the importance of a

technical education and a high level of math, science,

and technological literacy, and motivates youth to pursue

engineering careers in order to provide a diverse and

vigorous engineering workforce. Information is available at

February 25-26, 2010 The 14th Annual Children’s

Engineering Convention will be held at the Holiday Inn

Select – Koger Center in Midlothian, VA. Convention

registration and other forms are available at the VCEC

website: Contact Mary

Hurst ( with questions.

March 18-20, 2010 ITEA’s 72nd Annual Conference,

Green Technology: STEM Solutions for 21st Century

Citizens, will be held in Charlotte, NC. This conference will

feature a series of presentations about the use of design and

technology to make a better society by using best practices

to deliver education with an eye on 21st Century learning

skills as a basis for our future citizens. Presentations will

address one or more of the following three strands: (1)

Designing the Green Environment, (2) Describing Best

Practices Through Teaching and Learning STEM, and (3)

Developing 21st Century Skills. What better way to address

these issues than through Science, Technology, Engineering,

and Mathematics (STEM) education.






April 2010 The EPA’s National Design Expo and P3

Sustainable Design Challenge will celebrate its 6th year in

conjunction with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and the

40th anniversary celebration of the founding of the EPA.

The celebration will last for three days on the National Mall

in Washington, DC, and local school groups are invited

to attend, visit the student design-challenge tent, and

meet with engineers, scientists, and business leaders who

are working to develop innovations designed to advance

economic growth while reducing environmental impact.

The Beyond Benign Foundation will be hosting a Classroom

on the Mall at which you can schedule hands-on activities

designed specifically for your students in order to turn this

experience into a standards-based field trip that you can

take back to the classroom. Save the date now and reserve a

school bus for April 19, 2010. You won’t want your students

to miss this opportunity. Find out more about the National

Sustainable Design Expo and the P3 Sustainable Design

Challenge at For more information about

3 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

STEM Calendar

the Classroom on the Mall and to make a

reservation for your class trip, please visit

April 9-10, 2010 The Ohio

Technology Education Association

(OTEA) will hold its Spring Conference

at Worthington Kilbourne High School.


HTML for complete details.

May 13, 2010 The Connecticut

Technology Education Association

Spring Conference will be held at

the CCSU Student Center. Online

registration and payment: www.cteaweb.



June 17-21, 2010 Technological

Learning & Thinking: Culture, Design,

Sustainability, Human Ingenuity—an

international conference sponsored by

The University of British Columbia and

The University of Western Ontario,

Faculties of Education, in conjunction

with the Canadian Commission for

UNESCO—will take place in Vancouver,

British Columbia. The conference

organizing committee invites papers that

address various dimensions or problems

of technological learning and thinking.

Scholarship is welcome from across the

disciplines including Complexity Science,

Design, Engineering, Environmental

Studies, Education, History, Indigenous

Studies, Philosophy, Psychology, and

Sociology of Technology, and STS.

The conference is designed to inspire

conversation between the learning and

teaching of technology and the cultural,

environmental, and social study of

technology. Learn more about it at http://

List your State/Province Association Conference

in TTT and STEM Connections (ITEA’s electronic

newsletter). Submit conference title, date(s), location,

and contact information (at least two months prior to

journal publication date) to

4 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

Resources in Technology

Producing Nuclear Power

By Vincent W. Childress

Is increasing the number of

nuclear power plants an advisable

way to meet increasing demands

for energy?

just over 7 percent of the United States’ generating capacity.

Nuclear energy accounts for 9.6 percent of the United States’

electrical generating capacity but supplies about 20 percent

of the electricity in the United States (Nuclear Regulatory

Commission, 2008a). Besides the long-term storage or

redevelopment of spent nuclear fuel, another practical

disadvantage of nuclear energy is that nuclear power plants

must maintain high levels of safety regarding the ability to

control the necessary nuclear reaction.

Why Fuels Are Needed to Generate Electricity

(The following section is reprinted from Childress, 2008.)


There is a potential crisis looming related to the world’s

need for energy. On the one hand, energy demands are

growing every day, and could double by 2050 (Office of

Nuclear Energy, 2008). On the other hand, burning of

traditional fossil fuels to generate electricity is contributing

to the increase in greenhouse gases.

Would it be advisable to increase the number of nuclear

power plants as an energy source for meeting this increasing

demand for electricity?

Nuclear Energy and the Generation of Electricity

Electricity generated from nuclear energy does not produce

greenhouse gases, but it has one major problem associated

with it. Used fuel remains radioactive for centuries after

it has been used in power plants. The depleted fuel is a

potential hazard to humans and the environment and

is susceptible to terrorist interdiction. Conventional

hydroelectric is another form of electrical generation that

does not produce greenhouse gases. As of the Department

of Energy’s Energy Information Administration’s 2008(a)

accounting, traditional hydroelectric generation accounts for

Electromagnetic induction is a phenomenon by which

electrical current can be made to flow in an electrical

conductor. Copper wire is an example of an electrical

conductor, and at the atomic level, copper has an extra

electron in its outer shell. When that electron is caused to

move from one copper atom to another, you have electrical

current or the flow of electricity. Electrons in neighboring

atoms are behaving the same way, so you end up with

current flowing in all parts of the conductor. What can cause

the electron to move from one atom to another? Magnetism.

In order to induce current flow in a conductor, there must

be relative motion between the conductor and the magnetic

field. No matter what the source of energy used to generate

useable electrical current from electromagnetic induction,

the process is basically the same: move an electrical

conductor in a magnetic field, or move a magnetic field

across an electrical conductor. What creates this motion?

Steam or water is used to move the parts of a generator so

that the motion required for electromagnetic induction is

sustained. To produce the steam, fuel must be used. What

fuel is burned? Coal, natural gas, and petroleum; and for

nuclear, radiation is used to heat the water into steam.

Therefore, thermal energy is converted into mechanical

energy, which is converted into electrical energy.

5 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

ground, and the uranium is recovered by separating it from

the solution. Mined uranium is refined into yellowcake.

Yellowcake is a state in which uranium is separated from

the surrounding rock. The primary hazard related to

uranium mining is exposure to the natural radioactivity of

the ore and contaminated overburden, especially through

water that may escape the mining site (Environmental

Protection Agency, 2009).

Figure 1. Nuclear power plants such as the Calvert Cliffs facility in

Lusby, Maryland generate electricity for surrounding communities.

The cylindrical containment structures are the Unit 1 and Unit 2

pressurized light water reactors that provide a secure environment

producing the nuclear energy. The Calvert Cliffs plant is recognized

as the first plant in the United States to earn 20-year extensions

of its operating licenses from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory

Commission. (NRC file photo/Courtesy CCNPPI.)

Mining and Refining Uranium

To eventually generate electricity with nuclear energy,

a mining company must first locate, refine, enrich, and

manufacture fuel-grade uranium pellets. While the Office

of Nuclear Energy (2008) suggests that there should be

discussions on making nuclear energy a primary source

of energy for electrical generation, the Office of Energy

Statistics reports that uranium mining operations are

limited. There are currently only four mining-by-leaching

operations and one mining-ore-and-milling operation

active in the United States. Those are currently the only

plants in the United States that could supply uranium

to the nation’s 103 nuclear generators. Production of

enriched uranium is down from 2007, but it is up overall

from the earlier part of this decade (Office of Energy

Statistics, 2008b).

There are two basic alternative processes used to mine

uranium. The more costly alternatives are conventional

open pit and underground mining in which ore is dug from

the ground. These two conventional approaches are similar

to coal mining. In-situ leaching is the second process used

to mine uranium ore. During in-situ leaching, a solvent

is pumped into the ground where it dissolves uranium

into a solution. The solution is then pumped out of the

Uranium is an element that exists in slightly different forms

in nature. All uranium atoms have the same number of

protons, but not all uranium atoms have the same number

of neutrons. The heat that is created by uranium comes

from nuclear fission, a process that causes an atom to

split into pieces. When uranium naturally decays, it emits

neutrons. Loose neutrons will collide with other uranium

atoms and cause them to split. In turn, more neutrons are

released that collide with even more uranium atoms. This

chain reaction can keep expanding exponentially until a

huge nuclear explosion takes place. However, in a nuclear

power plant, this chain reaction is controlled such that it

does not produce more heat than the containment building

and the reactor equipment can withstand.

Yellowcake must be delivered to the enrichment plant.

Usable uranium 235 exists naturally in very small

quantities. In the United States, only gas diffusion is used

to enrich uranium for commercial use, and as of 2007, there

was only one plant that performed the enrichment. In its

gaseous form, uranium 235 is small and light compared

to other gas forms of uranium. The gas diffusion process

is quite simple. Uranium in gas form is passed through

hundreds of filter materials that are designed to allow more

uranium 235 to pass than heavier forms of uranium. By

the end of the filtering or diffusion process, the relative

concentration of uranium 235 has increased in the batch

from about 0.7 percent to about 5.0 percent. At that point,

the gas cools, returns to a liquid state, is cast into shapes,

and cools into a solid (Nuclear Regulatory Commission,

2007a). Uranium is a heavy metal that can be processed

like any other metal, such as steel. Typically, uranium is

oxidized and pressed into ceramic pellets. The pellets are

packed into metal tubes, and the tubes are assembled into

configurations that are ready for use as fuel in electrical

generating plants (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease

Registry, 1999).

The thing that makes uranium 235 so useful for electrical

generation is that it readily sustains a chain reaction from

fission, but it is not so radioactive that it will cause a

nuclear explosion (Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 2007).

6 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

Nuclear Power Plants

There are two basic sections at the heart of a nuclear power

plant. One major part is the reactor. The second major part

is the generator.

Nuclear reactors. The reactor has a core, and the core

consists of the fuel assembly with the tubes of uranium

pellets, control rods, and circulating, highly purified water.

The function of the fuel assembly is to place uranium in

water so its nuclear fission will heat the water. The function

of the control rods is to absorb more or fewer neutrons

depending on whether more or less heat is needed. The

more the control rods absorb, the slower the rate of fission.

The closer the control rods are positioned to the fuel

assembly, the more the control rods absorb neutrons. There

are two basic types of reactors operating in the United

States. One is the boiling water reactor, and the other is the

pressurized water reactor. The pressurized water reactor

has one safety advantage over the boiling water reactor.

The water that is exposed to the reactor core never comes

into contact with the generator’s turbine, and the reactor

water, therefore, stays inside the containment building.

This is accomplished by use of a large heat exchanger. The

hot water in the reactor core travels through pipes. These

pipes are suspended in another tank of water. This other

water is never directly exposed to the reactor core. The

water from the reactor core heats this other water. Because

this second water system is under pressure, steam is readily

produced and is used to turn the turbine, which in turn

spins the electrical generator. With the boiling water system,

core water is used to spin the turbine directly. The steam

is cooled and condenses back into a liquid. Then the water

is pumped back through the system. For reactor safety,

there are redundant auxiliary cooling systems. When all

cooling systems fail, the danger of a “meltdown” becomes

extreme. In a meltdown the uranium fuel becomes so hot

that the fuel assemblies literally melt the packages that hold

them, melt any containment in the reactor core area, and

melt through the floor of the containment building. Once

the containment building is breached, the public is at risk

of exposure to high, lethal levels of radioactivity (Nuclear

Regulatory Commission, 2007a).

The generator.

(The following section is reprinted from Childress, 2008.)

The generator, itself, has two basic parts, the stator, which is

stationary, and the rotor, which rotates. The magnetic field

is produced using electromagnets carefully positioned at

different locations in the stator. The electricity that is used

to produce the magnetism in these “field magnets” comes

from the same power grid that serves other industries and

commercial operations in the area. Electromagnets are coils

of wire wrapped around an armature or metal frame that

helps to structure the magnetic field (The Electricity Forum,

Figure 2. The heart of a nuclear power plant is the nuclear reactor

with its fuel rods, control system, and steam and heat exchanger.

Nuclear power is used to generate high pressure steam to turn

turbines that turn the generators to generate electricity. Unlike

fossil fuels that are burned and create undesirable emissions,

nuclear energy uses a nuclear reaction to produce heat without the

undesirable carbon emissions.

Figure 3. Single phase and three-phase or polyphase generators

operate on the same basic principle of magnetic induction. However,

polyphase generators provide multiple wave forms that reach

their peak instantaneous values at different intervals, thus improving

efficiency and reducing the size of the equipment. Polyphase

generators typically generate large amounts of power such as in a

power station.

7 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

2008). When electrical current flows through a conductor, it

produces electromagnetism. If the conductor is coiled, then

the magnetic field is much stronger. The rotor also has coils

of wire wrapped around an armature. These coils, turned by

the turbine, spin rapidly inside of the magnetic fields, and

in them is induced electrical current. Mechanical energy is

converted into electrical energy.

Is Nuclear Power Green?

The extent to which nuclear power can be considered

“green” depends on society’s tolerance of nuclear power’s

three distinct disadvantages: (1) Nuclear power requires the

very long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel, (2) When safety

systems fail, reactor core meltdown is possible, (3) Enriched

uranium and spent fuel must be guarded to prevent

terrorists from using it for dirty bombs or for recycling into

military-grade atomic weapons.

Storage of spent nuclear fuel. Spent nuclear fuel remains

radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. Nuclear

power plants have to change out about one-third of their

fuel assemblies annually, producing an estimated 2000

metric tons of radioactive waste. Thus far, the United States

has stored spent nuclear fuel deep underground in the Yucca

Mountain storage facility, but Yucca Mountain is filled to

its current legal capacity. The amount of nuclear material

that can be safely stored using current technology is limited

because the spent nuclear fuel generates significant amounts

of heat even after its initial cooling period. If technical

innovations succeed at doubling the storage capacity at

Yucca Mountain, it is estimated to reach capacity again by

2010. Argonne National Laboratory suggests that there are

three options for the storage of nuclear waste from power

plants. One option is to find another place similar to Yucca

Mountain that will be free of significant earthquakes and

cave-ins for more than 100,000 years. The other two options

are partial recycling and full recycling. Recycling nuclear

fuel means extracting remaining radioactive isotopes from

the fuel pellets, but this is an area of critical research. There

currently exists no way to prevent nuclear waste from

remaining dangerously radioactive for generation after

generation (Finck, 2005).

With Yucca Mountain at capacity, nuclear power plants are

storing their own fuel assemblies on power plant premises.

There is tons of stored fuel at plants across the country.

There are two basic ways to store fuel on premises. One

is in cooling pools, and the other is in large metal casks.

The cooling pools are about 20 feet deep with water, and

fuel assemblies are moved from the reactor to the cooling

pool by moving them along a canal. Once a fuel assembly

is sufficiently cool, it may be stored in a cask. Typical

casks are about the size of a semitrailer. They have double

metal walls and are bolted shut (Nuclear Regulatory

Commission, 2008b).

Meltdowns. There have been two widely known nuclear

power plant meltdowns. One was in the United States at

the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. The other was

in the Soviet Union at its Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

The Chernobyl accident had devastating and long-lasting

consequences. The events that caused the meltdown at

Chernobyl were caused by human error. Because the reactor

was to undergo testing, a safety system was manually

disabled, which was not an error. During the test, the amount

of electrical power being generated was to be reduced. The

control rods were positioned closer to the fuel assemblies to

lower the amount of heat being developed. However, when

the test was postponed, the operator failed to restore the

safety system. The operator also left the controls set for lower

power generation. When the test was postponed, the plant

was to restore the amount of power it had been generating

to serve its customers. So the control rods were moved away

from the fuel assemblies in order to increase the heat for

the purpose of increasing the amount of electrical power.

Because the controls were set for low power generation,

when increased power generation was attempted, there

was a sudden decrease in power generation instead of the

expected increase. When there is a sudden decrease in power

in this type of reactor, xenon gas is created. The xenon gas

is readily absorbed by the control rods. The control rods

become saturated with xenon gas. When the power did not

increase, the operator moved the control rods away from the

fuel assembly beyond the limits allowed. The reactor began to

overheat. When it was realized that there was a problem, the

operator attempted to position the control rods closer to the

fuel assembly, but there was already too much damage. Then

the operator tried to position the control rods all the way into

the shut-down position, but the system was too damaged. The

reactor became so hot that it was blown up by high steam and

water pressure, breaching the containment structure. Molten

fuel was thrown about the power plant site, causing fires and

allowing emission of radioactive particles across hundreds of

square miles (Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 1987).

Terrorism and security. After the breakup of the Soviet

Union, the security of its nuclear arsenal became a

worldwide safety concern. Within the borders of the United

States, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (2008c) is

responsible for keeping nuclear materials, both source

materials (meaning ore) and special nuclear materials

(enriched uranium), out of the hands of “adversaries” of the

United States. The main threat to special nuclear material is

from theft by insiders. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission

8 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

documents and physically checks the inventory of nuclear

fuel at every nuclear power plant in the United States. The

Commission is also responsible for securing nuclear power

plants against attacks. The Commission concluded that

an attack by plane similar in nature to those of September

11 would not pose a risk to the public. There are several

reasons that the Commission reached this conclusion. The

targets of the 9/11 attacks—the World Trade Center towers

and the Pentagon—were large buildings relative to the size

of a reactor containment building, a cooling pool, or a cask

storage structure. If a plane were to strike a containment

structure, its extra thick, steel reinforced, concrete outer

shell would tend to minimize the damage relative to other

buildings that are not as “hardened” from attack. To guard

against attack by personnel at a nuclear power plant, the

Commission requires the plant to staff highly trained,

armed security guards. There are guard towers, electronic

surveillance, and sensors, and barriers such as fencing and

water. Other security measures are classified.

The extent to which nuclear power is green is a matter for

debate. Like most technologies, there are tradeoffs with

nuclear power. The process does not create greenhouse

gases, but it does generate deadly waste that will have

to be stored under special circumstances for more than

100,000 years. Part of the debate might include whether

or not greenhouse gases and air pollution, in general, are

more harmful to humans and the environment than would

be nuclear waste were it to fall into the wrong hands or be

abandoned by failed civilizations, say, 5,000 years from now.

Understanding both the benefits and the risks is important

if society is to make responsible decisions about the

management of the technological world.

Technology Assessment


The following activity addresses Standards for Technological

Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology (ITEA,

2000/2002/2007) Standard 4, Benchmarks D and I.

Standard 4

Students will develop an understanding of the cultural,

social, economic, and political effects of technology. (p. 57)

Benchmark D

The use of technology affects humans in various ways,

including their safety, comfort, choices, and attitudes

about technology’s development and use. (p. 60)

Benchmark I

Making decisions about the use of technology

involves weighing the trade-offs between the positive

and negative effects. (p. 62)

Have your students conduct an abbreviated technology

assessment to estimate influences of nuclear power on

society. Students should examine the following where


• Choose a specific nuclear power plant. Many countries

around the world have commercial nuclear power

plants. This may be a plant that is local or it may be a

plant that is of interest to students that is not local.

• Determine the amount of power that the plant


• Determine what percentage of power demand is served

by the plant.

• Compare how much coal would need to be burned

in order to replace the nuclear generator were it


• Determine, if possible, what safety systems are in place

at the plant.

• Determine the location of the plant in relation to

nearby energy users for distribution convenience, to

nearby population centers for a safety perspective, and

to nearby transportation infrastructure for movement

of nuclear fuel and access in emergencies. Examine a

satellite photo of the plant to see if there are security

obstacles to deter trespassers and adversaries.

• Determine the age and licensing status of the plant.

• Identify any news coverage or special issues that are

related to the plant.

• Weigh the positive and negative findings of this


Two good resources are the Nuclear Regulatory

Commission’s website and Google Earth. Google Earth is

software that allows a viewer to identify satellite imagery

for specific locations on the face of the earth. It is free, easy

to download, and easy to use. Google Earth is downloadable

at The Nuclear Regulatory

Commission (2007b) has a listing of all nuclear power

reactors in the United States at

operating/list-power-reactor-units.html. The Commission

(2008d) also has a map located at


In order to use Google Earth once it is installed on a

computer, use its “Fly to” feature by entering the name of

a locality where the plant of interest is located. The globe

will position itself and zoom in automatically over that

locality. Then enter “nuclear power plant” in the same “Fly

to” feature. Google Earth will then shift the satellite imagery

to the nearest nuclear power plant. For example, the first

power plant listed on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s

website is Russellville, Arkansas. Enter Russellville, AR.

9 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

Allow the satellite imagery to shift and zoom. Key in

“nuclear power plant,” enter, and allow the imagery to

shift again. Imagery of Arkansas Nuclear Power Plant

appears. Zoom in to examine the plant and vicinity. In this

example, students might notice that an interstate highway

is nearby for reliable transportation for the movement of

fuel or for emergencies, water is nearby for cooling and

safety obstacles. This plant is surrounded by water on three

sides. A guard house is even visible. Students may notice

that power transmission is convenient to Russellville and

vicinity. However, one can also determine exactly how close

or far a plant is to a population center by using the “Ruler”

tool. Russellville is only six miles from the plant, but it is not

a very large population center. Little Rock, a much larger

city, is about 66 miles from the plant. Other facilities related

to the nuclear fuel cycle are easy to locate, such as the Crow

Butte, Inc. in situ recovery facility visible near Chadron,

Nebraska. Finally, facilities are easy to locate worldwide,

such as nuclear power plants in France, Iran, India,

and North Korea. They are quite discernible, with their

signature cooling towers and containment buildings.

References and Resources

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. (1999).

Toxicological profile for uranium. Atlanta, GA: U.S.

Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved

September 21, 2009, from


Childress, V. W. (2008). Resources in technology: Energy

perspective: Is hydroelectricity green? The Technology

Teacher, 68(5), 4-9.

The Electricity Forum. (2008). Electricity generation. Geneva,

NY: Author. Retrieved September 20, 2008, from www.

Energy Information Administration. (2008a). Energy

generating capacity. Washington, DC: U.S. Department

of Energy. Retrieved September 21, 2009, from www.eia.

Energy Information Administration. (2008b). Domestic

uranium production report. Washington, DC: U.S.

Department of Energy. Retrieved September 21, 2009,


Environmental Protection Agency. (2009). Uranium mining

wastes. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved September

21, 2009, from


Finck, P. J. (2005). Statement of Dr. Phillip J. Finck, Deputy

Associate Laboratory Director for Applied Science

and Technology and National Security, Argonne

National Laboratory before the House Committee on

Science, Energy Subcommittee: Hearing on nuclear

fuel reprocessing — June 16, 2005. Washington, DC:

U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved September 21,

2009, from


Google. (2009). Google Earth [software]. Mountain View,

CA: Author. Available at

International Technology Education Association.

(2000/2002/2007). Standards for technological literacy:

Content for the study of technology. Reston, VA: Author.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (1987). Report on the

accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station

(NUREG-1250). Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved

September 21, 2009, from

Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (2007a). Uranium

enrichment. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved

September 21, 2009, from

Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (2007b). List of power

reactor units. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved

September 21, 2009, from

Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (2008a). Power reactors.

Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved September 21, 2009,


Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (2008b). Storage of

spent nuclear fuel. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved

September 21, 2009, from

Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (2008c). Security spotlight.

Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved September 21, 2009,


Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (2008d). Map of power

reactor sites. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved

September 21, 2009, from


Office of Nuclear Energy. (2008). A sustainable energy

future: The essential role of nuclear energy. Washington,

DC: United States Department of Energy. Retrieved

September 21, 2009, from


Vincent W. Childress, Ph.D., is a professor

of Technology Education at North Carolina

A&T State University in Greensboro, North

Carolina. He can be reached at childres@

10 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

Breaking Boundaries and

Sparking Enthusiasm with TSA

By Timothy R. Hess

Through active TSA involvement,

parents, administrators, and

community members grasp the

rationale and importance behind

technology education.

classroom—utilizing the resources of an organization that

promotes the importance of technological literacy (Taylor,


What is TSA?

The Technology Student Association is a student

organization that allows schools to compete against

neighboring schools in technology-related events. TSA

is dedicated to creating innovative leaders in technology,

design, and engineering (The Technology Student

Association (TSA), 2008). High school and middle school

TSA chapters are given the opportunity to apply what they

have learned in the classroom to practical, open-ended

problems. (See Figure 1.) Students present their solutions

to the design briefs at the regional, state, and national

levels. The competitions allow students to utilize their skills

in engineering, communications, materials, energy and

Imagine the pride experienced by a student who has

just heard his or her name announced throughout an

auditorium of students from around the nation. A smile

creeps onto the student’s face as he or she realizes what

it means to place in a national competition. The student

may have never been the star quarterback or the lead in the

annual high school musical, but at this moment, he or she

is overwhelmed with pride. The sense of accomplishment

that is associated with this achievement is clearly illustrated

by the joy on the student’s face as he or she holds a trophy.

As an advisor, you share the student’s honor as you reflect

on all the hard work that took place during countless hours

after school. The Technology Student Association (TSA)

provides these opportunities for all students who excel in

technology education classes. Imagine the motivational

aspects and possibilities that the scenario above offers your

students. TSA is really an excellent way to enrich your

Figure 1. Two Technology Student Association students cooperate

to complete the design brief included in the Problem Solving event.

11 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

transportation, and leadership challenges; all components

of technology are covered in comprehensive conference

schedules. (See Table 2.) Each experience opens the door to

a new level of competition where students can participate

in conferences and network with children from around

the nation. TSA offers so many academic advantages but

also incorporates social and interpersonal skills (DeLuca

& Haynie, 1991). At the end of each conference, students

leave not only with a sense of pride, but also with new

friends who share their interest in technology.

Promoting Membership

The strength of a TSA chapter is dependent on student

involvement. The size of the chapter is based on the

recruiting efforts of teachers. The best recruitment tool for

TSA is using the curriculum as an enticing preview of the

club’s content. Including TSA activities in classes highlights

popular events and stimulates class interests. Through a

competitive learning environment, you are able to expose

the students to TSA and provide excellent motivational

benefits within the classroom.

The beginning of the year is the best time to encourage

students who are curious about joining the club. A great

method for accomplishing this interest is to organize an

informative, casual meeting. Ask your officer team or

chapter leaders to be available to answer questions and

describe TSA through a student’s perspectives. During

the meeting, have a student-produced promotional film

playing that incorporates images from last year’s TSA trips.

Use this time to convey the excitement of participating

in a nationally recognized affiliation. More promotional

materials may be obtained through National TSA or your

TSA state advisor.

Convey enthusiasm by demonstrating the same level of

commitment that you request from your students. Start out

by attending a regional meeting and volunteering to help

at a regional conference. Your commitment to TSA will

illustrate to your students your belief in the importance of

its mission. It is also important to strengthen your club by

establishing strong student leadership. Consider using the

TSA Chapter Team competition as a way to run meetings

and actively promote membership. A chapter team consists

of a president, vice president, secretary, sergeant at arms,

reporter, and treasurer. This team needs to be carefully

selected to aid in club organization and completing

routine chapter tasks such as financial record keeping

and recording meeting minutes. A strong chapter team

eliminates a lot of the stress associated with being a new

advisor and also creates a collaborative environment that

produces effective chapters.

Promoting a chapter through school and local media

also increases numbers by raising awareness of the club.

Highlight recent successes at competitions by publishing

results in school newsletters and announcements. Send

articles to local newspapers describing your school’s

experiences at a conference. By using positive publicity to

raise curiosity, you entice students to join. Some students

may not be in TSA simply because they do not know what

the club entails. Educate the school about TSA competitions

by placing examples of projects on display in your school.

Bulletin boards and pictures can also be utilized to highlight

the experience of attending a conference.

What Should I Expect at the TSA Conferences?

The ultimate promotional tool for TSA is the conference. All

of the hard work prior to a conference is rewarded through

the conference experience. The best way to get students

involved is to expose them to the collaborative learning

environment of a TSA conference. TSA competitive

events are held at three levels beginning at a regional

conference. This event normally coincides with one school

day and offers a limited number of events determined by

the regional coordinator. After regionals, students may

travel to the state and national conferences. Because TSA

emphasizes technological literacy, any student may attend

all of the conferences. With the exception of qualifying

events, competitive events are open to all members.

Qualifying events require students to place during the

previous level of competition. A student who did not qualify

in any events during the state conference may still attend a

national conference and participate in any event that is not

a qualifier. Although all students may experience TSA at all

levels, individual states may initiate their own restrictions

on advancements to state conference. Contact your state

TSA advisor for your state’s conference requirements.

Each tier of competition requires students to reflect and

improve on their work as they advance to the national

conference. Students who experience the excitement

surrounding a national conference are rarely disappointed

and walk away anticipating next year’s competitions.

What are the Benefits of TSA?

The Technology Student Association’s main focus has always

been on the students. Advisors have always recognized that

this organization is for the students. To better understand

the benefits associated with implementing a chapter, it is

important to reflect on the students’ perceptions of TSA.

TSA from a Student’s View

Students’ first experience with TSA is normally through a

technology education teacher’s recommendation. When

12 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

asked why they joined TSA, most students replied that a

teacher steered them towards the club; a close second are

technology classes. Through personal experience, I have

found that the teacher and the curriculum are the best

recruitment tools. As a TSA advisor, try to continually

interject TSA into classes with project examples and stories

that relate to curriculum. Also, identify students who might

be interested in the club and recommend that they join. If

they say no at first, ask again! Most students who join the

club do so based on teacher and student suggestions; few are

ever disappointed.

There is so much to offer students through TSA that the

program sells itself once they are exposed to it. After

questioning a few students in my high school chapter, all

students identified conferences as the best part of TSA. One

student replied that the best part of TSA is getting paid back

for hard work. When asked to describe TSA, the 2008-2009

Pennsylvania state TSA Vice-President said, “A group of

highly motivated, hard-working students and advisors who

strive to accomplish great things.” Another student in my

high school chapter answered the question by stating, “A

group of young, innovative kids doing what they like.” The

camaraderie among students was also labeled as another

motivation factor for TSA. Students really enjoy meeting

other students in other schools and chapters who share

their interests. TSA is an excellent model of a collaborative

learning environment where students gain more from

working with their peers than actually competing with them.

The long-range benefits of TSA are also numerous. Students

who join TSA clearly envision their experiences in the

club as enriching their future. Students active in Pequea

Valley’s TSA chapter listed benefits such as leadership skills,

potential scholarships, being acquainted with deadlines, and

being prepared to work in a highly technological world. If

the advisor emphasizes these potential benefits to students,

parents, and school, club membership and support will

certainly grow.

School Benefits

One of the most prevailing motivational pieces for

advisors would be the benefits associated with TSA.

According to Clark and Wenig (1999), in a study examining

characteristics of effective technology education programs

in North Carolina, student involvement in TSA may

promote and support your technology education program.

Technology education departments can use TSA to promote

all of the innovative ideas and activities occurring in the

classroom. Through active TSA involvement, parents,

administrators, and community members grasp the

rationale and importance behind technology education. To

effectively communicate the mission of TSA and promote

its membership, local newspapers and school newsletters

should be utilized to publicize chapter achievements or

events. This exposure also paints a positive image for

your department and may earn increased support from

administrators. Active involvement in TSA is a great way to

advocate for the technology education field through sharing

the innovative and academic characteristics with parents

and educators.

TSA and the Standards

The Standards for Technological Literacy (STL) document

provides an excellent example of TSA’s ability to cover

Pennsylvania Science and Technology (6 of 8 Standards Addressed)

3.1 Unifying Themes – Example: SciViz

3.2 Inquiry and Design – Example: Problem Solving

3.4 Physical Science, Chemistry, and Physics – Example: Structural Engineering

3.6 Technology Education – Every area of technology is represented

3.7 Technological Devices – Example: Manufacturing Prototype

3.8 Science, Technology, and Human Endeavors – Example: Prepared Presentation

Pennsylvania Math

2.3 Measurement and Estimation – Most events require students to measure layouts or dimensions

2.4 Mathematical Reasoning and Connections – Example: Electronic Research and Experimentation

2.9 Geometry – Example: CAD 2-D, Architecture

Pennsylvania Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening

1.5 Quality of Writing – Most static projects require a written report

1.6 Speaking and Listening – Example: Extemporaneous Speaking – Prepare a speech on a topic 15 minutes prior to the

presentation time

1.8 Research – Example: Medical Technology

Table 1. The chart above utilizes the Pennsylvania math, language arts, and science and technology standards to demonstrate how TSA

events address the various curriculums (Pennsylvania Department of Education [PDE], 2008).

13 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

content assessed on state standardized tests (ITEA,

2000/2002/2007). All twenty of the technological literacy

standards have a least one event that addresses the content

in the benchmarks. (See Table 1.) Students in TSA rely

heavily on the use of tools and materials to construct

prototypes and models for the TSA competitive events. Like

technology education, TSA competitive events encourage

inquiry and design as students fabricate and test multiple

solutions to open-ended problems. The manufacturing

prototype event requires students to use devices from

multiple areas while implementing the design process. This

challenge requires information technologies to design a

promotional enclosure for the solution as well as physical

technologies to build a working prototype. Manufacturing

prototype is just one of the many events that address design

as described in Standards 8, 9, and 10 of STL.

The structural engineering event requires students to

analyze forces present in bridge designs. (See Figure 2.) In

addition to applying the design process, this event includes

aspects of the twentieth STL standard, construction

systems. The final example of a standard integrated into

a TSA event revolves around the technology and society

standard. TSA’s writing and speaking events all require

students to analyze how technology and society interrelate;

these events address STL Standards 4 through 7. Math

and English standards are also a part of what TSA offers

the classroom.

TSA competitions are heavily dependent on math skills.

Some events depend on math to help students estimate

or solve complex design briefs. TSA requires students

to perform various calculations, measure materials, and

utilize shapes and angles in mechanical drawings. In

addition to math, writing standards are also addressed.

Students must complete written reports to be submitted

with most projects. These writing samples are graded on

focus, content, and organization. This assessment strategy

mirrors the rubric used to evaluate most answers on state

standardized tests. An example of an application of writing

in TSA is the recent addition of the persuasive writing

event, Essays on Technology. This event requires students to

write a persuasive essay that is supported through research;

effective written expression is also evaluated in this event.

Speaking skills are also improved through public speaking

events like Extemporaneous Speaking. This event provides

students with a topic moments before the event begins

and evaluates a student’s ability to speak on a technologyrelated

topic with little preparation. Research events like

Agriculture and Biotechnology Design require students to

conduct research to present a solution to a student-selected

research question. Similar TSA research events apply the

Figure 2. A student watches as his structural design is tested during

a state Technology Student Association conference. Students

are anxious to see if their theoretical maximum load matches the

actual measurement.

content in Standards for the English Language Arts (NCTE,

2008). TSA reflects technology education’s desire to provide

students with a relevant application for core subjects

through the science, technology education, and math

(STEM) initiative (TSA, 2008).

How Do I Start a Chapter?

Now that all the benefits have been described, your first

question is probably how do I join? Starting a TSA chapter

is not a tremendously difficult feat but does require you to

complete a few initial steps. After identifying interested

students and obtaining administrative approval, begin

researching funds. Some chapters use fundraising ideas

like car washes to raise money. My chapter relies heavily on

printing t-shirts for other organizations, thus capitalizing

14 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

on our technology skills to raise money. Grants can also

provide some income for chapters. Although not available to

TSA chapters in Pennsylvania, Perkins Funds are instituted

to help technical educational programs in other states (U.S.

Department of Education, n.d.). Similar funds and grants

can also be found by a simple Internet search.

The primary cost to a first-year chapter is affiliating with

National TSA (The Technology Student Association, 2008).

A larger school may register the entire student population

through a CAP affiliation or reduce costs in smaller chapters

by affiliating individual students. By affiliating, you are

recognized as an official TSA chapter and receive the TSA

handbook with all of the event information (Technology

Student Association, 2008). This step is required prior to any

competition. Once you have approval and have identified

some interested students, contact a mentor to help you

through the first year. This could be your TSA State Advisor,

Regional Coordinator, or a friend at a neighboring school.

All of these resources can be found at your state’s TSA

Webpage or at The first year, some chapter

advisors decide to go to regional conferences as observers.

This experience is financially easier and gives the advisor

the scope of the organization without adding the stress of

registering and following the competition’s schedule. After

the first year, the rest of your TSA experience will be a lot

smoother and full of rewards.

In Summary

The Technology Student Association represents the

educational benefits in a technology education classroom.

Students are motivated by competition and use that

enthusiasm to excel academically. This article highlights just


Agriculture and Biotechnology Design


Architectural Modeling

Career Comparisons

Chapter Team

Computer-Aided Design 2-D, Architecture

Computer Aided Design 3-D, Engineering

Computer-Aided Design Animation

Construction Systems

Cyberspace Pursuit

Desktop Publishing

Dragster Design

Electronic Game Design

Electronic Research and Experimentation

Engineering Design

Extemporaneous Presentation


Flight Endurance

Imaging Technology

Manufacturing Prototype

Medical Technology

Prepared Presentation

Promotional Graphics

Controlled Transportation

Scientific and Technical Visualization

Structural Engineering

System Control Technology

Technical Sketching and Application

Technology Bowl

Technology Challenge

Technology Problem Solving

Transportation Modeling


Teams research an event-related topic and display their conclusions.

Teams will design and construct an automated device to carry out a specific task.

Participants will construct plans to satisfy a design brief.

Participants research a career in technology and complete a formal job resume and

cover letter.

Teams conduct a business meeting utilizing parliamentary procedures.

Individuals compete using architectural skills and knowledge.

Individuals produce a 3-D drawing for a product.

Individuals use a provided sketch to produce an animated technical drawing.

Teams are tested on their construction knowledge and compete by solving a

construction problem.

Teams design and launch a website showcasing their school’s program.

Individuals produce an advertising scheme for a company.

Individuals produce a C0 2

-powered car.

Teams develop an electronic game.

Teams research and develop an innovative electronic device.

Teams solve a design brief by prototyping and displaying their solution to a societal problem.

Students speak on a topic that was provided 15 minutes prior to their time slot.

Teams develop a video on the topic of their choice.

Students develop a rubber-band-powered aircraft.

Students capture and manipulate images centered on a given theme.

Participants design and produce a prototype related to industry.

Teams research and display information regarding a medical technology.

Students present a topic discussing a preselected technology issue.

Students produce a TSA promotional poster.

Teams produce an RC vehicle that is capable of moving a load.

Teams develop an electronic visualization about a theme.

Participants construct a structure to efficiently hold a load.

Teams construct a computer-controlled model to solve a design brief.

Students write a report on an announced technology.

Teams compete against other teams’ technological knowledge.

Teams develop a device to sort parts using fluid, mechanical, and electrical systems.

Teams compete to solve an open-ended problem.

Individuals must produce a CO 2

-powered car to meet a specific design.

Table 2. Brief Summaries for High School Competitive Events Held in the 2008 National Technology Student Association Conference.

15 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

the tip of the iceberg; there is so much more to learn about

TSA and its rewards for all members involved. The only way

you can see all of the strengths of the club is to be involved

yourself. The work involved in initiating and maintaining a

chapter is easily negated the first time one of your students

thanks you for allowing them to experience TSA or places in

his or her first event.


Clark, A. C. & Wenig, R. E. (1999). Identification of quality

characteristics of technology education programs:

A North Carolina case study. Journal of Technology

Education, 11(1), 18–26.

DeLuca, D. W. & Haynie, W. J. (1991). Perceptions and

practices of Technology Student Association advisors on

implementation strategies and teaching methods. Journal

of Technology Education, 3(1).

International Technology Education Association.

(2000/2002/2007). Standards for technology literacy:

Content for the study of technology. Reston, VA: Author.

National Council of Teachers of English. (2008). Standards

for the English language arts. Retrieved October 29, 2008,


Pennsylvania Department of Education. (2008). State

board of education academic standards. Retrieved

May 4, 2008, from



Taylor, J. S. (2004). An analysis of the variables that affect

technological literacy as related to selected technology

student association activities. Unpublished manuscript,

North Carolina State University at Raleigh.

Technology Student Association. (2008). Technology Student

Association homepage. Retrieved October 27, 2008, from

Technology Student Association. (2006). National TSA

conference competitive events guide (6th ed.). Reston, VA:

Goodheart Willcox Publisher.

U. S. Department of Education. (n.d.). Federal Perkins loan

program. Retrieved May 6, 2008, from


Tim Hess is a graphic communications

teacher at Pequea Valley High School in

Kinzers, PA. He has advised the schools’

TSA chapter for four years and serves as

his region’s conference coordinator. He

can be reached via email at tim_hess@

This is a refereed article.

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16 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010



North Carolina March 18-20, 2010

Image courtesy of Visit Charlotte.

Green Technology:

STEM Solutions for 21st Century Citizens

Keynote speaker John Warner,

President and Chief Technology Officer

Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry

17 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010


On behalf of the ITEA Board of Directors, the ITEA staff,

and the North Carolina conference planning team, I

would like to invite you and your guests to Charlotte,

NC and the 72nd Annual ITEA Conference. The theme

of this year’s conference is Green Technology: STEM

Solutions for 21st Century Citizens.

Green Technology and STEM Education are hot button

issues in the education and business communities.

This year’s conference theme was selected because of

the unique ability of technology educators to educate

young citizens on the merits and benefits of Green

Technology, and provide the Technology and Engineering

components of STEM Education.

This conference will provide you

with an opportunity to recognize

and honor the accomplishments of our colleagues and best-practice programs. The conference will

also provide professional development opportunities and networking opportunities.

We hope you will join us for this stimulating and rewarding conference.

Ed Denton, DTE

ITEA President, 2009-2010


The ITEA conference offers a unique opportunity for educators,

experts, administrators, and vendors who are interested

in technology and engineering education to share experiences,

skills, and strategies.

Here are just a few of the networking opportunities

taking place in Charlotte:


• Welcome Gathering


• Program Excellence General Session

• ITEA International Luncheon


• FTE “Spirit of Excellence” Breakfast

• Teacher Excellence General Session

• Free lunch in the Exhibit Hall


• Teaching Technology Showcase (Tech Fest)

• ITEA Awards Luncheon

Additionally, there are dozens of informal opportunities to

meet and greet your colleagues. Be sure to consult the onsite

Conference Program for full details.

18 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

professional development

Professional development opportunities abound in Charlotte, including six specialized preconference workshops,

Engineering byDesign Labs , and over 125 learning sessions!

Specialized Workshop Topics:

• Introducing Renewable Energy Technology Into Your Curriculum

• Integrating the Design Process Into Video Production Activities

Technology Education Facility Planning Guidebook

• Green Invention Road Creating Food From Waste as if Your Life

Depends on it: In Fact, It Does!

• Learning Through Electronic Portfolios: Tools, Concepts, and Logistics

• Design and Technology at the British Schools of Washington

Engineering byDesign Labs :

Elementary School

• Invention, Innovation, and Inquiry (I 3)

Technology Starters

Middle School

• Exploring Technology

Technology Systems

High School

• Advanced Design Applications

• Advanced Technological Applications

• Engineering Design

• Foundations of Technology

• Technological Design

Sampling of professional development learning sessions:


• It’s Easy to Be Green

• E-Waste: Solving a Global Problem With STEM

• Talking to High Schools About Engineering

• Harnessing Sun and Wind Energy

• Eyes on the Earth: NASA’s Unique Perspective

• Biotechnology Made Easy

• Design in Technology Education: Designing for Sustainability

• Developing a Middle School “Green Technology” Course


• Practical Tools and Lessons for Invention

• Green Technology Improves Classroom Gender Equity

• The Green Problem Solving Model

• STEMify Your Classroom

• Development of a Green Technology Teaching Module

• Design for a Practical Green Energy Education

• Getting Girls Excited About Technology Education

• Integrating Sustainability Into the Technology Education Curriculum


• Teaching “Green Building” in Construction Technology Education


• Engineering Bridges

• Mobile Phones: A Tool to Teach Digital Communications

• Lean and Green Manufacturing in Wood Technology

• A Design Course’s Connectednes s and Attitudes About Diversity

• Develop a Discipline-Saving Strategy

19 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010


Gather educational materials and view the latest products from over 50 leading

vendors of technology and engineering education vendors.

And don’t forget to schedule free Action

Lab time and also join us for the free

luncheon in the exhibit hall!

For the latest list of vendors scheduled

to exhibit in Charlotte, go to



Everything you need to know to attend ITEA’s 72nd

Annual Conference in Charlotte is accessible at:


• The Complete Preconference Brochure with:

• Session Descriptions

• Workshops

• Tours

• EbD Labs

• Exhibits

• Council Programming

• PATT Programming

• Hotel Information

• Spouse Program

• Transportation Information

• Pricing

• Registration Instructions

• Housing Information

Everything you need is in one, centralized location. Can’t

find what you’re looking for? Call ITEA headquarters Monday-

Friday, 8:30-4:30pm, EST at 703-860-2100 and we’ll make

sure you get your answer.

Don’t wait to register! Preregistration pricing makes attending

this conference very affordable, but the deadline is

February 1, 2010.

ITEA’s 72nd Annual Conference is designed to offer technology

and engineering education professionals a unique professional

development and networking opportunity that you

won’t want to miss!


20 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010 703-860-2100

Designing Technology Activities

that Teach Mathematics

By Eli M. Silk, Ross Higashi, Robin Shoop, and

Christian D. Schunn

Teaching mathematics in a

technology classroom requires

more than simply using

mathematics with technology.

It requires designing the

lesson to focus, motivate, and

highlight the mathematics in a

meaningful way.


Some teachers believe that if mathematics is integrated

into technology education lessons, then students will

become mathematically competent. We agree that many

activities commonly found in technology classrooms have

the potential to develop students’ mathematical literacy

(Litowitz, 2009). We also believe there are a number of

important benefits to targeting math within technology

instruction. When students define a technological design

problem mathematically they develop more sophisticated

solutions and understandings of those solutions.

Mathematics taught within well-designed technology

education lessons provides students opportunities to learn

math in contexts that they understand and that can lead

to cross-discipline connections. Finally, in this era of high

stakes accountability, contributing to math instruction

helps convince school and district administration that

technology education should continue to be supported.

On the other hand, research conducted by our team

suggests that, just because the math is present in an activity,

it doesn’t mean that students will learn math. Over the

past three years, our team has conducted research in

middle and high school classrooms in an effort to improve

the effectiveness of robotics to teach science, technology,

engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education—our

focus has been on math. We have found that subtle changes

in the design and setup of the lesson make a substantive

difference in what students learn. In this article, we share

our experiences in redesigning a lesson that uses robotics

technology to teach proportional reasoning in order to

generate some general principles for effectively teaching

math in the context of technological problem solving.

Designing and Redesigning a Robotics Unit to

Teach Math

As curriculum developers and learning science researchers,

we have had many experiences helping teams of

students solve technological design problems in robotic

competitions and in designing formal classroom curricula

intended to teach STEM concepts through robotics.

Building on those experiences, our goal in this project

was to design a unit that would tightly connect formal

mathematics concepts with technological design in an

integrated way, instead of developing either in isolation.

In other words, we wanted to make the students’ design

goal in the unit activities so tightly interwoven with an

important math idea that the students couldn’t help but

learn about the math in order to solve the design problem.

With that goal in mind, we designed the Robot Synchronized

Dancing (RSD) unit. RSD began as a redesign of an existing

STEM unit from the Robotics Academy, which focused

on learning the mathematics of basic robot movements

(Photo 1). We modified the activities so that they were

contextualized within a design problem and narrowed

the mathematical focus to target proportional reasoning.

21 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

Photo Credit: Eli M. Silk

Principles for Designing Technology Activities to

Teach Math

Principle 1 – Motivate Sustained Engagement Through

Problem Design

Deep learning requires challenging students to revise deepseated

beliefs about a given subject, but initial interest

alone is not sufficient to carry a student through a lengthy

renovation of beliefs. The design of the activity must both

promote student engagement at the beginning of a lesson

and actively maintain it through the unit’s end.

Robotics, like many high-tech fields, is inherently “cool.”

This is a great boost to student interest initially, and an

invaluable attention-getter for kicking off a lesson. RSD

and its precursors have long “played the robot card” to get

students’ attention for the critical first few minutes.

However, those first few minutes are all that initial

coolness buys, especially once it becomes clear that real

Photo 1. When programming the number of wheel rotations, the

distance a robot travels forward is a function of the size of its wheels.

Proportional reasoning is a foundational mathematics

concept that relates to a wide range of situations in

everyday life and in the workplace, such as those that

involve unit rates, mixtures, or scaling (Cramer & Post,

1993; Langrall & Swafford, 2000). Proportional reasoning

is also central in understanding how a robot’s movements

can be controlled, as the relationships between the physical

construction of the robot, the values used to program

the robot, and how the robot actually moves are often

proportional in nature. This led us to our initial unit design

that challenged students to program robots of different

sizes so they danced in sync with each other. (See Photo 2

and Silk, Schunn, & Shoop, 2009.)

Photo Credit: Eli M. Silk

Over the past year, we tested and redesigned the RSD unit.

We implemented the unit with middle school students in

technology education classrooms, in after-school programs,

and with teachers who came to the Robotics Academy to

learn how to teach robotics. In this article, we explain some

of the design principles that we found useful in redesigning

RSD, using examples from that redesign experience to make

the principles concrete. The principles, as summarized in

Table 1, address sustaining student engagement, targeting

key content, generalizing understanding, and explaining

to others. These principles may be helpful for any teacher

interested in redesigning his or her own technology

activities to better target mathematics.

Photo 2. Two robots of different sizes out of sync when putting

the same program on both robots. The design problem in the RSD

unit is to develop a toolkit for putting these two robots in sync with

each other.

22 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

Task Design Goal Solution RSD Initial RSD Revised

Engagement Principle 1

Contextualize in a design problem

Focused Content Principle 2

Foreground the target ideas

Solve the design problem of getting different-size robots to dance in

sync with each other

Create a dance routine, specify

the routine, then synchronize

across robots

Synchronize using given initial

prototype design that highlights

the sync problem

Generalization Principle 3

Make the process the product

Get the robots to do your routine

in sync

Create a toolkit for synchronizing

that will work for any routine

Explanation Principle 4

Communicate ideas to a client

Create routine to demonstrate to


Create toolkit for a dance team

choreographer to understand,

use, and adapt

Table 1. Features of the RSD problem setup and framing that were redesigned from the initial version to the current version.

work is involved. In one implementation of the STEM

unit that preceded RSD, a student had a revelation part

way through the activity: “This is math!” he said, and

subsequently dropped out of the discussion. This is not to

say that math is diametrically opposed to interest. On the

contrary, the student had been participating quite willingly

in the math-based activity up until that point. We should

instead interpret the student’s comment to mean that our

treatment of the subject had exhausted its initial “coolness”

and not done enough to replenish that interest.

In order to increase the level of “coolness” retention

over time, the original STEM activity was redesigned

from an inquiry activity in which students verified given

mathematical relationships to a dance synchronization

activity. The addition of music styling and dance

choreography provided a positive reminder of the

“coolness” of the project every time students ran their

robots to the music—even as their intermediate solutions

didn’t yet get their robots to dance fully in sync!

Additionally, RSD included a second level of interestretention

as part of a larger structural revision toward

being a design-based activity. In the original STEM activity,

students performed a series of simple tasks in a predefined

order, with a discussion of mathematics principles after

each. This produced an ordered series of concepts, but

lacked a strong common thread or end goal.

The redesigned RSD unit, by contrast, is design-based

(Sadler, Coyle, & Schwartz, 2000). Students are given a

“cool” theme up front as their design goal—robots that

dance together—and reminded and encouraged to connect

their efforts back to this theme at every step. Doing so is

an important part of the design process (aligning work to

goals), but also reinforces the connection of the work to

the context. In essence, the design process’ insistence on

contextualization helps the new RSD problem to continue

to dispense “cool” over time.

The dual problems of attaining and sustaining student

interest should be addressed deliberately but naturally

through the design of the activity’s problem and structure.

RSD builds on strong, attractive themes (robotics and

dance) to get students’ attention, and then employs a

student design-based structure to actively ensure that the

activity remains connected to those themes.

Principle 2 – Motivate On-Target Thinking Through


Maintaining interest—difficult and requisite though it

may be—is not all that is necessary to achieve the learning

objectives of the lesson. Students also need to become

cognitively engaged with the target math ideas.

Designing effective learning activities so that they align

with target objectives requires more than just a checklist

matched to a list of standards. In fact, the fewer boxes you

try to check off in a lesson, the better. Instead, the content

must be targeted, precise, and narrow (Silk & Schunn, 2008).

One way to do this is to repeatedly “foreground” the desired

content while temporarily pushing other concepts into the

background. This helps to ensure that students are devoting

their time and effort to the parts of the problem that will be

most beneficial to their learning of the target ideas.

In the initial RSD design, students were asked to design

a robot dance routine and to implement it on several

robots with different wheel sizes. In doing so, we believed

students would have to address the underlying proportional

relationships between robots with different-sized wheels.

23 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

Instead, students focused on specifying dance routines.

Students spent up to 12 hours developing precise

choreography and measuring each dance move individually.

Only after this lengthy process was completed did they

begin to think about the issue of synchronizing across

different robots.

Certainly, measurement is relevant, related, and

contextually appropriate, but was not the target of the

unit. Allowing students to focus on measurement added

instructional time without doing anything to address the

target ideas. Measurement did not receive the proper

treatment either.

The revised version of RSD attempts to foreground the

challenging aspects of the synchronization problem, while

moving to the background the related but noncentral

problems. We do this by providing an initial prototype

design in the form of a “given” dance routine specification

and a “control” robot that they can compare their results

against side-by-side. Additional “givens” include a working

program (to minimize programming as a distraction)

and a careful choice of robots that makes the lack of

synchronization obvious (Photo 2). See Sadler et al. (2000)

for other examples of providing initial prototype designs

and the advantages of doing so.

The initial prototype design intentionally makes the desired

focal problem (lack of synchronization) very salient to

students, thus pushing it to the foreground as all the other

concepts are being pulled to the background. In the revised

RSD design, students are able to begin thinking about the

target content—proportionality—on the very first day

of instruction. They recognize right away that different

robots are not in sync and begin the key work to solve that

problem using ideas related to proportionality.

Effective learning requires that content be targeted

and specific. The target content must be brought to

the forefront, and other concepts—even closely related

ones—subsumed into the background. RSD uses an initial

prototype design to foreground the target proportionality

content, and provides “givens” to keep related-but-notcentral

concepts from competing for attention.

Principle 3 – Motivating Generalization by Making the

Process the Product

Even after students are actively interested and thinking

about the target aspects of the design problem, challenges

remain in getting them to think about the mathematics at

a deep level. The essence of mathematics understanding is

to be able to describe the general aspects of situations—

referred to as generalization. In many lessons, once

students solve a concrete problem, there is rarely an

Photo Credit: Eli M. Silk

Photo Credit: Eli M. Silk

Photo 3. Examples of student solutions to synchronizing straight distances. A guess-and-check solution (left) and a more general

solution (right).

24 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

inherent incentive for figuring out the more general

problem. For example, after a student successfully

programs a robot to move forward 50 centimeters, that

experience rarely motivates him or her to figure out a

general relationship between the size of the robot’s wheel

and how far it moves. We found that if we really want this

mathematical generalization to happen, then we can’t just

ask for it as an additional thing to do. Instead, we make

mathematical generalization the primary focus from the

beginning and make the generalization itself be the actual

final product.

We designed our initial RSD unit assuming that by asking

students to make a dance routine that would incorporate

a range of different moves (at different distances, angles,

and speeds) and a range of different size robots (that

varied on their wheel size and track width), that they

would need to generalize their understanding to solve the

problem. Contrary to our expectations, students spent their

efforts getting their dance routine to “look” synchronized.

Consistent with this, the majority of synchronization

solutions that students developed were versions of guessand-check

in which they continually tweaked parameters in

their program until the robots looked visibly in sync with

each other (Photo 3). These solutions did not give them

insight into the underlying general relationships.

In the RSD redesign, we revised the problem setup so

that the generalization task wasn’t just an add-on, but

was an essential part of any solution. We were inspired by

model-eliciting activities (MEAs)—developed originally

for middle school mathematics classrooms, but used

increasingly in undergraduate engineering settings

(Hamilton, Lesh, Lester, & Brilleslyper, 2008). A main

principle of MEAs is that authentic, real-world situations

are carefully chosen such that the situation itself motivates

a need to create a general mathematical model. To this

end, we made a subtle, but substantive change to how

the problem was presented to students. Instead of a

synchronized dance routine being the final product, the

students’ goal was to make a “mathematical toolkit” for

synchronizing dancing robots with any dance routine. In

doing so, from the start of the unit, we emphasize that the

end goal is a general solution, and that the particular dance

routines and robots we were using were just examples

to help us get to that more general end goal. Solving the

immediate, concrete goal (i.e., getting the two example

robots to be in sync for the given example routine) was

desirable, and probably also a necessary

step along the path, but was no longer sufficient as an

ending point.

Principle 4 – Motivating Explanation by Incorporating

a Client

As a final concern, even when we were successful at getting

students to develop general mathematical solutions, it

continued to be challenging to get them to communicate

their ideas explicitly. Students can learn a lot by simply

explaining their ideas to themselves and to others

(Lombrozo, 2006). But explanations are also important

because they are the primary way teachers can assess what

students understand. Similar to generalization, too often in

classroom activities students see requests to explain their

thinking as an additional thing to do without being centrally

important for solving the problem. Our fourth design

principle was to modify the problem setup so that students’

end goal wasn’t to design something that they understood,

but rather, to design something that someone else, a client,

Photo 4. Example of a complete solution, but one that only provides

the steps to follow rather than explaining why the quantities used

were included and why they have the relationships that they do.

Photo Credit: Eli M. Silk

25 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

could understand. Again, we were inspired by MEAs, which

make use of client-driven tasks to motivate communication

of ideas. (For an excellent example of the redesign of an

activity according to MEA principles see Lesh, Hoover,

Hole, Kelly, & Post, 2000.) By incorporating a client into the

design goal, the activity provides an authentic reason for

students to explain their thinking.

In RSD, the original design goal was for each team of

students to create its own dance routine that would work

on all of the robots. Although we asked each team to share

resulting ideas, there was nothing in the problem itself

that made explaining those ideas necessary. Our revised

design challenges students to design a synchronized

toolkit for a fictional client—a dance team captain who

choreographs routines for robots. The client is requesting a

synchronization toolkit that will be easy to understand and

adaptable to many different dance routines. This change

combines aspects of generalization from Principle 3 with

the need to communicate the ideas in a way that the client

will understand and be able to use effectively.

In addition to how the problem is presented, our experience

suggests that we need to provide further support for

students in providing these explanations as the activities

are enacted. That is, even though the problem is now

better framed to motivate explaining, actual forming of

high-quality explanations will still be difficult. In many

cases, students generate explanations that are limited to

descriptions of what steps to do (i.e., what to measure,

what to calculate, what to put in the program and where.

(See Photo 4.) These types of explanations don’t clarify

what the steps mean, why and how they work, or how

they could be adapted, which would be much more

useful for communicating understanding to the client.

To help students, we need to provide them with multiple

opportunities to explain their ideas, to have real clients

that the students must explain to (especially clients who

aren’t familiar with the robots), to model higher-quality

explanations they can use as examples, and to provide

timely feedback. When these resources are provided,

students are able to generate higher-quality explanations

that communicate deep understanding.


Overall, this process of redesigning robotics problems

according to these principles takes time and effort. But

we believe that it is doable and worth the effort because

of the payoff in learning mathematics at a deep level.

Robot Synchronized Dancing

Bots-N-Sync is a robot dance team that specializes in

doing synchronized dances—many robots doing the

same dance moves at the same time. They are hugely

popular thanks to the power of the Internet. They record

videos of their routines and post them on YouTube.

Although they have only completed two routines so far,

both videos have gone viral with millions of viewers.

The Problem

The team is growing a large and devoted fan base by

encouraging their fans to submit dance routines online

on the team’s website. The captain of the Bots-N-Sync

team likes to see if a routine is good by getting the entire

dance team do the routine together. The problem is that

each dance routine is designed for the team’s original

robot, Justin Timberlake, but the robots on the dance

team are all different. When the captain first downloads

a dance routine to all the robots, each robot moves in

different ways, and they are definitely not in sync with

each other. In the past, when the team worked on just

one dance routine at a time and with only their original

team of robots, “guess-and-check” to adjust each move

individually for each robot was tiresome but did work.

Now, though, with routines being submitted each day

and the increasing pressure from fans to put out fresh

videos, they need a much better solution.

Your Job

Create a “how to” toolkit that the Bots-N-Sync captain

can use to modify submitted dance routine programs so

that all of the dancers do the routines in sync with each

other. New dance routines are submitted often, and new

dancers will be joining the team regularly. So, a good

toolkit would work for the current dance routine, but

an ideal toolkit would be easy to use or adapt for new

routines and new robots. An ideal toolkit would also

include explanations of why the solution works, so the

captain can easily understand how it works and how it

can be adapted later for other similar situations. Your

toolkit can utilize words, numbers, graphs, pictures,

and/or any other form that effectively conveys your

ideas and meets the needs of your client, the Bots-N-

Sync captain.

26 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

And, because this occurs in the context of a technology

education activity, it effectively bolsters both subjects.

As you redesign your technological design problems,

the iterative redesign attitude is a good one to hold. The

principles provide some clues regarding whether changes

have improved the task and where critical improvements

are still needed: (1) Are students interested to see the

problem through?; (2) Do they talk about the math that

you are trying to teach?; (3) Is the math simple, numerical

equations obtained by guess-and-check, or do the students

develop general equations?; and (4) Do students provide

explanations about the math in their solutions?


Cramer, K. & Post, T. (1993). Proportional reasoning. The

Mathematics Teacher, 86(5), 404-407.

Hamilton, E., Lesh, R., Lester, F., & Brilleslyper, M. (2008).

Model-eliciting activities (MEAs) as a bridge between

engineering education research and mathematics

education research. Advances in Engineering

Education, 1(2).

Langrall, C. W. & Swafford, J. (2000). Three balloons for two

dollars: Developing proportional reasoning. Mathematics

Teaching in the Middle School, 6(4), 254-261.

You are invited to explore the power and

promise of a STEM education!

The Overlooked STEM Imperatives:

Technology and Engineering, K–12 Education

Take this opportunity to gain a better

understanding of the need for

STEM education and its critical role

in creating a technologically literate

society. The rationale for the “T”

and “E” has been specifically addressed

in order to gain support for

these subjects as part of the overall

STEM effort.

You are invited to explore the power and promise of a

STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)

education through this publication, but more importantly,

to seek to understand the importance of ensuring

that the “T” and “E” are equal partners within STEM

to adequately prepare the next generation workforce

as well as valued contributors to our communities and


NEW from ITEA. Electronic publication.

P240CD. $15.00/Members $13.00

To order, call 703-860-2100 or download an order form


Lesh, R., Hoover, M., Hole, B., Kelly, A., & Post, T. (2000).

Principles for developing thought-revealing activities

for students and teachers. In A. E. Kelly & R. A. Lesh

(Eds.), Handbook of Research Design in Mathematics and

Science Education (pp. 591-646). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence

Erlbaum Associates.

Litowitz, L. S. (2009). Addressing mathematics literacy

through technology, innovation, design, and engineering.

The Technology Teacher, 69(1), 19-22.

Lombrozo, T. (2006). The structure and function of

explanations. Trends in Cognitive Science, 10(10),


Sadler, P. M., Coyle, H. P., & Schwartz, M. (2000).

Engineering competitions in the middle school

classroom: Developing effective design challenges.

Journal of the Learning Sciences, 9(3), 299-327.

Silk, E. M. & Schunn, C. D. (2008). Using robotics to

teach mathematics: Analysis of a curriculum designed

and implemented. Paper presented at the American

Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference,

Pittsburgh, PA.

Silk, E. M., Schunn, C. D., & Shoop, R. (2009).

Synchronized robot dancing: Motivating efficiency

and meaning in problem solving with robotics. Robot

Magazine, 17, 42-45.

Eli M. Silk is a graduate student in

education research at the University

of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and

Development Center. He can be reached via

email at

Ross Higashi is a content developer for

the Robotics Academy at Carnegie Mellon

University’s National Robotics Engineering

Center. He can be reached via email at

Robin Shoop, a thirty-year technology

teacher, is the director of the Robotics

Academy at Carnegie Mellon University’s

National Robotics Engineering Center.

He can be reached via email at rshoop@

Christian D. Schunn is a psychology

professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s

Learning Research and Development Center.

He can be reached via email at schunn@

27 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

The Creative Classroom:

The Role of Space and Place

Toward Facilitating Creativity

By Scott A. Warner and Kerri L. Myers

All teachers, including

technology educators, should

examine what is being taught,

how it is being taught, and how

the development and growth

of creativity should be woven

into the educational fabric of

teaching and learning.

Introduction: The Emerging Paradigm of Teaching

and Learning

As we become more sophisticated in our understanding of

the workings of the human mind, it becomes increasingly

clear that the processes of teaching and learning are

more complex and subtle than was once thought. Models

of education that were appropriate in the past are now

obsolete. Cornell (2002) proposed an emerging paradigm

of teaching and learning that moves from the model for

an industrial economy to one that is appropriate for a

knowledge economy. (See Figure 1.) Pink (2005) shifted the

paradigm even further by moving beyond the knowledge

economy to what he referred to as “the conceptual age”

(p. 2). According to Pink,

We are moving from an economy and society built

on the logical, linear, computerlike capabilities of the

Information Age to an economy and a society built

on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of

what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age (pp. 1-2).

The people who control and oversee this conceptual age will

be those who are able to “detect patterns and opportunities,

to create artistic beauty, to craft a satisfying narrative, and

to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into something new”

(pp. 2-3). They will also be those who are able to “empathize

with others” (p. 3), find joy for themselves and bring it out

in others, and pursue activities that provide purpose and

meaning to their lives and the lives of others. In describing

the types of individuals who will hold the keys to the

conceptual age, Pink stated,

The future belongs to a very different kind of person

with a very different kind of mind-creators and

empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning

From an Industrial Economy

• Passive Learners

• Directed Learning

• Knowledge Revealed

• Explicit Knowledge

• Knowledge is Discrete

• Single Assessment

• Single Intelligence

• Instructor Technology

• Alone

• Just in Case

• Content

• Linear and Planned

To a Knowledge Economy

• Active Learners

• Facilitated Learning

• Knowledge Discovered

• Explicit and Tacit

• Knowledge is Embedded

• Multiple Assessments

• Multiple Intelligence

• Ubiquitous Technology

• Alone and Together

• Just in Time

• Content and Process

• Planned and Chaotic

Figure 1: The emerging paradigm of teaching and learning as

defined by Cornell. The paradigm shift is from an industrial

economy to one that is based on knowledge. From The impact of

changes in teaching and learning on furniture and the learning

environment The importance of physical space in creating supportive

learning environments (pp. 33-42). San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

28 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

makers. These people—artists, inventors, designers,

storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big-picture

thinkers—will now reap society’s richest rewards and

share its greatest joys (p.1).

Fundamental to living in the conceptual age will be the use

of creativity. Creativity can be described as any “human act

or process that occurs when the key elements of novelty,

appropriateness, and a receptive audience in a given field

comes together at a given time to solve a given problem”

(Warner, 2000). It is clear that the type of people Pink

identified as becoming the owners of the world of the

future use the tools of creativity now, or should be taught

how to do so. The ideas advocated by writers such as

Cornell and Pink make for a persuasive argument that all

teachers, including technology educators, should examine

what is being taught, how it is being taught, and how the

development and growth of creativity should be woven into

the educational fabric of teaching and learning.

Limited space does not permit addressing each of

these issues in this article. Instead, we will focus on

one important component of the dynamics of making

creativity an integral part of the teaching and learning

experience. That component is the importance of space

and place toward facilitating creativity in the classroom

or lab. Van Note Chism (2002) observed that in the

school environment “Room design influences the social

context of the classes, student-instructor and studentstudent

relations, instructional design options, and the

overall effectiveness of instructional technology” (p. 7).

Unfortunately, all of us have experienced classrooms that

are drab and institutional in appearance. If examined with

emotional detachment, these classrooms, and the

buildings they are in, are often not much more than

educational warehouses. Given that the body of literature

dealing with the importance of space and place in

education has a history that goes back more than a century

(Woodward, 1887), it is tragic that the warehouse paradigm

still continues.

In her seminal book, The Power of Place, Gallagher (1993)

stated, “Throughout history, people of all cultures have

assumed that environment influences behavior. Now

modern science is confirming that our actions, thoughts,

and feelings are indeed shaped not just by our genes

and neurochemistry, history, and relationships, but

also our surroundings”(p. 12). In this article, we would

like to propose how to apply some of that knowledge to

every classroom, to every school building, and to every

technology education facility.

Examples of Historical Precedence

The recognition of the role of space and place toward

facilitating the study of technology goes back as far as Calvin

Woodward and the study of manual training. Woodward

(1887) noted that manual training schools needed to provide

a “physical shop and laboratory…full of apparatus and

tools for making more physical apparatus” (p. 336). “The

walls of the various shops are generally of plain brickwork,

which is whitewashed if there is any lack of light” (p. 337).

Furthermore, “the study and recitation rooms should be

separated from the shops” (p. 340).

The leaders of industrial arts also saw the importance of

space and place toward implementation of the curricula.

Moon (1975) perhaps best summarized this recognition by

stating that industrial arts facilities “should be designed to

provide a learning environment in which the understandings

and applications of the principal commonalities [wood,

metal, drafting] can be implemented with all materials,

processes and energies of technologies” (p. 18).

Technology education has also had research efforts to

identify the characteristics of classroom and lab facilities

that encourage the creative spirit. Doyle’s (1991a) research

identified “facility factors that affect technological problemsolving

activities” (p. 1). A summary of Doyle’s findings can

be found in Figure 2. Doyle’s research clearly indicated that

a variety of environmental factors influence the creative

Technology Education facilities should provide:

An information-rich environment, that

Extends beyond the normal laboratory confines, that

Provides equipment and materials for modeling and

prototyping, that

Includes an area appropriate for designing and drawing, that

Includes such ambient features as space for small group

conferencing, and an inviting and stimulating color scheme,


Resources for testing and measuring are readily accessible,


Is flexible for reconfiguration and adaptation to changing

needs, that

Has space for displays and storage, and

Is environmentally inviting.

Figure 2: Doyle’s research involved 25 teachers and 13 inventors

and problem-solving authorities from across the United States.

His findings provide technology educators with a valuable list of

ideal characteristics to be found in a technology education lab/

classroom that encourages creativity. Adapted from Facility factors

for technological problem-solving by M. Doyle, 1991a. Unpublished

raw data.

29 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

culture that exists within a technology education facility. So,

if environment does in fact influence our behavior, what are

the variables that at some level cause the behavior to occur?

The Environmental Variables

A review of the literature has provided us with a broad

list of the environmental variables. The primary examples

include such things as lighting, color, decorations, furniture,

resources, sensory variables, space configurations, and

class size. An analysis of the literature about each of these

environmental variables can be summarized as follows:

Nuhfer (n.d.) felt that “colors best suited for classrooms

reduce agitation, apprehension, and promote a sense of wellbeing”

(pp. 2-3). According to Nuhfer, the classroom colors

that were most appropriate included light yellow-orange,

beige, pale or light green, or blue-green. Lloyd (2001) made

a persuasive argument that “loud colors cultivate loud ideas”


According to Lloyd (2001) the best option is natural lighting.

(See Figures 4 and 5.) Unfortunately, in most schools the

typical lighting source is fluorescent lights. Indications are,

however, this type of lighting can cause students to become

hyperactive and agitated, which diminishes productivity. It

may not be practical to change the entire lighting system in

a classroom or lab facility, but a compromise can be found

in changing traditional fluorescent lights to full-spectrum

tubes, which can improve visual performance and decrease

fatigue (Mahnke, 1996).


As a society we have trumpeted the value of encouraging

creativity in every new generation. Unfortunately, the color

of the walls in most of the classrooms across America do

not speak of creativity, they speak of institutional blandness.

Figure 4: A language arts classroom at the Charter High School

for Architecture and Design is supplied with lots of natural light

from large windows. The room is also decorated with colorful

displays and posters that encourage creative effort. (Photograph by


Figure 3: Cue-rich environments provide plenty of opportunities

for stimulation of creativity. Displays of student work fill the walls,

floors, and ceiling space of the commons area of the Charter High

School for Architecture and Design in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

(Photograph by authors.)

Figure 5: Any classroom environment can be configured to help

bring out creativity in students. This room in the Lampeter-Strasburg

School District in Pennsylvania uses lots of natural light, has

plenty of student work on display, has a flexible arrangement of

furniture, and even has splashes of color in the wall cabinets. The

teacher has made significant efforts to make this typical classroom

into a creative place. (Photograph by authors.)

30 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

(p. 16); however, Thompson (2003) noted that the use of

color in a classroom, especially loud colors, should be well

planned according to the age of the student population

served and the function of the classroom or lab. (See Figures

7 and 8.)


A freshly painted room, an empty office, or a newly

remodeled classroom represents a clean canvas upon

which the occupants can leave their mark. Decorations on

the wall, including student work, can serve the purpose

of prompting student creativity. (See Figures 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,

and 8.) Amabile (1996) in a meta-study entitled Creativity

in Context noted that, “cue-rich environments…simply

provide a level of cognitive stimulation necessary for

[students] to engage their domain-relevant and creativityrelevant

skills” (p.228). However, it is important for the

teacher to recognize that he or she must teach students

how to tap into those environmental cues. On this point

Amabile later wrote, “the physical environment can provide

visual stimulation for creative performance, but only if

[students] already know or can be taught how to use cues in

the environment effectively” (p. 228).


Our physical environments are filled with a lot of artifacts.

The artifact with which we perhaps have the most intimate

contact is furniture. We sit and wrap our bodies in our

chairs. We place our other belongings in or on other

pieces of furniture (e.g., tables, bookshelves, file cabinets).

Unfortunately, the best that can be said about furniture

used in most American schools is that it is functional.

Being primarily made out of hard plastic and metal, it

could also be said to be durable, but it certainly is not

comfortable. Furthermore, the aesthetic appeal of much

of this furniture is questionable at best. In a classroom

that facilitates creativity, furniture design should address

several issues. These should include not only usability and

durability, but also psychological appeal (aesthetic issues)

as well as comfort, safety, and health (Cornell, 2002).


Having a well-decorated room, inviting colors, and natural

light are all aspects of a good classroom, but none of

these will make a difference toward facilitating a creative

classroom environment without the availability of lots

of student resources. Arguably, resources serve as the

infrastructure for creativity. They should be so readily

available and usable that they become transparent to

the creative process. Resources are more than just sheet

metal, lumber, vellum, and breadboards. Examples of the

wide range of things that should be considered valuable

resources in a creative classroom can be found in Figure 9.

Kelly (2001) described one way that his design firm, IDEO,

provides designers with resources for creativity through

an assortment of miscellaneous parts, supplies, and oddsand-ends

stored in a “Tech Box” (p. 143). The Tech Box

serves as a collection center for things that do not have

specific applications (e.g., screws, hinges, electric motors,

Figure 6: A technology education lab has lots of potential for being

a creative environment. This high school lab in Lampeter-Strasburg

provides plenty of workspace while still displaying student work.

The lab can be easily reconfigured as circumstances and needs

change. (Photograph by authors.)

Figure 7: A hallway in the Washington, D.C. building for the British

Schools in America shows how color, lighting, and configuration

can add energy and excitement to any space. (Photograph by


31 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

plastic parts), but which could serve as creative cues for

developing new designs. Many teachers may already have

a “junk box” in their classroom for collecting things. The

Tech Box concept is simply one way of formalizing the

organization and function of that junk box for student use.

Sensory Variables

Anyone who has been in a warm room knows that he

or she can quickly become lethargic. To overcome these

natural tendencies, studies indicate that classrooms

should be kept slightly cool to help keep an edge on

students’ creative energies and to encourage movement

and activity. Compounding the negative effects of a room

temperature that is too high would be a sense of stuffiness

and confinement. The availability of a reliable flow of fresh

air is another example of a sensory variable that is critical

to the creative potential of a classroom. Lloyd (2001)

addressed the need for fresh air best by stating, “Nothing

happens without oxygen” (p.16).

Another sensory variable with which people are familiar

is the presence of music. Whether it is playing the radio

in the car, using an MP3 player while jogging, or listening

to music from the Internet, music is used to set the

mood in the environment. “Music [in the environment]

has the power to affect people’s mood, and mood affects

performance” (Lloyd, 2001, p.16). The use of appropriate

music, used at the right time and at the right volume can

further enhance the creative atmosphere of any classroom

or lab.

Space Configurations

The basic configuration of the space has its own influence

on the creative atmosphere of the classroom or lab.

Short of a complete renovation of the building, in most

places it is rare that significant structural changes can

be made. However, even the most difficult of existing

space configurations can still offer possibilities for the

determined educator. As a target to shoot for, the ideal

classroom should be configured with high ceilings and

few walls to help communicate openness, plenty of room

for freedom of movement, allowances for flexibility/

mobility, and places where students can talk and confer

(Lloyd, 2001; Kelly, 2001). Techniques that can be used to

make existing space configurations amenable to a creative

environment include the use of wall and ceiling colors

that convey the sense of openness, and putting machines,

benches, and cabinets on wheels so that they can be moved

to reconfigure the room as circumstances require and

needs change. (See Figure 5 and 6.)

Class Size

The final environmental variable to be discussed, class size,

may be the most important. Research findings indicate that

the ideal class size is 25 students or less (Ohio Education

Association, n.d.). Research performed in Tennessee

and documented by the American Educational Research

Association (Resnick, 2003) would push that number

even lower, to between 13 and 17 students in a classroom.

Smaller class size results in improvements in a variety of

important learning factors, including creative behavior,

Figure 8: A space outside the Design and Technology facilities in the Washington, D.C. building for the British Schools in America contains

displays of student work, appropriate signs, colorful surroundings, and focused lighting: all good examples of how to use to use space to

encourage creativity. (Photograph by authors.)

32 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

problem-solving abilities, retention of material learned,

and an increase in opportunities for participation and

expression (Ohio Education Association, n.d.; Resnick,

2003). For the teacher, the improvements also involve

classroom management through a reduction in learning

and behavior problems (Ohio Education Association, n.d.;

Resnick, 2003). In the technology education classroom

and lab, a reduction in these problems is exponentially

more important because of safety issues related to

tools and machines. For reasons of both safety and the

creative potential of students in the classroom and lab,

the technology education teacher must work closely with

school administrators to keep this variable at the lowest

number possible.

Teachers who address these variables as they organize,

decorate, and arrange their classroom and lab will be

more likely to draw out the full measure of the creative

potential of their students (Teachers can download a

Creativity in the Classroom Checklist at www.millersville.

edu/~swarner). The very act of encouraging creativity in

students indicates that the teacher already has embraced

a progressive philosophy of education that is studentcentered.

This philosophical stance may represent the next

chapter in American public education as it moves through

and beyond the constraints of legislation like No Child

Left Behind.


Writing to an international audience of design educators,

Hutchinson (2005) expressed her anxiety regarding recent

changes occurring in technology education by stating:

I’ve become increasingly concerned about the direction

that technology education is taking in the U.S.

...Contextual problems are valuable, but the range of

appropriate contexts is narrow. Working with materials

is good, but some materials are more acceptable than

others. Creativity is not an important value. (p. 16)

This assessment may be an important warning to the

profession about the nature of the values we embrace, in

particular the value placed on creativity. Creativity is an

important part of the ideals expressed in Standards for

Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology

(ITEA, 2000/2002/2007). To fully apply those ideals so that

we can better prepare our students to be active participants

in the conceptual age, the profession must be willing to

take the lead in demonstrating the application of creativity

toward our curricula and our classrooms and labs. When

considering whether it would be worthwhile to modify the

environmental variables in your classroom to encourage

Printed material, such as books and magazines

Office supplies, tools, and equipment, including a copier

Computers, printers, scanners, and Internet connections

A telephone and digital cameras

Audio and video tapes and players/recorders

A refrigerator with a stock of fresh food and drink

A box or kit full of odds and ends for idea development

Figure 9: The resources that will facilitate creativity in a classroom

or lab can run across a wide spectrum. The physical supplies

that are common in a technology education facility should be

supplemented with information and communication resources for

research as well as things such as fresh food and drink to help focus

activities such as design conferencing. From Creative Space by

P. Lloyd, 2001. Retrieved January 28, 2004 from www.gocreate.

com/articles/cspace.htm and The Art of Innovation by T. Kelly,

2001, New York: Currency.

and enhance the creative potential of your students, ask

yourself the following questions:

1. Why do we expect our students to be creative in

environments that we, as adults, would never tolerate?

2. Why are we still building schools and outfitting

classrooms that look like industrial warehouses when

the literature and research, for quite some time,

has been telling us how to make creative spaces in

educational settings?

3. Does technology education truly embrace creativity in

its curricula and its classrooms and lab facilities?

The answers you come up with to each of the previous

questions will influence how you face the following

challenge: If you value creativity in your students, then

you have a responsibility and an obligation to shape your

teaching and learning environment to nurture that creativity.

So, what will you do?


Amabile, T. (1996). Creativity in context. Boulder, CO:

Harper Collins.

Cornell, P. (2002, Winter). The impact of changes in

teaching and learning on furniture and the learning

environment. In N. Van Note Chism and D. Bickford

(Eds.), The importance of physical space in creating

supportive learning environments (pp. 33-42). San

Fransico: Jossey-Bass.

Doyle, M. (1991a). Facility factors for technological problem

solving. Unpublished raw data.

33 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

Doyle, M. (1991b). Physical facility factors for technological

problem-solving activities in secondary technology

education programs. Unpublished doctoral dissertation,

West Virginia University, Morgantown.

Gardner, H. (1993). Creating minds. New York: Basic Books.

Gallagher, W. (1993). The power of place: How our

surroundings shape our thoughts, emotions, and actions.

New York: Poseidon.

Hutchinson, P. (2005). Design and technology for the

conceptual age. Design and Technology Education: An

International Journal, 10(3) pp. 11-21.

International Technology Education Association (ITEA).

(2000/2002/2007). Standards for technological literacy:

Content for the study of technology. Reston, VA: Author.

Kelly, T. (2001). The art of innovation. New York: Currency.

Lloyd, P. (2001). Creative space. Retrieved January 28, 2004,


Mahnke, F. (1996). Color, environment, and human response.

New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Moon, D. (1975). Introduction. In D. Moon (Ed.) A guide

to the planning of industrial arts facilities (pp.15-20).

Bloomington, IL: McKnight.

Nuhfer, E. (n.d.). Some aspects of an ideal classroom: Color,

carpet, light and furniture. Retrieved November 2,

2007, from


Ohio Education Association. (n.d.). The question of class size

[Abstract]. (ERIC Document Reproducation Service No.


Pink, D. (2005). A whole new mind: Moving from the

information age to the conceptual age. New York:


Resnick, L. (Ed.). (2003, Fall). Class size: Counting students

can count. Research Points, 1(2) pp.1-4. Retrieved June

25, 2008, from


Thompson, S. (2003). Color in education. Retrieved April 2,

2008, from


Van Note Chism, N. (2002, Winter). A tale of two

classrooms. In N. Van Note Chism and D. Bickford (Eds.).

The importance of physical space in creating supportive

learning environments (pp. 5-12). San Francisco: Jossey-


Warner, S. (2000). The effects on students’ personality

preferences from participation in Odyssey of the Mind.

Unpublished doctoral dissertation, West Virginia

University, Morgantown.

Woodward, C. (1887). The manual training school. Boston:

D.C. Heath.

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800-532-8641 Ext 37444

This is a refereed article.

Scott A. Warner, Ed.D., IDSA, is an

assistant professor in the Department of

Industry and Technology at Millersville

University of Pennsylvania. He can be

reached via email at scott.warner@

Kerri L. Myers is an undergraduate

student in the Department of Industry and

Technology at Millersville University of

Pennsylvania. She can be reached via email


34 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

Classroom Challenge

The Electric Vehicle


By Harry T. Roman

This design activity should

provide your students with a

solid understanding of the many

issues involved with alternate

energy system design.

The eBox electric vehicle by AC Propulsion.

More and more, it looks like Thomas Edison was right.

Electric vehicles in some form are the best way to

move around for short distances. His legendary

nickel-iron storage battery was a rugged power

source for his vision. Things would be very different today if

we had started out back in 1910 or so using electric vehicles

instead of gasoline-powered ones.

In this challenge, your students will be able to learn about

electric vehicles and have the opportunity to design a

way to recharge the batteries while the cars are parked

in a commuter garage. The recharging process will use a

renewable energy source . . . the sun!

The Basics First

The challenge is to design a multistory electric vehicle

parking lot in a business district where parked electric

vehicle batteries could be recharged using solar cell panels.

Solar cell panels are often referred to as photovoltaic panels,

i.e., the direct conversion of sunlight to electricity. The first

order of business is for you and the students to study and

understand how solar-electric panels can be arranged to

convert the sun’s energy directly to electricity. This garage

35 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

could be a place where city workers park their cars during

the day and then leave at night to rejoin their families—a

commuter parking garage.

How solar-electric panels work is well known, and the

literature extensive. Battery charging is a popular task for

this technology. Internet and library materials should be

consulted, from which the students may develop a series

of drawings and diagrams illustrating how the solarelectric

panels and batteries may be arranged. Some solarelectric

panel manufacturers already sell simple systems

to charge the batteries onboard small sailboats. Students

should have no trouble finding out about this basic

application information.

recharged at any given time. Thus, an important piece of

information to know is . . . how many solar-electric panels

does it take to recharge a car’s battery pack if operating

during the workday, typically over an eight-hour period?

Also, knowing the number of panels . . . how large a surface

area on the roof will these panels require?

Perhaps the most interesting way to start this challenge may

be to pick a small pilot case situation and see where that

gets your students in terms of size of the panel array needed

and the surface areas required to support the panels. Why

not choose 25 cars as your starting point and determine

how big a surface area will be required to recharge those car

batteries? Could you construct a roof of that size easily over

the 25 cars if they were compactly parked, or would you

need a larger area?

This will further challenge your students to learn more

about how electric vehicles are operated and charged; and

also about solar system design, panel sizing, how to install

the photovoltaic array, and other associated concerns. There

is “tons of information” out there on these technologies as

well as numerous organizations that provide information

to professionals involved in both the electric vehicle and

photovoltaic industries.

Solar energy panels convert sunlight to electricity.

This 25-car design module can be used to help your students

visualize how many levels this parking garage might be

before there is no longer enough roof space upon which

to locate the solar-electric panels. By the way, what is the

average size of a parking garage in a city’s business district?

Once this application is understood, the next important

task is to see how this simple battery-charging idea can be

enlarged to make the system able to recharge a number of

car batteries. An electric vehicle’s battery pack may contain

quite a number of batteries that will need recharging.

Here it may be necessary to look further into the literature

to see what technology and systems have been used in

the past for large-scale battery recharging. Certainly

the number of solar-electric panels must be increased,

meaning a larger area will be required to place the panels

to do the recharging. In fact, many times one of the chief

drawbacks to using solar-electric panels for any application

is determining where all the panels should be physically

located; and this will be a challenge in this design activity

as well.

Designing the Parking Structure

At first it may seem obvious that the roof of this parking

deck must be used to support the solar-electric panels. This

roof size needed is also related to how many cars must be

What is the average size of a parking garage in a city’s business


36 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

This simple exercise may point to the need to rethink how

a parking lot is designed so as to maximize roof space or

available surface area facing the sun. Your students are to

have maximum freedom here to design the parking garage

in as conventional or unconventional a way as they desire.

Think about these roof-related concerns:

• Are there ways solar design engineers typically get

around roof space limits?

• Can other portions of the parking garage be used to

collect solar energy?

• What kinds of problems might this lead to?

• What about shading problems from other tall city


• Can you see how this would be a problem for solar

electricity being used in high-rise apartment buildings

as well?

• How might a town view this?

• Might special zoning ordinances be required to build

this type of structure?

• Who would plug the cars into the charging system—the

owners or a special attendant(s)?

• How much might a large solar system like this cost to

install and maintain?

This design activity should provide your students with

a solid understanding of the many issues involved with

alternate energy system design. Using the free energy of the

sun is not simply about hooking some panels together. There

are some important engineering-type issues to address.


Harry T. Roman recently retired from his

engineering job and is the author of a variety

of new technology education books. He can

be reached via email at htroman49@aol.


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An electric vehicle charging station in Brazil.

There are other concerns too:

• If your parking garage is in a winter zone, what about


• Can it reduce your ability to collect solar energy?

• How does all that solar panel weight affect the roof

strength needed?

• What does adding snow to the roof weight do to the


• Do the panels need to be cleaned periodically?

• Will you need lightning protection for your design?

• Has anyone tried to do this before?

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• Students learn how to use variables and create functions

• Aligns to Math, Science, and Technology standards

NXT Video Trainer 2.0 DVD

• A self-paced guide that teaches software programming for NXT-G

• Intro to programming includes motors, sensors, & decision-making

• Self-guided video lessons with ‘check your understanding’ questions

• Printable worksheets, teacher guide, and step-by-step directions

• New Advanced Programming section covers data hubs, data types,

variables, calculations, and logic.


Test Drive

412.963.7310 |

...classroom-tested tools to teach engineering, programming, math and more

39 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

Manufacturing is Cool!

Through creativity and teamwork,

engineers make the world

a better place.

Peek into a world that inspires

students to embrace this industry

and create a positive future. is an

essential resource for teachers

to help students learn about

the exciting, high-paying career

of Manufacturing Engineering.

Students will enjoy fun activities

while exploring the

future of innovation through

interesting industry interviews

and videos, information about

summer youth programs, scholarship

opportunities and much more!

Let’s help our children live their

dreams and be original thinkers!


40 • The Technology Teacher • December/January 2010

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