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November 2007 - Vol 67, No.3 - International Technology and ...

November 2007 - Vol 67, No.3 - International Technology and ...

Classroom Challenge The

Classroom Challenge The “No Trucks” Design Challenge By Harry T. Roman Encourage your students to dream first and challenge the boundaries before they settle down to developing a single idea. Introduction This activity is certainly multi-dimensional and likely to cause some interesting reactions among students. It deals with a transportation system, and changing it, so a certain class of vehicle is literally removed from the roadways. Large tractor-trailers have a reputation of being involved in rather horrific accidents, often involving death and carnage among smaller passenger vehicles. The giant rigs, according to some transportation experts, may have outlived their usefulness on crowded highways, and perhaps it is time we rethink their presence on the America roadways. The Challenge The job of your students is to create unique new ways to move the goods that are now moved via automotive tractortrailers. And in this endeavor, the students may not develop ideas where conventional tractor-trailer containerized trailers are delivered in any way over the existing highway system. This cargo cannot be simply loaded onto another class of highway vehicle. They may not add more containerized cargo to the railroads either. Large tractor-trailers may have outlived their usefulness on crowded highways. They must develop a completely new way to move truck cargo. They are free to pursue any other alternatives they wish. This challenge is completely open-ended, with just the constraints mentioned above. Getting Started In developing their ideas, students should be mindful of how their new routes for transporting large amounts of goods may affect: • Environment • Air quality • Land use • Communities • Cost to the consumer and businesses • Human safety • Existing infrastructures like bridges, pipelines, power lines…etc. 32 • The Technology Teacher • November 2007

Students should be encouraged to work in teams on this design challenge and develop a variety of alternative ways to move the goods, and then choose the one(s) that seem to best minimize impact on the parameters listed above. It would be most helpful for students to consider the use of aerial maps, plot plans, and perhaps even GPS-type maps to plan out alternate ways to move the goods to customer locations. How do they know where the goods need to be delivered? How can they identify other land routes for this cargo? Does it have to be limited to land routes? What other kinds of routes and rights-of-way already exist that may be built upon or used to deliver cargo and get it off the highways? The students might find it helpful, if time permits, to research this issue or to discuss the problem with highway planners, local city planners, businesses, and storeowners. Perhaps they should be surveyed to obtain some of their ideas and thoughts. It might be possible to consider a whole new type of infrastructure that is dedicated to moving goods and services to densely populated areas directly without the need for roadways, conventional railroads, and large trucks. Another thing to keep in mind: If the students can conceive of ways to bulk-deliver the goods to cities, how would the goods make their way to customers who may live in suburban/rural areas? This certainly raises the question of how such a new infrastructure would be built and financed…and then integrated into an already densely populated area like a city surrounded by mature suburban communities. This challenge is not unlike the situation where urban renewal brings in a completely new concept for land use, something local citizens have never seen before in their community. Might there be some insight to be gained by having representatives from your local community stop by and talk to your class about how past large-scale projects have been handled in the community? Don’t forget the impacts on the trucking and transportation industry. How do utility companies create new corridors for electric power through existing communities? Your local electric utility company is also involved in these kinds of problems. How do you think they plan to put a new high-voltage transmission line through many communities when they need to make new corridors for electric power delivery? Do they put the lines on those big steel towers or do they bury them underground? This seems similar to the kind of problem your students are facing in this design challenge. Utilities have a long record of working with teachers and schools, with many of their engineers often visiting classrooms and schools to discuss a wide variety of subjects. Perhaps you can give your local utility a call to find out if someone can speak to your students. Also worth looking into are other utility-type organizations like water companies, sewer companies, natural gas utilities, and telephone companies. Here is one to think about—how do oil companies locate the routes for oil pipelines? There must be some information there of use to your students. And don’t forget the obvious. How are new roads themselves planned and routed through communities? What are the concerns, impacts, and issues that need to be dealt with? Lots of good information is here to help move this project along and get those creative juices flowing. Don’t forget the impacts on the trucking and transportation industry. What happens here? How do their workers and industry transition during this changeover to a new way to move bulk cargo? This a very interesting design challenge, and likely to generate some fascinating ideas. Encourage your students to dream first and challenge the boundaries before they settle down to developing a single idea. And make sure they think in three-dimensional space as well. 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.com. 33 • The Technology Teacher • November 2007

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