Academic journal article Journal of Technology Studies

The Electric Vehicle Experience

Academic journal article Journal of Technology Studies

The Electric Vehicle Experience

Article excerpt

Two words, experience and education, immediately bring one man to mind-John Dewey. Regarding experience and technology education, Hansen (2000) said that studies of technological teachers in Germany, England, and Canada indicate there is a preconception and tendency that these individuals bring to the profession with them. That is, these teachers reveal a "strong bias towards experience as a frame of reference for learning" (p. 23). This article emphasizes the role of experience as a foundation for a specific technology education program that is ongoing in a number of states. Additionally, from this foundation springs a natural flow of problemsolving activities, cognitive science strategies, and subject matter that addresses several ideals from the history of technology education. The present educational emphasis on problem solving, thinking, and social interaction arguably is also found in past Dewey>an literature. Thus, his words seem appropriate as a starting point.

It is possible to find problems and projects that come within the scope and capabilities of the experience of the learner and which have a sufficiently long span so that they raise new questions, introduce new and related undertakings, and create a demand for fresh knowledge. (Dewey, 1964, p. 423)

There are a number of projects in technology education today that potentially adhere to this statement from Dewey. Examples in transportation technology are suggested by electric, fuel cell, and solar powered vehicles as well as human powered submarines. Based on my own experience, the construction of electric vehicles (EVs) in secondary and postsecondary schools is an exciting addition to the technology education curriculum. Even more exciting is the competition of these vehicles following construction.

EV guidelines are typically based on ELECTRATHON TM AMERICA design rules and events that are held around the country. As an industrial technology educator in both Hawaii and Nebraska, I have seen these programs grow rapidly over the past few years. In both of these states, public power districts serve as sponsor or cosponsors for these activities. Participating schools develop their vehicles around electrical components and a one horsepower electric motor provided by the sponsor. Towards the end of the school year, endurance competitions are held so participants have the opportunity to display and enter their vehicles in hourlong races. Since endurance is the name of the game, vehicles must be designed for efficiency and aerodynamics rather than short bursts of speed. The objective of the competition is to drive an electrically powered vehicle as far as possible for one hour on a closed-loop course. Competitions are held annually, thus schools have the opportunity to rework last year's vehicle or start fresh each year. The number of schools participating annually in a particular state points to the success of this program thus far. For example, the Hawaii Electric Company (HECO) cosponsors the electric vehicle competition with the state's Department of Education. According to HECO's Office of Education and Consumer Affairs, the number of schools participating has increased threefold to 33 for 2002 in comparison to 11 for the first vear in 1996.

When one takes a closer look at the overall aspects of this program, I see an exemplary model of experiential learning for technology education. As a principal means of organizing a curriculum, these programs are project based and activity oriented. The progression from design through competition mirrors Dewey's (1973) pattern of inquiry, where "inquiry is the directed or controlled transformation of an indeterminate situation into a determinately unified one" (pp. 237238). Moreover, this experiential curriculum provides numerous activities for developing problem-solving and cognitive science strategies. In the search for excellence in technology education, Zuga and Bjorkquist (1989) indicated that the way in which the course is organized and conducted demonstrates a type of educational activity that attempts to prepare students to be independent thinkers and problem solvers. …

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