Academic journal article Peer Review

From the Editor

Academic journal article Peer Review

From the Editor

Article excerpt

Now, more than ever, the challenges of today's world require greater facility with, and comfort in, the worlds of science, technology, and engineering. The time is right to do everything possible to improve students' academic achievement in these areas. New forms of engaged learning promise to improve student achievement in the sciences and attract more students to major in these essential fields.

At the opening plenary for the 2005 AAC&U Annual Meeting, Lee S. Shulmau, President of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, spoke on the need for classroom engagement, observing that student "invisibility breeds disinterest, [which] leads to zoning out." And, of course, encouraging active learning is just one step toward true engagement. For the proverbial light bulb to come on, most students must find some connections with the subject to truly engage.

This light bulb allusion brings to mind a man who began his career as a mechanical artist and, once engaged, used his engagement to make key contributions to science and technology as one of the inventors of the light bulb. This innovator, who took a nontraditioual path toward becoming a scientist, was Lewis Latimer, an African American draftsman who was hired in 1880 by U.S. Electrical Lighting to work for Hiram Maxim, Thomas Edison's chief rival in the development of the incandescent light bulb. While Edison patented the first light bulb, Mavim endeavored to improve the product. Edison's bulb only lasted a few days because the bamboo, paper, or thread filaments burned out so quickly. Although his background was in art, Latimer was encouraged by his employer to become engaged in the invention process. He enthusiastically took on the challenge and explored every aspect of electric light design. Through trial and error, Latimer devised a filament that xvas encased in a cardboard envelope, which allowed the bulb to bum longer. This improvement made the light source more efficient and affordable and, in concert with the improvements suggested by others, gave us the precursor to the lighting that we know today.

Latimer's story provides but one example of the way that even traditionally underrepresented students can succeed in science and technology when encouraged and engaged. …

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