What I'd like to do

The current aim of the program is the development of a course about 30-40 hours in length. This corresponds to about a three-credit college course, and the course is, for the sake of convenience, taught on a college level. If there's a way for them to do so, kids are, of course, welcome to join in, but we're really aiming at fairly well-educated adults here.


{Since this was written a few years ago, I've managed to accomplish this. The course has been offered in several forms and venues, mostly through Ohio University. With luck and some assistance through the good offices of one national organization or another, I may be able to take How Things Work for Teachers on the road soon.}

Much later update:

Most of the nation's colleges of education have been essentially been taken over by their respective state boards of education, which now dictate what material shall be taught to teachers.

While I cannot argue with the intent of this change, it pretty well eliminates any creativity in science teacher education.  Similarly, the requirement that primary and secondary students take science proficiency tests has eliminated the opportunity to teach science in new ways.  So I'm searching for new venues. 

Thus, we must go from reinforced concrete to digital audio in quite a short but intensive course. As I've learned what works and what does not, the course will change. However, the basic outline, shown below, is likely to remain fairly stable: we learn what things are made out of, how they're joined together, and how basic structures and machines work. With this introduction, we can learn how power is transmitted (compressed air is used as an analog for electricity, then we learn electricity itself.) After a look at our nationwide (soon to be world-wide) electric power grid, we turn to electrical and electronic communication.

I. Materials and structures.

A. Materials and how they are joined into structures--concrete through plastics.

B. Designs and alternatives for houses, roads and vehicles, water and sewer systems.

II. Mechanisms and motive power:

A. Pumps, gears, seals, hydraulics, pneumatics, heat engines, refrigeration.

B. Trains, automobiles, ships and aircraft.

III. Energy and communications:

A. The basic electric circuit for transmission of power and information.

B. Generators, lamps, motors, telegraphs, telephones, amplifiers, fax, TV.