“An RC Robotic Claw”

Is anyone else annoyed by that Chevron commercial with the kid talking about the thing that her “science” teacher helped her build? I’ve no problem with kids learning stuff like that, but it isn’t “science.” It’s engineering. This kind of thing (like the phrase “rocket scientist”) just promulgates false notions of what science is and isn’t, and doesn’t do much to make sure that kids are taught real science (and no, being taught real science also isn’t being taught that ZOMGaia we’re destroying the Earth!).

17 thoughts on ““An RC Robotic Claw””

  1. You’re suggesting teachers have jobs based on merit? I’m telling the teachers union on you!

    They call it STEM because it’s all the yucky geek stuff.

    1. “Science” makes iPhones and Facebook and other things eloi use, but their knowledge ends there.

  2. The point is well taken that this is indeed engineering, but why are you putting quotes around “science” as a qualifier for teacher? I think I we can go out on a limb here, and assume it wasn’t her drama teacher that provided the expertise and inspiration for this project! =)

  3. I don’t know. When I get my oil changed, I’ll ask my automotive scientist about this and see what he thinks.

  4. I haven’t seen the ad, but I’d say that in the case of a high school teacher, this is sort of like “a distinction without a difference.” Most of the better high school science teachers understand that they can get students more interested by talking about the applications of what they’re learning than they can just by teaching the subject(s) at hand. In other words, an engineer or someone with some knowledge or interest in engineering would most likely make a better physics teacher than many physics majors who grasped the concepts but knew little about their practical application.

  5. Most high-school robotics classes are run by science teachers. There’s no other place to put them since most schools no longer have shop departments. The “technology department” is usually a computer lab which *maybe* has a CADD class but no way to actually build anything.

  6. Isn’t Engineering and Technology considered “practical science?” Teaching the difference is important, I agree, but middle and highschools consolidate all of their STEM under the umbrella of Science. That’s an administrative decision, not a fine one.

    1. I don’t really consider engineering “practical science”. Often, engineering advances pre-dates scientific advances, because the same observations that lead to hypotheses lead tinkerers and craftsmen to create new technologies. Science takes time to prove, but you can test technologies at the same time.

      I forget who wrote it, but someone pointed out that “science driven technology” was the paradigm in Germany, where there was more advancements, and “engineering driven science” was the paradigm in England, and they had the Industrial Revolution first at the same time. I found that interesting. Anecdote, I guess, but it’s real in my experience.

      1. I use to consider engineering “practical science.” Then I worked in the engineering dept. of a company and found out different. Most were not practical and science was no where to be found. Quite a jarring experience.

        That’s not to say they were all poor engineers, but one I worked for, while a nice guy, could only be described as a bubble gum engineer. He would go to a work station and shim things until they worked enough to walk away. It would fall apart as soon as he left and he would always blame the poor operator. The concept of leaving the operator with something that would at least work through their whole shift was a foreign concept to him.

        We had this turn center that had a tool turret. But instead of using two tools, this guy tried to use just the one to ‘save time’ resulting in parts that had a divet in them (he liked to use the whole tolerance rather than keep in the middle.) Guess where the parts always cracked?

    2. Engineering is not just “practical science”. Quite often engineers must work with things for which the scientists are willing to admit that they don’t really understand the details of how it works. That is why you often see the phrase “art and science of engineering” in paperwork.

  7. In my Junior High (public), and my High school (private) science classes, very little science “technique” or scientific concepts were taught. It was mostly run the experiment, make the graph, cut open the frog.

    One of the most fun experiments was when we were given two very finely ground powders – white and dark gray. We put a thin layer of the dark gray over a thick layer of white in a plastic tray. Then we threw beans at it at various speeds and angles and saw just how the rays of the moon were created.

    Is that science? I suppose so. It’s not engineering. But the scientific structure of hypothesis, experiment, conclusion, suggested next experiment etc. was not discussed.

    Only once do I remember a very useful and informative scientific skill was tried:

    We were given a lit candle and told to write down all the observations we could make about the lit candle. The teacher said he gathered over 50. And this was in a biology class.

  8. Rand, I agree with your annoyance. But until high schools start having actual pre-engineering classes, it’s all they have to work with.

    Unfortunately, the addition of pre-engineering to a high school curriculum won’t happen, because most engineers are bright enough to avoid union jobs, and most high school administrators aren’t.

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