The Classic Art of the Differential [video]
A few years ago I was studying to become certified as a computer technician. At first I was intimidated. PCs seemed immensely complex, almost magical. The fact that I had graduated high school in 1984, when “Pac Man” was considered state-of-the-art, didn’t help things. (We’re getting to the part where I talk about cars. Just stick with me.) Then I got an old junk computer and tore it down to its essential components. Suddenly, it all made sense. What seemed impossibly complicated was actually just a collection of simple devices, each of which was based on a single principle of electronics. By understanding those basics I was able to grasp how computers function and get my certification. And I’m no Einstein. One thing I learned from that experience is that a person of average intelligence can understand anything, if it’s taught one step at a time and explained with lots of analogies and illustrations. This includes auto mechanics. For example, take differentials. How can a single drive shaft turn both rear wheels at different speeds simultaneously? Answer: by using mechanical principles that the ancient Greeks understood more than 2,000 years ago. This five minute video from the 1930s (below) shows just what I’m talking about. LATEST: See photos of the all-new 2015 GMC Canyon
My point is this: right now the United States is facing a critical shortage of trained technical professionals across all major industries. This is largely because young people are intimidated by math and science, which form the basis of all modern technology.
So, are our kids dumb? No. However, if we’re going to produce engineers and inventors, then we need to use teaching methods that make sense. If they could do that 75 years ago, then we can do it today.
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