Category Archives: TechEd

There’s more than Chernobyl and Three Mile Island

One of the classes I teach at the University of Minnesota is a course on Technology and Public Ethics. In this class we attempt to uncover some of the social and ethical issues surrounding technology. In some cases technology is a solution to a social dilemma and in other cases it creates or contributes to the dilemma. One topic we look at is the production, transmission and consumption of energy. In the study of society and ethics cut and dried answers are few and far between, such is the case for nuclear power.

While nuclear power has traditionally been viewed with disdain because of a lack of understanding about how it works, the dangers involved and the question of nuclear waste it is again being discussed as a power production option as we become more concerned with the causes and effects of global warming, specifically carbon emissions such as those from traditional power generation sources. In the end nuclear power may provide an important supplement to renewable energy sources in combating the problem of carbon emissions. Before arriving at a conclusion like that it would be important to understand concerns surrounding nuclear power. For the most part these center on the potential for disasters and nuclear waste. While many people have heard of the Three Mile Island incident in the United States and the Chernobyl incident in the Ukraine (see this posting) these are certainly not the only incidents on record.

Two incidents that took place much earlier in the history of nuclear reactors were the Windscale (U.K.) and SL-1 (U.S.) incidents. Thanks to the web you can read about these incidents from several sources:

In addition to these reactor incidents there have been many incidents or close calls in research laboratories which, while they do not generally pose a significant threat to the general public, are dangerous for those in the immediate vicinity.

There is also the question of what to do with nuclear waste. One might argue that a sound policy is the reprocessing of nuclear waste into less harmful and more useful/reusable isotopes and while this has been met with success in Europe it is not currently policy or procedure in the United States where indefinite storage is used. The current plan is for waste to be housed deep underground at Department of Energy storage facilities (Yucca Mountain and WIPP). One of the challenges posed by this plan is a desire to warn future generations of the potential hazards in these locations when all current languages might be lost. This article explains some of the proposed solutions for just this problem.

DIY Rapid Prototyper

Those familiar with rapid prototyping (essentially 3D printers for computers) know that both machines and supplies can be extremely expensive. Now a group known as Fab@Home has published instructions and software for building your own rapid prototyping machine. The machine they propose is certainly not as durable or precise as the commercial offerings, but at a fraction of the cost it may serve your needs just fine. If all you’re looking to do is a bit fo experimentation or introducing students to what a rapid prototyper can do a less expensive system such as this might be all you need. NewScientistTech also has a story on the Fab@Home project.

Geeks come in all flavors

Yesterday I happened across “The Power Tool Geek” blog. Written by one of the forces behind an online tool supplier I won’t say it’s not biased towards or against various brands but most people do have a favorite brand of power tool so I won’t hold that against them. Anyway it makes for an interesting read.

Making STEM work with public/private partnerships

Those teachers involved with Technology Education, at least in the United States, are bound to be familiar with the STEM (Scient, Technology, Engineereing & Mathematics) acronym/movement. What you may not know is that the National Science and Technology Partnership (NSTEP) is an education/private partnership designed to create a bridge between educators and electronics companies.

One of their initiatives aimed at Technology Education is called TechXplore which is a research based mentorship and competition designed to improve the science and technology skills of students.

Low cost electronics lab equipment

In the past I’ve had good luck purchasing inexpensive elecotronics lab equipment such as autoranging digital multimeters from and would still recommend them but another option has come to my attention. In reviewing some of my literature from the January Consumer Electronics Show (read: working on the backlog of work on my desk) I stubled across the website. To be sure these folks specialize in meters and a few power supplies, not the broader range of equipment that Circuit Specialists has, but if you need to outfit an electronics lab, shop or just yourself with a handy digial multimeter they may be just the ticket.


Subnetting is the art of dividing one network into many by use of a subnet mask. In my experience one of the most difficult things for networking students to master is subnetting. When they need some kind of new viewpoint on the subject I usually send them to This site has been around for several years now and offers free mini-lectures on this important topic. All told there are several hours of video there and you may need to refer to some of the sections multiple times to gain a full understanding of subnetting but it is one of the better sites out there for this.

Web Resources for TechEd Instructors

The Minnesota Technology Education Association may not have the best looking webpage around but it’s full of useful information for TechEd teachers and not just those in Minnesota. With sample lab safety manuals, curriculum resources, funding suggestions and more it’s a great first stop when looking for something TechEd related.