In case you wern’t aware, over at Make, it is Physical Sciences and Mechanics Month. To quote Gareth Branwyn;

“Physical science is a broadly used term that can be applied to the study of any non-living systems and how they interact, from the foundational physical laws of energy, matter, and force to the basic principles of simple machines (lever, pulley, inclined plane, wedge, screw, gear). The term is also applied to chemistry and Earth sciences, and from there, it becomes leaky with the living, the biological. For our coverage, we’ll stick to it as it applies to simple machines, basic laws of physics, and how they become the complex mechanical systems that surrounds us.”

Gareth goes onto say that such skills may seem a little rudimentary for Make: Online readers, but the skills seems to have been lost (Whether it be because they have been forgotten or what have you), and I have to agree. I do not believe that the entire problem is one of the skills simply being pushed out of your mind by other things, but that some of the skills never made it there in the first place. Lets face it, back in school everyone was distracted by something, whether it was sleep to recover from the night before (and the late night game sessions on your playstation etc before you say it…) or that girl/boy a few desks away or whatever. Come on, even you hard core students were distracted by something at some point and you know it! Thanks to this distraction not everything the teacher said was heard, in some cases not such a great loss. Er…I mean such a great loss! A tragedy even!

As I said, I find it hard to believe that being distracted is the only reason, looking back on my experiences of physics lessons and a “Systems and Control” (S&C) class, some concepts seem to have been lacking or not there at all. In S&C efforts were made by the teacher to explain the principals of cams, gears, screws etc and their uses, essentially the concepts that were required for our final project. Little effort was made however to look at other concepts such as pulleys. To show just how limited this was, I refer to the following list of occasions when pulleys were mentioned:

  1. Mock Exam Paper – Several weeks before the actual exam (Only got that A because of a random find months earlier while looking for something else unrelated)

Yes, that list does indeed go to 1. This isn’t the only thing missing however, there are plenty of examples of things that were missing from these classes yet were apparently on the syllabus. Now don’t get me wrong, the teachers were good at what they did, but I still feel something was lacking. Another example of this was the not in the slightest known “rocket car” project. In the final year of school, three of us convinced a teacher to help us build a rocket motor powered vehicle with the aim of entering a competition ran by the BBC. While it was fair enough that the teachers would have a good chance of being a little out of their depth with such a project, the support we were provided with was, in retrospect, worrying. While you would not necessarily expect much expertise in the area of aerodynamics, some advice on the areas most likely to be under strain in a vehicle would be something, but none such advice appeared. By the end of the project (never did get to the competition after it was cancelled), we had learned more from the workshop technician than from the teachers paid to explain such things.

I’m sure if we all think about it we will be able to think of experiences were potentially important things have not been explained properly. Now I don’t want to necessarily get into the discussion of who could be to blame for such short comings in education, instead I’ll just stick with the “everyone and their goat” response (should cover it I think). What I would want to see more discussion of is what can be done to improve the situation and to some extent why we are here. Naturally the reasons are going to vary from place to place but there are going to be common factors like funding, health and safety, but what are we doing to still educate the young and old without hitting these barriers? While the main focus, in keeping with the mechanical theme, is physical sciences etc, what about electronics? General Science? What kind of ideas do you have to get more people interested?

Yes, I admit that the chances of this article making any difference to the educational systems, but theres nothing wrong with encouraging safe exploration at home right?

As a result of these educational woes, there is now a lack of knowledge for some people. I for one would love to fill in this gap, as such I urge you, if you know of any good resources, happen to be an expert or otherwise have something to contribute, please get in touch with Gareth (Link in his article), if you’re not sure about that, mention it here, I don’t bite, not so sure about anyone else though…

On a completely unrelated note, how did I miss Dropkick Murphys? Really. How?!