Elaboration of Relationship to
Science for All Americans

The course, being about technology and design, links strongly to Chapters 3 (The Nature of Technology) and 8 (The Designed World) of Science for All Americans (SFAA). It also links to Chapter 10 (Historical Perspectives), particularly the "Harnessing Power" section and to Chapter 4 (The Physical Setting) because science knowledge is used to understand the technology described. Finally it links to Chapter 7 (Human Society) because a major theme in the course is the cultural and societal implications of technological decisions.

Much of the lecture material in the course describes how a technological system might be designed--for example, a hydroelectric system for an isolated home. The book includes a section describing the design process--the treatment is very similar to that in SFAA--and several systems are actually designed in the course. The design starts with a consideration of human needs, such as the amount of electric energy required by a family, and uses basic science to estimate the size of the waterwheel needed based on the amount of energy available from a known amount of water dropping a known amount. The influence of the hydroelectric system on the environment, the inherent risks of a small ponds, and other societal concerns are also considered.

A major part of each student's experience in the course is a design project. This project results in an actual working device or model--for example, a water wheel, plus a paper discussing the societal implications of the artifact designed--would a small scale hydro system really improve life in an African village? would the money be best spent in another way? In at least the good papers, many of the issues presented in Chapter 3 arise.

Of the technologies listed in Chapter 8 of SFAA "Agriculture," "Energy Sources and Use" and "Health Technology" are emphasized in the course, with minor attention to Materials.

Historical perspectives are considered because present-day, small-scale technologies often use the same techniques and approaches associated with colonial America and the early industrial revolution. The textbook includes many references to colonial America. In the course at Brown University a field trip is made to an eighteenth century textile mill. Ideas included in physics and chemistry courses are used in this course to estimate the amount of energy available from a water wheel, a wind generator, a solar collector, and a methane digestor and for other purposes.

More than one-third of the course deals with the cultural and economic implications of a technological choice--the focus of Chapter 7 of SFAA. One section of the course deals explicitly with gender issues.