My objectives for the course are summarized in a description, prepared for another purpose, which follows:

Intermediate Technology examines the applications of technology, particularly small-scale approaches, to real world problems and evaluates alternative approaches in terms of social impact, influence on self reliance, cost, and environmental effects. The course seeks to foster an understanding of the interactions of technology, science, and society by focusing on a particular technological approach. Another purpose of the course is to make the student feel comfortable when evaluating issues with a major technological component.

One way the course is designed to fulfill these objectives is the choice of subject matter. The material is accessible to nearly all students -- an often cited advantage of appropriate technology is that the user can understand it and control it. The technologies in the course involve basic needs: food, warmth, electrical energy (electronic devices do fulfill a basic need for our students), sanitation, and health care. Environmental issues are integral in most designs and the tradeoffs related to protecting the environment arise very naturally. Many students who are not majoring in the sciences find it easier to learn science through technological applications. The plan of the course is to study first several technologies in some detail. This study is about 60% of the course. The rest of the course deals with the implications of the various approaches and also the political and social issues involved in getting a project implemented. This order of material means the comparison of various approaches is tempered by realistic ideas of what is feasible. Few would argue with the premise that all people should have a flush toilet in their home. After designs of alternative sanitation systems have been presented then the discussion of which to do in particular situations becomes realistic and sensible.

The focus on design responds to an educational need that students have less opportunity in many curricula, certainly including ours, to synthesize compared to analyze. Many students are motivated to learn new material if they perceive a need and the presence of a design objective can be that need. Design presents a concrete problem and requires students to think precisely --generalities about energy policy are less facile when a calculation must be made of the size of a pond that will hold sufficient water for 30 rainless days. Another strength of a design focus is encouragement of active learning and of independent thinking.

The focus on "real world" problems, both technological and social, also helps many students learn otherwise difficult material. Questions about the influence of technological choice on people's lives are subtle and I believe best understood by a fairly careful study of actual situations. It is not hard to find examples -- the Green Revolution is one -- where the new technology made many people's lives much better but hurt another group -- in this case women's situation was sometimes made worse. The design of the course encourages students to ask how a particular technology or the system could be changed so as to minimize the harm done and I believe such concrete questions stimulate learning better for some students, especially students who mind technology fascinating, than abstract discussions.

The problems suggested for projects are sufficiently elaborate -- "rich" -- so students do their projects, in most cases, in groups of two or three. Much as been written of the value of such team work and I agree with these comments.

An implicit objective of the course is to assist graduates in meeting civic duties. An emphasis is put on the designer's responsibility for creating a functioning and beneficial system. The student is asked to take the role of the designer so, at the very least, the student comes to realize that a choice of technologies exists. I hope some students will come to believe they can influence that choice, in a way consistent with their values. The discussions give a serious and nonthreatening context -- engineering decisions -- to discuss values.

Some students seem to lack confidence when analyzing an issue with a significant component of technology. My hope is that once a student has done some analysis, as in the course, he or she will gain confidence and then will be able and willing to deal with such issues after graduation. I tell students technology is easy -- it was invented by people just like them.

Two aspects of the course material seem to match student interests. The first of these is the perspective of improving people's lives. Appropriate Technology, throughout its history, has included this service component. Many Peace Corps volunteers, for example, do small scale technology and some former volunteers have talked in the course. The second aspect is that much Appropriate Technology is done in places -- parts of the Third World -- which capture students' imagination.