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From Computers To Mechanisms … The Demand For Teaching Skills The ?Reverse Way?

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.297.1 - 3.297.9

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Zbigniew Prusak

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3648

From Computers to Mechanisms – the Demand for Teaching Skills the ‘Reverse Way’ Zbigniew Prusak Central Connecticut State University

ABSTRACT A growing number of students enters universities having spent considerable amount of time with computers and other devices that expand only visual interaction and combination skills. How do they do with their digital understanding of a largely analog world that surrounds us? What difficulties do they encounter learning traditional tools and machines? Analysis of usefulness of these skills in today’s workplace, and what else must be taught. Results given by the "let's try and see" experimental attitude in various lab and classroom courses. Analysis of tests and observations of students having different backgrounds and levels of skills.

1. INTRODUCTION Evolution of technology and society demands education of people who are equipped with knowledge and skills that are useful in the surrounding environment. New professions are created and some traditional ones become obsolete. Blacksmiths, professionals that once were on the leading edge of technology, became extinct. Advances in technology transformed their trade, created multitude of related specialties and demands for new skills based on higher level of scientific knowledge. About 55% of Americans used computers at home or at work at the end of year 1995, the highest level of all nations [1]. This number is constantly growing for the overall population and is already close to 100% for high school graduates. Most adults in industrially developed nations have a limited understanding of basic sciences, yet they use a wide array of technologies at home or at work. This limited understanding of basic sciences does not prohibit them from being very productive users of high-tech devices but only as long as the devices operate flawlessly. At a first sign of malfunctioning, an operator is usually helpless and cannot continue to work (almost proverbial power outage at a cash register and the cashier cannot calculate percent discount or change). Although the dependency on increasingly complex devices will continue to grow, some knowledge principles and basic skills need to be taught in order to prevent a total dependency on many narrowly specialized professionals. Narrow specialization inevitably brings about a risk of not thinking in terms of a whole system and a difficulty in communication with specialists from other disciplines. There are strong voices in academic community calling to provide solid interdisciplinary knowledge to all graduates [2]. Technical rationality, the traditional base of engineering knowledge and skills will still remain a corner stone of all technology-related professions [3]. However, ways of teaching this engineering knowledge base have undergone substantial changes in recent years. Starting in primary school, there is a tremendous shift in ways of delivering technical knowledge. It is often dictated by tools used in the industry (variety of digital equipment), by current fashion (multimedia) and popularity among students (sit back, watch and enjoy). Certain traditional educational outcomes such as manual skills, are therefore accorded lesser importance and not given a chance to get developed. On the other hand, some subjects are being increasingly taught through physical contact with real objects of study, for example, growing popularity of field trips in biology classes.


Prusak, Z. (1998, June), From Computers To Mechanisms … The Demand For Teaching Skills The ?Reverse Way? Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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