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Technology Literacy: Connecting Non Technical Students To Technology Through Context, Content, And Contraption

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1251.1 - 10.1251.9



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Paper Authors

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David Ollis

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

Session 1526

Technology Literacy: Connecting through Context, Content, and Contraption.

David Ollis Chemical Engineering, North Carolina State University, NC 27514


With NSF funding, we report a pilot and second experience in creating and installing a new technology literacy course. The weekly format consists of two lectures and one lab. Each week focuses on a single device which is treated three ways: context (survey prior technologies with similar or related purposes), content (explain the modern technology), and contraption (visit lab, use and take apart the device). The context provides indication of the historical and intellectual developments prior to the current, most modern device; the content explains the operation and principles underlying the device’s performance, and the laboratory forces confrontation of device utilization and dissection with device explanation. Devices visited, one per week, in the corresponding weekly laboratory period are bar code scanner, compact disc player and burner, FAX machine, electric and acoustic guitar, electric drill, bicycle, internal combustion engine, optical fibers, photocopy and scanner, digital and video cameras, cell phones, and (model) airplanes.


The author created, in 1992, a device dissection laboratory for incoming first year engineering students. As “It seemed desirable to base a new lab on some modern and emerging technologies”1,2, the course was developed around six light-based devices: bar code scanner, compact disc player, optical fiber communication and probes, photocopier, video camera (and VCR recorder), and ultraviolet (UV) light driven water purification.1,2 This inexpensive lab was assembled for less than $5,000, and has been utilized for new engineering students in the following formats over a ten year period:

(1) two week summer camp1,2 (1993-1994) (NSF-SUCCEED) (2) semester length “device dissection” lab3,4 (1995-1996) (3) in combination with an English writing course3 (4) (part of) summer minority eng’g. orientation (40 students) (5) six hour/semester (1 device) experience for all 1,100 entering engineering freshmen.5

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society of Engineering Education Conference and Exposition Copyright ©2005 American Society of Engineering Education

Ollis, D. (2005, June), Technology Literacy: Connecting Non Technical Students To Technology Through Context, Content, And Contraption Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15320

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