Everyone knows that the United States has long suffered from widespread shortages in its science and engineering workforce, and that if continued these shortages will cause it to fall behind its major economic competitors. Everyone knows that these workforce shortages are due mainly to the myriad weaknesses of American K-12 education in science and mathematics, which international comparisons of student performance rank as average at best.
Such claims are now well established as conventional wisdom. There is almost no debate in the mainstream. They echo from corporate CEO to corporate CEO, from lobbyist to lobbyist, from editorial writer to editorial writer. But what if what everyone knows is wrong? What if this conventional wisdom is just the same claims ricocheting in an echo chamber?
The truth is that there is little credible evidence of the claimed widespread shortages in the U.S. science and engineering workforce. How can the conventional wisdom be so different from the empirical evidence?
Read more. [Image: Michael Yarish/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.]
President Obama’s reelection campaign brought 40 engineers into their ranks to build the technology they needed to get the president reelected. This is the very human story of how they helped out, even if they never fit in.
Read more. [Image: Daniel X. O’Neil]
For most of human history, horses have been, primarily, a technology. An intimate technology, yes — people named their horses, and groomed them, and sometimes loved them — but horses were, for the most part, tools: They helped humanity to get around and get things done. Once steam power and internal combustion came along, though, that relationship changed drastically. As horses were eclipsed by more efficient methods of moving people and things — trains, cars, planes — their role in human culture shifted, as well. We quickly came to see horses more as what they had been, of course, all along: fellow animals.
That shift is evident in a longstanding dream that is a little bit fanciful, a little bit practical, a little bit silly, and a little bit wonderful: the quest for the mechanical horse.
Read more. [Images: Google Patents, Modern Mechanix, Boston Dynamics]
How could a toy engage girls in engineering? What would make it different from the “standard” (that is to say, geared-toward-boys) Lego and Erector sets? Debbie Sterling, who trained as an engineer at Stanford, spent more than a year researching these questions and, gradually, GoldieBlox — a female engineer character, Goldie, and a related construction toy — emerged. It hit Kickstarter this morning as Sterling seeks to raise $150,000 for a first round of production.
Read more. [Image: Susan Burdick/GoldieBlox]