February 16, 2024
We were delighted to get a blog comment that did not involve cut-rate sunglasses! To wit: “How would you promote gear/transmission technology to school children, and what resources would you use for practical experiments?” — John Hetherington Over 20 years ago the late Peter Borish, heir to Milwaukee Gear Company, invited a group of elementary school educators to the factory to observe gears being made and to discuss ways to get kids interested in manufacturing careers. I helped him prepare a program for the day and acquired several games with geared elements in them. The teachers had a good visit, but explained the already tight calendar prevented them from adding any “enrichment” that did not contribute to the tested academic goals. Sadly, that situation has not changed for the better in two decades and the games, given out as door prizes, probably sit unused in a school storeroom. But kids still love hands-on toys and things that move. A set of Tinker Toys could be used to model early wood peg gears. An Erector set has real gears and real motors that can be used to build working models of cranes, hoists, and draw bridges. What better way to teach multiplication and division than with numbers of teeth? Our middle-school science classroom had a cutaway manual car transmission. It was motorized and we budding gearheads were fascinated with it. From what I have seen at trade shows, cut-a-ways still draw a crowd. If your firm gives tours or sends engineers to speak to school groups you could send some interesting models along with them. Three-D printing has the potential to make the design experience accessible to everyone. It just might be the bridge we need to bring millions of “virtual designers” into the real world. I refuse to believe kids prefer virtual things to toys they can have in their hands and modify to suit their tastes. Life is too short for imaginary toys. Let’s get real again.