Monday, 6 February 2017

From STEM to STEAM – part 1: The psychological importance of Art

There is a growing debate among STEM education practitioners about the value of including art in STEM curriculum's. That is, to move from STEM to STEAM. One of the key arguments in support of including more focus on arts is that doing so will contribute to a better-rounded intelligence among students.

An article in Tech Advocate considers how an increased arts focus will provide greater support for the development of spatial, visual, musical and emotional awareness and creativity. As such the debate of STEM vs. STEAM centres on the concern that current STEM curriculums do not fully expand pupil’s creative and intellectual faculties, instead favouring linear, logical and rigid frameworks of enquiry and analysis.

Of course the value of arts and creativity in STEM is already abounding, with the very substance of design being necessarily creative. However, the point made by the growing STEAM movement, is that design and STEM applications are still underpinned by, largely, mathematic logic or incumbent narratives of what is ‘functional’. Art on the other hand, serves to propose alternative notion’s of function and user need, and alternate means of envisioning form.

Recalling the article in Tech Advocate, however, raises an important misconception that continues to be espoused throughout the school curriculum design. The author bases the STEAM argument on the well-worn notion of Left-brain-rationality, versus Right-brain-creativity. To argue for STEAM then becomes an argument to activate both hemispheres of the brain equally, thus increasing the strength and effectiveness of neural networks.

To pick at this out-dated simplification of brain function and learning briefly: popular conceptions of the separation of brain hemispheres and allocation of thinking styles is based on shaky footing, having been extruded beyond its scientific evidence.

The origin of this conception comes from proven hemispheric divisions of motor neuronal control (Left brain for the right-hand side of the body, etc.), and language (Left brain) versus visuo-spatial and emotional awareness (Right brain). These findings are scientifically accepted, with evidential backing. However, the more elevated popular conception of complete thinking styles related to the brain hemispheres inflates and re-interprets the facts.

The classic popular conception being that, the right brain is: emotional, creative, and intuitive, while the left-brain is: rational, a logical problem solver, and planned and structured. No scientific evidence has been produced that proves a clear separation of these thinking styles to respective hemispheres, but instead that what may undergird the difference in hemispheres and thinking styles is the sequential thought associated with language processing by the Left-brain, versus simultaneous thought associated with visuo-spatial process by the Right-brain.

Understanding the real psychological basis of creativity and logic, and how they can work together is therefore essential to the planning and design of a STEAM curriculum. One central concept that may be highlighted as the real concern of the left and right brain misconception, is that of the difference between STEM design and applications in linear functional fashion, versus holistic design that better considers context and user need.

Considering that humanities are considered arts, including the sociology of science and technology, it is clear that STEM students can gain much from a broader, more embedded view of their work.

This is a summary of an article in TheTech Edvocate - click HERE for the full article

This post was compiled on behalf of Weald Technology by Hugh Reed, January 2017.
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For more information about Weald Technology see www.weald-tech.co.uk
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STEM vs. STEAM – part 2

Both the private and public sector are experiencing a skills drought, frequently not being able to find the skills their operations need. In particular, depth of maths and science knowledge, but also “the ability to integrate and apply that knowledge to solve the challenges facing our nation [and others].”

Within this context, is the growing interest of educators in adding Arts to STEM programs. The STEAM movement, as the new acronym goes, is based primarily on two considerations:

First, traditional STEM curriculums need to be balanced with more diverse approaches to creativity, communication, and humanities understandings, in order to support more well-rounded intellectual development. As a result, arts can support problem solving through interdisciplinarity and better conceptualisation of design solutions. 

Second, integrating arts within STEM programs can provide more opportunities for underrepresented students to engage with the typically less accessible academic subjects of STEM. Art can also diversify means for communication and expression beyond technical writing and presentation, offering new opportunity for both teaching and assessment.

In an articleby Anne Jolly, while advocating a shift to STEAM, she is careful to recognise how there is certainly no lack of creativity among engineers, given the level of innovation all around us. STEM also of course develops a variety of skills that are essential for success, including ‘critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation, communication, collaboration, and entrepreneurship.’

Jolly also presents the concern of STEM advocates who do not see the need for greater arts integration. To them, STEM is a highly rigorous application of mathematics and science to engineering designs, for which an increased arts focus may divide-attention and ‘water-down’ the established rigor. Furthermore, they argue that the current problem-based learning and collaboration within STEM, along with certain historical discussions of technology and context, incidentally gives students sufficient exposure to the arts.

Balancing these arguments, Jolly argues art within STEM should be applied where it fits naturally, such as:
  • Design, for usability and aesthetic using a range of media.
  • Performing arts, which lends to a broader field of communication.
  • Creative planning, enrolling alternate means to identify problems and solutions.

An interesting principle, stated by Jolly, clarifies how art may be integrated with STEM… “the purpose of STEAM should not be to teach art but to apply art in real situations”. This notion suggests that STEAM may lend itself to cultural industries (for instance graphic design, gaming technologies or audio technologies) as much as its new imagination may influence design solutions more broadly, perhaps going further to humanise technologies.

A clear challenge for developing STEAM educational programmes is how to establish integrated standards between each of the disciplines. Integrated standards for analysis and enquiry (and the subsequent teaching and assessment thereof) between the STEM subjects, has been a key strength for its expansion. Integrating standards for art within STEAM is then a highly important factor for its success, to ensure on-going rigorous measurement and application.

However, the arts may be fused with STEM, Dr. Howard Gardner describes a sentiment that should perhaps be the directive for this new curriculum: “What is important is that every human being deserves to learn about the arts and humanities just as each person should be cognizant of the sciences”.  

The broadness of ‘Art’ as a new discipline within STEM certainly poses conceptual and practical considerations, but ultimately it may produce a new lease of awareness, helping students to become ‘fully-literate 21st century citizens’. Interdisciplinarity at the earliest stages may bring about a new era of engineer’s adept for our many cultural and technological challenges.

This is a summary of an article in Education Week. Click HERE to read the full article

This post was compiled on behalf of Weald Technology by Hugh Reed, January 2017.
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For more information about Weald Technology see www.weald-tech.co.uk
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To sign up for the STEM Engineering newsletter visit www.weald-tech.co.uk/stem.html
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Honda Unveils Concept Car with Emotional Intelligence

Honda has developed a concept vehicle, called the NeuV, that foregrounds the integration of emotional intelligence and advanced autonomous functions in urban personal transport.

The NeuV hails a new generation of emotionally intelligent driver assistance that can perceive driver emotions, and can provide advice and physical assistance in challenging driver situations. The car can even suggest radio and entertainment options to help with stress and boredom.

NeuV’s emotional intelligence and automation is made possible by powerful data capture and management, drawing on a range of visual and audio sensors. This data, and other information such as GPS mapping, is integrated with the car’s mechanical functions by Honda’s Automated Network Assistant (HANA).

HANA was developed in collaboration with Softbank, a Japanese telecommunications and Internet corporation. Softbank are leaders in robot humanoid technology, and are investing heavily in infrastructure of the “internet of things” - that is, the integration of everything from household appliances to the electricity market and traffic systems. Intelligent sensors for data capture are central to this change in thinking, along with information sharing and management.

NeuV is designed to maximise value, of resources, and to users. An intended use of the automated vehicle is for owners to make money from ride sharing when they are not using the vehicle. This advanced form of car sharing is an important antidote to the 96% of time that personal cars are not in use. Ride sharing is made particularly easy through an integrated prepayment system within the vehicle, allowing users to arrange hiring and payment online.

The all-electric NeuV goes further yet in resource optimisation by providing information about when is cheapest to charge, and can even sell its stored energy back to the grid when prices are high, effectively becoming an AI market trader.

The urban environment and user is considered near every aspect of the NeuV’s design, with doors opening vertically to save space, low and unobstructed entrances, and a semi-transparent reflective body that helps the car blend into its environment, reducing ‘visual pollution’. Perhaps most brilliantly of all, the car also carries an electric skateboard (that doubles as a shelf) as an alternate ‘last-mile’ transport solution. Clearly, the logic of ‘light-weight urban vehicle’ is well represented by this car.

There are similar competitor projects in development, such as the Toyota Concept-I and Ford Alexa driver-assistance technology, which together are glimpses of future urban transport. The rise of autonomous and emotionally intelligent technologies will seal the place of mechatronics as an area of study and employment, both in the transport sector and beyond.

This is a summary of an article in TechCrunch. To read the full article click HERE

This post was compiled on behalf of Weald Technology by Hugh Reed, January 2017.
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For more information about Weald Technology see www.weald-tech.co.uk
Follow our world-record challenging electric motorcycle project at www.fast-charge.org
To sign up for the STEM Engineering newsletter visit www.weald-tech.co.uk/stem.html
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How long should we continue to invest in the internal combustion engine?

As with all large shifts in industry and technology, there can be wide ranging effects for employees, the economy, and practical technological concerns. Though gradated by the rate and completeness of change, the shift to electric vehicles will certainly be disruptive to the ways of old. 

Among its many likely effects, vehicle electrification will require a mass reskilling of labour; it will force companies to develop dramatically new technological capability, and may cause vast stranded assets for those too late to adapt.  

Dr Gregory Offer, a senior mechanical engineering lecturer at Imperial College, speculates as to the impact for manufacturing industries of Germany’s likely policy to limit or ban sales of all new Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles from 2030.  

‘Working backwards from 2030, the last year that any new [ICE] technology should have had a chance to make it into a production vehicle was 2014 (EHVTI, p.36 Jan 2017). 

This is based on typical development and production time frames. Most vehicles will remain in production for around 10 years; added to this are 3 years from design to the assembly line, plus a further 3 years of initial R&D ‘incubation’. As such, the deadline for new ICE vehicles to enter development, without risk of becoming stranded amongst new regulation, has past 

Offer acknowledges that this vision is based on a very simplistic set of assumptions, mostly about policy. Therefore he is careful not to discount the role of technologies to clean up existing ICE vehicles, as well as the difficulty of replacing ICEs in long haul, heavy goods vehicles, and industrial machinery. It is likely therefore, that the ICE will continue in some sectors for many years to come. 

However, given the current direction of market and policy, Offer is sure that peak combustion engine production is not far away. What then, he asks, is the best choice for aspiring automotive engineers - developing skills for an increasingly redundant ICE market, or developing expertise in electrical automation which is at the beginning of its curve?  

Thus the scope for young engineers to develop within this new industry is vast. Investing in the relevant skills development now will likely secure a dynamic, lifelong career as this nascent technology embeds itself and reshapes our future transport.  

Knowing when to jump seems to be the question at hand, but with strong market up-take and policy backing already at hand, electrical vehicles have clearly announced their campaign of ‘creative destruction’. It is a great opportunity not to be missed, both for young engineers, and the more dynamic car manufacturers.


This post was compiled on behalf of Weald Technology by Hugh Reed, January 2017.
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For more information about Weald Technology see www.weald-tech.co.uk
Follow our world-record challenging electric motorcycle project at www.fast-charge.org
To sign up for the STEM Engineering newsletter visit www.weald-tech.co.uk/stem.html
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Driver-Assist technologies deliver agricultural innovation

Engineering pioneer, ZFFriedrichshafen, has launched one the earliest test prototype intelligent tractors. The ZF ‘Innovation Tractor’ uses driver-assist systems (DAS) and electrification that allow it to ‘see, think and act’ with more efficiency and safety than conventional agricultural vehicles.

Drawing on a variety of mechanical and computer technologies, the Innovation Tractor showcases some of the exciting applications of ‘mechatronics’ - the cross-disciplinary field that is defining the next generation of transport.

In order to ‘see’ the Innovation Tractor is fitted with cameras on the front and rear that are analysed by a processing unit. The visual data is used to enable driving of the vehicle remotely via a tablet. A birds-eye representation of the tractor and local spatial environment is shown on the tablet, from which intuitive touch-screen commands direct the actual vehicle.

Functions of Hitch Detection and Pedestrian Detection use visual networking sensors for semi-autonomous hitching alignment, and emergency breaking to ensure pedestrian safety. Even complex trailer reversing is calculated and executed automatically, requiring only a simple directional command via the driver’s tablet.

The Innovation Tractor’s automated driving functions rely on an electrified steering system built into the control network. This electrification is powered by a generator module (the Terra+) capable of supplying 60kW of continuous power through the driveline, to both tractor and trailer implements.

Traction management is optimised through intelligent all-wheel-drive function, that coordinates with ZF’s electric motors for trailer wheels. Trailer wheels come in an option of a single-wheel drive, or two three-phrase asynchronous motors (liquid cooled with a nominal voltage of 400V). 

With intelligent traction management, and the added electrical drive from the trailer wheel, the Innovation Tractor can tackle gradients up to 30%, beyond conventional tractors. Tying up the tractor’s industrious capability, the additional trailer wheel-drives allow larger loading and greater control even for smaller tractors.

Drawing together some of the leading DAS innovations, ZF are securing the place of mechatronics in agriculture and construction. Casting our minds to sustainable transport solutions, intelligent electronics such as telematics, are helping reduceemissions by optimising driving behaviour.

This is a summary of an article in IVTInternational September 2016. Read more from the designers HERE.

This post was compiled on behalf of Weald Technology by Hugh Reed, November 2017.

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For more information about Weald Technology see www.weald-tech.co.uk
Follow our world-record challenging electric motorcycle project at www.fast-charge.org
To sign up for the Engineering STEM newsletter visit www.weald-tech.co.uk/stem.html

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Is Car Ownership a Thing of the Past?

The KPMG automotive survey 2017 has brought to light several changes in the automotive industry that we can expect to see before 2025. 74% of automotive executives predict that until 2025, half of current car owners will no longer want to own their own car, 62% believe that diesel is outdated, and 92% are planning to invest in battery electric vehicle technology in the next 10 years.

These predictions come from the likely rise of “robot taxis”, which will be self driving cars that can be hired in urban areas and will completely change how people view car ownership. These vehicles will likely be mostly electric vehicles, as at the rate that electric vehicle technology is progressing, the benefits or electric cars will soon outweigh those of diesel vehicles, especially taking into consideration increased concerns about carbon dioxide emissions.

Robot taxis will result in less cars being sold, but automotive experts are not concerned, 85% of the executives surveyed said they are convinced that their company will generate higher revenues by providing new digital services, than selling cars alone.

This is a summary of an article from Motor Trader and you can read the full article in THIS LINK.

This post was compiled on behalf of Weald Technology by Sophie Lane, January 2017.
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For more information about Weald Technology see www.weald-tech.co.uk
Follow our world-record challenging electric motorcycle project at www.fast-charge.org
To sign up for the STEM Engineering newsletter visit www.weald-tech.co.uk/stem.html
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Driverless Cars may cut Congestion by 40%

New research from the Department for Transport has found that driverless cars could significantly reduce traffic levels and journey times. Virtual models of different types of roads were created, and simulations were run with different numbers of driverless cars.

The research found that on major roads, while benefits were small with only a small percentage of driverless cars, the benefits increased with the proportion of driverless vehicles. When 100% of cars are driverless peak time journeys can be reduced by 11% and delays can be reduced by 40%.
On urban roads, even with just a small number of driverless cars peak time journeys could be 21% shorter and delays could be cut by 12%.

These findings have ensured that the government is fully behind developments in driverless vehicles, as they are likely to completely change the way we travel, with particular benefits to those with reduced mobility.

This is a summary of an article from What Car; the full article can be found in THIS LINK.

This post was compiled on behalf of Weald Technology by Sophie Lane, January 2017.

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For more information about Weald Technology see www.weald-tech.co.uk 
Follow our world-record challenging electric motorcycle project at www.fast-charge.org  
To sign up for the STEM Engineering newsletter visit www.weald-tech.co.uk/stem.html
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