Archive for October, 2008
It is axiomatic that small business is the critical engine of our economic strength.¬† The big (”too big to fail”) businesses are in trouble now.¬† Even the small banks are in pretty good shape since they loaned money to trusted borrowers while building local economies instead of investing in complex derivatives.
Most people don’t realize that career and technical students are very likely to be the small business owners of the future.¬† They learn a skill and go out and start selling it, build their businesses, hire others, buy equipment, and pursue the American dream unencumbered by huge student loan debts.¬† The Corsicana Daily Sun has a nice article about a local man that attended the Golf Course & Landscape Management (GLM) program at TSTC and who now runs his own landscaping business with seven full-time employees.
We spend a lot of our time talking with big companies like Chevron, Dell, Bechtel, and Fluor because they employ thousands.¬† Small business is where most of our grads work, though, and a lot of them are working for themselves.¬† How cool is it that we were able to help this young man to his dream in a short time for just a little bit of money.¬† I love what we do!
To see all of the “Joy of Technical Education” series, click here.2 comments
Armadillo Aerospace, having come so close before, has finally won the level one X PRIZE Lunar Lander Challenge is going for the next level.
Private space development still has the power to unlock our engineering power, creativity, and entreprenurial zeal. Congratulations, Armadillo Aerospace!No comments
Over at the College Affordability and Productivity blog Richard Vedder writes about the “open source” university.¬† Read the whole thing.¬† He also gets into the Baylor “gaming” of the U.S. News ratings.¬† I am more forgiving because gaming is the unfortunate and predictable result of the game college rating has become.
The game itself must end.¬† I would go along with Vedder’s idea of letting employers judge the quality of education, although it would be anathema to the academy.¬† Since we are in the “icky” profession of workforce or technical education (’vocational’ having become a bad word), we spend a great deal of our time trying to meet the needs of employers.¬† As a result, we do meet their expectations and consistently receive high marks from them.¬† Interestingly, as we strive to meet the needs of industry, our graduates seem to attract more interest from universities seeking to articulate them into four-year degrees.¬† Perhaps our interests do not diverge as much as some believe.
An open-source university is an interesting idea.¬† I hear more employers than ever say, “I don’t care what degree they have - I only care about what they can do.”¬† Their practice and profession do not always match, though, and HR departments can be frightfully conservative regarding paper qualifications.¬† If the change does come about, it will be driven by sheer desperation for capable employees.¬† Some companies have already reached that stage.No comments
We recently hosted a delegation from a Norwegian company. As we ate lunch next to the windows looking onto our first class Haas Automation CNC machining lab, one of them asked me why the lab wasn’t full.
We have a very well-respected Mechanical Engineering Technology program and all of the graduates get great jobs. The demand is high, but between our main campus and our teaching site near Houston we graduate fewer than thirty or forty every year. That’s just a drop in an ocean of demand.
Why isn’t our lab full?No comments
Some of our computer networking students recently traveled to the Maker Faire in Austin to show off the super overclocked computer they built. The one they are working with now is cooled with water, but their next version will be using liquid nitrogen.
Here is the picture they sent me of them and their machine in Austin:
Here is another picture of their really cool design:
This team will be traveling to Los Angeles in a few weeks to compete in an PC performance competition sponsored by Tom’s Hardware Guide. Check back here for updates.No comments
Baylor Abandons SAT Payments (Inside Higher Ed) - So a magazine sets up a college rating system. It becomes wildly popular and more important than it should be. Whatever you do, don’t game this “system.” It would be “dishonest.” I read this one because it was about our local university, but it could have happened anywhere.
Are Universities Above the Law? (The Weekly Standard) - Three recent cases that illustrate the difficulties faced by higher education institutions in the legal system. The big universities are now very rich. It will make them a target for more legal action in the future. In these cases, Dartmouth, Duke, and Princeton may deserve what they are getting, though.
What Shortage of Scientists and Engineers? (The New York Times) - John Tierney argues that there is no shortage, just a shortage of American-born ones. Very interesting - but I don’t have enough information to evaluate the arguments. I do know that scientist immigration is no reason to feel sanguine about the state of math and science education in the U.S. I also know that we are very short of technicians in areas critical to economic growth, and we are not importing many of those.No comments
A 17 year-old Texas high school student built his own usable electric car for around $10,000. It sounds like the project taught him a lot of technical skills, too.
“I showed him how to use a grinder, a SawzAll and a drill and stuff like that,” says the father, who owns River City Hydraulics Inc., a hydraulics maintenance and repair company near downtown San Antonio. “He just went to town on it.”
Update: A picture!1 comment
TSTC Waco is working with the Nuclear Power Institute to build a workforce for the 8 new reactors planned in Texas. Our particular areas of training for now include radiation safety and digital instrumenation. Nuclear systems maintenance is also something would fit well with our faculty expertise.
Check out this news video about the scholarships and new equipment made possible by a Nuclear Regulatory Commission grant. Kudos to Linda Morris, Environmental Health &
Safety Department Chair, who is interviewed in the video. She is working closely with Linda Martin, Department Chair for Instrumentation, Computerized Controls, & Robotics. It is a great privelege to work with faculty like this who are recognized experts in their fields.
It is also a privelege to be in technical education, helping students get the marketable skills that bring the great jobs and great starting salaries that the video mentions.No comments
I was up in the wee hours fiddling with the Live HTTP Headers add-on for Firefox and ran across an interesting strategy for recruitment of PHP code warriors.¬† Here is the traffic from the server:
HTTP/1.x 200 OK
Date: Sun, 12 Oct 2008 05:52:13 GMT
X-hacker: If you’re reading this, you should visit automattic.com/jobs and apply to join the fun, mention this header.
Last-Modified: Mon, 06 Oct 2008 22:04:51 GMT
So, if you are the kind of person who reads the negotiation between your computer and a web server, you might just be the kind of person that they want to hire!¬† Follow the instructions and you will find the Automattic website where they are looking for web programming “Code Wranglers.” Contrary to the media narrative*, programmers are still in high demand in the United States.¬† At TSTC, our Computer Science and Web Design/Development departments are both growing fast.¬† Their advisory committees are also adding new employers seeking great talent.
Do your own research and don’t believe what ‘everyone knows’ about the job market.
*<rant> I’m not sure what they teach in journalism school these days, but independent thought and investigation don’t seem to be high on the list.¬† The ‘fish schooling’ behavior by most media outlets is depressing and does not serve the country very well.¬† No - I’m not talking about politics, I’m talking about the economy, jobs, and the sort of training that leads to marketable job skills (the stuff that I am always talking about). </rant>
UPDATE:¬† This was noticed and blogged here back in May.No comments
Friday morning I went to a briefing on Web 2.0 for business at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.¬† The presenter is an advisory committee member for the Web Design and Development program at TSTC Waco.¬† I ran into the new Technology Director for the Rapoport Academy school with which we have an early college high school agreement. Before I left, a former student from my computer networking days came up and shook my hand.¬† What is he doing these days?¬† He is the network administrator for one of our large local realty companies.
Technical education is good people pulling together to help our communities, our businesses, and our students.¬† I love what we do!
(To see the other installments in this series, click here)No comments
I now have the Zoundry Raven blog editor running on the Ubuntu 8.04. laptop. I realize that almost no one cares, but I enjoyed it enough to mention it anyway.
There is a good post up at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity on a proposal to simplify and rationalize the process of getting federal financial aid for college.¬† Here is the short version:
First, the hated FAFSA form would be shortened by 75 percent. Financial aid decisions would be based on adjusted gross income and family size, and all the questions about family assets and liabilities would be dropped.¬† Also, families would be given information on their expected financial assistance before the beginning of the senior year in high school, allowing for more intelligent college searching.
It is very interesting and worth reading if you have an interest in the subject.No comments
Web-based editors all have irritating limitations and desktop applications still have advantages. I have recently installed Zoundry Raven after a little research and I like it quite a lot. It is only available for Windows, but there apparently is a way to make it work in Linux under Wine.
If you have a blog, give it a Zoundry a look.No comments
Over at Infinite Thinking Machine, there is a good post about the ‘K12 Open Minds Conference.’¬† It is a good read.¬† There is also a link to another Linux Terminal Server Project (K12LTSP) that is something like the Edubuntu project I posted about here.¬† This one is based on CentOS 5 and includes instructions to set up Moodle
BTW: I am pretty happy with my dual-boot Ubuntu 8.04 so far, but I am looking forward to the release of 8.10 for the advertised 3G improvements.¬† ATT does not support any platform but Windows.No comments
Over at the Mpowered blog, there is a post about a proposal to require California students to take algebra in the 8th grade.¬† The post does a good job of showing the illogical underpinnings of the argument, so I don’t think that I need to address it.¬† I will say that my experience with my own kids indicates that good teachers make a difference and early algebra does not. (I linked to the category since I couldn’t find a permalink.¬† The article title is ‘Algebra earlier policy not proven anywhere.’)
‘Early Algebra’ is another example of ‘rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.’¬† The Texas 4×4 (four years of math, english, science, and social studies) is in danger of the same accusation as it now stands.¬† Although the Texas 4×4¬† for high school students is a good idea, it rests on a shaky foundation.¬† The facts are plain - students who have passed Algebra 2 with decent grades don’t actually perform at the advertised level.¬† Students who are unprepared for Precalculus and Calculus will do poorly in those subjects, too.¬† Since four years of math are required, the teachers and principals will have the choice of continuing to pass under-prepared students, or failing them, causing them miss graduation.¬† History tells us what will happen.
I support four years of math in high school with the following provisos:
- A meaningful technology or business math course must be an alternative for those not headed to Calculus
- Failure MUST be an option
- Provisions will have to be made for ‘credit recovery’ when students fail
- Passing a dual-credit College Algebra course should meet the 4th year requirement*
I believe that these ideas are needed to make the 4×4 effective.
*I realize that this may seem strange, but college-readiness is the point and basic math college-readiness and passing College Algebra are close to the same.¬† I consider this to be focusing on the desired result rather than the process of getting there.¬† Also, it has always been an issue for me that a full college academic course requiring more work than a full year high school course only counts .5 high school credits.No comments
Over at the TSTC Publishing blog, publisher Mark Long posted about the new Biomedical Equipment Technician ‘TechCareers Guide’ that has just come off of the press.¬† Dr. Roger Bowles, chair of the BET program at TSTC Waco takes lead writing credit with help from several others.¬† We hope to see a series of these books designed to help those interested in a technical career to get information from experienced practitioners.¬† You can order a copy of the book, too.
Read the whole thing!1 comment
The FSC/MEC Blog Class Fall 08 has given me a link on the blogroll (FSC apparently stands for Fitchburg State College).¬† It took a few moments of digging to find a link to the Merrimack Education Center.¬† My best wishes to the educators learning about using blogs as teaching tools!
Since the blog seems to be ad hoc, I won’t be adding it to my blogroll, but I did want to acknowledge the link.¬† I also wanted to note what a wonderful and ‘organic’ thing the Internet is.¬† You never know where the connections will happen next.No comments
At this link, you will find video of the solar-powered cart donated rather suddenly to TSTC by BP America over the weekend at the Renewable Energy Roundup & Green Living Fair in Fredericksburg, TX.¬† You will also get to see the college’s new renewable energy trailer and a short interview with fuel cell and solar power guru and TSTC faculty member Sid Bolfing.No comments
Be sure to check out the Wildcat Drafting and Technology Integration blog which has just been added to the blogroll (reciprocal linking is a general policy) . You will enjoy it especially if you are involved in teaching drafting, GPS, etc.¬† The main proprietor appears to be “Tabasco Jack” Reece who is a Wheeler High School Engineering Drawing and Design teacher.¬† His class website with course descriptions and assignments is here. You may not get many hits from my blog, Jack, but you are most welcome!
UPDATE:¬† Tabasco Jack responds (see comments)3 comments
KWTX telivision news (Waco, Temple, Killeen) came by yesterday and talked with us about what the job market looked like in these ‘troubled econcomic times.’¬† They interviewed me but made a wise choice in the editing room by putting in the information I supplied without putting my face on the screen.¬† They did take some shots around campus and interviewed a student.¬† The video can be viewed from the link below:
Main points - there is still relatively low unemployment and many sectors such as energy and health will continue to grow.¬† The crew focused in on the Toyota service program, which has a point as well.¬† If auto sales continue to slow, demand for fixing the older vehicles on the road will increase.No comments