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What is, and what might be

The history of technology traces the arc of human progress, from its earliest beginnings in the stone tools primitive man made to survive, through the control of fire and the rise of agriculture, to the present. Presently, we live in a digital age, and the tools of progress now are broadband access, quantum computing, particle accelerators, and spacecraft design. Yet the quest for understanding, the search for knowledge remains the same—just as the earliest stone tools gave us a measure of control over our environment, so too does the Mars Rover. But what is the goal of technology, what is its function, and what do we hope our students will achieve by exposing them to it? Let us agree with the political scientist, Herbert Simon, that science is concerned with what is, with the things that surround us, like atoms and the stars, and that technology is concerned with what might be, with how we want the world to look. Engineers build bridges, skyscrapers, and robots to serve human needs. Their work is to design artifacts as an end product of the design process. In this way we fashion the world to serve our purpose. This is what we want our students to learn. We want them to make the things that might be, that they envision for changing and improving the world, whether that be a building designed to withstand a severe quake, an energy-efficient vehicle, or a prosthetic limb. The design process is integral to technology, and in designing students have the opportunity to effect change in their school, in their community, and in the world.

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Village Glen HS students monitoring a 3D build—modern technology at work!

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