Monday, July 22, 2013

Harvesting – key to a sustainable energy strategy

Millions of kilowatts of kinetic energy are created every day (and night) by unmanaged sources within our current global culture. Energy that is unfortunately lost as heat or movement. A thoughtful strategic plan for energy management requires focus on finding ways to capture, store and distribute this kind of energy. 

This area is typically divided into two general categories:
·         Movement: piezoelectric devices containing ceramics or polymers can self-generate power through being squeezed or stretched.
·         Temperature: thermoelectric devices based on materials that create a charge through changes in temperature

There are many places where energy could be captured and exploited. 

Large scale:
  • bridges shaking as cars roll over them
  • subways zooming through subterranean tunnel
  • heat from airplane engines and smokestacks

Small scale:
  • people walking on urban streets or in office buildings
  • pushing a cart through a grocery store
  •  waste heat from vehicle exhaust pipes
This field represents an exciting new area for exploration and for #futurework. Share your thoughts.
Here is a BBC article about a company in England called Pavgen building floor tiles that capture energy. For info on the Metrology of Energy Harvesting go here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

clueless in the ivory tower

I recently had a conversation with a tenured English professor at a university in the Mid-west. We were bandying ideas back and forth about the role that institutions of higher learning have in preparing today's learners to be successful contributors to the emerging global job economy. 

We both agreed that the system was broken in a major way and needed to be fixed. That kids were getting out of college with skills that were not applicable or extensible – that they were not well-prepared to meet the needs of the current global borderless workplace.

But then he said something that completely blew my mind. He said that his role, as a professor, was to *teach for the ages.* Meaning he thought that the perspective and insight and facts that he was responsible for transferring were designed to merely provide his students with an esoteric worldview that would in turn pass through them and their progeny and into the broader society and culture, informing and influencing the coming millennia.

What a pompous and irresponsible statement. Global economy, we have a problem.

Thank goodness he is in the minority (I hope!). This unrealistic and disconnected perspective, represents a key aspect of the challenge students face today as well as a “going out of business” strategy for him and his colleagues.

Because education is more geared to a public sector approach at its core, there are no clear motivating factors to encourage investigation and adoption of innovative and bleeding edge approaches. No rewards for innovation that drives efficiency and improves outcomes, increases customer satisfaction – all factors that keep leaders of modern businesses up at night. But the rise of MOOCs and for-profit colleges is clearly an indication of a sea change, as broader and more practical and inclusive approaches gain momentum.

But this guy is now tenured in and thinks he can simply pretend the outside world does not exist and that his wit and wisdom are all that his students will need to have successful careers. 

Maybe he could get away with that empirical approach at Oxford or Cambridge where the students are brilliant, but in most institutions of higher learning this worldview won't work. Especially at state schools in the middle of nowhere.

Business has the opportunity to step in and wield an increasingly influential role in driving the transformation of education. Clowns like this professor, so disconnected from the rapidly changing requirements of the workplace, should be fired. Or his courses should at least be clearly and explicitly positioned in the course catalog as totally esoteric, so students know they are not going to get any real, practical training or perspective from this guy.

To deliver the proverbial goods - graduates who will be successful in the new workplace paradigm - teachers need to work more closely with the private sector - especially in fields where disruptive business and socio-cultural transformation is occurring - healthcare, privatized space exploration, renewable energy and robotics, to name a few. Learning from these verticals what kinds of cross-discipline experience and insight are needed to drive their business models forward will be key to the success of the next instantiation of higher education.

Share your thoughts.