Wednesday, August 15, 2007


"It takes a village to raise a child" - African proverb

My nephew will be a sophomore at UMO in the college of engineering this coming year. This summer he has worked for a Maine firm with about three dozen engineers specializing in automation. An example of their work is the automation of a small hydro-electric dam north of Rumford. The owner of the dam can now completely control all aspects of the dam from his laptop as he travels the world. There are many sensors that tell him exactly what is going on and allow him to make adjustments from wherever he is.

They have asked my nephew to return next summer, work on school vacations, and even work on projects as he might have time during his studies at the University. What the owner found especially beneficial about him is that he not only had excellent computer skills, but that he had very effective people skills.

The point that I want to make is that my nephew got an excellent, well-rounded education in the Mountain Valley Schools.

Beyond family support and not to dismiss his hard work and perseverance, he had great mentors, such as Wally Devoe, MSAD#43 Technology Director, who offered opportunities to be involved in the school networks, and others in that district who encouraged him in music and sports. This influence cannot be overestimated. Josh had the opportunity to work with laptops his entire time at Mountain Valley High School and just might be a precursor of the talent that will be unleashed from Governor Angus King's vision for creating a new economy in Maine.

In the same vein, I visited Marie Keane's elementary classroom at the Crescent Park School in the Telstar School District where students were powerfully involved with the Lego Mindstorm program. While there are some who might think of it is just playing around, it was instead a process that involved incredibly high-level thinking skills in order to solve real problems. Students created machines with sensors and used the software to build programs to direct them. Good Stuff! Where might these students be in the years to come from this top-notch influence?

Links to check out . . .

Logo Resources

Ed Latham's NetLogo Workshop & Resources

Robotics Resources

Artificial Intelligence Resources

Taking it a bit further . . . .

Some Ethical Questions:

Should we create intelligent robots?

Is the creation of an intelligent robot an act that only God should do?

Will there need to be some regulation about the creation of robots?

Will intelligent robots take away all forms of human employment?

Where are humans to derive their meaning and purpose in life?

If in the future machines have the ability to reason, be self-aware and
have feelings, then what makes a human being a human being, and a robot a robot?

If you could have a robot that would do any task you like, a companion
to do all the work that you prefer not to, would you? And if so, how do
you think this might affect you as a person?

Are there any kind of robots that shouldn't be created? Or that you
wouldn't want to see created? Why?

Automation and the development of new technologies like robots is
viewed by most people as inevitable. But many workers who lose their jobs consider this business practice unfair. Do you think the development of new technologies, and their implementation, is inevitable? What, if anything, should we as a society do for those people who lose their jobs?

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