August 12, 2011
For a business, art, or music major at the University of Colorado Boulder, the 3-credit science requirement can seem uninteresting or even ominous. But the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering has sought to change that with a general science course focused on cutting-edge areas of science with vital applications in health and society.
Dr. Janet deGrazia teaches students in her Creative Technology course how to be aware of false technology or faulty reasoning. Clyven the transgenic mouse is a great example of faulty technology that could lead someone to believe the mouse can actually communicate in a human format.
The course, called Creative Technology/Social Impact of Technology, was first developed 20 years ago by the faculty as a science option for non-engineering majors. Enrollments soon escalated to current heights of more than 400 students per semester. The department constantly revamps the course to keep up with technological advances. The current curriculum delves into the fields of energy, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and computer hardware, with topics ranging from traditional and alternative energy techniques to pharmaceutical and agricultural applications of biotechnology to ethical topics such as cloning. Nanotechnology subjects from nanotubes and nanofabrication to computer subjects including transistor logic, microprocessor chip fabrication, and displays also are covered in the class.
In an effort to foster an interactive atmosphere despite the large class size, student-held clickers are used extensively and a class discussion board is available for students to post and discuss questions. Short movie clips are shown and demonstrations are given to further enliven the atmosphere. Students are also encouraged to look up related topics in the news and submit them for possible class discussion.
Students learn not only about the science itself, but also about the scientific process. They are taught to look critically at arguments and identify the logical fallacies of which unsound arguments are comprised. They are also taught about the peer-review process and what makes peer-reviewed articles more reliable than information drawn from internet sources such as Wikipedia.
For students whose interaction with science and engineering is minimal, the Creative Technology course is a window into some of the most exciting scientific advances in the recent years. Through this class, we hope to excite students and maybe even inspire them to delve further into the world of science we find utterly fascinating.