Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Elementary Schools Need More Guidance Programs

Guidance programs are common in most middle and high schools. Many districts, except the well endowed, have no services at the elementary level. This is unfortunate as emotional problems often begin in children below the age of 11. Programs aimed at thwarting emotional problems from progressing work best when services are started as early as pre-school or kindergarten. Guidance services for elementary school children will require counselors skilled in play therapy as play is how young children best express their feelings. Play therapy can be provided individually or for groups of two or more chilren. Unfortunately, college training programs for these counselors has been sparse or non-existant, eventough play therapy requires more complicated preparation than that of "talk" counseling. Too often, emotionally disturbed elementary school children have been placed in homebound programs. This seemingly solves the problem for the school, but adds to the social isolation of the child and and increases their turmrmoi. Note: Mr Abate, now retired, worked for many years as a school psychologist administering play therapy to K-5 children and counseling their parents.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Autonomous Trucking Advantages

FedEx is expected to test the use of autonomous trucks to make supply deliveries. Initially, a human will be included to monitor performance. If successful, a number of advantages will be realized: (1) Trucks can operate 24/7, stopping only for refueling, scheduled maintenance, traffic delays, and emergency repairs. (2) Cost reduction as human drivers will no longer be required. (3) More timely delivery as trucks can operate continuously. (4) Accident reduction as trucks will be programmed to follow all traffic regulations and safety practices. Also, the risk of accidents due to fatigued drivers is eliminated. The only disadvantage is the elimination of truck drivers as a source of employment.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Battery Back-up for Homes

During storm produced blackouts some homes have backup gasoline powered generators. These contribute to air polution, are noisy, and need more maintenance. A better, more convenient solution would be battery back-up. The batteries would remain charged at all times by the house's electric grid. We have batteries that can power an electric vehicle for over 300 miles. Newer batteries are said to last substantially longer.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Auto Manufacturers Can Do More to Thwart Car Thefts

Car thefts seem to be increasing throughout the USA. Automakers have the hitech means to deter this activity. Intermittant horn blowing present in some cars today is one deterent, but cutting the connection will disrupt this feature. I would propose the following be built into all new autos at the factory: (1) A system that can be activated remotely via wi-fi that will prevent the car from exceeding a speed of 15 miles per hour. This will encourage the thieves to abandon the car. (2) Activate intermittant horn blowing after the car is driven a mile or less by the thief. This activity will signal that the car is stolen. This feature can be hard-wired into all new cars or it may be activated via wi-fi. (3) Include a tracking system that activates automatically whenever the vehicle is stolen. Such a system will continuously reveal the location of the vehicle. These features should be designed to be thwart proof. Once thieves become aware of these deterents their desire to steal vehicles will decline. Auto insurers should provide reduced premiums for all autos that have these features.

Monday, March 1, 2021

The Arrival of Autonomous Vehicles (AKA Self-Driving Cars or Driverless Cars); A Quirk or Transformational Event?

Autonomous vehicles (self-driving cars or AVs) powered by batteries have become an interesting and intriguing topic in the literature recently. People will probably view these cars with a degree of fear; can they be safe and reliable? Surprisingly, the technology to monitor and react to changing road conditions is available and continues to improve. Some companies have produced working prototypes of these vehicles. Truck manufacturers have been especially interested in these modes of transportation as they can run 24/7 without a driver; the economics are staggering. 

Assuming technical issues are resolved, the wholesale adoption of AVs can have positive outcomes. (QuantumScape claims to have resolved limitations with its lithium metal battery that provides fast charging that can last for 450 miles.) These vehicles would be expected to follow all road regulations like speed limits and rights of way. A large reduction in accidents could result. The cost of insurance should recede. Maintenance costs should decline dramatically as AVs have fewer moving parts and do not require oil changes. The need for a driving license may become unnecessary. Stoplights would no longer be needed as all vehicles would be aware of each other's location and any road obstacles, including pedestrians, and adjust speed and maneuver accordingly. Also, adjustments would be made according to changing weather conditions. Passing other vehicles would not be allowed except where obstacles are blocking the road. Traffic flow would become optimized automatically. Traffic tie-ups would be minimized. The problem of "driving under the influence" would be negated. Of course, all of these positives assume that the driver remains absent from the control of his vehicle. A common theme would be "sit back and let your car do the driving." Another advantage would be a large reduction in polluting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as all AVs are ultimately expected to be battery-powered.

Some authorities even foresee an era of Shared Autonomous Vehicles (SAVs) where everyone has access to transportation. Car ownership is no longer required. The need for taxis would be eliminated. Simply hale an empty AV or arrange for one to pick you up at your current location. Payment would be provided by one's credit card. Voice input would provide the trip destination desired. Rides can be private or shared with others. Autonomous buses would be available for group transportation. Autonomous trucks will proliferate. Some individuals may still prefer ownership with the option to share their vehicle for a price charged to those seeking a ride. SAVs have the potential to reduce traffic as they will only operate for specified trips. For example, one SAV could make several trips for say ten different passengers over a given day. Otherwise, these same 10 people would place up to TEN autos on the road if SAVs were not available. The need for public parking lots and garages will decline.

The adoption of AVs would have to overcome a number of negatives to be successful. First, it may take some time for people to have confidence in their safety and reliability. Secondly, many drivers may be reluctant to give up control of their car as they take a certain amount of pride in driving their vehicle or prefer to drive it differently than that prescribed autonomously. Another concern is the recharging of batteries; can this be done automatically at a remote charging station when needed? A system must be in place to thwart theft of SAVs like remote disabling of the vehicle. Finally, the transition to AVs may be complicated when both AVs and driver-controlled vehicles share the road.  For example, some drivers may become annoyed when it is following an SAV driving at or below the speed limit. 

Transitioning to AVs is conjectural at present as it represents a profound change in our mode of transportation similar to the transition from the horse and buggy to motorized vehicles. But if AVs do dominate the transportation industry, they will have a major impact on all levels of our society. What is your opinion? Your comments are welcome.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Electric Vehicles, Future Implications

The arrival of electric vehicles (EV) will have a profound effect on global society. EVs will reduce the progression of climate change as carbon-based emissions will decline greatly.  Gasoline will no longer be needed. A number of oil-producing countries will lose a significant source of income. Many petroleum-based corporations will either disappear or must seek alternate sources of revenue.  Many jobs will be lost as the industry fades. Two trends will facilitate the acceptance of EVs: (1) an increase in the range of travel per battery charge and (2) a reduction in the time to complete a charge. Recent improvements in battery technology (range and charge time) will make EVs more acceptable. Charging times are expected to be reduced to 10 minutes or shorter for a "fill." 

The number of gas stations will decline as they are replaced by electric charging stations. Charging locations in addition to home charging may become ubiquitous on highways, in parking lots and garages, and in other off-street locations; a trend that has already started. While some gas stations will transition into charging stations, many will become obsolete. Their removal or conversion to other uses may be problematic as aging underground gasoline storage tanks must be eliminated in order to prevent soil contamination from leaking gasoline.

Another problem is what to do with all the obsolete internal combustion autos as the population transitions to EVs. Hopefully, a program of recycling will get underway. Discarded combustion engines should be melted down with the steel used in the construction of other hardware. Junkyards will become less common as the need for used internal combustion car parts is reduced by the arrival of EVs. Also, EVs will have a longer life as they have fewer moving parts to wear out. It would not be surprising to see an EV car's body wear out before its engines.

The transition to EVs has already begun. Tesla and General Motors are eminent examples.  GM is expected to go all EVs in 14 years. Hopefully, the manufacture of EVs will be less costly than that of more complicated internal combustion vehicles resulting in lower prices which will facilitate the transition.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Advantages, Disadvantages, and the Future of Online Learning

The arrival of the Corona Virus required schools to take measures to reduce its possible spread in the classroom. Some schools closed down and utilized online learning (aka distance learning) as a substitute for in-class learning. Other districts used a combination of in-class and online learning (hybrid model).

Online learning presented a difficult challenge to K-12 schools. Many districts were ill-prepared for the transition. Students had to be given laptops and provided with an internet connection if their homes did not have one. Also, teachers had to be trained to teach online. All these preparations had to be provided on short notice with mixed success. Further complicating the transition were students who failed to participate because they lacked familiarity with the program or they opted to ignore their responsibilities.

Online learning was preceded by correspondence courses where the U.S. mail provided the link between teacher and student. The problem with these courses was the slow pace of the instruction. Educators should not be too quick to downplay the possible benefits of speedier internet-based online instruction.

The following are potential advantages:

  1. Online instruction provides an alternative means of teaching when circumstances force the closing of schools.  
  2. Instruction can be provided by teachers from any location at any time. 

  3. Teachers can prepare learning modules in advance, save them in the cloud,

            and use them as needed, (asynchronous instruction.) 
        4.Teachers can provide instruction to an entire class in real-time, (synchronous
        5. Learning modules can be accessed by students at any time from any location
            and learn independently of an instructor.
        6. Students can have the option of advancing in the curriculum at their own pace.
            They may welcome the flexibility provided by asynchronous instruction. 
        7. There exists the possibility of lowering the district cost of education when the
             number of students working online reduces the need for educational facilities.

Online learning has disadvantages:
  1. A parent must be home to supervise their children - a particular problem where

            both parents are required to be at their place of employment. 
        2. The normal routines of parents can be severely interrupted, especially those with more than one child.
        3. Some students must be monitored to assure they participate in online instruction.
        4. Scheduling of synchronous lessons can be problematic for the teacher,
            student, or both.
        5. Each child will need a workspace free of distraction.

Online learning is expected to decline after the pandemic has abated. It may be reinstituted as needed under the following conditions:

  1. When schools must be closed, such as inclement weather conditions.

  2. Homebound instruction for students with health conditions and those under suspension.

  1. As an option for students seeking to accelerate their learning via asynchronous online modules. Some may even graduate early. Ideally, these students will attend school part-time for certain minor subjects/activities like gym, music, and clubs.

The success of online instruction should not be judged by its performance during the pandemic. Failure may have been due to its rapid implementation. Another issue is student motivation. Those eager to achieve will probably succeed regardless of the mode of instructional delivery.

Note: Some students improved their achievement while learning online,(https://hechingerreport.org/remote-learning-has-been-a-disaster-for-many-students-but-some-kids-have-thrived/?)

Sunday, December 6, 2020

The Danger in Over Reliance on Technology

 Technology has grown increasingly complex over time, a trend that will continue well into the future. Concurrently, our world has become increasingly dependant on technology to make decisions in many areas of our lives like transportation, finance, productivity, and even medicine. There are even programs that are capable of self-modification free from any human intervention. As humans, we often blindly accept decisions provided by these computer programs. A danger exists that if something goes wrong with the technology like the results of hacking or malware, we may be ill-prepared to fix it. In some situations this can be catastrophic  As a society, we must make certain that we are well prepared to meet these challenges. While technology like artificial intelligence can go a long way to make our world operate efficiently, we must be prepared to step in and make corrections when needed or at least have backup systems. This will require intelligent competent individuals with a thorough understanding of technology.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Electric Cars Will Require Energy Backup

There is little doubt that cars with internal combustion engines will eventually be replaced by electric vehicles in the near future, a trend that is already underway. The advantages are too numerous to ignore. One area that must be addressed is the need for a backup source of electrical energy when the supply is interrupted, often by storms. A simple solution is a home backup generator, unfortunately, these require a non-renewable source of energy, usually gasoline. A more environmentally friendly backup source could be batteries which have undergone improvements over the years. These can be charged by renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Another scenario is the conversion of gasoline stations into electricity distribution centers. Hopefully, the future will bring more efficient systems for the storage and rapid dispensing of stored electricity.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Most Educators Were Not Prepared for Online instruction When the Pandemic Arrived

In my blog entry of 4/19/18,  "A Possible Solution for Making-up Missed School Days" I made a plea for providing all students with a laptop for use at school and at home. One use of this arrangement would be the provision of online instruction when normal school is canceled by inclement weather or other interruptions. Who knew back then that a pandemic would arise and most public schools in the U.S would be forced to close? Unfortunately, few districts sought to implement this plan. Now, many are hurriedly seeking to provide all students with a laptop and a home internet connection; all while trying to train teachers in the implementation of the program. Many educators were ill-prepared for online instruction. The blame for this quandary rests with the school administrators who failed to recognize the vital need to utilize computers for training staff and ultimately to provide students with a vital tool for research and learning.