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Archive for April, 2009

   This is a report on our progress toward completing the student podcast episodes for this year. Right now, three episodes are underway and a fourth is pending. Students in my Media Design classes at Mountainland Applied Technology College have researched, planned, videotaped, and are now editing the following topics: The Art and Science of Blown Glass; Illuminating History: The Story of Stained Glass; and The History and Process of Synthetic Diamonds. Our fourth project will be about the history and properties of clay pottery.

   On Feb. 11, a team of students traveled to Thanksgiving Point near Alpine, Utah to tour Holdman Studios, a glass blowing and stained glass studio ran by Tom and Trevor Holdman. Our subject matter expert on blown glass, Gay Wyn Quance, had previously come to our school where we interviewed her on the history and processes of glass blowing where we could guarantee good lighting and audio. At Holdman Studios, we set up our cameras, lights, and mics and videotaped Gay Wyn giving two separate demonstrations of the process of blowing a glass plate. We used two cameras and a wireless lapel mike system to ensure good video and audio. We also took several hundred excellent photos of the process (see our previous post). Afterward, we videotaped Trevor and his assistant, Keith, creating a large green with white striped glass platter. We have since captured all the video and audio to Final Cut Studio on our Mac Pro computers, written transcripts word for word, and assembled them all with narration into a draft script of the episode. Today we recorded the narration, and tomorrow we will capture the narration and begin the editing process.

Green art glass for stained glass windows

Green art glass for stained glass windows

   For the stained glass project, another group of students travelled to Thanksgiving Point again on Feb. 26 to videotape Josh Lewis demonstrating the processes of making stained glass windows, from a demonstration of the basic cutting and assembly process through creating the original cartoons, painting on the glass, using sandblasting to engrave the glass, and finally how glass is slumped or molded. Again we had two video cameras and a digital still camera and two mics and we recorded some excellent footage and audio. We have since captured all of this to our system, written the transcripts, and are now writing the final rough draft of the script.

Partially assembled stained glass window

Partially assembled stained glass window

   We contacted Novatek, a company in south Provo that makes Polycrystalline Diamond (PCD) for oil well drill bits. The president of the company is David Hall, son of H. Tracy Hall, who invented the processes of synthetic diamond at General Electric in 1954. After leaving GE for a professorship at Brigham Young University, he continued to invent new processes including the tetrahedral and cubic presses still used today. He formed Megadiamond, a company that has since been sold to Smith International, and then formed Novatek. Our Subject Matter Expert is Francis Leaney. On Friday, March 13 a group of students from my morning class traveled to Novatek where we interviewed Mr. Leaney on the history of synthetic diamonds, the processes of making them, and their uses now and in the future. We took a detailed tour of the plant using three cameras, as well as the museum that houses many of Dr. Hall’s original inventions including samples of the very first synthetic diamonds. That footage has now been captured and the transcripts are being written, which is a slow process.

Tetrahedral press for synthetic diamond making

Tetrahedral press for synthetic diamond making

   Meanwhile, I have been busy traveling to teacher conferences in Utah to present this project and enlist the aid of colleagues to form teams of their own to document the chemistry in their own towns. The Utah State Office of Education has given its support of this project by offering continuing education credits for teachers who go through the training. My initial grant application to the National Science Foundation was turned down, unfortunately, but the reviews were detailed and quite encouraging, They want me to develop more partnerships to help ensure the success of this project and to come up with a more concrete evaluation plan at the end. However, the idea itself they feel is worthy and they encourage me to reapply. My next move will be to start building these partnerships and to send out a mailer to all the science and technology teachers in Utah to describe this project and ask for teams to volunteer. The conference presentations went well and their are some interested teachers already, but now is the time to reach out to the rest of the state. Here is a .pdf version of the presentation I gave to Utah teachers at the Utah Science Teachers Association and the Utah Coalition of Educational Technology conferences this last month:

elements_unearthed_presentation (.pdf format)

Display of the history of synthetic diamonds at Novatek

Display of the history of synthetic diamonds at Novatek

   We should have the draft versions of the episodes done (or a director’s cut) by the end of April. By mid May we’ll have the final versions edited, compressed, and uploaded to this blog. I’m also working on new versions of the episoded created last year; these have not yet been posted because they still need some editing and improving to shorten and tighten the stories. Altogether, by the end of May, we’ll have the four episodes from this year, three from last year, and the introductory episode I created this last fall for the NSF grant. We look forward to having this first Phase of the project completed by the end of May, ready to move into Phase II with my trip to the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia this summer.

   Now that the various issues regarding this project at MATC have been resolved, I will be able to start posting on a more regular (weekly) basis and keep you up to date on each project. Next week: How you can get involved.

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