Sunday, March 28, 2010

Work / Study Programs

Global U student LW has been traveling along with Paul Treanor through the highways and byways of Amsterdam, looking at Google Street Views.

I took a little workshop with Glenn this morning, in his GlobalMatrix Studio on the Pauling Campus. I got to snap some more acrylic icosahedra together (a fun skill), then paid with a lunch at Oasis.

His prototype Flextegrity kit is looking good but I won't say much about it yet. Glenn and Sam did some inventory recently, meaning Glenn got to see the energy-efficient two wheeler Sam let me ride. The three of us plan to meet again tomorrow.

During our lunch at Oasis, Leslie Hickcox put me in touch with a Sky Trams guy who used to be with Boeing. He's into high speed rail and like that. I was amused by the little cartoon about the year 2000, made in some Other America; "very sexist" I told him, smiling broadly.

That got me thinking about the for-academic-credit work / study approach to some of these railroad jobs.

These are programs helping companies recruit their future engineers (of many varieties) and so are not about taking away jobs. We're presuming friendly town-gown relations.

This is about internships, apprenticeships. Students sample jobs, learn lore.

Some of those enrolled may have no strong leading to commit to railroad building as a career focus, are up front with this thinking, and yet are willing trainees for the semester, bring relevant skills.

The resulting mix in the temporary communities will prove more diverse as a result, and this is a net positive. Biologists and ecologists in training, a few nurses, out with the surveyors and track layers, doing some cross-training and coming to understand one another better: something to write home about.

Temporary campus communities would need to set up along the way, sometimes in picturesque circumstances. Core staff would include those working full time in a more dedicated capacity, perhaps with Siemens or Bombardier.

When you get back to your dome village, you have classes in other subjects, like computer programming or TV editing. There's a cafeteria, private living spaces. We don't presume the typical construction site trailers. Perhaps Princeton is supplying some of the programming.

Some temporary campus facilities may grow into small towns, provided this marks a return to passenger railway days, with some trains making lots of local stops (perhaps on a siding).

The trend has been in the other direction, so there'd have been a cultural shift twixt then and now, maybe thanks to peak oil, frustration with suburban living, nostalgia for saner lifestyles.

Given this whole work / study approach is from Another Tomorrow, lets be imaginative and simply assume North Americans have returned to the notion that trains are good, and lots of remote living along the railroads is once again a preferred lifestyle. Or maybe this is somewhere closer to Mongolia?

You've got optical fiber, lots of bandwidth, local clinics with skilled health care personnel.

Yes, there might be a runway within a couple hundred miles, but no regular commercial service. Sometimes an executive team will visit by small jet, especially if the rail line is still under construction. These bases come and go though, just as the villages do. They're built with dis-assembly and removal already a part of the plan -- a new kind of architecture.

Back at the campus, lets tour around: more horses than motor vehicles? Electric ATVs? No supermarket for hundreds of miles? How many children? How many elderly?

A given campus might host facilities for alumni, company veterans. Even though you don't visit the construction site every day, don't operate heavy equipment, you're still able to teach, work on memoirs, collate experiences, play with young children. The Global U is for life-long learners.

The trains sometimes leave box cars with stuff off the ships, ordered on-line. The new "smart homes" fit in one container.

This isn't about "commuting to work" necessarily, so much as being where the school is located, and both working and studying.

Is this school a religious institution? The more permanent towns will have their cemeteries, their sacred spaces. If the school starts a vineyard, then the trains may have orders to pick up, as well as drop. The idea of a civilian-friendly rail-based economy will have reasserted itself.

Smart curricula will combine experiences, integrating the new knowledge and skills, encouraging positive synergies. For example, the dodecacam you used at the job site (while working on the railroad) will feature in your learning to program, as you upload to the company server.

As a materials engineer, you will analyze data from the work site. As a field biologist, you will have your specimens to study. As a geologist, you might have collected a few gems. Apprentices will mingle with more experienced personnel, learning the ropes.

A railroad is a stand-in for many a project requiring off-the-duff tool use.

A semester in North America, or Russia, or wherever, working on an interesting mega-project, would be a feature of several university majors.

Consider Old Man River City (OMR). Where would the workers come from?

If they're also students in some cases, then the build site would have more of an Arcosanti flavor.