Rich pickings in lively texts
These three new books from the STEP 5-16 Design and Technology programme will interest teachers searching for lively, readable books rich in content and packed full of examples drawn from industrial practice.
Each book adopts a common approach to product development, whether it be with food, resistant materials or electronic control systems. Probably of greatest use to pupils following a GCSE or Part 1 GNVQ course, the books include numerous case studies which detail how commercial organisations design and make products ranging from breakfast cereals to sandwiches, jewellery to audio equipment, and hydro-electric schemes to healthcare equipment.
The book on food is the slimmest volume, but contains a wealth of information on food product design. The impact of the relatively new phenomena of "snacking" or "grazing" throughout the day and the implications for eating habits and food design are well covered. This useful book also includes a section on control and systems which goes beyond the simple flow charts found in other books. Transducers and comparators are included, but for a more in-depth study, pupils can turn to the companion volume on electronics and control systems. In this book detailed electronic circuits are explained alongside production techniques and applications of control technologies to various situations, including how they might help the visually impaired.
The order in which the material is presented is interesting and will probably suit those students who find working from the macro to the micro level more attractive. The basic electronic theory of Ohm's Law and resistors can be found towards the end of the book. What comes first are the examples of how systems are used. Pupils, therefore, have a context in which to place the theoretical content, and many teachers have found this to be a more successful method of teaching the subject and developing an understanding of underlying principles.
Each book is illustrated with carefully chosen colour photographs and subtly coloured line drawings and diagrams. The text is clear and includes tasks and problems for pupils to solve. Unusually, the tasks and activities for pupils do not dominate the book and there is real data and hard theoretical information for pupils to read and digest.
A glossary of key terms is included where it is interesting to read about the "over-the-wall" approach to linear sequencing of design and manufacturing activity. This is where each element of the production process, from initial marketing of ideas to customer relations, is separated. This leads to the inefficient use of resources and a great deal of time wasting. Communication paths between customer and producer are unclear, and much effort is wasted. Parallels with the development of the national curriculum are, of course, purely coincidental.