Pocahontas and Drew
Feb 7th, 2007 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Today, during the Pathways to Innovation trip to UConn’s Material Sciences Department, Drew and I took a side trip to visit a professor in Electrical Engineering that might be able to help him with his project.

Unfortunately, the professor was not there, but we got to meet who I think was a tech in the lab. I was reminded of the words from the song “Colors of the Wind,” from the Disney movie Pocahontas:

“You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew . . . “

Wow! How true that was today! This lab was filled with instruments that I have never seen before – Drew wants to do some photolithography. Our self-proclaimed “tour guide” showed us around the lab and told us about some of the things the lab does. He was quick to show us an instrument and introduce it by its price tag. I would have preferred to hear what it did, but I am digressing.

What strikes me most, is that Drew has conceptualized VERY WELL exactly what he wants to do. However, it became obvious from our discussions with the professionals that there is more to it than he realized. Maybe? He just lacks the expertise to know – and I as the lowly biologist really have no sense of engineering as a discipline. Conversations with Bob regularly reinforce this.

And that’s part of the problem finding – knowing whether or not your idea is feasible with your expertise, resources, time etc. Maybe Drew isn’t to the problem solving stage yet – he still might actually be floundering in some mess finding.

I think my data might very well reveal the mess finding to be a significant aspect of authentic problem finding – and maybe even part of the great challenge if the student is interested in pursuing a topic beyond the scope of the experts he regularly has available to him.

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