The Edison Project for high school students


Nearly 650 high school students from Connecticut, New York and New Jersey will take part in a workshop series on "The Human Aspects of Thomas A. Edison's Technology" presented by Fairfield University's School of Engineering.

The students will have the opportunity to witness the Edison Phonograph record sound and his Stock Ticker give stock information, while learning how Thomas Edison's inventions led to social revolutions.

The first workshop begins with Edison's method of invention and his pioneering use of the industrial laboratory as a think tank for industrial research and development. The program brings the students from these early industrial practices, all the way to 21st century technology, including how video games are conceptualized and produced.

The workshops will take place in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on October 25, February 7 and April 26, beginning at 10:30 a.m. They are just one part of a three-part project undertaken by the School of Engineering to honor the contributions of Thomas A. Edison in shaping the evolution of industrial America. A student workbook will be developed to complement the workshop lectures as well as a Web Site with a database on Edison, geared specifically to pre-college students. In addition, a semi-permanent exhibit, tracing the evolution of Edison's technology all the way to the year 2000, will be placed in the lobby of McAuliffe Hall, home of the School of Engineering.

The projects are being supported by $50,000 in grants from the Charles Edison Fund in East Orange, N.J., and The Dibner Fund in Wilton, Conn.

Linda Malkin, senior vice president at the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport, will chair the workshop sessions. Speakers include Dr. Robert Rosenberg, director and co-editor of the Thomas A. Edison Papers at Rutgers University; Charles Hummel, Museum Coordinator of the Charles Edison Fund, Mary Ellroy, president of the Connecticut Inventors Association, and Charles Phillips, a renowned Connecticut inventor of high tech toys and games.

A steering committee, made up of high school teachers, has assisted in organizing the workshop series. The teachers are working in conjunction with the Project Director, Dr. Richard G. Weber, associate dean of the School of Engineering; along with other Engineering School faculty and Mrs. Anna Silva of Monroe, assistant coordinator of the workshop series. Their goal is to introduce students to the labor-intensive "discovery method" of Edison and his trusted assistants, and then focus on the social and humanistic aspects of his discoveries and inventions.

Dr. Evangelos Hadjimichael, Dean of the School of Engineering, noted that the young people attending the Edison Project are no older than Thomas Edison was when he entered the labor market and began a life of invention and accomplishment. "We hope the project will inspire young people and help them realize the capacity for creativity within each one of us, and assist them in understanding the transition from the concept of ideas to their realization and their subsequent impact," he said.

Edison's pioneering industrialization methods and his attention to economy and reliability in design and manufacturing led to 20th century industrial practices that have transformed the world. The amalgamation of his companies in 1890 created the Edison General Electric Company, renamed soon afterwards the General Electric Company, a giant among global corporations which has its world headquarters in the Town of Fairfield.

When Life magazine compiled a list of the 100 most important events and 100 most important people of the second millennium, Edison and some of the inventions from his Menlo Park and West Orange laboratories were included in the two categories.

The Charles Edison Fund is an private foundation that supports historic preservation, especially the homes of Thomas A. Edison, and education, medical research, hospitals and museum exhibits.

The Dibner Fund is a private foundation that supports programs in the history of technology, science education, humanitarian causes, the preservation of water resources, peaceful co-existence, and Jewish Heritage as well as selected community organizations."

For more information, please call the School of Engineering at (203) 254-4147.

Participating high schools:

Bridgeport High Schools, Bridgeport, Conn.
Fairfield Prep, Fairfield, Conn.
Norwalk High School, Norwalk, Conn.
Ridgefield High School, Ridgefield, Conn.
Westport High School, Westport, Conn.
Wilton High School, Wilton, Conn.
Horace Greeley High School, Chappaqua, N.Y.
Rye Neck High School, Mamaroneck, N.Y.
Pearl River High School, Pearl River, N.Y.
Bergenfield High School, Bergenfield, N.J.
Dwight Morrow High School, Englewood, N.J.
Ridgefield Memorial High School, Ridgefield, N.J.
West Orange High School, West Orange, N.J.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on October 7, 2000

Vol. 33, No. 68]