Physics of plumbing targets teachers

By Robert P. Mader Of Contractor's staff OAK BROOK, ILL. An effort begun last year to lure young people to the plumbing industry through their physics classes has continued to make progress. The " Physics of Plumbing" science curriculum now needs funding to be produced. The mechanical industry has had substantial problems getting past obstinate high school guidance counselors, so the new approach

By Robert P. Mader
Of Contractor's staff

OAK BROOK, ILL. — An effort begun last year to lure young people to the plumbing industry through their physics classes has continued to make progress. The " Physics of Plumbing" science curriculum now needs funding to be produced.

The mechanical industry has had substantial problems getting past obstinate high school guidance counselors, so the new approach is to bypass them and get to prospective employees through their physics teachers.

The National Foundation for Energy Education in Reston, Va., has already produced a high school physics curriculum for the HVAC industry. The object of the curriculum is to show students the practical aspects of the science theories they have been learning and to give them an idea about career opportunities.

Gerry Katz, president of NFEE, presented his outline for the plumbing curriculum Aug. 24 in a meeting here with representatives of the Plumbing and Mechanical Contractors Association of Northern Illinois, and representatives of American Standard, Sloan Valve manufacturers rep agency Repco and the apprentice coordinator for United Association Local 501.

Katz has begun writing the curriculum and lesson plans and needs funding to complete the course. Writing the material would not be difficult, he said. The hard part would be shooting, editing and packaging the videotaped lessons and instructional kits. Katz said he needs $71,200 to launch the program. He envisions that industry manufacturers could underwrite production of the course, and local associations of contractors and engineers could sponsor the regional teacher training workshops.

The title of the proposed kit is "Plumbing Physics — The Applications of Hydrostatics, Hydraulics and Fluid Dynamics." Students would learn about Boyle, Charles, Archimedes and Lussac and how their laws are used in plumbing. The teacher could use modules individually through the year when it's time to teach that concept or use the lessons in sequence.

At the end of the course, a plumbing professional could come into the classroom for a 45-180 minute presentation. NFEE also recommends constructing an online activity that would be run on the Website SciencePipeline.com.

Katz showed his lesson plan for the first three lessons at the Illinois meeting. Lesson 1 introduces the course, including an introduction to Mr. Energy, Katz's alter ego in the videotaped demonstrations. The lesson also covers pressure exerted by solids.

Part of Lesson 1 is a self-evaluation for students of what they know about physics topics. The self-evaluation asks students to rate their knowledge on topics such as blood pressure, buoyancy, uniform and turbulent flow and partial vacuums. It helps tip off the students about the contents of the course.

Lesson 2 covers calculating pressure; Lesson 3 discusses characteristics of fluids.

Katz noted that science teachers are already required by state requirements to provide lessons on Bernoulli's principles, pressure, buoyancy and hydraulics. A plumbing-oriented science curriculum would mesh with those requirements.

In addition to the eight to 10 science demonstrations and related plumbing application information, students would learn about the career opportunities in the plumbing industry. The plumbing course has the potential to reach 150,000 students each year, Katz said.

The teacher's kit would contain hardware and supplies for demonstrations and student investigations, the videos and a program guide to assist teachers, and the History Channel's video — "Plumbing: The Arteries of Civilization."

The curriculum would cover characteristics and structure of liquids and gases, pressure, laws and principles, siphons, capillary action and plumbing chemistry.

If he can get funding, Katz hopes to conduct teacher-training workshops in eight regions of the country during fall and winter 2006. Middle and high school teachers would be invited to a six-hour training program where they would try out the kit's activities.

Katz anticipates that the kit will have to be refined and revised and then made available for purchase by August 2007. The kits will cost about $200, so he hopes that contractors and their associations will pay for the kits for the teachers.

More information about the kit is available from Katz at NFEE, 703/860-0951, or e-mail [email protected].