Electronic Journal of Science Education - V3N4 - June 1999 - Cannon Editorial

"We are not grease monkeys anymore."

by John R. Cannon, Editor and Publisher, EJSE

During a recent summer teacher enhancement project field trip to Twin Creeks Mine owned by Newmont Gold Company, just northeast of Winnemucca, Nevada, the idea for this space struck me. It came from a comment made to the group of teachers after one of the best Microsoft Powerpoint presentations I'd ever seen before. Upon completion of the program, the maintenance shop foreman proudly announced "We are not grease monkeys anymore."

What was even more striking was the juxtaposition of my memories of being a mechanic, my Grandfather's trade, and what I was seeing around this machine shop. The fond smells, sights, and sounds of grease, oil, parts awaiting replacement, motor exhaust, and the stingy sounds of steel working on steel were still present.

There were, however, new sights I never encountered before, especially in a mechanic's garage -- computers, monitors, screens of all types, oscilloscope-looking devices being carried by people of both genders covered in grease. One device, in particular, caught everyone's attention; a hand-held Ultra Sound tool that found cracks in steel often times smaller than human hairs. One mechanic commented that by using this "tool", hundreds of thousands of dollars in shop repairs could be saved each year due to replacing worn materials before they reach failure. And those ore hauling trucks? $160,000 for a new motor. I was surprized to find that everyone involved in the gold mining operation was concerned with saving money. The more saved on costs of operation, the more chances there are to receive a sizeable year-end bonus. Surely, these were sights that I never witnessed in my grandfathers garage some 40 years before.

A blast from a horn much like that of a fog horn, signals a new arrival to the shop. In drives a massive 240-ton ore truck, some 2 stories high. A door opens. Down steps a Native American woman just completing a 12 hour shift. Her final task of the day was to bring in "her truck", a 2 million dollar piece of equipment, for scheduled maintanence.

Even the face of mining is changing. The blackend faces of deep shaft miners are being augmented with recent engineering graduates who are responsible for many personnel and the ultimate success, or failure, of part of the mining process.

Surprised, I was glad to know the steortypes I brought to Twin Creeks Mine were being replaced with more accurate perceptions of how mining is changing largely due to the technology now available to all forms of industry. It was a great experience to see first hand how technology has changed the way mining takes place in Nevada.

I beleive the same idea can be applied to what the EJSE is trying to accomplish with it's work in promoting electronic publishing within the science education community, be that from universities or public schools across the globe. We could be, as some still do, authoring by hand or at the keyboard of the old Olivetti 1000, sending hard copy into editors for review, awaiting publication in a membership or for fee print journal. Those options will always exist and perhaps go of the way of vinyl long-play records, or lp's. CD's on the other hand, have done quite well. Clearly, audio technology has made static free listening a reality.

Recently, when asked of a large publishing executive how much of $1.00 (for easy math, the cost of an elementary science method's text) an author's ideas are worth, they replied "$.95 goes to my company, primarily for advertising, and $.05 goes to the author." 5 cents for ideas, 95 cents to advertise those ideas. We hope at the EJSE that we can continue to offer to our community 100 cents worth of quality ideas for the cost of a few watts of electricty. Perhaps, as the maintanance forman said earlier in this space holds just as true for electronic authors and publishers as it does for him...

"We are not grease monkeys anymore."

Thanks for reading!

Have a great rest of the summer from those of us at the...

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