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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
April 12, 1914

Study of Motor Car Lends New Interest in Colleges and High Schools to "Dry" Subject.


Professors at Columbia Interested in Innovation Now Used in Eighteen Institutions.

Two professors from Columbia University, after an investigation of the methods employed at the Bloomington, Ind., University High School of the application of the automobile to the study of physics, are now working on a plan to make this course a regular feature in high schools all over the United States.  The two professors, George D. Strayer and Thomas H. Briggs, are working out a scheme to make the high school course of study more attractive.  The practical use of the automobile in the heretofore dry study of physics promises to make this study one of the most attractive in high schools.

In their endeavor to make the feature a success J. J. Cole, President of an Indianapolis motor car company, has promised every assistance, and in this his efforts are being seconded by other automobile manufacturers in the United States.  They and parts makers stand ready to lend automobile chassis, carburetors, axles, motors, and other component parts of a motor car, and the services of automobile engineers.  Over a year ago Prof. R. F. Myers of Bloomington conferred with Mr. Cole and secured enough copies of the technical bulletin issued by his factory for each student in his school to have one.  Then the factory began supplementing this by the loan of chassis and by sending engineers to Bloomington, until to-day the thirty-four co-eds and twenty-two boys in Prof. Myer's class are very proficient in the study of the automobile.

There are now four colleges in the country and fourteen high schools that apply the study of the automobile to create interest in physics and use the technical bulletin for text books.  It is now expected that within two years the course will be a general one in high schools.  Prof. Myers says that to the average high school pupil's mind an automobile is something that runs and gives pleasure.  But what makes it run, the functions of the various parts of the machinery, gas expansion, its electrical appliances, &c., have been a mystery.  The Hoosier professor contends that as the automobile is to be an important factor in many students' future that they should know just as much about it as the three R's.

It is understood also that in the Columbia University professor's report will be a paragraph recommending the installation of a department at Teachers College, whereby those students who intend to become high school professors shall know the automobile as well as any other subject.

"In the application of the automobile to the study of physics," said William L. Colt of the Eastern distributors of the company issuing the technical bulletin last week, "the student gets close to his study.  While at Indianapolis recently I heard assistant engineer Covert of the factory in a lecture to 168 students at the Shortridge High School.  Of this number sixty-seven were girls.  He told them of the gas engine dating from the year 1678, when the first one was run by gunpowder.  He brought the class through to the present date, showing how the business had grown until last year there were 250,000 automobiles manufactured at a cost approximating $225,000,000.  He explained the difference between two and four cycle engines and the different types of valves.  The students traced gasoline from the time it left the tank until it exploded."

The plan to help the school teacher in this work is non-competitive and all manufacturers are being asked to render assistance to make it a success.

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