Kenan Professor of Sociology Howard Aldrich includes BeAM@MURRAY HALL in his Sociology 89H course, “Rationalization and the Changing Nature of Social Life in 21st Century America,” combining a week-long visit with the underlying course theme on the effect of technological change on the process of rationalization in modern society.
In particular, Aldrich is interested in automation and computerization of processes that were formerly done solely by hand. The replacement of positions by machines, for example, is one of the questions this course addresses. Learning more about what machines can and cannot do, is an important theme in the course. The visit to BeAM offered an excellent opportunity to see the state-of-the-art with respect to how machines have been scaled down to the point at which ordinary people have access to incredible technological prowess.
During their visit to BEAM the week of Sept. 19, students got an overview of the technologies available in Murray Hall, especially 3-D printing and laser cutting. Students also brought their laptops and learned how to program the Arduino microcontroller. By the end of the week, Aldrich said he is convinced that students gained a better appreciation of the difficulties involved in using the new technologies, but also the potential they hold for changing many aspects of our everyday lives.