Here's a sample chapter on feedback from the book - comments highly encouraged. Intro to the whole book is below. And yes, this is the one that started as my humanities capstone (AHScap) - the textbook for Engineering of Compartment Systems (ECS), which is an introductory freshman engineering class at Olin. (Note for non-Oliners: NINJAs are Olin's version of TAs.) I need to find a way to put the actual book chapters online (tricky, because I want to allow people to comment on them / edit them, but they have tons of pictures and footnotes and later on, code and math and circuit diagrams).
The question for me right now is not "do I keep writing?" (the answer is yes - I can't not write this stuff), but "what do I write about next?" I could match the ECS syllabus, or I could go for other topics... also, the textbook needs some kind of funky title. I'm taking suggestions. Finally, if there's some way this kind of thing could be useful within the context of OLPC/Sugar, I'd love ideas. I am uncharacteristically drawing a total blank right now.
You stand on the brink of a new world. Maybe you’ve heard of it before, even started to learn it, and you have something you’re anxiously waiting to find out. Maybe this is your first exposure to it and you have no idea what you’re in for but you’re curious to find out. Maybe you’re just reading this book because someone told you to - that’s all right, we’ve all got to have some reason for starting – but it’s my hope that you’ll find your own, more powerful reason for exploring the ideas in this book and using them as a way to explore any aspect of your world you like. It doesn’t even have to be explicitly engineering, because everything is related to engineering (trust me on this).
The important thing to know is that this is yours. This class is yours; it’s ultimately your learning experience and your life, and that’s your own to shape. I can’t tell you how to do that. This textbook is yours; scribble on it, argue with it, fold it into origami cranes and ignore it; I won’t be offended. You don’t even have to finish the book; if you’re not getting something out of it or if you think something else is more interesting, go for it! You can always come back to this later.
I want to help you learn what you want to learn in the way you want to learn it, and in order to do that you’re going to have to teach me how you learn, how you want to learn, and how I can help you learn better. Education is a bidirectional process; what I do affects you, and what you do affects me. We’ve got a lot to learn from each other, and I hope you’ll take the time to email me or at least strike up a dialogue with some of your friends or other students who are reading this book online.
This book is about python, slopefields, and electric motors, but it’s actually about math modeling, programming and electrical and mechanical engineering. Actually, it’s really about thinking like an engineer and applying certain mental toolsets to the solution of problems. Actually, it’s really about learning, learning how to learn, and starting to chart your own way through an educational experience. And actually, this book is really about… life, however you want to live it. You’ll just happen to be learning about it through hooking up wires to each other and observing the effects of Ohm’s law.
Above all, have fun.