Dream IT Project Description

An underlying theme to many areas of Medium / Heavy Duty Truck curriculum is the concept of a circuit. The obvious areas such as electrical and hydraulic systems, but also in engine oiling, cooling and fuel systems, air conditioning and heating systems, braking systems and flow charts in diagnosing all of these systems. I like the analogy to a race track where cars flow around a track in a circuit. Caution flags (resistance) slow them down, the pits and garage areas are additional circuits and the start/finish line arbitrarily gives a beginning and and end of a circuit. This can easily be visualized in a simple Hot Wheels race track, but the students need to take it beyond the idea of a simple circuit and apply this foundation concept to the diagnosis of a given circuit. The diagnosing procedure involves a flow chart in which the circuit  is systematically tested step by step. These procedures are rarely printed in paper anymore, but are in an electronic format of some kind. Students (and technicians) use computers to access information from CDs or online resources. My students can see the computer as a source of information, but often fail to see the integration with the hands-on repair of a vehicle.
They are using previous (limited) knowledge to attempt to diagnose a vehicle problem and are wasting valuable time testing theories that should not be applied to the diagnosis or not testing theories that are applicable. They tend to use the resources if they can’t determine the cause of the problem rather than use the resource as an integral part of the diagnosis. The resources can lead them through the steps of the diagnosis, allowing students to use previous knowledge in a good application and pinpointing the problem in a timely manner. The computers used by students are not out in the shop where they are working. I would like to provide a number of laptops to the students to use in the shop. They need to take a computer to the work site as a tool, just as they would take wrenches or screwdrivers.

Transformational Outcomes

I want the students understand the highest level of the circuit theory. If they know that an electrical circuit has a power source, a fuse, a switch, a load and a ground, then  where in the circuit do you begin testing? What other circuits are affecting the first circuit? Experts have designed diagnostic flow charts that systematically test the circuit to determine the root cause of a problem in a circuit. Students need to do the equivalent of “Just Google it”and use the technical resources available. The resources can be right at hand, but students tend to make assumptions and their straight line flow chart reflects their thinking.
Students will jump to conclusion and their approach to diagnosis is one dimensional. Laptops with electronic resources, in the shop, on a job, will provide the students with an integrated tool that can expand their application of previous knowledge.
Assessment of the learning would be an electronic document where they list their findings as prescribed in the flow charts with reasons for the findings and solution. A true final assessment would be identifying and correcting the problem in an appropriate time frame.

I feel that all “Six facets of understanding” are addressed at this level. Explain, interpretation, application are straight forward in that by using proper flow charts, students are gathering evidence in a logical manner (with an actual vehicle) and applying it to their previous knowledge.
Perspective and empathy will be evident by seeing the complexity of the diagnosis and grasping the experts responses to given evidence. The knowledge of self is more philosophical where students need to realize they don’t know it all and need to use all the resources available to them.

Presenting the Package


I teach Diesel Technology at Lapeer County Education and Technology Center in Attica, Michigan. It is a career center that services the five traditional high schools and three alternative high schools of Lapeer County and is operated by the Lapeer County Intermediate School District. 11th and 12th grade students entering my program have an interest in diesel related vehicles and equipment. For most, this is the career field they want to enter and others are there for personal enrichment, they really wanted a related class, but it was full or just to avoid academic classes back at their home school. My students come from many different backgrounds from living in an apartment in the city or straight off the farm. Traditionally, they have low to medium academic skills and struggle to get decent grades. Usually 30-40% of my students have been identified as special needs students. They view computer technology as a burden of school as opposed to a tool they need to be successful in their career. Many of the students have only rudimentary knowledge of computers and limited access to technology. A survey of my returning students last year found that only 26% were familiar with Word and only 23% were familiar with saving a file. 47% of the students had computers at home with a high speed Internet connection, 35% had dial up Internet and 18 % had no Internet service. The computer is not used unless necessary or as a toy. Many view think getting better technology is getting a bigger hammer. Our school has two stand-alone computer labs and I have a resource room in my program area which has 12 computer stations and these are supported by an in-house IT department.


I want my students to expand the circuit concept and apply it to vehicle diagnosis. The oiling, fuel, cooling and electrical systems are individually taught content areas. The race track analogy can be applied to each of these systems and components that do similar functions in different systems can be compared. The separate circuits are interrelated and a problem in one circuit can affect another circuit as well as the base engine.
The interrelationship between the circuits is a more difficult understanding for the students. It can become more of a road map than a race track. The intersecting circuits can weave amongst one another creating a number of diagnostic pathways. It is almost a multitasking of thought processes by applying different knowledge to a given problem. They have to identify the overlapping content, see the relationship between them and evaluate each part to determine the problem.


A Hot Wheels track can provide a visual representation of circuits and the analogy can be adapted to almost all content areas. This will establish an good understanding of individual circuits. Flow charts combine related circuits to help diagnose a problem. The technology that seems best suited to this is providing laptops, capable of handling electronic resources, to the students in the shop setting. I had considered netbooks for their low price, but as I needed a CD/DVD drive and system requirements are not high, I feel low end laptops to be a better choice. Flow charts developed by OEM companies bring a systematic approach that considers all related components and systems that could be a contributing factor to solving a problem. We have this capability now, but the computers available to the students are not readily at hand. Students want to rely on their own knowledge rather than walk back and forth between the work station and the computer for each step. The laptop at the workstation becomes an integral tool to be used not a separate reference. Students using flow charts with the laptops will see the interweaving of systems as they follow the flow chart to solve a problem.


The initial reinforcement of the circuit theory can be based in behaviorism in that seeing the race track triggers the circuit theory, but the application of that theory into a diagnostic problem solving is a cognitive process with the acquisition, storage and use of information. Students solving problems on actual, working vehicles takes the learning away from classroom presented scenarios and creates a situation of applied leaning. My students tend to learn best in hands-on projects and trouble shooting, as an intrinsic motivator, is a challenging task (high challenge) that requires the students to apply the skills they have learned (high skill) . The reward of running an engine or even sitting in the cab are extrinsic motivators that students respond to as well. Solving a problem, replacing or repairing a faulty component and testing to prove the solution is the learning style that is appropriate for my students and content.

The Total Package

The use of flow charts in itself "uncovers" the material and the relationships between circuits. The technology brings real life scenarios to the classroom. In preparing for their career choice, training students to understand that circuits are interrelated and technicians use flow charts to solve problem on the job are necessary skills to be taught. Students can have a good understanding of how individual circuits work and have a good grasp of repairing a given circuit, but fail to see how that circuit affect the big picture of all the circuits working together. Many will replace a part making the circuit function properly, but not understanding why that part failed.Without diagnosing the root cause, the replaced part will likely fail again. The student's misconception is that simply replacing a part will solve the problem and it can be much more complex than that.

Student will use a variety of informational resources in diagnosing vehicles. Light truck information is available at www.shopkey5.com, while John Deere, Navistar and Kubota manuals are available on CDs that can be loaded on a hard drive. Laptops with the capability to run these programs and access the Internet via Wifi are needed. I would mount them on portable podiums to keep them free of dirty (and heavy) tools and greasy workbenches as well as to make the laptops less likely to be pilfered.

One of the reasons students don’t use the resources properly is that they have been trained to use resources to research a topic, but later will be tested on the information without using the resource. Any use of notes or references would be cheating and an open book test, nay,nay. A technician today cannot possibly work without referring to resources for procedures, measurements or specifications.
Another transformational idea is that the students use the laptop as a tool. Many use technology, such as a cell phone, as a tool everyday. A student couldn't imagine not taking their cell phone with them when they go someplace and they should feel the same way in regards to taking a computer to the job. As a technician, not only will they be using a computer for reference, but most likely will be using it for other reasons such as completing work orders or accessing parts inventory.


All areas of teach must be constantly evaluated so improvements can be made.To test for understanding of the circuit theory and the relationship between the racetrack and other circuits, testing can ask comparisons to other circuits. I feel pretests and post-tests are valid indicators of gained understanding as second year students learned many of the circuits last year. The constant race track analogy will be new this year so a better test would compare this years students to next years students. Observations of student performance is always an important assessment. It can identify tendencies, base knowledge and familiarity with the procedure and provide an indication of the student understanding. Lesson assessments will be in the form of an electronic worksheet in which they list their findings and give an explanation why each step was made, citing how it could affect the problem. The amount of time needed is a key component as related to our field. Simply cutting the time of students moving from the workstation to the computer lab and back reduces the time spent on the job. Students following systematic flow charts waste less time, reduces distractions of moving back and forth and focus' the students thinking on the given task.

Connecting to Key Issues

This plan allows students to develop familiarity with technology of the computer as well as technology of the vehicles. Students will view the laptop as a tool that can make them more successful and bring related value to computer usage. Not only will they be using programs as resources, but they will also be using programs to record there findings. Additional lessons in software usage may be needed depending on each students abilities. Students will have to evaluate outside resources of information on relevance, factual content and intent of content. With the increase use of computers and electronic resources, lessons in Internet ethics are a part of my curriculum.

Diagnosing vehicle problem is is a direct application of using critical thinking skills. This can lead to creative thinking improvement as well. Some problems can defy the flow charts and can stump the best technicians. Using critical thinking skills and applying them to a difficult problem can lead to creative ideas in diagnosing a problem. A good understanding of the relationship between circuits can open up new approaches based on logic and previous knowledge.
As a diesel technology instructor, I am required to attain a minimum of 20 hours of professional development related to my content area. Vehicle systems are constantly changing and I have to stay up to date on new vehicle technology. Technology in education is constantly changing as well and I need to continue to improve my knowledge. I will seek out workshops, conferences and other forms of professional development to gain knowledge and experience in educational technologies that will improve the learning environment for my student and my school.