Monday, August 29, 2011

The Intel Museum

This week's lessons on computer hardware development can be difficult to grasp without looking at some of this material with your eyeballs.

Intel has a free museum at their headquarters in Santa Clara, California. It's just a half hour from my office, so my son and I rode our bikes there for a field trip during our lessons on early computer technology and semiconductors.

At the Intel Museum, you can see Intel's semiconductor memory chips next to some core memory (an early type of computer memory that used wire windings around tiny iron donuts to store information). You can touch a big blob of purified silicon crystal and silicon wafers from which modern semiconductor integrated circuits are manufactured. Interactive exhibits describe the process of designing and manufacturing computer chips in details.

If you live in or near Silicon Valley, it's worth the trip. Parking is free -- just follow the signs for visitor / museum parking. Intel is served by VTA 60 (the bus that runs between the Winchester Transit Center in Campbell to Great America) and the free Mission Shuttle from Lawrence Caltrain. Intel HQ is also a very easy ride from the San Tomas Aquino bike trail, with bike racks available left of the museum entrance and on the ground level of the employee parking garage.

The guided tours are geared for grade school level children, so teens should do the self guided tour. Give yourselves about an hour. I had my son write a trip report. He's a visual learner, so the biggest benefit for him was seeing this old and new technology first hand.

Intel also has a nice resource covering much of this material in their online Journey Inside computer education curriculum. Use this to supplement your student's computer education with lessons computer history, the parts of a computer, circuits and switches, semiconductors, digital information, microprocessors, the Internet, and technology's impact on society.

In addition to Intel's museum in Santa Clara, we have a Computer History Museum and the Tech Museum of Innovation in Silicon Valley.

Finally, for those outside of Silicon Valley, see if there's a technology museum near you.

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