Gas station without pumps

2014 September 9

Why are students going to for-profit colleges?

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 18:03
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Faculty in public colleges are often mystified why students would choose to take out enormous loans to attend for-profit colleges whose degrees are mostly not respected either by industry or other colleges. In Confessions of a Community College Dean: Corinthian Learner “Dean Dad” explains why for-profit colleges managed to attract students, despite the low quality and ripoff financing:

Put simply, for-profits rushed in to fill the void left by the publics.  Decades of relative neglect of public higher education, combined with a certain (ahem) narcissism within the sector itself, left entire populations underserved.  Perhaps for impure reasons, for-profits figured out how to reach students nobody else bothered to reach.  They pioneered evening, weekend, and online delivery.  They built schedules around student needs.  They focused on a few distinct majors that both students and employers could understand.  And for a while, in some sectors, some of them got decent results.  In the late 90’s, you could do a lot worse than graduating with a degree in CIS.

For-profits filled a void. If you want to prevent the next catastrophe, tend to the void.

That means consciously and aggressively using the public sector—both community colleges and four-year regional campuses—as hedges against future disaster. It means making a dramatic and sustained turn away from the long-term trend of austerity for the publics and an open spigot for for-profits. When you include the cost of bailouts, the “efficient” for-profits wind up inflicting a far greater fiscal burden on the public than more generously funded publics would have. That’s even more true when you factor in student loan debt from students who never graduated, or who graduated but never earned salaries commensurate with their debts.

If dampening demand isn’t really an option, and diverting demand to the private sector leads to financial catastrophe, maybe…stay with me…we could fund the public sector well enough to meet the demand itself. Keep student cost down, get quality up, and learn some valuable lessons from for-profits about meeting students where they actually are. Prevent the next wave of for-profit megagrowth by choking off its air supply.

That means getting away from flat or declining operating budgets supplemented by “targeted” grants that fade away in three years, and instead pouring a fraction of what a for-profit bailout would cost into the public sector. When I was at DeVry, I didn’t see fear of the government or fear of lawyers. I saw fear of the nearby community college. There was a reason for that.

As long as for-profits are considered in isolation, we’ll continue to miss the point. Yes, close loopholes, prosecute liars, and enforce regulations, but those amount to fighting the last war. If you want to prevent the next bailout instead of the last one, you have to address the demand side. Give community and state colleges the resources—and, yes, the flexibility—to flood the zone. It’ll cost some money upfront, but it’s cheaper, more humane, and far more productive than bailouts and legal fees after the next collapse. We don’t have a great record of learning from catastrophes, but this one should be easy.

His post was made in response to the failure of the Corinthian Colleges chain, where the investors had siphoned off all they could get away with and the federal government was not allowing them to be the recipients of student loan money any more.  Other for-profit chains (Anthem Education, for example) are also on the ropes, now that the Federal spigot of infinite loans is being turned back a tiny bit. No attempt is expected to claw back the money from the “investors” who ripped off the students tricking them into taking out enormous loans for a fake education.

I think that his message is indeed correct. It is a lot cheaper to fund public universities well than to clean up the mess left by a completely unregulated for-profit education “industry”.  Students should not need to take out enormous loans to get an education, particularly not the inferior one that the for-profits provided.  Society is better served by having an educated populace that is not hugely in debt.


First-generation students

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 14:27
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There were a couple of blog posts by in The Academe Blog in August 2014 pointing to articles about first-generation college students: students whose parents did not graduate from college with 4-year degrees.  This is a particularly important topic for University of California campuses, as UC admissions puts a high premium on being a first-generation student, resulting in large numbers of first-generation students.  (In Fall 2013, 44% of the freshmen at UCSC were first-generation students.)

In the first post First Generation Students Part I: Difference-Education, Walter Breau quotes from an  interview published in the Stanford Report:

“Closing the Social-Class Achievement Gap,” offers a new approach to help [first-generation students] advance in college: discuss class differences rather than ignore them. The research showed that when incoming first-generation students saw and heard stories from junior and senior students with different social-class backgrounds tell stories about their struggles and successes in college, they gained a framework to understand how their backgrounds shaped their own experiences and how to see this as an asset,”

(How’s that for 4 levels of indirection: me quoting Breau quoting an interview with Hamidani about a paper by Hamidani, Stephens, and Westin.)

The abstract of the paper itself sums up the research fairly well:

College students who do not have parents with 4-year degrees (first-generation students) earn lower grades and encounter more obstacles to success than do students who have at least one parent with a 4-year degree (continuing-generation students). In the study reported here, we tested a novel intervention designed to reduce this social-class achievement gap with a randomized controlled trial (N = 168). Using senior college students’ real-life stories, we conducted a difference-education intervention with incoming students about how their diverse backgrounds can shape what they experience in college. Compared with a standard intervention that provided similar stories of college adjustment without highlighting students’ different backgrounds, the difference-education intervention eliminated the social-class achievement gap by increasing first-generation students’ tendency to seek out college resources (e.g., meeting with professors) and, in turn, improving their end-of-year grade point averages. The difference-education intervention also improved the college transition for all students on numerous psychosocial outcomes (e.g., mental health and engagement).

The do not identify the private university at which they did the study, and I believe that the details of the university make a huge difference.  The adjustments needed when first-generation students are an insignificant minority (as they are at most elite private colleges) and when they are 44% of the incoming class are likely quite different, and so the interventions needed may differ not just in scale but in kind.  Since all the authors are at private research universities (Stanford and Northwestern), they likely did their study at either Stanford or Northwestern, neither of which has many first-generation students, and both of which have large numbers of rather wealthy students.  I question somewhat how well the results of studies on such campuses generalizes to the public universities which may soon be majority first-generation students (or already are in some cases), and where social class is not so skewed toward the wealthy.

In First Generation Students Part II: Cultural Fit, Walter Breau points to an article about cultural fit:

“Unseen Disadvantage: How American Universities’ Focus on Independence Undermines the Academic Performance of First-Generation College Students,” published in 2012 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, concluded:

“That the seemingly positive middle-and upper-class cultural norms that pervade traditional American universities—norms that emphasize independent values such as ‘do your own thing,’ ‘pave your own path,’ and ‘express yourself’—can undermine the academic performance of first-generation students.”

The distinction that the article makes between “middle-class” and “working-class” values is independence vs. interdependence.  They found that college administrators at top-ranked colleges valued independent decision making much more than they valued interdependence, but that there were not significant differences between responses to questions about about independent vs. collaborative work.  Lower ranked colleges had less of a skew toward valuing independent decision making, but were otherwise fairly similar.

The study looked at a modest sample of student surveys and grades (245 first-generation, 1179 continuing-generation) to see whether independent/interdependent motive predicted cumulative GPA at the end of 2 years.  The effect sizes they saw were tiny—only coming out larger than race because they lumped all non-white race categories together, which makes some sense for looking at independent/interdependent, but not for looking at GPA, since Asian student typically perform quite differently from black and Latino students.  SAT scores alone were a much better predictor of grades than any of the sociological variables they looked at, and the only really good predictor of 2-year GPA was the 1-year GPA. So, while their results were statistically significant, it is not clear that they were really large enough to justify any conclusions about whether the “American Universities’ Focus on Independence Undermines the Academic Performance of First-Generation College Students”.  I certainly would not want to base policy decisions on such small effects.

Their study was done at schools with only about 17% first-generation students (based on the participant numbers in their study), which may be typical of US colleges as a whole, but is nothing like the UC system.  Even UCB, with the lowest ratio of first-generation students of any UC campus, had 23% first-generation students in 2010 (the latest for which I could find UC-wide data), and some campus were majority first-generation even in 2010 (Merced and Riverside).

Although it is important for UC to figure out how to help first-generation college students succeed, it is not clear to me that either of the studies that Breau reported on have much relevance for UC.


2014 September 1

Where PhDs get their Bachelors’ degrees

Last year I wrote about a study that looked at where CS PhD students got their bachelors’ degrees. Now Reed College has extended that question to other fields as well: Doctoral Degree Productivity.  Their point was to show how high Reed ranked on the standard they chose: the number of students who went on to get PhDs divided by the number of students getting bachelor’s degrees.  I quote the tables and accompanying text below, but I take no credit or blame for the data—this is directly from Reed’s site:

Undergraduate Origins of Doctoral Degrees

Percentage ranking of doctorates, by academic field, conferred upon graduates of listed institutions.

Rank All Disciplines Science and Math Social Sciences Humanities and Arts
1 Calif. Inst. of Tech. Calif. Inst. of Tech. Swarthmore New England Conserv. of Music
2 Harvey Mudd Harvey Mudd Grinnell Curtis Institute of Music
3 Swarthmore Reed Reed Juilliard
4 Reed MIT Bryn Mawr Cleveland Inst. of Music
5 Carleton NM Institute Mining & Tech. Spelman St. John’s College
6 MIT Carleton Oberlin Reed
7 Grinnell Wabash Wesleyan Hellenic College-Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Sch. of Theology
8 Princeton Rice St. Joseph Seminary Swarthmore
9 Harvard Univ. of Chicago Harvard Oberlin
10 Oberlin Grinnell Pomona Amherst

Percentage Ranking by Specific Fields of Study

Rank Life Sciences Physical Sciences Psychology Other Social Sciences* Humanities
1 Calif. Inst. of Tech. Calif. Inst. of Tech. Univ. Puerto Rico – Aguadilla Swarthmore St. John’s, MD
2 Reed Harvey Mudd Wellesley Reed Reed
3 Swarthmore Reed Vassar Harvard Amherst
4 Carleton MIT Hendrix Grinnell Swarthmore
5 Grinnell NM Institute Mining/Tech. Pontifical Coll. Josephinum Univ. of Chicago Carleton
6 Harvey Mudd Carleton Grinnell Bryn Mawr Yale
7 Univ. of Chicago Wabash Swarthmore Thomas More College of Lib. Arts Thomas More College of Lib. Arts
8 Haverford Rice Barnard Oberlin Bryn Mawr
9 MIT Univ. of Chicago St. Joseph Seminary Coll. Bard College at Simon’s Rock St. John’s, NM
10 Earlham Grinnell Pomona Wesleyan Wesleyan
11 Harvard Haverford Reed Amherst Princeton
12 Cornell Univ. Swarthmore Wesleyan Pomona Bard College at Simon’s Rock

*Does not include psychology, education, or communications and librarianship.

Source: National Science Foundation and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. The listing shows the top institutions in the nation ranked by estimated percentage of graduates who went on to earn a doctoral degree in selected disciplines between 2001-2010.

All the schools listed are private schools except Univ. Puerto Rico—Aguadilla and NM Institute Mining/Tech., but seeing dominance by expensive private schools is not very surprising—grad school is expensive, and students who can afford expensive private schools are more likely to be able to afford expensive grad school and are less likely to need to work immediately after getting their B.S. or B.A. A PhD is not a working-class degree—it is prepares one for only a small number of jobs, mainly in academia or national labs, so for many it is just an elite status symbol.  What is more surprising is how poorly the Ivy League schools do on this list—perhaps those who get their elite status conferred by their bachelor’s institution see no need to continue on to get higher degrees.

Reed does not report numbers directly comparable with the ones in the Computing Research Association report, which reports only on computer science PhDs, where

Only one institution (MIT) had an annual average production of 15 or more undergraduates.   Three other institutions (Berkeley, CMU, and Cornell) had an average production of more than 10 but less than 15.  Together, these four baccalaureate institutions accounted for over 10% of all Ph.D.’s awarded to domestic students.   The next 10% of all Ph.D.’s in that period came from only eight other baccalaureate institutions (Harvard, Brigham Young, Stanford, UT Austin, UIUC, Princeton, University of Michigan, and UCLA). 

Note that five of the top producers of bachelor’s in CS who went on to get PhDs were public schools.  The CRA does not report PhD/BS numbers for individual institutions, probably because the numbers are too small to be meaningful for most colleges—you have to aggregate either across many colleges or across many fields before the denominators are big enough to avoid just reporting noise.  Reed did the aggregating across fields, while the CRA report aggregated across colleges, finding that research universities sent about 2.5% of their CS graduates on to get PhDs, 4-year colleges about 0.9% and masters-granting institutions about 0.6%.  They did have one finding that supports Reed’s analysis:

The top 25 liberal arts colleges (using the U.S. News and World Reports ranking) collectively enroll slightly less than 50,000 students per year in all majors and were the origins of 190 Ph.D. degrees between 2000 and 2010, collectively ranking ahead of any single research university.

Reed’s findings are also consistent with the NSF report that put the “Oberlin 50″ colleges highest at over 5% of their science and engineering graduates going on to get PhDs, compared to about 3% for research universities.  The NSF report supports somewhat the analysis that socio-economic status is important in determining who goes on to grad school—private research universities match the Oberlin 50, but public research universities have only about half as large a fraction of their graduates go on to grad school.

I found out about this site from The Colleges Where PhD’s Get Their Start, which has a copy of the tables that probably came from an earlier, buggy  version of the site, because Lynn O’Shaughnessy wrote

I bet most families assume that attending a public flagship university or a nationally known private research university is the best ticket to graduate school. If you look at the following lists of the most successful PhD feeder schools for different majors, you will see a somewhat different story. Not a single public university makes any of the lists. The entire Cal State system, however, is considered the No. 1 producer of humanities PhD’s.

I could believe that the Cal State system had the largest raw numbers of students going on to get PhDs in humanities, as they are a huge 4-year college, enrolling about 438,000 students [], with about 76,000 bachelor’s degrees per year []. Are there any other colleges in the US graduating so many BS or BA students per year? But the fact remains that Cal State is not the flagship university of California, and the University of California probably has a much higher percentage of its alumni go on to get PhDs.

In fact, one of the big problems with these lists is the question of scale—most of the colleges that come up high on Reed’s lists (which means high on NSF’s lists) do so by having very small denominators—they don’t graduate many students, though a high percentage of those go on to get PhDs.  In terms of raw numbers of students who go on to get PhDs, the public research universities produce many more than the private research universities, and the liberal arts schools are just a drop in the bucket. Of the top 25 schools in terms of raw numbers who go on to get PhDs in science and engineering, 19 are public research universities and 6 are private research universities—of the top 50 only 17 are private research universities.

When you are looking for a cohort of similarly minded students, you get slightly higher enrichment at some very selective private schools, but there are actually more peers at a large public research university—if you can find them.

2014 August 17

New bedroom furniture

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 12:58
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I’ve added some new furniture to the bedroom:

My new 42" rolling cabinet tool box.

My new 42″ rolling cabinet tool box. The plastic tool box on the top is my son’s.

For several years I’ve been planning to clean up the garage, put up shelving, and get all the “stuff” in the garage organized. It has been a firm commitment each summer, and each summer nothing happens (well, one year I got some nasty old shelving taken down and everything put into boxes, but that was sort of negative progress, as I never got new shelves put up).

Part of the plan was to get all (or most) of my tools into a rolling tool box, so that I could have easier access to them. I’ve often ended up buying a new hand tool because I couldn’t find what I was looking for in the garage. This summer I finally bought a 42″ rolling tool box from Harbor Freight for $370, after giving up on finding anything locally. The shipping from southern California added another $97 to the price (shipping weight is 289 pounds). Because most of the tools get used in the house, not the garage, I decided to keep the toolbox in the house. I’m planning to clear my son’s stuff out of the living room and into his bedroom when he leaves for college (so the robotics table, scroll saw, and drill press would move out of the living room, restoring it to a more livable space), so I didn’t want to put the tool box in the living room. Since I want the tools to be readily available when I’m working on electronics stuff, I ended up putting the tool box in my bedroom, which has gradually been becoming my workshop for computer and electronics stuff.

My wife has been patient with the gradual conversion of our bedroom into a workshop, but I think that we could make the room more comfortable by rearranging the furniture. I hope to get the floor of the bedroom mostly cleared of junk before school starts, though that may require getting some shelving that fits under the window to tidy up the junk that has accumulated while still leaving it mostly accessible. I’ll probably have to buy the new bed she wants, though this will require some careful selection, as there won’t be room for bedside tables and our current bedside lamps are not tall enough to work with a conventional bed.

I spent some time yesterday getting the tool box into the house—the delivery service wouldn’t even put it on the porch, so I had to uncrate it on the driveway, remove all the drawers, then get my son and my wife to help me put it up the front steps. While I had all the drawers out, I lubricated the slides with paraffin (the T9 lubricant I use on my bike chain). I then spent most of the afternoon unearthing tools in my garage and organizing them in the tool box. I couldn’t get all the hand tools into the toolbox, but most of them fit.

At the end of the day, I had my son go through his tool box and mine, selecting what he would take to college. He ended up with a somewhat smaller set of tools than the rather large list I had put together, rejecting the socket wrench set and the screwdriver security bit set as too big.

  • metric Allen wrenches (from a set from Harbor Freight, I’ll keep the English and star bits)
  • screwdrivers (he already had a handle and bit set)
  • claw hammer (he already had one)
  • mini hammer with screwdrivers
  • mini level (which comes with a warning for people with pacemakers, which is pretty silly considering how weak the magnet on it is)
  • adjustable wrench (an 8″ one with a 1″ jaw opening, the second smallest of the set of laser-marked ones from Harbor Freight)
  • measuring tape (he’s only taking one of the two 25′ ones he already had)
  • razor knives
  • Leatherman pocket tool (which he already had)
  • zip ties
  • velcro cable straps
  • needle nose pliers (2, which he already had)
  • diagonal cutters (which he already had)
  • end nippers (which he already had)
  • self-adjusting wire strippers
  • electrical tape
  • multimeter (from his chemistry lab kit)

There were also several leftovers from my first prototype run of the circuits course:

We still have some things not added to his tool box, which is already full:

  • bike patch kit
  • stainless steel bike tire levers
  • needles and thread
  • tweezers
  • Arduino and Freedom KL25Z boards
  • power supply for Arduino boards?
  • Ethernet cable
  • USB cables
  • soldering iron and stand (my old Unger iron, or perhaps he’ll take the one bought for his company)
  • Power strip with surge protector
  • solder
  • 22-gauge wire for breadboarding
  • first aid kit: band aids, larger gauze pads, antibacterial ointment, paper tape, medic scissors, thermometer, ibuprofen, antacid, simethicone

We’ll have to go over the previous list to check for other things he might need, but I think this list has most of the things I’m responsible for.  We might make a trip to Home Depot on move-in day to pick up a few other things.



2014 July 31

College tool box

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:33
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It is getting late enough in the summer that we have to start putting together packing lists and figuring out what stuff we’ll need to buy for our son’s trip to college.  Because he’ll be taking the train to college, we won’t have the problem some people have of him bringing a Ford Expedition full of junk and not having room in his dorm for it all.  We have to be much more selective than most families in deciding what he should pack.

Of course, there are some large shopping areas within an easy bike distance of UCSB, including K-mart, Costco, and Home Depot, so it isn’t necessary to pack everything he might need. (Though the Yelp reviews for K-mart indicate that it is a very badly managed store—I don’t know if that is a K-mart universal or specific to the Goleta store.) But some things are worth having around because when you need them, either there isn’t time or it isn’t worth a 5-mile round trip to the store.

My wife will take care of ensuring that he has the bedding and clothing he needs—I’ll try to make sure that he has the tools he needs.  So what tools does he need?  Let’s break it down into categories:

  • Study tools: computers, calculators, writing implements, books, paper, …
  • Bike tools: helmet, lights, patch kit, …
  • Dorm repair tools: hammer, pliers, wrenches, screwdrivers, …
  • Electronics tools: soldering iron, wire strippers, …
  • Living supplies: fan, refrigerator, …

In each category, we’ll need to look at what he has, what he’ll need, and whether he should take it with him or buy it there.  I’ll probably come back to edit this post later on, crossing out stuff he decides not to take and adding stuff I think of later.

Study tools

  • Small laptop for note taking+charger.  He already has a Chromebook that is adequate for this task.
  • Larger laptop to use as a desktop machine+charger.  He selected and we just purchased a Unix laptop for him (a 17″ Kudu Professional from System76)—in fact, UPS tried to deliver it today when everybody was out—he should get it tomorrow.  The laptop has VGA and HDMI ports, so he should be able to connect up to data projectors (though there are often problems with not having the right drivers on Unix distros).  The laptop comes with Ubuntu, but he is considering installing a different distro—he’s got about 2 months to play with that before college starts.
  • Calculator. He has several graphing calculators that he won in grade-school and middle-school math contests—he’ll take one with him, in case there is an exam that allows calculators but not computers.  He usually prefers using a computer for calculation these days, when he has a choice.
  • Ethernet cable (the dorm rooms have both wireless and Ethernet, but I bet the Ethernet service is better—they are not, however, allowed to add routers to the Ethernet connections).
  • Printer I think that a printer is too heavy to be worth carting around.  He gets a fair amount of free printing on campus.
  • Back-up drive? He doesn’t store much on his Chromebook (using it mostly to access the web and storage on the cloud), but he may need a backup device for his new laptop. A small drive is not very expensive.
  • USB flash drive.  He already has a moderately good one and we can supplement that with a a couple of old cheap ones, for when he has to lend a file to a friend, so that he doesn’t lose his good flash drive.
  • Laptop lock?  We have one, but is it worth the trouble of using it?
  • Cell phone + charger.  He has one that he uses rarely (usually to call us when we require him to check in) and we’ve bought a pre-paid AT&T plan that costs $2 a day to use, but only on the days he uses it, and then it allows unlimited talk or messaging, but data is 1¢/5kB.  The biggest problem is that the prepaid amount expires after a while, unless you add more, so the plan costs $100 a year whether you use it that much or not.  Given how little he uses a phone, that was the cheapest rate we could find.  If he starts using the phone a lot more, we can add more money to the account easily.
  • Pens, pencils, and markers.  We’ll send a few random ones with him, but expect that he’ll buy what he really needs at the bookstore.
  • Pencil sharpener.
  • Dry-erase markers?  (He can buy pieces of marker board at Home Depot and get them to cut it down to carryable sizes.)
  • Clipboard?  I like carrying a pad of paper on a clipboard in my backpack for note taking, doodling, and writing drafts of things. I don’t know whether he would want one or not, but having something to write on when studying outdoors or in a place that doesn’t have convenient tables can be handy.
  • Binders, composition books, folders, ruled paper, post-it notes, … and other heavy paper items should probably be bought once he gets there. We’ll probably send him with a small pad or pack of paper, so he has something to write on until he buys what he needs.
  • Ruler
  • Scissors for paper
  • Protractor?
  • Stapler and staples
  • paper clips
  • push pins?
  • Transparent tape (buy there?)

Bike tools

He doesn’t do major repairs on his bike, and there is a bike shop not far away in Isla Vista that he could walk his bike to, but he’ll need to take a few things with him:

  • Bike helmet.  They’re not fashionable in UCSB, but he normally rides with one, and I’d be happier if he brought his with him, rather than counting on getting one there.
  • Bike headlight + charger. He has a nice rechargeable LED headlight that can serve as a flashlight also.  It is small enough and expensive enough to be worth carrying rather than getting a new one.  He will have to remember to bring the light and the helmet home for holidays, though we probably have a spare helmet at home he could use if he forgets.
  • Bike taillight.  These are cheap enough that he might want to leave his here and get a new one once he gets a bike at UCSB—he’ll probably have to get a new mount for the tail-light anyway.
  • Bike lock
  • Patch kit
  • Tire levers. We have good stainless steel tire levers, which we’ve found much easier to use that the fat plastic ones that seem to be all most low-cost bike shops carry.
  • Frame-fit or smaller pump.  There are some good floor pumps scattered around the UCSB campus.  According to a news article, there were four bike tool stations installed in 2012 “located adjacent to the De La Guerra Dining Commons, Santa Catalina Residence Hall, San Rafael Residence Hall, and San Clemente Villages graduate student housing complex.”  None of those are very convenient to Manzanita Village, where he hopes to live, so unless the dorm he is in has a floor pump, he might want to buy one there.
  • Allen wrench set (3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm)
  • Small adjustable wrench?
  • update 2014 Aug 3: bike panniers

I don’t think he will need to bring a chain tool, a spoke wrench, cone wrenches, sprocket removers, or any fancier bike tools.  First, he probably doesn’t know how to use most of them, and second, he can go to the Associated Students bike shop in the center of campus and borrow tools (and get instruction in using them) there.

Dorm repair tools

One can buy tool kits specifically marketed to dorm residents (like the Apprentice Tool Kit), but he already has a tool box and many of the tools he would need, so I’d only use a kit like that to suggest things that might be handy to include in the tool box he takes.

  • claw hammer
  • Allen wrenches
  • screwdrivers (Phillips and slotted—maybe with a bit set)
  • jeweler’s screwdrivers
  • mini level
  • adjustable wrench
  • socket wrench set (metric and English)?
  • ViseGrips?
  • tin snips?
  • measuring tape
  • spring clamps (plastic or steel)
  • razor knives
  • Leatherman pocket tool
  • machine screws and nuts
  • wood screws?
  • nails?
  • calipers?
  • micrometer?
  • zip ties
  • velcro cable straps
  • duct tape
  • Elmer’s glue?
  • Sewing kit: packet of sharps, spools of buttonhole twist (black, white, grey), small embroidery scissors, needle threader?, spare buttons?

Electronics tools

This will be a little different from the ones I specify for my applied electronics course for bioengineers (see the Winter 2013 or Spring 2014 list) , but we have a lot of the things on hand.  The initial list is almost certainly too much stuff.

  • needle nose pliers
  • diagonal cutters
  • tweezer set
  • wire strippers (should I give him one of the self-adjusting ones like I use?)
  • solder
  • soldering iron and stand (my old Unger iron, or perhaps he’ll take the one bought for his company)
  • solder sucker
  • solder wick?
  • PanaVise Jr? for board holding?  Or just a cheap alligator-clip 3rd hand?
  • breadboard
  • multimeter
  • USB oscilloscope??? (Is there one that plays nicely with Linux boxes?) Small pocket oscilloscope?
  • resistor assortment
  • ceramic capacitors
  • electrolytic capacitors
  • electrical tape
  • heat-shrink tubing?
  • spools of 22-gauge wire for breadboarding
  • jumper wires for headers? (female-female or male-male)
  • double-sided breakaway male headers
  • Arduino boards? Freescale KL25Z board? Power supply for boards?
  • USB cables
  • Small, closable tackle box for keeping bags of small parts sorted?

Living supplies

  • Power strip with surge protector
  • Extension cord?
  • Small room fan
  • Refrigerator (definitely a “buy there” item—needs to coordinate with roommate)
  • desk lamp?
  • bed lamp? (perhaps one that mounts on the bed posts)
  • alarm clock
  • laundry bag
  • book ends? (probably better to buy there, if needed at all)
  • Rolls razor
  • shaving brush and soap
  • coat hangers (buy there?)
  • first aid kit: band aids, larger gauze pads, antibacterial ointment, paper tape, medic scissors, thermometer, ibuprofen, antacid, simethicone
  • nail clippers
  • lock box for passport, insurance card, and other important papers?
  • backpack (he and I both need new backpacks for carting books around)
  • knife, fork, spoon
  • bowl
  • mug
  • resealable food containers (to avoid rodent visits)
  • Can opener (on Swiss Army knife?)’
  • umbrella
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