Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Feds Spend $38K on Metric System Superhero Cartoons

    The American public has resisted the metric system for decades, but that has not discouraged the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) from sinking $37,950 into two more episodes of a "motion-comic" video series called "The League of SI Superheroes." (SI stands for International System of Units, the modern metric system.)
    According to the NIST, these "newest champions of measurement" have emerged "from their environmentally shielded headquarters around the globe," and "are dedicated to the fight against uncertainty, imprecision and inaccuracy and to improving the quality of our lives and the things we build." The first episode, posted on Youtube in May 2014, has drawn about 3,200 views in five months:

    The NIST intends the series to be used in middle schools, although Aloe Design, the company that designated produced the videos, says the target audience is a ninth graders. In keeping with the Obama administration's emphasis on STEM education, the NIST says the series "was designed to encourage students to learn about metric measurements as they consider science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. SI familiarity and fluency must be developed along the STEM career pipeline to prepare the future workers with essential measurement skills."
    The superheroes themselves, pictured here, include Meter Man, Ms. Ampere, Dr. Kelvin and four others:

    At about $38,000 for two episodes and 3,200 views so far on the pilot episode, the cost per view is about $6.00. The NIST assures viewers that the League of SI Superheroes hopes "to release another of their harrowing adventures to the public soon." It remains to be seen if the first installment will have educators and students tuning back in for sequels, giving the NIST a better return on taxpayer dollars down the road.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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