STS 150 – Out of the Fiery Furnace


Prof. Bondar

Email:  ghb1 at

Mailbox: Frable 104

Office: 203 Frable

Office hours by appt, and on Thursdays after class from 2:50-3:50 pm


This course explores the history of humanity's use of the earth's natural material and energetic resources and the resulting effects on social development. Expanding on the Out of the Fiery Furnace text, this course will examine the cultural impact of material and energy use by integrating the scientific and technological aspects of the subject with societal concerns and problems. We will focus on the significant technological advances that the use of these geologic resources have made possible and analyze the problems they have created along the way.

At the conclusion of this class you should have an appreciation of the following:
- the historical development of metals and other materials.
- the impact of societal needs on materials, energy, and economic development.
- the importance of new materials on the development of the societies in which they are used (including our own).
- a scientific and technical understanding of materials and energy.

My expectations are that none of you have prior college course experience in the material or social sciences. However, just because this is an introductory class does not mean that I will only expect you to simply memorize "facts" and then regurgitate them back at me on the exams. Instead, I want to strongly encourage critical thinking as the key to understanding the concepts that we will cover in this course. Anybody can memorize and repeat a barrage of "facts" from the Discovery Channel. I want you to understand why scientists believe certain things and how specific processes operate. To get the most out of this class, constantly ask yourself "why is that so?" or "how does this process work?" To do well in this class, you will need to be able to explain and support concepts demonstrating that you understand these contexts. This kind of reasoning is applicable in every other subject that you will study. If nothing else, even if your mind is completely devoid of thoughts about the social impact of technology as you hand in your final exams, I hope that you will continue to question and seek to understand both the "facts" of others, and your own experiences.
Textbook: Out of the Fiery Furnace, by Robert Raymond
Other materials will be posted as needed to:

Grading Policies: Your final grade will be composed of the following components:

Grades will be assigned via the typical scale of:

27 % each: Exam I, Exam II, Exam III

A-= 90-93%, A = 94-100%

 10 % Literature Review

B-= 80-83%, B = 84-86%, B+= 87-89%

 9 % Discussion

C- = 70-73%, C=74-76%, C+= 77-79%


D- = 60-63%, D=64-66%, D+=67-69%


F = 0-59%

1) 81% The exams will consist of a choice of two essay questions, possibly supplemented by matching, short-answer, or map questions. The exam grades will not be curved unless the average grade is below 70%. No make-up exams will be given. The points for missed exams will be added to the next exam the student takes. No absences will be allowed for the final exam, except for documented conflict with other exams in other classes, or for extreme reasons, such as medical emergencies (travel reservations are not a valid reason), with the permission of the Assistant Director of Academic Affairs, Dr. Jaap.
2) 10% The literature review will be a 2-4 page review/report of a current social issue involving materials from the Earth. See assignment sheet for specifics.
3) 9% Your discussion grade will be based on your active, tactful involvement in class discussion--involvement based on your thorough reading of the text, articles, and viewing of the films. In order to receive full credit for the discussion component, you will need to stay up-to-date with the readings so that you can make informed, thoughtful, and relevant contributions to the class. Each student should make ten contributions to class discussion throughout the course. Option: suggest by email two essay questions from that day’s class (which you must have attended) for possible use on the exam.

Attendance and tardiness: While attendance will not be demanded apart from the discussion grade, good attendance will be rewarded. For your own sanity, do not miss two consecutive classes. If you know you will be absent from a class, please send me an email before that class. Attendance will be recorded for every class, and each student will earn extra points added towards their total course grade based on the following scale:   No or one absence: +3 pts;  Two or Three absences: +2 pts;  Four or more: +0 pts.
To count, you must be present in the classroom by the beginning (1:35 pm), and through the end of class (2:50 pm).


BEING NEIGHBORLY: While a lecture or film is in progress, talking, leaving the classroom, using a cell-phone, reading the newspaper, or other distracting behavior, will be actively discouraged. Please be aware of the effect you may be having on those around you.
Academic Integrity Statement: Unfortunately, a few students in every class are tempted to try to "beat the system" by dishonest means. Needless to say, such behavior will not be tolerated. If you feel desperate about your progress in this course, please talk with me before resorting to such self-destructive behavior. My job is to help you learn, not to make you fail. Penn State defines academic integrity as the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner. All students should act with personal integrity, respect other students’ dignity, rights and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts (Faculty Senate Policy 49-20). Dishonesty of any kind will not be tolerated in this course. Dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarizing, fabricating information or citations, facilitating acts of academic dishonesty by others, having unauthorized possession of examinations, submitting work of another person or work previously used without informing the instructor, or tampering with the academic work of other students. Students charged with a breach of academic integrity will receive due process and, if the charge is found valid, academic sanctions may range, depending on the severity of the offense, from F for the assignment to F for the course. The University's statement on academic integrity, from which the above statement is drawn, is available at
The following is PSU-McKeesport’s Disability statement:   The Pennsylvania State University is committed to providing access to a quality education for all students. Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs.  If a student has a disability-related need for modifications or reasonable accommodations in this course, it is the responsibility of the student to first obtain a University accommodation letter confirming the disability and suggesting appropriate remedies.  This letter should be obtained from the campus Disability Contact Liaison. The contact person at Penn State McKeesport is Victoria Garwood (Frable 104, 412-675-9072, vkg2 at It is encouraged that students request their accommodation need early in the semester, and once identified, a reasonable accommodation will be implemented in a timely manner. Students may also access the web site for the Office of Disability Services at University Park for more information: