The ep5 Educational Broadcasting Foundation

educational content for public radio and television

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Projects currently in planning

The Art of Programming

Java cup

The world-wide growth in interest in software development skills makes this the ideal time to do a public television series which will teach the viewer Java programming. With an emphasis on actually writing functional and useful code, the series will forego the academic rigor of a university course on computer science and concentrate on creating real-world applications which do useful things.

Unlike the vast array of Internet videos and web-sites purporting to instruct avid neophytes, our series will be a well-thought-out presentation done to the high production value standards of public television. Using simple, straightforward, and proven teaching techniques, this series takes a “cookbook” approach to teaching coding. It works, and we have developed additional methods which neatly and reliably steer the program around obstacles which often render ordinary Internet tutoring ineffectual. No secret or magical tricks; simply, ways of teaching which work.

The best way of learning is from a really good teacher, in the classroom, one on one. With television, even the best explainer in the most elegant simulated classroom cannot hear the questions that the students in the television audience invariably have. In the classroom, it’s all about being interactive. How can you possibly achieve this on the ’Net?

We’ve found a way that comes very close.

On occasion, we are asked why there is no demo reel or sample episode for the Java series. It’s simple: to make a demo reel that would usefully reflect the quality and effectiveness of our teaching method would require actually starting to make the series, as that is the only way in which the necessary resources would be available. In short, some things cannot be properly simulated, and this is one of ’em.

The Art of Pottery

blue vase

Pottery and sculpture, using fired clays, may rival cave painting as mankind’s oldest art form. In 2011 and 2012, ep5 investigated the idea of a documentary on pottery. This grew into a proposed instructional series demonstrating the fundamentals of working with clay and firing it in kilns to form a variety of handmade objets d’art.

We spent a good deal of time with several distinguished potters, one a professor at a local college. The proposed television programs never happened. We talked to a great many companies in the field, and, while all professed enthusiasm for the idea, each also admitted a degree of impecuniousness completely at odds with spending that much money on public television advertising.

Gee. It didn’t cost all that much, not as television programs go...

In the course of the preliminary development work, we made a few small videos as both auditions (screen tests) and demonstrations. To see these, please click the blue vase from the noted Wizard of Clay atelier →

Sculptures in Clay

Bill Stewart

Sculpture is defined as the art of making two- or three-dimensional representative or abstract forms, especially by carving. Equally, it can be done by not subtracting away from a block of material but by addition, by the careful and meticulous putting of material into place, guided by the sculptor’s inner vision of the finished work.

Pottery, fired clay, is one of the oldest materials for sculpture. Consider the graces it brings to the art. The material is readily available at a reasonable cost. Unlike a block of Parian marble, clay can be handled in convenient, manageable bags of dry powder, mixed with water and pug milled into a singularly workable plastic medium that can be shaped with precision and revised to bring the work as near perfection as the sculptor’s art can achieve.

When the artist has shaped the clay into the form envisioned, several hours’ exposure to high heat transforms the mutable and plastic clay into a hard, rigid artifact that can endure for millennia. Not only has the artist the freedom to create realistic or other-worldly shapes, he, or she, can enhance these shapes with all manner of color by selection of both the glaze and the way the glaze is fired. Just as music takes the form of whatever sounds one human can create and another hear, sculpture gives tangible and palpable realness to an artist’s imagination. Well, it’s palpable unless the gallery puts up their “Do Not Touch the Goodies” sign.

For a documentary to be called Sculptures in Clay, we recorded in the studio of sculptor, Bill Stewart, an artist long noted for his whimsical totemic figures. A collection of his work was given a place of honor at the county airport in the airline terminal building. It singlehandedly enlivened an airport remarkable solely for its inexpressible dullness.

Wow! I Didn’t Know That!

For one and a half years, ep5 produced a public radio series on science. These interstitials, the short items used at the top of the hour to fill in the space between full-length programs, ran one and a half minutes, some two minutes, a very few of them somewhat longer. We produced one episode per weekday, distributed in monthly releases. This grew into a proposed half-hour weekly series.

This new radio series would expand upon the original Ninety Second Science theme with the depth and detail made possible by the greater amount of time available for each story.

How would Wow! I Didn’t Know That! distinguish itself from other science-based radio programs? By appealing to the grown-up desire in all of us to know more about intriguing and peculiar phenomena in science, without having to endure childish clowning around or silly mannerisms. We firmly believe that science can be made both interesting and entertaining without dumbing it down.

Dune Rider!

Engineering has long been seen in one way: it’s a man’s world. This is changing, but the pace is glacial. Public television has an opportunity to encourage young women to take another look at engineering when thinking about career choices.

A dry recitation of the advantages of such a career doesn’t work. Instead, we will demonstrate in hard steel how the imagination and knowledge of the engineer is translated into machinery that works. In this instance, the machine is an on- and off-road all-electric car. It will utilize extremely advanced fuel cell power1 and be designed to tight performance specifications with a high level of efficiency, based upon the Superleggera principle2.

The project will show viewers the entire process, from sketches on a restaurant napkin all the way to the test track, the boondocks, and the open road. The presenter will be a woman, as will some of the engineers, welders, fabricators, and machinists.

1 Actually, a balanced combination of metal-air fuel cells, ultracapacitors, and batteries.

2 Not to be confused with the “Superleggera” coachwork concept developed in the 1930s by the Italian coachbuilder, Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera.

To the Junction and Back — The Life & Times of the Arcade & Attica Railroad

It began in 1881 as a narrow-gauge railroad connecting the towns of Arcade and Attica in western New York. In the winter of 1957, the normally placid Tonawanda Creek flooded and tore out the center of the railroad’s single north-south track, cutting off Attica and the connection to the Pennsylvania Railroad main line.

old steam locomotive

How the Arcade & Attica Railroad survived and continued to function makes an intriguing story with more questions than answers. Is there a place in today’s economy for a railroad only fifteen miles long and having, essentially, a single customer?

It’s a story worth telling in a one-hour documentary. We’ve made several full-length mock-ups for the project. To see them, please click here.

For a quick look at some of this project’s footage, tickle the old steam locomotive!

The Right Idea but the Wrong Time


The success of an idea often hinges critically on its timing.

The US Congress passed Obamacare in 2010 while the Clintons failed to get even the idea of a national health care plan off the ground in the 1990s. Eastman Kodak, inventor of the digital camera, lost its hold on the imaging market, failing to understand consumers the way founder George Eastman did with the Brownie a century earlier.

Apple’s Lisa and Ford’s Edsel represent high quality goods produced at a time when the economy was not ready to accept them. Buggy whips, serial radio dramas, pagers, and Palm Pilots litter the historical landscape alongside the detritus of other ventures washed away by the tide of history.

Starting in the obscure village of Scottsville, New York, there lies a barely visible trail of remnants of one of those ventures - the Genesee Valley Canal. Abandoned stone locks collect rain water in stagnant pools and stand in mute witness to the impact of poor timing.

Did the canal’s misfortune arise simply because of all those nasty railroads, or were there deeper factors at work? Did contractors sell the state legislature, never the cleverest band of monkeys at the best of times, a highly exaggerated view of how easy the canal would be to construct? Did that colony of rattlesnakes at Letchworth bring the project to a halt for a while? Was it madness, given the engineering technology available, to attempt to route the canal through one of the biggest river gorges in the East? Were the navvies to blame? After all, plenty of them were foreigners, and whom better to point the finger at? This makes a singularly good story, and we’d like to tell it. Oddly enough, although we propose this as a project for public radio, it would work even better as a public television documentary. History always has greater impact when it can be seen as well as heard.

To contact us about this project, please e-mail us at

A Day in the Life of a Freight Train

Ever wonder what it’s like to work on one of those freight trains you encounter occasionally at grade crossings? Does the job have any of the glamor and adventure that you saw in it as a kid? Our vast film crew (all one of him) spent a day with the conductor and train driver of the Livonia Avon & Lakeville Railroad’s daily freight run to Rochester to interchange with CSX at Genesee Junction. There was no narration. The story unfolds visually, accompanied by the banter of the conductor and engineer as well as the ordinary sounds heard on a locomotive.

Locomotive and conductor

It was very modest . . . but it worked.

So, we made it again! This time, with a story and narration, a little drama, some humor, a helping of dark and bloody history, and, at no extra charge, some philosophy.

And, it worked even better!

- a scene from “To the Junction and Back”

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