Multidisciplinary Projects with Zack Dowell

There is also value in blowing minds. It’s not as easily quantifiable, but it is, ultimately, a more human measure and a more predictive measure of whether people are learning. -Zack Dowell

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[In This Episode][Guest Bio][Additional Notes][Text Transcript]

In This Episode

  • Can a fish be trained like a dog?

  • Can a school project be both art and science as well as entertainment and curiosity?

  • How do we bring engagement back to the classroom?

    Today’s podcast will grab you by the ears and entertain them all the way through.

Welcome to the Table Top Inventing Online Radio Show. Every week we interview successful individuals from across the career spectrum and share their stories. We want parents and educators to learn the tools they need to get and keep the interest and curiosity of teenagers.

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Today’s guest is a special treat. Zack Dowell knows how to have fun and learn at the same time. He’s sort of a professional at it. He’s currently working on the most fun project!

This project involves several departments across his campus: math, science, engineering, computer science, theater arts, and Zack is planning to recruit sociology and psychology as well. What kind of a project could capture the interest of so many different kinds of people?

Keep listening, and I’ll let Zack tell you.

Every now and then I have a guest that “Nerd Snipes” me. The term “Nerd Sniping” is from the XKCD cartoons, funny but somewhat irreverent. Essentially, today’s episode grabbed the nerd inside me, and I got a little excited.

Projects like the one Zack is working on are a perfect example of the kind of learning we seek and value at Table Top Inventing. If you want your kids to be exposed to more fun and interesting applications of technology that capture the imagination, let’s talk. Visit our website, ttinvent.com, and find out how we can connect. Kids need inspiration, and we love to provide it–just like Zack is doing at Folsom Lake College.

Parents AND students both tell us, “We can’t believe how much learning happened in just 4 days!”

We want to help you and your kids create the future!

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Guest Bio

 Zack is on the faculty at Folsom Lake College, where he runs the  college’s Innovation Center, providing training, resources and energy  to assist faculty and staff in the development of innovative approaches  to teaching and learning. 

A primary focus of the Innovation Center is Making Across the  Curriculum, an effort to help faculty from a variety of disciplines  integrate the ethos, tools, and techniques of making into their practice.

Zack is a lifelong tinkerer, maker, circuit bender, musician and  gardener, and is happiest when helping others manifest their ideas in  the service of learning, and when bouldering, rock climbing,  snowboarding, and whitewater kayaking.

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Zack’s Favorite Quotes

 “A.B.P. ­ Always Be Prototyping.” ­I’m not sure who coined this phrase,  but it has changed my approach to almost everything, and is central to  my work with faculty. 


 “Start your own band, paint your own picture, write your own book!”  ­Mike Watt


 “Everything is made.  Everything is in the making.  Nothing is finished,  nothing was not made.  This is astonishing and worth lingering on.  The  mountains, your hands, the stars, laws, social movements ­ all made  and all on­going.  When we speak of making it is worth sensing how  big and remarkable an action we are discussing.” ­-
Iain Kerr (Director of Creative Practices at the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship at  Montclair State University) 


 “Your hands are like dogs, going to the same places they’ve been. You  have to be careful when playing is no longer in the mind but in the  fingers, going to happy places. You have to break them of their habits  or you don’t explore; you only play what is confident and pleasing.”  ­Tom Waits

Favorite Teachers

Mrs. Dochterman, in fourth grade, saved me and helped set me on the path of becoming a teacher. Paul Sparks, PhD helped to refocus my energy and in doing so, changed the course of my life.

Something Zack Made Recently

I just finished a drip aquaponics system combining recycled plastic bottles and open source 3D printed nozzles.

Something Zack Learned Recently

I learned how to calibrate pH and conductivity sensors for use with Arduino, using solutions with known pH and conductivity values.

Additional Notes

Connect with Zack:

Additional Links:

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Text Transcript Coming Soon!

There is also value in blowing minds. It’s not as easily quantifiable, but it is, ultimately, a more human measure and a more predictive measure of whether people are learning. -Zack Dowell

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Designing Success with Tracy Hazzard

My 7 year old is already starting to 3D print, and I believe an introduction to 3D printing is required in every classroom. It’s not a technology we can just ignore… I believe this is one of the technologies girls will love, and that’s one of the things that drives me. –Tracy Hazzard

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[In This Episode][Guest Bio][Additional Notes][Text Transcript]

In This Episode

  • How does a young lady pursuing a career in biogenetics find herself a successful artist?

  • How can a small company file a lawsuit against a huge company without getting crushed?

  • How do you fall in love with 3D printing after avowing never to use it?

The stories behind these curious juxtapositions are waiting for you in today’s podcast.

Welcome to the Table Top Inventing podcast. I am Steve Kurti, aka “the Mad Scientist”, and I’m pretty jazzed about something that happened this last week.

We just finished up our first Inventor Camp of 2016 in Apple Valley, CA, last Thursday, but on Wednesday while we were in full swing, I had the coolest thing happen.

One of the challenges this year involves binary numbers, byte conversions, and ASCII tables. If you’re a techno geek, you’ll get those references, but if you’re not, those are terms for how the data moves around in your computer, cell phone, and the internet. I wanted the kids to see under the hood so-to-speak and see that things aren’t really as mysterious as they seem.

I was talking to Lilli and Trevor who were tasked with programming up a little solution for encoding letters and numbers into binary, and Lilli was telling me about how her program worked. She was pretty excited that she could look at the 8-bit represented by the LED lights and look up the letter on a chart.

I turned to Trevor to ask him if he knew what they needed to do next. He answered,

“Yup. I’ll get to that in a minute, but right now…

MY BRAIN IS ON FIRE!”

It was so awesome and so funny, I had a fit of laughter on the spot. That is what I love to see: Kids with their imagination on fire. 

3D HazzDesign Girl_Table Top Inventing PodcastToday’s guest, Tracy Hazzard, also loves to see kids with their imagination on fire. Tracy is the CEO of Hazz Design Consulting, a design company headquartered in Orange County, CA. Let’s find out how Tracy is igniting the imagination. 

Tracy said my favorite phrase “Successful Failure”. We have a dozen different ways to say this same thing: “failing forward”, “Failure is the first step to success”, and a host of others. The basic idea is to stop being so afraid of being wrong or of making a mistake along the way.

Anything big requires learning, and true learning always starts by being bad at something before being really good at it. If you want your kids to experience “successful failure”, check out Inventor Camp at TTInvent.com.

Let’s Ignite more Imagination.

 

Parents AND students both tell us, “We can’t believe how much learning happened in just 4 days!”

We want to help you and your kids create the future!

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Guest Bio

 Tracy Hazzard is CEO of design firm Hazz Design and co-­designer of  250+ consumer products bought everyday generating almost $1 billion  for her clients. Through her Inc. magazine column, By Design she  pushes companies of all sizes to strategically and tactically design in  success and accelerate business growth through innovation. Tracy co­hosts the WTFFF?! 3D Printing Podcast, the start point for the next  industrial revolution. hazzdesign_Table Top Inventing Podcast

Tracy has a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design in Textile Design and has worked directly for Malcolm Baldridge award-winning companies like Milliken & Herman Miller as well as consulted with or developed designs in the US, Europe, Canada and Asia for well-known brands like Martha Stewart Living and Costco. Her expertise has been featured in magazines such as Working Woman, Wired, Interiors and Fortune Small Business, as well as authored articles on color and design featured in ICON and Archi-Tech magazines.

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Favorite Quote

“Hope is not a plan.”

Teacher

Ms. Mauthe ­ she was the first Ms. I ever came in contact with and the  first woman I knew who flew planes. Interestingly enough though, it  was a painting of her in an art class that only occurred once a month  that showed my potential in art and design. 

Make

We make things every day ­right now we are working on educational  examples of the potential for 3d printed products that don’t look like  plastic junk.

Learn

I am bolstering my selling skills through a book and on­line course  called Velocity Selling. We have to sell ourselves, our projects and our  wares every day, so why not be great at it? 

 

Games and Politics with Jay Obernolte

If there’s one message [about learning to be more social], it’s that anyone can do it. It’s an acquired skill… I’m proof positive of that. –Jay Obernolte

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[In This Episode][Guest Bio][Additional Notes][Text Transcript]

In This Episode

  • What is it like to write a video game from code in a printed book?

  • Can techie kids learn to have good people skills?

  • How does a computer game programmer become a politician?

You’ll have to listen to today’s episode to learn the answers to these fascinating questions.

Hi, this is Steve, “The Mad Scientist” Kurti, and today’s guest on the Table Top Inventing podcast is a first for us. We’ve had game-changing researchers, game-changing teachers, game-changing investors, and other game-changers on our podcast including other programmers.

obernolte_campaign0717_editHowever, we’ve yet to have a game-writing politician. Today’s guest has experience as a programmer and coder right down to the assembly language level, but he has also started a small company and has now crossed over into the world of politics.

As a tech person myself, I was curious what would drive a successful programmer and business owner to step into the political arena. The path is an interesting one as always.

Let’s welcome our first public servant to the podcast, California Assemblyman, Jay Obernolte.

Jay mentioned my favorite concept on the podcast toward the end: life-long-learning. I have always wondered what causes someone to leave a successful career to try something new, but learning and trying something new is a great reason in my book. As a perpetual learner myself, I am always interested in challenging my skills against some new idea or task.

I also understand what Jay said about moving from coding into managing people. My personal experience with starting a business has hit multiple roadblocks as I try to navigate how to understand the social world of marketing. Tech folks like us often choose computers, engineering, or science because at some level it is simpler to understand than people.

However, there is no shortcut in life to success that doesn’t include learning to have great relationships. That’s why in our Inventor Camps we always have students work in teams and show off their work at the end. Talking to other teammates and presenting our work to others are crucial skills for any professional in today’s world.

Subscribe to the Table Top Inventing podcast to hear stories of other world-changers to equip yourself and your teens for the rowdy world of innovation.

Parents AND students both tell us, “We can’t believe how much learning happened in just 4 days!”

We want to help you and your kids create the future!

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Guest Bio

Jay has over 25 years of private sector experience as one of the nation’s leading high-tech innovators and has served as a public servant for nearly a decade. His unique background led to his selection as the Assistant Republican Leader of Innovation and the New Economy. In this capacity, Jay serves as the leading voice of the Assembly Republican Caucus on policy goals that encourage growth and opportunity within California’s vibrant innovation economy.

As a junior in high school, Jay discovered his passion for computers while creating his first commercial computer program. Jay earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech where he also founded his business out of his dorm room. He went on to receive a Master’s Degree in Artificial Intelligence at UCLA. Today his company, FarSight Studios, employs 25 local residents and develops video game technology for Sony, Microsoft, and Apple.

As a public servant, Jay was first elected to the Board of the Big Bear City Airport in 2005 where he served three terms as President. In 2010 he was elected to the Big Bear City Council and was elected Mayor in 2013 and 2014. Jay also served as Chairman of the Big Bear Lake Fire Protection Board and a member of the Big Bear Fire Authority. Regionally, Jay has served as a Director on the Mojave Desert and Mountain Integrated Waste JPA Board, the Mountain Area Regional Transit Authority Board, and on the League of California Cities Desert-Mountain Division. In November 2014, Jay was elected to represent the 33rd Assembly District.

In addition to Jay’s dedication to public service, he has a number of other interests including martial arts and aviation. He holds a fifth-degree black belt and believes martial arts instills the virtues of discipline, hard work, and mental fortitude. Jay has also flown light aircraft for 24 years. He has an Airline Transport Pilot’s license—the highest category of pilot license—and volunteers with the Veteran’s Airlift Command to provide transportation to injured and disabled veterans.

He and his wife Heather have two sons, Hale and Troy, and have made the 33rd Assembly District their home for 19 years.

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Additional Notes


Connect with Jay
:

Additional Links: 

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Text Transcript Coming Soon!

“If you ever get home at the end of the day and think, ‘I really didn’t learn anything today,’ then maybe it’s time for you to think about doing things where you will learn… because I think we all have an obligation to be the best that we ourselves can be.” –Jay Obernolte


“If there’s one message [about learning to be more social], it’s that anyone can do it. It’s an acquired skill… I’m proof positive of that.” –Jay Obernolte

 

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A few weeks ago we finished our first Inventor Camp of the year.  The first Inventor Camp of the year is always a little intense.
 
I’m guilty of raising the level of the challenge yet again.  Last year, we asked the students to do more complex wiring than we had in the past (see below for a description of the past few challenges).
 
This year I stretched the students yet a little further.
 
During camp, a couple of students and I were having a conversation about binary and how bits can represent a byte and how that can be transmitted over a wire or through the air.  The young lady then proceeded to show me how her program lit up 8 LEDs to represent a byte of ASCII data and what character she was currently displaying.
 Brain On Fire 01_750px
I asked if they understood what they needed to do next, and the young gentleman next to her said,
 
“Yup.  I’ll get to that in a minute…
 
RIGHT NOW, MY BRAIN IS ON FIRE!”
 
I can appreciate how he felt.  I had that same experience while I was talking to Peter Skillen during our podcast interview.  Peter has been a forward thinking educator for years, and he’s still pushing people’s buttons and limits.  If you need a little fire this week, subscribe and listen to his episode:
 
Let’s light more imaginations on fire,
Steve
 
PS – Here’s that little overview I promised of what we’ve done at Inventor Camp the past few years.
  • In Year 1, the students used two sensors together with a good mechanical design to stop an intruder from taking a Top Secret device.  They had to program the Arduino microprocessor to recognize the input from each sensor and interpret the signal to create an artificially intelligent security system.
  • In Year 2, the students had to make one of the two sensors into a proximity alert and the other into a red alert.  They had to program the Arduino microprocessor to recognize the input from each sensor and interpret the signal to create an artificially intelligent security system.
  • In Year 3 (last year),the students connected an H-bridge amplifier between the Arduino microprocessor and a motor because the microprocessor has current-limited output.  They also integrated one sensor as in past years to decide when to stop the motor.  The challenge was to automatically lower a probe onto a comet without destroying the probe by crashing it into the surface.
  • This Year, the students have 3 challenges that dovetail and require lots of teamwork (just as in the past).  Because we don’t want to ruin the surprise, I can’t tell you exactly why they are doing the following tasks, but you can sign your kids up to find out!
    • The first challenge involves creating a wireless communication system using binary (the kids really DID understand the concepts–I was impressed).
    • The second challenge involves a tight specification on a 3D design which is considerably harder than what we’ve asked in the past.  The final 3D printed parts have to fit snugly into a complex figure, and I challenge a bachelor’s level mechanical engineering student to create a good design on the first try!
    • The third challenge involves programming a small robot and designing a mechanical setup on the robot to retrieve an important payload.
The kids totally stepped up to challenge this year.  I am amazed at what they did.  I’m amazed every year.
 
 

I like things to be ideal.  In fact, my most dreaded fear in the universe is a set missing one item.
 
Ok, I admit it.
 
I’m a little OCD.
 
Elmyra DuffBut some things in life suffer from too much attention.  Take for instance, Elmyra Duff, from the old Warner Bros. cartoons who loves her animals to the point of escaping in terror.
 
Her yard is littered with abandoned dog houses, bird cages, and food bowls of animals who escaped because–with the best of intentions–she drove them absolutely crazy.
 
Every now and then I myself get struck by a fit and grab my cat Roger, pick him up, hug him a little too close, and croon, “I’ll love you and hug you and call you George!”  I then fall over in fits of laughter while he escapes to the back of the couch to scorn my foolishness with such contempt as only a cat can conjure.
 
How is this related to Kits and Step-by-step instructions?
 
In our eager desire to prepare our kids for a successful future, we usually run down to the local mart and buy a LEGO® kit with step-by-step instructions.  Then we give this “box of creativity” to our kids and sagely pronounce, “I grew up with LEGOs®.  They will help you be creative.”
 
But today’s kits with step-by-step instructions for building the latest Starship Tardis Galactica is exactly the opposite of inspiring creativity.  When we were kids, LEGOs® were all some variation of a rectangle, and to make anything “cool” required us to experiment with the shapes until some reasonable approximation of a truck, plane, or house emerged–with NO instructions.
 
What is the difference?
 
In the case of step-by-step instructions, little creative thinking is required, and creativity is actually somewhat discouraged, because if the Indiana Clones kit gets mixed with the Desert Hover Board kit noone will ever be able to reconstruct the original from either set.
 
Joanie Connell - Table Top Inventing podcastSo our kids today aren’t ever bored…
 
But they aren’t ever really excited either…
 
The solution?
 
Let them be bored.
 
WHAT?!
 
Yeah, you read correctly.  Letting kids be bored drives them to find creative solutions for becoming “un-bored”.  If you don’t believe me, listen to this week’s podcast with engineer turned PhD psychologist, Joanie Connell.  Together we barbeque just about every sacred cow in the helicoptering parenting pasture.
 
It’s funny.  It’s sad.  It’s real…
 
And a little too close to home…
 
But totally worth it:  http://InventingPodcast.com
Carpe Diem,
Steve
 
PS – I still like LEGO kits, though, because they have all sorts of cool parts–even if they do get hopelessly mixed up with other kits in one grand mele of LEGO® goodness.