Invention resources for high school students

I was recently asked to provide some guidance to a 7th grader interested in invention.  How does a high school or junior high school student cultivate such an interest?  I put together the following list and thought that others might not only find it useful, but also suggest additional resources.  Here it is:

1) InvenTeams (http://web.mit.edu/inventeams/), a program run by our sister non-profit called the Lemelson-MIT Program. To utilize this program, the student or parent, would have to convince an inventive high-school teacher to apply for funding with a project in mind. In southern California, the daughter of a college professor get something started at her school by doing most of the heavy lifting insofar as pulling together the team and application. Once established at the school, this is a great experience for kids and potentially the start of an inventors club. The program also publishes a neat little online guide: http://web.mit.edu/invent/h-main.html

2) FIRST USA (http://www.usfirst.org/) is another invention-oriented program, started by Dean Kamen founder of the Segway. This is a cool program that utilizes legos and lego’s mindstorms product to engage in invention utilizing mechanical engineering, computer engineering, robotics, some software coding, et al and teaches them to think creatively about product development/design.

3) The Lemelson Center at the Smithsonian is another grantee. Not only do they have a great exhibit in D.C., but they have some resources listed here: http://invention.smithsonian.org/resources/

4) Search for summer programs at colleges (I know my alma mater, Smith College, used to have one for math and science directed at young girls) that may expose the 7th grader to a ‘higher-level’ of technical training.

5) I once came across a high school student whose father did pro-bono legal work for a collegiate invention team. I think that got the student on an e-team (a team of students that received funding from us to take forward their invention) and able to participate (mostly, I think he was a silent observer) in our venture acceleration workshop. If one were to find a team working on an invention or venture at an area college, perhaps one could network their way onto a team for a rich experience.

Know of additional resources? Please suggest them…

Ammendment January 25th, 2012:

Oh, and if anyone is interested in cultivating science / technology / math / engineering / invention even EARLIER, amongst elementary school kids, feel free to leverage the PPT presentation created for the last three years for ‘Math and Science Day’:
1) Great for K-1st Grade: http://www.slideshare.net/humeraf/why-math
2) Universal for K-1st, 2nd-4th and 5th-6th: http://www.slideshare.net/humeraf/math-science-do-what-you-love … the emphasis varied by each age bracket, as did the Q&A afterwards, but the students were very engaged.
3) I didn’t upload the presentation for the third year, but I used some elements of #2 and featured as the star attraction three different collegiate invention teams that Skype’d in live from MIT, BU and Art Center College of Design for a quick presentation (projected onto a big screen) on what they invented and how math/science played a key role. The Q&A afterwards was a big hit, as students got to come up to the computer one at a time to ask their question and get a real-time answer.

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Debut as the technology contributor on WGBY’s (PBS) nightly news program, Connecting Point

Tonight’s the night! Tune into WGBY’s (PBS) nightly news program, Connecting Point at 7:30pm est. and you’ll catch me and show host Carrie Saldo interviewing Paul Reynolds of Consumer Reports about the big Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas. http://ow.ly/3LBOm

I’ll post more information and research uncovered about these cool new products tomorrow.

WGBY Announces NEW Nightly News Program, Connecting Points

WGBY's Carrie Saldo, host of Connecting Points

Carrie L. Saldo, the host of the new WGBY series "Connecting Points", with producers Jim J. Madigan, left, and David C. Fraser. (Image from MassLive.com; The Republican staff photo by Don Treeger)

I’m really looking forward to taking in the new WGBY nightly news program, Connecting Points.  Its very first program airs tonight at 7:30 pm est.  Cori Urban of The Springfield Republican wrote about it in today’s paper; check out the Masslive article here.  I think there’s so many interesting things happening around the Valley that need a voice and I’m really psyched that the local PBS affiliate, WGBY, is going to start bringing those to light.  No offense, of course, to the commercial stations NBC/Channel 22 or ABC/ Channel 40 (I’m still going to turn to my friend Brian Lapis for the weather), but I’m supplement my knowledge of stabbings and fires with information uncovering all the cool things that are going on around the Valley.

In the spirit of full-disclosure, I should tell you that I’m going to be producing some content for this show.  More details very soon.  Needless to say, you’ll probably be seeing a bit more blogging from me so STAY TUNED.

What I didn’t realize until recently was that WGBY is a subsidiary of WGBH in Boston… and that WGBH produces A THIRD of PBS’ national content! The produce such well-known brands as FRONTLINE, American Experience, Antiques Roadshow, Masterpiece and Nova… right here in the great old state of Massachusetts. Thank goodness for This Old House and Victory Garden, for I wouldn’t have nearly as much inspiration for those home-improvement and garden-expansion projects. For a complete list of WGBH programming, check out their website.

…and, of course, be sure to watch the first episode of Connecting Points tonight at 7:30pm est.

Inventor’s Digest Article

I was in the March issue of Inventor’s Digest:
March Issue of Inventor's Digest
Click here for the article: http://www.inventorsdigest.com/?p=3281

Math and Science: Do What You Love

Math and Science is cool! Or so I hope this is the message that Hadley Elementary School students walked away with after hearing my half hour talk on this year’s Math Day.

Walking in to the school cafeteria to the music blaring and very cool ‘OK Go’s This Too Shall Pass’ on the big screen immediately captured and engaged their attention. “How do you think Math and Science might have been used in the making of that video?” I asked after the video. Delivered to three different age brackets (Kindergarden through 2nd, 3rd/4th, and 5th/6th), it didn’t matter the age … students immediately honed in the complex task these artists had of planning and coordinating lots of things, from music to angles to how different objects weight and volume had to be taken into consideration. Takeaway: Even if you’re an artist, musician, or writer, math and science is fundamental to your success.

The study of math can lead kids to pursue very cool futures and that the real trick was finding out what they loved to do… what they were passionate about. “Why should you ‘do what you love’?” I asked. “Because if you don’t, you’ll quit it,” answered one 6th grader. So, I went on to present examples of people who studied math or were part of math clubs/programs that went on to pursue very cool professions (found through searches on LinkedIn). One important point made before we jumped in was that the types of jobs that will be available to them when they graduate from High School or College are VERY different from those that were available to their parents or grandparents. If they wanted to pursue the coolest of these careers, they MUST focus on math and science today.

We started with the beloved Apple iPhone, a universally favorite high tech gadget. We then took a deep-dive look at movies we love and discussed animation at Pixar. I took this opportunity to show them how the bar charts they might study now lead to XY graphs, then study of the 3-dimensional plane (XYZ), then calculus which can lead them to a future in animation or the creation of video games. Takeaway: Even though today’s math may seem hard, it is vital that they master it in order to have the most career choices and pursue the coolest of professions.

We discussed people who studied math and went on to pursue jobs at Google, ESPN, ABC Family and Disney. We talked about Micheal Jordan as a math major who pursued a career in sports and is also an exceptional businessman. Finally, I highlighted three female inventors: the inventor of Barbie Dolls who founded toy giant Mattel, the inventor of the Chocolate Chip Cookie who went on to license her recipe to Nestle’s Toll House Cooke (so they could print in on every package of chocolate chips sold) and the inventor of the Kevlar bullet-proof vest sold by Dupont.

I closed by telling them my story. I use my math major to help students and faculty in colleges across America bring their inventions and innovations to market. I also told them that I wasn’t always good at math… in fact, I got C’s until sophomore year in high school. I didn’t believe I was good at math until I found the right teacher, after which it all clicked. Once I had the confidence of realizing that I could work hard, focus and figure it out… I knew I could do any kind of math.

I encourage anyone who reads this to download the presentation, make it yours and go present to your local elementary school, junior high or high school. Today’s girls and boys need to hear these messages and it’s in your power to make it happen. Let me know how it works out.

Rate of Generational Change Correlated to Moore’s Law

I have a hypothesis. My hypothesis is that the rate of generational change is correlated to Moore’s Law. Moore’s Law, for those unfamiliar, is that processor speed doubles every 18 months. This law has basically enabled computers, mobile phones, videoconferencing, virtual worlds, 3D imaging and more to dramatically change how we do things.

Recently, my 30-something colleagues have been talking about mobile phone and social media usage amongst the 20-something generation behind us, and the teens bringing up the rear. Teens are texting without viewing the 3×3 pad on their not-very-smart phones. Literally, people are thumbing away at their phone while doing a bazillion other things, least of which is to actually look at the keyboard. Could it be that a whole generation of people will have advanced thumb functionality in that way, or suffer from carpal tunnel of the thumb?

Today a friend reported seeing a study about our younger generation being addicted to social media (found it here). Teens actually suffering from anxiety and depression when away from social sites. Now the math major in me is wondering whether the study was normalized to factor in the rampant anxiety and depression teens feel at this stage ANYWAYS, but I do hear lots of people reporting that the divide is getting deeper.

So, calling all scientists… here’s a research study idea. Please verify my hypothesis that the generational divide is correlated to Moore’s law. And, when you do, please tweet it. 😉

Lauch Your Own E-commerce Store!

It took a week and a half, but I’m pleased to announce my recent accomplishment of launching the Route9Auto e-commerce store!  Small businesses typically don’t have the money to pay for custom-built e-commerce websites.  However, there are several new Internet tools that make it was relatively easy to develop a robust online  store.  Navigating the choices is the hard part.  That’s where I can help.

I loved the experience so much, that I offer to serve as your coach in setting up your own e-commerce store. Your DIY efforts with a knowledgeable guide like me can help ensure your business ‘gets it’ and can help build a successful and scaleable e-commerce store. Contact me at humera@humera.com or 413-222-5400 to get started.