Daily Disruptions Weekly Recap

1) Skandalaris Center: Washington University’s hub for entrepreneurship, this center provides curriculum opportunities, workshops, and resources for will-be entrepreneurs from a variety of fields. Perhaps the center’s crown jewel is the collaborative opportunities such as IdeaBounce, the Olin Cup, and the YouthBridge Social Enterprise and Innovation Competition.

2) Ignition Tank: Supporting innovative ways to support budding businesses, Ignition Tank creates a network of resources that have directly contributed to St. Louis’s growing startup talent. Projects they’re responsible for include Lab1500, Cubicle.com, and ResumeCheck.

3) The Able Few: This Ruby-focused software development company focuses on providing software support and infrastructure for startups. Concerning Ruby on Rails, their developers claim: “Rails is in our blood. We have been with rails since the very first release. There is no better framework for rapidly building a web application on the web today”

Daily Disruptions Weekly Recap

1) St. Louis Dancing Classrooms: Building self-confidence, personal awareness, and overall social skills among students through dance, this program provides a very unique opportunity for students to learn through action. They intend to implement this program in every school in the St. Louis area.

2) Independent Youth: Teaches area students the foundations of  entrepreneurship in 45 minutes, go in-depth with business basics that meet students’ needs, and provide students feedback and cultivation for their personal business ideas.

3) Zombie Squad: In addition to preparing and training members for the zombie apocalypse, this clever organization hosts fundraising events for disaster-relief efforts, workshops to inform the public on how to respond to natural disasters, and instructional seminars on how to prepare in case of cataclysmic events. And they fight zombies hardcore.

 

Springboard MakerSpace in Residence

More about Springboard, a phenomenal organization and our MakerSpace in Residence Program partner.

In partnership with Springboard, The Disruption Department would like to proudly announce our new MakerSpace in Residence Program made possible by Energizer. During a workshop Tuesday (9/3), Andrew Goodin and Greg Hill discussed the importance of learning through creation and then led artists from the St. Louis community through the Stanford School of Design’s Design Thinking Crash Course. Afterward, Goodin and Hill discussed how participating artists can implement the Design Thinking process in classrooms so students can begin critically thinking about their communities, what products they can make that will improve where they live, how to design these products, and then how to continue improving what they.

These artists will now serve as teacher-artists in residence within area schools and will conduct 7 training sessions with students in the coming weeks. We’re very excited to see what incredible products students within our community make, which will be displayed in a community Maker Faire in the coming months.

If you would like your school to participate in the 7 training sessions, you can apply here.

Daily Disruptions Weekly Recap

1) Lockerdome: A social network for sports enthusiasts, LockerDome allows users to discover new people sharing their personal sports-related interests through smaller social groups. What sets this social network head and shoulders ahead of other similar networks is that 1,500 professional athletes also use this site to uniquely talk to their fans.

2) Nebula: Open to creative professionals of any stripe, Nebula offers a variety of services tailored to meet the needs of “the unconventionally employed.” Their services range from a satellite office from which you can send/receive mail to an office/studio. Perhaps Nebula’s greatest offering is their tenants’ incredible creativity and openness to collaboration, a great resource for helping one another think critically and broaden perspectives.

3) Natron Baxter: While very tongue-and-cheek about it, Natron Baxter games are intended to change the world. Through educating players, providing unique insights, and broadening perspectives, these very unique games take the players into a corner of their world they may have never thought about. For example, Jane McGonigal’s Evoke encourages players to develop and promote real-world solutions to global problems such as hunger, epidemic outbreaks, and climate change.

 

Daily Disruptions Weekly Recap

Each week we like to provide more information about each of our Daily Disruptions, providing you with more information about their contexts and the work these fascinating groups and people do.

1) Downtown T-REx: T-REx has more than 50 member company, and it’s easy to see that this “coworking space and technology incubator” is at the forefront of turning St. Louis into an innovation hub whose economic future looks brighter and brighter everyday. In addition to the support and networking opportunities provided, T-REx also frequently opens its doors to the public for a variety of community events.

2) Mission Center L3C: The Mission Center, which we are lucky enough to call home, houses and supports a variety of socially conscious businesses. This incubator provides members with conference space, office space, and a variety of other office supply needs. What’s more, they provide members with the knowledge and support they will need to succeed–helping others fulfill their vision and mission of improving communities around the world is The Mission Center’s vision and mission.

3) Openly Disruptive: Openly Disruptive Founder and CEO Dan Reuse has taken note of how quickly the world is changing and who has the most powerful role in these changes. After realizing that many global changes are under the control of faceless, enigmatic corporate and government groups, Reuse determined that it was time to inform the public as well as organizations to engage in grassroots action at the public level and more socially conscious practices at the corporate level. Learning from one another, the public and larger organizations can begin making better decisions related to STEM education, innovation as it relates to economic growth, and how to establish a “Data-Driven Sustainable Society.”

4) Lab 1500: This co-working space and entrepreneurial center allows startups and work-from-home professionals to enter a space and make it their office. Not only does this get startups out of the founders’ garages and other people out of their living rooms, it also provides members with a network to learn with, develop from, grow in, and play within. The Lab provides several happy hour events, public speaker series, in addition to member workshops. Again, the Lab is having a dramatically positive impact on innovation in St. Louis as well as the city’s economic future.

Maker Movement: Building Communities

Moving sculpture from the St. Louis Science Center.

 Image credit: St. Louis Science Center website

The Maker Movement is having an incredible impact on communities around the world. Networks are able use social media to communicate, collaborate, and organize face-to-face encounters, discovering unity through common interests and passions. Individuals are increasingly able to have an impact within these groups and are given a voice through keyboards rather than having to rely on being the loudest voice within a crowd.

The net result is innovative ideas, an opportunity to learn how to improve through others’ mistakes, and the ability to overcome failures with the support of these new networked communities. Through humility and focus, individuals collaboratively learn, improve talents, and develop products and services that may otherwise have not been possible.

At The Disruption Department, we are excited to be a part of this national Maker Movement by collaboratively improving the economic, social, and education landscape within St. Louis, working with other innovative organizations to each day make our city even better than it was the day before.

Want to take part in the Maker Movement? You can:

  • if you’re an educator, join us for our first #EduHack September 19 at 6:30 pm located at ArchReactor (2400 S Jefferson Ave, St Louis, MO 63104);

  • anyone can join us for our first Drinking Disruptively event October 3 at 6 pm located at Café Ventana (3919 West Pine, St Louis, MO 63108); you can stay up-to-date with this and future Drinking Disruptively events by joining our Meetup group;

  • volunteer for one of our many community events throughout the year by signing up;

  • get a Young Maker you know to apply to this year’s Young Makers Program;

  • and contribute to the Grand Center Arts Academy student project grant fund.


We look forward to having you join us in the Maker Movement!

 

Daily Disruptions Update

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Over the past month, we've hunted down articles about awesome innovations in biology, computer science, engineering, design, and education. We have done this because we are constantly seeking out others’ incredible accomplishments so that we can not only draw inspiration them, but also encourage students throughout St. Louis to learn to research, create, and share like these estimable figures from around the world. What's more, we wanted to share others' great ideas with you. 

However, we got to thinking: We have amazing talent, effort, and achievements in our city as well. Rather than rely on journalists covering stories from MIT, CERN, and Johns Hopkins, we’d like to direct our attention to what’s going on at Soldan, Wash U, and T-REx. Now, we need you to help us share the incredible work you are doing in the St. Louis community. We are encouraging Disruptors in education and business to reach out to us so we can highlight your everyday accomplishments, featuring a picture and a brief statement about your work via Twitter and Google+ that demonstrates how what you do is exceptional. Every Friday, we'll provide more information of the four noted Disruptors that week here on our blog, sharing your great work with St. Louis so that others may connect with you and become inspired by you.

If you would like your classroom, school, or business to be featured among our Daily Disruptions, please, contact Greg Hill or Brad Cameron via email. And we would like to thank you for playing a part in making St. Louis great.

Making a Space for Success

Ms. DeSmet lets her students know how valuable they are.  

Going back to school is often a nerve-racking experience for teachers and students at every level. As Lauren Hollingsworth, social studies teacher at Lee’s Summit North High School, put it, “Every year is different because your students are your coworkers. You see them everyday and they really do determine how the year feels.” We at The Disruption Department are excited to see how the year unfolds and would like to congratulate teachers everywhere on kicking the year off right.  

The d.school’s guide to creating spaces that foster innovation and productivity Make Space points out that learning, creativity, and collaboration starts with space. While a teacher’s “coworkers” definitely determine the year, designing a great space to learn will set the tone for incredible success in the coming year.

We would like to highlight one of our very own disruptors, Allie DeSmet, and the work she’s put into making her classroom a place where students feel empowered, creative, and valuable. Check out her great kindergarten Make Space below.

Entrepreneurs United in KC

Image credit:  Entrepreneurs United event program

Entrepreneurs United attendees in the Town Square room at the Kauffman Foundation. Image credit: @stephparra08  

Entrepreneurs United attendees in the Town Square room at the Kauffman Foundation.

Image credit: @stephparra08

 

Greg Hill and Brad Cameron attended the Entrepreneurs United conference in Kansas City, MO, last Friday and Saturday. This event was co-sponsored by Teach For America (TFA) and the Kauffman Foundation and was attended by TFA alumni who have established or are currently developing non-profit organizations and business ventures that are intended to improve educational outcomes for students around the world.

As Kauffman Foundation Education Director Aaron North said, “This is the starting point, leveraging the change we want through entrepreneurship.” Hill and Cameron brainstormed ways to improve The Disruption Department’s impact on St. Louis through workshops with other passionate individuals from communities around the US. 

 

Among the great education improvement organizations were:

  • Education in Sight: “Composed of leaders from both China and the US, we strive to improve the academic performance of underprivileged students in these nations by providing them with free vision screenings and eyeglasses, and also by educating them on these subjects to ensure long term benefit.”

  • STEM From Dance: “STEM From Dance works to increase the number of under-represented minority girls growing up in low-income communities who obtain a STEM degree.”

  • The Intersection: “We transform students from underserved areas into leaders with the skills to go to and through college, to engage in civic action, and to articulate and solve challenges facing themselves and their communities.”

Among the great educational products were:

  • Plickers: No need to waste money on a classroom set of response clickers when you can have students raise sheets of paper and record their answers with your smartphone.

  • BirdBrain Science: “BirdBrain allows you to choose the topics you want your students to read and serves it to them at their independent reading level.”

  • SmartestK12 (still in development): Teachers can quickly scan a document and turn it into a digitally recordable test or quiz in minutes.


 Kansas City's Marching Cobras provided attendees with a surprise welcome. 

Image credit: @KauffmanLabs 

From GCAA Makerspace: "Weekly Design Challenge"

 Image credit: Magic House website

As the Grand Center Arts Academy Makerspace will be opening soon, we would like to highlight some of the great work Andrew Goodin is doing as he organizes this very unique student experience. The following was posted on the GCAA Makerspace June 20, 2013, and gives some insight into where Goodin is drawing his inspiration and how he will encourage students to explore and create personally meaningful products:

Yesterday we met with folks from The Magic House, who have been implementing kid-centered experiences since 1979. In fact, Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter & a St. Louis native, has tweeted about his ”awesome” experiences at The Magic House.

The STEAM-in-museum experience v.s. STEAM-in-school experience varies.  Whereas in the GCAA Makerspace students are stakeholders in the improvements of the space with long-term projects & their own storage; in a museum the participants have to engage with bite-sized making experiences because guests might only attend one time per year.

 

Museums have the challenge of condensing design thinking to mini structured experiences.The MAKESHOP at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh exemplifies this role. They provide “appetizers” for participants to delve further into the culture of making upon returning home.

I like this idea. Sure, it’s important that students research problems and prototype solutions, but as an educator I understand the need for differentiation.  Some students might find the Makerspace more accessible if the problem is proposed to them. As such, I plan to implement a “Weekly Design Challenge.”

One corner of the Makerspace will be designated for the weekly challenge with creation and documentation tools available. As an example, a student might enter the Makerspace and see that the weekly challenge is to design a paper airplane that flies the longest distance. If that particular challenge sparks interest for the student, he or she might spend hours/days on the task, all the while learning prototyping and design iteration. If that week’s challenge doesn’t excite a student, he or she might propose another idea to the Makers Council, explore skill building on DIY.org, or collaborate with other students on an invention idea. 

Though the entry level to design thinking may vary, our vision still stands. The Makerspace is a STEAM room, fostering creative skills for our next generation of STEAM professionals.

Supporting Great Ideas

President Obama explores Sylvia's station at the White House Science Fair. 

Image credit: Super-Awesome Sylvia's blog

Super-Awesome Sylvia – as her online alias suggests – is really super-awesome. At 12-years-old, she has met President Obama, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Star Trek actor Levar Burton, and that was in just one week last April. She has her own online show in which viewers can learn how to make everything from robotic pets to screen prints. And what’s more, she is an entrepreneur and has invented a watercolor printing robot that is currently halfway into her Kickstarter campaign and is funded well past the $50,000 goal required to make it a commercially available product.

Sylvia is an exceptional girl full of creativity, charisma, and a go-get-it attitude that is very admirable. She also sets a precedent for makers everywhere and demonstrates what is possible for anyone willing to try and improve themselves and their world everyday. She demonstrates not only how to make robots and artwork, but also how to create a community of mutual support that she draws from to make her brilliant ideas a reality.

Like Sylvia, The Disruption Department collaborates with a community of makers to empower St. Louis youth, create cool things, and have a great time every step of the way. We are incredibly grateful for the support and investment we have received from the community that have made our ideas a reality.   And as a young organization, we have a lot to learn from Sylvia so that we can help students find their own creativity, charisma, and go-get-it attitude.

If you would like to support young makers in St. Louis, you can contribute to the Grand Center Arts Academy Makerspace grant fund. By contributing to this fund, you can help provide a grant of $100 each week of the school year that makes a student’s product possible. Every young maker has the potential to be like Super-Awesome Sylvia, and we can make it possible with the right encouragement and support.

Also, be sure to check out Sylvia's WaterColorBot below. 

Peak Performance with Downtime

 Photo credit: PBS Video

Bill Gates takes what are arguably the most productive “vacations” imaginable. The Wall Street Journal ran a report on Gates’s retreats to a small cottage in the Olympic Mountains awhile back, explaining that the Microsoft founder disappears 2 separate weeks out of the year and lives on Orange Crush, clam chowder, and text, sleeping only enough to keep his mind fresh enough to continue consuming words. He goes on lengthy walks to mull over what he’s read and occasionally allows himself 5 minutes to break for an online brain teaser. Whether he focuses his reading on the future of technology or the future of his company, he spends these weeks disrupting his routine and pursuing what matters most to him and only him.

These past few weeks, we at The Disruption Department have been busily disrupting our routines as well because sometimes the best R&D strategy is R&R. Allie DeSmet has allowed herself to sip her coffee and read the news rather than slurping it down and dashing off to teach. Andrew Goodin has been adventuring his way through Washington and Wyoming. Greg Hill has gone back home to visit family and enjoy life away from screens by camping. And after moving to Little Rock, AR, Brad Cameron has been playing video games and building furniture. In short, we’ve taken some time to do what we love. Because we love what we’re doing at The Disruption Department, we have continued to think and read and write about how to improve community learning and contribute to the Maker Movement. But we’ve broken from the normal day-to-day flow to improve ourselves and ultimately improve our work.

It is because we realize how important it is to occasionally break away from routine that we’ve committed to sharing what we’ve found during our downtime and to continue looking up Daily Disruptions, or ways to draw inspiration from what others are doing in education and technology. We want to share these Disruptions throughout the day, so we encourage you to check the sidebar of our blog, Google+ page, or Twitter account often. True, it’s not very feasible to hop onto a chopper and head over to your cottage in the mountains like Bill Gates, but you can certainly allow yourself a brain break to check out the marvelous things others are accomplishing!

 

From just one of Goodin's many adventures in Washington and Wyoming.

Make. Hack. Play.

This past week Greg Hill and Andrew Goodin travelled to Memphis, TN, to co-facilitate a Popup Makerspace at the Lausanne Leadership Institute at Lausanne Collegiate School. Around 20 educators from Canada and the U.S. came to our "Make, Hack, Play" session. Most teachers, who had little creative making tool experience, tried their hand at writing programs for the micro-controller Arduino, developing interactive circuits with ordinary fruit using a Makey Makey circuit and Scratch, designing key chains with a Makerbot Replicator 2, and building cardboard proto-types of products that could make a schoolday easier. It was amazing to watch enthusiastic adults learn like Kindergartners, moving around from station to station exploring, tinkering, and creating.  

Educators trying their hand at 3D printing. 

As Hill and Goodin moved around and spoke with participants, they heard several educators discussing how these experiences could be brought back to their schools. Others noted how the Design Thinking process helped them become more creative problem solvers. The Disruption Department looks forward to leading more of these opportunities at schools, organizations, and businesses around the Midwest. To see more pictures from this event, you can view them on our Flickr account

If you'd like to schedule a Disruptive Event, contact Greg Hill at gregory@thedisruptiondepartment.org to learn how you can bring a Disruptor to one of your professional development sessions or community events.

Special thanks to co-presenters Vinnie Vrotny (@vvrotny), Director of Academic Technology at Quest Academy in Palatine, IL, along with Tami Brass (@brasst), Director of Instructional Technology at St. Paul Academy and Summit School in St. Paul, MN.

 


ANNOUNCING: Permanent DD Makerspace at GCAA

Students at Grand Center Arts Academy (GCAA) will have a very unique opportunity when school resumes this August. Entering the school’s library, they will see a very happy Andrew Goodin surrounded by a variety of planning, prototyping, and creative materials, which are all part of GCAA’s new permanent Makerspace.

Describing the new "ideation lab," Disruption Department co-founder and Makerspace coordinator Goodin says, “Students will be utilizing Design Thinking to develop innovative solutions to problems they’ve identified in their school and community.” The space takes up 2/3 of the school's library and will be available throughout the day for students to dabble in engineering, design, and programming projects through open-ended, creative exploration. 

 

DT Flowchart.jpg

This Design Thinking Process, developed by IDEO and Stanford’s d.School, requires designers to address problems by 1) empathizing with individuals facing the situation, 2) defining the problem or challenge, 3) ideating potential solutions, 4) prototyping posited solutions, 5) and then testing these solutions in the lab as well as the real world. By teaching students how to use Design Thinking, Goodin intends to allow them to develop a logical set of steps to undergo that directs their creativity.

To learn more about GCAA’s Makerspace and follow Goodin's maiden voyage as program coordinator, visit Goodin’s blog, follow the Makerspace on Twitter, or check out photos on the Makerspace’s Instagram account.

Graduation Day 2013

2 years ago:

As a native St. Louisan, when I returned to teach here, I was excited about seeing the future of St. Louis rise up through my classroom and classrooms all over the area. I was saddened to see, however, the lack of innovation, creativity, and communication surrounding technology in our schools. I was also saddened to see students who were not invested in learning, in making, and in their futures. There are some great teachers doing amazing work in schools, it’s just not enough yet to make a truly collective impact on the nature of our schools. Few schools are encouraging students to learn how to code, design products, or become entrepreneurs. When I asked my students in those first few weeks about their aspirations for the future, one student replied that if they could go anywhere in the world it would be to the Arch. My students weren’t creating dreams for their futures that were big enough, that would prepare them for a life more than just working for an hourly wage at a dead-end job. Schools all too often dedicate their resources to preparing students for standardized tests. Yet despite this focus, graduation rates in St. Louis were around 65% in 2012, and looking around my classroom those first few weeks, I was nervous about the futures that laid ahead for my students as they continued on in their educational careers.

The Disruption Department’s mission is to provide the platform for students to learn, to build, and to share innovative things. We want all students to have the opportunity to work with their hands, to tinker with new tools, and to play with technology. We also want to ensure that there is the infrastructure to permit any of these students who have a passion for it, to work in a creative or high-tech field. We know we need to connect with the St. Louis business and university communities in order to ensure that St. Louis becomes a regional hotspot for innovation due to the highly trained, well-educated local talent pool. Based on students’ experiences, they will gain the confidence to pursue a professional career in a high-tech field, which in St. Louis offers an average salary of $71,000. We focus on high-tech fields in St. Louis because they offer a median starting salary of over twice the median household income for families in St. Louis and are highly engaging creative fields in which to work. I knew that this was something I wanted for my students, and something that had the potential to change their lives.

2 weeks ago:

Caps and gowns littered the scene as I watched my former students walk into the gymnasium for 8th grade graduation. Everyone was dressed up, families and friends were present, and ready to celebrate the success of their students making it past the 8th grade. When I surveyed the room, I saw lots of my former students, but three in particular stuck out to me. Three of our Student Fellows were graduating the 8th grade and will be going to high school in the fall. Over the past year, I’ve been able to work alongside them through the Student Fellowship Program and have seen the tremendous growth they’ve made. They often make fun of me because they are learning and mastering things I haven’t a clue about. When we are at Hackdays, they don’t want to work on my team anymore because, “Ms. DeSmet, what do you mean you don’t know how to do this? It’s so easy!”  They are now excited about making, creating, hacking, etc., and that excitement has transferred over to their regular schoolwork as well. While they won’t be under the same school roof as me next year, I feel confident that they will leave going to high school more prepared than their fellow students, due to their involvement with The Disruption Department, and well on their way to a thriving future.

It made me so excited to see what happens with our Student Fellows in the future. I’m elated at the prospect of sitting at another graduation ceremony in four years, waiting to learn what the future holds for these amazing kids. Whether it’s applying and getting into competitive university programs, going directly into great jobs in the St. Louis area, launching their own companies, or anything they desire for themselves, I can’t wait to hear about and be a part of it all.

I know that I will feel my involvement with The Disruption Department has truly been worth it when I see this first round of Student Fellows off in four years. Watch out St. Louis, you have a great group of kids coming your way, and I am now even more confident that the future of St. Louis is looking brighter everyday.

 

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Prototyping: Real. Public. Learning.

Whether it's an organization, software, or a physical product, people need to prototype.   It's at the core of what we do.  We create the conditions for people to prototype without fear of failure.

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Prototype is both noun and verb, the act of prototyping is an extension of design thinking.  You search for a challenge, you think about the challenge, you build something, you test it with real people, you improve or add features, you test again. 

A prototype is not the same thing as a draft.  Drafts are "early" final copies, meant to be improved in form, but are close to ready for prime time.   There might be iterations, but you're asking "Hey, will you look at this and help me make it better so I can turn it in?"

Instead for a prototype you're asking "Hey, will you use this and tell me about how it works?"

Inspiration vs. validation. 

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Oftentimes, prototypes are indistinguishable from whatever the final products becomes. 

We need more prototyping in education, in workforce development, in socio-economic development. Not because we're getting away from "high-expectations", but because we believe people work better when they get to think with their hands and with others.  This thinking is visible. 

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In the makerspace we've prototyped with students and seen the power it brings.   More discussion.  More motivation.  More fun.  More meaningful collaboration. 

And as you can see form our material corner, it can be really cheap to learn how your idea works with real people. 

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How do you prototype?

 

Hack Day #2 - "It's Electric"

Our 2nd Hackday is in the books. We convened at 3rd Degree Glass at noon and began our work, staying until around five after playing some electronic basketball and having our first "retrospective" meeting with each other. Fellows started the day chatting over pizza, and quickly moved to a challenge that many MIT graduates can't complete. Then the fellows tried their hand at the soldering iron, quickly picking up basic techniques that allowed them to solder a Make Badge

Afterwards, we started prototyping simple circuits using Phet's Circuit Construction Kit, gradually building understanding to more complex ones, like operating two lights independently with two switches from the same battery source. After understanding how their electronics moved through a circuit, they started this month's challenges, which included replicating the circuit from PHET in the real world, using two different types of switches to operate light bulbs. 

 

From there, students had everything they needed to start designing their own games.  We had three tables worth of junk that could be put to use. We worked at first with a simple design process of Discovery (what's the challenge?), Interpretation (what does it mean?), Ideation (What do I create?), Experimentation (how do I build it?), and Evolution (how do I make it better?).

We prototyped, tested, and iterated. And before everyone left, we got to play!

Afterwards, we held our first "retrospective" meeting, where we whipped around answers to three questions: 1.) What went well? 2.) What didn't go well? 3.) How can we make next month better together?  It was great to learn from each other about how these days are evolving, making sure everyone is getting the most out of the days as possible.  Looking forward to April!

You can see the rest of the pictures on our Flicker account.  

The "Microgrid," innovations in the power system

One of the articles curated by The Verge's "Best Tech Writing of the Week" was one written by Tim Wu in the New Republic about the necessity for rebuilding a smarter power grid in New York City.  

Wu decribes a decentralized network, not unlike the internet, that would distribute power generation over a diverse set of sources, not a single one carrying power to a small set of substations, which convert power to home/commercial use.

It's interesting because it outlines a future enabled by technological advances in regulating such a system, which would not only prevent long-term mass power outages, but also could create more market parity for purchasing electricity.  He calls this the "microgrid". 

In lower Manhattan, for instance, an apartment building could take power from multiple sources: its own heating system, the local hospital’s generator, solar panels on a nearby office, while still relying on ConEd as a supplement and backup. Over time, homes would come to depend primarily on many different local sources of power, as opposed to the large power plants. In the event of a failure that knocked out a local wiring or power, the network would be able to heal itself, by taking power through different routes to reach powerless homes.

This has obvious implcations on the price and sustainability of of power in low-income neighborhoods as much as it does in economic centers. Imagine if a school could produce electricity for the surrounding neighborhood.  Furthermore, imagine if those same schools became hubs for internet connectivity in the same area?

Despite modern schools' spurious track records for building futures for low-income students, many folks in these communities trust the institutions they send their precious children to. 

While learning is being more centralized without anyone's active permission, we can push for necessary utilities to become decentralized as well, producing more than just the value of education for neighborhoods.  Being that the school I taught at for 5 years is one of just a handful of active, walkable businesses in a zipcode radius (the other being day-care centers, a corner store, a barbershop and a chinese restaurant), there is some responsibility to be a more fruitful member of the community.  

Our roof is large, as is our HVAC system.  Both could be used to produce and distribute power throughout the neighborhood.  Our network is robust, and could be a central node on a mesh network ranging for blocks.  And the trust is there to be a public utility that can do more than what it is currently tasked to do.

Tools to Combat Poverty

In a earlier post, I mentioned a few conversations I've had regarding the "these are just tools" arguments made by many in the twitterverse

I ran accross an update on the Indian company Datawind's second extremely cheap tablet tonight. 

Read the full blog post here, but it's interesting to summarize a few things here: 

    • The tablets will cost $20. 
    • The Indian government is subsidizing half the cost of the tablet.
    • The government is doing this because they'll recoup the cost of the tablet compared to the cost of distributing (public domain) textbooks for 3 years.
    • The company is doing this as in instrument to fight poverty.
    • Competition for cellular data is so intense that they can offer unlimited data plans for $2 a month.
    • The company has developed technology to compress and load webpages faster over legacy wireless networks, increasing access in areas where cellular connections are slow.
    • Many consultants are arguing that this model will disrupt Western markets, especially in low-income areas. 

These are not just "tools", but rather the platforms for the beginning of extreme transformations in how children in poor areas around the world learn.  I'm fascinated by the direction this will take.

Imagine if the government partnered with private companies to maintain broadband wireless networks everywhere in the U.S. and the resources to access these networks.

Disruption Department