IBM Master Inventor Tom Zimmerman(left) said it best, “Never underestimate a kid when you give them the right tools and opportunity.”
I’m reminded after this trip not to get so consumed with business goals and day-to-day operations, that I forget to consider how what I’m building lives on in another generation. Many Moogfest presenters discussed the importance of next generation of creators. But Zimmerman is a true example of practicing what he preaches. The man has 40 patents—he’s the inventor of an early virtual reality device called the Data Glove and the personal area network. Today he’s putting sensors on North Carolina sea turtles to notify preservationists of laid eggs. (In a hackathon last year, he converted data created by a driving car into an electronic music soundtrack.) But his most exciting and fulfilling work happens in schools in impoverished San Jose, where he’s forced to work within constrained budgets and with limited resources to open the minds of young people and inspire them to create.
He’s got a National Science Foundation grant worth $1 million to run an after school program where kids repair broken cars, build guitars and electric drums. A library of his electronics projects using materials like cardboard, PVC pipe, hot glue and simple circuits can be found here.
A particularly inspiring moment for me happened after a couple dozen middle school students filed into the morning talk by Glenn. I expected them to be distracting and unruly—I was completely wrong.
The students seemed mesmerized by Glenn’s list of ways technology can make for a better future, and the ways in which we’re already moving in that direction. At one point, Glenn turned to the students and gave a piece of specific advice all young people should hear:
“You should be taught how to know who you are and how do you manifest that on the Internet to attract markets, rather than how to go for a job that doesn’t exist.”