Teens Doing Science Voluntarily–On a Saturday, at Science Online Teen

There are trees in New York. Really.

There are trees in New York. Really.

I’m honored to be here at the Science Online Teen conference. Stacy Baker graciously invited me to come down on behalf of Learnist. I took the commuter rail down early this morning, and had just enough time to enjoy some coffee after getting off the 125th Street platform in Harlem, but not quite enough time to take the pilgrimage I’ve always wanted to take to the Apollo Theatre, just around the corner. After all, I’m here to pay homage to science, after all, not music. Maybe later, if I’m good.

I arrived at the Upper East Side efficiently after a wonderful stroll past the flowering trees–I was here in Manhattan about a month ago for Startup Weekend Edu, but it wasn’t time for the trees to flower. Just time to take part in one of the coolest contests in the world. Today, the weather’s good, the trees are flowering, and, if I’m not mistaken, I think I might even have seen a couple New Yorkers crack a smile. I always try to tuck my smile away before getting off the train here so I can’t be recognized as a foreigner.

My destination today–the Convent of the Sacred Heart School. I found it easily–it’s the real-life “Mr. Monopoly” mansion, donated to the school at end of the Gilded Age. I’m immediately finding myself distracted by all the teens buzzing around, excited about science. On a Saturday. I wish I could have brought a busload of my students.

I walked around studying “my stuff.” History, architecture, imagining this mansion in full swing. Then I got busy. I am honored to go to three workshops today that will be uniting teens with real scientists and educators changing the landscape of science. I’ll be making some Learnist boards, connecting with some scientists who love historians, I hope, and talking to a whole lot of teens who will be changing the landscape of our nation. We need them. We need them to do great things. We need them to transcend the boundaries of their education and ask the key questions, like “Why?” and “Why not?” So, if you will kindly excuse me, I’ll go meet some inspirational people, and later today, I’ll tweet out some Learnist boards, and maybe even write an article or two about these teens.

Wherever you are, enjoy this weekend–it’s a glorious day in Manhattan for learning about science and paying homage to some really inspiring teens.


Hoodies will get you extra points

I think that computers and start ups are the only fields where looking like crap scores you points. Actually, it seems to be a badge of honor. No one wears a suit jacket. The guy with the suit jacket sticks out. Everyone wears a hoodie.

I brought my one hoodie–my Grockit hoodie sent all the way from Silicon Valley, and tried to fit in. I may have to rewear it today, unlaundered and all. I think that the crumpled look will get me points with the judges.

Maybe our product will too. It solves a problem in education, one that no one has solved, the fact that entrepreneurs and teachers need to have a way to connect, getting good products to students and classes. The fact that entrepreneurs need feedback to develop these products. For too long, I’ve been looking at unused icons on old computer desktops. Products that students hate. I want these entrepreneurs and visionaries to give students products they love.

They can’t do that unless they meet teachers and teachers tell them what they need. Our creation, BetaMatch, solves that. It also solve some other problems, problems I hadn’t even anticipated. Like, how does investor know if a start up is legitimate? If kids would use it? If it is been proven in front of teachers? It came to my attention that this solves this problem too. If you had told me a year ago that I would be solving problems for venture capitalists, I would’ve laughed at you.

We came to the table with a very simple solution. It seems like it has grown into something more. Sort of like every problem, and every solution, in life. That is my lesson here today.

I never expected to get this far. It’s been a surprise. And fun. I met some inspirational people who are solving the problems of education. There are a lot to choose from. Win, lose, or draw, that’s all that matters. It’s why I came here.

I got to see the inner workings of Socratic Labs, an ed tech “accelerator,” a company that develops some of the EdTech companies you will come to know soon. I waited on the subway platform at 3AM, saw my friend Heather Who Never Sleeps, she sleeping now as I write. I hope she didn’t lose her superpowers.

I met inspirational mentors, like Doug, Ash, and Chris, who helped me add value to our new company.

I even got to meet my West Coast boss, Farb Nivi, who in addition to having done some pretty great things for education himself, is a much better musician than me. That carries a lot of weight in for me.

Most importantly of all, I worked with an amazing team. I got to meet visionaries. People whose companies you will see you soon. People whose companies my company may bring to you. It was synergistic–I loved watching people work together to solve the problems of education,often working together on each other’s products. I met some people who will become my friends. I learned a lot in the process.

That’s what it’s all about.

So now, let me go prepare for our pitches tonight. I have to take some extra time to crumple my hoodie just a bit more.