John Escobar showed me the question I missed. When he answered my questions about mentoring for the iGEN LED Challenge, he said that one thing I should have asked was, “How useful do you think [electronics programs like] the LED Challenge is for education?” His answer is incredibly poignant: “…this is life jackets in the water for thousands, you have the power to reach many schools, and you have the power to make a difference.”
If John’s goal was to drive me to continue running programs like the Challenge, that one phrase, “life jackets for thousands” did the trick. Born in Chile, he sold scrap metal so that he could buy electronics books. He came to the US in 1999 and is now the VP of Jelectron in Miami, FL.
John volunteers at the David Lawrence Jr. K-8 Center where his son is currently in the 4th grade. He has been working on a Green Team extra-curricular program for Laurie Futterman’s 7th graders and has nothing but praise for her energy and initiative. But, he feels that the school’s regular programs are not doing enough to teach electronics. The problem, John says, is that there is no one able to teach it at the level required. “Sometimes the school is visited by robotic companies promoting certain brands, but those are temporary activities and sometimes the price is high and most of the time [they are] promoting sales more than knowledge.”
“Technology is all over but no one really knows it well in schools at this level, electrical engineering should start at elementary as is part of our everyday life,” he continues. “The most important part of the solution is the hands-on education, they need to play with it to really get involved, students get theory all the time but limited action. I always mention this quote: ‘Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.’”
In the Green Team, John created and worked with the kids on building a solar-powered waterfall, an earthquake simulator, and a vertical wind turbine. You can learn more about these projects and read the full interview here. Another project currently in the planning stages, is converting the school lawn mower from gas to electric and having a solar charging station for it, as well as for the school golf cart. “As you can figure, the school is like my part-time job,” he quips.
This is so great. I love when people are trying to make this world a better place. I came across this website about the http://www.amcrecycling.com/recycling.aspx area does and it just gives me hope for the future.
You are totally right and just made me recall how cool is to play with transistors...I will ask the school new paper they send to post a request for discarded electronics and get the organ donors to practice soldering skills, save whatever we can and teach basic testing of components..Thanks !!!
Drive down any road ontrash day and there's an atounding bounty of electronics just sitting.
TV sets of the older variety are full of usable discrete components, for the harvesting. Here you can give the kid a soldering iron and a solder sucker, and let them build the hand skills while collecting a whole bunch of free "junk".
Next you give them some basics of components, and a power supply and DMM, and let them test what they have harvested. Let them search up the transistor datasheet (a skill missing in college kids, I can tell you from the 'boards) and teach them how to check that the device in hand is any good. That would cement a gut understanding of the basic elements.
Now you can take those harvested, tested-good "free" parts and show them how to make whatever. Simple stuff like the old Heathkit experimenter's kits, one-transistor door alarm, some noise maker or other, etc.
Just set up an electronics recycling day at the school and have the parents bring in anything. Cherry pick for organ donors and the rest, somebody hauls to the recycling center.
Let a small guy try scrapping metal to make money in America and you will find out the big boys have that all tied up or you will be lumped in with criminals. Here's an idea, try going into one of those USA scrap dealers and try to buy scrap electronics (i.e. used computer parts) and you will get a door slammed in your face. So much for working up from the bottom or being innovative outside the proper channels in the USA. This could be a reason why outside the USA, poor people can still work their way up the ladder from the bottom rung.
Hi, Well, each of us is doing something..What David mentioned is a key factor, I wanted to have a mentor at the age I was taking things apart to see how did they work...problem was to put them back together...I think life reward you based on your actions, there is a huge reward for me when this kids talk about been engineer or a high skilled professional. I had this opportunity thanks to a visionary teacher and a dynamic principal allowing me to do the projects..you don't imagine how difficult is to explain you will be working with electricity but it is safe to a school principal..Naomi, I am more than happy and I look forward to help in blogs or with videos, our energy all together will make a difference not only in education but also for the best of the U.S. future in innovation and technology development.
John's got some exciting projects in the works too -- definitely someone to keep on the radar. His energy really is contagious! I have hopes of luring him into doing blogs or maybe video for the iGEN site.
The world needs more guys like this. I wish I'd had such a mentor when I was the age of the kids he helps.
The IGen Led challenge project was very good, my problem as a judge was that we only had so many awards to hand out, but this one only just missed one. Great job John, not only on this but on the other projects you're involved in, and hope you and your kids will try again next time.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.