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.
See the full interview here