Author Archives: The Mad Scientist

About The Mad Scientist

Muahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!! Ok, now that I have that out... I can get to work. For as long as I can remember, I have been making things. This habit used to be called "Inventing" but has lately been repurposed by the Maker community with the term "Maker". While there are some subtle differences between Inventing and Making, I have discovered my passion for both by inspiring a new generation of Makers. In this quest to spark creative thinking and problem solving through practical and exciting projects, I draw on my background in biomedical research, high energy fiber laser development, and 15 years of building laboratory devices. As an experimental physicist with a PhD from Case Western Reserve University, I have seen research and development from many angles and am now bringing that experience to middle school and high school students who want to make everything from catapults to cybernetic augmentations. Through the medium of Making and Inventing, students are transformed from passive observers of education to active learners. This powerful shift fosters deep insights, creative expression, collaborative thinking and a host of other skills that are difficult to learn in traditional settings. Along with my wife Debby, an accomplished constructivist educator, I am on a quest to transform education and am looking for like-minded collaborators to bring hands-on learning to future generations.

Good SAT scores are the key to success, right? Not Really!

If you are concerned about how to prepare your teenager for the harsh realities of life after high school, you are not alone.  There’s test prep.  Keeping up the grades.  Extracurricular activities.  And somewhere, a social life.   Yet studies have shown that SAT scores aren’t a good predictor of future success.  Grades are also an iffy predictor for success, according to Google’s hiring team.  These assertions are disconcerting for parents like me who love to see those “A’s” on the report card.  How can Continue reading →

Think teens only know how to work an iPhone? Watch This!

These are candid videos of teens caught doing amazing things during Engineering Camp.  Listen to these students describing what they have been doing.  Lots of experimentation.  Lots of learning.     These guys built the world’s coolest “Hello World” program:   They modified the program even further, and this is what they had to show the audience during their project exhibitions.   Major 3D design and 3D printing innovation for the interplanetary ship docking challenge:   Amazing electronic wizardry.  These guys were creating wireless communication between Continue reading →

8 Startling Truths about Teens

One night not too long ago your dear, sweet child went to sleep in their safe little bed.  But during the night the Teenager Fairy flew in the window and sprinkled pixie dust around the room.  In the morning your radiant ray of sunshine had been replaced by a moody teenager! I remember that transition quite clearly for each of my older children.  One day they are helpful and kind, and the next they are temperamental and stubborn. Or are adolescents really as insufferable as we paint them? Continue reading →

The Evils of Kits and Step-by-step Instructions?

I like things to be ideal.  In fact, my most dreaded fear in the universe is a set missing one item.   Ok, I admit it.   I’m a little OCD.   But some things in life suffer from too much attention.  Take for instance, Elmyra Duff, from the old Warner Bros. cartoons who loves her animals to the point of escaping in terror.   Her yard is littered with abandoned dog houses, bird cages, and food bowls of animals who escaped because–with the best Continue reading →

Follow Your Passion? Think Again!

I don’t like being told what to do…   But have you ever tried something just because you were told to try it?   Yeah, my mom told me just to try my asparagus.  It looked about as appetizing as a sliver of raw alligator.  Something inside told me this was not going to be good, but I knew that slimy green stalk of mushiness stood between me and playing outside.   So I took the plunge.  My mom was right that it didn’t kill Continue reading →

Do we want Hoop Jumpers or Risk Takers?

Nothing compares to the first time you take the wheel of a car and feel the power and responsibility.   I was about 8.  My dad and I were driving in his blue Ford F-150 pickup truck.  He pulled over to the side of the road and slowed to a stop.   Then he said those words that changed my life.   “Do you want to drive?”   Half-believing I was dreaming, I climbed up onto my dad’s lap while he eased the truck back Continue reading →

Three Most Important Success Habits

It’s December, and next year is coming fast. Have you ever had the opportunity to sit down with a successful executive to pick their brain about how they got where they are? If you feel like you need help knowing the most important lessons to share with your teenager about success, today’s podcast is a must-listen episode.  Today’s guest is the Chief Executive Officer for a private equity-based investing firm based in Dubai. Don’t regret missing out on the three most important habits for success.  Continue reading →

The Truth about Hope

It is Thanksgiving day in the US, and most of us are having turkey for dinner.  As you reflect on the past year, is it a year filled with hope and excitement or one with frustration and disappointment? Through today’s podcast interview we’ll learn that even the frustrating and disappointing events in our lives can be a catalyst for hope. Allison Jenson is a professionally certified educational therapist at the National Institute for Learning Development.  Her experience leads us through difficulty into hope.  If you Continue reading →

The little secret to be more

I have been working hard to learn more about myself over the past couple years.  I have discovered that the more I work to change myself, the more the world around me responds to the changes. Those little changes, compounded over time have led to a major shift in what I’m doing and how much I am able to accomplish.  Many people call this habit “personal development”. Will your teenager be ready with the skills they need for their life ahead?  Don’t continue to put Continue reading →

Lessons in Leadership

Do you have a teen that’s developing their leadership skills?  How important are those skills later in life?  Find out on today’s podcast where we discuss innovation and leadership skills with Jonathan Silk.   Listen in: Jonathan is a recently retired military officer who has served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, and most recently West Point.  We’ll hear about some of his experiences in the military (like patrolling the DMZ between North and South Korea) and how he started developing his leadership skills early in Continue reading →

Don’t let 2016 sneak up on you

October is almost over and 2015 is edging to a close.  Do you or your kids have regrets from 2015? Don’t have regrets in 2016–listen to this week’s podcast: Goals not planned and written down are twice as likely to be tossed aside with time.  Ask me how I know…  I’ve been on a steady path to reforging a life that I enjoy.  In fact, you are reading this email as a result of goals and plans for 2015. This week Carol Topp, a Continue reading →

What media isn’t telling you about living the good life

Are you worried your teenagers are missing out on the good life?  Do you find yourself wondering when they’re going to stop complaining and start living? You aren’t alone, but what can be done?  No matter how hard you try they just keep missing the best things in life.   For the past few years, my wife and I have been in “teenager land” with four of our kids in the throes of various silly teen phases.  I was ready to pull my hair out Continue reading →

Why mere talk is NOT enough

As you can see I have inserted a photo of girls engaged in technology at the top of this email. Why have I done this? It’s because I want to tell you about a fantastic lady who didn’t get opportunities like this in middle school and high school. Fortunately, she found her love of technology in college, but Julia was fortunate to have one great teacher in college that saw her skill and passion even before she did. If you’re tired of girls getting marginalized Continue reading →

Igniting a Revolution – High Tech Citizen Science

[abstract][presentation resources]   Abstract: [dropcap]T[/dropcap]able Top Inventing’s Chief Maker and Resident Mad Scientist, Steve Kurti is delivering an impassioned plea at the 2015 BC Conference on Learning Technologies in Bakersfield, CA, about the importance of maker education as a catalyst for citizen science initiatives.  [dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith the rise of 3D printing and open micro-processing platforms, we now have the basic tools to create high-tech science tools. The internet and easily accessible databases allow multiple sites and individuals to collaborate on a project. Motivated high school or community Continue reading →

Wonder Wednesday – Rubens’ Tube

I am very easily entertained, but every once in a while I come across something fantastic that I just have to share.  In physics we like to talk about waves and a fascinating way to use sine and cosine waves known as a Fourier transform.  We use these mathematical descriptions to understand things like vibrating strings, pipes in a pipe organ, and even more complicated things.  It turns out that understanding vibrations is key to many issues including keeping buildings from falling down during earth quakes.  However, Continue reading →