Longmont Startup Week

A Great Place to Learn (and Maybe Find a Co-founder) for your startup

by Linz Craig

 

I made a widget and it’s pretty awesome. Next I have to make 100 more widgets and tell everyone how awesome they are.

 

I look back at that sentence and it almost sounds like I’m going around telling people that they themselves are awesome. In a way I am. At my startup, QuestBotics we believe that the more people who understand the technology in their life the better off the world will be decades and centuries from now. So we believe in people and the good of people. Who knows what that three year old will grow up to be? But with a little help we do know that she can take her first steps towards understanding programming and advanced mathematics today. We think it’s important that everyone tells her how awesome she is on that day.

 

On some days at QuestBotics we are buried up to our armpits in PCBs and electronics. On other days we get to tell that kid and the rest of the boys and girls at the workshop or event that they are officially robot programmers after using our bots. Kids don’t control a lot, but giving them the knowledge that they can control a robot opens up a door to a whole new reality and lifelong perspective. It’s pretty empowering. Their little eyeballs tend to pop out of their heads a little bit, in a good way.

Questbotics and boy

One of these people is a technology education startup founder

 

I wrote that first sentence about our widget in the comment section when I signed up for twenty minutes with an industry mentor at Longmont Startup Week just now. I’m at that weird point where our QuestBots are 99.99% done and now we’re wondering how many late nights we have to spend hunched over a soldering iron. I’m talking to people about proving traction and using fancy terms that I hope make me sound like I know what I’m doing, all while well aware of just how much work it will take to put together those first one hundred units.

 

The only thing that breaks with the stereotypical image I’m conjuring is that neither of us drink coffee. For the last year and a half I’ve work out of my house writing firmware while giving the occasional workshop to make ends meet and working a part time job keeping a testing and prototyping lab tidy. Sometimes they let me break stuff in a scientific manner and wave a soldering iron around like I know what I’m doing. They’re great people and they’ve been giving me advice about QuestBotics which has proved to be really useful. I started my part time job about six months after starting QuestBotics. And nine months previously I attended the first Longmont Startup Week, which was also my first big networking event as a solo entrepreneur. If you poke around there’s bound to be some sort of entrepreneurial near you as well. They are a wealth of information for people who want to start their own businesses.

 

Wide eyed and hopeful (but definitely not having a clue in the world what I was going to do) I tried to soak up as much information as I could. After returning from teaching in Africa for four months I had returned to Longmont and built three different prototypes, one of which I hoped to take to market. The people at the Startup Week were incredibly helpful. I signed up for mentor sessions then just as I do now. I explained to everyone where I was trying to go, listened to others explain their own visions and tried to remember as much of the advice as I could.

 

I met a multitude of people and thankfully continue to stay in touch with many of them. I distinctly remember an older gentleman ask me what in the world had happened to my cell phone on the roof of a Longmont brewhouse. (I had broken it in Uganda.) I still run into him occasionally at things like the local Smart City Initiative meetup. Some of the people I met at the first Longmont Startup Week have done more than stay in touch. There was one Peruvian gentleman I met that week who became my partner at QuestBotics. The other guy who doesn’t drink coffee on these late nights and early mornings.

questbotics at STEAM fest

Two years after meeting at Longmont Startup Week these guys are beta testing their first product

 

The QuestBots aren’t one of the three products that I talked about at that first Longmont Startup Week, but the point is that I learned a lot during that week. I’ve tried my hardest to put it all to use but I am well aware that I need a lot more guidance as I charge headlong into marketing and sales for my widget. I hope to see you at some of this year’s entrepreneurial education offerings if you live in Colorado. (If you live some where else here are some events for you to check out.) I’m looking forward to asking different questions, meeting new people, catching up with those I know and telling everyone how awesome they are.

 

Longmont Startup week is happening July 24-28 2017 in Longmont CO. Check out the schedule here.

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Robotics, workshops, science, experiences, innovative, boulder, robots

Meet a Maker – Innovative Experiences and Andrew Donaldson

Robotics and Science and Fun… Oh My!

Meet amazing maker, Andy Donaldson and his exciting new STEAM Workshop and Camp company, Innovative Experiences.  Innovative Experiences provides STEAM Workshops that include robotics, science, engineering, arts, making and more!

Innovative Experience’s workshops for tween, teens, and adults with a variety of activities and costs to meet a variety of needs.  They offer everything from a couple hours to play with different materials and make something, up to a 4-day Robotics camp or the weekly Innovators Club. What makes IE different from other Maker spaces or STEAM workshops is that they provide unique, thought-provoking activities that allow you to explore all the possible solutions while also expanding your understanding of how things can work together.

What workshops are offered?

Atlanta, GA, USA - March 28, 2015: Kids attempt to drop bottle caps into a cup using a prosthetic arm and hooks, at a Georgia Tech prosthetics exhibit at the Atlanta Science Fair in Centennial Park in Atlanta.

Starting in September, these are the workshops that will be offered:

  • Roborobo Workshop: Wednesdays Sept 21 – October 26. 6 – 8 pm. We will use the Roborobo kits to build and program many different robots throughout the week.  Participants end with an activity that will requires them to use creativity to design, build and program a robot that isn’t part of the guided activities.
  • Innovators Club: Each week, participants decide to start or continue the previous project. Each project will focus on inventing or improving an existing technology.  Work happens individually and/or in groups to design and build something that hasn’t existed before.  Participants will be an integral part of the decisions made around the activities offered at Innovative Experiences.
  • Hourly workshops: Guided activities using a variety of resources and materials. Participants can take home most of what they make or just play with the materials. New activities will constantly be offered and are focused on Engineering, Arts and Science such as bridge building and other architectural projects, robotics, Little Bits, 3D printing and projection mapping, making ice cream with dry- ice and liquid nitrogen, pumpkin carving, winter activities, design a board game or invent something that solves a problem!

Innovative Experiences RoboRobo workshop.

What happens at the RoboRobo Workshop?

In the Roborobo workshop, participants start by building basic robots and learning basic construction and programming on the first day! The second day is for exploring other robots and practice programming them.  On the third day, challenges are added to make an existing robot do something new.  The last day consists of working in teams to design, build and program a unique robot that can accomplish a specific task such as go over obstacles, or destroy the opposing team’s castle with a projectile.  The best part is, you get to keep the robotics kit as part of the workshop and can practice building and playing at home between workshops. Parents are welcome and encouraged to join us to practice using the robots and share a new activity with your child. If you really enjoyed the workshop, don’t worry! The fun doesn’t stop there. With six levels of Roborobo kits to choose from, you can keep coming back for more fun activities and expand your robotics collection.

 

What makes Innovative Experiences different from a Maker space?

The goal of Innovative Experiences, says Donaldson, “is to provide experiences that inspire creativity, have real-world application and make learning fun.”

While many Maker spaces are great for exploring and learning, many teens are not aware of them or interested because there is no goal. IE will offer fun and inspirational activities to show teens how their knowledge can be applied in the real world. Finally, the costs of belonging to a Maker space and providing materials or attending similar camps/ workshops can be expensive. Innovative Experiences offers workshops in a safe atmosphere, at an affordable cost.

About Andy

Andy Donaldson has spent the better part of a decade working as an educator. His passions include working with students, finding creative ways to learn, and working with his hands. Recently, Andy noticed that the growth of the STEAM movement has targeted younger age groups and provided an opportunity that hasn’t really been fulfilled in secondary education.  That is the inspiration for Innovative Experiences.  To offer fun, affordable activities to inspire creativity and relate to real world knowledge. Andy is also involved with the XQ Bolder Super High School project.

Please visit the website for more information and like us on Facebook.

Upcoming events:

September 21 – October 26, 2016 – Beginner Robotics Workshop – Wednesdays from 6 – 8 pm.  At the Boulder Center for Conscious Community (BC3) 1637 28th Street, Boulder, CO 80301

www.myschoolportals.com

www.facebook.com/innovativeexperiences

gofund.me/innovex

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Brainy, improv, laughter

The Brainy Benefits of Improvising!

In the world of brainy research, play is getting a pretty good rap right now. Scientists are actively studying the benefits of play on brain development. Let’s not forget about one of the best benefits of Improv – laughing!  Laughter not only exercises our muscles and makes us breathe, it also decreases stress hormones and improves our immune systems!  Here are some of the other amazing benefits of “brainy play!”

Putting the Brakes on Perfectionism

For those of us who suffer from perfectionism and it’s unpleasant manifestations (over-thinking, mental paralysis, undershooting, self-criticism) there is hope!

Charles Limb is a surgeon who studies creativity at John Hopkins University. Using fMRI technology, Limb looked at the brains of musicians while playing a memorized piece of music and compared it to their brain while improvising off the same music. Limb discovered that improvising activated the self-expression portion of the brain while simultaneously deactivating the self-censoring part of the brain.

Limb’s work stresses that as we allow the self-monitoring part of the brain to rest and the self-expressive part of the brain to come to the forefront, we open the door to the creative mind. So not only to we get a rest from the judge in our head, we invite the muse to play.

For Charles Limb’s TedTalk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkRJG510CKo

Brainy Play Creativity and Creative Problem Solving

In addition to Limb’s work, researchers have been studying the benefits of imaginative play, which really is another form of improvisation, on a child’s ability to creatively solve problems. The following studies all focus on children.

Wyver and Spence (1999) examined two types of problems: I’ll call them simple and complex (really convergent and divergent problem solving)  and the effects that play had on the ability to solve these types of problems.  Among other things, this study revealed a significant relationship between pretend play and complex (divergent) problem solving.

Most problems in life require complex thinking so enhancing the ability to use creative problem-solving is as intuitive as it gets.

Family fun with Improv!

Family fun with Improv!

Improves Language Skills

Studies have demonstrated a connection between imaginative or pretend play and language skill acquisition.

One psychologist, Edward Fisher (1992) reviewed 46 studies on the cognitive benefits of brainy play. This mega-analysis (aka meta-analysis) revealed that children who participate in dramatic play improve their performance both from a cognitive-linguistic as well as a social affective perspective.

Sounds pretty technical but I think you get it. While language acquisition is clearly important to children, it’s usefulness is with us our whole lives. Being able to express and communicate effectively with others is at the center of most of our interactions and relationships.

Improves Self Regulation and Reasoning

As we continue to see the importance that emotional intelligence (EQ) has on future career and relationship success, it only makes sense that understanding how to activate and develop this in individuals is super critical.

Scientists studying the effects of imaginative play on self-regulation and the ability to reason discovered that the frequency of pretend play in children was correlated with their ability to self regulate. Self-regulation includes managing emotions, impulses and focusing attention – all important aspects to the development of emotional intelligence. I am convinced we would all be happier if we were better self-regulators.

More about the research at: http://www.parentingscience.com/benefits-of play.html#sthash.iFJsLPzZ.dpuf or http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v4n1/bergen.html

More Improv Please!

Hopefully you are convinced that practicing and doing improvisation/imaginative play can have some pretty great side effects. If this article has peaked your interest, I will venture to make some suggestions. Keep in mind, I am not a scientist (ok- maybe at heart).

First off, life is an improvisation, so in some ways you are activating all these part of your brain everyday. But if you are wanting to increase your creativity, problem-solving, self-regulation, etc. while putting the brakes on your inner critic it makes sense to me that finding a way to improvise could be the ticket.

So if you’re a musician, you can spend more time improvising as opposed to playing memorized pieces.

Otherwise, taking an improv comedy class is a great way to access the imaginative side of your brain. You will play brainy games that get you out of your head and access your creative side. The more you do it, the more you will experience that sense of creative self-expression flowing from you. Plus, you will probably laugh more than you have in months – seriously – and we all know the benefits of laughter on the body, but that’s a whole other blog.

About Pam Farone

Pam Farone is a career satisfaction coach and improv instructor focused on creating joyful careers and cheerful work environments.

www.pamfarone.com

Resources

Buchsbaum D, Bridgers S, Skolnick Weisberg D, Gopnik A. 2012. The power of possibility: causal learning, counterfactual reasoning, and pretend play. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 367(1599):2202-12. – See more at: http://www.parentingscience.com/benefits-of-play.html#sthash.iFJsLPzZ.dpuf

Fisher, Edward P. (1992). The impact of play on development: A meta-analysis. Play and Culture, 5(2), 159-181.

Limb CJ, Braun AR. Neural substrates of spontaneous musical performance: an FMRI study of jazz improvisation. PLoS One. 2008; 3(2):e1679. PMID: 18301756; PMCID: PMC2244806.

Walker CM and Gopnik A. 2013. Pretense and possibility–a theoretical proposal about the effects of pretend play on development: comment on Lillard et al. (2013). Psychol Bull. 139(1):40-4.

Wyver, Shirley R., & Spence, Susan H. (1999). Play and divergent problem solving: Evidence supporting a reciprocal relationship. Early Education and Development, 10(4), 419-444. EJ 593 718.

Dr. Tony Wagner, Author, Innovator, Educator

Dr. Tony Wagner – STEAM Fest Keynote Speaker on April 30th at Boulder Fairgrounds

Dr. Tony Wagner, Author, Innovator, Educator

Dr. Tony Wagner, author and innovator, will be the keynote speaker at STEAM Fest 2016

Dr. Tony Wagner has been shaking up education (and parenting), for years.  His six books, including bestselling Creating Innovators and The Global Achievement Gap, now in its Second Edition, are printed in over 14 languages and have sold millions of copies around the world.

He was recently the Strategic Education Advisor for a major new education documentary, “Most Likely to Succeed,” and co-authored the book by the same name with Ted Dintersmith.  Dr. Wagner joins us at Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest to expose us all to ideas about how we can prepare our children (and ourselves), to be more creative and capable in the Innovation Era.

Dr. Wagner’s Seven Survival Skills for Careers, College and Citizenship

In his work as Expert in Residence at Harvard University’s new Innovation Lab, Dr. Wagner asserts that there are seven survival skills that we all need to not just succeed, but actually thrive in the Innovation Era.  These include(1):

  • Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving
  • Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence
  • Agility and Adaptability
  • Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
  • Effective Oran and Written Communication
  • Accessing and Analyzing Information
  • Curiosity and Imagination

America is caught between a “rock and a hard place” according to Dr. Wagner, because we need new skills to be successful in our careers. But more and more, students are not graduating from our schools with these skills.  What’s more, they are motivated to learn differently as a result of growing up in the “Net Generation.”  Our schools have not changed as quickly as our students have.

What Motivates the Net Generation?

Many things are different for a student that has been raised with instant access to information. The Net Generation has also shopped with stores like Amazon.com – where they are treated personally and are “served” relevant products based on their shopping behaviors.

Young people have come to expect a personalized experience in all interactions.  They are also accustomed to being able to explore areas that they are interested in through independent exploration. They surf YouTube, find special-interest sites, and connect to other people that share their interests.

This web of connections is ever growing and changing.  Young people are exposed to new tools every day and they are not intimidated by the rapid change in their world.  They want to learn from their peers, but don’t necessarily respect authority.  Their best learning often happens outside a traditional classroom.

What’s Next for Education? How can it Keep Up?

author, achievement gap

Three of Dr. Wagner’s six internationally bestselling books.

Dr. Wagner’s specific prescriptions for adapting education systems include a fresh look at critical topics to zero in on developing the seven survival skills mentioned above.  He advocates for activity-based (also known as project-based or problem-based) learning which increases classroom discussion and engagement, and often deepens learning.

The courses suggested, “aim not to draw students into a discipline, but to bring the disciplines into students’ lives… in ways that link the arts and sciences with the 21st century world that students will face and the lives they will lead after college.” (2)

Join us for Dr. Tony Wagner’s Presentation

Saturday, April 30th at 2pm

Your ticket to STEAM Fest includes admission to Dr. Wagner’s presentation.

Purchase tickets to STEAM Fest HERE.  Seating at Dr. Wagner’s presentation is limited and is first-come, first-served.  Arrive early to ensure your seat.

 

(1) Dr. Tony Wagner, Copyright 2010. http://www.slideshare.net/thinkglobalschool/tony-wagner-nais-presentation-11351911
(2) Harvard General Education Homepage: http://www.generaleducation.fas.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do

Meet a Maker: 23rd Studios

We love the pictures that 23rd Studios took of Rocky Mountain STEAMFest 2015! Want to see the album? Check it out!

What does 23rd Studios do?Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest Maker Boulder 23rd Studios Photography Boulder (88)

​ 23rd Studios located in Boulder Colorado works in Video Production, Photography, Web Design, Development and Branding. We offer full scale video production including Ariel Videography and Photography, no project is too small or big​.

Who is your target customer?

​ We work with clients from Mom and Pop shops to Fortune companies, our services, expertise and equipment has us set up for any type of work.​

You have very generously supported us for our events.  Why is it important to you to support events like STEAM Fest?

​ Advancements in STEAM are important to the growthRocky Mountain STEAM Fest Maker Boulder 23rd Studios Photography Boulder (20) of our economy and the evolution of kids in the coming years. It is important to engage young minds by letting them work with their minds, hands and encouraging them to create. Not only is this important for kids to get expose to but important for parents to be open to letting their kids explore these avenues and not be so traditional in their education path. 23rd Studios believes that not everyone is destined for college and supporting young adults in figuring that out now is an important part of guiding them to a successful future.​

What else do you want our readers to know?

​ We are​ highly interested in technology so working with 23rd Studios gives your company a head start sense we already engaged in the dialogue and conversations around what technology companies need and the stories they tell.Rocky Mountain STEAM Fest Maker Boulder 23rd Studios Photography Boulder (44)

How did your company get started and why?

​ 23rd Studios got started out of the need to offer high quality services​ for companies of all sizes. We believe that companies should not have to choose between needs for their business and what they need to survive. That is why 23rd Studios has a sliding scale based on the size of you business.

Where do you see your company if five years?

I can tell you that we have many hopes and dreams, but truly there is no way to predict where we will be. We will still be in business doing great work forRocky Mountain STEAM Fest Maker Boulder 23rd Studios Photography Boulder (48) many companies in Colorado and around the country, that is about all we can say about our future.

If you want to know more check us out online at www.23rdstudios.com or email us at info@23rdstudios.com

What is your best advice to a young entrepreneur who wants to start a company like you?

​ The best advice we can give is do good work and you will always be well received in the community and always remember that giving first and making a good name for yourself and your company is more important than not making it anywhere.

We Built This (Cardboard) City…

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Cardboard City Bridge is a success!

05/28/2015 – Eric Gundersen

Balance, patience, and plenty of coffee are indispensable when it comes to constructing a 16’ x 16’ city out of cardboard in about 16 hours.  That is the mission before us at the second annual Denver Mini Maker Faire (coming up on June 13 and 14).  Eight of us gathered on a cold and rainy day in May for our first preparation/prototyping session and learned much during those four swift hours.

Lesson #1: Safety, safety, safety

Two finger tips were lost in the first 30 minutes – fortunately they only belonged to a glove while the hand inside was left unscathed.  Cardboard is dense and even with sharp knives it requires a fair amount of strength to cut.  Always keep your blade sharp.  If cutting becomes a challenge dispose of the blade properly and replace it with a fresh one.  Retract your blade or store safely between cutting sessions.  I had a friend who required multiple stitches after stepping on an X-Acto blade stored in a coffee mug, blade up, on the ground.

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At work on the prototype Cardboard City

We used hot glue to affix cardboard to cardboard which takes time to set.  The glue can get up to 380⁰ F.  Instead of risking burns use binder clips to hold your pieces as they cool.  Also, remember to unplug your glue gun immediately after use.

Lesson #2: Cutting

A straight edge or L-square is beneficial for making long cuts.  Make two passes on the cut so you don’t have to use as much pressure.  To make a clean corner for a fold, score the interior of your piece by making a shallow, straight cut.

Lesson #3: Creature Comforts

Working on your hands and knees can get uncomfortable.  Consider using knee pads or gardening kneeling pads.  Coffee also hits the spot.

Lesson #4: Balance
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Our prototype in progress!

Our team is fairly diverse with a variety of skillsets.  Some of us are more technical and some more artistic and everyone has strengths & weaknesses.  We organically broke up into three smaller groups to tackle infrastructure (base plates), landmark pieces (a skyscraper and suspension bridge), and “greebling”/”gingerbread” details in parallel.

It… was… sloooow.  After four hours (nearly 25% of our allotted time) we had:

  • 8 houses
  • 1 swing set w/ slide
  • 5 trees
  • 1 classy above ground swimming pool
  • 2 base plate platforms
  • 1 skyscraper w/ water tower
  • 1 bridge that took 10 minutes to make
  • ½ a bridge that took 2 hours to make

We learned that a bargain must be struck between quality and speed.  Work too fast and it looks like junk, while painstakingly obsessing over getting all the details right takes way too long.

As we made ready to leave and looked across all the modest structures we realized that it’s the city that we’re making; not the house or tree or skyscraper.  The flaws are absorbed by the scope, variety and whimsy of the landscape.  These pieces make up the whole just as your companions’ participation make up the experience.

We’re going to create an assembly line process to accelerate building the building of 144 houses, our goal.  We’re going to separate into groups for mass production (speed) and unique landmark pieces (quality).  Perhaps you’ll visit us at the Denver Mini Maker Faire on June 13th & 14th, or better yet roll up your sleeves and give us a hand.

If one day you find yourself building a city out of cardboard remember to be creative, be patient, encourage your partners and have fun!

Editor’s Note: See the Cardboard City, and many other curiosities (you can even build your own cardboard creation), at the Denver Mini Maker Faire on Saturday June 13 and Sunday June 14 at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  Join MakerBoulder and Level(3) in some maker magic!

Boulder Mini Maker Faire Day 1

Thank you SO MUCH to everybody who made Day 1 of the Boulder Mini Maker Faire so astoundingly great! We saw some really special things today, from a child who learned to use a cordless drill while building junk catapults with Mackintosh Academy, to strangers standing in line for a food truck who found they’re both doing ed-tech startups and decided to collaborate, to teachers who coded for the first time at Sparkfun’s Digital Sandbox workshop at the Innovation in Education Summit. What a day! And we can’t wait to see you all tomorrow (don’t worry, you’ll be home waaay before kickoff…)

Innovation in Education Summit Schedule & Program

Are you at the Faire yet? Probably not, but if you’re a teacher, 10:00am today starts your chance to earn maybe the funnest CE credits this side of anywhere! Click to download the program and final schedule for the Innovation in Education Summit, below. Or scroll and put on your bifocals to see what’s up today and tomorrow!

IED.Program

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This Weekend, Meet Alicia Gibb, ED of Open Source Hardware Association

Alicia Gibb is amazed by something.

Alicia Gibb is amazed by something.

What do you know about open source software? Heck, even if you’re not a hacker or developer active in the open-source community, you probably know it has something to do with publicly sharing code — you put your software online and contribute tweaks and twists in a crowdsourced way to things that other people have put online. That’s open source: nobody owns it and you’re free to do with it what you please.

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SketchUp Turns Doodles Into Plans

Have you ever built a deck or a chicken coop or a bookshelf? How about the great and varied tchotchkes of 3D printing? Or bigger stuff like a shed, a boat or a house? Generally you have to draw something before you make something — be it on a napkin or CAD. But so many of us don’t draw; we don’t give ourselves permission to be creative in that way, saying we’re bad at it or we don’t know what we’re doing (sound like math to anyone? But that’s another story…). And if you do draw, then dollars to donuts that unless you’re a trained professional you’re terrified to take your doodles or plans or graphic ideas to the land of 0’s and 1’s that is your computer.

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