Sunday, August 09, 2015

An idea to share wealth

I'm an entrepreneur and believe ambition, investment, creativity, risk taking and hard work are elements of a personal success strategy.  There is no magic formula - and my friends know I believe LUCK and TIMING are the most important contributors to business success - but over time those five attributes will help start and grow a business.

So how do we share this success formula with more people?

I believe growing your network and learning from other entrepreneurs are critical too.  Home grown businesses may not be as flashy, but small businesses employ more people and can elevate more employees to employers.  As a society, how do we create more employment, self reliance and prosperity?  My answer: help more people start and run successful businesses.

Government programs can be useful, but my idea is for neighborhood businesses to help neighbors who want to start a business by contributing the capital and knowledge it takes to get a business off the ground.  With a tax break targeting those investments, businesses who are motivated to help a local entrepreneur can make a contribution to their success both financially and with nurturing advice, networking connections and tough love when needed.

Not every business will succeed.  But with a competent adviser who has skin in the game and the entrepreneur's interests at heart the odds will be much better.  The neighborhood wins.  If the new business fails - hopefully it will result in lessons learned and without the crippling debt and impact on credit scores that can happen when personal credit lines are stretched and then break.

If the business succeeds, the profits will be shared with investors and perhaps can be sheltered from income tax for a while to sweeten the deal.  Hopefully, a virtuous cycle will begin and generations of prosperous business owners will transform a neighborhood, a city or our country - just like they always have.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Notable 1st Maker Space media

We've been so busy developing the 1st Maker Space business that I haven't had a chance to post here.  The VR vs R post just written was the exception.

We've had some great press in the local media I wanted to share.  Maybe Blogger counts for something in the SEO world.

Pioneer in 3D printing has high hopes for education startup

My grandson being interviewed by Jared Council, a reporter with the IBJ.  Ethan, 9 years old, is explaining how 3D printers work.
Parts we made at the Tech HS 1st Maker Space

Students use 3-D Technology to turn ideas into reality

Rocket sled students made at the Eastern Hancock County 3D Design and Printing Summer Camp

Someday, every school with have a maker space!

The problem with virtual reality

As a member of the 'maker' community I'd like to reflect on why reality is better than virtual reality.

True, programming for apps is all the rage., among other organizations, like Eleven Fifty here in Indianapolis, make the case that every child should learn computer science.  I did.  Coding is cool.  It allows you to control a little machine, which, can be connected to a large machine, the Internet or even a human being.  These little machines are cheap and the software is free.  Learning to code requires study, concentration and cleverness.  What's not to love?

The problem I see is that these little virtual worlds don't have to interact with the real world.  The real world - reality - is a far more complicated place than manufactured worlds.  How do I know this?  Just try to make something.

Drilling holes, assembling components, building anything forces you to interact in a reality zone where inconvenient facts intersect with your ideal design.  Ninety degrees becomes 89.5 degrees.  Parallel isn't.  Attachments and joints wiggle.  Inertial effects impose themselves when gravity and motion affect structures.  Algebra turns into calculus.

Problems may be dismissed or their effects postponed in a virtual world.  You can ignore tolerances and stacking errors in these ideal places.  Not so in your garage.  Sawing pieces of wood intended to form the sides of a box, (a simple rectangle morphs into a parallelogram,) is humbling.  A craftsman's skill is not earned in a semester at a coding academy.

Coding encapsulates its own reality.  In the virtual world of a micro-controller the 'state-machine' executes instructions with predictable efficiency.  The machines were designed by humans with economy and utility in mind. The goal is to simplify problems and optimize predictability.

Reality, on the other hand, is anything but predictable.  'Making things' as it turns out exposes the designer to a plethora of unexpected problems: material properties, dimensional inconsistencies, variable loads, unanticipated defects, supply issues, finishing, light, shadows, static electricity.  There is no order to these problems because in the real world there is no order to the problems.  That's why it's called the REAL WORLD!

With all due respect to my friends in the software business, you deserve the billions of dollars you make moving bits around to the endless entertainment of consumers hungry for vicarious stimulation.  But as for me, I'd rather be making something.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Photo at Conner Prairie

A spontaneous photo from Conner Prairie, the local, interactive, outdoor museum that partners with our 1st Maker Space program for schools.

I was walking down the hall from our exhibit and saw these young Amish women peering over the mezzanine wall down to the first floor.  It seemed like a paradox of old and new frozen for a moment in time.  Had to share.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Quality control or political power grab?

As a member of the manufacturing community I've learned that Quality Control is a Science.  Lots of math, lots of documentation, lots of training and lots of measurement.  But we don't measure EVERY part.  It's called statistical quality control because we use statistical sampling to asses the quality of our process.

High stakes testing of students hasn't seemed to figure this out.  This intrusive, expensive, impractical and meaningless methodology has created a financial windfall for test vendors, income for a test-prep ecosystem surrounding it, untold stress and anxiety for students and their parents and a political football for incompetent legislators.  What could possibly go wrong!!??

I found this show on CSPAN describing the rising tide of dissent against this insanity.  I thought you'd want to watch it.  Fascinating!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

1st Maker Space Making Progress!

IPS and Ivy Tech have committed to hosting 1st Maker Space summer programs. Those 1st Maker Space partners represent the largest school district in the state and the largest commmunity college in the USA.
The Arsenal Technical High School 1st Maker Space is under construction. We've already had a stream of 'maker space tourists' come through and leave very impressed.
Pre-registration for our summer camp programs, now hosted at over 20 locations, have accelerated. 
We will be exhibiting at the Indiana Afterschool Network 2015 Summit 4/13-15. We are constructing a maker space in the center of the exhibit atrium at the J W Marriott. Typical attendance exceeds 700 educators and includes school decision makers throughout the state.
The keynote speaker is Don Wettrick, Innovation Specialist at Noblesville Schools and author of Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level. He was instrumental in arranging for 1st Maker Space being selected by Noblesville Schools to build a maker space at their high school. We will be hosting camps there this summer.
And this week we'll be cheer leading for Cardinal Ritter HS at the NCAA Final Four. They were one of four Indiana schools picked by the NCAA to receive an award at their Team Works Celebration. Ritter invited us to be a part of the ceremony in appreciation for the support we provided them in the construction of the artificial hand they provided to the little girl in Toronto as part of the Enabling the Future program.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rotary Invocation - December 9 2014

A Christmas Wish

Why do we need the Holidays to be in the holiday spirit?  Why do we need the Season to wish each other season’s greetings?

Shouldn’t we be well-wishing and good-spirited all year?

The good work of Gleaners and the Salvation Army are especially important at Christmastime.  But aren’t people hungry every day?  Don’t people need a place to stay, freedom from fear and protection from abuse during the other eleven months a year?  Don’t children want to believe in Santa every day?

Our attention is claimed by so many priorities, so often, by so many urgent causes – some near and dear, some merely annoying interruptions.  The great malady of our day is attention deficit disorder.   We have so much to pay attention to that we can’t pay attention to anything.

But paying attention is exactly what we need to do.  Whether you are rich or poor, a captain of industry or looking for a job, you have exactly the same attention to pay as the person sitting next to you and the same as everyone else on the planet.

And Christmas is the time when, for a little while, for a part of the world at least, our tradition is to pay a little more attention to each other – to loved ones, family and friends, but also to those who, for the rest of the year, we may not pay any attention to at all.

Practice paying attention this holiday – but don’t stop.   You’ll get better at it if you try!  Use the rest of Winter to practice.  By Spring you ought to be pretty good!  Keep at it through the Summer and Fall and before long you may find that you’ve been paying attention to other people for a whole year!

And when the thought of how to account for all that attention you’ve been paying occurs to you, I hope you find that you have even more to pay.  Like a checking account that grows larger the more you use it.

We all need to pay more attention to other people in this world.  I believe it is the source of goodness and charity and change for the better.  And it doesn’t need to just happen during the holidays.  The people you pay attention to will value it any day, in any season.

That is the true spirit of Christmas and my Holiday wish for us all.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Rotary Invocation - October 2014

Rotary Invocation October 7, 2014
Kim Brand & Beth Ann Brand

Last week, the Earth passed through an imaginary point in space that marks the beginning of a new season: Autumn.  Opposite of Spring – the days get shorter quickly now.  The weather becomes less agreeable.  Even the sun wants to wake up later and rises ever lower in the sky at mid-day.  The more intelligent animals leave if they can.  Winter is surely not far away.

If we didn’t have faith that this was just another in Earth’s eon’s old cycles around the sun it would be worrisome.  But in fact, it is a reminder of life’s great cycle and our place in it.

Poets and writers wax sentimental about the coming cold and the change of seasons.  The change brings vibrant colors and radiant skies and crispness in the air.  The cooler temps signal the start of harvest season.  Soon we’ll have Halloween and Thanksgiving.

But for me Autumn is part of a great rebalancing – perhaps the most thoughtful change of season.  Spring heralds new life.  Summer fills us with confidence that life goes on.  Winter convinces us it won’t.  Autumn is a reminder that balance is what the seasons, and our own lives are all about.  Autumn is like humility to Summer’s pride and Spring’s enthusiasm.

Take a moment today to appreciate the blessings of the harvest time and think about your place in the great cycle of seasons – and life.  There will be more time to be close to the ones we love as we huddle nearer against the cold winds of the approaching winter.   With shorter days and longer nights the glow of home fires and the company of family can sustain our souls in place of the sun.

The point of a college education

I stumbled upon a recorded lecture by Steven Pinker at the Free Library of Philadelphia on the topic of writing.  In it, he explains (during the Q&A @ 55:00) the point of a college education.  I heartily agree.
I think we can be more specific. It seems to me that educated people should know something about the 13-billion-year prehistory of our species and the basic laws governing the physical and living world, including our bodies and brains. They should grasp the timeline of human history from the dawn of agriculture to the present. They should be exposed to the diversity of human cultures, and the major systems of belief and value with which they have made sense of their lives. They should know about the formative events in human history, including the blunders we can hope not to repeat. They should understand the principles behind democratic governance and the rule of law. They should know how to appreciate works of fiction and art as sources of aesthetic pleasure and as impetuses to reflect on the human condition. 
On top of this knowledge, a liberal education should make certain habits of rationality second nature. Educated people should be able to express complex ideas in clear writing and speech. They should appreciate that objective knowledge is a precious commodity, and know how to distinguish vetted fact from superstition, rumor, and unexamined conventional wisdom. They should know how to reason logically and statistically, avoiding the fallacies and biases to which the untutored human mind is vulnerable. They should think causally rather than magically, and know what it takes to distinguish causation from correlation and coincidence. They should be acutely aware of human fallibility, most notably their own, and appreciate that people who disagree with them are not stupid or evil. Accordingly, they should appreciate the value of trying to change minds by persuasion rather than intimidation or demagoguery.