Tag: Engineering

A Slice of Silicon Hills hosts Educational Nonprofit Venturelab

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

58da047c-6baf-4c0a-8e9e-1e5b98324c1e_540-1What is the best time for students to be exposed to entrepreneurship and tech careers? Early College? High School? San Antonio nonprofit Venturelab is giving kids hands on experience with entrepreneurship and product invention as early as age 10.
Founded earlier this year by Cristal Glangchi, Venturelab is an evolution of an earlier Geekdom nonprofit called ESTEAM. Venturelab still uses the ESTEAM framework – stressing entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. The nonprofit organization has numerous summer programs, weekend events, and after school programs for all levels of students from elementary school to high school to college and beyond. These range from the Venturelab MakerSpace camps that educate students at ages 10-14 to the 3 Day Startup Events that help young professionals build companies. All students receive training in creating business models, inventing products, and giving pitches to sell those products.
Venturelab also puts a special emphasis on inspiring women and girls to become entrepreneurs. All programs must have 30 percent of participants be women and some, such as the GirlStartup camp, are exclusively for women.
The nonprofit organization is funded by several private donors in San Antonio. It is currently looking for additional donors as well as volunteers for the 3 Day Startup in November.
If you would like to enroll yourself or your child in a Venturelab program, you can find the program list at its website.

Geekdom Seeks to Educate and Inspire Kids

Louis Pacilli, director of education at Geekdom

At Geekdom, the focus isn’t just to create the next big tech company, but to inspire future generations to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Already, the San Antonio-based coworking and collaborative center, located on the 11th floor of the Weston Centre downtown, has hosted robotics programs for kids.
That’s just the start.
On Sept. 29th, the first Geekdom SparkEd program kicks off, said Louis Pacilli, the center’s director of education. The program will run from September through June, and during the school year, Pacilli expects to serve approximately 1,500 middle school boys and girls in a total of 30 weekend camps. Each camp will have between 40 to 50 kids from numerous school districts around San Antonio, Pacilli said.
Pacilli works with San Antonio middle schools to select the kids for a weekend program focused on a entrepreneurship, website design, programming or robotics. The kids get to vote on which curriculum they want to pursue, Pacilli said.
“We want to teach kids about storytelling through entrepreneurship,” he said.
For the entrepreneurship program, the weekend activities focus on business concepts such as pitching, marketing, research and writing a business plan, Pacilli said. The programs follow the guidelines of the Texas Education Standards, he said.
Pacilli has sent information to select middle schools and he plans to work with teachers and counselors to select the first kids to participate in the program, which will be free, he said. He’s looking for kids who need inspiration.
The program will rely heavily on local mentors from companies like Boeing, Rackspace, USAA, Lockheed and others, Pacilli said. It will also use local high school and college students, he said.
“We have to get the kids that are disconnected to school and re-excite them,” Pacilli said. “We want to teach them that geek is chic.”

Entrepreneurial Insights from Dr. T of National Instruments

Photo courtesy of 1 Semester Startup

James Truchard couldn’t find a job that he liked so he created one.
That’s what the co-founder, known as Dr. T, president and CEO of National Instruments, said last week during an interview with Bob Metcalfe, University of Texas professor of innovation and coinventor of Ethernet and cofounder of 3Com.
Unlike some of today’s technology billionaires by the name of Bill, Michael and Mark, both Truchard and Metcalfe finished college and obtained PhDs before becoming entrepreneurs.
Metcalfe interviewed Truchard at 1 Semester Startup Demo Day last Thursday evening in the Lady Bird Johnson auditorium at the LBJ Library and Museum. Metcalfe said Truchard played a huge role in convincing him to move to Austin from Boston more than a year ago.
Metcalfe quizzed Truchard on his background. He was born and raised in Austin County. Neither of his parents had a college degree. He received his bachelors and masters degrees in physics and a PhD in electrical engineering from UT. And in 1976, he cofounded National Instruments, in his garage in Austin with Bill Nowlin and Jeff Kodosky. The company makes test equipment and software including LabVIEW, a graphical development program. The company just reported revenue of $262 million for the first quarter of 2012, up 10 percent from a year ago and a profit of $18.6 million. It had revenue of more than $1 billion in 2011.
“I was always determined to be successful, I never thought of any other option,” Truchard said.
Truchard didn’t have a business plan when he started National Instruments.
“We just started working,” he said.
They also never sought out venture capital. Instead, they secured a $10,000 bank loan and they ran the company by bootstrapping operations.
Truchard also read hundreds of books on entrepreneurs including Crossing the Chasm and Thriving on Chaos. He also consulted with the IC2 Institute at UT.
“Keep as much of your capital to yourself as possible.” Truchard advised the crowd of student entrepreneurs. He also told them to make sure they have a good idea and to find as many mentors as possible. And great technology is at the base of innovation.
And nothing beats dumb luck, he said. “Don’t exclude it.”
Truchard took National Instruments public in 1995 to offer liquidity to its employees, not because they needed to raise money.
The company culture was born when National Instruments started, Truchard said. He tries to make the company a fun place to work and focuses on cultivating a leadership culture as the company grows. The company regularly makes it on Forbes’ best places to work lists.
In response to a question from a student about how he communicates the company vision to 6,200 employees.
“Well, I’m very repetitive,” Truchard said.
To share his ideas, Truchard has used 1,500 slides throughout the years in presentations to employees. His employees took all of those slides, shrunk them and then they made a portrait of him out them and presented to him as a gift.

The U.S. Needs to Focus on Innovation

About 10 years ago, Sino CES started operating in China.
“We realized we couldn’t stop them,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, which puts on the world’s biggest electronics show in January in Las Vegas.
“We couldn’t sue them,” Shapiro said. “So we entered into a partnership with them.”
That’s how a lot of business is done in China, Shapiro told about 100 people attending his morning talk at InnoTech San Antonio Thursday.
Every year, Shapiro travels to China for the show. But a few years ago, an encounter with a Chinese politician, who spoke no English, shook him up so much he decided to write a book. The Chinese politician, in a few simple hand gestures, indicated that China was on the rise with a thumbs up sign and that the United States was on the decline with a thumbs down signal.
“There was some truth to it,” Shapiro said. “We’re not leading innovation the way we should be.”
Shapiro, 55, and his wife had children late in life. He has a four year old and another child on the way. His children make him have a laser-like focus on the future of the country. Last year, he wrote the bestselling book “The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream.”
For years, the United States has feared the rise of various countries like Japan, Korea and Mexico. All of those countries threatened to extinguish the U.S.’s powerhouse economy. But they didn’t, yet China has made a dent in it. But even China is suffering now because of the subprime mortgage crisis in the U.S. market and because of China’s enormous growth, Shapiro said.
Manufacturing jobs have fled the U.S. in favor of cheaper labor in China, and those jobs are not coming back, Shapiro said. In China, a worker might spend all day doing one repetitive task on a manufacturing line.
“Americans are not going to be doing that kind of repetitive work – not with our education,” he said.
That’s why our national strategy should be focused on creating an innovation economy, Shapiro said.
“The thing about innovation is that every new idea challenges something in the past,” he said.
That’s why the U.S. has fewer travel agents, newspaper reporters and plant workers than years ago.
“As Americans we have a culture of doing things better,” Shapiro said.
To encourage innovation, the U.S. school system needs improvement, Shapiro said. Kids need to be taught to ask questions. The teachers that allow students to ask questions and challenge them are the best teachers, Shapiro said.
The U.S. entrepreneurial system also encourages innovation. The U.S. should not punish people for being successful and making money, Shapiro said. Entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, whose estimated net worth is around $60 billion, should be applauded, Shapiro said
“We reward people by letting them get wealthy,” he said. “It encourages the best and the brightest.”
But the focus on innovation has changed since Sept. 11, Shapiro said.
To remedy that, the U.S. also needs to change its immigration policies so that it doesn’t kick out the smartest people in our society who earn advanced degrees in science, engineering, technology and math. The National Science Foundation spends $6 billion a year on research and a lot of that research is done by foreign graduate students attending U.S. universities. Upon graduation, those students must go back to the countries they came from instead of being allowed to stay in the U.S., Shapiro said.
The U.S. also must increase its high bandwidth transmission capabilities to remain competitive, Shapiro said
And the signing of the JOBS Act by President Obama on Thursday was a step in the right direction in making it easier for entrepreneurs to raise money for their businesses through crowd funding.
“Innovation is so important for our country,” Shapiro said. “What’s really important for the future of innovation and technology companies is the health of the U.S. economy.”
Right now, all countries look to the U.S. for innovation, Shapiro said. They all want to emulate the U.S. That’s why he created Innovation-Movement.org to keep the focus on that strategy.
“Every company, every country, every individual needs a strategy,” Shapiro said. “Our strategy should be innovation.”

(InnoTech San Antonio was an advertiser with Silicon Hills News)

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