About Wizzbangz

We are a mobile classroom and maker/hacker space that offers project based STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) classes where students build robots and a multitude of other projects. Students learn about electronics by working with electronics. Because of our love for Art and Design, as well as Science, we want to advocate for putting Art into the equation: S.T.E.A.M= S.T.E.M + [Art & Design].

An educated What-if too.

I received this reply to the most recent post “An Educated What if.” I started a response, but the post seemed to grow, until I realized that this must be a hot button issue for me. The following is the question from Donna Schmidt and my reply.

“I am preschool teacher, and I find this blog very intriguing. What if the public and private school system made “what ifing” part of their curriculum. Our country’s education system is losing ground every year because of funding. The first classes to be cut most often are the ones for creative thinking and expression. Creative thinking and the freedom to express is how we have acheived our greatness as a world leader. It seems to me that as we pulled away from the creative attributes in our education systems, we started loosing our standing as world innovators and became more concerned with being a ‘world power’. What I would like is some help integrating ‘what If’ in a preschool curriculum. I bet you could come up with some really cool ideas for 4-5 year olds. Thanks for trying and thanks for inspiring.”

My wife and I just watched a TED talk today that might interest you. Although Steve Keil is speaking to his fellow Bulgarians (in fluent English) I think that his message is important and applicable even to us in the US. In fact it may be even more poignant than we would like. The following quote is from the description of the talk on the TED site.

“At TEDxBG in Sofia, Steve Keil fights the ‘serious meme’ that has infected his home of Bulgaria and calls for a return to play to revitalize the economy, education and society. A sparkling talk with a universal message for people everywhere who are reinventing their workplaces, schools, lives.”

Check it out: TED talk about play by Steve Keil

Look at how successful the people who have implemented this philosophy have been. Look at Google and Pixar just to name two. We need to encourage creativity and play. We need to provide the tools and opportunities for our children to learn, without restricting them. I cannot count the times I have had to train new graduate students or post docs on free thinking or thinking outside the box. We spend so many years repressing those attributes that came naturally when we were children. How is it that we teach problem solving and innovation in preschool and graduate school but have this factory approach in between?

Because What-if-ing comes naturally to children, as a pre-school teacher, you are in a choice position to nurture this innate skill and to help it to develop and grow. Dare I say, even to learn the art of What-if-ing from them?

The following link is to a video from the Portland Children’s Museum which also runs a Reggio Emilia inspired early childhood program called the. Opal School

What if our schools were more like interactive children’s museums and Children were allowed to explore, create, dream, imagine and invent freely. What if adults shared their knowledge and wisdom, to help children do all of those things, but didn’t say how or what to do at each and every step in that journey? That is at the heart of the Reggio Emilia philosophy. Loris Malaguzzi was truly a What-ifer. His poem, One hundred languages of children, is moving and powerful. This video by The United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education has the poem in both English (at the beginning) and Spanish (at the end).

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An educated What-if

I ran across this article and it struck a cord. What if teaching were a lucrative career choice that would benefit both teacher and student alike? I could write of a few other systems that are antiquated (Post doctoral Research) but I will refrain and not detract from the well written words of Senator Bennet.

I love to hear when our politicians think outside the box and ask what if. The successful ones are able to start a movement and act on their what if. I am willing to support this what if and will be writing Senator Bennet to let him know. If you agree with him, you should let him know too. What-ifs have to start somewhere.

Sen. Michael Bennet
    U.S. Senator from Colorado

“Our ability to compete for the jobs of tomorrow depends, above all, on our capacity to educate children today. Yet we are still operating under yesterday’s system to attract and retain new, talented teachers. It is outdated and designed to fail.”

What if speed were guilt free?

I just realized while looking over my past posts that you might think my blog is only about cool charities. And while I do feel that people who start charities are noble whatifers I have to admit that many of our great whatifers were not charity workers. I mean where would we be without Henry Ford or without Wilbur and Orville Write. Although with any change, you have to take the good with the bad and our love affair with transportation has not come without a downside. Which leads me into pointing out the next whatifer of the week…the Tesla group.

I was just in SanJose for some training and they took us out to dinner in Santana Row. We had to walk around until our reservation time. I really don’t like window shopping and I care even less for malls. But I did find my salvation in the Tesla storefront.

tesla roadster rearview

Thanks to Tesla Motors for providing us with this beautiful car (I mean photo.)

Now that was something I could really spend sometime looking at. Beautiful yet simple style. I just wish they could have let me take it for a spin.

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What if you could be a part of a cure?

Some of the most inspirational people are patients or their families who are advocating for change in the form of more research, education or accessibility to treatment. Look at all the good, people have done. People like Lance Armstrong, Glenn Close and her sister, and Michel J Fox are some pretty successful whatifers. We need to support these great efforts. It’s easy to do.

You don’t have to even be a grown up much less a celebrity…

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what if patients didn’t have to stress out?

Too often, as researchers of human disease, we lose sight of the people we are trying to develop treatments for. This is not to say that many funding mechanisms and societies don’t do a good job with setting up interactions between researchers and patient advocates. Surprisingly enough, one of the best meetings I ever attended was a department of defense, breast cancer meeting. It is a long story as to how and why the DOD is funding breast cancer but they are doing a wonderful job. There were many patient advocates in attendance. They asked great questions, were very informed and their presence was an inspirational reminder of why we were doing what we were doing. I remember the constant request of patients not only for new cures but for treatments that improved quality of life.

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What if I got a free lunch? (for dinner)

It’s one of those late nights in the lab. Dinner was stale subway sandwiches leftover from a diabetes seminar. How I love free food. The freeness makes it taste better. I am recalling a scripture that went something like…

“Therefore take no thought, saying, what shall we eat? or, what shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the people with real jobs seek) But seek ye first the Kindom of Science and it’s righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Well OK maybe it  didn’t go quite like that but hey I got free food, I scrounged enough change for a Dr. Pepper at the vending machine and the lab coats here are kind of clean so all’s well.  I just hope my wife saves me some chocolate pudding when I get home. What does this have to do with whatifing? Not sure, but if I had to tie it in I would say it is always better to have a positive attitude when whatifing for best results. What if this experiment works and I don’t have to spend more nights doing this all over? Well there you have it.

What if clean water was a given.

My wife just showed me this video. I had heard of this a while back. There was a story about a girl who had asked that her friends and family donate to this cause instead of giving her presents for her 9th birthday. She planned on doing it again for her 10th but died in an accident. Her selflessness inspired countless others to give to this great cause. This cause has attracted many great whatifers. Good causes usually do.

Charity Water Drilling Truck CHARITY: WATER September 2011 CAMPAIGN

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Dr. Donald Coffey: ballsy as a bonobo

During my graduate studies I had the great fortune to meet Dr. Donald Coffey. He was invited to speak to us up coming biologists and inspire us. As sat there before the meeting started I was talking to someone from my lab about something laby, the person in front of me turns around and joins the conversation as if it were the most interesting thing he had ever heard. Come to find out he was our keynote speaker, director of research in the department of Urology at Johns Hopkins and here he was almost giddy while he spoke with a couple of kids about science.

I was really impressed with his talk. To tell you the truth I can’t remember any of the scientific data he presented. I do remember though that he started by asking a room full of biologists if they had ever wondered why it was cold at high altitudes? I had never thought about it and apparently neither had anybody else, at least they weren’t willing to come forward. He pointed out that at high altitudes you are

“closer to the sun, with less atmosphere blocking it’s rays, yet it is colder.”

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My whatifing wonder years

Before I start my search for the great whatifers of the world I would like to look to my past and contemplate the people who have changed the world I live in. I figure now, while no one is reading my blog, I can get away with a trip down memory lane. Don’t worry, my next few blogs will be about people changing their world, here and now. I don’t promise to blog about anyone you might know. In fact I think that would be boring and a waste of your time. Often the people who stand out in the media as great people are often just more visible than people who are making just as big an impact. In fact often times the people who have personally touched your life have changed your world much more than the latest celebrity do good-er. But I digress…

I don’t remember much about Kindergarten through 5th grade but I do remember Mrs. Allison my 6th grade teacher.

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What If I could change the world?

What if, is a pretty powerful phrase or is it technically a question?  Whatever it is, it is very special. Did you know that what if is quite unique to humans? It sets us apart. It is one of the few things unique to our species.

How many animals do you know that sit around saying what if… to each other? “Hey neighbor what if I ate you.” Said the wolf to the rabbit “What if you ate the fat chipmunk down the path” said the rabbit to the wolf. “What if we moved to the next state over, where there are less wolves?” Said the rabbit’s wife to the rabbit.

No, animals are a little more direct than that. They react to the world they live in. Humans, on the other hand (with opposable thumb), define the world they live in.

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