Experiences – How to inspire students

Robert Grover – Experiences – Not everyone can become a teacher but anyone can inspire a student.

So the way I got involved in PCS involved, I was fresh out of college the professional photographer and a friend of mine was involved in a small business development group, it was an incubator and they had come across this little tiny company in a little tiny town outside of Boise that was really a one-man show, he was running a program outside of his garage and it was an experiential, hands-on education program for kids and the things that were going on in that program were pretty remarkable. Just plain word-of-mouth that he’d filled his garage and he was actually starting to move into a business complex so he could have a bigger lab for kids in the kinds of things that happened there were magical. And I’m not an educator, I didn’t come from an education degree, I have a writing degree and I was recruited to go out and see if it could be documented as to what is he doing, is it something that can be containerized, can you duplicate it, is it all contingent or just this one person or is it something that really could be grown? 

And I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed working with kids because essentially I went out there as a volunteer, I worked probably for three or four months just on a volunteer basis and between my real job trying to get a feel for what was going on out there while this incubator group was looking for funding. And you know some of the first experiences I had with teaching where the most powerful for me because even today I’m still in touch with a lot of those kids; in fact my very first student I worked with the first and I walked in, Pat McShane who was the crazy teacher sat me down and said, “Here work with this kid. He wants to learn how to write a story,” because he knew I had a writing background and the student was amazing. He was incredibly creative and today he runs a creative studio, he does work for Disney, he does a lot of digital media for companies all over the country and a very creative, fascinating guy. He’s actually involved in inventing new products now as well, some of the more robotic in nature but I still see this kid and it’s funny to see him because he’s got his own family now and those kinds of connections you can’t do that in the regular job I don’t think, so that’s how I got started, that’s how I got hooked.

I had no real business background, I had a two-year degree in business, just general background but I wasn’t hired to run the business, I was hired to help document and to build the program so that’s what we did for a number of years. We went through a lot of iterations as the company. The business side of it was always trying to figure out okay this is a fabulous thing, how do we monetize it, how do you capture it if it’s not something that you can put in a box. We went through the.com boom, we tried to put all of the system online so that kids and homeschoolers and people that were accessing education materials on the Internet would be able to experience some of what we were doing in the labs and that’s a very hard thing to do. It’s hard to plan the physical and virtual, it’s something that we spent a lot of time on now, is trying to perfect that because the experiential pieces so important. Virtual education is very effective, it’s very efficient but ultimately the research shows you’ve got to have the hands-on piece, you have to have it for the social side, you have to have it to really understand what you’re working on; nobody would ever want an engineer that it never touched something to build the bridge if they were going to drive over it so you actually have to have the experience.

So the company as I said one through a lot of iterations, we got through the.com time and we decided okay that’s not working very well right now, we’re a little too early so we decided to get out of the learning center business in running these labs and tried to package it up and put it in a box which is what we’ve done for the past eight years or so. We developed a lot of curriculum and packaged programs that are now in over 6000 sites nationwide. We’re are also in the Middle East, we got programs in India. So we have partners that are taking a lot of those things we’ve put in a box in there distributing them around the world because stem is a huge need, teaching kids how to be innovative and creative and help solve problems, everybody needs that so a lot of education systems that are more a adam-tic in nature recognize they need to get their kids thinking out of the box so the things we do are important all over the world not just the US. But back to putting things in the box; I’ve never seen that is being very effective because I know what the essence of PCS was, was in that garage and it was the instructors and the community and the things that happened between instructors and kids, that’s where kids get the inspiration, that’s where they learn to change their lives. You create an environment where they can find something that they’re excited about and they’re really good at and when you can connect those things they become successful and they’re going to go a long way. 

I think the concept of taking what we do, packaging it up and being able to distributed across the country is a very powerful one because we want all of these kids in all of these labs to be able to talk to one another online, I mean the virtual community concept is there now.

We want to create an experiential network of all these kids tied together, sharing ideas, inventing things, uploading pictures and CAD files and programs ensuring the things that they’re building so that’s really the concept; it’s labs plus beneath it is this bubble of a community of people that are sharing ideas and building and hopefully creating things that’ll make a better world. I think the next Elon Musk is probably in these labs now because we have all these kids coming through here and they’re incredible, they’re inventing things and they have a great heart. We talk a lot about building for positive, peaceful purposes and in. If you want to change the world you have to be thinking about that early on and a lot of these kids are.