Welcome to the STEMtrunk blog! For our first real blog post we wanted to talk a little bit about the “why” behind STEMtrunk and how we got to where we are.
To understand that, you have to first back up and understand who I am. I guess you could call me a nerd from way back. My father was a computer programmer from the early days, back when computers were fed information on punch cards and took up entire rooms. A remember fondly our Commodore 64 and the excitement when the first Atari arrived at our house as a child. As I got bigger, and computers got smaller I continued to be fascinated by what these devices could do. I wrote my first computer game at age 12 in BASIC, one of the first widespread and easy to use programming languages. It was a simple text based adventure game where you would walk around a dungeon by typing things like “walk left” and encounter various monsters on the way. It was probably had a good ten minutes of play time in it… and the computer code stretched across my house when printed on our dot-matrix single feed perforated paper.
In high school, I became more interested in the sciences—particularly biology and chemistry—and by the time I graduated, I had decided to go the route of a pre-med student at a California university. After two years at the local community college and three at UCSD, I graduated with a degree in physiology and neuroscience, minoring in organic chemistry, with the goal of becoming a doctor. Along the way, however, I became something else: a father. My son Ethan was born near the end of my senior year of college and suddenly the idea of 8-10 more years of school was not nearly as appealing. Instead of going to grad school, I decided to start working and tried my hand as a lab assistant in a couple research facilities.
Frankly, I hated it. Lab work was never my intention and as a low level tech with a bachelor’s degree, I had little say in the direction of research.
I left the world of research and in a stroke of dumb luck, ended up hanging out in the offices of a small startup technology marketing agency in San Francisco called ipsh! It was one of the first its kind—a “mobile marketing” agency—and was a place where brands could learn the best way to use the explosion of the mobile phone to better their brand marketing efforts through text messages and mobile web pages. The more I hung out at ipsh! the more fascinated I became with the technology and what it could do. I began to sit in on staff meetings—even though I was not an employee—and volunteer ideas. Eventually, the CEO approached me and asked me to join the team.
The rest, as they say, is history. I have spent my entire adult life in the world of technology marketing, always on the bleeding edge of what is possible. In 2009 I opened my own agency, Appency, a firm dedicated to helping iPhone and Android app developers succeed. My children, of course (and by this time there were two), grew up with technology at their fingertips. I vividly recall my daughter Kelsey pulling herself up at the coffee table, unable to walk, yet able to activate the phone on the table and start playing a spelling game.
Technology has played a huge role in my children’s education. It’s not unusual for me to see my son, now 14, working on developing his own games on the computer, though his are a far cry better than that early game I developed in BASIC. 3D art, animation, advanced logic… and still only a freshman in high school. I can only imagine where life will take him when he has already come this far. My daughter Kelsey has quickly shown herself to be a bit of a math wiz, and often elects to spend play time advancing her knowledge on Khan Academy simply because she enjoys it. STEM has enriched my own children’s lives innumerably.
One thing about techy kids, however, is they always want the latest and greatest tools to learn from. Programmable robots, build-it-yourself computers, more LEGO bricks and toys than I can count… As a parent, of course I wanted my kids to have all of these things, but reality is a harsh mistress. As technology advances, staying on the cutting edge is an expensive proposition. Christmas lists often had items that were $200 or more: amazing technology learning toys that could accelerate my children to the next step of their learning, but at the same time make a decent sized dent in the pocketbook. What was worse was knowing that not all of these toys would hold the attention of the children long enough to justify their high costs. I wanted a simple way to try something before I purchased it, and it just did not exist.
STEMtrunk was born out of that desire to continue to provide the best hands-on STEM learning to children possible, at a price point that does not break the bank. In a world where you can rent a vehicle with the same ease as you can rent a movie, why not make it so you can rent STEM equipment as well? Who wouldn’t want a robot delivered to their doorstep to play with and program?
While this is not my first venture as an entrepreneur, it is my most exciting. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have questions: firstname.lastname@example.org I would love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and anything else that might be on your mind!