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September 2017

June 2019

Near Space Balloon Project


In 2012 I volunteered with the TEDx Asheville event ( That year the theme was "The Edge". The conference explored all things relating to "the EDGE" and I decided this would be a great opportunity to explore near space ballooning. I volunteered at my kid's middle school where I worked with one of the science and math teachers and his students. Over the course of several weeks the students designed and built a "near space balloon" that carried a GO Pro video camera and two GPS devices along with small personal items from each student up to near space.

The balloon traveled 100,000 feet above sea level where the helium balloon popped (at 30 feet in diameter!). At that time the payload (an off-the-shelf foam cooler from the grocery store) parachuted back to earth in Boone, NC which is 100 miles from the launch site in Asheville, NC.

The above video was shown during the TEDx event to the audience and the students were on stage to answer questions.

During the design phase of this project my good friend Sharon Feingold suggested I get in touch with Jeff Kluger who authored the best selling book "Apollo 13" which was eventually made into a movie staring Tom Hanks. Jeff graciously Skyped with the students and did a little Q&A with us. See the photos below.




And then... Jeff Kluger decided to fly to Asheville  from his office in New York City to visit the "near space balloon" students in person at the school. He gave a talk about his book "Apollo 13" and the science of space travel. See the photos of Jeff speaking below...





Here Jeff is signing the payload of the near space balloon project...


Airzooka Arcade

A few years ago I met Al Stahler in San Francisco at a Maker Faire like event. Al is the creative genius behind the "Fire Ball Gallery" ( Al told me about one of his earlier projects called an "Airzooka Arcade" and the moment he described it I knew I had to make one myself. 

The Airzooka is one of my favorite toys. It requires no batteries and is tons of fun. It shoots a vortex of air a long distance. The arcade has a supply of theater fog that the user can suck up into the Airzooka and once the elastic is released, the user can send a ring (donut) of smoke flying through the air toward the target (helium balloons). 

I built my Airzooka Arcade for the 2017 Charlotte Mini Maker Faire. I exhibited with my friends from Asheville Makers. To my delight, the Airzooka Arcade was a huge hit with both kids and adults. Check out the video below.



Makey Makey and the Invention Literacy Workshop

In May 2014  I volunteered to design and lead a short Project Based Learning (PBL) experience for students at a school located in Asheville, North Carolina. Details about the project are HERE.  That project was briefly featured on WLOS, a local ABC news affiliate TV station. That appearance resulted in my being invited to speak at TEDx Greenville. That speaking appearance resulted in Makey Makey inviting me to join their team as their first VP for Education Initiatives. 

When I joined the Makey Makey team in November 2015  I was asked to design a one day Professional Development workshop for K12 educators and then establish "Training Partners" who would then deliver the workshop nationwide. 

This work has allowed me to travel throughout the US (and sometimes beyond) to work with a wide variety of inspired educators who train K12 teachers. Details about this program are HERE at the Makey Makey website. 

The Makey Makey team (a division of Joy Labz) is small and agile. Everyone on the team is smart and motivated. We're all driven to make a positive difference in the world.