Sparking the Inventive Mind
by Elizabeth Fletcher Foy, Director of New Initiatives
On March 15, 2001, Academy President Dr. Robert H. Rines spoke to elementary and middle school students from 10 schools throughout New Hampshire at a live simulcast and video conferencing event called "Sparking the Inventive Mind." Bow (N.H.) High School was the site of the event.
Audience interest was piqued when images from distant schools alternately filled the giant screen in the Bow auditorium and students waved back and forth to one another.
Inviting students to participate in the New Hampshire Young Inventors' Program, Dr. Rines said, "Today you are participating in an inventive, innovative event." The live simulcast and video conferencing event was the first-of-its-kind in New Hampshire to link this many schools and over 1000 students together in a multipoint, interactive, educational program using three different technologies: the Granite State Distance Learning Network (GSDLN), a WebCam and NetMeeting, and RealPlayer with real-time chat.
Two of the schools received the simulcast's video stream but no audio. Nevertheless, both schools were excited about working out these kinks in the future and participating again. Aware of these technical issues during the simulcast, Dr. Rines told students that encountering and solving problems is an important part of the experimental and inventive process. "You must crawl before you walk, and walk before you run. Today we are crawling." Several teachers later commented that it was incredibly important for students to realize that it is okay to make mistakes and that even successful inventors, like Dr. Rines, make mistakes in perfecting their inventions.
Students in the audience at Bow and at distant locations were actively engaged in the program. Some wanted to hear about Dr. Rines' violin duet with Albert Einstein in the 1930s, how old he was when he patented his first invention, how he comes up with ideas for inventions, and, of course, about his ongoing search for the Loch Ness Monster.
One student asked, "What would you most like students to remember you for?" Dr. Rines paused and said, "I would most like students to remember me for this invention. The idea I want to impress upon all of you is that the technologies we are using today will bring inexpensive learning to every part of the globe. A small village in Africa will have access to the same educational resources which we have."
Everyone was left with the vision of students in Africa and Asia waving to students in the United States. The Global School District will make that vision a reality!