George and Big Toe

George and Big Toe

Originally uploaded by heinemanfleck.

Big Toe joined me Thursday morning at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, which has been in Albuquerque all week. He in particular wanted to see George Hotz, who I’d featured in the morning newspaper:

George Hotz’s words exploded, as if there were three sentences in his head for every two that made it out of his mouth.
“I’m sure you’re familiar with polar coordinates. They have a theta, an R and a Z,” he said to the gray-haired man visiting his science fair booth.
The man leaned in and nodded as a smile crept across his face.
“You’re familiar with DLP technology,” Hotz said, holding up a circuit board. The man nodded again, the smile growing, as he responded, “From Texas Instruments?”
Hotz, a 17-year-old wunderkind from Glen Rock, N.J., and Craig Barrett, chairman of the board of Intel— the largest computer chip maker in the world— spoke the same language.

George, I’m happy to say, won one of the fair’s top prizes – a trip to Stockholm to the Nobel ceremonies. I feel personally privileged to have spent the week with George and the rest of these kids, who are so bright, creative, passionate and morally committed to what they do that it gives me hope.

P.S. Chantal did a nice job of capturing my enthusiasm here.


  1. Your obvious enjoyment of this event comes through every year when you write about it, John. Nice to read you had a good time yet again and it’s great to see that you managed to capture some of the “joy of fun science” in the writing you’ve done throughout the event. I guess there are crappy days on the job that balance out weeks ike this, but this might feel like one of those times when you’ve picked the right job. 🙂

  2. When it comes to science education — and education in general — our society talks the talk, but is not willing to walk the walk.

    We expect teachers to be professionals but, on the whole, don’t treat them — or pay them — that way.

    I got a degree in physics and a secondary teaching certificate and taught in the public schools for a few years but left to pursue a career as a computer software engineer.

    The lack of money was part of the problem, but an even bigger problem for me was the profound lack of respect afforded to teachers — by students, parents, administrators(!) and our society as a whole.

    It’s great that the head of Intel serves on blue ribbon commissions to assess what needs to be done about education, but the answer is really pretty obvious.

    I could have told him what he needed to know nearly 15 years ago — as could almost anyone who has ever spent any time teaching in the public schools.

    Our society is simply not willing to make the commitment.

    Sad, but true.

  3. By the way, imagine if America had spent the nearly $500 billion that has been spent on the Iraq war on education in this country instead.

    We could have hired 1 million new teachers at $50,000 a pop and paid their salaries for ten years!

    Some might call this 20/20 hindsight in the case of Iraq.

    Fine, so forget Iraq for the moment and look at what we spend on defense in general every year: over half a trillion dollars ($646 billion is the latest appropriation)

    But we let our education system fall apart? What earthly sense does that make?

    None. It’s idiotic.

    National security amounts to much more than just physical security. Economic security is just as important — if not more important. Besides, without economic security, the money necessary for physical security will simply not be there in the future.

    Also, I really wonder how much money companies like Intel have spent on improving education in this country. It’s great that they sponsor science fairs and sit on blue ribbon education panels, but the money they shell out for such things is a drop in the bucket for them and makes little real difference in the grand scheme of things.

    Intel has made billions off the American public, but what have they invested in the American public? (their future work force, I might add)

    If they were really concerned about the future of this country — and their own own future — companies like Intel would be investing hundreds of millions (if not billions) in American education now> to ensure the future economic competitiveness of this country.

    Words are essentially meaningless in this case if they are not backed up with dollars — and lots of them.

  4. Re: Imagine $500 billion that has been spent on education in this country instead…
    If there was a correlation between $ spent on education and higher SAT scores then Washington DC. Public Schools would out perform Private schools or public schools in Iowa.
    Throwing $$$ at the problem is not, has never been the answer.
    ***From where do you derive your protection from the murderous fanatics who wish to kill you ONLY and for no other reason other than you do not believe specifically as they do? IE. Sunni vs. Shiite, the Teachers Union?

  5. Pingback: jfleck at inkstain » Blog Archive » George Hotz and Big Toe

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