Moonshots: Preparing the Next Generation of Inventors & Innovators

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Categorized under: technology trends

In May 1961, President Kennedy, before a joint session of Congress, announced the goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade. This goal was achieved on July 20th, 1969 when Neil Armstrong, commander of Apollo 11, stepped onto the surface of the moon. While Kennedy never saw the plan he set in place accomplished, his bold vision not only achieved the goal but has served as an inspiration to modern day companies like Google.

In recent years, Google has been well known for their focus on allocating a certain percentage of their budget ($1.66B in the 1st 2 quarters of 2016) to moonshots.  Moonshots, at Google, are defined as having the following criteria: It must solve a problem affecting billions of people; it has to use wildly audacious technology; and there must be at least some chance that it can actually be accomplished in the next five to 10 years. Self-driving cars, delivery drones, and balloons that can beam the internet throughout the world are just some of the projects that Google devotes resources (people, time, and capital) to.  Given the complexity of the technical challenge along with the inability to define product/market fit beforehand, it is quite likely that these projects may never launch. However, the willingness to experiment on these low-probability, high impact projects are what will truly make the world a better place.

In the course of accomplishing President Kennedy’s mission to put an American on the moon, NASA developed over 6,300 new technologies. CAT scans, computer microchips, cordless tools, ear thermometer, freeze dried food, insulation, invisible braces, joystick, memory foam, satellite television, scratch resistant optical lenses, shoe insoles, smoke detector, and water filters are just a few of the most popular inventions that resulted from this moon mission.

If we take a step back and think about some of the big challenges the world is currently wrestling with. From clean water, poverty, income inequality, disease and hunger, there is an opportunity to develop creative solutions to difficult problems across a wide variety of domains. Similar to the Apollo mission, new inventions and innovations will be discovered while trying to solve these difficult problems.

So, the question becomes, how do we best prepare the next generation of inventors and innovators?  We need to accelerate the development of creative problem solving skills for our emerging scientists, inventors, innovators, technologists and those with whom they will work closely with. While there are many different paths, one of the best opportunities is consistent exposure to projects involving computer coding/programming & engineering design. Often, the economics of technology-based solutions makes them ideal for large-scale impact because they can be developed efficiently by small teams of people and can be scaled inexpensively by utilizing architecture infrastructure best practices. By letting kids experiment with building fun projects, they are learning the extremely valuable skill of deconstructing more difficult problems into manageable chunks. 

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About the Author: Omowale Casselle ([email protected]) is the Co-founder & CEO of Digital Adventures. Prior to Digital Adventures, Omowale led the development, launch & management of an interactive advertising & marketing platform, SAMPLEit (division of Outerwall, Inc.), in high traffic retail locations (Walmart, Meijer, HEB) that will help consumers trial, discover, and ultimately make more informed choices about their most important purchase decisions. Earlier in his career, Omowale was part of the new product development team that successfully brought industry-leading vehicles to market including Ford Mustang, Ford Fusion, and Ford Escape Hybrid. His passion for continuous learning and development has led to degrees from Harvard Business School (MBA), University of Michigan (MS Engineering), and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (BS Engineering).