Blog: Bright Ideas

Behind the scenes with our Science Curriculum Manager

The extraordinary people who make up the Galileo HQ aren't just superstars on the job. In fact, we're regularly impressed by their awe-inspiring extracurriculars.

One such Galileo team member, Science Curriculum Manager Lance Akiyama, just inspired our awe by publishing a book called Rubber Band Engineer, a how-to guide for making awesome engineering projects—slingshots, catapults, hydraulic robots—using everyday household items.

Lance has a long history of having a lot of innovative irons on the fire. Before Galileo, he founded an after-school program called the Workshop for Young Engineers to teach kids project-based engineering lessons. He's also a contributor at Instructables, where he posts tutorials to offer public access to tons of accessible engineering projects.

And of course, there's the matter of his year-round gig at Galileo, managing the team that designs all of Galileo's science-focused curriculum, from wiring simple circuits at Camp Galileo to launching high-flying catapults at Galileo Summer Quest. Lance describes his day job as "working with a team of brilliant and creative education-focused individuals to brainstorm innovative hands-on project ideas." Those ideas, once Lance and his team dreams them up, are tinkered with, tested and fine-tuned to speak to a particular age group and deliver important science concepts. At the end of the process, Lance's goal is that the final written lesson "gives campers an opportunity to grow as innovators by experiencing carefully designed moments that challenge them in just the right way."

When we asked him for a peek at this summer's curriculum, he admitted a particular fondness for the pinball machines Supernovas will be engineering during Galileo Makers: Toys week. Like the classic arcade game, campers' machines will feature spring-powered plungers, flippers, bumpers and some cool customized electronic elements. But Lance wanted to take it a step further, giving campers something they could "keep adding on to and rearranging at home. To that end," he explained, "we designed a custom box that resembles a pegboard, which makes it easy for the pinball components to be moved around to different pegboard holes." And with that innovation, the team designed a project that isn't only endlessly playable, but endlessly customizable as well.

How does Lance know kids will love building their own pinball machines (and the dozens of other contraptions he and his team have cooked up for 2016)? "When we test a new project and everyone says, 'Wow that looks so fun! Can I try?' we know it's going to be great," he told us. "We're all kids at heart, so if it's fun and exciting for us, it's sure to be a hit at camp."

See Lance's projects in action this summer at camp. And for even more innovation, check out Rubber Band Engineer, made for, as Lance puts it, "anyone who has a passion for making things that fly, roll, shoot or otherwise do something cool."

Fittingly, his book's official release date is May 17, which also happens to be National Rubber Band Day. Lance's plans for the holiday are as impressive as the man himself: "I intend to make the world's largest rubber band ball, then build the world's largest rubber band-powered catapult to shoot it. It's going to be a record-breaking day."

Learn more about Camp Galileo's 4 fresh themes this summer

Want even more of Lance? Watch a video of Lance talking us through a Star Science project from 2015

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