Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Saturday Academy

Terry is chattering about "E equals emcee-squared" (apparently the topic of last night's Nova on OPB). In synergetics, we don't think "squared" so automatically -- "triangled" could be cooler i.e. the important thing is just to imagine some/any surface area (a topology). "Cubed" is volume, and closely associates with "tetrahedron" in synergetics (i.e. the minimal sharp-edged volume). Volume is related to energy, frequency, information and experience (see Synergetics Dictionary).

A few minutes ago, we were exploring Caitlin's (Terry's daughter's) blog. She's enroute around the world.

Joyce Cresswell (SA CEO) kindly appeared to deliver her presentation. Also present: Allen Taylor, Terry Bristol (ISEPP CEO), Jon Bunce, Jim Buxton, Rick Grote and myself. Don (Wanderers CEO) is enroute to Guatemala today, hurricane Stan (now past) notwithstanding. The earthquake in Pakistan was a focus of CBS News last night.

SA was founded around 1982 by 2 PPS TAG teachers. Computers were invading the business world but not yet the home. HP, Tektronix, bright kids = dynamite combo. The companies said yes, let's do it @ Oregon Graduate Institute (OGI). Taught 185 kids the first year, enrollment now up to around 4K+, including Corvallis.

Transitioning to a knowledge-based economy (KBE), is what SA is all about, because that's where creativity is heading in this state: design, invention, not so much manufacturing (although we do some of that). Average income for Oregonians is pretty low by USA standards (75% < $40K). KBEs center around engineers. Degree stats: US 5%, Oregon 9% and China 46% graduate in engineering (source credited on slide: Institute for Engineering Education). Employers have little choice but to import leadership talent. Problem-solving, critical thinking, work ethic -- all in short supply, on top of missing engineering savvy. Allen, citing a recent meeting of IEEE, chatted about the lack of training in cross- disciplinary teamwork.

SA offers courses in: robotics, programming, forensics, web design, genetics etc. It offers apprenticeships in industry, research labs, agencies. Community-based professionals comprise the faculty (I, Kirby, am one of them -- e.g. Joyce placed me with the Hillsboro Police Department that time, teaching open source). A benefit to engineers: SA provides participating firms with a sneak peak at native talent, relationships form, which may lead to later recruitment.

Bottom line: Oregon is moving to address its obvious weaknesses. The elements of a new pipeline are in place, but it's still relatively low volume. The older pipeline, which loses most would-be scientists and engineers through the cracks, still handles most of the load. Too much native talent is needlessly squandered.

SA is working to double enrollment, triple scholarships, and consistently reflect the locally complex demographics (in both students and faculty). Oregonians of whatever hue tend to be multi-ethnic, yet have a common interest in continuing to build a dynamic, world class, Pacific Rim KBE.

We finished with lengthy discussions and Q&A. Wanderers and Saturday Academy have a lot to talk about. Terry sampled a lot of his pro-design, pro-engineering soap box rhetoric. I mentioned Trevor Blake as a possible future Wanderer/presenter regarding such topics as the Technocracy movement and systematic ideology.