Thursday, October 8, 2015

Introducing the Entrepreneurism & Leadership Mentor Profile Series: Entrepreneur, Author, Founder & Mentor Jack Savidge

The von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center is approaching its 15th year of serving the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering as a pathway to innovation and an organization dedicated to teaching entrepreneurism to the engineering leaders of tomorrow. Helping UC San Diego affiliates take their products into the market is one thing we’re more than proud of doing. In the last three years, we’ve taught more than 52 NSF I-Corps teams, awarded more than $500,000, raised over $1 million in early stage funding and launched two international programs in Asia and South America. The students from our program have had some incredible successes, taking home prizes every year at the UCSD Entrepreneur Challenge, California Dreamin’ Entrepreneurial Contests and even gained recognition at regional Social Innovation Challenges.
The Oculux I-Corps team takes home second place at Entrepreneur Challenge
We could not have accomplished these workshops and programs without our von Liebig advisors and mentors. At the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center, we are tirelessly looking for those who have done their research, have proven their technology and are determined to put their product on the marketplace, so that we can connect them with mentors who are equally dedicated to seeing them succeed. Our advisors are seasoned entrepreneurs, former CEOs, directors, consultants and engineers, but most importantly they are also the mentors, coaches, experts and angels who have been instrumental in growing and expanding our teams’ businesses and market potential.

Wearless Tech Inc. completing the National I-Corps Program with von Liebig mentor Dennis Abremski

As a tribute to our wonderful staff of mentors and advisors, we would like to introduce a brand new series of mentor profiles to be featured in the Entrepreneurism and Leadership Programs newsletter every two weeks. Our mentors have amazing stories to tell and we are excited to share them with you.

For our first profile, we have selected an individual who has had an inspiring and unparalleled entrepreneurial career journey as well as a huge impact on the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center.

Jack Savidge Entrepreneur, Author, Founder & Mentor

Jack Savidge is a recognized entrepreneur, mentor, consultant and new venture teacher. At the Jacobs School, we know Jack as the influential founding member of the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center and the mastermind behind the Center’s unique model. His entrepreneurial career is unparalleled and has hit numerous bases; Jack shared that his career journey wandered through cutting grass, washing cars, driving delivery vans, fixing cars, creating high school field-days and refreshments stands and selling postcards to tour boat passengers. Then during 13 years with 3M Company he convinced management of the need for and became the firm’s 1st Marketing Manager. When he was 36, Jack left a 3M executive future to start an independent consulting company that spanned 45 years in La Jolla.  While a consultant to worldwide clients, the Executive Director of a local nonprofit and Vice Chairman of a regional health insurance plan, he also conceived a university-based technology incubator whose advisors of mentors, coaches, experts and angel­ advisors worked with potential UC San Diego entrepreneurs. He led the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center funding and formation in 2001. Jack has been an advisor for the Center since its inception and his card reads - Founder and Senior Advisor.

Despite his long and exciting entrepreneurial career, Jack explained there was not a particular moment where he was taught to or decided to become one. “I did not know what an entrepreneur was at age eight, when I clipped a comic book coupon to become a door-to-door seller of garden seed packets. Then World War II urged again selling Savings stamps and war bonds up and down my street. I learned the thrill of making the sale using only my skills as Jonathan Swift wrote, ‘vision is the art of seeing the invisible’ – and I would add ‘and making that vision almost real to a listener’.

Jack explained that this breadth of experience is what helped him become a mentor and learn more about the different PathMasters along the way. “One cannot be a consultant or mentor until one builds an experiential reservoir of how people, product and service users, and different cultures react to change,” Jack explained. “Potential technical entrepreneurs took me into their trust as, being marketing centered, and I represented no intellectual or experiential threat and was a good listener who would challenge their thinking.”

Jack’s Work with von Liebig

When Jack championed and gained approval to architect the Center in 1999, he envisioned a center that would continually create unique, entrepreneurial value-adding education and transfer processes that would accelerate industry adoption of Jacobs School knowledge, students and technology. He focused the von Liebig missions to be the transfer mechanism of proof-of-concept UCSD technology to the private sector, to transfer entrepreneurial knowledge to the UCSD community and to transfer entrepreneurism practices to Jacobs’s students. He strongly emphasized the importance in teaching people entrepreneurism the “why and what” of an entrepreneurial environment and delivering such course concepts that would be adapted by a scientific or engineering mindset. Jack knows that the von Liebig secret is its advisors and that emerging entrepreneurs should use them as their coaches, mentors and experts.

PathMasters for Microbusiness

“Most entrepreneurs reach for anyone called an “advisor” assuming they perform all roles of mentor, angel, coach and expert,” Jack explained. “In my view, this one size fits all is time and money wasting and hastens dissatisfaction between entrepreneur and advisor.” His recent book PathMasters for MicroBusiness guides micropreneurs (all start-ups microbusinesses) and current mentors/advisors to find each other,  how-to measure the other’s skills and needs, and what performance to expect from each other.”

Jack’s consulting assignments caused him to practice the role of each PathMaster. The book directly details differences of each PathMaster and best fit to help micropreneurs. The guidebook is thought-provoking as topics address the difficult, less talked about practices of poor counseling relationships, advisor compensation and their dismissal. PathMasters for MicroBusiness aims to guide micropreneurs and pathmasters alike, those who are budding entrepreneurs and those who are looking to begin and improve advisory consulting methods and behavior. Jack poses engaging questions and thoughts for entrepreneur and advisor to consider.

Jack’s Advice for Budding Entrepreneurs When asked what advice he would offer to aspiring entrepreneurs, Jack offered plenty: “Understand one’s inherent strengths and leverage those areas to seek value contributing work that excites one to get-up in the morning. It’s the old saying -- find a passion, follow it and the rewards will come. There is no Great Book with someone else’s map that will be yours - we all plot our own way. Think hard about the turns-in-the-road and measure to the next milestone by remembering that - ‘Risks are taken for success when the perceived rewards for success are greater than the perceived risks of failure. Perceptions of the two are measured with prudence.’”

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Alumni company shares $2 million grant from NSF to teach kids how to code

A company co-founded by two Jacobs School computer science alums is a partner in a $2 million grant to teach how to program inside of Minecraft to children in fifth- through eighth-grade throughout the state of Maine.

ThoughtSTEM is partnering with the University of Maine to run the grant. Students will be using LearnToMod, a software that teaches how to code inside of Minecraft. It all will be part of a program administered by the University of Maine Cooperative Extensioin 4-H, which plans to reach more than 1,000 students. The grant specifically targets students in rural areas.

“The use of computer games as a mechanism for teaching computer science concepts while also improving the effectiveness of the core curriculum is incredibly exciting,” Bruce Segee, who also is the director of the Advanced Computing Group for the University of Maine System and the grant's principal investigator said in a statement. “We believe that we will see an improvement in student learning across multiple areas.”

ThoughtSTEM was co-founded by computer science Ph.D.s Sarah Guthals and Stephen Foster, with biochemistry Ph.D. Lindsey Handley. In addition to LearnToMod, the company provides classes to teach children how to code in San Diego and elsewhere.

Guthals, Foster and Handley also have co-authored "Modding for Minecraft for Kids" in the "For Dummies" series.

Read the full University of Maine press release here.

Friday, October 2, 2015

AI stories are everywhere

UC San Diego Contextual Robotics Forum

As we gear up for our Contextual Robotics Forum on Oct 30, I’ve been paying particular attention to news stories tied to artificial intelligence, which seem to be everywhere these days (Google News: artificial intelligence.)

I’m also reading John Markoff’s new book Machines of Loving Grace, which is providing some interesting historical background for what is happening in the worlds of artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligence augmentation (IA). (New York Times review by David Alan Grier.)

The Economist provides some context for Machines of Loving Grace here: Machines for thinking. The Economist article also touches on two other recent, related books: The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World by Pedro Domingos; and Humans Need Not Apply: A Guide to Wealth and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Jerry Kaplan.

I’ll be regularly linking to stories / books / resources related to the future of robotics in the lead up to our robotics event at UC San Diego on Oct 30.

Alums publish second book teaching kids to program inside of Minecraft

A second book on Minecraft modding by UC San Diego engineering and biochemistry Ph.D.s is hitting the bookshelves this fall."Modding Minecraft" is part of the "For Dummies" book series. It is currently exclusively available at Barnes and Noble for $9.99.

The three authors are Sarah Guthals and Stephen Foster, two computer science Ph.D.s, and Lindsey Handley, a biochemistry Ph.D. The trio co-founded ThoughtSTEM, a company that teaches computer programming to kids in elementary, middle and high school. The company created LearnToMod, a sofware that allows kids to learn programming inside of Minecraft.

Earlier this year, they co-authored "Minecraft Modding for Kids." This latest book is aimed at a slightly younger audience, Guthals said.

According to the book's online marketing materials:

The projects in this book teach your player how to modify the game by using code blocks to create mini games. The projects use LearntoMod (provided as a 60-day trial download with the book), a platform designed specifically to teach young students how to modify Minecraft.
Projects include:
* Create a Spleef Game — get started with a single-player, single-level game
* Build a Monster Arena — moves readers on to multi-level game playing
* Capture That Flag — finishes with a multi-level, multi-player game based on the classic capture the flag' game

This book is designed to appeal to readers as young as seven who are interested in learning more about the technology topics they hear about every day. It applies the time-tested For Dummies approach of simplifying complicated topics with a light-hearted and non-intimidating tone and presents the information in a way that appeals to young readers. All three books in the series, Making YouTube Videos, Getting Started with Coding, and Modding Minecraft feature:

* A kid-friendly, expert-approved design - heavy on eye-popping graphics and filled with easy-to-follow steps to completing a project.
* The perfect-size, full-color, book gets your young coder up and coding with a proven mix of graphics and text instruction.
* Fun, basic projects that provide the building blocks (and excitement) for further computer/tech exploration.

Jacobs School engineering demos at the first San Diego Maker Faire

Engineers for Exploration will demo some of their tech at the first-ever San Diego Maker Faire this weekend.
Jacobs School engineers are out in force at this weekend's first-ever San Diego Maker Faire. The event, which takes place Oct. 3 and 4 in Balboa Park will bring together tinkerers, techies, hobbyists of all stripes, educators, artists, crafters--and more.

The event is organized by the City of San Diego, The Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, the San Diego Makers Guild and Tijuana Innovadora.

UC San Diego contributions to the event include:

-  UCSD Robotics will demo the MiP balancing robot at the Robotics Zone
- Engineers for Exploration will demo an automated camera trap, high-tech birds' nest finders and LiDAR scanning, also at the Robotics Zone
- The Qualcomm Institute's high-tech OptIPortable display walls will visualize a mock dig site at the Family Zone
- QI researchers will display several drones at the Drone Zone.

In addition, Jacobs School professors Thomas Bewley (robotics), Steve Swanson (comptuer science) and Falko Kuester (structural engineering) plan to give talks during the event, along with research scientist Curt Schurgers and Ph.D. student James Strawson.

The Global TIES program will be taking over the Jacobs School Instagram feed during the event (@UCSanDiegoengineering).

More about UC San Diego events at the Maker Faire here.

More Maker Faire info at

Other Jacobs School-affiliated exhibitors include:



 The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers at UCSD

 Divergent Engineering of UCSD

Triton 3D

 Triton Rocket Club

UC San Diego Autonomous Airplane Team

Global TIES 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Engineering Student Orgs Table at Annual Engineers on the Green

This past Monday, the Triton Engineering Student Council hosted their annual "Engineers on the Green" event, with over 1,400 students in attendance. 

The engineering student organizations at UC San Diego gathered at Matthews Quad to show off some of their work and welcome new members. From project teams to mentorship programs, industry panels to outreach events, and resume workshops to ice skating nights, all of these organizations offer an endless amount of opportunities and ways to have fun. Here's a recap from Instagram: 

A photo posted by UC San Diego Engineering (@ucsandiegoengineering) on

A photo posted by UC San Diego Engineering (@ucsandiegoengineering) on

A photo posted by UC San Diego Engineering (@ucsandiegoengineering) on

A photo posted by UC San Diego Engineering (@ucsandiegoengineering) on

A photo posted by UC San Diego Engineering (@ucsandiegoengineering) on

A photo posted by UC San Diego Engineering (@ucsandiegoengineering) on

A photo posted by UC San Diego Engineering (@ucsandiegoengineering) on

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The future of drones: Jacobs School alums weigh in

When Radley Angelo, class of 2015, spent weekends building and flying RC planes and helicopters with his dad and brothers, he never thought he was already building a foundation for his professional life. Angelo went on to become the CEO of Spark Aerial, a systems integration company that focuses on aerial robotics--meaning drones.

His path from freshman at the Jacobs School to CEO is documented in the latest issue of Triton Magazine, the university's alumni publication, in a story titled "Life Among the Drones."

During his time at UC San Diego, Angelo joined Engineers for Exploration, an organization designed to bring cutting-edge technology to the fields of archaeology and exploration. E4E, as it is also known, is led by Jacobs School alum Albert Lin and computer science professor Ryan Kastner. Members investigate digs anywhere from Lake Tahoe, to the jungles of Guatemala, to Mongolia.

Lin needed someone to drive the $20,000 drones he was using to try and find the tomb of Genghis Khan.  He recalls is the Triton story:
We were in a very remote location and had really great access to satellite imagery, but I wanted to be able to get a bird’s-eye view in areas that were more tree covered,” says Lin. “I found Radley, who was really into remote control helicopters, and took him with me.”
 The story also includes a section about the effort of Jacobs School alumnus Jay Guan to improve FAA regulations for drones. He says:

“On the surface, it seems like the FAA is a little squeamish about this,” says Guan. “But from what I’ve seen, the FAA doesn’t have anything against drones or commercial drones. It’s just that safety has always been an overriding concern, and right now there is no good way to ensure that drone operations won’t compromise that.”