iHangar hosts the First Lego League (FFL)

At the Innovation Hangar we are gearing up for our Summer of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), and as a prelude of sorts to this initiative, we were proud to once again host the First Lego League, who held a two-day educational event in our building from March 4th to the 5th. The league (or FFL) is an international competition organized by FIRST in partnership with the LEGO Group. Elementary and middle school students are gathered into teams and assigned tasks to complete, with each task focusing on a globally-relevant subjects such as environmental degradation, food safety, recycling, renewable energy, and more. All of these subjects are deeply important to us here at the iHangar.

Student exhibits lining one side of 'Broadway', one of our open spaces available for event rentals, March 4th, 2017.

Student exhibits lining one side of 'Broadway', one of our open spaces available for event rentals, March 4th, 2017.

Students, parents and guests hanging out in the iHangar's atrium during day one. The awards ceremony pavilion is pictured in the background, March 4th, 2017.

Students, parents and guests hanging out in the iHangar's atrium during day one. The awards ceremony pavilion is pictured in the background, March 4th, 2017.

A student from team 'Robo Maniacs' explains her project to curious guests, March 4th, 2017.

A student from team 'Robo Maniacs' explains her project to curious guests, March 4th, 2017.

Team 'Potato Cats' educational exhibit, March 4, 2017 (photo by Dustyn Buchanan, iHangar)

Team 'Potato Cats' educational exhibit, March 4, 2017 (photo by Dustyn Buchanan, iHangar)

Of course, keeping young minds active and engaged requires an element of fun, so while they put their heads together and discuss solutions, they also got to build LEGO Mindstorms robots to help complete their tasks. The students work out solutions to the various problems they are given and then meet for regional tournaments to share their knowledge, compare ideas, and display their robots to other teams.

One of the teams sits with its six-wheeled projectile-throwing robotic rover, March 4th, 2017

One of the teams sits with its six-wheeled projectile-throwing robotic rover, March 4th, 2017

iHangar's Director of Technology Education, David Caditz, shared his experience as a high school science teacher to young students looking for advice on problem solving and innovation. As Caditz also serves as the lead designer on the SF State Solar Car project (as to detailed on our blog soon), his technical knowledge on designing and building experimental vehicles proved invaluable to the students.

David Caditz speaks with students on the subject of educational innovation and problem solving, March 4th, 2017.

David Caditz speaks with students on the subject of educational innovation and problem solving, March 4th, 2017.

Students, teachers and family gathered in the pavilion on the afternoon of day two, to hear from the judges regarding which team had impressed them the most, and would eventually travel to the finals in Virginia. Before the announcements were made, however, Innovation Hangar founder and curator Dan Shine took to the stage to talk briefly about what we do here, and how the public can help keep our efforts going. "We have been open to the public for two years and seven days," he said, adding, " We've actually had 1.4 million people come here since that day, and while you've brought your incredible inventions, products and art here today, we've also got other exhibits in the space on a daily bases, like 3D-printers and printed objects, solar-powered drones, VR and more," he said.

"We are working on our most ambitious project to date, the Summer of STEAM. We have a matching grant right now with indiegogo, and any dollar you give gets doubled and matched. Donations also help propel us to the front page of indiegogo, and our campaign has already been featured on indiegogo's Silicon Valley page. We're very hopeful you'll all be back here next year, or sooner; as we would like to have you guys in here during the summer to showcase your designs and exhibits to the estimated 2,000 people a day who enter the Hangar. I'm sure you'd agree they would all like to see what you have created so far," he said.

"Congratulations to all of you, we are really glad you're here," he concluded, before leaving the stage so the announcement could be made.  In the end, it was team 10, otherwise known as R2-Bee2, who won the Northern California nominee award for their project SafeHive.

Team R2-bee2 posing with their award document, March 5th, 2017

Team R2-bee2 posing with their award document, March 5th, 2017

Stay tuned for more details about the Innovation Hangar's upcoming events, programs, and exhibits.

Warriors Come to the iHangar

This Friday, February 24th, 2017, we had the very special opportunity to host a PG&E and Golden State Warriors-sponsored youth career summit for local high school students.  This event meant a lot to us, since as a business we pride ourselves on our commitment to localinstitutions. The Warriors are widely beloved as a team for their skill on the court, and for their friendly and open personalities off the court. A visit to any Bay Area sports bar on any given game night will provide you with plenty of evidence of their popularity.

The Warriors player present, Ian Clark, came to speak about career-building initiatives for teenage youths, lending them his experience and wisdom in the professional sports industry. A resume writing workshop was held on our upstairs mezzanine, while on another section of the mezzanine mock interviews were held, to better prepare the youths for the rigorous employment application process of the working world.

iHangar staff Bethany Shine, Tooba Durraze and Mike Ramirez pictured with Warriors' Shooting Guard Ian Clark

iHangar staff Bethany Shine, Tooba Durraze and Mike Ramirez pictured with Warriors' Shooting Guard Ian Clark

Ian Clark speaks to local high school students at the iHangar, Friday, February 24th, 2017

Ian Clark speaks to local high school students at the iHangar, Friday, February 24th, 2017

Youth education programs have been a focus of ours ever since we opened our doors just over two years ago. We've hosted Tech Inclusion, where public school students learned valuable problem solving skills, took part in team-building workshops, met entrepreneurs, tech industry investors, marketers and educators. BlueStamp Engineering was a six-week summer program for high school students, to assist them in pursuing technical projects of their own. We even hosted the First Lego League, an effort to teach young students how to approach global issues such as food safety, renewable energy, and environmental consciousness.

Over the summer of 2017 we plan to host more events in this vein, as it conforms to our mission statement and overall goals as a unique not-for-profit organization.  Follow our Facebook page and this blog to get more updates on our itinerary for the next few months, and other in-depth examinations on what's happening at the Innovation Hangar.

Inflating an air mattress in the Himalayas leads to soundproofing breakthrough

At the Innovation Hangar we strive to maximize the efficiency of our business space, and one of our entrepreneurs, Jim Pilaar, has specifically devised a low-cost, highly-effective dynamic system designed to minimize noise pollution in the workplace. The system is known as ISAT, or Inflatable Sound Attenuation Technology. ISAT is an easy-to-setup, easy-to-break-down mobile wall and ceiling panel system comprised of modern polymers and aluminum frames which can be sculpted to fit almost any office space. It is the world's first inflatable soundproofing, and he calls it AirHush.

 “Essentially we have invented an inflatable diaphragmatic absorber and sound-blocking system, which is made of a see-through material and is very light overall compared to traditional soundproofing materials. Depending on the type of sound one wants to attenuate inside or outside of AirHush structures, different thickness of walls can be inflated, which also makes our ISAT systems into what have been called the world’s first 'tunable walls’”, said Jim, who added that he has two US Patents for the system and more US and international patents pending. “The combination of these materials allows for rapid deployment of soundproofing partitions, walls and full enclosures, which benefit from the temporary rigidity of inflatable structures but can be deflated for shipping and storage at a fraction of their deployment size.”

Jim Gray at work in his prototype AirHush office space.

Jim Gray at work in his prototype AirHush office space.

His launch product is the AirHush Silence Panel, which when inflated is a 24 by 27 inch block. Since it is transparent, light can flow into structures made of these modules, so no additional energy is needed to provide lighting inside AirHush structures. That, along with the reduced shipping volume when deflated (about an inch) makes them very carbon-footprint friendly compared to other forms of soundproofing.

 Jim has been involved in the sound attenuation industry for about a decade now. “Once I had the core idea of what turned out to be the novel concept of inflatable soundproofing, I designed some initial prototypes and was fortunate to discover the idea actually worked very well to soundproof a simple basement music studio,” he said. “After filing for patents I then consulted with soundproofing industry experts and academics in the field of acoustics, and built and tested further prototypes while my patents applications were being considered.”

Getting the word out

Once the patents were issued, Jim approached a leading manufacturer in the acoustic elements industry, Pinta Acoustic, inc., of Munich, Germany and Minneapolis, MN, and they asked for a license to manufacture and distribute the AirHush launch product for one of the many markets in the acoustics realm. AirHush is now seeking additional licensees, customers and investors. To acquire these, Jim is using his recently-launched website AirHush.com, along with Vimeo, where there is an instructional video describing the product. Jim expects the traffic driven to these sites to boost public and investor awareness of his revolutionary technology.

“We are expecting to sign up additional licensees and serve customers in a wide variety of fields such as healthcare, with mobile operating rooms and soundproofing partitions for hospitals, entertainment industry customers such as independent filmmakers, musicians and multimedia producers, along with larger recording and movie studios. Industrial noise control in construction sites is also something we're looking into, as well as high-tech, soundproof ‘clean rooms'. AirHush can also be used educational settings, such as soundproofing in mobile classrooms, and perhaps eventually aviation and transportation fields.”

A suitable background

Jim has long been an entrepreneur who even in his teens aspired to launch his own businesses. His first two were travel companies, HighAdventureTravel.com and AirTreks.com. “I spent my teens and twenties in the adventure travel business, largely taking people trekking in the Himalayas. That is when I first became familiar and interested in inflatable structures, such as Avon rafts, Thermarest mattresses, and so on. I learned a lot about the kinds of valves and inflatable structures used on our high altitude expeditions, which has been very useful in my current project. In fact, one of the primary inspirations for creating AirHush came to me on a trekking expedition—my son Jeremy and I were inflating a mattress and it occurred to me that the same kind of technology could be applied to soundproofing.”

Jim and his son Jeremy at Tengboche Monastery Gate in Nepal

What's next for AirHush: working with co-entrepreneurs and bringing AirHush to the public

Jim is not alone in his work on AirHush, with another co-entrepreneur, Elan Rosenman of AudioElixir, sharing the booth to test and further develop his own innovative product, a fully immersive '3D' ambisonic sound system. Rosenman found Jim's AirHush booth perfect for his purposes, and the two effectively share it as an office of sorts. We will post more information about Rosenman's product in the future, so stay tuned.

It took years of strenuous development and tweaking, but Jim’s hard work has come to fruition. AirHush's ISAT systems are now being used in a variety of spaces and purposes, from normal offices to warehouse startups, sound studios and industrial work-sites. The product itself is so revolutionary in concept that he can afford to wage a limited marketing campaign and rely on AirHush's one-of-the-kind personality to sell itself to clients and customers. At the moment he is satisfied with the information available online at the above-mentioned websites, and overall, Jim has nothing but good expectations for the future. The iHangar blog will continue to follow the progression of AirHush, and updates will be posted in the future.

The AirHush office display at the iHangar. It has since been moved to a different location in the building.

The AirHush office display at the iHangar. It has since been moved to a different location in the building.

 

 

Blazing a Virtual Trail: Ibrahim Kabil, Brick Simple and the future of VR

Have you been wondering what all the fuss is about Virtual Reality?  If so, the Innovation Hangar is the place to go. We have a VR specialist on-hand for free demonstrations of the HTC Vive. His name is Ibrahim Kabil, and he has an extensive background in VR software. Since his 2009 graduation from University of Texas at Austin, he has been pursuing a career in interactive design and online advertisement strategy. His current employer is Brick Simple, specifically Brick VR, and acts as its West Coast representative. Since June 2015 Ibrahim has been an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Innovation Hangar (iHangar), first working on various web applications for the Hangar's programs and events, and now working in Virtual Reality design. This is in partly to finesse his own expertise in the field, and to assist the iHangar and by extension the general public.

“I'm working on designing and developing virtual and augmented reality applications for various clients in the medical and trade show industries, as well as an HTC Vive VR experience for the Innovation Hangar to educate visitors about the history of the Palace of Fine Arts and the 1915 Worlds Fair,” he said. “I got involved in virtual reality in late 2015 after experimenting with building various applications for Innovation Hangar programs and events, such as the Solar Car Project. My background is in web development and video production, and I found that virtual reality was an innovative way to unify my visual and programming talents into a single impacting medium.”

Exciting the general public about the newest and most innovating technologies, including beta (under development) technologies is core to the iHangar's mission. Virtual Reality has been around in various stages since at least 1991, when Sega released a VR headset meant for its arcade games. It really took flight as a consumer-ready product when the startup company OculusVR released its Oculus Rift headset and related hardware/software in early March 2016. Since then the medium has been adopted by other companies, such as Valve, creator of Steam (a popular PC gaming client), and Sony, which released a headset for its own PS4 gaming console in October 2016.

Ibrahim working on his iMac at the BrickVR West Coast office.

Ibrahim working on his iMac at the BrickVR West Coast office.

Ibrahim started by teaching himself 360-degree video production using a Ricoh Theta S camera and Adobe After Effects. “Once I felt comfortable working with 360 video, I taught myself how to bring interactivity and 3D elements into my VR projects. I grew up planning for a career in web development, however I have found virtual and augmented reality to be a much more focused use of my talents.”

Thus far the process has been focused and steady. A key to this success is the public testing and hands-on feedback he can receive while developing and showcasing his project. “Since VR is such a new medium, one of the most challenging aspects is designing experiences that are intuitive for people to navigate through,” he said. “I have been lucky to be able to get lots of quality feedback from the Innovation Hangar staff and visitors, which I think will ultimately factor into creating a much stronger final product.”

That final product will be a highly-interactive historical tour of the 1915 Pan-Panama Pacific Expedition, developed with Valve's VR design programs and the HTC Vive headset as his tools. His unique outlook on professional life is rooted in a variety of philosophical inclinations—such as Lao Tzu, the writer of the Tao Te Ching. “I admire his emphasis on living a simple and balanced life. I think it's when we have our feet deeply rooted in reality that we are able to create the most meaningful work for the world.”

An HTC Vive Virtual Reality headset

An HTC Vive Virtual Reality headset

Knowledgeable guidance from VR-industry veterans has also been critical. His main mentor has been Det Ansinn, the CEO of BrickVR. “His ability to balance his strong programming/development background with his business management skills is something I strive for as an entrepreneur.”

Det Ansinn, BrickVR CEO, introducing students to virtual reality on the Oculus Rift.

Det Ansinn, BrickVR CEO, introducing students to virtual reality on the Oculus Rift.

Overall, Ibrahim is confident about the future of Brick Simple and its VR programs. In an age where technologies continue to be innovated and finessed he sees great possibilities in virtual reality, up to and including fully-immersive simulators that can support more interaction with the virtual environment. He attributes much of his quality-of-experience to the Innovation Hangar's unique working environment: “The staff and the entrepreneurial community here are very supportive and positive, often sharing resources such as TV monitors, desks and computers, as well as business and marketing advice,” he said. “Outside of the iHangar is the historic Palace of Fine Arts, which makes outdoor walks refreshing and inspiring. It feels prestigious bringing potential clients and partners here—I always get the sense I am in the presence of magnificent ambition and artistry when walking around the building, and it makes me feel a deep desire to contribute something great as well.”

Ibrahim showcases his developing VR project on the 1915 World's Fair between 2pm-5pm every Friday. Admittance to the Innovation Hangar is free to the public. 

For more information about BrickVR and its products, please visit BrickSimple's website and official Twitter account.

 

 

Innovation and childhood

Innovation and childhood

Children have a unique way of building things; sometimes they start with a vision and other times they just start. In both cases, I'm usually amazed by the result. I believe adults can learn a thing or two about innovating in the workplace by taking a lesson from childhood. Read on to learn about how one program is teaching young girls to be thinkers and doers.