Innovation Academy, formerly Table Top Inventing, is dedicated to developing innovators on purpose. There is so much potential in every human being, and we want to liberate that potential. With the challenges facing us locally, nationally, and globally, we can’t afford to lightly disregard the potential hidden inside every student. Instead we need to open the mind, spark the curiosity, and set fire to the imagination!
The Innovation Academy approach is to create a powerful learning environment, provide students state-of-the-art tools, and step to the side while students explore and learn through projects. Inquiry-driven, project-based learning puts students squarely in charge of their own education by providing an environment where growth naturally occurs through the process of “hard fun”. Working alongside others with all their senses and mind fully engaged, students learn to solve challenging problems. To see a student who learned how to learn check out this blog Debby wrote about the subject. With an environment rich in possibilities and inspiration students have the raw materials to become amazing!
We believe what Socrates said, “I cannot teach anyone anything. I can only make them think.” Thinking is a very personal activity done for very personal reasons, but most education focuses on pushing knowledge at students rather than encouraging students to pull knowledge in and turn it into wisdom. None of us can reach our hands into the brain of a student and help them rewire neurons. Yet on the other hand, environments can be created where we encourage exploration, tinkering, and personal thoughts without the fear of criticism or stigma of failure. In fact around here, we don’t really believe in failure. Failure is simply the first step to something amazing!
Productive “failure” is the main ingredient in innovation.
Hi, my name is Steve and I love innovation! The things I make are sometimes useful and sometimes playful. I can’t imagine a life without being able to create things. Six years ago, I started to use a cool new technology called “3D printing”. I became so excited about this platform for making things that I just had to help other people learn how to use it too! So I did what any self-respecting American would do, I decided to ask my wife Debby to help me start a business so we could support our habit of helping others move from consuming to creating.
I’ve actually been using 3D design software, physical computing, and computer programming for about 15 years. I never used 3D design alone to make a living, but whenever I had a project that needed a 3D model, I would go to the 3D CAD (Computer Aided Drawing) software and build something. As an innovator and a research scientist — the PhD in physics helps with my crazier ideas — I have the quintessential “absent-minded professor” thing going on, and fortunately for me, Debby brings a strong organization and social intuition to our business. Just as I’ve been an innovator all my life, my wife has been an educator all her life. In fact (don’t tell her I actually posted this), she used to line up her stuffed animals on the bed and have “class”! She’s added a few more credentials to those skills over the years, including a Master’s in Educational Technology Leadership. To be honest, she’s the most amazing teacher of technology I know! Here are the “official” LinkedIn pages with our academic backgrounds, in case you were wondering: [Debby] [Steve]
We keep ourselves busy by chasing around our 8 kids (well, actually most of them don’t require much chasing anymore with 2 abroad, several cautiously exploring independence, and 1 who has his own family). We enjoy making things together with our family and working on projects. We have a budding artist, one exploring law, a couple of young engineers, a socialite, an entrepreneur, a medical scientist, and one still early in the exploration process. Our little ranch includes 5 dogs, 5 cats, a 70-year-old tortoise, and squirrels that won’t go away (previously, 10 goats and 20 chickens too!). We enjoy our technology as well as camping, hiking, road trips, and hanging out with our friends. We think you’re going to have a great time getting to know us and exploring your own innovative side.
Curiously, Innovation Academy started more as a company to get 3D printing into schools, but before 3D printing Steve navigated through other ideas like starting a green energy company and then a medical technology company (getting a couple patents along the way). The photo here is an actual photo of Steve at the top of our 80 foot wind turbine acquired along the way. However, none of the first ideas seemed to stick.
Then the magic happened!
Steve and Debby decided to hold a local summer day camp in Hesperia, CA, in 2013. The first camp was called the “Super Secret Science Security Systems (5S)” camp. We still stay in touch with those first students, and they have been tech staff at camp, outside experts, and some still come back every year for camp! That first year, our company went by the name Windy Ridge Innovation (wri3d.com). During that camp, Steve got so hooked on the educational process, tech learning, and student excitement that he knew he had to create more experiences like that first camp.
The following year, 2014, we took the camp experience on the road for the first time putting on camp experiences in Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina (our longest running camp location is still in Murphy, NC, at The Learning Center! Charter School). We upgraded the summer camp name to “Inventor’s Bootcamp” and started a tradition of putting on camps in locations around the country–taking summer camp on the road.
In 2014, we also got a new name. Through the efforts of friends and customers, we threw all kinds of new names against the wall, and one seemed to stick:
Table Top Inventing.
We kept that name for a few years because it just seemed to describe us better than the previous name (WRI3D). So we updated our image and our website and actually bought a domain from another tech guy (ttinvent.com). Many of our friends still call us “Table Top Inventing” because that’s how they came to know us.
By the end of 2016, we had served over 1000 students, teachers, and parents through our summer camps, teacher professional development, and school district events! We were starting to really find our stride with camp and to offer a very unique, eye-opening experience for teens looking to become innovators. One of the young ladies at camp that year didn’t even know she liked coding before camp, and now she is well on her way to a technical degree with classes in embedded processors and digital logic! 2016 also ushered in the beginning of our startup challenge and a new name for summer camp “Engineering Camp” (which turned out to be a poor choice unfortunately).
The Innovation Academy Startup Challenge started as “Resonance Innovation Fellowship” and students from that year still call it “RIF”. The one-year startup challenge grew quickly into our pinnacle program in which students practice tech skills, soft skills, and the grit needed to pull off a long-term project. We can’t say much about their project, called Perfit, but they are working to make serious waves in the clothing industry.
The 2017 year brought many excellent new changes to our company. We decided to rename “Resonance Innovation Fellowship” to “Innovation Academy”. The students loved the name, but we loved it even more. It fit so well, we decided to retire the name “Table Top Inventing” in 2018 in favor of “Innovation Academy” with the webnames DevelopingInnovators.com and DevInnovators.com.
We also connected with local home school charters (Inspire, Sky Mountain, Sage Oak, Summit Academy, Valiant Preparatory, Excel Academy, iLead, Compass Charter Schools, and Gorman Learning Center) to offer tech and art based classes. We also learned that the word “engineering” had some negative connotations for the young ladies in our audience, and our initial data in 2018 indicate a strong return of the ladies to “Innovation Tech Camp”–close to 40%!
We are looking forward to many more years of Innovation Tech Camp (summer day camp), the Curious Kids Tech Series (weekly activities), Startup Challenge (10 month mentoring), professional development seminars for educators, and community events. As the next few years roll in, look for more great programs, camps in your area, and opportunities to join the Innovation Academy Startup Challenge. We want to see you fully develop your innovation skills and change the world!
As we grow, ONE THING will NEVER CHANGE. Names may change, classes may change, and approaches many change, but…
We will always work hard to Develop Innovators on Purpose and help them change and improve their world.
If you read this and would still like to know more about what we do here, click here to find out More About what we do and what we’ve done.