Updated: Apr 6
During NOMCON earlier this month, former MythBusters co-host Adam Savage welcomed Hamilton County students to share where they derive their creativity for inventing and which teachers have inspired them along the way.
Students Mikayla Sanders, Kaitlyn Melda, and recent high school graduates Hayle Mack and Diego Lourenco, all participated in the youth maker panel discussion with Savage, providing insight into how they got their start inventing and how their schools and teachers shaped their journey.
Below, we've compiled a Q&A summary from this community event, hosted at the downtown Chattanooga Library, to give you a glimpse of each student's creative experience.
AS: When did you start creating and which teachers inspired you?
MS: Sanders, a sixth grade student who started creating at a young age, shared that her mother has been an inspirational teacher and motivator for her.
KM: Melda gave thanks to her VW eLab educator at Normal Park, Grant Knowles. "Mr. Knowles was encouraging. For projects, he gives you all the control and encourages you to keep trying."
HM: Mack also acknowledged her VW eLab teacher at The Howard School, Japho Hardin. "Mr. Hardin has been an inspiration. He told us that if you want to do something, you can do it. He pushed me to keep trying."
DL: Lourenco gave credit to CSAS VW eLab educator, Kristin Burrus. "I contribute a lot to Ms. Burrus and the VW eLab for my success. We had the opportunity to grow together and work together to accomplish tasks and projects."
AS: What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
DL: Lourenco shared that his senior project was one of the biggest challenges he's had, but a key takeaway he learned was that "your haters are your biggest motivators”.
HM: "When we started working in the VW eLab, I was the only girl in the class but was always trying to put myself forward. I just kept pushing and pushing myself. Being the only girl really inspired me to break that mold."
MS: "My challenge would be my own self esteem. My mom’s friends and church family would encourage me and say, 'you can do this'."
AS: Have you experienced collaborations where someone else’s view changed your mind?
MS: "Yes, when working with my two friends. We would disagree on ideas. When we found an idea that worked well, working with them showed me a lot of different ideas from a bird’s-eye view."
KM: "I learned not to get upset if people said my idea wouldn’t work. When I started realizing other people have great ideas, we started collaborating a lot better."
DL: "During an independent study in our VW eLab, my group and I designed spelling bee trophies. We had the same goal in mind but different ways to do it, and we designed different versions. We ended up mixing our ideas together for a great outcome."
AS: Has there been a time when making something shifted your perspective?
DL: "Sometimes we’re so dependent on our phones, but that can actually put us two steps back."
HM: "My perfection on drawing taught me to slow it down. What you love should just come naturally."
KM: "When we first opened our student-run business, the Siskin Rehab Center patient we worked with wanted to eat with her hand, and we built her a specialized utensil so that she could."
MS: "For girls with low self-esteem, telling them they're worth it. We’re not stereotypes. We’re beautiful and we’re loved."
AS: Do you have any advice for the educators in the room for what worked and didn’t work for you in school?
MS: "Educators should know not all of us learn with paper and pen. We can learn a variety of different ways, using numbers, music and kinetic energy."
KM: "I learn best if I’m making things and reiterating them. Give students the power to take what they’ve been taught, put them in a project and be a guide toward their end goal."
HM: "A lot of people forget that life is happening now, and a lot of us have trouble focusing. The teachers who take the time to get to know you makes such a difference. Teachers need to know it’s these personal experiences that shape us."
DL: "Learn how to communicate in simpler terms. Never let a student give up. Always encourage them to keep going and that maybe they can take a different path to accomplish their goal."
"What we really mean by failure is iteration. The process of making anything is a process of iteration. The only failure is not finishing" - Adam Savage
AS: Describe iteration and how it showed up in your projects:
KM: For the Siskin patients, "we zone in on their personal needs and what they want us to make. We’d go through it at least five or six times before they said it would work. There’s no extent to how good something can get, because there’s always something you can add."
HM: "For our solar powered go-cart we created, every problem that could come up came up. I was so frustrated. But I pushed through."
DL: "You have to fail for it to be a good project. I want to see all the struggles I went through in a project."
Question from students for Savage: When did you start making things?
AS: "My father was a painter. I was interested in painting as a solitary exercise, so I was invited into that field. Many of the teachers I connected with growing up were art teachers, and they encouraged me. It felt good to also receive that motivation from outside my family."
At the end of their discussion, Savage told the students, "You all are wonderfully articulate about your history and advice, and I am really inspired by all four of you."
Thanks to each student for sharing your creative journey with the Chattanooga community and audience of inventors. We look forward to see how your innovative ideas will continue to grow and what you will invent in the future!
Read Chattanooga Times Free Press coverage of this event here.