DAY THREE – JULY 11
There was no room at the MJ-inspired (scented?) Steam Train Hotel where we’d booked in Antonito, so we stayed on the other side of the tracks (literally) at the Narrow Gauge Hotel. The manager explained as we were checking in that author James Michener, a family friend in Pennsylvania, had inspired her dad to move the family to Colorado when she was a teenager. After Tom (who was dressed in American flag-themed gear as a deterrent to drivers antipathetic to cyclists) did his morning 20-mile bike ride, and Ali and I hiked five miles, we drove through stunningly beautiful rock formations to Gunnison for a scrumptious BBQ lunch buffet at the Gunnison County Courthouse.
Local political leaders joined us from Crested Butte. Introductions around the table underscored the hunger for accessible K12 STEM/STEAM programs. The mayor of Crested Butte noted that his 14-year-old daughter was headed to Loyola (Chicago) for a program. Colorado State Representative Barbara McLachlan explained that tax and/or other incentive programs are needed to ensure Western Slope communities and others are not left further behind. There needs to be growth and options for young people at the geographical “edges” and not just along the front range. These areas are ripe for production, not just tourism. Western State Colorado University (WSCU) is partnering with CU/Boulder to leverage resources, but high school teachers and other trusted advisors need more information (perhaps a tool like YouScience?) about opportunities. County Commissioner County Commissioner Phil Chamberland suggested participation in the Science Olympiad to spark youth curiosity. Durango high school students are perennial finalists in the International Aerospace Design Competition. Led by a non-science faculty member, their complaint about the dearth of aerospace-related opportunities for young people outside the front range led to internship programs and summer camps. Maybe there is a way to have it all without bad traffic!
The ICELab on the WSCU campus integrates visual treats (old climbing gym wall, locally manufactured wood and metal furniture, abundant natural light and mountain views) and innovation resources (SBDC consulting, university labs, start-up office space, access to angel investors via Gunnison River Partners). The facility is open 24/7 to participants/members with access control enabled using a system developed by Montrose-based Proximity Space (great solution for AirBnB hosts and commissary kitchens, methinks). The heightened intellectual energy is palpable. One ICELab student resident, Tyligent, has realized the “innovation, creativity, entrepreneurialism” objective (the MIT version is “innovation, computation, expression”) by launching a 3D printing business. Another participant is Napping Bunny, a company focused on providing napping pods for large metropolitan airport concourses. (Frequent flyer-napper program needed here!) Participants benefit from public practice of “chair lift pitches” (much cooler than an elevator pitch—superior view).
Our last stop of the day answered a serious personal dilemma: How can I enjoy a boulder backyard view without leaving the affordable comfort—and convenience of grandkids living just three blocks away—of my Park Hill (Denver) home? A: Bring the boulders home. ID Sculpture manufactures magical playgrounds and climbing spaces for public and private installations internationally and locally. Less magical (for this arachnophobe) was the mental image of giant spider made for a Dubai client. (Another local international trade connection is Montanya Distillers, based in Crested Butte: the #1 rum in Italy!) Meanwhile, IDS’s playground project in Denver was co-designed by children in the Montbello neighborhood. We watched a paint-spattered crew of five rock artists apply finishing touches to a large rock formation—one of 37 constructions underway in the under-construction (expansion) production space that we toured. IDS is also an IPEMA-certified test facility. Climb on!
The Twisted Fork in downtown Gunnison provided a relaxed atmosphere, hightop table for 12, and amazing Asian-fusion treats like fried Brussels sprouts and chicken tikka masala after our closing meeting back at the courthouse. Then back to the lobby at the Tomichi Village Inn where Tom beat Ali and me soundly at Scrabble. I still think we could have taken him had we used the hardcover Merriam-Webster dictionary I’d brought. Digitally based “Words With Friends” is way too permissive, IMHO.
Day Three Take-Aways
- How should programs to enact broadband and other economic development legislation be designed to give extra points for rural/urban partnerships so that funding is more effectively distributed around the state? Funding options are more abundant in the front range and a perception of “the rich get richer” exists when more affordable funding is allocated to population centers.
- How do we identify and market innovation zones to create awareness about opportunities outside of known “hot spots” and develop workforce programs that close the skilled worker gap?
- Are we using the right metrics for job growth? It seems as though we should be using percentage growth and looking at the quality of those jobs rather than just positions filled.
- How can we better anticipate the unintended consequences of initiatives? For example, the designation of “green zones” for marijuana growing has led to rapidly appreciating (opportunistic?) costs for real estate to the detriment of manufacturers in a less cash-rich industry sector. Are there guidelines for optimal land use at the local level? (One example came from ID Sculpture in Gunnison.)
- The significance of Colorado-based infrastructure related to the Constitution-prescribed “domestic tranquility” and “common defense” is stunning. Consider the constellation of GPS satellites, “the world’s only global utility,” predominantly ground controlled from Schriever Air Force base for both civilian and military uses. It is a global utility on which we will rely increasingly for a robust and reliable Internet of Things (IoT) that also guides our travel through inner and outer space. How will we protect that utility and decouple it from political and profiteering vagaries? Perhaps we can learn by studying what went awry as the ARPANet/NSFNet Internet—initially designed as a trusted research and communications utility—evolved.
Day Three Video Wrap
Barbarous Neologistic (and other) Jargon
IPEMA = International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association. IPEMA is a US-based organization that promotes safe play and a product certification program for public play equipment and surfacing materials.
IoT = Internet of things. IoT is “a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.” With its exponential growth (the internet of everything is a related term), IoT represents a variety of challenges, including cyber security, and is characterized at times as a giant robot we don’t know how to fix https://www.zdnet.com/article/what-is-the-internet-of-things-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-iot-right-now/>. The system’s sheer size is stunning: global spending on IoT in 2018 has been estimated by IDC as $772.5 billion with a deployed base of 20.4 billion devices by 2020, according to Gartner.