An Adult Science Fair

Note: This post is cross-posted from Mike Dillon’s personal blog.

I’m in the 5th grade.

For weeks, I’ve been working on paper mache model of a volcano. With my father’s assistance I discover that a mixture of baking soda and vinegar produces a simulated volcanic eruption. Sweet! I just know that I am going to dazzle everyone at the Edison Elementary School (Alameda, California) science fair and grab first prize. Thinking about it causes me to tremble with excitement as I meticulously paint my volcano and add finishing touches like bits of moss and dirt to heighten the realistic effect.

On the appointed day, I arrive with eager anticipation and proudly place my volcano in its designated spot and set up the cardboard backdrop explaining the principles of volcanology. Then I stand by and wait for the crowds to assemble and marvel at my work.

But, they don’t.

Instead they are huddled around Frank Rodgers’ project which has something to do with the effect of zero gravity on plankton and Jennifer Taylor’s working demonstration of water desalination plant. What the heck is “desalination”?

Looking with embarrassment at my volcano, I made the decision on the spot – I was not cut out for science or engineering.

This week, I renewed my deep appreciation for people who followed those career paths when I attended the Adobe Technology Summit. This is an annual internal company event where members of our engineering community meet in person to share information about current and future products and technology.

I love attending these types of events as they force you to pull yourself up from the day-to-day and take a look at the what’s coming over the technology horizon. For example, are you ready for 3D printing? How about using your fingers as simulated paint brushes to create beautiful art on a tablet computer? Or taking a photograph with your mobile device and having it create a color palette for use with any creative project? What if you could push a key on your computer and bring into focus a blurry digital photograph that you snapped at a friend’s birthday party?

At each session I saw mind-blowing advances like these in the way people will express themselves creatively in the digital world to come (or, will be able to express themselves creatively – sooner than we think).

It’s way more fun than paper mache volcanoes.