Technology–personal and otherwise–that’s changing our future.

  • Socos: Hacking Education November 19, 2017
    While Over Coffee® is on hiatus through the Christmas holidays, we’re rebroadcasting some of our most popular episodes of 2017. Thank you for listening–and be sure to be with us for our coverage of CES 2018!
    Socos co-founder Dr. Vivienne Ming

    Vivienne Ming at SRK Headshot Day in San Francisco
    (Photograph courtesy of Scott R. Kline, and used with permission.)

    Can learning outcomes be predicted, just by the way students talk among themselves?  And, can both learning and life outcomes be changed by some minor daily “tweaks”?

    Yes to both questions, says neuroscientist and entrepreneur Dr. Vivienne Ming–who is also a mom.

    Vivienne and her wife Norma are the co-founders of Socos, a Bay Area educational technology startup.  And through Socos, they’re guiding parents in ways that enhance a child’s development–and make the learning process an exploration both will enjoy.

    How does this work?  Well,  Socos provides a research-based app called MuseBot, which asks parents a daily question.  Based on the parent’s answer, according to Socos’ website, MuseBot will design a daily activity for the parent and child to do together.  The process is based on a philosophy stated on Socos’ website: the goal of fostering “metalearners”actively involved in their own educational process, as opposed to simply absorbing another’s teachings in a passive manner.

    But small children aren’t the only ones benefiting from the metalearning goals.  Socos is also developing projects colleges and online universities, to maximize learning.  And while MuseBot is a commercial product, Vivienne also makes it available to low-income families, through her nonprofit organization.

    Vivienne talked about her background, discussed her experiences co-founding Socos with Norma (who is an educational expert) and shared a story of how she used the process with her own young daughter.

    On this edition of Over Coffee®, you’ll hear:
    • Vivienne’s journey towards her current career as a scientist, entrepreneur and educational pioneer;
    • How an undergraduate machine-learning project ultimately inspired her to use AI to improve the educational field;
    • The steps Vivienne and Norma took towards their current work in making a difference in students’ lives and futures;
    • How the Muse software evolved from their experience and research;
    • The philosophy behind MuseBot and the ways it’s revolutionizing education;
    • How parents can apply MuseBot to maximize a child’s learning outcomes;
    • How low-income organizations can use MuseBot–at no charge.
    • A MuseBot intervention Vivienne put to work to awaken her five-year-old daughter’s interest in science;
    • How Socos is developing MuseBot for older children and young adults;
    • What adults can do, today, to maximize their potential–and one of the biggest predictors of future success.



  • Safeguarding the Innovators November 10, 2017
    An Over Coffee® Veterans’ Day rebroadcast

    (Photo courtesy of Brent Chapman, and used with permission.)

    For Veterans’ Day weekend, Over Coffee® would like to thank our veterans and military service members, who give us the freedom to innovate.

    And one of the first people who comes to mind?  U.S. Army Captain Brent Chapman.

    Brent has made mindful innovation the focus of his career.  He is an avid maker, an information security professional and a Cyber Operations Veteran.  His military career has included serving as a research scientist at the Army Cyber Institute and, more recently, as Project Manager at the Army’s Defense Unit Experimental.   (And congratulations to him–he just started a new position in information security at Apple, according to his LinkedIn profile!)

    We met Brent at the 2016 Sensors Expo, in San Jose, where he gave a presentation on the security considerations to keep in mind, while creating disruptive technology.

    As we honor our veterans, here is our rebroadcast of our March 2017 Over Coffee® interview with Brent, about security considerations for makers and innovators.

    On this edition of Over Coffee®, you’ll hear:
    • How Brent first became a maker during his growing-up years;
    • The pitfalls he sees in the “maker mindset” that could compromise security;
    • The challenges of creating safeguards fof the Internet or other innovations in a connected world;
    • What considerations makers might want to keep in mind, when connecting to the Internet of Things;
    • The security safeguards Brent uses in his own home;
    • One of his most fun recent maker projects, for his young son;
    • Some of Brent’s favorite maker resources;
    •  Some cautionary considerations about wearables and security of data.


    MAKE Magazine

    Ars Technica



    (Would you like to know more about working with the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, with which Brent was working at the time of our interview?  Here’s the link for more information.)

    And, of course, here is Brent’s maker website, Brentmore Labs.


  • A Sense of Wonder November 3, 2017

    Dave Doody, lead engineer of the Cassini mission, with his book Deep Space Craft, in Pasadena's Central Park

    Space exploration captured Dave Doody’s imagination, early on.

    Today, as a senior engineer at Caltech/JPL, his fascination with the solar system  has only increased.

    Dave, who served as Realtime Flight Operations Lead Engineer on NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn, has now been working for NASA for three decades.   He began his career at the Jet Propulsion Lab, in Pasadena, as a member of the Voyager 2 flight team.

    Next came the Magellan mission, in the 1980s, with its exploration of Venus.  Then, in 1994, he began working on the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn.

    The Cassini spacecraft, which launched in 1997, took seven years to arrive at the ringed planet.   The mission would be a landmark one for NASA.  Among the space probe’s discoveries: evidence of an ocean beneath the crust of Saturn’s moon, Titan.

    Cassini’s “Grand Finale”, in September of 2017, resulted in unique scientific data.  The orbiter sampled particles from  the planet’s rings, mapped Saturn’s gravity fields and sent back close-up pictures during its final dives.

    In addition to his work at NASA, Dave has published two books on space flight, and one that takes a look at “odd patents”–through Shakespeare’s eyes.   He’s the lead author of NASA’s free online tutorial, “Basics of Space Flight”.  He also teaches an annual class on “Basics of Interplanetary Flight” at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design.

    At the 2017 San Gabriel Valley Pride Festival, Dave talked about his background,  his experiences at NASA, and what “arts people” can learn from NASA’s scientific exploration.

    On this edition of Over Coffee®, you’ll hear:
    • How Dave first became interested in space exploration;
    • What an “average day” was like for him, as lead engineer on Cassini;
    • Some of the most amazing findings from the Cassini spacecraft, during its 13 years of orbiting Saturn;
    • Dave’s “dream machine” he’d like to design, as a spacecraft engineer;
    • What Dave and his team saw during the final days of the Cassini orbiter;
    • What’s next, for him;
    • His advice to anyone else who might like to work for NASA;
    • How Dave first began teaching his class at the Art Center;
    • And, some of the mistakes which “arts people”–such as filmmakers–commonly make when depicting space flight!
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