According to ExplorTech Executive Director Gary E. Sullivan, Ed.D.,
“’Necessity [purpose] is the mother of invention.’ An invention is an idea, that’s all. But an idea can be driven by vision, and vision, in turn, can be driven by hope. This is the beauty of combining the hope of an educator with the curiosity and purpose of an inventor. It is my hope that our remarkable students will use 21st-century innovation to save us so that the same technology doesn’t destroy us.
“Vision is ‘the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom.’ I’d like to think that my vision for ExplorTech’s future is wise and forward-thinking, but the truth is it is just as much informed by successes and failures experienced since we hosted our first STEM camp in 2015, with just eight students. An intern suggested the name ‘ExplorTech’ because we explore 21st-century technologies that represent our awesome ability to create. We combine mentorship and project-based learning to provide life-changing opportunities for our students, many of whom suffer the isolating effects of rural life, race, gender inequality, gender identity, or emotional stress, and simply need to experience a little success. It is said that inventors are seen as successful even when their product is not commercially successful. We study advanced subjects like AI, but our students are not all academic superstars, and some feel inferior to their peers. The invention process has an uncanny equalizing effect; anyone can invent!
“But focusing on IP and invention was an unfulfilled promise until I began teaching public high school. High school students can produce ideas that rival those I heard daily during the pioneer days of personal computing. My classes began to resemble early R&D companies like Tandy Corporation, developer of one of the earliest personal computers, the TRS-80. We couldn’t recruit enough trained developers, so we hired hobbyists, yet our department was a creative oasis! When I left industry two decades later I still worked with many of these same ‘untrained’ engineers, their names listed alongside mine on US patents.
“Our students begin our post-pandemic era competing in the final round of the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam program. The successful program’s design is the embodiment of what I had come to visualize for ExplorTech’s future, combining entrepreneurship, engineering, and invention into a program designed to produce truly professional quality work. This is our future! With your help, we will expand to reach students in other school districts, including our small rural districts and a Fort Worth ISD charter school we served through 2019. We’ll continue our partnership with BRIT. We’ll support STEM education for girls through SWENext and Aspirations in IT. We’ll provide everything from computers and software to school clothes, and pay for online career training in AI. And we’d love to form a North Texas regional InvenTeam combining rural school districts too small to form such a team on their own. Thank you for your generous support!”
* Graphic/photo provided by Gary E. Sullivan
In 12 years, Communities Foundation of Texas’ North Texas Giving Day has pumped more than $375 million into the North Texas community. In 2020, more than $58.8 million was raised through more than 106,000 donors benefiting over 3,200 area nonprofits.