Larry Bock - Celebrating Science & Engineering
Mr. Larry Bock is the Founder of Nanosys Inc. He is a General Partner of CW Ventures, a $100M life sciences venture capital fund, and a Special Limited Partner to Lux Capital a $100M nanotechnology-focused venture capital fund. He is a Member of the Board of Directors of FEI Corporation (NASDAQ: FEIC), the leading supplier of tools for nanotechnology research. He has found and/or grown about 4 dozen companies. He is the inspiration behind the most awaited USA Science and Engineering Festival 2010. Adored with awards in entrepreneurship and innovation, he has passion for more. We are proud & honored to have Mr. Larry Bock on CE to talk about his awesome work as the Executive Director in the upcoming US Festival.
Have a look -
CE: Sir, you are the inspiration behind USA Science & Engineering Festival 2010 - the largest celebration of science & engineering in the U.S. Could you tell us about this festival?
Mr. Bock: Certainly. The Festival focuses on meeting a critical need in America: motivating and invigorating the next generation of young innovators about science and engineering, and at the same time, expanding the public's appreciation and understanding of science and technology.
Building upon the success and lessons learned from the prototype Festival event we held last year in San Diego, California, the inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival www.usasciencefestival.org is the nation’s first major celebration of science and technology of its kind. The event takes place across the country this October 10-24, culminating in a massive Expo on the National Mall in Washington, DC on Oct 23-24.
The Festival promises to be the ultimate multi-cultural, multi-generational and multi-disciplinary celebration of science in the United States – bringing together world-class scientists, engineers, biotech entrepreneurs and Nobel Laureates with students, teachers, parents and communities.
It involves more than 750 leading science and engineering organizations; more than 1,500 hands-on Expo activities, 75 stage shows, and much more -- all expected to attract more than half a million visitors and participants, nationwide.
CE: What are your roles & responsibilities as the executive director of the event?
Mr. Bock: This project is my special passion, so I enjoy being the glue that helps hold everything together, which includes setting the vision and “big picture” for the event, securing funding, and coordinating and promoting the myriad activities planned for the Festival and Expo. Working with our small and efficient staff, my day-to-day duties center on recruiting collaborators and sponsors, as well as recruiting our many science and engineering presenters and exhibitors.
My experience and success as a biotech start up entrepreneur not only helped me initiate a project like this, but also serves me well in carrying out my many duties as executive director for the Festival.
CE: How did the idea of this festival originate?
Mr. Bock: During a trip overseas with my family several years ago I became fascinated with the international science festivals taking place in such countries as Great Britain, Germany, Italy and parts of Asia.
These events are very popular there and are similar in scope to major art, music and film festivals that we have in the U.S. What’s exciting is that the science festivals abroad are devoted specifically to celebrate all aspects of science through inspiring lectures, hands-on activities and exhibits and contests, in addition to integrating music, art, film, comedy and other mediums into science topics.
I was really impressed with the power and potential of these events to inspire students and others about science in fun, creative and exciting ways. Such an approach, I thought, could be a sure-fire way to ignite the interest of U.S. students and the public in the power and potential of technology.
CE: What are the core objectives of this festival?
Mr. Bock: This event is about inspiring and motivating the next generation of innovators through science and engineering, while also educating teachers, parents and the general public about the exciting cutting-edge advances taking place in technology.
There is a serious confluence of events (a perfect storm, if you will) occurring these days which makes the effort of reinvigorating the interest of Americans in science and engineering paramount. First, not enough Americans are going into these fields for various reasons, which seriously impacts how technologically innovative and competitive we will be tomorrow in the global market.
In addition, because of H-1B visa issues, we are not retaining foreign nationals in science and engineering in the U.S. like we once did. What’s more, many such foreign professionals (although they may have been educated at our universities) are returning to their homeland to pursue better opportunities there.
If this trend continues, we will have outsourced innovation. All of these factors indicate that America’s once preeminent position as the leading research center is seriously threatened.
Also important -- if we are to attract more young Americans to science and engineering, we must change the perception that many students and the public have of these fields as being boring, nerdy and White-male-only. This will only occur by exposing our kids to meaningful, exciting face-to-face interaction with diverse professionals in these fields.
In a society that puts more priority on celebrating the latest celebrities in rock, sports and cinema –rather than, say, spotlighting the important achievements of scientists and engineers in meaningful ways – it is little wonder that our kids well do not have heroes and role models in technology to look up to and emulate.
CE: Are there any events for engineering students and engineering professionals?
Mr. Bock: First, we are proud that the field of engineering will be well represented in Festival events thanks to the wide array of participants from the public and private sectors, including:
--More than 150 Professional Science & Engineering Societies (such as the National Academy of Engineering, IEEE, Society of Hispanic Engineers, and the National Society of Black Engineers);
--More than 100 universities, colleges and research institutions (including MIT, Harvard, U.S. Naval Academy, Princeton, and University of California San Diego);
-- More than 75 government agencies and federal laboratories (including NASA, DARPA, Office of Naval Research, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Department of Energy and Fermi Accelerator Facility);
-- More than 50 high technology and life science companies (including Lockheed Martin, Intel, JnJ, Motorola, CISCO, Northrop Grumman, and Hitachi).
Here is just a sampling of exciting engineering presentations taking place at the Expo that may be of interest:
Johns Hopkins University’s Institute for NanoBio Technology demonstrating how materials and objects are assembled at the nano scale. Engineers from the Army Research Laboratory will show how it is solving some the nation’s biggest challenges in computational information services, sensors, and vehicle and weapons technology. Aeronautical engineers from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics will show how some of the world’s most high-tech aircraft are designed.
And researchers from Harvard’s Microrobotics Lab will explain how engineers and scientists from many different areas – including biology, mathematics, and electrical and mechanical engineering -- work together to build tiny robots that fit in the palm of the hand
CE: How will the festival be helpful in infusing a positive spirit about Science among students?
Mr. Bock: We will be using several highly successful approaches (which were first introduced in the Inaugural San Diego Science Festival) to excite and motivate students, including:
--Our Nifty Fifty Program in which we select leading scientists, engineers and high tech and life sciences entrepreneurs to go out to K-12 schools to talk about their work, the challenges and stumbling blocks they faced in their careers, how advances and principles in science and engineering can be applied to everyday life, and what students should be doing now if they are interested in entering such fields. More than 100 Nifty Fifty presenters (representing gender and ethnic background diversity) are signed up this year. Speakers are selected based on their past success in speaking to and motivating young students, and for the creative and meaningful hands-on interaction and visuals they can lend to their talks.
--Our Lunch With a Laureate sessions which bring Nobel scientists to public venues to speak informally over brownbag lunches about their work, including the honor of having received a Nobel Prize in their field. Twenty-five Nobel Laureates are participating.
Both the Nifty Fifty and Lunch With a Laureate approaches serve to demystify and humanize scientists and their work for students and the public – showing that many of these noted innovators came from the same childhood background as the average child, and faced the same challenges, fears and concerns that all of us face as we grow up and enter our chosen fields.
--Interactive, hands-on Expo exhibits and stage shows – designed to educate as well as enthrall – are arranged under creative, timely themes that convey how science and engineering play an integral part of everyday life –from music and sports to sports and health.
Such exhibits as “Science Rappers,” “The Physics of Skateboarding,” and “The Science of First Responders” are sure to get across to students just how cool technology is, in addition to presentations demonstrating how scientists are using hip hop music to teach math, and the important part science played in uncovering historic works of art.
CE: You have founded and invested in many successful companies. What is your advise to budding entrepreneurs?
Mr. Bock: These days, here is what I like to tell all up-and-coming start up entrepreneurs: Despite the bad economy, this is an ideal time to get involved in start ups. Looking back on when I entered the biotech start up field in the early 1990s (a period often known as the nuclear winter of life sciences), companies that started then were often able to weather the storm during such tough economic times. This tested their determination, efficiency and staying power which, in turn, prepared them to blossom and position themselves as leaders when the economy turned around.
CE: What is your message to CEans aka Crazy Engineers?
Mr. Bock: Stay “crazy,” hungry, creative and prepared.