Good morning. It’s Monday, December 19, 2011, and this your first early morning briefing.
Answering a few of our questions this week is Nate Ball, TV host, inventor, entrepreneur, athlete, and musician and an engineer. In addition to hosting the PBS series Design Squad from by WGBH, which he continues to be involved with, Ball is actively involved with a range of youth-targeted programs including National Engineers Week Foundation and Future City Competition, which are designed to get kids/tweens/teens interested in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines and choosing a career in those fields. Ball, who I might add is only in his late 20s, began building things as a young kid, holds two degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT, and has worked on a number of breakthrough scientific efforts, including a needle-free vaccine delivery device, as well as co-founding a company, Atlas Devices, and co-inventing a powered rope ascender (think Batman), among other inventions. Ball’s other interests include beatboxing, jazz piano, and parkour; oh and he’s a pole-vaulter too. Raise your hand if you think you would have been a much better science/math student had he been around to get us jazzed about the subject when you were a kid. Yeah, me too though I doubt I would have been a better pole-vaulter.
When and why did you get interested in combining your expertise in engineering with getting kids/tweens/teens interested in the field and learning to create and problem solve?
I’ve always found myself really excited to share things I love with other people. It started young, like when I was four years old and would immediately greet guests at our house with “want to see me breakdance?!” And engineering is at the top of my list to help get others excited about – kids and adults alike, in fact. I began to get really passionate about sharing my love of engineering at the beginning of my involvement with Design Squad in 2003, when I was sophomore in mechanical engineering. It was the same time I realized that I could do what I loved most – building cool stuff – as a profession! And that’s what I wanted to share. Creating and problem solving for me are a way of life, and that’s what makes engineering as a career feel like play. When you help younger students make that connection too, you’re hooked.
How did you get involved with WGBH and Design Squad?
When I was a sophomore at MIT in 2003, WGBH came to a design class of mine, asking if my section could help brainstorm ideas for what would be cool to do on a kid’s TV show about engineering. I had grown up building a lot of projects like kayaks, hovercraft, catapults, and even a Tesla coil, and my ideas resonated with their mission to show what exciting and practical places STEM education can lead to.
Can you describe how the Design Squad series works?
It’s included a few iterations now, but my favorite was the raw, fast-paced reality show format. Each week two teams of teenagers received an engineering challenge from a client, and they had to build a real, functional solution in only two days! We had everything from machines that rapidly cooked and flipped pancakes at the touch of a button to soccer ball launching machines that were tested on the field with a real MLS team. At the end, the winning contestant got a $10,000 scholarship.
Can you tell us about the content you are working for the show’s website and when it will roll out?
I’m pretty excited about the videos I’m helping to create. My part of the new website content will be short videos that feature really cool little engineering tidbits, tips, and mini-projects. What I love highlighting in this format is how empowering an engineering education can be. You just think about the world differently, and I want to show what exciting things you can build, think about, and solve problems around just with some basic concepts from where the STEM education hits the road.
In addition to Design Squad you are very involved in The National Engineers Week and its Future City Competition. What is the best way to encourage kids/tweens/teens to get interested and excited about engineering?
I think it’s by helping facilitate experiences for them that exemplify what engineering is all about. Putting them in teams where they get to use their own skills and knowledge to solve problems that they care about is about the best thing I can imagine! When you begin to see how your own skills and understanding enable you to become a capable problem solver, you begin to imagine entirely new ways you can have an effect on the world around you, and that’s extremely empowering and self-reinforcing.
Tell us about the Future City Competition and why you are involved.
The Future City Competition does all the things I just mentioned that build students’ interest in engineering, and they do it so well in a competitive format. When you get all these high energy creative kids together, sharing ideas and seeing each other’s teamwork, it’s a great event. And I’m so impressed with the breadth of challenges they have to face in the designs of their cities of the future. It’s a real full-package design problem.
Do you ever talk to students about what your interest in beatboxing, parkour and jazz?
Yes, I absolutely talk about my interests with kids, including the beatboxing, parkour, and jazz, and even pole vaulting. All of these things include aspects of engineering that I love – creativity, working within interesting sets of constraints, and finding and pushing the limits. I like finding out what hobbies students are excited about, and then discovering with them areas where engineering overlaps.
We continue to read that American kids are falling behind in the STEM areas. Is that true?
Yes, as I understand it as well. At least I read the same reports. It’s certainly discouraging, but whenever I connect directly with students, I feel strong affirmation that there’s incredible passion and potential all over the place. The kids out there are sharp – just watch them solve a hands-on problem that they’re interested in. I’m impressed all the time!
What is the best moment when you are working with a kid or group of kids on a project?
One of my favorite things was actually just something that I overheard a young boy discussing with his dad at an event. I’m guessing he was about seven years old, and I didn’t even know what they were talking about, but the dad asked “Do you think that would be possible?” and the boy answered “Maybe, but you’d need a completely different set of materials.” I was so impressed! He clearly had and understanding of what the proposed idea would need to perform, and he also understood the limitations of whatever materials were in question to begin with, and he knew it wouldn’t work. That’s some pretty advanced thinking in my opinion, especially for somebody so young. I love it when stuff like that happens.
You have invented some super cool things (that’s technical language, of course) and hold a number of patents. when did your interest in engineering begin?
Thanks! I’ll put “engineering” in quotes, because I didn’t really know that what I loved to do was related to engineering until I was in college. I’ve always loved making things, being creative, and solving problems. And like countless other kids, I’ve been doing it since I was really young. I started with blocks (how can I make this structure not fall down?) moved to Legos, built forts, and used my imagination all the time. So being creative and solving problems really feels more like a way of life to me, and engineering is the profession I get to do where those activities can make me a good living!
Can you tell us about your kitchen experiment gone wrong?
The “rocket fuel incident…” oh yes. In high school I read the book October Sky, and made the connection that the “rocket boys” featured in the book were mixing up concoctions for their rocket fuel that I also knew how to make based on what I’d been learning in advanced chemistry class. Cool! Now there’s some STEM-application opportunities for you. I designed an experiment where I could test the potency of those mixtures against the ones you could buy at the store, and set to work mixing up some of the ingredients over the stove. As you can imagine, it’s not a perfect process, and some of it… and then suddenly a lot of it… caught fire. And the whole thing about rocket fuel is that it contains its own oxidizer bound up with the combustible part, so a fire extinguisher designed to deprive a fire of oxygen from the air doesn’t do anything! It eventually burned itself out, along with a good portion of the family kitchen. Whoops.
What exactly did your parents and other family members say to you afterwards? Did the police or fire department want to have a word with you?
My parents were incredible. They showed their true colors in their unfailing dedication to hands-on education in that they never raised a voice, and simply said, “well, we were going to remodel either the kitchen or the bathroom. And it’s clearly going to be the kitchen!”
And I did have a visit from the fire department. Our longtime neighbor from two doors down was actually the fire chief, and I suspect that after having watched me grow up building all kinds of crazy contraptions, he was kind of expecting something like this to happen. He calmly turned on the lights to his fire chief’s vehicle still parked in his driveway, and walked up to our house shaking his head and smiling as I ran out of the smoking house yelling “it’s out! It’s all under control!” And then began the remodel with me assisting my dad. I learned a lot during that process too, but that’s a story for another time.
Warner Bros. Consumer Products and The LEGO Group enter into a multi-year licensing deal granting LEGO the exclusive rights to develop construction sets based on The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the two movies based on The Hobbit, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (releasing December 14, 2012) and The Hobbit: There and Back Again (releasing December 13, 2013). LEGO The Lord of the Rings construction sets are slated to rollout globally beginning in June 2012 in the US, with LEGO The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to follow later in the year.
Zinkia enters into a deal with Microsoft and Nokia to allow Windows Phone users in Spain to access various apps based on its Pocoyo property. Over the next few days the Pocoyo TV and Pocoyize apps will be available on Windows Phone devices, after being available on other mobile platforms with 1.5 million downloads in a little less than a year.
Marvel Entertainment signs a licensing agreement with sunglass maker Maui Jim for a new collection of sunglasses based on the upcoming movie The Amazing Spider-Man, which Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures are set to release on July 3, 2012. The Amazing Spider-Man sunglass collection, for adults, will be sold exclusively in North America at Sunglass Hut and internationally at authorized Maui Jim retailers beginning in July 2012. Maui Jim joins a roster of top-tier licensees assembled by Marvel. Opportunities with licensees across all core categories to build comprehensive licensing and merchandising programs are available, as well as innovative retail and co-branded programs.
Radio Disney will celebrate the New Year with its annual family-targeted Noon Year’s Eve events, on December 31, 2011, in 19 different markets nationwide. Hosted by Radio Disney’s local stations, the Noon Year’s Eve events will feature the best songs of the year from Radio Disney’s Top 50 of 2011, as well as various activities. Radio Disney will air its five-hour Top 50 of 2011, which also features celebrity interviews, on Saturday, December 31 from 7p.
Sprout partners with Ten Mayflower Productions to encourage kids to read with Can I Read To You?, a program targeted to preschoolers where they listen to stories read to them by slightly older kids (reading directly to the viewer), and featuring close-ups of illustrations as well as background music and sound effects. Segments from the Can I Read To You? DVD will air exclusively on Sprout during its bedtime block, The Good Night Show, this week beginning this evening, Monday, December 19. Following its debut on the Sprout TV channel this week, Sprout will continue to feature Can I Read To You? stories via Sprout On Demand.
Cartoon Network unveils seven voting categories and nominees for its second annual Cartoon Network Hall of Game Awards, which will be hosted by basketball icon and TNT NBA analyst Shaquille O’Neal and are set to air on the network in early 2012. Like last year, The Hall of Game Awards will be produced by IMG Media, the production arm of IMG, with Time Inc. Sports Group’s SI KIDS, which will again serve as the official media partner. Also returning are Michael Dempsey and Steve Mayer as executive producers. Cartoon Network again invites viewers to vote for their favorites in a number of specific categories at www.hallofgame.com:
He’s Got Game (best male athlete.)
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks (NBA)
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (NFL)
LeBron James, Miami Heat (NBA)
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees (MLB)
She’s Got Game (best female athlete)
Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx (WNBA)
Maria Sharapova (Tennis)
Hope Solo, U.S. Team (Soccer)
Lindsey Vonn, U.S. Team (Skiing)
Most Awesome Mascot
Sacramento Kings “Slamson” (NBA)
Jacksonville Jaguars “Jaxson de Ville” (NFL)
San Jose Sharks “S.J. Sharkie” (NHL)
Cleveland Indians “Slider” (MLB)
Alti-Dude (top alternative sports high flyer)
Ryan Sheckler (Skateboarding)
Shaun White (Snowboarding)
Kelly Slater (Surfing)
Steve McCann (BMX)
Gnarliest Newb (top rookie) Sponsored by Kids Foot Locker
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (NFL)
Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes (NHL)
Trevor Bayne (NASCAR)
Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves (MLB)
Dance Machine (best celebratory dance)
Victor Cruz, New York Giants (NFL)
Novak Djokovic (Tennis)
Minnesota Lynx (WNBA)
Carl Edwards (NASCAR)
That’s How I Roll (most stylish athlete)
David Beckham, Los Angeles Galaxy (Soccer)
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat (NBA)
Serena Williams (Tennis)
Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants (MLB)
P2 Games launches the very first Fireman Sam app, Fireman Sam: Junior Cadet, available for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch in the UK. Designed to offer preschoolers with interactive early learning activities by taking on the role of a fire cadet in training, the new app features characters, music and sound effects from the TV series Fireman Sam: Junior Cadet. The Fireman Sam: Junior Cadet app includes five games and a special bonus virtual sticker album, where players can get creative with stickers collected during the game.
Disney.com launches its re-designed Create on Disney.com, where users can create and share their original artwork both online and newly via their mobile devices, including iPad and smart phones. The new Create features 60+ themed creative tools, called apps, to help users create artwork digital paintings, comic books, animated pets, and now videos. Some of the new apps include the Video Mashup – which allows kids to combine video clips, still images and original artwork to make music videos and movie trailers, and Cross-Platform Compatibility where users can view a gallery of content from their iPad or smart phone, among others. Create on Disney.com originally launched in 2009, and 10+ million pieces of have been created and saved on the website, with 100+ million views.
Head over to the Cynopsis: Kids !magination Awards to enter your preschool, kid and tween targeted TV series, TV movies, and websites, apps and games, and the marketing, public relations and advertising campaigns, which support that content, for our first annual awards program. To enter the Cynopsis: Kids !magination Awards your kid-targeted content or support campaign must have taken place (in part or in full) between October 1, 2010 and December 31, 2011. We look forward to seeing your entry and honoring the winners at the June 2012 Awards ceremony in New York City.
Program Call: Cynopsis Media will be producing our annual NATPE Shopping Guide sent to all Cynopsis and Cynopsis Kids subscribers on Thursday, January 19, 2012, the week before NATPE Market and Conference 2012 opens at the Fontainebleau Resort, Miami Beach. If your company is an official exhibitor at NATPE 2012, please send us only the following info for your top 5 shows: title, availability date, number of episodes, length, type (i.e. series, special, movie, etc.), genre (comedy, drama, lifestyle, etc.) and your terms (barter, cash, etc.) as well as your company’s stand/booth location. To be included in this free and highly-read special edition, please send your submission to Lisa Ball at: email@example.com no later than Thursday, January 12, 2012. A confirmation email will be sent following each submission from Lisa (if you don’t receive a confirmation email, please resubmit).
Weekend Box Office Estimates for kids/tweens/teens rated G, PG or PG-13; December 16 -18, 2011:
Sherlock Holmes: A game of Shadows (Warner Bros.) PG-13 Opening Weekend $40.0m
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (Fox) G Opening Weekend $23.5m
Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol (Paramount) PG-13 Opening Weekend $13.06m
New Year’s Eve (Warner Bros.) PG-13 $7.2m-2 wk total $24.8m
Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (Summit) PG-13 $4.3m-5 wk total $266.4m
Hugo (Paramount) PG $3.6m-4 wk total $39.1m
Arthur Christmas (Sony) PG $3.6m-4 wk total $38.5m
The Muppets (Disney) PG $3.5m-4 wk total $70.9m
Jack and Jill (Sony) PG $1.2m-5 wk total $70.5m
Happy Feet 2 (Warner Bros.) PG $1.0m-5 wk total $58.9m
Source: Rentrak (www.rentrak.com)
Parents are spending time with their tweens/teens by watching TV with them. According to Watching Gens X, Y & i, a recent Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) study conducted by C + R Research, upwards of 60% of parents find that TV co-viewing is a chance to connect with their older kids and half don’t see it as a cause for concern. Parents surveyed also say that they are monitoring what their tweens/teens are watching on TV, particularly parents of Tweens 13-14, so sitting with them both a way to connect and checking out what they are watching. More than half (56%) of parents of 13-14 year olds say that there are things on TV that are not appropriate for their kids to watch. Nearly 70% of monitoring is simply checking in to see what they’re watching. Additional findings include:
- Friends and family are most influential when deciding what to watch (this holds true for each age group, with over three-quarters saying friends/family influence what they watch).
- Content is watched with others about half of the time, mostly with other family members in their home. 85% of Teens 13-17 who co-view report watching with their parents. Another 77% report co-viewing with their sibling.
- Tweens/Teens 13-17 (42%) and Teens/Young Adults 18-24 (40%) are twice as likely to co-view with their friends compared to 25-34 year olds (22%).
- Those 13-17 and 25-34 tend to watch TV/movies in a common area more so than those 18-24. But, 13-24 year olds are more likely to revert to their room for video games and using the computer.
- About half of teens watch TV because it’s fun and entertaining, especially 13-14 year olds.
Zodiak Kids‘ production company Marathon Media hangs out his shingle in Hong Kong, with Stephane Aldebert set to head the office as Regional Director Asia. Aldebert is charged with bolstering Marathon Media’s relationships with producers, animation studios, game developers, publishers, distributors, licensing agents and merchandising companies across the region. Aldebert joined Marathon Media in 2007 to work on the series The New Adventures of Famous Five, and eventually became Head of Production and then Director of Development. An animation school graduate, he previously worked at Method Films and Amuse Films. Marathon Media recently inked a co-production deal Asian animation studio Scrawl to produce the animated series Star Princess (working title), which was developed in partnership with France Televisions and Disney Channel France.
Live + Same Day Ratings Kids Cable Network Averages (000) for Thursday, December 15, 2011, 6am-11pm, ranked by K2-11:
NICKELODEON: K2-11 874; K6-11 322; TWEENS 9-14 232
DISNEY CHANNEL: K2-11 807; K6-11 508; TWEENS 9-14 412
CARTOON NETWORK: K2-11 467; K6-11 295; TWEENS 9-14 212
DISNEY XD: K2-11 145; K6-11 103; TWEENS 9-14 92
NICKTOONS: K2-11 57; K6-11 30; TWEENS 9-14 45
Source: MTVN Research from Nielsen Media Research Data
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
Cynopsis Mediawill be off from December 23, 2011 January 2, 2012.
Don’t forget to read the 2011 Year in Review on January 1st 2012!
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Answer to Yesterday’s Trivia Question: What show did Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morisett create? Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street. Kudos to: Sharon Lerner-Lerner Media/NYC; Sarah Dell’Aquila-Nickelodeon/NY; Barry Solomon-Retailability Inc/NYC; Brad Stern-Floral Park/NY; Pat Brady-CESD/LA.
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