052. Industrial Future Series – S.T.E.M Invent the Change


Chris: 00:30

Welcome to EECO Asks Why. Today we have an idea episode that I’m really looking forward to. We’re talking about the importance of STEM and to have us walk through this conversation, we had Jay Flores, who is the Global STEM Ambassador for Rockwell Automation. Welcome Jay.

Jay: 00:48

Thanks. Thanks for having me guys,

Chris: 00:50

Man, I’m excited to talk with you, buddy. Just looking at your content that you produce and put out , you’re an inspiration. You’re inspiring a lot of  young minds out there and you know, one thing that kind of jumped out when, when I was thinking about this conversation is why do you think some of this passionate in STEM, science, technology, engineering and math has declined over the years?

Jay: 01:12

Yeah, I think, it’s unfortunate that there seems to be this decline and there’s a lot of roles that are going unfilled  and when there’s so much demand for it, there’s not the same interest  at an early age and early level. And so I think there’s a couple of things. I think one of the key things is that we’ve been so accustomed to technology now, and it’s become such a part of our life that we become great at being technology users.

But we forget about being technology creators. So we’re consumers instead of creators.  I’ve seen kids as young as one or two years old, able to open up an iPhone and navigate and find their favorite cartoon app. But then as they grow up, they don’t always then go out and create some of those apps. So I think it’s very important for parents and teachers and educators to help the young people understand that not only can you leverage this piece of technology, whether it’s an iPhone or some other piece of technology, but you can be part of creating that. You can be a part of changing the world by using  your math and science skills.

The more that we can kind of help parents and teachers and educators understand that, and translate that well to young people, the better. And I think it’s a, a lot on our part on industry too, to help translate that. I feel like engineers are really, really good at making really, really cool things sound really, really boring because we over tech it and we don’t bring it down to the level of young people.

So it’s a combination of a few of those things that if we can get that messaging out there, could make a huge impact in the future.

Chris: 02:49

No doubt. Absolutely. I mean, you’re right. That consumer mindset, we need to shift that to creation.  But I’m surprised as just as you are at how young people are that know how to navigate some of these platforms, you know, and get in and get to the information that they want.

So we just need to shift that. And I thought it was interesting, Jay and preparing, I looked at a lot of your videos and just the information you’ve put out there in some of  your Ted talks and  you connected some things that young people get, like angry birds or minions, and you tied it to STEM.

So what how’d you think of that, man?

Jay: 03:25

Yeah. So this is funny. This one came by, accident actually. So  when I started at the University of Wisconsin, I wanted to do some outreach, because I had been helped a lot growing up. I’m the first engineer in my family, at least, by degree. My father has some military training, which led him towards a STEM career.

But, there was a lot of people that helped me understand what I needed to do to get to my end goal. And without those organizations, companies like Rockwell and summer camps at the University of Wisconsin. Things like that, that helped bridge the gap for me, I wouldn’t have, you know, be where I am right now.

So I was trying to do what I could to help spread the word to other young people in the community that may not have had the same role models that I had, or the same access to programs that I had. So, I started doing these presentations and I wasn’t really well known or anything. So I just started talking to different schools and community centers, and there was a community center in Madison that wanted me to come in and talk about engineering.

And I thought it was going to be a group of high school students. And on my way there on the bus, I find out it’s elementary age students and a couple of middle school students. So my conversation that I had ready for the high school students about scholarships and resumes and stuff that was not very relevant to a first grader.

This that was gone. And I had to on this bus ride, figure out what I was going to do, talk to these kids about. And at the time I had an iPad and I had a data plan. So I started looking around and the Dark Night, the Batman movie came up and I’m like, “This is, this is something. So Batman is like, an engineer because he’s not a superhero with super powers. He was born a normal human, he uses technology to solve the problem that he had, which was crime in Gotham.”

And so I started looking at like, what are other fun examples that I can draw this to? And I started to realize STEM is literally everywhere from creating cereal to making movies. To even the minions in the movie itself, they’re actually engineers.

So in the first movie, when the main character is bad, they engineer has freeze rays his and his fart guns. And when he’s good in the second movie, they manufacture his line of I think it was jams, and jellies. So I just started to see all these different examples. And because I have an engineering background, I was able to kind of connect the dots, but no matter who you are out there, you know, I want young people to just understand that no matter what you’re passionate about, there is some STEM behind it. At some point.

You can find that connection to the STEM, you can turn your passion into a career, no matter what that passion is. Whether it’s sports or cereal or space , there’s always going to be some kind of engineering or tech behind it.

And as we continue to advance technology, there’s going to be even more interactions with that. So I encourage, instead of just going into a room and saying, “Hey, we need more engineers. You have to be good at math and science, it pays well.” Go into a room and say, “Hey, what are you guys passionate about? And let’s see if we can find some fun STEM examples behind it.” You’re going to be much more effective in inspiring kids.

Chris: 06:39

No doubt. Absolutely. And, you know, nice shout out to GRU. Cause I do have two kids, so, you know, I’m picking up what you’re putting down there. So, we have a lot of parents that listen to EECO Asks Why.

So if you’re a parent and you’re wanting to encourage that curiosity that you’re talking about at home, what are some ways they could do it? I know you have that really cool YouTube channel. I’ve used that personally with my girls. And that’s led to some fun experiments here, but what would you offer up as advice to parents here?

Jay: 07:08

Yeah. So in general, I’m glad that you knew it grew, right? You knew the main character. So anytime you have an opportunity, especially in cartoons and movies to analyze something that is futuristic. So for example, I remember growing up in, I was born in 89. So in the early nineties, when I was a young kid, Power Rangers were the thing.

I remember seeing the Power Ranger watch on the show and they would communicate with each other with this like really special watch. And I had the toy version that you just press the button and it would make a noise. Right. But I didn’t, I couldn’t actually communicate with anyone. And I remember thinking like, wow, it would be so cool if I could like, actually message my friends, or call them.

Fast forward, 20 years later, Apple watches, smartwatches, can do everything from track your mileage on a run, to read your text messages, to do all kinds of cool stuff. And so it’s those creative, crazy ideas that young kids have, help grow those, and ask them questions when you’re watching the movie. Like “Wow! That’s so cool that in this movie, the main character’s car was able to fly. Why do you think we don’t have flying cars yet? Or what are some of the things that we could do to create flying cars?” And get them curious about that.

Cause right now they’re going to have wild ideas that don’t make a lot of sense, but in 15, 20, 25 years, if they do pursue an engineering or STEM degree, they might be able to make some of that reality. And so that’s what I’m trying to spark with the experiments that you’re talking about.

This series called “It’s not magic. It’s science.” I’m providing fun, engaging quick, short science experiments that are disguised as magic and that brings them in. It gets them curious. And then I always have an expiration portion of that. So how do you take what we learned in this experiment or this what appeared to be a magic trick and apply that to the real world and changing the world in some way.

And my favorite example of that is, for those of you who’ve seen episode one, or if you haven’t checked it out on YouTube. You’ll see a memory metal. It’s a metal that changes shape when it’s reintroduced to heat. And then I shared that with some young students at an event.

And I asked for a real life example and the young kids said “we should create a carwash.” And I was like, “what do you mean? I don’t think you understood that the example at first,” but I, you know, it was in my head and I just asked them, “okay, so why would we do a car wash?” And he goes, “Oh, well, it makes total sense. If you crash your car, instead of having to pay a lot of money, you just drive it to the hot car wash. And the memory metal goes back to its original shape.” And I was like, “you are a genius, little boy.” And we should create this company today.

So it’s just awesome. You know, I would have never thought of something that creative and young kids have just this natural curiosity and openness to what can be possible. So you just got to foster that.

Chris: 09:58

So, I mean, you’re right. A lot of kids they’re just naturally inquisitive, you know, so if we’re around them,  you have any advice for us. I mean, obviously asking questions, but to just keep them pursuing that inquisitive nature?

Jay: 10:13

For sure. So the biggest mistake parents make is oppressing the question “why?” So the best example, is the, “are we there yet?” Right. That gets very annoying and frustrating for parents. But instead of just saying, “be quiet” or “stop asking that question,” turn it into a math problem. Say, ” grandpa lives 60 miles away and we’ve been driving for a whole two minutes. We’re at this speed. How much longer does it take to get to grandma’s house?” And one of two things will happen. Either they’ll stop asking the question because you gave them math homework the last they asked or they’ll figure out the math and then in 20 years there’ll be figuring out much more complex travel problems, like how we get to Mars and stuff like that.

If you, if you can keep your patience when your toddler asked you the question “why” for the 5,000 time, you’re going to be much more successful in helping your young child grow up into a STEM professional. Because the question, why is the basis of all innovation.  If from a very young age, I already told it’s “because I said so,” or “stop asking that question,” or “I don’t know, Google it,” they’re going to get frustrated with that engineering design process. The ones that do have that ability to continue to ask the question and explore and, and have parents that you don’t have to have the answer.

You just have to help guide them through the process of trying to understand it and trying to get towards an answer. You might not end up getting there, but the key is just guiding them towards that process and helping them understand that their curiosity can change the world if they keep asking the right questions.

Chris: 11:55

No doubt about it. Great example with “Are we there yet.”  Jay I don’t think you’re there, but I’m going to, I’m going to break down basic Dad law for you. The answer’s always “five minutes, another five minutes.” No, that’s a great example. For me I’m gonna take that. I’m gonna use that one. It always comes up and we’re headed to my family or my wife’s family. It’s “how long is it going to take?” So now that’s an opportunity for me to turn that into a math problem to just encourage that. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll get back with you on that. Yeah, man. But I mean, it’s, it’s it’s right.

When you say, “why is the basis of innovation.” You’re all over it. I mean, that’s why we call it this podcast EECO Asks Why. We want to get to the root and the understanding and the core, and just keep asking that question. Why. And I think we just gotta just foster that in our homes and around kids. And even if they’re not our own kids, you know, promote that with, you know, if you have a chance to mentor others.

So, love that answer, man. Thank you for that. And by the way, we’ll put the link to,” it’s not magic. It’s science” in the show notes for the listeners. So you can go straight there, check out Jay’s awesome videos. Binge them, go through them. You’ll probably do like me. You’ll click on one. And next thing you know, you’re there for an hour looking at all of them and running into the kitchen, trying to find stuff to do the experiments.

So it’s a, just a great example. And I, and I noticed Jay, when it did that, that you use Tik Tok as the platform, or at least that popped up on my screen. What drove that decision?

Jay: 13:20

Yeah. So that’s actually very key in the success of the series overall. So I originally wanted to do this to reach kids during the pandemic that weren’t going to have access to the same STEM programming that they might have had during regular times. They’re not going to have as much access to things like company tours during manufacturing day because of the issues with COVID and they’re not going to be exposed to as many STEM role models.

So I’d try to figure out how I could make something that was very inclusive of anyone that you could do it with something that you had in your home or that you could order for very cheap on, on Amazon. Right? Because I wanted this to be open to as many people as I could. And then the second thing from there after I designed, okay, this, I have this larger audience that it could possibly go to now, I wanted to figure out, okay, where is young people’s attention right now. And TicTok was really exploding in the US and it had already kind of taken a hold in a lot of it countries globally. So the key is just, you have to meet the children where they’re at, whether that’s with the examples, like I was giving earlier with the movies and the angry birds and stuff like that, or the platforms that they care about.

And if you could find a creative way to grab attention on the platforms that they care about, you can bring in some entertaining education. So most people, most adults, most companies even are thinking, okay, TicTok is for kids to do weird dances on and weird challenges. And yeah, that’s, that’s part of it, but that’s not the only thing that platform can be used for.

So, I had to kind of get over that stereotype that this is just for little kids and that adults shouldn’t be on it. And. that the only thing that happens is dancing and find ways to make it fun and educational at the same time. If I would have posted this just to Twitter, just to Facebook, it would have had some success, right? I would have gotten some parents that were excited about maybe doing some with their children, but I wouldn’t have reached millions of kids like I was able to on YouTube because it was just genuine and it was connected to where their attention was at already.

So again, I think the key there is just making sure you’re meeting the children, where they’re excited. Whether that’s with the things that they’re already passionate about or whether it’s the platforms that they use. That’s very key.

Chris: 15:36

Absolutely. I mean, I, I brought up, it was funny, Jay, you may appreciate this. I was in a meeting with a manufacturer, probably six to eight months ago and I was investigating TicTok and we’re making videos, how to videos on our YouTube channel and writing blogs and, you know, heavy LinkedIn presence.

Some Facebook, I threw it out in this meeting. I’m like, you know what happens if we’re at the day, the point one day where we’re, we’re posting some cool little videos about some of this technology on a platform like TicTok. Just to show kids and the younger generation, some of the neat stuff that about manufacturing or industry. Man, they looked at me like I had three heads. You know, It’s just not thought of you don’t think about using platforms like that.

So when I saw that, that jumped out and I was like, Bravo for recognizing this is where they’re at. And then bringing some really just new, fresh type content to that platform, man. So, so you’ve seen a pretty good response from that?

Jay: 16:34

Yeah. TicTok by far as the platform or has gotten the most views. And just a couple of months, I had over a million views on, on these specific videos.

Whereas all the other platforms I use, I don’t think I’ve gotten to the million point, you know, on individual platforms. So it’s huge. And it’s, let’s say a company, you know, that you’re having conversations with, like that decides that this is not the platform ready for us right now. It’s still key to understand how people are consuming information and learn how these new platforms are influencing, how people learn things.

How people’s attention is kept and where they’re going for information, regardless, even if this would have flopped for me on TicTok. I still would have learned kind of how to use that method of communication with young people that in 10 years could be customers and 15 years are definitely going to be customers.

So they’re going to be, want to be marketed to and communicated with in very different ways than our current customer base. So regardless of whether your company goes on and uses this as a main platform or not, it’s super important to understand how it’s influencing other areas.

Chris: 17:47

Absolutely. Great advice. Great insight. I’ve personally just love the YouTube channel, what you’re doing there. And I’m curious to know where do you get some of your inspiration for these experiments?

Jay: 17:58

Yeah, I create them on TicTok, but then I share them on all the other platforms. And YouTube is the key place because that’s kind of like it’s forever home. That’s where I can have a playlist and I can share the link and anyone can go and view them all together. And you know, there are 15 to 60 second videos, so they’re super short. You can watch a bunch of them in one sitting. Where I, I get the creativity for them is these experiments already existed. Like I’m not the first one to have ever done some of them before.

The key is the way in which I present them the way in which I package them. So I’m packaging them as magic. The reason why I did that as magic is because magic is inclusive to everyone, whether you’re eight years old or you’re 108 years old. People, you know, are kind of attracted to magic and there’s nothing about it that’s boys or girls or rich or poor. I can reach as many people as possible. I really wanted this to be a very inclusive series. And that’s just how I position it. Right? Cause I want you to have that mindblowing engaging moment with science at first, before you even know that it is science. So the first or the first video of each episode is always just the trick, just the magic.

And I hint to you that there’s, that it’s science that is not smoke and mirrors, but you don’t really know that yet. And that’s the hook. That’s the one that’s gonna get people that aren’t already interested in science or weren’t looking for science in that moment when they were scrolling through their feed, but they see something cool that catches their attention.

And then I always come back and that’s usually 15 to 30 second video. And then I come back with the second part with, which is a one minute explanation video, where I then reveal the magic, which most, most magicians don’t do. I reveal the magic, which is actually the scientific explanation. And I try to do it again in a way that is easy for a young student to understand all the way up to grandma and grandpa.

And then finally the exploration video, which is how do you then apply this to real life? I might challenge them to think of some examples. I might give them some current examples and encourage them to explore more. And go on that path. And then finally, I, sometimes I throw in some bloopers or slow motions, other kind of just bonus content.

And so really, I just look out there for fun science and I try to see, “Hmm, well, how could this be shown in a cool way that that could be, you know, kind of magic?” So the first one, for example, the paperclip magic that material I could have just gotten in a, in a regular strand of wire. But if I do it in a paperclip, you view it as the viewer, as a paperclip, you know, what a paperclip does and how it behaves.

And when it behaves differently than you’re like, what just happened? How did he do that? It must be magic. And then I explained the science, right? So it just comes together like that.

Chris: 20:43

Right. Well, I mean, with that many views of your content, and you’ve got people watching it all over the world, what have been some of the best engagements or questions or comments that have come back to you from the people that are consuming this?

Jay: 20:58

Yeah, I’ve got some good ones. I’ll share one from the parent perspective. And one from a student. My favorite from the students is when they come up with very creative ideas. I have one of the experiments called super egg. Where you basically find a way to make an egg bounce. And then I asked them, okay, well, this is great. Like it’s an egg, it’s fun, but does that really have an impact on the real world?

And so I challenged them to think, okay, how could we make the world a better or more fun place if we could make other materials bouncy. And so a, a teenage girl came up with the idea of, well, this would be amazing for my phone because I’ve broken like four of them in the last three years. And so if I drop my phone and it would just bounce instead of, you know, the screen cracking, when it hits the ground, then that would save me a lot of money. And, I wouldn’t get yelled at, by my parents as much. So that was a cool, like real life example that if she does and kind of take that idea and advance it, it could be something pretty impactful.

And then my favorite from the parent’s perspective is I have one parent who is the first interaction I had with her is she, she messaged me on, I think it was on LinkedIn and said, I found this really weird egg in my fridge other day. And I was wondering what was going on.

And I asked my daughter and stuff, Oh, it was from the J Flores, magic TicTalk videos. And so she had to investigate and check that out and loved it. And then a couple of weeks later, I got another message from her and she’s like, I have walked into my kitchen and I’m wondering why there’s water all over the place. And she, then, you know, to herself in her mind, all it must be Jay.

You know, my daughter’s watching another one of the science videos. So it’s great to see both children and parents enjoying it and having positive experiences, having fun and learning at the same time.

Chris: 22:46

Absolutely. I mean, I, and I’m feeling for that parent cause I was the guy with the water all over my kitchen a few weeks ago. Jay, thanks to you. But, but also my daughters fell in love with the dice trick and they took that to their grandparents’ house and blew everybody’s mind with it. So, that that’s cool little trick that they, you know, and they got in their back pockets now, and now that they know the math behind it, and that can take, add three, four, five dice and go from there.

So, great examples, man. And it sounds like your engagements are just through the roof and this is so important. You’re, you’re just doing great work. So, you know, we call it EECO Asks Why, Jay, and we get down to the why. So if you had to answer why STEM is so important for the future and it’s everybody’s job to engage and support those passionate about pursuing this path, what would your answer be?

Jay: 23:38

I think it boils down to that’s how you change the world. I have a phrase that I’ve been kind of sharing around more recently, which is invent the change you want to see in the world. Gandhi made be the change you want to see in the world famous. But now with the addition of technology, Not only, can you be a great person that influences other and inspires them to do positive things for the world, but you can also invent things that can go way beyond your personal impact in changing people’s lives, saving the planet, curing cancer, whatever it may be.

There’s so many challenges that we face as a, as a human race that technology can help either eliminate or minimize. And then there’s so many great things that it’ll just make life better, more fun, more exciting, safer, et cetera. Thanks to technology. And if we’re not inspiring people at a young age to look down those paths, there’s no way they’re going to come up with that idea and have the skillset randomly at a later age, if they don’t have kind of that foundation.

And so it’s really important for us to make sure that all our young people at least have the opportunity to go down that path if they want to. And regardless of whether they want to go down that path or not as let’s say like a hardcore electrical or mechanical engineer, being scientifically literate is going to be very important for their future. No matter what.

As technology continues to be more and more a part of our everyday life, it’s really important for just the success of our country and of the world. So it could literally change and potentially save lots of lives in the future, and you never know which one of those young people that you’re giving that opportunity is going to be the one to do it.

Chris: 25:19

Absolutely. Jay, I mean, that’s wonderful answer. This has been a, just a fun episode. So much information and knowledge that you share with our listeners. We’ll be sure to put a lot of links in our show notes, so people can go check out, you know, to YouTube, you have a webpage as well. You know, we’ll point them in some good places if they want to learn more about STEM and how to encourage that with others. But Jay, thank you so much for taking the time was today here on EECO Asks Why.

Jay: 25:48

I appreciate it guys. Thanks for the opportunity. And thanks for getting more people to ask that question: why.

Chris: 25:53

Yes, sir. Thank you.