Today's kids grow up with "black box" phones, computers and gadgets that come in beautiful packages, but leave no room for tinkering or understanding how they work. We believe it is critical to understand fundamentally how technology works in order to make sense of our environment and invent the future. We are creating the tools that will inspire and empower the creators of tomorrow to build, explore and tinker with technology, to help them invent the tools of tomorrow.
Born in the Ukraine and educated in America, Mark has always been a tinkerer, naturally interested in finding creative ways to solve problems. Working as a biologist, Mark went to Ghana to teach local kids about public health. However, he found out that the reason public health wasn’t so good there was not because of any lack of knowledge, but rather the lack of infrastructure and tools necessary for change.
"I thought, why am I doing research in a lab, pipeting all day long, when I could be creating tools that could impact millions of people, and give them a way to move forward themselves."
The trip to Africa led him to be inspired to change his focus at The University of Oxford, towards the early prototypes of what became Piper.
You can watch a video about the story behind Mark’s vision for Piper and what we hope to empower kids to do here.
At the age of 18, Shree discovered a potential cure to ovarian cancer, and won the first ever Google Global Science Fair for her work, which led her to meet President Obama.
She recognized that her journey was made possible by incredible mentors and teachers and wanted to create more science prodigies like herself by inspiring and mentoring students in science and engineering. Yet she felt that there needed to be a correlation between teaching science and technology. That led her to meet Mark at Princeton, and get involved with Piper.
"I think that it is a combination of technology, that human element, and the social network, that everybody is talking about. I think that is what is going to allow that absolute explosion of creativity and innovation in our world, and I am excited to see where that goes."
Shree is currently working on her medical degree, and remains an advocate for our work as an early founder. She does speaking events about her passion for promoting STEAM curriculums in schools and leads our science outreach when she has time.
Much like Shree and Mark, Joel recognized during his undergrad at MIT that having access to the right tools can empower people to improve themselves. His knowledge of building great products and using feedback from users was further strengthened when after working on special projects at Apple with Steve Jobs, he ended up doing a Computer Science project at Stanford. There, he and three other students helped create an affordable prosthetic knee called Jaipurknee. The product was then revamped at D-Rev, a non-profit incubator that works on providing affordable prosthetics in low-income communities. Now, Jaipurknee is used by thousands of individuals around the world.
"I think anyone and everyone has the potential to invent."
To learn more about Joel, his passion for empowering people to invent things, and about his work with Jaipurknee, watch his TEDxJamaica.
Who Inspires Us
There is a magic to understanding how something works. When he was a kid, Richard Feynman (Nobel Laureate in quantum physics) took apart a broken radio and discovered that the speaker could serve as a microphone, and by connecting a loudspeaker, he could broadcast from his second floor room to wish his sister happy birthday downstairs. It was a small discovery, but it showed Feynman that he could have the power to transform his environment if he understood how it worked.
Today, we value smooth packages and slick interfaces. But we don't understand how the technology that we use, actually works. It is even worse for kids growing up in a digital age, who have come to see ubiquitous, ever-present technology as a hallmark of their lives. We are raising kids to be passive consumers of technology.
Why is understanding important? Because it shows you that there is no magic. You can actually understand anything if you spend enough time thinking about it. As Richard Feyman describes a radio that took him an entire day to fix at the age of 10:
"I finally fixed it because I had, and still have, persistence. Once I get on a puzzle, I can't get off. ... That's a puzzle drive. It's what accounts for my wanting to decipher Mayan hieroglyphics, for trying to open safes." And this is what eventually led him make monumental discoveries in physics and quantum mechanics, win the Nobel Prize and be named one of the greatest physicist to have ever lived. A little curiosity coupled with persistence goes a long way.
Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple) was an early supporter of Piper. He said, "I love Piper because it represents what enabled me to do all the technology things in my life."
We love Steve because it was his desire as a young engineer to create a personal computer for himself that led to a revolution in personal computing. He helped create one of the most iconic companies in the world today. Every big idea starts as a small personal dream. And then it grows. We want to inspire more kids to have those dreams so that they can create the future. We hope you join us on this mission to create the inventors of tomorrow.