Yamie Chess’ biggest strength is the awesome group of professional math educators and engineers who created and developed this unique STEM educational tool to improve children’s STEM learning outcomes in K-8 math education. Coming together from America’s finest universities including MIT, Caltech, Stanford and Columbia, Yamie Chess’ STEM advisory team collaborated with 2-time United States Chess Champion, Jennifer Shahade, who will launch the product at the American International Toy Fair 2014 in New York next month on February 16th, 2014 at the Javits Center.
One of those math educators is Caltech engineer, Gerardo Morabito, B.S., (pictured, left) who is a STEM graduate in Mechanical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology, which is one of the best science and engineering colleges in the world. Mr Morabito shared his post-collaborative analysis of the Yamie Chess math learning aid for parents and other math and science educators on the Yamie Chess website.
Yamie Chess did a special interview (published below) with the Caltech engineer to get an inside look at what motivates one of America’s best and most talented mechanical engineers, who founded the Caltech Chapter of ASME (the American Society of Mechanical Engineers) where he served as Caltech Chapter president during his time at the prestigious Institute.
YC: As a Caltech engineer, what is the favorite project you’ve worked on?
GM: It is hard to say what my favorite project has been but it would probably be my work with Digital Optics Corporation on project “Piccolo”. This project consisted of creating the first MEMS-based phone camera to hit the market. MEMS stands for micro-electro-mechanical-systems. They are essentially microscopic sensors and actuators that are revolutionizing electronics worldwide. This was my favorite project because I got to learn so much working on it and because I was part of a team of brilliant people that made this product into a reality.
YC: Have you always loved math and science, and what inspired you to become a mechanical engineer?
GM: I have always loved math as far as I can remember. The idea that I can solve problems by manipulating numbers, and that I can solve increasingly complex problems by simply learning more math has a very strong appeal to me. Considering that there is so much to learn and master, and so much that we do not yet understand makes math a really exciting subject.
Unlike math, I have not always loved science. I began to love science when I realized that it was more than just a collection of facts, but rather a process through which we make better sense of the universe. As an engineer, I love science for the applications that come through our understanding of it, applications that continually improve our quality of life as a society.
YC: Many people see engineering as about solving problems. What do you think the biggest challenge that U.S. engineers will face in the next 10 years?
GM: The biggest challenge that U.S. engineers (and other engineers worldwide) will face in the next 10 years is, not surprisingly, how to address our growing energy demands with clean and renewable energy resources. The science is there and it has been demonstrated green energy technologies such as solar and wind power are technically feasible. The main challenge that engineers will encounter is making these technologies economically viable.
The second challenge is increasing the capacity of these technologies to be able to address a significant portion of our energy needs. The latter part will solve itself thanks to market forces once these technologies become economically attractive. What needs to be emphasized to the public is that oil and coal will not be completely replaced (at least for a very long time) because of how deeply integrated they are in our current infrastructure. However, we should be gradually going through this transition and achieving progress every year.
YC: What aspects of being a math tutor do you find most satisfying?
GM: Definitely seeing students that used to struggle with math begin to excel in school and have an innate desire to learn more. In general, I love tutoring, but it is the most satisfying when your students ask you questions and are heavily engaged in the learning process. It is natural that we tend to dislike and avoid things that we do not understand. However, once I empower my students with the knowledge of math and the motivation to learn more, the effort to get there seems well worth it.
YC: What did you most love about Caltech?
GM: Caltech’s atmosphere of passion for learning that makes it a truly great place to immerse oneself in one’s studies. Another thing I loved about Caltech was that despite the abundance of talented people, there was a surprising lack of inter-student competition. Caltech has a very cooperative environment, mostly because of the challenging nature of the curriculum. Rather than working against each other, Teachers work with each other to be able to succeed in each class. At Caltech, more than anywhere else, is where I learned to work in a team.
YC: For parents and moms reading this who don’t have a STEM background, what can folks do to help their children succeed in math and science in school?
GM: It is critical that kids realize the power that math has and how applicable it is to everyday life. I hear a lot of complaints about math not being useful. These complaints tend to come mostly from students that have not bothered to learn their math well and fail to realize how much they can do with it. In order to avoid this pessimistic attitude towards math, parents should strive to continually and positively reinforce their children to learn more math. At the same time, parents should make sure their children are being challenged by the math courses they are taking in school. Key word “challenged”. Often kids become discouraged with their studies if they are being crushed with excessive homework and with overtly difficult material that they are not ready to handle.
YC: What is the most interesting part of your job as an engineer?
GM: The most interesting part of my job is seeing how an idea during team meeting develops into a computer model, and eventually into a tangible object. This becomes even more interesting when the said object gets mass produced and becomes a quality consumer product that delivers value both for its buyers and for the creating company.