TSTC Emerging Technologies

Archive for November, 2008|Monthly archive page

Cliff Zintgraff, CEO, Da Vinci Minds

In Robotics on November 17, 2008 at 4:53 pm


Math and science are essential in robotics, respectively. Cliff Zintgraff, CEO and founder of
Da Vinci Minds – an educational group focused on engaged learning for students – believes there is more to robotics than numbers and theories.

Zintgraff founded Da Vinci Minds in 2008 with a purpose of “building a capacity for innovation in schools and regions and for emerging companies.”

The small company is based in San Antonio, Texas, and is among the many projects Zintgraff actively works on in the quest for binding technology and education together.

“We cannot separate academics from hands-on stuff,” he said. Da Vinci Minds is especially passionate about teaching and engaging students in fields centered on technology.

Of course, Zintgraff has a qualified background for the part. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science in 1985 from Trinity University and has also earned a Master of Science in Technology Commercialization in 2006 from the University of Texas, Austin. He said that his background in software startups is what helped when he first ventured to start a company such as Da Vinci Minds and the Information and Technology Security Academy, of which he was a co-founder.

“We want to engage middle school and high school students, and we have this challenge to educate more students in math and science,” Zintgraff said. “We urgently need to increase our ability to train students in these.”

Elaborating on robotics utilizing more than just math and science in robotics, Zintgraff is adamant with his statement: “Robotics uniquely addresses a wide range of priority concerns in our educational system: mechanics, electronics, software, discipline integration, teamwork and critical thinking skills.”

Zintgraff went on to explain the dynamics of teaching young students such as middle school and high school participants and how to actively and creatively engage them with learning from and with technology.

“This is an amazing tool to engage students in math and science. It keeps them interested and willing to be educated,” Zintgraff said. “Robots have a special capability to engage and educate students because it utilizes critical thinking skills.”

Zintgraff also said that students, at some point, are required to make a robot work. This engaged learning approach came from Dean Kamen, the founder of FIRST, or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, in 1989, which is geared towards high school students and provides high schools around the United States with tools for engineering. Zintgraff said that Kamen’s work with robotics and education gives a great insight to the field.

Ultimately, technology and education will be fused together and schools will have to stay up with the demand for such a fusion; Zintgraff’s company is what can help with this inevitable transition.