Archived Featured Exhibitors

TechTwilight attracts some fantastically awesome exhibitors and we wanted to probe that awesome a little more deeply. Our Featured Exhibitors talk below about their participation in the event, and introduce us to the people (the crazy, cool, wicked smart people!) behind the companies and organizations.


Bob McGinnis

(Mechanical Simulation)

Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum: Hi Bob! Tell us a little bit about your company and what you do.

McGinnis

Bob McGinnis: Mechanical Simulation develops software and driving simulators that simulate vehicles on virtual proving grounds and virtual roads. Car, truck, and motorcycle manufacturers use our products to test vehicle performance, develop active safety systems, and engineer stability control systems.

AAHOM: That is some seriously awesome and important work you’re doing. Why do you like coming to TechTwilight, and what do you think makes the AAHOM unique?

BM: Driving simulators are a fantastic way to introduce kids to the fusion of engineering and gaming technologies. Further, driving simulators are the best way to prepare kids for a life-time of safe driving.

AAHOM: Very true, and we are certainly moving toward a world where “work” and “play” don’t have to be kept so separate. Without spilling all of your creative secrets, what can we expect to see from your exhibit this year?

BM: Two interactive driving simulators.

AAHOM: These are not to be missed! Last question: what advice would you give to young and budding innovators?

BM: Appreciate and use the amazing tools that are available today. Powder Toy, Arduino Lilypad, and even Minecraft are great tools for imaginative kids. However, don’t get stuck to your computer – learn to build stuff!


Danny Ellis 

(SkySpecs, sponsored by Ann Arbor SPARK)

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Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum: Hi Danny! Tell us a little bit about your company and what you do.

Danny Ellis: SkySpecs makes aerial vehicles to inspect structures safely and more simply. We are sponsored by SPARK, which is an Ann Arbor company that provides an environment for start-up companies by providing them resources (legal, business, financial, technological, etc.).

AAHOM: Why do you like coming to TechTwilight, and what do you think makes the AAHOM unique?

DE: This is our first year at Tech Twilight and we’ve never been to the AAHOM, but we have heard lots about it and we are very excited!

AAHOM: We’re very glad to welcome you to your first, and we hope not your last, TechTwilight! Without spilling all of your creative secrets, what can we expect to see from your exhibit this year?

DE: Our exhibit has un-manned aerial vehicles (flying robots) focusing on industrial application, infrastructure, etc. Our vehicle is completely un-manned (no human pilot and flies directly on its own).

AAHOM: You don’t think about the difficulties of inspecting structures often, but when you do, you realize how challenging it must be. Plus…flying robots just sounds so cool! What advice would you give to young (budding?) innovators?

DE: My biggest advice is to find something you are passionate about. Don’t waste time on things you’re not invested in, as it’s important to find something that you’d do even without any monetary compensation.

 


Richard Sheridan (Menlo Innovations)

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Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum: Hi Rich! Tell us a little bit about your company and what you do.

Richard Sheridan: I run Menlo Innovations, a custom software design company, which also gives tours, classes, and training relative to organizational development. For example, we teach lots of unique techniques used for business analysis and software to people interested in innovation.

AAHOM: We can see where the name “Menlo” comes from now! Why do you like coming to TechTwilight, and what do you think makes the AAHOM unique?

RS: The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum is an icon in Ann Arbor in that it’s an innovative place where our cultural values come together. Our business aligns closely with the AAHOM’s approach to learning and creation. This is our first year being physically at TechTwilight and we’re very excited to be coming.

AAHOM: We’re psyched to have you coming, too! Without spilling all of your creative secrets, what can we expect to see from your exhibit this year?

RS: We’re going to have a number of little computers where we will set up an environment allowing kids to use games like MineCraft to get them interested in programming and writing code.

AAHOM: Play as a learning tool? We love that here at the Museum. Last question, what advice would you give to young innovators?

RS: Figure out what it is that you’re most interested in and express it. Also, try to do things quickly and simply – and learn to accept mistakes!


Tom Root (Maker Works)

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Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum: Hi Tom! Tell us a little bit about your company and what you do.

Tom Root: I run Maker Works, a proto-typing/manufacturing facility filled with numerous tools that we run like a health club. People join as members and that membership gives them access to these tools.

AAHOM: So, kind of like a private gym for your mind to flex its building and engineering muscles? We like the sound of that. Why do you like coming to TechTwilight, and what do you think makes the AAHOM unique?

TR: TechTwilight is a fun opportunity to meet others who are in the tech business – that’s a big interest for me. It’s also a great opportunity for outreach and to see resources of others in the community.The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum is unique in that it serves the community in an unusual way for science museums and gets kids excited at a young age about science.

AAHOM: Yes! It’s never too early to start getting kids asking questions and developing their interests. Without spilling all of your creative secrets, what can we expect to see from your exhibit this year?

TR: We’ll be bringing an assortment of interesting tools, including a laser cutter.

AAHOM: The tools of the tinkering trade…so cool! Lastly, what advice would you give to young innovators?

TR: Tap into your community in any way – go to meetings and embrace opportunities. Don’t forget about things happening in a physical sense (not just online with social networking; go out and meet people!). Ann Arbor is incredibly intense and diverse with tons of knowledge broadly spread out, so take advantage of that!


Megan Torrance (Torrance Learning)

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Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum:  Tell us a little bit about your company and what you do.

Megan Torrance: We design and develop custom e-learning (online learning).

AAHOM: Why do you like coming to TechTwilight, and what do you think makes the AAHOM unique?

MT: Three main reasons why we like coming to TechTwilight:

1)     It’s very cool to meet the people from other companies to see what they’re doing and make business connections.

2)     It’s fun bonding for my own team. Everybody comes with their families and it’s enjoyable for everyone involved.

3)     It’s cool to reconnect with the main reason why we get involved with technology.

The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum is incredibly useful and valuable in our community. It shows why technology is important and why Ann Arbor is so special.

AAHOM: If an enormous, brick building could blush, Megan, it would be…thank you! Without spilling all of your creative secrets, what can we expect to see from your exhibit this year?

MT: Every year, we bring examples of our work: examples of certain e-learning, and this year, we are building a mobile web extension that runs throughout the Museum.

AAHOM:  So the whole Museum will be infused with extra e-knowledge? What you get is more than what you see? We’re all about that! Lastly, what advice would you give to young innovators?

MT: Be sure to take time out for play, because play and exploration are where you find your creative spark. Your best work is done when you’re relaxed and exploring the world (virtual or real) around you.