I live at an altitude of 5,000 feet above sea level (1500 metres). It seems high when I look down at the tiny headlights of cars passing in the night. The other day, Alan Eustace detached himself from a helium balloon tether at 135,890 feet or 41,419 meters. What’s that, something like five times the altitude of Everest? Are you kidding me? I got scared at the Wild Eagle roller coaster ascent at Dollywood this summer.
But I digress.
What was amazing about the seemingly mild-mannered Eustace was that he looked at the highly technical operation that poor Felix Baumgartner had painstakenly accomplished and said “Yeah, I can do that.” Not only did he do that but he did so without a fancy space capsule, without millions of dollars in sponsorship, and without Red Bull. It was almost comical how he lifted off, simply tethered to the balloon like one of those plastic parachute guys you used to get at penny candy stores in America (when they used to exist). The guy set off a sonic boom that was heard on the ground for crying out loud. (He said he didn’t feel it or hear it).
Apparently, the intent of the mission was to test spacesuit technology for potential commercial use. What was remarkable was how he took the innovation of a man jumping from the edge of space, simplified it and improved it in such a short period of time. That’s the era of innovation we’re in right now; making the complicated simple and remarkable at the same time.
We have to do the same with innovation in schools.
We don’t need a fancy space capsule covered with sponsorship ads and high tech gadgets to jump from the edge of space. We don’t need to overcomplicate technology to the point where we don’t use it that much or that well. Innovation is not synonymous with complicated. It is, however, something that we must implant in our students so that they are not intimidated, but rather in awe as they observe someone jumping from the edge of space and think to themselves, “I can do that.”
I think Walter Mitty might agree.