Who were your early STEM influences?

It just occurred to me how strange it is that we haven’t had this thread running from the early days of CD (or if so, it hasn’t gotten many highlight posts).

Of course, most have people close to them (in my case, my father, several uncles, both my grandfathers, and a certain Denis who was mentored by my father), but I’m mostly interested in more public influences (e.g. Mr. Wizard, Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Albert Einstein). I don’t want to exclude those who grew up with FIRST, but I’d really like to hear from those who did not discover FIRST until after high-school.

My greatest public STEM influence has to be Isaac Asimov. The first book I read of his was An Easy Introduction to the Slide Rule (used paperbacks now start at $69 on Amazon!), which I checked out of the Westweo public library to learn how to use this really cool looking thing I had bought at a store closeout. During the rest of elementary and all of middle school, I followed him up and down the Dewey Decimal System (especially the 500s). It was only in high school that I discovered he was a fiction author as well, and I was introduced to such wonders as the Foundation Trilogy and his Robot novels (which he later unified) and the Black Widowers stories. I actually got his signature in response to a letter in 1986, and met him at the 1989 World Science Fiction convention in Boston. I continue to be amazed at his use of publicly-accessible language in explaining complex concepts. To this day, my technical writing is largely guided by the simple question WWIW? (What would Isaac write?).

George Lucas

I’ll leave my feelings about altering theatrical films at the door and instead say that his work on Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and the creation of ILM pushed me in the direction to explore technology and I can’t think of an earlier cultural influence for my young mind.

I have to go with the Mythbusters. Adam and Jamie made science cool and accessible, as well as easily understandable to a much younger me. Watching the show made STEM so much more than the boring classes in elementary and middle school.

While I did grow up with FRC, I would have to say Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman. I have probably seen every Mythbusters episode 20 times. I really never cared about the myths, I just loved watching them make things.

Big +1 to the Mythbusters. I’ll also add Bill Nye, Carl Sagan, and Neil deGrasse Tyson in that vein.

Paul G. Hewitt is a good one for this list. His Physics videos are classic.

Watching Neil and Buzz walk on the moon on TV. By far that was the most memorable influence.

My dad was always a tinkerer, owing a manufacturing company and thus having to repair every machine they had. Not having a lot of money, he also did all the home maintenance, from tiny to major, always building things. My brothers and I picked up on that, not only because he let us “help”, but because he genuinely needed our assistance: even at 4 years old, I could fetch a hammer of a couple of nails.

I miss him: He died 6 years ago at 93.

My next older brother graduated as an EE from Lehigh, and I always knew I wanted to do the same. (EE, not necessarily Lehigh…)

I spent many a Saturday morning with Mr. Wizard.
Also the astronauts of my childhood: Dr. David Wolf, Sally Ride, later Dr. Mae Jemison
But the one person who really grabbed my attention with his creative and outlandish creations and designs was found in my pile of MAD Magazines: Rube Goldberg. He taught me that just because something is outlandish, doesn’t mean it should be discounted.

Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, and John Ericsson maker of the Novelty and most famously the Monitor.
and Kelly Johnson

Personal influencers:
Parents for buying me Constructs and Legos
Dad and Grandfather who were mechanics
Northern Indiana Power from the Past (learning about antique machinery)
Dana Kelly (elementary teacher got me interested in advaned math and chess)
Steve Slaven (Middle School science teacher and science olympiad coach)
Mrs. Moore (HS Math and math team coach)
Mr. Moore HS Technology teacher and Supermileage coach

While I bring up several teachers, their biggest influence often happened during programs outside of the classroom. They were programs and competitions with tangible objectives that we trained and worked towards. The hours these folks dedicated to me is a large part of why I do FIRST now.

Incidentally, Kelly Johnson’s 14 rules serve as a very good tempalte for FRC teams with a couple exceptions/alterations…

Great thread topic! It is always good to look back and appreciate where we have come from and who got us here.

In chronological order:

Both of my parents for getting me what Lego sets they could afford
My mother for always encouraging my creativity
My father (carpenter) who did all kinds of projects with me
Bill Cahill, my 5th grade science teacher
The students on Cybersonics that mentored my FLL team (Bean, Jess Jankowitz, Becky Kieselbach and others whose names escape me)
Jim Beck, the tech teacher at the middle school
Kristen Jacoby and Terry Nevill, my two favorite middle school science teachers
Dave Beck, the tech and engineering teacher and Cybersonics head mentor
Gordon Plate, Physics teacher, and the best teacher I have ever had

Each one of these people, and many more not listed, have had a profound impact on my life and I cannot ever thank them enough.