Table Top Inventing Podcast

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Yong Zhao - Table Top Inventing PodcastHow do we create young adults that do NOT come back to live in our basements? What is role of parents in creating opportunities for their children? How important is it to hold children accountable for their decisions? Today’s podcast will shed light on these questions.

Hey there, Innovation Nation! Today’s show is both profound and practical. If you have been wondering, “How in the world can I get my kids to become independent thinkers–to take action on their own without being micromanaged?”, you have tuned into the right episode! As parents and educators, we are often plagued with an unwillingness of children to think for themselves or else to take responsibility for their thinking and actions. You will hear today’s guest relate conversations he had with his own children, saying things like,

“We can expand your horizons. We will be there to support you, but you have to take responsibility for your own choices.”

It can be a tricky thing as an adult responsible for children to say on the one hand, “I can help you do that better/easier/faster,” while on the other hand saying, “You’ll have to figure that out on your own.” Which decisions do we encourage children to make on their own, and which ones do we help them navigate?

This delicate balance between fostering independence and opening the door to opportunity takes practice to perfect. If we don’t give children enough rope, they never get the opportunity to make the necessary mistakes to learn complex tasks. On the other hand if we never intervene or help them, they make miss grand opportunities to take giant steps forward.

This tension between “You should try that on your own” and “Here can I show you a different way?” is precisely the experience we strive to create in the Inventor’s Bootcamp. Cassie was a student in one of our camps last summer. At first, she stood back while one of the other members of her group did all the computer programming. To be fair, she wasn’t particularly interested in programming, but then the other team member had some extenuating circumstances and couldn’t show up to finish the project. Suddenly, Cassie needed to learn the coding for their group’s project to succeed. She stepped up to the challenge because we didn’t rush in to solve her problem.

At other times, students may be facing a challenge for which they have no framework. In these moments, we introduce the basic concepts, help them get their feet wet, and then step back to see how far they can run on their own. We are always amazed at what students can do on their own. To get your students connected this summer, visit, and declare your child’s independence!

Our guest today is an expert on this subject of independent thinking and student choices in education. Dr. Yong Zhao started his educational career in the unlikeliest of places: the Sichuan province in China in the home of a poor peasant farmer. Let’s follow his journey to independent thinking to find clues for our own children.

Original Release Date: 6/25/15

Direct download: 041_-_Inspiring_Independence_with_Yong_Zhao.mp3
Category:Technology Educators -- posted at: 6:00pm PST

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Jared Easley - Table Top Inventing PodcastHow does a successful corporate professional at the top of his game recover from a layoff in December? How can buying a bottle of maple syrup be a life-changing experience? Does noticing and helping other people really matter in business? Listen in for the solid answers in today’s podcast!

Hey there, Innovation Nation! My guest today is a great podcaster. In fact, he and his partners have started a conference for podcasting called “Podcast Movement,” but before we dive into today’s interview, something Jared said reminded me of a quote from the book “The Go Giver” by Burg and Mann:

“All the great fortunes in the world have been created by men and women who had a greater passion for what they were giving – their product, service or idea – than for what they were getting. And many of those great fortunes have been squandered by others who had a greater passion for what they were getting than what they were giving.”

We often have this view of business as a one way street where businesses take our money, but if we back up a moment and take a good look, we’ll notice that the best and most trusted businesses have a long-standing habit of serving their customers very well. In fact, I heard a story about a Nordstrom’s employee who took a return on some snow tires! See the show notes for a link. However in real life, can we really be that generous? Does generosity matter?

We think it does. In fact in our summer Inventor’s Bootcamp classes, students are always encouraged to share what they’ve learned with other students rather than keeping the knowledge to themselves. Just last week when we had our first class of the summer, one of the students became known as “the wiring guy” because he figured out and memorized the wiring for the robot motors everyone was using. Not only did the other students get the help they needed faster, Audin “the wiring guy” got a great sense of confidence from helping.

To learn more about Inventor’s Bootcamp, visit and click on the Inventor’s Bootcamp button.

I’m excited, today, to introduce you to Jared Easley. Jared recently suffered a dramatic corporate downsizing incident that left him reeling but managed to silence all the doom and gloom voices that seem to plague us at moments like that. He cites as his inspirational turn around, the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” and the sincere gratitude of a podcast listener. Let’s find out more about this fascinating story.

Original release date: 6/18/2015

Direct download: 040_-_Investing_in_People_with_Jared_Easley.mp3
Category:Business Professionals -- posted at: 6:00pm PST

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Tim Vandenberg - Table Top Inventing PodcastCan fooling around, goofing off, and playing help your innovating power?   How can you use Monopoly(R) to teach kids better math skills?  Is there really a killer strategy for playing Monopoly?  Listen in for the playful answers in today's podcast.

Hey there, Innovation Nation!  Today we're just going to play around on the podcast, and we're going to start with a snippet from one of my favorite books:  Surely, You're Joking Mr. Feynman by Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman.  In the book he writes,

"Then I had another thought: Physics disgusts me a little bit now, but I used to enjoy doing physics. Why did I enjoy it? I used to play with it. I used to do whatever I felt like doing--it didn't have to do with whether it was important for the development of nuclear physics, but whether it was interesting and amusing for me to play with..."

So I got this new attitude...  I'm going to play with physics, whenever I want to, without worrying about any importance whatsoever.

Within a week I was in the cafeteria and some guy, fooling around, throws a plate in the air. As the plate went up in the air I saw it wobble, and I noticed the red medallion of Cornell on the plate going around. It was pretty obvious to me that the medallion went around faster than the wobbling...

It was effortless. It was easy to play with these things. It was like uncorking a bottle: Everything flowed out effortlessly. I almost tried to resist it! There was no importance to what I was doing, but ultimately there was. The diagrams and the whole business that I got the Nobel Prize for came from that piddling around with the wobbling plate."

We often watching kids--or even adults--goofing off and we say, "Oh, they're JUST playing around."  We treat playing around as if it is unimportant or useless.  However, here is one of the most famous Nobel prize winning physicists telling us that it was precisely the act of playing around that led him back to a love for physics and eventually to his Nobel prize winning work--or should I say Nobel prize winning playing around?

At Table Top Inventing, we love to play around.  We usually call it "hard fun" because we're actually learning and putting loads of effort into our play.  Yet it is still play.  It is fun, and it disarms students enough that they forget they are learning.  Why don't you grab your smart phone or pull up a browser on your computer and go check out to find out how to get your kids involved in some "hard fun" this summer?  If you know today's guest, Tim Vandenberg, email for special information about our Inventor's Bootcamp in Mr. Vandenberg's backyard. 

Today's guest knows quite a bit about play.  He's a no-nonsense teacher in some respects because he works with middle schoolers, but on the other hand, he uses the game of Monopoly(R) to teach kids to master their math facts and hone their negotiation skills.  Without further adieu, Tim Vandenberg.

Original release date: 6/11/15

Direct download: 039_-_Monopoly_Mania_with_Tim_Vandenberg.mp3
Category:Technology Educators -- posted at: 10:00pm PST

Show Notes | YouTube | iTunes

Lee Cockerell - Table Top Inventing PodcastHow does a cook in the army learn to become the Executive Vice President of Operations for Walt Disney World? What is the importance of Role Modeling? How important is having dinner together as a family? Listen in for the timeless answers in today’s podcast!

Hey there, Innovation Nation! My guest today has connections in one of the most magical places in the world! I won’t spoil the surprise yet, so let me distract you for a moment with a great insight from James Baldwin:

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”

Unfortunately, I have observed this to be true with my own kids! Kids seem to have a sixth sense for seeing the difference between what we say and what we do. In today’s episode we’ll touch on this topic, and I think it is a particularly poignant topic. In our Inventor’s Bootcamps, we encourage kids to explore, tinker, try stuff because the process of trying something new, varying the approach, and iterating until success is the only way to learn anything. It is such a powerful idea that the best business leaders encourage it, and we use the same process in our company whenever we try a new idea.

If you’d like your kids to learn this success formula in a fun and engaging Inventor’s Bootcamp environment this summer, visit and click on the Inventor’s Bootcamp button.

And now to break the suspense about today’s guest! For 10 years, Lee Cockerell was directly responsible for the Disney Magic at Walt Disney World Resorts in Florida. Since then he has focused in on great leadership and training another generation of great leaders. Let’s listen in as Lee shares some timeless treasures of leadership.

Original Release Date: 6/3/15

Direct download: 038_-_Leadership_with_Lee_Cockerell.mp3
Category:Business Professionals -- posted at: 9:00pm PST