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“I believe that robotics can inspire young people to pursue science and engineering.”

President Barack Obama, speaking to government officials and middle and high school students just before the students demonstrated robots that could pick up and toss rocks on the moon. Heads up, man in the moon!

 

AFTER SCHOOL SCIENCE in  metro WASHINGTON, D.C. 

The Great Adventure Lab is on a mission. We wish America’s elementary schools offered more science. Since they don’t, we’re making up the difference with hands-on, fun and educational after school science programs. We make STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) irresistibly FUN for kids, like it should be. How? By getting kids hooked on robotics. Or building, wiring and programming stuff, like real engineers do!

Since our founding in September 2010, The Great Adventure Lab has taught more than 10,000 elementary school kids how to write their first robotics or video game programs, through both our classes and our robotics parties. Through our Young Engineers class, we’re introducing students to the basics of structural engineering and physics. In our electronics classes, we’ve taught kids to wire their own burgular alarms … or doll houses or dance pads! In our Storybook Science classes and parties kids in grades K-1 do hands-on experiments based on their favorite stories!

The details: The Great Adventure Lab is a Maryland LLC, based in Wheaton. We serve Washington, D.C., Maryland suburbs, NoVa. We’re insured and our instructors are bonded. We’re a woman-owned business. And though we love Legos and use them to teach robotics, we are not affiliated with Lego or Lego Education.

joan indiana rigdon, founder adventures with robotsOur founder, Joan Indiana (Rigdon) Lyness, has two children, one who is homeschooled and one who is in public school in Montgomery County, Md. She’s a career journalist who covered technology, management issues and good old fashioned boardroom coups for The Wall Street Journal for most of the 90s. She quit in 1997 to spend two years bicycling around the world with her husband, while reporting for the WSJ’s then-new online edition on how people were using the internet all over the world, from Everest Base Camp in Tibet to … Slovakia (see Global Village). [Guess what? Her Apple Newton, which rode through glacial moraine, rain forests, sand dunes, beaches and snowy mountains protected only by a Rubbermaid sandwich container, a trash bag and a pound or two of dirty laundry ….  still works!]

Over the last decade, Joan’s written for a bunch of publications including ForbesWoman online, ForbesWoman Magazine and Washington Lawyer. Her journalism career is now on hiatus as she grows The Great Adventure Lab!

Eric’s part of a large team working on an instrument called SAM that’s riding on the rover Curiouity, pictured above, on Mars.  The rover uses lasers and drills to acquire rock samples, then crushes the rock into powder. SAM vaporizes the powder samples, figures out what they’re made of and sends the data back to Earth. This is an artist’s conception; see below for a photo of the actual rover.

The Great Adventure Lab receives great inspiration from Joan’s husband Eric Lyness, who doubles as our chief robotics consultant (pictured below, in the fetching bunny suit). Eric is a software engineer who works on Mars and lunar missions for NASA, and through NASA, for European space agencies.  His work lets him get up close and personal with some of NASA’s coolest robotics projects, like the newest Mars Rover, Curiosity, at right. Curiosity  landed on the red planet on Aug. 5, 2012 and is finding new and cool things. (He’s now working on the MOMA project).

If you work at Goddard, Eric’s the guy whose car has the The Great Adventure Lab sign on the driver’s side. Building 29, baby.

Want a brochure? You can’t have one, because we’re trying to save trees. You can find everything you need to know about us right here on our web site. If  you’d like to bring Lego Robotics or any The Great Adventure Lab science program  to your school, start here!

 

When he's not working for NASA, Eric is the chief robotics consultant for The Great Adventure Lab.

A very clean Eric with the actual new Mars Rover, Curiosity, in a clean room at Kennedy Space Center, July 22, 2011

 

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