A few months ago, I applied to a little known, first iteration program, called Exosphere. I quit my job in corporate finance, sold most of my belongings, and decided to venture to Santiago, Chile to experience something that I thought would change my life. To my extreme satisfaction, this program has exceeded every expectation that I held in my heart and mind. It has been intensely challenging, but I wouldn’t prefer it any other way.
Exosphe.re states, “Exosphere is an alternative learning platform for entrepreneurship and technology.” While true, Exosphere is becoming so much bigger than this simple statement. Exosphere really is a community of entrepreneurs devoted to learning three things. The first is learning how to solve problems. As an entrepreneur, this is paramount. The second is to learn about their personal interests. In my case, it has been computer programming because technology is so fascinating to me and I want to be involved in emerging technology. Finally and most importantly, we are all committed to learning how to become a genuine community. In that, I mean we have been trying to become more than simply a group of people working together, helping each other, and learning from one another for three months. We want this to continue even after the group goes their separate ways in December. “Community” may seem like merely a buzzword, but here it has a special meaning for all of us.
During the first bootcamp, we had two weeks devoted to learning different aspects of programming. In the first week, we all formed small groups and organized based upon what we were interested in learning. I joined the hardware group and we jumped into the world of Arduino. I had previous experience with microcontrollers but most of us were basically novices to Arduino. However, one of the Exosphere students is a brilliant computer scientist who was basically our teacher for the week. I can honestly say that I learned more in one week of small group learning that I ever did with my previous kits or tutorials.
The key here is that even in the information age, traditional education is based on a system from the late industrial revolution. That system is broken because it is a one size fits all system. As information is free-flowing, and electronics are becoming even more prevalent in our daily lives through the “internet of things”, how can traditional educators expect children to learn from lecture style classrooms where memorization is used as opposed to real learning by doing and tinkering? Most people learn so much more effectively and quickly when they can explore ideas, engage with others, and ask them questions. That is what Exosphere is all about – to get intelligent, curious, and driven people in the same room, and solve problems together.
The maker scene in Latin America is gaining popularity. There are a lot of creative and intelligent people here and as countries improve their Internet accessibility, the Maker mindset will continue to gain ground. I think a core component of the maker’s repertoire is improving quality of life, either around the house or making jobs easier. I am actually very excited because the Santiago Maker Faire is this weekend. I am eager to see all the great exhibits and how Latin America is embracing this culture.
Other than the March 2014 bootcamp, the Exosphere team is hosting one of the premiere 3D printing conferences in the world. The conference is called ex3D and it is scheduled for June 2014, with the keynote given by Enrico Dini. Some of you may know Enrico as, “The Man Who Prints Houses.” He has been given this nickname because he has patented a world-class machine that is a large 3D printer that can literally build homes. In total, there will be 15 speakers from around the world including names such as Gino Tubaro and David Cuartielles. This is the first large 3D printing conference in South America.
In the first nine weeks, we have already seen a few successes at Exosphere. In terms of monetary success, two students, one Brazilian and one Canadian, created a productivity system and already have 113 sales. There are other great projects being built right now. We have people making web apps, mobile apps, highly tailored supplement packages, luxury brands, entire online schools for Spanish speakers interested in learning about entrepreneurship, and branding tool boxes for entrepreneurs who need quality design but are on a limited budget. Also, we have students that are planning large design conferences in the US, world travelers learning how to improve their web presence, and so many other awesome ideas and projects. It really is a great joy of mine to wake up every morning and have the ability to interact and work with these people.
While we have some great things going on at Exosphere, it has been incredibly challenging for us to get to this point as a group. Just like everyone else in the world, each one of us deals with limiting beliefs like, “Who am I to build something great?” or, “Why would someone want to listen to me or pay me money for my idea?” The psychological warfare that each one of us experiences daily is one of the reasons why our strong community is so important to us. The founders of Exosphere have instilled the importance of community into us from day one of week one. We have delved deep into self-reflection discussions. There have been tears shed, voices raised, and tempers flared but the truth and honesty that we expelled from these emotions have been the strongest glue for our bonds as a community.
The Exosphere program has changed my life and I have gained one of the best global networks a young entrepreneur could ask for. I feel so blessed that I was accepted and able to participate in this program. While I would not change anything about what has happened so far, the Exosphere team is dedicated to making this program the best in the world. I know that the second bootcamp in March is going to be a superior experience for those students. The application process is currently open. In fact, this weekend is the last chance to take advantage of the Early Bird registration discount of 20 percent.
Be sure to check back on Monday to read about my experience at the Santiago Maker Faire!
Good things to come.