Oceanside CA— MiraCosta College Communications Professor Eric Robertson is bringing technology to education.
No, we’re not talking iPads or Smart Boards. Robertson and a pair of partners have created a device called SCIO that plugs into a personal computer and can teach any electronics novice how to run programs able to do anything from automatically turning on a ceiling fan when it gets too hot to playing your favorite song when you walk into a room.
“The goal of this product is to transform the way people learn technology in this country,” Robertson said, noting that SCIO includes a curriculum comprising 10 different lessons ranging from computer programming concepts to lessons in physics. “There’s a lot you could do with this in the educational arena, and it can really be valuable in after-school programs.”
Pronounced `skee-oh’ and named after the Latin word meaning “I know,” SCIO was introduced at an Encuentros conference of middle and high school students at MiraCosta College last fall, where participants learned how to program a custom light show through a palm-sized circuit board that programs devices operating on the internet of things – the system of physical objects, or things, embedded with electronics, software and network connectivity that enables them to collect and exchange data.
SCIO officially launched January 19 via a Kickstarter campaign, with a standard model selling for $50 each.
This is not Robertson’s first entrepreneurial foray. He was a partner in a real estate company that bought foreclosure properties, and he is involved in a social media startup called Station that aims to help content creators monetize and control their work. He also wrote “Startup Style Learning – How Starting a Business Makes You Smarter.”
“Entrepreneurship keeps things fresh for me,” he said.
He’s made plenty of fans along the way.
“Eric Robertson has a keen sense of currency – as in what’s relevant, what’s useful, what’s innovative,” said Dana Smith, dean of Letters & Communication Studies and site administrator at the San Elijo Campus where Robertson teaches. “His involvement with SCIO is a perfect example of that. He immediately recognized the potential for this marvelous little machine as something that could inspire a whole lot of students interested in ‘making things work.’”
Robertson, who is the vice president of development at Makerthreads, the firm that created SCIO, earned his bachelor’s degree at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, and his master’s degree from San Diego State University. As a San Diego State lecturer he directed the speech and debate program. He was named Most Influential Professor at SDSU in the School of Communication in 2008, was dubbed the 5th Hottest Professor in America in 2010 by RateMyProfessors, and earned the title of Tenured Faculty Member of the Year award in 2014-15 at MiraCosta College.
He is working with Makerthreads founder and Chief Executive Officer Dan Graboi, who earned his Ph.D. in human experimental psychology and did his doctoral research in human cognitive processing. Graboi’s son, Mitchell Graboi, serves as vice president of operations.
Robertson teaches traditional, online and hybrid courses in public speaking, argumentation and group communication from the San Elijo Campus. His schedule has made his participation in developing SCIO especially challenging.
“Teaching comes first,” he said. “So this is all happening during the hours I can find during the day, which is hard because I have a family and we’re raising two kids.”
Robertson said MiraCosta College has been supportive of his latest endeavor. “MiraCosta is so big on STEM education, so there are a lot of common interests,” he said.
To learn more about SCIO or pledge to the Kickstarter campaign, visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/816777132/scio-the-fun-new-way-to-learn.