Tech leader, entrepreneur, and STEM education advocate, Dr. Phillip Alvelda was our keynote speaker at the All School Meeting during Parents' Weekend. He recounted experiences and lessons learned over the past three decades in technology, from interning for astrophysicist Carl Sagan, to working on robotics at MIT, his time at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the wonderful world of microchips, tiny television screens, and mobile networks he worked on when founding numerous technology companies. “I’m a start-up guy,” Alvelda said when speaking to the Madeira audience. “It’s thinking about what is possible that excites me.” He shared slides that illustrate how receptors in the brain work and how someday, not too far in the future, we will have the capability to “talk” to each other via wireless computing, brain-to-brain. Dr. Alvelda made a point of telling the students that the technology he has been successful in creating or leveraging did not exist when he was a student. Students today, he explained, should be envisioning a future of technology solutions that do not look anything like what we have today. During the Q&A, Dr. Alvelda was asked what subjects would set students up for success in the future. He said that Communications and Software Design would be necessary for future careers. Alvelda also said he has high hopes for women in technology careers, stating that he has two young girls of his own.
Dr. Alvelda will be moving to the Washington, DC area to pursue yet another challenge: the design and building of a prototype to connect a human brain to a computer. He explained some of the benefits of this new technology by having us imagine a prosthetic limb that can feel, touch, and move just like the limb it is replacing.
In addition to his ASM presentation, Dr. Alvelda spent a good part of Friday in the AP Computer Science and Introduction to Computer Programming classes, both sharing his stories with the students and parents and answering questions that ranged from the ethics of his work to, “Why does my phone lose its charge after 10 minutes?” He also led a well-attended and dynamic robotics workshop that was open to parents and faculty.
About Dr. Alvelda:
Dr. Phillip Alvelda is the CEO and chairman of TaDa, a technology and media startup delivering live television and voice service over broadband networks, and the founding chairman of The Westminster Institute for Science Education [WISE], an organization that helps schools extend and enrich STEM education with an emphasis on technical design, creativity, and innovation. Prior to TaDa and WISE, Dr. Alvelda was the founding CEO of MobiTV, the world's leading provider of live TV, video-on-demand and music over mobile networks. Dr. Alvelda and his team took the idea of "rich media delivery over wireless networks" from concept to market leadership with the world's first live television experience over mobile phones, creating an entirely new media distribution channel, now called mobile television. Since MobiTV's 2003 debut on Sprint, Dr. Alvelda grew the service to more than two million paying subscribers on all the major US, Canadian, UK, and Latin American wireless networks. The company now has over 17 million subscribers, making MobiTV the US's third largest television provider by distribution. Dr. Alvelda received an Emmy Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, was selected by Fast Company as the US's 15th most influential high technology entrepreneur, and has been granted numerous other technology and industry leadership awards from AlwaysOn, CNET, Fierce, Frost & Sullivan, Mobile Entertainment (one of the top 20 most influential new media executives), Red Herring, and other influencers for innovation and market leadership. He is a regular invited speaker at media and telecom industry events including the World Economic Forum where he was chosen as a "Technology Pioneer" in 2007.
Prior to MobiTV, Dr. Alvelda was the founding CEO and CTO of The MicroDisplay Corporation, a manufacturer of high-resolution miniature displays for low cost HDTVs. Prior to MicroDisplay, Dr. Alvelda was a developer of spacecraft hardware and software systems, and new computing architectures at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he designed and built a series of sensors that flew on the Space Shuttle as well as the Galileo and Magellan interplanetary spacecraft. Dr. Alvelda holds over 20 patents and patents-pending on a wide range of technologies, a technical Emmy Award, a bachelor's degree in Physics from Cornell University, and masters and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).