From STEM To STEAM, Cloud Filmmaker Joined British Airways' Innovators In The Clouds

Traveling with top-flight innovators is a heady experience under normal circumstances. However, when you conduct a think-tank 30,000 feet above terra firma, it's a whole new ballgame. Such was the case when award-winning filmmaker and founder of the Webbie Awards, Tiffany Shlain took to the creative skies with 130 techie-elite from the Silicon Valley. In fact, there was so much to absorb, it will take her a couple of months to document her experience on film.

On June 12th, British Airways went where no other airline has gone before. No, this was not a space flight, but something equally as awe-inspiring. As noted on the airline's website, "the sky was not the limit," when innovators and tech stars were sequestered on one 11-hour flight from San Francisco headed to Heathrow Airport in London, England.

Working off the principle there is an unbalanced alignment of talent and opportunity in the world, BA's "Ungrounded" initiative triggered a partnership alliance with the United Nations and these 130 thought leaders, including such heavy-weights as Megan Smith from Google. Their assignment was to come up with some BIG ideas and solutions to help change the world. Here are some of the highlights:

At the 2:58 mark in the above montage, Tiffany Shlain shares some of her experience pertaining to this once-in-a-lifetime experience. As a filmmaker who believes the future of filmmaking should be based on collaboration, Shlain's inclusion in this band of 130 was apropos. After all, she's had her head in the clouds for years. Admittedly, hardly shooting any foootage herself, her documentaties are the result of remixing and recontextualizing images offered up freely on the Internet. [More insight into cloud fimmaking can be found here: Tiffany Shlain Melds Collaboration & Cloudsourcing Into Cloud Filmmaking]

In interviewing Tiffany Shlain, post-voyage, once she had both feet firmly planted back on the ground, she acknowledged the uniqueness of assembling innovators in such a fashion. Due to the inherent constraints of a 747 Boeing aircraft, "we were literally bumping into each other. . . (and since) innovation happens when ideas bump up against each other, this was a perfect environment."

Even the turbulence helped, Shlain explained metaphorically. It was "idea turbulence" or an incubator of sorts "to lead to more creative thinking."

"It was a transatlantic flight, so there was no Internet-access -- which was great because everyone was very focused" in pulling off this "all nighter," says Shlain.  And while cabin pressure can sometimes lead to an airline passenger's sleepiness, Shlain felt her 130 comrades experienced an opposite reaction. They were energized instead. "The adrenaline from that concoction created good innovative oxygen."

STEM education is an interdisciplinary approach to learning, where rigorous academic concepts are coupled with real-world applications, as students apply science, technology, engineering, and mathematical solutions. STEM was a focus for many on this trip, and was discussed in length by several of the group teams on this flight.

Shlain felt strongly that STEM's purpose should be broadened. Her team called, "Wingspan" strongly supported adding the letter "A" to the STEM learning principles. In so doing, "we will be infusing science, math, and engineering with 'art' (which will in turn) bring the emotion, and engagement that's missing when we teach in the education system," noted Shlain.

Ideas surfaced and percolated. Some were discarded as fast as they came -- as Shlain explained it: "It was a great example of fail often, fail quickly and move on."

"My thoughts about STEM and STEAM (for three days straight of going deep and wide, even after the official brainstorm was over) was that in addition to the 22 ideas that came off the plane, many will happen and many will ripple into all of our work," as Shlain will attempt to do herself in the months to come.

"Something about being on that plane with such vibrant minds," says Shlain. "It was daring and a little outrageous -- my favorite kind of idea -- in yiddish we call it Moxie -- it was a flight full of Moxie," she asserted.

Reflecting, Shlain believes the experience underscored one of her other favorite sayings: "Go as far as you can see, and when you get there, you'll be able to see farther." For her, "staring out onto the clouds on this flight was a perfect vista to push ideas about cloud filmmaking out further."

So in taking further steps, for those that want to continue to follow all the innovative ideas that will be put into action by the BA innovators, check back often with British Airways "Ungrounded Thinking" website. And for those that want to see how a cloud filmmaker will interpret this transatlantic experience in moving images, please visit her website and follow her on Twitter (@TiffanyShlain) for periodic updates. She's one innovator, fueled with STEAM, worth watching in the years to come!

Jul 1, 2013
by Anonymous

From a garage inventor aka

From a garage inventor aka man on the street, I support the the theme by creating USASTEAM facebook to track ALL web comments on converting from STEM to STEAM movement. Our sites promotes the art and engineering of the age old craft of wood bending. See to learn more. Thanks Brad