I always held a deep interest in Astronomy, but what I discovered while at the Observatory was my passion for and love of critical and out-of-the box strategic thinking and leadership. And that the greater the idea, project and best intentions, the more of a thorough and adaptable execution plan you need that can be broken up into bite sized pieces that people can run with and take ownership of. For example during the “Evolving New Ideas” event* while volunteers may have wanted to setup technical infrastructure or interact with animals, the Zoo may have been seeking exposure and funding, while the school district had to show tangible value and sustainability and from the Observatory’s perspective, we were interested in the scalability of this model nationwide. You have to account for all of that plus possible conflicts of interest and the unexpected.
— Daniel Pesserl, Risk Operations Manager at Microsoft & Former Director of Technology at the McMath Hulbert Solar Observatory (from ages 17-25)

*Evolving New Ideas was the name of the student-driven, interactive, LIVE technology showcase for the Michigan Association of Teachers Association in 1997 and for the National Association of Teachers Association in 1998 at the Renaissance Ballroom in Detroit, MI. 

21st Century Digital Learning Environments is a design consultancy based on decades of research, development, demonstrations and advocacy, focused on the making of transformational learning and innovation models for our U.S. K-12 public education system.

Before turning to Education, Jim Ross founded two studios - RGB & Detroit Digital Design- where critical technologies were pioneered that contributed to the evolution of the digital photography, graphic and industrial arts fields. In 1991 and 1992, Detroit Digital collaborated with the Industrial Design Society of America for an event titled "Design Studio of the Future" which was the theme for the annual "Eyes on the Classics" event held for Auto leadership at the Edsel and Elanor Ford House.

Detroit Digital intended to demonstrate how digital empowered design as it had been marginalized to make way for engineering, CAD mass production, and a "bean counter," planned obscolescence culture.

Before bankruptcy visited the auto industry in 2008 and design was re-embraced, Ross became interested in education and in getting to the root cause of our lack of creative thinking and innovation in American business culture, and took on the role of Director of the McMath Hulbert Solar Observatory; starting a non-profit to renovate the historic site and to operate it as an informal science learning and research facility for K-12 and Higher Education. Through collaborations with education, civic & political thought leaders, the Observatory raised millions of dollars in grants for advanced STEM program and technological infrastructure development for the Oakland County Intermediate School District (e.g. Awesome Tech) & Pontiac Schools (e.g. Project Synergy technology grant,  21st Century Community Learning Centers).

An example of a "Discovery Program" summer camp project was the 1997 Michigan Science Teachers Association's annual "Evolving New Ideas" themed conference held at the Renaissance Center ballroom in Detroit (& for National in 1998). Youth spent 6 weeks in immersive environments at the Detroit Zoo and the Observatory and video-conferenced with each other and with mentors studying marine biology at UC Santa Barbara. Live trucks were set up to broadcast the student-designed, interactive, cross-country/site presentations of all they had learned. 

The power of this form of student driven learning was missed by its audience at the time and teachers and administrators inquired instead on how they might incorporate particular aspects of the show - such as the making of kelp beads - into their curriculum vs. the adoption of free form, project-based learning. 

21st Century Digital Learning Environments formed in 2006 to develop additional partnerships for expansion into various Southeast Michigan sites to meet growing demand for a relevant, real world learning, design thinking & innovation ecosystem.

We are now based in downtown Pontiac, MI - forming the Pontiac Holonomy Incubator and advocating for the development of a Placemaking driven Innovation District dedicated to learning, creativity, and figuring out our future together. 

 

 First major work  Syd Mead  produced using computer graphics software working with Detroit Digital Studios and the Industrial Design Society of America. Mead left Ford when design lost ground and went to Hollywood to envision sets such as for Blade Runner and Tron. He returned to Detroit to collaborate with Detroit Digital Studios for this show that highlighted design and the new capacities technology made available to creative talent.

First major work Syd Mead produced using computer graphics software working with Detroit Digital Studios and the Industrial Design Society of America. Mead left Ford when design lost ground and went to Hollywood to envision sets such as for Blade Runner and Tron. He returned to Detroit to collaborate with Detroit Digital Studios for this show that highlighted design and the new capacities technology made available to creative talent.

 On the Studio experience Detroit Digital created. (That is being replicated in small learning incubators in diverse places throughout Southeast Michigan).

On the Studio experience Detroit Digital created. (That is being replicated in small learning incubators in diverse places throughout Southeast Michigan).