Back to the ‘Future Innovators’: 5 years later, kids adjust to an evolving and turbulent world

The 2015 GeekWire “Future Innovators” throughout 2020 Zoom calls, clockwise from high left, Tanner, Rebecca, Marcus and Annabelle. (GeekWire Photographs)

5 years in the past, budding 11-year-old Seattle scientist Rebecca Yeung was launching a home made spacecraft excessive above Earth. The exploits together with her sister gained the pair widespread publicity and an opportunity to fulfill President Obama at a White Home science honest.

The experiences left Rebecca with a wide-eyed enthusiasm about science and know-how.

In 2015, she joined geeky youngsters from throughout the Seattle area in a collection of movies and an on-stage panel at that 12 months’s GeekWire Summit. We talked about their views on science, know-how, what was necessary of their lives on the time, and their aspirations for the years forward.

We known as them our “Future Innovators,” and the objective was to get a glimpse of the longer term by speaking on to among the younger individuals who would assist to form it.

“Everybody was excited about science and the means the world was going,” mentioned Rebecca, now 16. “Since that time, clearly, a lot of issues have modified in our nation. However this 12 months, particularly, has revealed that perhaps not every little thing was as hopeful and good as we thought it was at the time.”

5 years after we first heard their insights about know-how, science, devices and geekdom, GeekWire’s “Future Innovators” don’t look or sound like little youngsters anymore. Their views are additionally evolving significantly — formed not simply by their extra years on the planet, however by the quickly altering circumstances on the earth round them.

We couldn’t get everybody collectively in particular person for a five-year reunion, so we caught up lately with Rebecca, Tanner Stark, Annabelle Kisky, and Marcus Bathum on Zoom calls. We got here away with a greater understanding of how some youngsters at this time view technological advances, distant studying throughout a pandemic, rising up with local weather change, social media, self-driving vehicles and extra.

Take a look at the video above for among the highlights from our 2015 and 2020 discussions, and hold studying for extra of what every “Future Innovator” thinks in regards to the world now and what’s forward.

And for extra inspiring tales about younger individuals embracing tech and science, try GeekWire’s Junior Geek of the Month collection.


Tanner Stark at age 5 in 2015, left, and on a Zoom name in 2020 at age 11. (GeekWire Photographs)

This child cracked us up in 2015 when he instructed us he didn’t but work for Microsoft as a result of he was “simply 5.” Now an 11-year-old fifth grader, Tanner nonetheless doesn’t work for Microsoft, however he could be on his means primarily based on how a lot he appears to have modified in 5 years.

He mentioned he watches the YouTube video from the Summit day-after-day to get inspiration, though he admits to being a little bit embarrassed by a few of his solutions as our youngest Future Innovator.

Tanner is house education now and whereas he misses the social side of in-person faculty, he mentioned distant studying is healthier as a result of at house you don’t need to line up and wait for everybody to be quiet.

“Now that I’m older and I do know what life’s alleged to be like,” Tanner mentioned, gearing as much as crack us up as soon as once more, “I personally wish to develop into a preferred TikToker. If that profession will get me someplace, perhaps I would transfer on to Microsoft.”

Tanner mentioned perhaps he’ll be capable of create the Xbox Infinity S. Or one thing like that.

Tanner Stark on the 2015 GeekWire Summit in Seattle. (GeekWire Picture)

Tanner didn’t have a telephone in 2015, a lot much less a presence on TikTok, the favored video-sharing app. However now he makes use of a hand-me-down machine from his mother and spends his time watching movies “with over 1 million views” to search out viral inspiration. The morning we spoke, he posted a video of himself doing the dishes for his six followers.

Listed here are a number of extra insights from 2020 Tanner:

  • Life throughout a pandemic: “Personally, this COVID social distancing factor is getting actually exhausting for lots of households and even kids. Mother and father aren’t capable of have a job which implies they’ll’t afford meals generally. And for teenagers it’s perhaps not miserable, however disappointing that you may’t go see your pals.”
  • House journey: “That’s fairly dang cool that we’re going again to the moon. I believe we are able to study so much from that — go gather moon rocks or some hypersonic-gizmo something-or-other drone. … In the event that they do discover water or some form of dwelling creature up in area, that may be an enormous factor.”
  • Favourite factor about know-how: “How one can have extraordinarily good web wherever … except you’ve the telephone that I’ve.”
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Rebecca Yeung at age 10 in 2015, left, and on a Zoom name in 2020 at age 16. (GeekWire Photographs)

5 years in the past, Rebecca dropped the largest applause line on the GeekWire Summit when she instructed a room stuffed with techies that her most important lesson discovered from launching climate balloons to the sting of area together with her sister was, “don’t speculate, depend on information.”

Whereas it appeared on the time that Rebecca, together with her love of physics and chemistry, was destined for a profession in aerospace or one thing related, the 16-year-old tenth grader at Seattle’s Lakeside Faculty appears fortunately undecided nowadays.

“I believe that we’re taught so much after we’re youthful that we are able to solely develop as much as be one factor, however I’ve realized over time that that’s not true,” she mentioned. “I’m occupied with a number of various things and do not know the place I’ll plan to go, however I need it to be one thing that I consider will assist different individuals and makes me completely happy.”

Faculty has gotten busier for Rebecca and her youthful sister Kimberly, in order that they’ve retired from launching any new Loki Lego Launcher missions. The household turned its consideration to constructing tiny homes to assist deal with among the disaster round homelessness in Seattle. And Rebecca’s outlook typically has been altered with a extra mature understanding of the state of the world.

Loki Lego 2.0
Rebecca and Kimberly Yeung with their spacecraft, in a area close to Tokio, in Adams County, Wash., in July 2016. (Picture courtesy of Yeung household)

“I believe it goes with out saying that this 12 months was a really attempting 12 months for everyone,” she mentioned. “However I’m really fairly optimistic about it. As a result of I assume that, like we noticed this 12 months with the protests in social justice actions, that as a society and nation, we are prepared to enhance issues and attempt and make issues higher.”

Listed here are a number of extra insights from 2020 Rebecca:

  • Display time: “I’m on a display screen just about on a regular basis now, particularly with distant faculty. I additionally spend a variety of time connecting with family and friends on-line. I do use social media day-after-day and it’s a fairly large a part of my life now, particularly to attempt to keep related to individuals I’m not dwelling with and might’t see day-after-day.”
  • Will we go to the moon or Mars? “I’m unsure. I believe that the science and innovation is on the market for us to do it. I don’t know whether or not individuals who make selections about it can resolve that’s the place we wish to focus.”
  • Amazon, Apple, Google, Fb: “On the one hand I actually wish to acknowledge these tech giants, as they’re known as, have completed so much for our society and having that a lot innovation in a single place is persistently main to raised, extra handy issues for individuals. Alternatively, when you’ve these big corporations and a significantly small variety of individuals on the high making selections that have an effect on so a lot of our lives, there’s room for issues there.”


Annabelle Kisky at age 10 in 2015, left, and on a Zoom name in 2020 at age 16. (GeekWire Photographs)

Annabelle is a 16-year-old tenth grader now who’s doing unbiased examine at house, with plans to get a bounce on issues and enter Working Begin subsequent fall. She’s occupied with psychology.

“I’m not likely certain how I discovered that as one thing I wish to pursue,” she mentioned. “However I’m occupied with it as a result of I simply assume it’s actually cool to attempt to perceive how individuals work, how social connections come into that.”

Annabelle appeared to have a learn on issues as a youthful child, actually, after we handed her an outdated Walkman cassette participant 5 years in the past to see if she knew what it was and he or she accurately mentioned, “It’s a Walkman” … as a result of the identify was on the machine.

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In the case of tech she’s utilizing essentially the most nowadays, Annabelle spends a variety of time speaking to associates on the app Discord.

“It lets me play video games and socialize with my associates regardless of the place we’re on the earth, and makes this complete quarantine much more bearable,” she mentioned.

The “Future Innovators” panel on the GeekWire Summit in 2015. (GeekWire Picture)

Though her education routine hasn’t modified through the pandemic, Annabelle does miss going to museums such because the Museum of Pop Tradition, Pacific Science Heart, The Museum of Flight, Residing Computer systems: Museum + Labs and extra. She misses seeing the displays shut up and messing with hands-on interactive components.

“I’m a really hands-on learner. I prefer to study by doing,” she mentioned. “Earlier than COVID, we have been all the time on the go. Most day-after-day had a ‘area journey’ of some kind. I wrestle to maintain engaged once I can look however not contact or learn however not expertise.”

Listed here are a number of extra insights from 2020 Annabelle:

  • Information consumption: “It seems like each morning I get up and there’s extra unhealthy information. The excellent news is it signifies that our communication know-how has gotten to the purpose the place anybody can get the information nearly immediately. However that’s additionally form of a foul factor as a result of now you hear the entire unhealthy information all of sudden. It’s kind of so much to course of when it simply retains coming.”
  • House journey: “I’m unsure how lengthy it will likely be earlier than we ship people to Mars. As a result of we’ve despatched rovers and stuff earlier than, however attempting to help a human is so much completely different than a robotic.”
  • Tech the world might use now: “Cleaner types of transportation. There are already issues like electrical vehicles, however they aren’t as widespread as they need to be.”


Marcus Bathum at age 9 in 2015, left, and on a Zoom name in 2020 at age 14. (GeekWire Photographs)

As improvisational as jazz music will be, it’s simply not the identical over Zoom, no less than so far as Marcus is anxious. Enjoying in his faculty’s jazz band is among the issues he misses most about in-person faculty through the pandemic.

“Enjoying band over a pc display screen and recording is simply not the identical as getting to really play with different individuals,” mentioned the 14-year-old West Seattle Excessive Faculty freshman, who performs each trombone and baritone sax.

When Marcus was 9, his favourite know-how on the time was the smartphone, primarily as a result of he might play “Minecraft” on the machine. Marcus doesn’t actually play the favored world-building recreation anymore, however he’s nonetheless into telephones and computer systems, and the Microsoft Floor, which he makes use of to do his schoolwork.

Like Annabelle, Marcus is taking an curiosity within the professions round psychological well being and the science round why individuals act the way in which they do or what triggers sure feelings. He may wish to develop into a psychiatrist or therapist.

Marcus Bathum talks to GeekWire’s John Cook dinner on the 2015 GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire Picture)

Listed here are a number of extra insights from 2020 Marcus:

  • Political change: “I’m hopeful as a result of I consider with Biden in cost issues may very well be so much higher. I additionally don’t actually consider that too many issues are going to get completed. I don’t know if stuff like common well being care shall be achieved or actual change [around] international warming and local weather change.”
  • Self-driving vehicles: “I’m actual excited to begin driving — theoretically by the summer season I ought to be. I’m looking forward to self-driving vehicles. I really feel like there’s lots of people who’re going to be actually supportive of that and lots of people are simply not going to belief it.”
  • Social media: “I’ve an Instagram account. That’s actually the one social media I get into, however I attempt to not go on it an excessive amount of as a result of I do know I’ll get hooked on it and hold scrolling my feed. A few of my associates use Twitter. I don’t assume any of my associates use Fb … my mother and father do.”

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