Interview TahoeJS Founder Jordan Papaleo

I was trying to figure out the best way to express my goals and let people understand what I am trying to do. After going back and forth on the writing style, I just decided to interview myself.

Who are you?

My name is Jordan. I am a guy who lives in Truckee with my family of five. I grew up in Colorado but moved to California about ten years ago. I did not grow up with engineers for parents. My dad is a world class photographer and my mom took the most honorable role of all and raised us kids. I did fine in high school, I got bored with college, and then moved to Breckenridge to live out my dreams snowboarding. I worked in the ski industry for about a decade; I got to do a few different things: I tought snowboarding, bumped chairs, managed huge departments with huge budgets, built chairlifts, trained people for high angle rescue, ran re-vegation projects, assembled computers, configured networks, drove snowmobiles, worked under helicopteres, hired people, fired people, and became a licensed blaster. Yes, I have destroyed many rocks.

A couple important things you should know about me:

  1. My faith and my family come first.
  2. Sharing what I know with others brings me joy.

At some point during the later part of my ski career, I realized that I liked the interwebs. I started learning how to design and to build websites. I found that I was way more into mental than physical stimulation. This is where I decided to go back to school with the support of my wife and baby boy. This time around school was exciting, but time was scarce. I should have really looked into getting sponsored by Red Bull or something. I took a couple classes at at time until I graduated with a bachelors degree in computer stuff. Also during that time I got my first job as a professional web developer; thank you Markit on Demand.

Fast forward to a few years ago: I still love my family, I still love to program, but the desire to share knowledge is growing. I started a JavaScript meetup which is still running today. I took on a few guys to mentor. I taught a class at a college.

Right now I am actively programming for work, programming for fun, and trying to break into programming with kids.

What is TahoeJS?

I love where I live. I love what I do. These two statements should not be exclusive. You should have the right to be successful at the job you want and live in the location you want.

TahoeJS is an idea. It's the idea that you do not have to sacrifice your lifestyle to have an awesome and fulfilling tech career.

Let's be honest, Tahoe is not on the top of most programmers list of places to live, but good programmers do live here. Tahoe is not a city that you will likely read about in tech articles, but we do have successful tech companies.

In Tahoe, you can see the stars. You can breath clean air and may even see a few deer on your drive home. In Tahoe, you can live.

TahoeJS is the reality in which we choose to live.

What am I trying to do?

There are a lot of people in our region with great ambitions to see a spirit of creativity flurish. We have had unique individuals in our community that have put in time to run events like Silicon Mountain, Thrive, and Tahoe Startup Weekend. These people know who they are and on behalf of Tahoe, thank you.

It is now my turn to do my part. I want to show kids how much fun technology can be. Our children have the right to learn, the right to build, and the right to create. We have the obligation to help.

Tech can be so fun. Kids will get excited by what we are doing, I am positive of this. I just want their excitement to infect the rest of us.. It would be so cool to see innovation thrive in our homes. I truly hope that what we are doing will help families to grow together.

No longer will kids be saying "My dad is bigger than your dad" but "My dad's robot can whoop your dad's robot." Kidding of course... well, kind of kidding.

Why do I care?

To be truly honest, sometimes I am not sure. I have asked myself this question many times. The inner dialog sounds kind of like this: "Jordan! What in the world are you doing now? You already work a lot. Why do you need to do more? You are doing more than most people are willing to do. Just write your code at work then go home. Worry about yourself and your family. Someone else will do this." Thankfully I have a short attention span and some random song (ok let's build a snowman) starts playing in my head. Then I can get back to work.

If I really drill down into what drives me, I have to go with my passion is what makes me care. My passion for people, my passion for learning, and my passion for technology. Passion is the only thing that can make you do something that doesn't make sense. Taking my free time and giving it away to many people does not make sense.

What is a Sphero Event

"Our Sphero events are being designed to show people how much fun you can have solving problems. We want to get kids excited about technology. We plan to use block style programming allowing them to control a small spherical robot, the Sphero."

So what does that mean. I can program anything that will listen. I can write down a bunch of instructions, when executed that will get you from Tahoe to Reno. I can program you to bake a cake. I literally programmed my son to walk in a square to teach him about programming. Programming is logically solving a problem. Block programming is doing this in a non intimidating way. You get to use pre defined and named insructions. When you group a bunch of these together, magical stuff happens.

We will be teaching kids how to create these sets of instructions to solve problems like navigating a maze. To do this, we need to teach kids how to analyze a problem. But the way we will do this will be fun. I would not go to an event titled, "Instructions to Solve a Problem" but you can bet your breakfast that I would be pumped to go to something like "Lets Play with Robots." So, lets play with some robots.

What do the parents want to know?

  • Play-gramming (I just made that word up: play + programming = play-gramming) is what happens when you use technology in an educational way and have fun. We are really into having fun.
  • This is not just for boys, or kids who like science and math. This is for people that want to create and those who still have wonder about the world.
  • This is FREE.
  • This is NOT daycare.
  • This can be for families; yes, Moms and Dads are welcome to learn too. Turn off the TV and play-gram together :)
  • Sphero is the beginning.
  • The end... not sure. We are not there yet and I would hate to be so caught up in the destination that I missed the trip. Tomorrow will figure itself out.

What does the community want to know?

Once we get our robots, we will do Sphero events on a regular basis. We will at least do one a quarter depending on how well things go. We would like to be apart of enrichment programs before and after schools. It would be super cool if we even got invited into classrooms to show kids how much fun learning can be if we just create. We are going to invest our time with your children Tahoe and they will learn.

Why dont you just become a non profit org?

This is not a business or a company. Its a group of people that want to change the future of kids. Yeah, sure, it would probably be easier to conform to the IRS donation model. You will not get a tax break helping us. So yeah, no, I dont want to be a non profit. I want to help kids, I want people that are truly intersted in helping kids to help me... Mic drop.

ps: Having said that, if someone with wisdom and wealth ever offered to do this for us, I'd probably ok with it ;)