On August 21, 2017, several events will be held in the area of the Kessler Campanile in order to celebrate the solar eclipse, which will cover 97% of the sun when viewed from campus. Protective glasses will be provided. Activities will include livestream video of the eclipse from the Georgia Tech Observatory, astronomy-themed music and snacks, hands-on activities, and more. The eclipse itself will occur at approximately 2:37 p.m.
You can learn a lot about someone in just five minutes, and first impressions can leave a lasting impact. Sometimes, it only takes five minutes to learn something new, connect over shared interests, or change a person’s mind. It’s just enough time to leave an indelible mark that can last a lifetime.
Today, we sat down with ECE Professor Jeff Davis for five minutes to see what we could discover.
Armed with over a decade of electrical engineering education at Tech, Jeff Davis uses his knowledge to look for ways to improve the world around him.
Davis, associate professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, obtained his undergraduate, masters, and Ph.D. degrees from Georgia Tech. He has worked as a faculty member ever since.
“I like exploring new ideas and it seemed like the best place to be,” Davis said. “That’s what attracted me about Tech.”
Davis truly enjoys being a mentor to students, regardless of their age. Through his involvement in Tech’s student faculty committee, he helped create a Lego robotics competition for middle school students when he found that some students were interested in community outreach.
The program grew exponentially in its first 10 years, and is now known as the Georgia FIRST Lego League. Georgia Tech hosts the state championship tournament for this competition every year. The program now facilitates hundreds of teams all across the state and is handled by the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing. Davis says that growing this program, which is often a student’s first experience with robotics, was one of his defining moments at Georgia Tech.
Davis’ penchant for impacting both students and society carries over to his involvement with the Grand Challenges Living Learning Community, where he is the faculty co-director of the program. The program, which students can participate in for their entire time at Tech, organizes students who are passionate about saving the world into groups that will aim to solve the biggest issues facing humanity, such as agricultural issues, lack of clean water, human trafficking, lacking education systems and many more. He says the program aligns closely with his philosophy and he loves teaching and interacting with the students.
Davis himself is interested in helping his fellow humans. On several mission trips to a small mountain village in Haiti called Chadic, he and fellow members of his church have tried to help the leaders in the community expand agriculture through growing coffee, building a centralized filtration system for clean water and helping construct a school for the children.
“I love going to Haiti,” said Davis. “Although my French Creole is limited, I have found that working alongside the community is the best way for them to know that you care for their well-being.”
Davis was attracted to Tech because he recognized a place where he could explore new ideas and make a difference. Teaching itself creates a huge impact on the hearts and minds of students, and research can also have positive influence on the world. Davis might even be able to help the environment through his research.
Discoveries made in his lab, which investigates the electrical properties of nanocomposite materials, could potentially have significant benefits on the environment as well as waste management. Through the creation of capacitors that could be used to replace the traditional lithium-ion battery as a better form of energy storage, harmful waste produced by the disposal of batteries could be decreased.
Between all of this, when he has the spare time, Davis likes to work with his hands.
“I think that’s why I’m more of an engineer than a scientist – I like to build things. I like to see them working,” Davis said. “I think any hobby that has a result, either an artistic result or otherwise…there’s something very satisfying about that for me.”
Perhaps working on an extremely small scale with wires and even materials on a nanoscale gives him an exceptional attention to detail; in any case, Davis enjoys making things and making a difference, from outreach programs to microchips.
It’s safe to say that most students enter their freshman year at Georgia Tech with big dreams. They want to invent something incredible, be a leader, or run their own company one day.
Aaron Brown, a first year industrial engineering major, is beginning his journey at Tech as the founder and CEO of a successful company: Tin Toy Arcade. The young entrepreneur runs a website that allows people to buy genuine tin toys and, hopefully, reconnect with their childhoods.
When he was in second grade, Brown discovered a box of vintage toys as he was digging around in his grandfather’s basement: think windups, robots and rocket ships. While most kids would be perfectly content to simply play with toys, Aaron Brown wanted to share them with other people.
With a five-hundred-dollar loan from his dad and camera in hand, Brown entered an art show, where he displayed creative photos of the toys next to the toys themselves and sold them as a pair. By the end of the night, he had quadrupled his father’s investment and won Best-In-Show.
“At the art show, people really liked seeing the toys,” said Brown. “I could see the happiness on their faces. It gave me the idea to reconnect adults with their childhood toys and spread that joy to more people.”
Brown’s family helped him set up a website, and whenever he got an email from an interested customer, he would go to the box of tin toys he kept in the living room and ship the toy out.
Eventually, Brown ran out of his grandfather’s old toys, but found ways to keep selling the trinkets. His newly-minted toys are created on the same machine presses that the vintage versions were made on decades ago.
The business took off, and Brown’s stock of toys grew from a cardboard box to shelving units covering the walls of his house. The toys are now stored in a large warehouse near the airport.
Brown’s toys have attracted a lot of attention. One of his products, a mini radiocon robot, was featured in the Wall Street Journal’s 2016 Off Duty Holiday Gift Guide. The vintage toys have been incorporated into the sets of a variety of movies and television shows, such as Heroes, Men In Black, The Man in the High Castle and Interstellar.
Brown’s journey has taken him all over the world, from trade shows in New York to working with toy makers in Germany. He knows what it is like to stay close to home and play it safe, as well as aim for the stars and invest four years of revenue on a shipment that could make or break the business. Brown took a big risk on items from a toymaker he thought his customers would love, and the gamble paid off; he is now the world’s exclusive retailer for these toys.
Brown’s success is due in part to capitalizing on the nostalgia of his customers, as well as taking carefully calculated business risks. Improvements to his business have been made in tiny increments, but Brown says that is what has made Tin Toy Arcade flourish.
“My business has been successful due to taking one step at a time, and if it doesn’t work then I take a step back, reassess the situation and step forward again,” said Brown. “Of course, I have no idea what I’m doing. So far, it’s worked out, but the business is growing and I don’t know how to wing it anymore.”
That’s where Brown’s major, industrial engineering, comes in. He loves to constantly improve the efficiency of his business—so much so that their main competitor is now Amazon, due to the ability of both companies to promise same-day shipping.
Tin Toy Arcade pulls this off with seven full-time employees, two of which are Brown’s parents. Brown says that he has learned a lot from managing people from such a young age, and likes to make sure that everyone is equal and has valued input. As CEO of a small company that has far-reaching impact, Brown finds himself doing both big and little things to keep the place running – he makes the investment decisions and takes out the trash.
Brown hopes that the math and other technical skills he learns in his classes will teach him how to continue to improve Tin Toy Arcade, as well as inspire him to come up with new ideas.
While his intent was to use Tin Toy Arcade to save money for college, Brown says that he is going to keep it going because growing the company motivates him. His passion for what he loves and his entrepreneurial spirit are some things that he shares with many Georgia Tech students. Brown thinks that the key to a great entrepreneur isn’t the spark that starts the business, but the continued work that is needed to keep an idea aflame.
“I want [the company] to be better, even though it doesn’t need to be better,” said Brown. “I think that’s what engineers should be doing anyways, whether it’s entrepreneurial or not. You can definitely apply that from engineering to the entrepreneurial spirit and passion to really make great products.”
Creating something amazing inevitably involves some risk, and Brown lives for that uncertainty. He knows, better than anyone else, that sometimes you have to be bold in order to make it big.
Freshman Aaron Brown’s business is booming thanks to a passion for all things retro