Tom Heck wears many hats. As a musician, inventor and teacher of engineering, his most important role is being a proud, active “Geek Dad.” Tom bought his 11-year-old daughter, Liza, the LEGO® Mindstorms kit—a programmable robotics construction set that gives you the power to create and command your own LEGO robots—in order to teach her the fundamentals of engineering. Since then, they have even competed in robotics competitions with their creations.
His love of engineering and the maker movement eventually brought Tom to speak at TEDxGreenville. On April 10, he’ll share how, in 2014, he led a team of students to assess and design assistive technology solutions for a group of their younger peers who lived with physical and cognitive disabilities.
“Tom is unbelievably passionate about this project, and rightfully so,” says TEDxGreenville Curator Lisa Marie Corley. “He made a huge difference in the lives of these students — the ones benefiting from the design solution as well as the ones who experienced the satisfaction and empowerment from helping make others’ lives better.”
Dhivya Srinivasan, the TEDxGreenville team member who guided Tom through the nomination process, relates that the program team was impressed by Tom’s message. “The idea is simple, yet its impact is profound, she says. “Tom’s talk is very pertinent for the Greenville audience as this community tries to envision an educational future for the state.”
Tom hopes to excite educators with his story. “We need to teach science and engineering technology innovation education to our children now more than ever before,” Tom says. “I love helping people experience the power of deliberate and thoughtful connection. This is how we create a better world.”
How did you hear about TEDxGreenville initially?
“I volunteered at TEDxAsheville for two years and saw the positive impact of the speakers and performers within the community. I knew my idea was worth spreading, as well.”
What was your initial thought when you found out you’d been nominated?
Tom laughs, “My first thought was, oh my gosh! I’ve got to figure out how to give this talk — with the potential to change the lives of so many people — in nine minutes!”
What actions do you hope to inspire with your talk?
“I hope that educators around the world will be inspired, through engineering and design, to create solutions to problems by getting out in the community and seeing first-hand what those needs are.”