Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area was a place of quiet fruit orchards until sometime in the 1970s when the semiconductor industry took off. At the time silicon was a major component of semiconductors which were used in machines like calculators, computers and most electronics, hence the new name for the area to the west of the SF Bay.
BGL’s Learning Live seventh graders at Tsai Hsing School read our original iBook, Joyce Visits America, in which a girl from Taipei visits the San Francisco Bay area to learn more about where the technology which informs her life is created. Most of the students in 701 and 702 have been to an Apple store, and most use at least one Apple product. Before the FTL, students explored the Bay Area virtually and decided to focus their explorations on Apple since in addition to being one of the largest corporations in the world it is such a part of global daily life. Students learned about the history of Apple from its early days in a garage in Los Altos to its Cupertino headquarters.
Former CEO Steve Jobs was obsessed with Apple products exhibiting good design, and Apple’s Cupertino headquarters reflects what happens when design is considered in its entirety. Jobs believed that even the best software needed its hardware to be elegant and environmentally and people friendly. During the FTL, students learned about the many ways Apple tries to be environmentally friendly and/or sustainable. They learned that Jobs insisted that only 20% of the land at the new headquarters be built. This left 80% for greenspace. There are over 9,000 fruit trees – cherry, apple, apricot and plum. This last is of historical value, too. The land on which the campus was built was once a plum farm where the Glendenning family dried the fruit until it became prunes; these were shipped all over the world. Today, the drying barn is a feature of the campus. Clearly, the campus requires a lot of water. All of the water used to take care of the grounds is reclaimed wastewater. The balance of the landscaping consists of drought-resistant and indigenous plants.
This pursuit of perfection in design extended to the invention (by others) of a new type of glass for the front windows of Apple stores and another new kind of glass for its donut-shaped headquarters in Cupertino in which all the windows are curved. Why is the building circular anyway? Our students researched and conjectured: perhaps because circles have no end. Or, because there’s no “best” most important place around a circle? Or it may have had to do with Steve Jobs’ engagement with Buddhism and the enso, or circle, drawn with one stroke. The enso symbolizes creation, strength, elegance and one-mindedness, all things which factored into Jobs’ design thinking.
Looks a bit like a mothership from a science fiction movie from the future, doesn’t it? In fact, it is the largest office building in the world at 2.8 million square feet and sits on 175 acres. Four stories are above ground and three are underground. Yet all of its power comes from renewable energy. Even though 12,000 people work there with parking for 14,200 cars, more than eighty percent of the land is green space. You get a sense of how large the campus is in a short video set to the Mission Impossible theme.
During the Field Trip Live in the visitor center, the classes saw a scale model of the entire Apple campus. When Teacher Courtney hovered her hand over a part of it, that part was revealed in more detail through Augmented Reality (AR). Students were in awe of this relatively new technology that will soon become mainstream and were eager to learn more.
After the FTL, students had a few questions about the experience. Chief among them was wanting to know what happens to all the old Apple products when people replace them. Google searched led them to learn that Apple not only reclaims water on its campus, but reclaims and repurposes parts of the iPhone and other hardware it makes.
To apply what they learned, students reflected on the most interesting aspects of the FTL and came to the conclusion that the AR experience was of greatest interest. After their visual and virtual experience, students experimented with AR on their own iPads using the iMeasure app. This app enables the user to measure objects and spaces using AR. For many, this was the first of many times they will use their iPad to learn from augmented reality.