Scott SwaaleyScott Swaaley joins Nueva from High Tech High in San Diego, where he spent the last five years developing and implementing complex interdisciplinary STEAM projects. Scott started his career designing electrical infrastructure for hospitals and charging systems for sailboats, and working with Kaiser Permanente to install solar and fuel cell systems throughout California. Scott then followed his parents’ path into education where he worked as a Paul Allen Distinguished Educator to model, identify, and support innovative STEM teachers throughout the country. Scott's interests and writings focus on the social and emotional development of students through an adversity-infused curriculum, an expectation of professional-level work products inside and outside the classroom, and immersive professional development for educators. Above all, though, he really likes to build things. Scott holds a BS in electrical engineering from Cal Poly SLO and a professional engineer's license, and is excited to support the Innovation Lab as the new Assistant Director.


1. What brought you to Nueva?

I started my search hoping to find a strong like-minded team of professionals who share my passion for constructivist teaching and my infatuation with design, engineering, and fabrication. I was also looking for a place where I could leverage my experience managing a program to support a team of adult learners as well as students. From my first phone conversation with Kim Saxe, I knew it was a perfect match. We spoke on a Friday, I was at Nueva the following Monday for a visit, and the rest is history.


2. How did you become interested in electrical engineering?

I’ve liked to build things for as long as I can remember. I always knew I would study engineering but spent time in high school waffling between mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, and mechatronics. I finally decided on electrical engineering because it seemed the most difficult for me to self-teach. I was confident that I could figure out the other disciplines when I needed to but worried that I’d struggle with self-teaching electronics because the performance of electronic systems is less easily perceived. In hindsight, I probably would have enjoyed any of the engineering disciplines, or even art, as I find myself dabbling in all of them.


3. What do you like to make in your spare time?

I like to make things that are beyond my current skills and understanding. Ten years ago I spent all of my time rewiring sailboats and worked on everything from autopilots for million-dollar yachts to engine controls for an 18th century tall ship. After that I spent a great deal of time working in Excel to create avoided cost models for renewable energy systems and even installed multimegawatt solar and fuel cell systems in places like eBay and Kaiser Hospitals. My interests then turned to horology, mechanical systems, and laser cutting before working through a mild obsession with radio controlled aircraft and first-person-viewed multicopters. More recently I have been dabbling with precision machining and fixing up my 1950s era engine lathe. Over spring break I learned how to use javascript to augment Adobe Illustrator as part of a CNC art project I was working on and am just starting a new design for an electromechanical clock that uses epicyclic pulley systems and an arduino to show both time of day and seasonal daylight hours. As you can see, my interests vary wildly, but somehow still end up complementing each other.


4. What have you built that you are most proud of?

I am probably most proud of the program I built at High Tech High. In just a few years I created a program that achieved international recognition. If I must choose a thing I am most proud of building, it would probably be the thing I built most recently, as it usually is. In this case, that’s an Adobe Illustrator script that can find the center of gravity of any irregular polygon. It was critical to my art project at the time and a few internet searches convinced me that other people would want it, so I disappeared into my home office for two days over break and voila!


5. If Nueva were a machine, what would it be and what would it do?

If Nueva were a machine, it would make custom tires.

Why tires, you might ask? My best friend in high school bought a 1970s sports car and was always proud of how much horsepower it had. Unfortunately, every time he tried to take advantage of that horsepower, his wheels would just spin on the asphalt and burn up. Or, when a road hazard necessitated a quick change in direction, he would spin out. I never could convince him of the value of tires.

Nueva creates tires especially for high horsepower students, so that students have the ability to make solid forward progress, change directions quickly to meet road conditions, and harness their full potential, regardless of how slippery the road ahead may be.


 May 26, 2017



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