Note to Self: Problems Aren’t Problems

To some students at Colorado Academy, problems are not problems, and rocket science just isn’t all that complicated. How can that be?

Empower students to create and innovate, and give them the space to do so. CA sophomore Nick Bain is a long-time inventor, and is currently marketing his latest product, the Switch Port.

The Switch Port is an oversized, writable surface that replaces traditional light switch covers. It has a dry-erase surface for writing down reminders or messages in a snap.

Explains Bain, “With a spot on the side to hold a marker, the Switch Port is the perfect family companion to easily create an instant message board in a place where everyone in the family can see it.

“If you try, you can make almost anything for yourself.”

Bain came up with the idea because at times, “I didn’t know which switch went to which light,” he said. He says he’s installed a few Switch Ports at home.  “It’s also useful to write messages to yourself, like ‘Bring your books to school; go to tennis at 5 p.m.’ You see them as you go out the door.”  Bain’s product is now on the market in three different sizes, ranging in price from $12-$14. He hopes to be selling it in such places as the Denver Art Museum, the Tattered Cover, as well as online through or its own Google site:
Interested in crowdfunding for this project? Check it out on the Google site. A stint on Kickstarter garnered 12 funders and some very positive reviews.

Bain readied his invention for market by using CA’s new Innovation Lab, part classroom, part workshop, but all student invention space. “I asked (CA Upper School Physics teacher) Mr. Roads if he would show me how to use the laser-cutter and he showed me.  I was surprised how easy it was.  It’s just like a printer really.  If you want to use the Innovation Lab, all you have to do is ask.”

Another student, CA sophomore David Schurman, used the lab to 3-D print a moveable robotic hand, and then using an Arduino microcontroller, programmed the hand to move in alignment with flex sensors on the back side of a glove.

The lab is part of the school’s new Upper School, which opened in January.  The space is available for student use, and it also serves as a classroom for elective courses, including Electronics & Robotics, Toy Making, and Needs-Based Design.

Now, Bain says, “I’m working on a rocket engine.  The process of inventing is so exciting because ‘rocket science’ is really not so difficult as it seems.  If you try, you can make almost anything for yourself.”  More than anything, CA teacher Chris Roads says that is the best place to start. “”Even the replication of somebody else’s project can be an amazing learning experience. This can be a great place to start.”

For Bain, he says having an innovator’s mindset allows for a refreshing approach to life. “Problems aren’t permanent,” he says. “ If something isn’t how you want it, you can almost always change it.” And he hopes even more students will join him in the lab. “Most fabrication shops aren’t nearly as nice.  We’re lucky to have it” at CA, he says. What Bain is hoping for is an even tougher problem. “I wish there was a course set up like a challenge.  It would ask you to do something really, really hard and just let you try to do it.”