Silicon Valley Trip 2018 – Apple, Google, and David Yeh NA’16

The 2019 EDI Fellows traveled to Silicon Valley to speak with experts about engineering, design, and innovation.  Here is Kevin Smedley to describe our fifth day. 

Today the fellows gathered at 8 AM to debrief the activities of the previous day over breakfast. We discussed our summer reading book, The Ten Faces of Innovation, by Tom Kelley. During a period of both personal and group reflection, we connected what we read with what we have seen in California so far.


We then traveled to Apple’s old campus, the Infinite Loop, and met with Griff Derryberry who gave us a tour. Following a short visit through the campus featuring modern-architecture, we sat down to eat at Apple’s cafe and were joined by Tom, Griff’s coworker. Together we had a meaningful talk about life, careers, and what the EDI fellows have been working on this past year.

At Tom’s recommendation, our group traveled with Griff over to Apple Park, their newest campus. The visitor center provided shopping, an augmented reality display of the park next door, and a sight of the enormous ring-shaped facility.


With little time left until our tour at Google, Griff brought us to one last Apple building, the surfboard, a short distance from the Park. Inside we got to see the evolution of Mac computers and watch engineers take some apart to show us how the hardware has changed over time. With just enough time to make it to Google through the bay area’s traffic, we left the facility and dropped Griff back off at Infinite Loop where he works.


After Patrick successfully navigated us to our building at Google, the team was greeted by Arille Jeriza Virrey who gave us another great tour. We did not get to see GooglePlex, their main building, but we were shown multiple buildings on site and got the “Googlely” feel of the campus. In one of the buildings, the group was split up into two conference rooms and video chatted to get a similar feel to a lot of Google’s meetings.


In the conference rooms we were joined by Kendall, a user experience researcher, and Rosy, an interactive designer, to discuss their experiences at Google. After our discussion, we visited the merchandise shop and took pictures in the “graveyard” of old platform themed androids.

For our last stop, the team talked with David Yeh, Norfolk Academy 2016 alum, about his internship at Natron Energy over an italian dinner. It was an interesting experience chatting with an NA alum and to learn of his experiences in the Silicon Valley. Afterwards, the group concluded the night’s activities at Cold Stone with ice cream. At David’s departure, we traveled back to the hotel and prepared for the next day’s return home.

Silicon Valley Trip 2018 – Lawrence Berkeley National Labs

The 2019 EDI Fellows traveled to Silicon Valley to speak with experts about engineering, design, and innovation.  Here is Patrick McElroy to describe our fourth day. 

We started our day with a drive to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The bumpy, mountainside roads and the fog that enveloped everything beneath us made the ride pretty exciting. When we got to the lab, Dr. Call parked in our reserved spot (it even had his name on it!) and we started toward the Molecular Foundry.


For some background, the Berkeley National Lab is funded by the Department of Energy and is open to outside companies or organisations who want to use their resources to research their own personal projects. They have multiple buildings built to house different research tools, and the Molecular Foundry is used to study, build, and customize molecules at the nano-scale.


To introduce the concept to us, our guide showed us two vials – one of a reddish liquid and one of tiny golden blocks. According to her, the reddish liquid was actually also gold, just taken down to an extremely small scale. At this size, many materials like this gold begin to showcase extremely different properties. We heard about an example of this in the next building we went to.


Our guide explained to us that graphene, an one atom thick layer of carbon that falls under this classification of nano-materials, was studied at Berkeley for its amazing properties in many diverse fields of study. We even got to see a camera used to study these materials that could shoot at 1600 (1600!) frames per second.


After we were finished with our first tour, we went to the Advanced Light Source, or ALS, and got an up close look of the machine they use to accelerate electrons to almost the speed of light. After getting lunch at the lab, we went to our last spot – the Berkeley National Laboratory’s supercomputer. Named after famous scientists, these powerful computers can do the work most of our computers can do in 6 hours in less than 30 seconds. Our group got a personal tour of Cori, the latest of these supercomputers, as well as the older model named Edison.


A cancellation in our schedule left an empty block of time after Berkeley, so we decided to go to a park and throw around a frisbee. We were still free for the rest of the evening, so after getting in some quality frisbeeing, we drove to downtown San Francisco to “shop,” though only ice cream and milkshakes ended up being purchased (much to Dr. Call’s chagrin). On the way back, we finally ate at In and Out, which Kevin had been waiting for the entire trip. After a long day, we settled down for bed when we got back and saved our debrief for the next morning when, thankfully, we could wake up a little later.

Silicon Valley EDI Trip 2018 – Big Basin Redwoods State Park

The 2019 EDI Fellows traveled to Silicon Valley to speak with experts about engineering, design, and innovation.  Here is Sebastian Singh to describe our third day. 

Today we went to Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Although this was probably the least engineering-related activity that we have done thus far, it was both an amazing and sensational experience. Big Basin is California’s oldest state park and is located in Santa Cruz County. The park contains a large watershed, formed by the seismic uplift of its rim, and the erosion. Although we did not hike all the way to the watershed, we did catch a glimpse of a waterfall on our second hike.

When we arrived at the park entrance, we were overwhelmed by the colossal size of the famous Redwoods. As we decided which trails we wanted to hike, some of us tossed around a LinkedIn frisbee, classified as “swag” by our LinkedIn connection from the previous day. Eventually, we chose to hike the Redwood Loop. After hiking a short distance, we came upon “the mother of the forest,” which is the largest tree in the park. It measures 329 feet high and has a circumference of 70 feet at the ground.

When we finished our quick hike through the Redwood loop, we ate the lunch which we had purchased at Target earlier that morning. It consisted of nutritious Cliff bars, baked cheese squares, bananas, and some other food items. After lunch we began our second hike on Sequoia Trail. We hiked through the Redwoods enjoying the pristine nature surrounding us. Then, we stopped in an area between the trees and took time to reflect on our trip and look toward our future in the EDI program and our roles. We all agreed that the trip had exceeded our expectations. As for looking toward the future, some of us predicted ourselves mainly involved in mentorship, while others were more inclined to finishing or starting projects. After our reflection we continued hiking until we finally reached the Sempervirens falls, meaning “always flourishing” (describing the trees).

Finally we finished off the day by eating dinner and planning a hackathon for next year. After coming up with multiple ideas and prototyping, we decided we would make the design challenge creating a field day game. After we concluded this activity, we all went to bed and rested to get ready for the day ahead at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

Silicon Valley EDI Trip 2018 – Stanford, LinkedIn, & Design Thinking

The 2019 EDI Fellows traveled to Silicon Valley to speak with experts about engineering, design, and innovation.  Here is Patrick McElroy to describe our second day. 

Today was filled to the brim with stuff to be doing. We had to leave the hotel at 7:00AM, and we woke up around 6:00 to eat a quick breakfast (the belgian waffles were pretty amazing). The first stop for our groggy group was the Stanford Design School – the We met with an awesome director named Humera Fasihuddin who took us around the building a little bit and describes its semi-unorthodox design. The room we were sitting in even doubled as a makerspace, with cardboard, glue, saws, and much more to help people prototype their projects. She also told us about her own project – the Innovation Fellows, who are helping bring design thinking to other schools around the world.

Our next stop was LinkedIn, which involved some interesting driving inside the parking garage. Dr. Call, not without a bit of sweat, managed to navigate through, despite the low roof, and we made our way into LinkedIn with a fully intact car. Our contact there was an extremely cool Software Engineer named Baron Roberts, who started us off with the most important part of the building – the cafeteria. After a great lunch, we went up to the “Thin Mints” meeting room, where Baron gave us a presentation about LinkedIn and, more specifically, their philosophy of “Software Craftsmanship.” We also got loaded up with LinkedIn “swag”, including a frisbee and a pop socket, and listened to a panel consisting of other LinkedIn workers. Overall, LinkedIn kept the streak going of visiting places that I would love to either work or learn at.

We were meeting our next contact in San Francisco, so we drove to the BART public metro after leaving the LinkedIn offices. The contrast between San Jose, where our hotel is, and San Francisco was pretty stark; it looked in places like a smaller, tamer version of New York. After getting only a little lost, we eventually made our way to the San Francisco State University classrooms, where we had a meeting with a professor there named Bruce Heiman. He took us through some design thinking exercises, which included making a mind map to solve problems like what we wanted to change with our own lives and how to fix the parking problem in San Francisco. He concluded with some of his personal book recommendations and encouraged us to go to the food court nearby. After getting some quality pizza and pasta there, we walked backed to the BART and took the metro to the van to return to our hotel.

While it was a busy day, it was really fun and we got to see a lot of aspects of engineering that we hadn’t before. The and the San Francisco State University showed us how design thinking can be taught, while LinkedIn gave us an example of how engineering can be used more entrepreneurially.

Silicon Valley Trip 2018 – Tesla

 The 2019 EDI Fellows traveled to Silicon Valley to speak with experts about engineering, design, and innovation.  Here is Frances Harrington to describe our first day. 

This morning, the Engineering, Design, and Innovation fellows congregated at the airport in Norfolk to fly to Houston, then on to San Jose, CA for our senior fellows trip. When we finally arrived after a morning full of travel, we had our lunch at Chick-Fil-A, then we drove to Tesla for a factory tour. We were able to go through the factory where they make all the Tesla cars, and learn about the process from start to finish. We all particularly enjoyed being able to be so close to the production, the intricacies of the machines doing the work, and the layout of the factory itself with its natural light and silver and red color scheme. After we finished our tour, we checked in at our hotel, and Skyped with Mrs. Livingston about the Fellows portion of the college application, then went to the Panera across the street for dinner. After dinner, we walked to the CVS Pharmacy to get snacks for the van, then hung out by the pool, thereby ending Day One of our California trip!