Sunday, April 22 , 2018, 5:11 pm | Fair 68º


Bill Gates Speaks to SBMS Teen Press Alumni at ECO:nomics Summit

Three Santa Barbara student journalists also score interviews with Gov. Jerry Brown and entrepreneurs Elon Musk and Dean Kamen

With press lanyards swinging around their necks and walking with the swagger and confidence of true Wall Street Journal reporters, three former Santa Barbara Middle School Teen Press alums were the only teens at the WSJ-sponsored ECO:nomics Summit’s high-profile conference this week at Bacara Resort & Spa.

They were also the only ones to score an interview with world-renowned entrepreneur, philanthropist and Microsoft founder and CEO Bill Gates.

These three journalists are now high school sophomores and juniors at Santa Barbara and San Marcos high schools.

“Creating environmental capital” was the tagline for this power conference, and that is what these young reporters were there to learn. Eager to connect with our country’s top economic leaders, and the engineering and scientific minds behind our future’s sustainable and renewable energy, these three journalists were all ears.

In an exclusive interview with Gates, 16-year-old Logan Carmody asked Gates three critical questions about climate change and education, while 15-year-old Marandah Field-Elliot and 16-year-old Charlie Zimmerman ran the video and digital cameras. When Carmody asked, “What’s one virtue our generation needs to know that’s not taught in schools?” Gates responded, “It’s important for young people to take a long-term view, both for investing in themselves and their education, and thinking about the country — and not just our country, but the whole world. If young people can realize that the poorest 2 billion on the planet live in a very different way than you do, then how do you care about that, and how can you contribute?”

When asked to design an ideal school that would teach these virtues, Gates was quick to reinforce the idea of a global vision.

“Young people should get a lot of exposure, spend a lot of time globally, so it will give them some perspective on how lucky they are,” he said.

Gov. Jerry Brown was front and center at the ECO:nomics Summit, and Zimmerman was able to catch him for a question about our environmental future and a message he has for our youth.

“Stay focused in school, study hard, and learn math and science,” Brown said. “The environment can really be undermined or protected, based on the decisions you are making.”

Brown added that young people are generally more caring about our environment because they have a longer a future — and more at stake.

Carmody interviewed entrepreneur and innovator Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors, and most recently the innovator behind SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies), an American-based, privatized space company.

“How are you making the space industry and the building of rockets more green?” Carmody asked.

Musk explained that the advanced chemistry behind creating rocket fuel comes from “sequestering carbon dioxide, water and energy from on-site photovoltaic cells.”

Dean Kamen, designer and engineer for the popular Segway and the iBOT mobility wheel chair, spoke with Field-Elliot about his newest project, the Stirling engine. The Stirling engine’s purpose is to purify water and generate power, with the intent of improving the health and standard of living in Third World countries. Kamen is one of the brightest minds in engineering, science and technology today.

This is Carmody’s third ECO:nomics Summit and Field-Elliot’s second event as journalists. All three reporters felt passionate about being part of this conversation. They know full well that they will need to be part of our future’s answer to sustainable green energy. For Field-Elliot, this conference sparked “a feeling of empowerment and a sense of responsibility for her generation.”

What drew Zimmerman to the conference was a chance to jump at a rare opportunity: “I wanted to hear innovative and new ideas from some of the greatest minds on the planet.”

He was also eager to relive some of his SBMS Teen Press experiences from his middle school years. The three journalists were part of the same SBMS Press Team who traveled to Washington, D.C., in 2008 to cover President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Craig Venter, one of the 21st century’s leading scientists and credited for decoding the human genome, suggested the solutions to this energy crisis lie in the hands of our youth, an idea that piqued our young journalists’ attention.

Venter advocates for the idea that we need to “inspire our kids to love science and technology as much as they love dribbling a basketball.” He thinks our youth need to “risk and fail, and risk again,” and thinks future solutions will come from “tapping into their phenomenal imaginations.”

These young reporters undoubtedly will be key contributors to a sustainable future comprised of passionate risk-taking that tap their own innovative imaginations. Clearly, these are the trademarks of successful entrepreneurs, and what all young business leaders of tomorrow will need to embrace.

— Larry Good is a Santa Barbara Middle School parent.

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