Jim Kardach

San Jose, CA

“I had a great Encore Fellowship experience and am still volunteering with my favorite charity.”

I worked for Intel in California for 27 years. During this period, I volunteered with a charity called MESA (Math, Engineering and Science Achievement.) It encourages middle and high school students to pursue technology education.

I ran an event called the National Engineering Competition that involved thousands of students from across the state. Initially the kids built trebuchets or catapults, then advanced to windmills and then prosthetic arms. They would also be asked to write a technical paper, create an academic display and give an oral presentation. Finally the device would be tested in three trials in front of judges.

This was a great experience for the kids, but the judging was very complex. The judges would be judging teams all day and then have to score the teams in time for awards at the end of the day. While the experience was rewarding, getting repeat volunteer judges was very difficult.

In 2012 I retired from Intel and applied for an Encore Fellowship that Intel retirees are eligible for. I proposed that my project be to work on a suite of networked applications to make the judging easier.

The proposal was accepted and so my first job was to learn object-oriented programming. I discovered these great on-line Stanford classes via iTunes and took two, as I was targeting to run the applications on iPhones and iPads. After about 8 months, I had a working prototype.

Jim KardachDuring MESA day in March 2014, we gave the application suite a trial by fire. Not everything went smoothly – there were several occasions where I was debugging the applications while judges were testing teams, but overall the event was a success and I received lots of good feedback.

The MESA center has currently hired a software engineer to maintain the applications, and the organization is looking to use the applications statewide. This seemed to be a good indication of a successful project. I had a great encore experience and am still volunteering with MESA, my favorite charity, even though my job is officially over.