For the students who will create the future:

Imagination can move mountains. It is a tool that makes it possible for us to reach for the stars, and develop ways to make what was once impossible into a reality.

During the WWII a young British radar technician who was inspired by some scientific articles he read, started thinking about the possibility for people to communicate wirelessly across the globe. He had the incredible notion that humanity could place objects in space that would stay over the same spot on Earth, and then could be used to bounce signals from one place on the planet to another. In 1945 this radar technician, whose name was Arthur C. Clarke, published a paper titled “Extra-Terrestrial Relays – Can Rocket Stations Give World-wide Radio Coverage?” Little attention was given by the mainstream scientific community to this “crazy” idea… but now, 69 years later, the words that you are reading at this very moment are being transmitted to your position on Earth using the method he imagined. Beyond that, our entire modern, global communications network is now completely reliant upon this technology.

The communications satellite blossomed from a thought in someone’s imagination to a reality that benefits us all.

As students, you are just beginning to dive into subjects that you are passionate about. Finding worlds of thought that you want to explore and contribute to. While you may not yet have a large wealth of accumulated knowledge, there is something that you all have that is of incredible value. It is because you are just starting to learn about whichever subject you are focusing on that you haven’t yet decided what’s impossible. You’re willing to take a risk and explore ideas that are “out there” or just plain “weird”, because you don’t have the same preconceived ideas about the world that some adults may have developed.

One day you might imagine something that changes the world in unexpected ways. Arthur C. Clarke knew that his idea could be useful, but had no idea how fast it would become reality or how large in scope it would be. When Stephanie Kwolek was working on a new material for high-durability tires, she had no idea that her invention, Kevlar, would one day protect people from gun shots. Elizabeth Lee Hazen and Rachel Fuller Brown knew that their work on developing the world’s first successful anti-fungal medication would improve lives, but didn’t know that they would find the key in a micro-organism found in the soil of Hazen’s friend’s farm. One hundred sixty years ago, an Australian dentist and surgeon named Robert Norman hand-carved and constructed a partial-hand prosthesis for an acquaintance, and he had no way of knowing that in the future the design would help inspire a device that is easier to build, is stored digitally as a series of computer instructions, and can be bounced off of objects in space to be sent anywhere in the world for production.

Chase the wild ideas that you have. Explore the things that might seem crazy. If the idea doesn’t work out, you will learn something from the process. If it almost works out, it might be picked up again by someone in the future in a time when technology makes it possible. The joy of imagination and creativity feeds the very core of what we are as beings, is the foundation of all that humanity has built, and a beautiful force that forms our future.

Ivan Owen

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