July 21 , 2016

How the Squirrels Team Built a Giant Tree in the Middle of ISTE 2016

If you were at ISTE 2013 in San Antonio, you may have noticed the Squirrels team tucked away in a corner at a small 10’ by 10’ booth. That was our first year at ISTE, and we quickly realized it was THE place to be. ISTE is a mix of educators from around the world learning about new technology and sharing their experiences with others in the field. The people at ISTE are passionate about what they do, and they’re excited and eager to learn more. That passion drives us back to ISTE every year.

Fast forward three years… past Atlanta in 2014 and Philadelphia in 2015. Our trip to Denver this year was our fourth and largest, most ambitious ISTE yet. After attending ISTE 2015, we committed to making our ISTE 2016 presence bigger and bolder, and we did just that:

Squirrels Booth Iste 2016 Tree

Yes, you’re seeing that right. We built a giant tree in the middle of a conference hall.

HOW?!

Planning for ISTE starts months ahead of the actual show, and a lot of people don’t realize the show isn’t the deadline. Weeks before the show, everything needs to ship across the country.

Shipping steel, wood and a plastic tree is a challenge we’ll leave out of this post, but feel free to ponder…

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Shipping

In January (yes, that’s six months before the show), the creative team along with minds on the marketing and administrative teams sat down for a brainstorm. A few hours later, the walls were plastered with tradeshow booth best practices and examples from around the world. The white boards were full, and there was scratch paper everywhere. Everyone was tired, but what came out of that meeting was the start of what would become ISTE 2016 booth number 2945.

We tasked the creative team with designing five concepts that we could build on. One of those concepts was a giant tree, and obviously that’s the concept that made it through to the end.

ISTE Tree Booth Concept

In its original form, it was an actual tree. We priced out stage props, building our own and, among other ideas, bringing a real live tree. When we originally began talking about the tree idea, some of the team had the idea to create an abstract tree. After realizing a “real” tree wasn’t nearly as creative as we thought, we ran with the abstract idea.

Squirrels Booth ISTE 2016

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Tree Concept

After the initial concept was accepted by the group, we needed to figure out how to actually build an abstract tree. Eventually, we realized we had the skills, tools and materials to do the job ourselves.

By this time, it was nearly May. The shipping deadline was mid June. We had roughly six weeks to fabricate and assemble a tree from scratch. Once we made the decision to build and assemble everything in-house, we had one more obstacle: Space.

We’ve got a roomy office, but it’s not roomy enough to build an 18-foot tree, walls and a presentation area. A local commercial real estate company graciously leased us a short-term building space. Whew, crisis averted.

We started with the tree. We knew what it should look like, but we didn’t know exactly how to build it. The initial concept was far from perfect, but it helped us morph to the final stages rather quickly.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Prototype

After realizing fiberglass poles were indeed the best way to create the outline of the tree canopy, we needed to figure out how to easily connect them while keeping everything structurally sound.

The initial connection pieces were printed with one of our office 3D printers. After some analysis and realization that the pieces may not be strong enough, we progressed to injection-molded plastic connectors.

ISTE 2016 Connectors

We didn’t have a plan for the canopy covering when we started. We progressed through multiple ideas including stretched fabric and polystyrene. We landed on green, semi-transparent acrylic sheets. Aka: PlexiGlass.

We purchased the acrylic material in 8 foot by 4 foot sheets. We have a lot of devices and machines that we like to experiment with here at Squirrels. It just so happens we have a laser cutter that’s perfect for cutting the acrylic material. So the triangle panels were laser cut to size in our office basement.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Laser Cut Panels

 

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Cut Panels Numbered

To attach those panels to the fiberglass frame, we 3D printed small connecting rods that held tight to the pole-based frame and then screwed into the acrylic with tiny thumb screws.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Panels on Frame

A real tree trunk needs to be structurally sound and able to hold the weight of everything above it. This is also true for our fake tree.

On the inside, a steel truss with custom-welded connection points holds the tree canopy in place safely.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Welded Frame

The “bark” of our tree was attached to a custom-welded steel frame as well. This frame, however, didn’t need to hold as much weight, as it was only covering the internal trussing system.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Tree Frame

Tree roots are arguably the most important part of any tree. Without roots, trees can’t withstand wind, gravity and other forces.

We couldn’t just bolt the truss system to the floor. The Colorado Convention Center would probably look down on that type of action. So, our root system is built into the booth around the tree. The base of the trunk is bolted into the stage and held in place by the booth walls.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Tree Roots

The walls we’re talking about look like one solid piece. However, four separate pieces comprise the middle dividing wall. Trust us, one piece is heavy enough. We didn’t want to move anything heavier.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Unfinished Walls

Now is a good time to mention how talented and creative our employees are. A few of them run a custom wood-working business in their free time. They made a little extra time to custom build our ISTE booth walls! The walls are built from cedar we removed during a renovation of our current offices.

The grass we used for the presentation side is actual outdoor grass carpeting used by professionals in backyards around the United States. It was nifty, easy-to-use and perfect for our tree-themed Squirrels booth.

Squirrels ISTE 2016 Grass

 

Once everything was built at our warehouse, we shipped it across the United States. Reassembly in Colorado took about 8 hours, but the result was exactly what we wanted!

That’s how we built the “tree booth!” If you want to know more, feel free to ask us any questions in the comments below. We’re happy to explain everything!

 

July 12 , 2016

The Winner of our ISTE 2016 Prize Pack is...

ISTE 2016 registration: $534

Flight to Denver: $476

Three-night stay in a Denver hotel: $900

Returning home with the Squirrels Grand Prize Pack: priceless

As most educators know, spending the week at the largest EdTech conference in the United States can be a pricey expedition, and like a lot of conferences, typical “swag” consists of stickers, pens, drawstring bags and items you’ll never use. But the Squirrels team goes big.

Every exhibitor who attends ISTE has the opportunity to raffle off a large prize of their choosing. Squirrels chose to give away an all-inclusive iPad Pro Prize Pack that contained an iPad Pro, Beats Pill Speaker, Apple Pencil, iPad Pro Smart Cover, Mophie PowerStation Plus charger, licenses of Reflector 2, a $50 iTunes gift card and more. We had the thrill of watching ISTE attendees race to drop off their raffle tickets all week in hopes of being that one lucky winner who got to take it all home.

After hours of anticipation on that final day, exhibit management came to the Squirrels booth to draw our winner: Scott Silver-Bonito. The kicker? It was his first time attending ISTE. Not too shabby, Scott! He’s already put his prize to good use by taking notes with his iPad and Apple Pencil for upcoming professional conferences. We can still remember the look on his face when we handed over our most "prized" possession!

One goal we have for any EdTech conference we attend is to create a receptive and welcoming presence for educators who are unfamiliar with our company and products. We were able to successfully do that in Denver, as Scott was unfamiliar with Squirrels when ISTE 2016 began. After conducting research, speaking with our team and getting a first-hand look at our products, he is excited to incorporate Reflector 2 into his classroom.

Now that the conference is over, Scott plans to reflect (no pun intended) on what he learned while educating his friends and colleagues on the new possibilities Reflector 2 brings to the classroom.

“ISTE was overwhelmingly wonderful,” Scott said. “Connecting with tech-minded teachers across the world was a bonus! I would describe ISTE as a technologically invigorating and rejuvenating experience.”

ISTE is held in a different city each year, rotating between Denver, San Antonio, Atlanta and Philadelphia. San Antonio is up next! You can bet Scott is already planning his trip for 2017, and he even plans to take a few friends with him.

Congratulations again, Scott! Be sure to follow and connect with Scott on Twitter @SrBonito1!

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July 7 , 2016

Squirrels Team Attends ISTE 2016 in Denver

Squirrels Balloons.

What a week! The Squirrels crew has returned to our Northeast Ohio headquarters after spending a whirlwind week in the mile-high city of Denver for the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference and Expo. The attendees were exceptional, the exhibitors were impressive and the memories were unforgettable. ISTE 2016 was our best conference yet!

While we push forward to prepare for what’s next, we want to reflect on the incredible experience that was ISTE 2016.

Our 3D-printed, custom-made booth that we designed and built ourselves (if you attended ISTE, we were what many referred to us as the “Tree Booth”) required a lot of man power. That’s why we took 15 of our Squirrels team members to lend a helping hand and join in on this experience. It truly was a team effort, and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

One aspect that made this ISTE experience stand out from past years is that we were able to demo and unveil a new product that will be in classrooms all around the world this fall. Showcasing this new product next to our flagship apps, Reflector 2 and AirParrot 2, allowed educators to see how our screen-mirroring solutions have evolved and how they’ll transform the classroom.

We were fortunate to be able to pack so many memories and experiences into three days. Here are some of the highlights.

Alpha Squirrel social
This year we debuted our first-annual Alpha Squirrel social at Pizza Republica. It was rewarding to be in an intimate setting with the educators who love and use our apps. Plus, how could a memory involving pizza not be a fan favorite?

Scavenger hunt

We 3D-printed tiny acorns (of course we had to keep with our forest theme) and hid them around the ISTE expo hall. People who found the acorns could bring them back to the Squirrels booth to redeem for a free license of Reflector 2. Watching attendees scurry to find them was comical, but giving educators the opportunity to try out our popular classroom screen-mirroring solution was what made the scavenger hunt worthwhile.

Squirrels speakers

We were grateful to the EdTech experts who presented at our booth throughout the duration of the conference. Hearing influential tips and tricks from these industry leaders was an added bonus to anyone who stopped by the Squirrels booth. We hope this is something that will continue in San Antonio for ISTE 2017.

The tree

Watching the look of amazement on attendees faces as they approached our booth was a proud moment for us. It was nice to see the attendees appreciate our efforts after months of hard work. That look was even pretty common on all of our faces when we got a moment to marvel at our 18-foot tree. In fact, it even helped us win the award for best booth at ISTE 2016.

Ok, so maybe that’s not a real award, but we like to imagine we would have won it if that type of honor existed.

$1,000+ prize pack

Our iPad prize pack created a buzz around the expo hall, as everyone wanted a chance to win our giveaway that included an iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, Beats by Dr. Dre speaker, carrying case and a $50 iTunes gift card. Although, there were thousands of entries, there was only one lucky winner.

Building relationships

Meeting and connecting with so many talented and passionate educators from all around the world was the most rewarding part of it all. We don’t often get the chance to engage face-to-face with educators, so when we get an opportunity like ISTE, we gladly seize it.

Thank you to all of the attendees, exhibitors and ISTE staff who helped make this conference one to remember! We are grateful to be part of the EdTech community and lucky to be surrounded by such outstanding professionals.

We hope to see everyone next year in San Antonio for ISTE 2017!

June 28 , 2016

The Importance of Being a Connected Educator

ConEduBlogImage

Any educator knows that being connected in the EdTech community takes hard work, dedication, commitment and most of all, passion. Attending conferences, engaging in countless Twitter chats and staying up-to-date with a network of educators and influencers can seem like a daunting task, but the outcome outweighs the work by a landslide.

Here are three important traits of a connected educator:

  • Learning from like-minded educators
  • Connecting with EdTech companies (we might know of one in particular)
  • Taking advantage of professional development opportunities

Learning from like-minded educators

Who knows what’s happening in the education industry better than teachers themselves? Learning from other educators is a constructive way to discuss success stories with one another, relate to their challenges, share ideas and realize that you are not alone in this journey. Tips and tricks from other educators creates value in that you hear first-hand how a new app, technology or teaching environment works. You can apply what you learn to your own classroom.

Connecting with EdTech Companies

Collaborating with an EdTech company, like Squirrels, can provide educators with many new opportunities. Most EdTech companies offer programs to provide education leaders with resources that encourage and support professional development. We are lucky enough to have our own group of connected leaders called Alpha Squirrels who are experts and advocates for our screen-mirroring technology. We provide them with the funds, opportunities and connections that will transform their profession and in return, they create discussion about their experiences with our products and how they can be used with technology that’s already in the classroom.

Taking advantage of professional development opportunities

While you’re busy learning from educators and working closely with EdTech companies, it’s important to do it in an environment that encourages creativity and collaboration. Creating an environment for teachers to learn from other teachers while discussing their favorite EdTech solutions is important. That’s why we are big supporters of Edcamps. This year alone we have sponsored 17 Edcamps all across the U.S. More recently, we sponsored Edcamp Magic, which was attended by four of our Alpha Squirrels. Most of them have never had a chance to meet in person, and this event allowed them the opportunity to do so. Each of those Alpha Squirrels came out of that experience with deeper roots in the EdTech community, ideas and friendships with colleagues they can treasure for years to come.

 

June 22 , 2016

Meet The Alpha Squirrels EdTech Experts at ISTE 2016!

The Squirrels team will be on display and more accessible than ever at ISTE 2016 in Denver next week. That’s good news because we have so much to show you this year. Stop by booth #2945 for lessons, product demos, swag and enjoyable conversation with a bunch of friendly people from the Midwest.

One of our most exciting and rewarding projects this year was our Alpha Squirrels program. We recruited prominent educators and EdTech experts into our Alpha Squirrels program to help spread the word about our classroom technology, provide us with insight and much, much more. The best news? Many of these Alpha Squirrels EdTech Experts will be speaking at ISTE! We are featured in more than 30 presentations! See? It’ll be hard to miss us.

Below is a complete list of all the ISTE sessions that feature our Alpha Squirrels or presenters using and discussing our popular classroom screen-mirroring apps such as Reflector, AirParrot and Ditto.

*Denotes all Alpha Squirrel presentations.

ISTE Sessions

Saturday, June 25
8:30-11:30 a.m.
*Jennifer Williams and *Katrina Keene
Crafting the Next-Generation Classroom: An Immersive Experience with Nearpod

2:00-6:00 p.m.
*Katrina Keene
Fourth Annual Mobile Learning Network Mobile MegaShare Preconference

Sunday, June 26
8:30-11:30 a.m.
*Jennifer Williams
Design Learning Spaces for Literacy, Technology and Collaboration

1:30-2:45 p.m.
*Bill Selak
ISTE Ignite Sessions: I Think I Figured Out How to Use Snapchat as an Educator

7:00-8:30 pm
Lisa Butler
Refreshing Geography So Students Crave World Knowledge

Monday, June 27
8:00-10:00 a.m.
*Monica Burns
What’s New in Scannables? Exploring Purposeful Practices

Patricia Cooper, Matthew Fox and Kirstin Riddick
App Smash Pub Part 2.0: The After Party

8:30-9:30 a.m.
*Leslie Fisher
Apps, Tools, Tips + Gadgets You Can Take to Class Tomorrow

*Katrina Keene
Problem-Based Learning Extravaganza

*Kelly Rexine
Digital Dumpster Diving

Tanya Avrith and Kim Meldrum
Rethinking the Chromebook as a Creation Device

8:30-11:30 a.m.
*Phil Hintz
The Gamification of Technology Professional Development

11 am-12:00 p.m.
*Kathy Schrock
Activator and Summarizer Strategies for Quick Formative Assessment

Megan Ryder
Life as a Coach: Build Relationships and Support Growth in 1:1 Environments

2:30-3:30 p.m.
*Monica Burns
Apple Watch Out! Transforming Teaching and Learning

4:15-5:15 p.m.
*Katrina Keene
Build a BYOT Plan for Your School

*Bill Selak
iPhoneography

4:30-7:30 p.m.
*Rob Zdrojewski
The Art of Screencasting: Flipped “Teacher-On-Demand” is Now Possible!

5:30-6:45 p.m.
*Seth Dimbert & *Rebecca Simon
Jewish Educators Network

Tuesday, June 28
10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
*Angie Kalthoff
Kids Can Code

10:45-11:45 a.m.
*David Lockhart
If You Wanna Flip It, TouchCast It

12:30-1:30 p.m.
*Bill Selak
Ready, Set, Make

*Leslie Fisher
The Audience Participation Based Group Smackdown/Hug-In

2:15-3:15 p.m.
*Jennifer Williams
Combine Digital Literacy Tools for Connection and Collaboration

4:00-5:00 p.m.
*Monica Burns
ISTE Ignite Session: From Basic to ACES

4:00-6:00 p.m.
*Chris Turnbull
30+ Ways to Use Your iPad for Personalized Professional Development

*Jennifer Williams:
Trending the Positive: Using Technology to Celebrate the Good in Education

Greta Flinn, Cindy Hughes, Lindsey Insalaco, Debbie Leonard, Kitty Tripp
Coaches Choice Awards: K12 Showcase of Student Work, Lessons and Tools

4:30-7:30 p.m.
*Seth Dimbert
Getting It All Done on a Chromebook

5:30-7:00 p.m.
Emily Hendricks
Own Your Tech! Technology Management in Today’s Classroom

Wednesday, June 29
8:30-9:30 a.m.
*Kathy Schrock
Sketchnoting in Education: The Best Practices, Benefits, and How-To’s of Sketchnoting

10:15-11:15 a.m.
Nikki Vradenburg
Kindertech: Tools for Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom

11:45 am-12:45 p.m.
*Katrina Keene
Augmented Reality: Engaging a Minecraft Generation

1:15-2:15 p.m.
*Leslie Fisher
Return of the Valley of the Gadgets!

Squirrels Booth Sessions
We also have a number of Alpha Squirrel presentations happening right at our booth (#2945). Check the times and stop by to learn from some of the brightest minds in education technology.

Monday, June 27
10:15 a.m.
Natasha Rachell
Digital Learning Specialist, Atlanta Public Schools
@apsitnatasha

11:00 a.m.
Toby Price
Principal, Richland Upper Elementary School
@jedipadmaster

12:15 p.m.
Angie Kalthoff
Technology Integrationist at St. Cloud Area School District
@mrskalthoff

2:00 p.m.
Bill Selak
Director of Technology, Hillbrook School
@billselak

2:45 p.m.
Laurie Green
Technology Resource Coordinator, Buckeye Local Schools
@themrsgeeky

3:30 p.m.
David Lockhart
Education Technology Specialist at Kennesaw State University iTeach Center
@bigguyinabowtie

4:15 p.m.
Leslie Fisher
Director, lesliefisher.com
@lesliefisher

Tuesday, June 28
10:00 a.m.
Leslie Fisher
Director, lesliefisher.com
@lesliefisher

11:00 a.m.
Kelly Dumont
Elementary EdTech Team Lead at Canyons School District
@kdumont

1:00 p.m.
Dino Kiveric
Teacher, Hancock Middle School
@keyverra

2:00 p.m.
Chris Turnbull
Personalized Learning Specialist at Saint Paul Public Schools
@turnbullchris

3:00 p.m.
Jen Lotze
Instructional Technology Coordinator at Hudson School District
@jpeterson7384

4:00 p.m.
Rebecca Simon
Director of Educational Technology at Solomon Schechter School of Queens
@edtechmorah

Wednesday, June 29
10:15 a.m.
Josh Murdock
Instructional Designer/Developer and Associate Professor, Valencia College, Florida
@professorjosh

About Us

Squirrels is a software development company based in North Canton, Ohio. Our excitement and passion lies in creating high-qualty, budget-friendly software that can be used to enhance the devices already found in today's home and work environments. Follow our blog for all the latest product releases, #TeamSquirrels news and industry insight!