Tag Archives: Chad Dorsey

Chad’s Great American Eclipse Chase: Part 3 – On the Road!

This series details the eclipse-chasing exploits of our President and CEO, Chad Dorsey, as he heads down to Tennessee on a quest for the total solar eclipse. See the whole series.

We’ve been planning, prepping and packing for long enough—time to get on the road! In order to get a jump on the expected traffic and have time to get our bearings on location, we’ve headed out several days in advance of the Big Day. Heading from Acton, MA to Gallatin, TN will take 1,000+ miles over 2+ days, so we settle in for the long haul.

Day 1 — Heading to Hershey’s
Day 1 brings us out of Massachusetts across Connecticut and into Pennsylvania, with a quick pass through part of New York State. The miles are long, and the start is a bit later than desired, but traffic is still light this far from the path of totality and the driving is good. The kids are happy in the back seat, and, thankfully, have managed to become occupied with games, books and activities rather than sibling rivalry. Mommy sadly has to stay back at work, so it’s just the kids and me on the
Kids at Hershey's Chocolate World

The kids, in chocolate heaven…

drive South. Fortunately, my pre-planning extended beyond the moment of totality to include the loooong drive down. We’re no strangers to technology, of course, but have aimed to make this trip be “screen-light,” so we have lots of the old classics at hand and have packed a few surprises as well. Turns out good old Auto Bingo stands the test of time, even with tech-steeped tweens!
Evening of Day 1 ends at an appetizing target—Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, PA. The miles of rolling hills and rural farmland on the way there have all three of us doing double-takes at Google Maps, but a final turn brings the looming roller coasters of Hershey Park and road signs for Chocolate World Way into view, and spirits and appetites both lift immediately. The tour is far from a “real” factory tour (Hershey’s did their last true factory tour in June of 1973), but the highly polished ride is actually pretty cool and does provide a good sense of the full process, wrapped in an ethos fit for a generation raised on a world high-production media and 2-second video edits.
Turns out that the ride through farmland was merited as well, as we learn that Hershey’s is “one of the only” places where chocolate is made with fresh milk. Apparently, at least according to the official story, milk from nearby farms is trucked in daily to the plant. We didn’t see any tanker trucks on our drive, but we happily bought into the idea. Of course, we also bought into a few T-shirts as well—but Dad drew the line at the 2-pound package Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Even though th
Big chocolate bars

Can we, Dad?? Please!!???

e kids’ eyes went almost as big as the dinner-plate-sized chocolate circles in the package they held up, we still have over 500 miles to go, and visions of riding through the coming  8-hour day with a two-pound sugar high in the backseat quash even the most generous inclinations toward road-trip indulgence!
The day ends with happy kids and an exhausted rest. A bit uneasy, though, as much of the day saw us driving through clouds and overcast skies. Our spirits remain hopeful, though, as we head toward the sunny South.

Chad’s Great American Eclipse Chase: Part 2 — Prepping and planning

This series details the eclipse-chasing exploits of our President and CEO, Chad Dorsey, as he heads down to Tennessee on a quest for the total solar eclipse. See the whole series.

Packing for the 2017 Great American Eclipse is amazingly simple, especially considering the laboriousness of prior eclipse-chasing quests. For one, it’s possible to drive there, something generally unthinkable with most eclipses. That is, it’s pretty much never the case except in this particular instance that the word “eclipse” ends up in the same sentence as the words “road trip!” More about that later. Second, it’s in a highly populated area with significant infrastructure. This has notable implications, both potentially good and potentially problematic, as we’ll see.

First, the potentially good. The key rule in chasing any eclipse is very simple: make sure you see it. However, as simple as it is to state, actually adhering to that rule is anything but simple. Because in order to see an eclipse, you need to be able to see the sun, which means there can’t be any clouds. The forecasts for Tennessee look pretty good for this right now, and clear skies seem like a simple thing to ask for in the summer, until you start to think about it a bit more.

For one, even if it’s a generally clear day, the warmth of the air in the summertime leads to convective patterns that cause the buildup of thunderstorms. These thunderstorms occur as the ground has had time to warm the air above it, a process that usually ensures that thunderstorms occur in the early afternoon. Of course, the eclipse in Tennessee will occur at around 2:30 Eastern time—an ideal time for thunderstorms to occur. So, as is always the case in eclipse chasing, we can by no means count on clear skies as a sure thing.

What an eclipse chaser doesn’t want to see on eclipse day.
The thunderstorm, Tez Goodyer. CC BY-ND 2.0. No changes were made.

If thunderstorms do seem ready to occur, or if the sky is overcast or filled with large clouds, die-hard eclipse chasers will shift to their Plan B — scouting out new locations in the day or hours before the eclipse—with a desire to get somewhere, anywhere, under the moon’s shadow where the phenomenon can be fully seen. In this year’s case, doing this is markedly easier than it is for many other eclipses, given that the US highway system provides an ideal means of relocating vehicles and people.

Tennessee totality map

The path of totality will cross large portions of Tennessee accessible by road.

In considering this all, I’ve been keeping a close eye on two things. First, the weather reports. While definitive weather reports aren’t released yet for eclipse day, the historical weather charts and the time of the eclipse make it clear that it’s possible there will be thunderstorms in Tennessee on eclipse day. Second, mobility on the day of an eclipse—this can make the pivotal difference between standing under the marvel of totality and simply looking at clouds in a darkened sky.

Which brings us to the other thing that’s potentially negative. That one is a Catch-22. The roads that bring easy accessibility of the eclipse make it a goal for many Americans to seek out. Because of this, however, many assumptions project that main travel arteries will be filled. That’s a major problem—a large percentage of the millions of people who are expected to be traveling toward the path of totality are expected to be driving on the Interstate system. This holds a real potential for dragging major roads to a crawl even before totality hits. At the point of totality itself, it’s expected that many drivers will stop outright in the middle of the road to get out and stare.

So even those with a very solid location for eclipse viewing need to plan for the worst. As I look over the maps, I’ve begun plotting out possible scenarios on the smaller roads in the region, drawing in the path of totality across our road atlas in pencil and examining side roads, underpasses and bridges. The key consideration is how we might go about both chasing blue skies and avoiding crowds—if conditions make it necessary to head out on the move.

Chad’s Great American Eclipse Chase: Part 1 — Prologue

This series details the eclipse-chasing exploits of our President and CEO, Chad Dorsey, as he heads down to Tennessee on a quest for the total solar eclipse. See the whole series.

I. Packing—and recalling.

As the suitcases start to fill and the lists of remaining to-dos become gradually shorter, the actual fact seems increasingly hard to believe—2017 is actually here, and the chase is about to begin once again.

When you’ve been targeting a specific date for more than 25 years, anticipation takes on a more subtle dimension. You see, this date has been in our sights since the afternoon of July 11, 1991. That was the day when our family, together with our close friends the Stewarts, experienced the 1991 eclipse in Baja, Mexico. There are more tales to be told of that magnificent eclipse later in this series, but only two facts are of real importance for the time being. First, that was the moment when I (and thousands of others standing there that day) officially caught eclipse fever, and second, that was the moment when, in the growing light of the receding partial phases, we all hunched over the battered copy of Astronomy magazine to ask the same question—where and when could we find totality again?

Astronomy magazine from July 1999

In July 1999, Astronomy magazine featured the “eclipse of the century.”

While there were many upcoming eclipses to be chased (and my father, an 8th grade science teacher, has sought out at least one other in the intervening years—Aruba in 1998), the most attractive candidate was obvious at a glance. As we scanned the graphic of future eclipse tracks, we saw many that fell across the ocean, hit land in Siberia in the dead of winter, or presented themselves in other un-useful or hard-to-reach areas. But one opportunity popped immediately off the page—a beautiful crimson stripe straight across the United States. And in the middle of August. It was enough to make any eclipse fanatic’s heart beat a little faster, if not send them running to the phone to book a hotel room right then and there.

The only catch? That enticing track marked a moment in time that lay a full 26 years in the future, practically an eternity for someone at my stage of life then. Nonetheless, we made a pact at that moment that we would do whatever it took to reconvene our group in the center of the moon’s shadow on that faraway date. I speculated with the Stewarts’ daughter, my friend since childhood, about what we might be doing in life then, imagining where we might be, but it all seemed far too far away to ever be a reality.

Map of future eclipse tracks

The future, as shown in 1999

Fast forwarding those 26 years, that daydream now seems both immediately close and unfathomably distant. Preparations for August 21 seem infused by a similar duality. While all the intrigue and mystery remain, the buildup seems prosaic in a way, and the hype and excitement in the media dulls somewhat on impact. But I do know that I’m finally heading to see that actual eclipse, and that we actually are all reconvening once again, this time with a raft of intervening life experiences and three additional children (and one dog) in tow among us.

II. Realizing again, with new eyes.

Group with eclipse glasses in Baja Mexico

The Dorseys and Stewarts prepare for the 1999 eclipse in Baja, Mexico

Now and then, though, the jolts come, and instants of full-blown excitement wash in, sweeping away any accumulated feelings that this might be an ordinary trip. Seeing an article try to describe totality to those who have never experienced it. Hearing a the recorded gasps of eclipse watchers in Manitoba, Canada in 1979—the eclipse where my father first caught the bug—at the moment the shadow first engulfs them. In those instants, anything timeworn drops away, and I’m instantly a kid again. Because in the moment of totality, we’re all transformed into kids again. Screaming, laughing, gasping, staring. Truly—it’s just like that. Those few minutes are somehow transcendent, childlike wonder played out on a grand scale in a fleeting experience that binds all those who watch together. Yeah, I know—when you read them, such descriptions are florid. Hyperbolic, even. But to anyone who’s experienced totality, they barely even begin to capture the essence of the thing.

The most exciting part about this one is that the people it stands to bind together include my own children. In a wonderful twist of fate, my son happens to be barely a year older than I was when I saw my father pack for Manitoba.

Manitoba eclipse T-shirt

A t-shirt depicts the 1979 Manitoba, CA, eclipse

I still remember seeing him lay out the filters, tripods, and camera equipment in a huge spread on the living room floor and observing as he rehearsed his moves over and over—removing the filters, training the camera, snapping photos—a carefully choreographed dance timed to the transition into totality. This time, my son and daughter get to come along, and I get the honor of passing the passion for eclipse chasing on to the next generation. That is, as long as the weather cooperates…

Data Science Education Technology Conference ready to welcome 100 thought leaders

We are proud to announce the Data Science Education Technology (DSET) Conference to be held February 15-17, 2017, at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, CA. Over 100 thought leaders from a range of organizations, including UC Berkeley, TERC, EDC, Desmos, SRI, Exploratorium, New York Hall of Science, Harvard’s Institute for Applied Computational Science, Lawrence Hall of Science, and Tuva will be in attendance at this groundbreaking event in the emerging field of data science education.

Conference attendees come from 15 states and 6 countries around the world. Map created with CODAP. View the data table and more information about attendees in this CODAP document.

“Data and analytics hold promise for revolutionizing all aspects of learning,” Chad Dorsey, president and CEO of the Concord Consortium, explains. “As we enter a world where practically every decision and moment of the day will connect to data in some way, preparing learners to explore, understand, and communicate with data must become a key national priority.”

The DSET conference addresses these new opportunities by focusing on two strands. The Teaching and Learning strand is designed for those thinking about curriculum development. This strand addresses the pedagogical challenges and opportunities associated with making use of data technologies in educational settings. Sessions will include data-driven learning experiences and discussion of lessons learned by curriculum designers. “It’s an exciting time to design activities to help students be ready for data science in the future,” notes Tim Erickson of Epistemological Engineering.

The Technology strand is designed especially for those with programming experience and focuses on software development. Attendees will build relevant, timely skills and learn to create a web app and increase efficiency. William Finzer, developer of the Common Online Data Analysis Platform (CODAP) at the Concord Consortium, will lead a session on data technology integration with online curricula and moderate a discussion on leveraging open-source software to enhance learners’ experience working with data.

You’re invited to attend the conference as a virtual participant. Registration is free! Join the virtual conference!

Register for the Virtual Conference

Where else can I connect with #dsetonline?

Virtual attendees are encouraged to join the conference backchannel social media conversation that will run concurrently with the face-to-face conference.