I wish that I could have a conversation with the late Dr. Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon professor of computer science and design and co-founder of the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC). Also, Dr. Pausch was the presenter of the infamous “Last Lecture.” I had some correspondence with him and the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University in 2004-2005 in response to a traumatic lawn mower injury that resulted in the partial amputation of my left foot. I recognize that the traditional consumer and industrial product safety manuals were not effective in communicating how to properly use a product or equipment safely. Actually, I believe that the actual number of people who even read owner’s manuals is a very small percentage. Therefore, I shuffled to Pittsburgh on several occasions to search out the world-class Carnegie Mellon computer science, drama, psychology, and business departments to pursue my vision of edutainment yard safety software in order to educate and entertain the millions of users of outdoor power equipment how to operate yard equipment in safe manner. Furthermore, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 200,000 individuals get hurt each year using outdoor power equipment. It is a serious complex problem. I remember sending emails, having conversations, and dropping-off Rescue Rick the Grass Cut Man leaflets with various individuals at Carnegie Mellon, including the Entertainment Technology Center. Despite a valiant effort of hitting several Randy Pausch “brick walls,” I learned that Carnegie Mellon launched a spin-off company called Etcetera Edutainment to focus on workplace safety applying gaming and simulation technology. I am still trying to figure-out the proverbial Randy Pausch “head fake” related to this evolution without me. Rescue Rick the Grass Cut Man is a yard safety super hero that is here today so that yard accidents go away. I wish that I could talk with Dr. Randy Pausch because I know that he would tell me the truth and be fair with me regarding my concerns. Why the brick wall? What is the head fake? Also, I have pasted a wonderful story about Dr. Randy Pausch and his Last Lecture that appeared on the The Tartan Online (Carnegie Mellon newspaper) website http://www.thetartan.org/2007/9/24/news/pausch
Randy Pausch: How to achieve your dreams. Professor tells students to never give up, despite the odds.
News Tara Moore
Within the first few statements of his lecture, titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” Randy Pausch illustrated that he plans to live the time he has left to the fullest. “We can’t change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand. If I’m not as depressed as you think I should be, I’m sorry to disappoint you,” said Pausch, who was diagnosed a little over a year ago with pancreatic cancer.
Doctors recently told him he only has five months to live.
Pausch, a professor of computer science and design and co-founder of the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), stressed that everyone can achieve their childhood dreams if they try hard enough, but that it is more important to help others achieve their dreams also.
The lecture contained both humor and wisdom as Pausch explained that others can get past the “brick walls” (things that get in the way of their dreams), just as he did, and, like him, achieve all their goals.
Pausch’s determination to help others is reflected in the impact he has had on his students and all students who went through the ETC program. Laura Pliskin, who will graduate in December with a master’s degree in entertainment technology, said she might still be working in retail were it not for Pausch, though she never had him as a professor.
“I had earned my undergraduate degree in art, but had a hard time finding a job,” Pliskin said. She met Pausch when he was shopping for an anniversary gift for his parents at the store where she worked, EngraveYard. Pausch told her about the ETC, a graduate program that he had co-founded with Don Marinelli, the executive producer, in 1998.
The ETC, as Pausch said in his lecture, involves “artists and technologists working in small teams to make things,” meaning that the ETC strives to create media that focuses on both its artistic and technological qualities. In addition to the ETC, the professor also developed Alice, interactive software that helps students learn computer programming in a hands-on and engaging manner.
Although Pausch had a hand in many of Carnegie Mellon’s classes and programs, in his lecture the professor encouraged students to “focus on others, not [themselves].” “Randy encouraged us to be forces for good. There are enough people out there making zombie extermination games,” said Phil Light, a student of Pausch’s who graduated last spring from the ETC.
Light and two teammates started Electric Owl Studios, a company devoted to making electronic toys that entertain children while they are undergoing a hospital visit or cancer treatment.
Another of Pausch’s students, Mark Tomczak, who graduated in 2005 with a B.S. degree in computer science, took Pausch’s class Building Virtual Worlds as an undergraduate student. He currently works to create training worlds for occupations such as firefighters and police officers.
“Randy believes people are capable of more than they think they are, and encouraged us to push as far as we could,” Tomczak said.
Tomczak couldn’t have taken Building Virtual Worlds without Pausch’s help, he explained. It was Pausch who convinced administrators that undergraduate students were capable of handling the course’s graduate-level coursework and should be allowed to have access to the course.
“The only reason there are undergrads in there is because Randy believed in us,” Tomczak said. “It was the single greatest experience I had in my educational career.”
At the end of the lecture, Pausch posed a final question to the audience.
“Have you figured out the head-fake?” he asked.
A ‘head-fake,’ he explained earlier, occurs when someone is taught a deeper lesson under the pretense of learning something simple — when a high school football player learns determination, teamwork, and perseverance while seeming to learn a proper three-point stance, for instance.
“It’s not about how to achieve your dreams,” Pausch said. “It’s about how to lead your life.”
THANK YOU DR. RANDY PAUSCH!
Richard T. Mudrinich
Rescue Rick the Grass Cut Man