Recently, I ran a workshop for a group of teens where we went through a brainstorming process for generating project ideas. I thought it’d be fun to share a list of my own dream projects, all of which I hope to complete before I die. I guess that makes this my “project bucket list”. As it’d be quite impossible for me to actually do all of these things myself, reach out if you want to collaborate in some way; either as a partner, a mentor, a mentee, etc. Though a few of these projects are obviously solo ventures, most of them would work best with a team.
I don’t necessarily expect to go through this list completing everything in a linear order. My style tends to be focusing on 1-2 projects heavily for a few months at a time to further their development so I can constantly adapt to different priorities and also make changes based on resources, interest/enthusiasm, and what seems to be actually needed in the world vs. what is just a cool idea.
What the FisX –It’s the first-ever physics sketch comedy TV show. I’ve been slowly working on this for years. I’ve already filmed some sample sketches and have been working on a script for a full pilot episode. My friend Payce and I worked out a really great way of using a story to connect all the sketches together, which I absolutely love. But implementing this also means incorporating the right ‘co-star’ / partner. So the project is somewhat on hold until the right person comes along for this. A more professional person would probably do an ‘audition’ or that type of thing… I guess I’m looking for the serendipity of finding the right ‘co-start’. I’m open to who this would be, and the script could be adapted to suit the right person, but currently I’m envisioning this ‘co-star’ to playing a “grandmotherly” role.
Curricu-Dumb: what teachers can’t tell you – I’m making an audio book app for teens about self-directed learning that teaches them how to thrive without school! It covers self-directed learning, unschooling, SDE centers, and ultimately culminates into teaching them how to create their own zero-tuition self-directed learning centers. This project is far along already and I aim for it to be released by the end of 2019! (Update: Nov 19, 2021: this has come to life under the name “LEAVE SCHOOL: what teachers can’t tell you“.
Physics-themed mini golf course – I had the idea to build a mini golf course as a dream when I was in 3rd grade. But only a few years back when I had some ideas of how to make it physics-themed did this actually make it onto my life-agenda. While my fantasy is to have this at a resort location like Vegas or Disney, I think a practical first step is to build one for a science museum. Maybe if my sketch comedy show becomes a reality, I’ll have the street-cred to get something branded in Vegas or Disney…. or design it and slap someone’s name on it like Bill Nye so he can get credit for it but I get the joy of designing it and creating it.
Library comedy tour – I did a version of this in 2018, but would like something much larger, where I do stand-up comedy at way more libraries across the US (and possibly the world?) with a couple opening acts rather than it being me doing everything myself.
Dream comedy venue – many comics talk about their “dream” being to perform at Madison Square Garden. I could care less about MSG and New York City, so I decided to make my “dream” venue the largest library in the US: the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Since it’s a dream, I also would like to sell out the venue – every room. So even if people aren’t in the main room watching the show, they’re watching via a TV in another room. No idea how practical that is, I’ve never even visited this place, but that’s the best I can do as a ‘dream venue’.
“YTF” comedy special – I feel like after last years’ tour, the main ideas of my first hour-long comedy special are in place, tentatively titled “YTF”. I’ve thought of filming it at multiple library locations, sorta like Sandler’s recent special ‘100% Fresh’, or Chris Rock’s ‘Kill the Messenger’, or Dave Attell’s ‘Road Work’. I’m open to ideas… but I’m getting to the point of really wanting to finalize this material and move on to new material.
Other “special” comedy venues – I’ve been wanting to do shows at places where people are locked inside, specifically schools, nursing homes, prisons, and psychiatric wards. I feel like I found a way to do the schools by doing libraries, but haven’t figured out what to do to do performances for these other groups.
Gravi-Tee Shirts – I want to re-work the physics shirts so there’s only one color to match with each design. And ultimately have one design/color combo for every color in the rainbow spectrum plus black and white. Since I also have some new jokes about the importance of wearing shoes while have sex in outer space, I suppose I could design a Gravity Shoe as well.
Lighting company – I used to be in the LED lighting space and have wanted to get back into it but just have too many priorities. Specifically, I want to get involved in healthy, tunable lighting – where the color of the light shifts throughout the day to match the spectrum of the sun. There are a lot of health benefits to this. I had two different possible business ideas for this. One is to do sales for “personal use” products like desk lamps, table lamps, floor lamps – which anyone could buy online and plugin to their regular outlets at home/work. They’d be good for students’ or workers’ desks, bedroom/family room, or living spaces like nursing homes. The other path is to do more commercial-style lighting that would be installed in ceilings at places like schools, nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals, or prisons. The most benefit of tunable lights comes in places where people are stuck inside for extended hours. I do love this idea… but I moreso love the idea of finding ways of actually getting people OUT of these places altogether. One idea is to use the profits generated from selling the lighting to fund all the activism work that helps get people outside. This sounds cool… but doesn’t feel like the path of least resistance.
Professor X’s School for Mislabeled Young People – For many years I’ve wanted to create a physical school to support young people who have been given psych diagnosis who are stuck/trapped. Some of the inspiration comes from the X-Men, where Professor Xavier created “Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Young People” where they could realize their gifts after they were labelled mutants. This project is unique in that it would be incredibly time consuming, require me to live in one place, and also would continue in perpetuity, whereas most of these other projects are more short-term. So I am not sure when/how this would happen, but it’s certainly on my life to-do list.
Custom Skateboard Deck – I’ve got a painting I really want to photograph and get printed onto a skateboard. Only thing holding this up is I need to find the right person to do professional photographs of the painting. I’ve been skating for 4 years now and think it’s about time I stopped using the same shitty board I got used when I first started.
Sex toy – When I was getting my biomedical engineering degree, and people would ask what biomedical engineers do, I used to joke and say they invent a sex toys. At the time, it just seemed funny. Now, I see there may actually be some value for this in the world. Promoting sexual health and encouraging people to be open and playful sexually and break stigma is really important. I thought about creating some kind of prostate massage type toy, but those already exist. So I’m not sure what type of invention I could make… but it’d be pretty funny to invent a sex toy and also be valuable to society. I just took a 3D printing class last week, so maybe a I could create a business where people can 3D print their own sex toys at home to avoid having to go to the sex toy shop or buy online. While you can’t 3D print silicone, you could 3D print a mold from which to make a silicone toy. Not exactly a priority right now…
Entrepreneurs Anonymous support groups – I’ve long felt it myself – and other entrepreneurs have shared it with me too – there are a lot of personal, emotional challenges facing entrepreneurs that just don’t get met in traditional entrepreneur programs. Generally, these programs are hard to be vulnerable in because people are always ‘selling’ to try and look good. But having actual peer support groups where people aren’t focused on ‘selling’ but instead are focused on personal development could be really transformational. I created something primitive online (Entrepreneurs Anonymous) but never had the time to get anything going in-person and to grow this.
Youth Freedom Festival – This idea could be a one-off event, or something that travels from place to place. The idea was inspired by seeing unschooling conference talent shows, a couple of which I’ve gotten to emcee. I thought doing a more public event, featuring self-directed learners as the performers, would somehow raise awareness to youth that are stuck in school about all of the opportunities that exist outside it. I know a handful of performers, but the main thing missing here is the marketing of such large-scale events. Gotta have a way to promote this to lots of people and have them be interested in this unique thing.
Peer Unschooling Network (aka, ‘PUN’) – this idea is already underway but isn’t quite taking off as I dreamt it would. PUN is a digital community connecting young self-directed learners of all types (unschoolers, Sudbury students, agile learners, liberated learners, entrepreneurs, artists, etc.). They help one another on their self-directed paths, some may even create their own local learning centers for in-person connection. And it ultimately allows for anyone who wants to leave school and plug into a large community of learners to do so. I’d like to bring an entrepreneurial aspect to this site too, where youth can sell products and services on the site and earn a living. This site could be like what you’d experience if you went to an city that was created by and entirely run by teens, where the videos and music and art was all teens, the products made were all by teens, etc.
Open Source High reboot – I do think there’s a future where Open Source High comes back to life. It was a lot of fun running this project and the teens made some really awesome videos for it. Maybe this would somehow just become a part of PUN, I’m not sure yet.
The Story of FisX movie – one idea I have for a movie is where the anti-hero has to go back in time to kill off all the great physicists in history in order to prevent technology from advancing because the AI has gotten so good we’ve become useless, meaningless pets.
Another movie idea – another idea which would make more sense as an animated film, is to have a revenge-style story (like The Crow or John Wick or the Jason Statham movies) except the anti-hero is a dog instead of a person. The dog goes back to hunt down the breeder who created him and separated him from his family at birth. I think having playful cartoons like Finding Nemo blended with graphic sequences like a Quintin Tarantino movie would be pretty twisted and hilarious.
Marketing company promoting local SDE centers – I’ve noticed a lot of self-directed learning centers struggle with getting students. I think I could help them reach out to their communities using social media directly targeting the youth, as opposed to the parents. Again, I love the idea and think it’d work, but maybe it’s a better use of my time working on helping youth to create their own learning centers. Though there’s always the practical need for money to support oneself while creating all this other awesome stuff, so there may be a place for this in my life.
A patent – a real feather in my ego’s cap would be to get a patent on some type of invention…. No idea what, but preferably something useful! I have an idea for part of the physics miniature golf course that would potentially be patentable, but can’t share that here J
Publish a research article in a peer-reviewed journal – would also like to put my brick in the wall of science at some point. I think I had a chance in college to get my name as a co-author on a journal article but I did not feel comfortable with the lab data I generated in my experiments which had a lot of variability and felt really biased. I remember being super uncomfortable at being pressured to publish my data to help get a grant and I felt like a dick because I refused to include my data since I didn’t want to have my name attached to something I didn’t believe in. I’ve always wondered if they took my data and included it anyways without my permission. I’d sort of forgotten about that until now. But I would genuinely like to contribute to the scientific world. I think I need to dive deeper into some subjects in mental health or education or physics before I could actually develop questions worthy of proper investigation.
Cellulase salad dressing – One science idea I’d love is to take commercial cellulase enzymes and make them edible like a food dressing. This would make it so humans could digest any plant matter, effectively making all plants into edible food!
Writing about my experiences when I was “crazy” – I’ve done a little bit of this through my comedy, but think it could be useful to write a 100% honest and genuine article or book describing what was going through my mind when I was perceived as being “crazy”. I would cover the 4-5 different times I’ve had what doctors would call a “psychotic episode” and describe what I was actually thinking and everything I was actually doing. It may help people realize that “crazy” doesn’t quite exist, that it just means others don’t understand why someone is behaving in a way that they don’t expect them to. And that person having the experience may have legitimate reasons for behaving as they are, but the world just labels them “crazy” since they don’t understand. This feels a little too personal and exposing, so I’m not certain if I have the courage for it. But I feel like maybe if I wrote it as a book, it would require some effort from people to read it, so they’d kind of have to “earn” the insights.
“How I got off psychiatric drugs” – this reminds me of a video series I’ve wanted to post. I recorded a weekly “video diary” of the 2 years it took me to get off psychiatric drugs. I’ve never felt comfortable publishing it, but I think it could help a lot of people.
“How to grow your comfort zone” – I also recorded a weekly video series that I never posted where every week for a year, I did something outside my normal comfort zone in an effort to increase my emotional resilience. Might publish this at some point.
“How Kids Make Cash” – I’ve done a bunch of talks for teens about entrepreneurship titled ‘how kids make cash’. I felt pretty good about them, but recently reflected on them and realized too much of it was autobiographical. The trouble is that I took a normal talk about entrepreneurship and titled it “How Kids Make Cash” to make it more appealing to youth without really altering the content enough to adapt to them. Basically the talk is all about ways to earn money that don’t require a degree or diploma. So even though a lot of the content is about my adult experiences, I feel it “sort of” qualifies as “kids” because none of it required a degree or diploma. Maybe rather than just a talk, this would make a great podcast, where I could interview teen entrepreneurs. (Though I’m already a co-producer of the Youth on Subjects of the World podcast… so maybe this could become a part of it)
MCAS physics training videos – While I’d rather teens just boycotted the MCAS so it was a non-issue, I have thought of making some YouTube tutorial videos teaching all the types of physics problems that Massachusetts students would face when taking the MCAS physics. It’s a cool idea, maybe it’ll come to be…. But something feels dirty about contributing to the standardized tests.
My 2nd hour-long comedy special – well I haven’t even done my first special yet (to be called “YTF”), but I do intend to do more than one, so I might as well mention it. It’s pretty early to say, but since I have a pretty solid idea of the topics YTF is going to cover (mental health, physics, education, social justice movements), I see the next special possibly being a bit more personal about my relationships with people, friends, family, etc. Really hard to say as this is years away, just a prediction!
Rap songs – I’ve had two ideas for rap songs. I don’t even know the difference between hip hop and rap… one being an anthem-style song about the education system. I sort of imagine teens rallying behind a song as part of the youth liberation movement. But, honestly, I think it’d work better if they wrote it, rather than me. The other song is sort of a 3 verse song that goes through my youth, then being a crazy person, and then coming out on the other side. Some kind of personal narrative of my evolution as a being. I feel like rap is a powerful medium for conveying high energy and anger and empowerment.
Children’s picture book about physics – one of the times I was locked in a psychiatric hospital, I started working on a children’s book about physics. I basically abandoned this idea after I got out, but it’d be cool to pick this back up again.
After writing out this list, I feel like I can comfortably change my feelings about my old 2016 post “How I became an entrepreneur (and why I may not stay one)”. I realize my motivation is not really about being an ‘inventor’ OR being ‘influential’… my motivation is to ‘create’. I want to create things I believe in, and do my best to detach myself from the outcome of what impact the work has on people. Ideally, my efforts will make a difference in someone’s life, but I don’t want to let that outcome make or break the joy I get from creating. A satisfying conclusion to a fun activity.
So what is on your cool project bucket list??