National Geographic – Can We Fly?

Nancy Shute has an article in this month’s National Geographic about our collective dream of personal flight.   Yves Rossy is mentioned there but Festo‘s Smartbird and the University of Toronto are not.   I very much appreciated her short examination of the efficiency of birds.   Blackpoll warblers are capable of non-stop migratory journeys in excess of 3,000 miles fueled by an amount of  fat equivalent to that contained in a snickers bar.   More research dollars need to be directed at companies like FESTO who are actively attempting to decode the flight of birds. Thanks go to my friend Rich for texting the cover of this months issue of Nat. Geo.
National Geographic Magazine – Personal Flight

65 thoughts on “National Geographic – Can We Fly?

  1. Did you mean this? In Germany NG has another “cover topic”, I was looking for it today. It’s a pity that there’s nothing about Festo although they study many different fields and ways of flying for several years.

  2. Yes, I was referring to this article about the possibility of expanding human powered flight. I have a link to the article there above. I find it compelling that the flight distance record in this arena was established more than 22 years ago. I’m confident we could fly further with a more thoroughly bio-imitative approach and that the work of the Smartbird team supports this. FESTO has studied airflow carefully. This is an essential component for us to understand.

  3. N.
    I have a video up on YouTube called, ‘Human Powered Flight Through Biomimicry’. It is linked in the video section of this blog. It opens with the assertion, We Can Fly. I did see the information you sent to me about Smartbird on FESTO’s site. It is very informative and inspiring!

    1. I have watched your video. It’s interesting. Have you already known Festo before SmartBird? I saw that you put a piece from one of Festo’s Bionic Learning Network Videos in it. Fischer has done a great job with his penguins! It’s too bad that they do not present their work on Hannovers Fair twice.


  4. Yes, I did know about Festo before Smartbird. I had seen the Air Jelly, ray and Penguin a couple of years ago and shared those videos with my students. They were all very inspired and amazed. Seeing a number of these technologies in person like you did at Hannovers Fair, would have a much stronger impact though. I would so like to convince the Smartbird team to hire me (and others) to visit schools and showcase bio-inspired designs for students such as yourself. There are robo-hummingbirds, snakes, geckos, dogs, and grasshoppers out there, each with a story of dramatic increases in efficiency over the old approach. I have had a vision of flight in my head for many years now that I (and others who have commented on this blog) am confident will work. It’s just that the research and development dollars are lacking for some reason. Festo is one of the few companies out there that really understands how nature can show us the way forward through some difficult challenges.

    I am sorry that some of your teachers are not more effective in the classroom. I have a few students that I am unable to reach and it causes me no small amount of consternation. As I said before, I have much to learn as a teacher, but truly love the challenge of trying my very best to give them all that I can each day. Some of them come from such difficult circumstances at home.

    Thank you again for your continued interest. Had you already known that we have flown for 74 miles under strictly human power in 1988?

  5. I know Festo as long as I can think because some relatives of mine are living in Esslingen. Their building was really impressive to me, I loved this constructure made of glass and steel. I became really interested in 2009, after I saw Mr Fischer and Mr Mugrauer presenting AirJelly in a German TV-show. I really fell in love with their jellyfish and I started to look for more information. I applied for some work expierience, in 2010 I was invited by Fischer. He accepted me but in the next month I got a rejection. I tried it again this year and maybe I’ll get hired for a few weeks.
    I hope that Festo will hires you to present their work. I think it’s also effective for them to inspire children and youths for being an engineer or something like that. Did you get any replies from anybody?

    I really admire the work of my teachers. They try hard to teach us something but some of them don’t really care about our education. Yesterday my Latin teacher told us that he hates the lessons and that he’d prefer to be at home with his mother. However, we also have teachers who love their job and the work with young people.

    I would like to know what your aims are. Do you try to build a bird-like ornithopter or something like that? I saw some of your projects on your blog and was wondering what you wanna construct or build.
    I didn’t know that we have flown 74 miles under human power yet. Thank you for telling me. I will look for some more information about it on the Internet.


  6. Hi Naomi,

    Once again, I must say that your command of English is really outstanding. Unfortunately, the majority of students in this country never get that far with their language studies. Although I’m sure it is only one among your many skills and talents, this ability to write in English will help take you far. Keep working at it!

    I did hear from Kristof and Agalya on Facebook. Thank you for the idea to look there! Kristof answered one of my questions.

    Here is what he wrote:
    Ah I found some of your questions in the blog. Actually the SmartBird has a small cpu and a couple of sensors on board, and could also be fitted with GPS to enable outside autonomous flight (inside is tricky, but check out the AirPenguin, which we fitted with the capability of indoor flight). There are other options for mechanics I believe, but I think the other project partners can answer the questions more precise.

    I am waiting and hoping to hear back from the others. If you have the time and inclination, please feel free to translate my letter to Markus and post it here. I am very grateful for your help.

    My ambition is to build an ornithopter that is modeled after Ardea herodias, a common North American species of heron. I think that you have a closely related bird in Germany called Ardea cinerea (the Grey heron). I am not so invested in the particular species as I am the idea that birds provide the best models to emulate. They have been precisely honed by the patient forces of natural selection to be efficient in a way we humans are just beginning to appreciate. Also I would like to see a larger effort to break the 74 mile HPF record established by Kanellos Kanellopoulos in 1988. I believe that ornithopters are the way for this to happen. After that, we may come to understand that personal flight is easy and that the materials required for the construction of flying machines may ultimately be ‘cultured’ in a solution without the need for conventional ‘heat, beat and treat’ methods of assembly. In the first video I posted on Youtube, my wife sums it up: “We have got to get away from all these cars.” It is a big dream I know, but I feel strongly that we must change how we live on this planet in a big way very soon. By all accounts, it is getting quite soiled. Many persons believe we would treat it differently if we saw it from a higher perspective.

    I’m a dreamer, I know. It has been that way since I was a little boy. In my 42 years, I’ve had the good fortune to travel to places like Mexico, Sweden, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Jamaica and Israel. There was a year where I slept out under the stars more nights than under a roof. My passion for nature (which includes all of humanity) compels me to continue marching forth.
    Thinking about the world you, my students and own children are heading toward is both frightening and exciting at the same time, if that makes any sense.

    My father’s family was from Germany. I never knew any of them though. They were the Angersteins. I don’t even know which city they lived in.

    Hope you are having a nice Sunday evening.

  7. Hello Karl,

    thank you again! I have the benifit that I learn English since I can speak because my family practiced with me. However, that´s not the normal case. In Germany most students haven´t got this privilege to grow up bilingual. Which languages are taught at US-Schools?

    It´s nice that Kristof answered some of your questions. It´s very interesting that you can extend SmartBird with GPS to let it fly autonmously. The army must be really interested in this technologies but there are many other fields where you can use it.
    I have translated your letter to Markus. It was quite tricky to translate to German because there are so many meanings for some words but I think I´ve done a good job. I hope that Markus will not recognize my spelling style…

    The heron is such a nice and graceful bird and in my opinion a great antetype for an ornithopter. Maybe I could help you to realize your idea. I have some ideas to revolutionize CT-technologies or some technologies in other fields. There are so many easy things that could improve life.
    I think we need people who care for our world in both aspects of living and our enviroment. We should try to change something. The later generations should have a worth future without any catastrophies as it happened in Fukushima or something like that. Maybe we finally find a pharmaceutical to cure cancer or AIDS…

    As I read you have seen some interesting places in your life. I hope that I have the chance to travel to the most interesting countries or places in the world. Two years ago I traveled to the US to stay in New York City. It was a really great expierience and exiting. For me it was the greatest place I´ve ever seen. This year I´m going to the Paris.

    I know that some relatives of my grandfather live in the US, I think near Miami. In the past they lived in Chicago and worked for NASA. My ancestors came from Poland and Denmark. The “younger” generation of them (my grandmother and grandfather) live in Esslingen (which explains my interest for Festo) and in my hometown.



    Here the letter. I can also send it via E-Mail if you want:

    Sehr geehrter Herr Fischer,

    ich bin beeindruckt von der Arbeit, die Sie und Ihr Team geleistet haben, um SmartBird zu bauen. Nachdem ich Ihre Präsentation bei TED gesehen habe, jubelte ich mit dem Publikum. Ich habe mehr als 25 TED-Talks im Internet gesehen, jedoch habe ich kein so sehr begeistertes Publikum gesehen wie Ihres.
    Ich bin ein 42-jähriger Lehrer für Naturwissenschaften und Naturforscher aus Ballingham, Washington. Seit vielen Jahren bin ich ein passionierter Vogelbeobachter und seit langer Zeit versuche ich mich dem Ziel des menschlichen Fluges zu nähern. Als Lehrer bin ich immer auf der Suche nach neuen Dingen, die meine Schüler inspirieren und motivieren sollen. Ich zeigte ihnen auch Ihr Video über SmartBird und konnte erleben, wie sehr Ihre Arbeit die jungen Menschen berührte.
    Die Schüler an unseren amerikanischen Schulen benötigen Inspirationen und einen Weg, ihren kreativen Energien freien Lauf zu lassen. Besuchen Sie Schulen, um den Schülern Ihre Projekte wie AirJelly, AirPenguin oder SmartBird zu präsentieren? Oder würden Sie ein Team bilden, das die Schulen in Amerika besucht und Ihre Arbeit präsentiert?
    Ich erstellte im Oktober 2007 einen Blog, um meine Ideen und Forschungsergebnisse an einem öffentlichen Ort festzuhalten und zu teilen. Dies ist ein Teil eines Posts, den ich 2008 verfasste mit dem Titel „Impossible Dreamer“:

    „Die Wissenschaft der Bionik zeigt uns den enormen Ertrag an Effizienz, wenn man das „beste Design“ der Natur kopiert. Ich denke, dass wir durch die Kopie von Vögeln effiziente Ornithopter mit Flügelschlag bauen können, die die Masse eines Menschen tragen. Dies ist mein streben. Ich suche nach Hilfe, um dies zu verwirklichen.“

    Seitdem habe ich 35 weitere Posts verfasst, die dieses Thema behandeln und nutze die Möglichkeit mit anderen Menschen zu kommunizieren, die auch meinen, dass es Zeit wird, den Rekord des menschlichen Fliegens von 71 Meilen zu brechen, der 1982 aufgestellt wurde.
    Im April sendete mir ein Freund eine Nachricht mit dem Video Ihres SmartBirds. Ich war voller Begeisterung, als ich das Video sah. Danach studierte ich die Informationen auf Ihrer Homepage zu diesem und den anderen Projekten. Mir gefiel auch der Einbezug der Geschichte „Die Möwe Jonathan“ in dem Fotobuch, da diese mich selber inspirierte. Ihr Team hat etwas verwirklicht, was schon seit frühester Kindheit meine Gedanken dominierte.
    Was wird Festo als nächstes verwirklichen? Werden Sie größere Modelle bauen mit drei Knicken im Flügel? Ihr SmartBird ist ein großartiges Flugobjekt, doch können seine Flugeigenschaften noch veredelt werden durch einen Schwanz, der gefächert ist und sich zusammenlegen lässt? Haben Sie leichte Materialien wie bei „CSIRO´s Resilin“ genutzt, um den Energieverbrauch des Abwärtshubs zu verringern? Jean Marie Dellis hat im Bezug auf elastische Materialien und den Flug gute Arbeit geleistet. SmartBird besitzt eine sehr innovative und vornehme Mechanik. Gibt es eine Möglichkeit, den Auf- und Abhub in seinem Bereich und dessen dynamische Kontrolle zu erweitern? Kann der SmartBird mit einem CPU aufgerüstet werden, sodass der autonome Flug möglich wird? Wie viele Modelle haben Sie bis jetzt gebaut? Nutzen Sie auch andere Tiere außer der Seemöwe für zukünftige Projekte als Vorbild?
    Ich hoffe, dass Sie meine Fragen als Zeichen meines Interesses, dass der bionische Flug in der Zukunft der nächsten Jahre weiterentwickelt wird, sehen. Ich würde es sehr schätzen, mit Ihnen einige dieser Fragen und Themen zu diskutieren. Ich glaube daran, dass wir bald einen Durchbruch im menschlichen Flug erleben werden. Ich möchte mich bei Ihnen und dem gesamten Team bedanken!


    Ihr Karl Frank

  8. Naomi,

    Wow! Thank you so much. I hope this translation will help generate some more interest from the Smartbird team at Festo. I will copy and paste it into an e-mail to Markus Fischer in the morning.

    I would love any and all help with getting a larger mass ornithopter off the ground! I’m not sure what CT – technologies are, but am curious about what ideas you have. I have written many times that I believe a project of this magnitude will require collaboration and the strengths of a number of individuals. Along those lines, I really admire the work of Jean-Marie Dellis in France on opposing elastic material to lessen forces required for the downstroke of the wing.

    Students in US schools are often limited to French and Spanish for language options. Some schools have other courses, but these tend to be less common.

    I lived in Miami for about five years while I studied marine science. It is a lovely city with the Atlantic ocean to the east, keys to the south and the Everglades just west.

    Did you see any shows on Broadway when you went to New York?

    1. Hello Karl,

      i hope that you succeed with the translation. It can take a loooooong time til Markus will check his mails and awnser. Being unpopular (I don´t know why), he never awnsered my e-mails. But maybe he´s very interested in your mail and will send a reply quickly. who knows….

      CT stands for computed tomography, I think this is the more commonly used phrase in US. I want to reduce the radiation dose of the x-ray tubes and make the procedure more comfortable for patients, so it´s less stressful for them and this offers some probs for the radiologist, too. Most of the new computer tomographs already have a big bore and a short tunnel and are almost silent. However, many patients choose the magnetic ressonance tomography (MRI) because it works without radiation but this machines are quite loud and noisy and have long tunnels and small bores so some patients become claustrophobic. Some producers like Siemens or Phlips use ambient lights and wall projections to calm down the patients. Its a good beginning but I think you need to improve the MRI´s design and its technology.

      I´m really interested to help you with your projects. I like doing research and constructions, maybe I can help you with some drafts or something like that. In my early childhood I played and built with parts of old computers or TVs because my dad is an engineer and so I became really interested in technologies.

      In Germany students are limited to French and Latin, sometimes you have the possibility to learn Spain. English is one of our four main subjects and so you have to learn it. I really regret that I took Latin just because I wanted to became a doctor when I was ten. It´s my best subject but it´s really boring. You only translate some texts about Caesar or written by him (he really liked to use the third person for himself).

      When I visited New York I have watched Abba´s “Mamma Mia!” on broadway. It´s a nice and cheerful musical. I really enjoyed the trip. I like the city´s architecture and museum. The best thing was the MoMA on Upper East Side. I stayed in a hotel on Time Square so I was at a very central place of NYC´s nightlife.

      Currently I am praying that I will get accepted by Festo for some work expierience. It´s very important for me. Yesterday I sent my application to them.



  9. Hi Naomi

    That is great news! What will you do for them? How did you find out? Will you be able to live with your grandparents while you work there? I am so happy for you. Festo is fortunate to have such a talented and dedicated young person join their ‘flock’. I look forward to hearing about your experiences there.

    I have not yet heard back from Markus. Perhaps my long list of questions was too much. I wake up in the morning thinking about details of ‘Smartherons’ and ‘Smartgeese’ and the production aspects featured in Festo’s ‘making of’ video. I want to know more about how the two plastic halves that form Smartbirds’ torso were generated. Specifically, was plastic extruded into a mold? If yes, how was the mold designed?

    Your ideas with regard to computer tomography are really interesting. My mom had cancer and had to have some MRI’s years ago. Though I was not there for the procedure, I did not like the idea of her having to endure the discomfort of ‘the tunnel’. Improving these technologies to help patients have a better experience is a terrific goal. It is amazing to think that the radiation exposure of patients during x-rays is now only a tiny fraction of what it was thirty years ago.

    Mamma Mia is my daughter’s favorite. She listens to the soundtrack a few times each week. I admit to liking Abba too. In the summer, we had some dear relatives visit us from Skane in Sweden and Abba reminds us all of them. I would like to take my daughter to NYC and let her see a couple of shows. She enjoys her singing, dancing and acting classes and will have a good part in the Nutcracker and Alice in Wonderland this winter.

    More soon,

    1. Hi,

      I don´t know what I have to do for them yet. I wrote in my application that I would like to do something with technologies or design. I don´t think that Markus would give me a second chance. I don´t know why but I think he doesn´t like me. I will live with my aunt during the time. My mother´s brother still lives with my grandparents and I am afraid of him because he´s very cruel.

      Don´t worry about Markus. As I said, it can take a loooong time til you get an awnser. I believe that he´s very interested in people like you. Maybe he´ll send you a reply in German. Did you heard from Rainer and Gunther Mugrauer or Dr. Send? Did you send your message via E-Mail or mail?
      I also was thinking about the idea of SmartBird and if I should try to build my own ornithopter. I would try to build it with some solid foils or something like that. I think that it will work for the wing construction but not for the torso or body of the bird. It must be one of Festo´s secrets how the styrofoam-mold was designed or who has made it. I had this idea a few months ago when I was sailing in the Netherlands and the Northsea while I was watching the sea gulls floating over the sea and chasing the fishing boats. It looked fantastic!

      My uncle worked for Siemens (now he´s a prof) in Erlangen, Bavaria, and made a software for CT-imaging. It was also a part of his graduation to design a program for 3D-imaging and I think it was a big step forward. He made a expierience with his own invention when he has a bad bus accident in 2005 and broke one of his dorsals. It was only possible to diagnose it with this technology. Siemens worked with some ambient aspects to make MRI more comfortable. Some of their machines have a television. In CT-technology they try to minimum the radiation-dose and to make their design more “patient-friendly”. Last year they won the red dot design award for thei SOMATOM Definition because of their “friendly” and light design. I believe that their is more room to improve the technologies. Maybe in ten years a MRI procedure only takes around 5 or 10 minutes and not 30 to 60 minutes. Compared to the first CTs in the 1970´s – where only your head have anoth space – the modern CTs are very quick and comfortable and silent.

      When I was a child I really loved ABBA and I still like them. Maybe that was the reason why I became obsessed with Madonna in the age of ten. I enjoyed the show a lot. When I watched the movie of the musical in 2008 I rediscovered my love for 70´s and 80´s disco and pop music. In 2009, I finally watched the show. You also can watch it in Hamburg but I think it´s a bigger expierience to see it in NYC. Last Winter, when I was in London, I saw another musical called “Priscilla” which tells the story of three drag-queens who get lost in the Australian desert with their camper. This year I started listening and loving Jazz and Blues. I don´t really like this commercial pop-music so I choose it for me.
      I really like that you have the chance to act in a play in schools in the US. In Germany you can choose it as a subject in year ten. How old is
      your daughter?

      Well, I will try to make some sketches for my ornithopter project and listen to some numbers station on shortwave radio I hope that it works and I don´t lose my patience.


  10. I think I got rejected by Festo. I received a letter from them but I haven’t read it yet. I should have known that I am not good enough for such a brilliant company.


  11. Naomi,

    You must read their letter! What indication do you have that they are rejecting you? In our many exchanges here, I have had the impression that you are a very interesting, talented and motivated person. You must not discount your abilities if Festo has not selected you at this time. There are undoubtedly many people trying to get work there and with persistence, you will succeed, of that I’m quite confident. It could be that you will benefit from working for a related company first. There you will build your experience and skill set in a way that makes you even more attractive to Festo. I’m not sure of your exact age, but I remember feeling very discouraged at the ages of 21 and 22 with a college degree and so many rejection letters arriving in the mail. It made me want to give up sending applications out. Looking back at the great many adventures I’ve had, I sure glad I continued applying myself through those difficult times. I’m also glad that my first real work experience was with a company called Naturalists at Large in Ventura, California. If one of those earlier no’s had been a yes, I may never have learned to rock climb, or telemark ski, or met the great many amazing people who also worked there.

    Come to think of it, this human powered flight dream of mine is the same way really. I’ve sent out many letters and tried to draw the interest and support of a great number of business persons over the last several years with varying degrees of success. Bryan Allen who flew the Gossamer Albatross over the English Channel in 1979, is skeptical of my assertion that imitating birds will allow us to break the HPF record. He has much more experience, education and training in this area than I do, and yet the idea persists in my imagination. If I had given up after hearing back from him, I would not currently be in touch with visionaries like Talos Perdix, Jean-Marie Dellis, Jonny Tennant, Aziz Grieser, Doug Hecht, The Jebens, and yourself!

    What I’m getting at is: all that you hear about perseverance is spot-on!

    Yours sincerely,

    1. Hi Karl,

      I read their letter in today´s maths lessons and I got rejected because they can´t take anymore trainees at the time I applied to. They offered me to have some work expierience for the next holiday but I will go to Paris in October. There is a chance that I can make my work expierience in another section of the company but I have to ask for. Anyway, I wasn´t interested to do something with business studies. And I think that my many interests in medicine and technologies are very deterrent for companies. It´s not normal in my age to read English books and magazines about the newest break-troughs in CT or automation. I think most employers expect interests like reading books, meeting friends or something else, what teenagers like to do.
      At school we have to have work expierience this winter so I will work for a advertisement agency in my hometown. I am really looking forward because I have the chance to become a member of their agency and to work on some projects.
      I am sixteen now and I am afraid to apply for place on university in two years. I am already searching for some good universtities in Germany.I would really like to study in Esslingen or Stuttgart because you don´t have to pay for it. My dream is to go to NYC but I think it will be to expensive, for example the Columbia University costs around 20000$ per year.

      I am impressed of your ambitions to make your dreams come true. I think my dream is to found an own company, maybe in field of design or advertisement, I don´t know yet. Or maybe I really decide to study radiology. Currently, I try to concentrate on school to keep one of the best students in my year.

      What are the conditions to go to an university in the US? Do you need a special certificate?


      1. Naomi,

        If those people who make hiring decisions at Festo could see all of your posts here, I think they would realize how valuable you are and make an extra effort to get you under their ‘wing’. Any sixteen year old who reads about automation and CT trends in a foreign language is headed for greatness! What will you do for the advertisement agency? How are your artistic abilities? Do you draw? One of the goals I have for this year is to get my students incorporating more art into their science projects. To that end, I am having them create three dimensional organelles out of thin colored plastic tablecloths. These can be inflated with a hair dryer and hung up inside a giant plant cell wall that I made. The whole thing can be inflated in minutes with a small box fan. I’ll post some pictures later this month when we complete the project.

        As I said in my first post, I watched my dad sing ‘The Impossible Dream’ from The Man of La Mancha about 200 times when I was ten. I’m convinced that early experience taught me to go for it 100%. I am 42 and have two children. The time for me to work hard on this has come. My wife will complete her master’s degree this fall and then it will be my turn to go back to school. I am looking to find a school that will take me on and let me build larger mass ‘flappers’ modeled after specific birds. I’d like to approach Cornell about this as they have some fantastic ornithologists. I just learned about a cutting edge wind tunnel for bird flight studies at the University of Western Ontario as well. That might mean working with James DeLaurier, who is also an inspiration.

        US students take a series of standardized tests that help rank them according to their strengths. These are combined with their school records and an application sent to each of the schools they would like to attend. Some schools have huge numbers of applicants for only a relatively few spaces, while others have many spaces and fewer applicants. The more competitive schools tend to cost more but there are exceptions. Often there are financial incentives available.

        Did you see that you have attracted the interest of Tom Dunlap as well? Hope you have had a nice Sunday!

  12. Hi,

    It´s very difficult to have such interests in my age here in Germany. As I said, it´s deterrent for the most people and employers because the most are very narrow-minded and can´t understand that medicine and industrial automation can be interesting and exiting for a 16-year-old. I have nobody I can talk with about my interests except of my uncle who led me to computed tomography when I was four or five years old.
    Esther, my boss, told me that I can work in their team and work on their projects. I made many experience with PhotoShop in the last 7 years and it´s one of my hobbies to work with it. Sometimes I draw but mostly I don´t have the patience for it. Maybe I can add some of my ideas to their projects. Two month ago, I designed for my stepdad´s firm the print for a trailer.
    I find it interesting that you made such science projects in your school. We also have built organelle-models in year 7. We filled plastic bags with water and put it in a large box with other parts of the plant cell such as guard cells or chloroplasts. In this year, we talk about the different parts of the cell again. I am looking forward to see your pictures of the project! Would you tell me a little bit more about it?

    In Germany you got your exams after you have completed grammar school. You need a numerus clausus of 3.9 to get your certificate. Currently, I have a numerus clausus of 1.4 and I try to reach 1.0. I still have three years to improves my marks and before I have my work expierience.

    I read the Tom Dunlap´s comment yesterday. What is he doing? Does he try to build an ornithopter as well? Tom asked for my internet pressence but I deleted it last year. I also tried to blog but I didn´t suceed. Currently, I don´t have enough time to make a new homepage. It takes such a long time ´til you have designed and programed it.

    Have a nice Monday,


    P.S.: What do you think about the case of Troy Davis? I read about him in a magazine today.

  13. Naomi,

    Tom Dunlap has a great blog about human powered flight called Daedalus’ Notebook. He writes frequent posts and I am enjoying learning about him and his ideas there. It feels fantastic to know that there are many other persons out there with similar ideas and aspirations. I feel quite confident about my own ideas, as I’m sure Tom, Jarno, Douglas, and Talos are with theirs. With the level of interest that exists, it is only a matter of time before more elaborate (and heavier) ornithopters take flight. My hope is to somehow make that time interval shorter. I am anxious to hear from Markus Fischer, but will not be dissuaded if he chooses not to write back at all. Perhaps he has heard from dozens of feathery eyed dreamers like me already and is bored with our relative lack of specificity. While it is important to attract potential sources of revenue for the project, significant technical help with the herodias model is already being supplied by Talos Perdix in the UK. His understanding of the challenges associated with flapping flying machines is extensive and his spirit is quite generous. I simply must find more time with which to work on the model and to implement his recommendations.

    My students started working on their organelle models today. I was amazed at how much they accomplished in one class. I did something similar last year with good results. Instead of cardboard, these 7th graders will use thin sheets of colored vinyl. It should look much more colorful and interesting. I’ll certainly take lots of pictures and share.

    I confess to knowing little about the case of Troy Davis. Where matters of judgement are concerned, I am often at a loss for words.

    I like the term numerus clausus. Do you accumulate points toward the 3.9 with each year of schooling?

    I did get a short message from Agalya Jebens yesterday:
    “Dear Mr. Frank,

    thank you for your interest in SmartBird. I have received your letter last week only, since you had send it to the Festo address.
    The JNTec GbR is a partner of the Festo Bionic Learning Network and we have developed the electronics of SmartBird in cooperation with Festo.
    Regarding your questions, I would like to inform you that these question can and should be answered by Mr. Fischer.
    I believe that you have send a similar letter to Mr. Fischer from Festo.
    I hope that he will respond to your letters.

    It’s a pleasure for us to hear that we could inspire you.”

    That brought a big smile to my face.
    Hope this brings one to yours.
    “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” – Steve Jobs

    More soon, take care.

    1. Hello Karl,

      I read Tom´s blog yesterday but I hadn´t enough time to read his many posts. He seems to be very ambitious, just like you. Maybe I will start blogging again, he seemed to be interested to connect with me.
      I think Markus is very interested in you and your goals. He really likes persons who show interest for his work. When I visited Festo last year, I had the great opportunity to get a look into the office where “his dreams come true”. His desk was a real mess, maybe your letter got lost under all his rubbish. I am sure that he will awnser your questions. It just takes a little bit longer. What do you like to achieve with contacting him? In your letter you asked for getting trained to visit schools in the US to present Festo´s work. It would be a positive aspect for the company if somebody shows young people their projects and attract them to be an engineer or designer.

      I think projects are the best way for teachers to put the general terms of science across. Especially the younger students need such inspiration and motivation and something where they can be creative, I think. I remember that my biology and chemistry teacher didn´t make any projects with us but he often brought pig´s organs for dissection. Our biology room smelled like decay for several month because he didn´t cleaned it. In year ten our general topic is bio-chemistry so we make some experiments . I have four science lessons in a row on Friday so we can use our chemistry room to have some experiments.

      While you do your exams (A-levels) you have several tests in three major fields you must select in the second half of year ten (I don´t know which I should take). This tests count around 80% to your school certificate. The average of your certificate after year twelve is the numerus claurus. The mark you get in the last years (besides year eleven) don´t have any influence to this. Under 3.9 you must retry year twelve or quit school with the General Certificate of Secundary Education (after year ten at grammar school you will get it automatically).

      I like Kristof and Agalya. They seem to be really nice. Even though I spent lot of time standing in front of Festo´s booth (my friend was looking for some free candy at Volkswagen and left me alone) I didn´t talked to them. I think that they are not very interested in students because I am not a potential associate partner. I also was looking for Markus but he was absent all the time. Maybe he got a call after I left Hannover´s Fair and appeared again.
      I also was wondering if he already has read your blog and our conversation. However, I think he would join (and complain).

      Thnk you for the citation. Steve Jobs is one of my idols and I am very sad that he´s dead. I also was shocked when he abdicated last month. I knew about his cancer but I didn´t know about metastasis and the cruelty of his dissease. The story how he founded Apple is interesting, Macintosh was his favorite kind of apples, and he was buddhist, just like me. Steve revolutionized computers and introduced important things like desktops or the mouse. I am a big fan of his products and got two iPods (my software is still Microsoft) because I think Apple has something special no other company purchases. Currently, a photo of Steve Jobs decorates my iPod´s desktop. Maybe this day is an important point in my life and will change the way I will take later. Maybe I will lead Apple one day, who knows?



  14. I downloaded a very interesting Podcast yesterday about an interview with Markus. I think it would awnser some of your questions and give you some more information but unfortunatly it’s in German.

  15. Naomi,

    I’m going to find an app that will teach me some German words and phrases. The Bionic Learning Network is doing some of the most interesting projects I’ve ever seen and Germany is perhaps the one country in Europe and North America with a skilled labor shortage. Perhaps five years ago, I read a book called ‘Energy Switch’ that provided many details about how Germany is leading the world in renewable energy generation and investment. Though I’ve never been there, your country has long held a strong attraction. Just today I heard a bit on the radio where the woman was saying that Germans are so much more sophisticated than the French. Do you think that is true in general? If so, why do you think this is the case?

    Why do you think Markus would complain if he read our conversation? Is it because you said that his desk was messy? Or that he takes a looooong time to respond to thoughtfully written letters? You asked about my goals for contacting him. In the last paragraph of my letter to him, I posed a series of questions about Smartbird and his plans for the future that I would like answered. Some were posed by my students as we discussed the videos on Festo’s website. I am also very interested to know if he or anyone there sees a value in touring schools with their robot menagerie. If students could see and experience AirPenguin, AirJelly, AirRay and Smartbird as you have, they will understand so much more about the biologically inspired direction we must head toward if we are to achieve gains in efficiency in the coming years. As you are well aware, those mylar-covered biomechatronic creations have great power to inspire.

    Was the podcast you mentioned produced in Germany? I have a professor friend who speaks fluent German and lives just up the street. Perhaps he could listen to it and give me the translation. Alternately, if you felt like summarizing it, I’d be even further indebted.

    I appreciate everything I’ve read about Buddhism, but have not made it a practice. Here in Bellingham, we have the Red Cedar Dharma Hall for gatherings and worship. Do you have somewhere to go where you are?

    Must get some sleep,

  16. Hi,

    I think that we are sophisticated. Maybe it´s because of our economic system or just because of our good universities. I hope that I mean the same thing like you, there are some meanings for “sophisticated”. I think there are many reasons to call Germany sophisticated.
    My English teacher in year 9 told me that German is a very difficult language to learn. You have so many phrases which you don´t need in English. However, I think German is a beautiful language. Did you find a suitable app for you? I just can tell you about an app for Latin vocabulary.
    The Bionic Learning Network is certainly one of the most impressive and greatest projects. It´s something special you can´t find anywhere else. Festo wouldn´t be so popular without their flying objects and all the other stuff. Yesterday I bought a magazine because of an article about Steve Jobs and there was also an article about SmartBird and Dr. Send in it. It was not very long and about the human powered flight.
    Why does Germany attracts you? Do you like to see something special (except Festo)?

    I remember your questions and they crossed my mind again. I forgot them just because of all the class tests. I can´t think clearly after three tests a week and some vocabulary tests. I found it very interesting that you have shown and discussed the SmartBird movies. My teachers would not do stuff like this, they are too busy. I know that Markus has visited a school in 2008, I think it was the only one. He didn´t want to visit our “HvF”, I can understand it because there are 500 km between us.
    Markus would complain because he don´t likes me. I can´t tell you why but after my rejection he totally ignores my e-mails. I asked if it´s possible to applicate again or if he could help finding a traineeship. I got around 20 rejections for this year´s summer holiday in my hometown and so I tried to contact him.

    The podcast was produced in Stuttgart near Esslingen and I will try to translate or summarize. It can take a bit longer because it´s quite long. Do you have an iPod or iPhone and iTunes? There you can find it. It´s called “omega tau” or just enter “Festo” into the search box. It would awnser some of your question related to SmartBird. Unfortunatly, I haven´t find the file on the Internet yet.

    In my hometown, we don´t have a temple for Buddhists. I think it´s not so important to something like a church than for instance for catholics or muslims.
    Actual, I am Protestant but I have no relationship to my religion so I have changed and left my class for religious education. I think Buddhism is more suitable for me but I find no time to practise it.

    Yesterday, I found the Nancy Shute´s article which was related to this post on German NG!



  17. Hi Naomi,

    Last summer I found an app on itunes called Babbel and used it to learn some Swedish in advance of a visit by relatives from Skane. It is a free app and only has a selection of phrases and vocabulary, but it is a good place to start. You are asked to repeat words into the phone mic and it assigns a score to your pronunciation. You need to get a score of at least 50 to move on to the next word and the sonogram profile is very specific. It does not like the way I say ‘Hallo’ at all.

    I found the Omega Tau podcasts on itunes. Thank you! I downloaded several of the English episodes that pertain to flight, but it seems that the interview with Markus is only available in German? I didn’t know when I asked you to translate, that it was 57 minutes long! Maybe Omega Tau will post a translated version soon.

    Besides the fact that Markus has not responded to your e-mails, do you have any other reason to think that he doesn’t like you? What’s not to like? You are sixteen, already know what you want to do in life, and are actively taking steps to make that happen. I find these qualities to be very likeable. I plan to write Markus again this week and will send copies to each of the members of his team. If I send you both the English, and a Google translation to German of the letter, would you mind being my editor? Agalya and I continue to send messages back and forth.

    Great news came in this week. I’ve been invited by Prof. Soon-Jo Chung to collaborate on a National Science Foundation/Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (NSF/STEM) grant that will combine cutting edge research on bat flight and kinematics with educational outreach programs for school students. I am joining a brilliant team of researchers from MIT, Brown University, UCSD and University of Illinois who have been working together to create a robotic bat. In order really light a fire of inspiration for our students, I want to develop a traveling program that features a diverse array of bio-inspired robots. Our National Science Foundation would want students to have firsthand experience with robotic geckos, dogs, snakes, fish, rays, jellys, hummingbirds, penguins, gulls, and bats, wouldn’t they? How many of your classmates would want to attend a special program that promotes student involvement with the scientists and engineers that are working in these fields?

    I would like to travel to Sweden with my family next summer. Perhaps we could combine this with a side trip to Esslingen. In this case, any German that I can learn between now and then will be helpful. I enjoy learning languages immensely and I agree that German is a beautiful one. Did you say that you are studying Latin also? I would think that Markus would appreciate that as well.

    Greetings to you and your family,

  18. Hi,

    I was just looking for the app and I found it but it will not work for me because Steve Jobs didn´t thought about attaching a microphone to the iPod touch. I can´t tell if you wrote about the Swedish or German version of this app but I think the program seems to be helpful while traveling. The best app for English/German translation needs an constant internet connection so it´s only possible to use it at home.

    Omega tau announced on their website that they will purchase some English episodes but the German ones won´t be translated into English, I totally forgot to say. And if they recorded an English episode with Markus it would be around 3 hours long. Maybe I can correspond the questions in your letter to the translation. I think it is very interesting for you to hear that they improved SmartBird two months ago.

    Maybe Markus thinks that the rejection was clear enough or will not give a second chance to applicants. I am just a trainee and not a university student, how can I benifit Festo? I have no education in engineering, I taught myself some basics with books from Festo a friend donated last christmas. Maybe I will call him after I returned from Paris on thursday. However, I will be too afraid to talk to him but if I will be able to speak I would ask about your letter.
    How much time went by since you sent the letter to him? It´s a good idea to send a second letter, maybe they will recognize how interested you are in they work. I would like to be your editor, I just need the original English text because the phrases translated by Google usual don´t make any sense. My Latin class always makes jokes about the Latin translation of Google.

    It is nice to hear that you´ve succeeded and you will going to give students this first-hand expierience of bionic robotics. Maybe it´s possible to impress some students for being an engineer working in this field in the future. In Germany we need new engineers because the people currently working in the field of technology will be too old soon. So I decided to study engine construction combined with industrial design.
    I think my lovely classmates are interested in other fields like economics or law. My teachers would be attired in this idea. I would be the only person who would be glad about it.

    It would be great if you would visit Esslingen or Germany in general. Maybe I will stay there in summer holiday while having a traineeship and having some work expierience at Festo or another company. I hope that it will work, in my hometown I have no chance to find a traineeship until 2013.
    I don´t really like the subject Latin, it was always my best one but now I got an F in vocabulary test. My teacher is really bad because he wants us doing things we haven´t learnt yet. I can´t speak Latin, there is only one sentence: “omnes gallia devisa est in partes tres.” We translate texts written by or about Caesar or speak about grammar. In Germany, Latin is no use for your later life of for your cerriculum vitae except for studying medicine or Latin itself. It´s always good to select French…



  19. Hi Naomi,

    Sorry for the delay in responding. I have been bogged down with thinking about this collaborative effort with Soon-Jo Chung and his team to build robotic bats and inspire the young scientists of America. I suddenly have a great deal of work to do and far too little time to do it, I’m afraid. This must be how Markus Fischer feels every day. No wonder he has not had the chance to respond to my inquiry as of yet. No wonder he has not had time for you either. I don’t know much about German culture but I’m not sure that you are correct to think that he doesn’t like you. I’m guessing he is having a hard time managing all of the demands associated with his remarkable successes. I’m going to choose to believe that he would like to repsond to both of us were he not quite so burdened with improving Smartbird and communicating with the great many other qualified persons who compete for his attention. You and I agree that the Bionic Learning Network has stimulated the imaginations of millions with their work. Perhaps we can find a way to climb higher on their priority list. When you and I started writing to each other just two months ago, I was much more reserved about voicing my ambitions and desires. Now I feel comfortable telling you and any others that might read this that I think it would be fantastic if Festo would train me and several others (perhaps you too?) to assemble and operate their jellies, rays, penguins and gulls for large school groups around the globe. I would like to see a partnership emerge between Festo and say, Boston Dynamics who has Big Dog, Petman, and RiSE among other bio-bots. If these companies (and others) could be persuaded to crank out dozens of their designs and send them out so that students could experience them live as you did at Hannover Messe, we would accomplish a great deal of inspiration, don’t you think? I imagine a symposium where dozens of students could work with a diverse assemblage of bio-inspired bots and their creators. News and print media outlets would enjoy doing stories on these students and their impressions of such an event.

    You learned that Smartbird has been improved from the Omega Tau podcast? Did you get any specifics about the improvements?

    I had the Swedish version of that free language app, then deleted it in September and just downloaded the German version.

    Here is a question for you: How is the birdwatching in that part of Germany where you live and in Esslingen? Do you have an idea about how many species of birds live in your community? Are there particular places where people go to look for birds? Parks? Nature Reserves? When I was in Sweden in 1994, I had just started paying attention to the birds and did not see that many different species, perhaps 25 in all. Have you ever seen the Great-spotted woodpecker?

    I don’t really like reading long latin quotations, but I do love the scientific names of organisms. I had a great Biology teacher in high school who made my classmates and I memorize the latin names for several species of marine invertebrates. I still know them today. Mytilus edulis, and littorina littorea are the blue muscle and the common periwinkle for example. Good stuff though I am unsure about their translation to English.

    Hope you are well.

  20. Hello Karl,

    this effort seems to be a great chance for you to put your ideas into practise and to inspire the young US-scientists of tomorrow. You will learn how to manage your time just like Markus did when he started the Bionic Learning Network. They make their projects as good as necessary and try to improve them later. I sent another Mail to him this morning with some questions about him and his projects. I would like to know what his inspiration is or if he had any idols who inspired him. I hope as much as you do that he´ll respond. Maybe he doesn´t care about school students like me. I am very interested in working with his team but there are many people who are much more talented and interesting for him than I (college students). The most curios thing was that I was allowed to get the traineeship and one month later I got rejected. I do not set my hopes to high, I am used to get rejections from all companies I applied to. I don´t see any chance for me to climb higher on their priority list, maybe while I am studying industrial design. Markus told that he would like to support ambitious people doing their projects with his “BLN” if they are interesting enough for Festo. There was a hovercraft project in 2007 developed by two students and supported my Markus and his team. Maybe he will be interested in your work and try to collaborate with you. Or maybe he already knows about the companies you have mentioned (or he read this) and will do some projects with them. I am looking forward to next Hannover Messe to see the new innovations.

    I will tell you how they improved SmartBird later on, I already forgot it and will listen to it tomorrow again. I think they add a new CPU or something like that.

    How is the German version? I would like to test it by myself but I am not able becasue I don´t have an iPhone. The describtion at the App Store sounds very interesting.

    I can´t tell you how many species live in my community. Since last Friday I live together with four zebrafinches and I spend most of my holiday with watching them. Yesterday I watched some birds in front of my grandma´s kitchen window and I had the chance to see an Eurasian jay as close as possible. Most people went to parks, I think. The most common bird here in North-Germany is the black bird. In Esslingen my aunt told me a funny story about the bird of the year 2008, the bittern. I don´t know if it´s true but she told me that Festo was not allowed to expand their area because of this bird. The Green Party complained because the new Festo building would influence the microclimate of Esslingen´s valley and disturb the bitterns while breeding. I have already seen the Great-spotted woodpecker a few weeks ago. It´s one of the most beautiful birds you can see in Germany. In Paris I watched and fed some sparrows and they jumped right on my hand and ate the bread I gave them. It was an interesting expierience for me. My own birds aren´t docile yet.

    My teachers don´t tell us the Latin names in Biology and I only know some latin names of some jellyfish. I have enough Latin to learn and in the last years I usual had an A and now I got an F in vocabulary. I didin´t know about the test and my teacher didn´t tell me. And how should we learn 100 vocabularies in five days? It was always my best subject and I often got bored. Now I do not understand anything. However, I am glad that my English teacher tries to improve her lessons, they are too easy for me. I often feel underchallenged at school and usaully don´t have anybody I can discuss about my interests. It´s always hard to be interlectually gifted because the other people in your age have other interests so they don´t want to talk about culture, arts or technologies.
    Do you have any special kind or era in art you prefer?



  21. Has Markus already answered your E-Mail or letter? He hasn’t replied to mine which I sent last Tuesday.

    Have a nice day,


  22. Hi Naomi,

    How is school going for you? Will you have a couple of weeks of vacation in December? We have Thanksgiving approaching, then will take two weeks to be with family over the Christmas holiday. We are all looking forward to that time. There has been some good snowfall in the mountains and we are anxious to put our cross-country skis back on again.

    I have still not had the pleasure of hearing from Markus. I admit that I have been preoccupied with school work for too long now. I need to write to the entire Smartbird team again with more specifics about the goals I have for education and for up-scaling bio-inspired designs. I have been studying the work being put together by Soon-Jo Chung at the University of Illinois on the flight of bats. His team is loaded with talent and creativity. 2012 will be a watershed year in our collective understanding of avian and mammalian flight, of that I’m quite certain.

    You asked about my interests and tastes in art. I will first admit to having very little training in art history. That said, I have always appreciated the great Renaissance painters from both a technical and aesthetic perspective. Then there’s Dali, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo. I love the work done by friends Cleo Vilett ( and Steve Cousens ( How about you? Who interests you?

    Thank you for sharing the information about the birds in your part of the world. I found Sweden’s overall diversity to be pretty low (as was the case in Israel) so I imagine Germany is not too dissimilar. Have you seen a Red-backed shrike, Northern gannet, or Red kite? Whenever I get to Germany, those are a few of the birds I’ll be out to find.

    Still anxious to know a bit about how Smartbird has been updated. Do you know of Jarno Smeets in the Netherlands? He has pretty much the same dream I do, and he is actively engaged in the process of creating a sophisticated flying machine. He is linked above under ‘Human Birdwings’. How far is the Hague from you?

    I am listening to Michael Franti and Spearhead right now. Can you tell me about the music that you like?

    All the best, I hope this finds you smiling!

    1. Hello Karl,

      school is fine but busy, we have to sit around three class tests and vocabulary tests per week. My class will have their traineeships next weeks and our teachers lose three worth weeks. That´s something like holiday for me. I will have two weeks of vacation in December. My fall holidays ended two weeks ago. There´s not much school between the traineeship and Christmas and I am sure that some of teachers will get sick for a few days just like every year.
      I am happy that there´s still no snow in Germany because I have to go downtown by bus next week. I really enjoyed skiing when I was a child. My class went skiing two years ago: I was sick and stayed at home.

      I also didn´t hear anything from Markus. I am sure that he has deleted the massage. I really hope that you will hear anything from the SmartBird team. It would not be a problem to translate the letters to German for me if you want. I would really enjoy watching you representing your work you have done with Festo at the Hannover´s Fair one day! I am really looking forward to next Hannover´s Fair in April. I think Markus also do because he may be sure that I will visit Festo´s booth. I just succeeded with tranfering my SmartBird videos from the last fair to my new iPod (it finally has a microphone!).
      Did you post some videos about the bat flight research a few weeks ago on your blog? They were really interesting. I think the bat´s flight is something really special created by nature and I good example for transfering to bionic projects.
      This is Markus´LinkedIn profile:
      Maybe it´s interesting for you. It´s the only social network he´s logged in.

      In two month I have to select my subjects for my exams in three years. I decided to choose arts. It is one of the most interesting subjects at my school. I am not able to have exams in biology because I only can choose it together with maths. I really like the modern art from 1930 until today. However, I also like the older eras and painters. Van Gogh is my favourite painter just like Kandinsky or Giagometti. I really enjoyed the Centre Pompeidous in Paris. It combines modern art with design and architecture. I didn´t want to leave their library and book store.
      I also like photography. It´s one of my dearest hobbies. Last year I bought my first digital mirror reflex camera. Before I used an analog one. I am really impressed by the pictures it takes. I take it everywhere I go because there are so many interesting things, plants, animals or buildings and scenarios you can catch.

      I always enjoy watching birds, especially my own four sadistic zebra finches. Today they went outside their cage for the first time so I had the chance to watch their flight. I really like the way they communicate with each other. They have their own language and words and I read that they have similar genes like humans to learn to speek and sing.
      I think I saw the Nothern gannet in the Netherlands. It is a bird which lives close to water, isn´t it?

      Markus told that they improved they way SmartBird flies. Now it has a smaller turning radius or something like that. I have to listen to it carefully.
      I will try to find some information about Jarno Smith but I already can tell that I like people from the Netherlands! I went there twice in my life and I visited Amsterdam, Harlingen, Terschelling, Vlieland and Enkhuizen. Between my hometown and the Hague were exactly 475 kilometers. I thought about to move to the Netherlands one day, it one of the most beautiful countries in Europe I think.

      I like to listen to some jazz and blues. My favourite artists are Frank Zappa and Moby, maybe you have heard about him. When I was younger I was totally obsessed with Madonaa. I still like her music and will visit her concert in Hamburg next summer. I don´t really like popular music. There were some electro-musician I also like, e.g. Daft Punk, or the old rock bands like The Doors, The Rolling Stones, The Smiths or Genesis. Music is a topic you can discuss about a lot. I only have one friend who also loves jazz. The others are listening to pop music.

      How is your organelle-project doing? Has you finished?



      1. Hi Naomi,

        Just back from a few days away with friends for our Thanksgiving holiday. With that in mind, I would like to offer thanks to you once again for your continued interest and encouragements! This dream of mine is no longer mine alone. I am at last in touch with a sufficient number of like-minded people to feel grounded in my lofty ambition, to feel safe speaking about the possibility of our finding a way to move beyond the automobile in the not too distant future. As our finite supply of oil and natural gas grows ever more difficult to reach and refine, we recognize a race underway. It is hard to imagine being able to keep up with the demands of an aging infrastructure. In the US, we have many problems with dilapidated bridges, tunnels, and roadways. Municipalities around the nation are in dire financial straits and cannot afford to perform the necessary repairs. It would seem that as costs for oil and gas rise, this work will continue to be postponed. Ultimately, we must find a way to travel without roads and bridges. This line of thinking may be regarded as eccentric, but even a cursory study of global environmental strains reveals that a complete transformation is desperately needed. My students have known this for many years now. Young people such as yourself, grow and thrive in a world that is so vastly different from the one I knew as a young boy. Media bathes you in a tainted tub. Intrinsically these students know that change is coming one way or another.

        I am at a coffee shop in town called the Black Drop. I’ve been looking for a place to get some work done and at last I’ve found it. I need to go and help some friends move a piano, but will return soon with some thoughts about the cell project, FESTO, Jarno Smeets of Human Birdwings, and jazz music. Hope you are well!


  23. Hello Karl,

    I am glad to here from you. I got a similar opinion about the distant future like you. I will try to give some more information later on because I am writing with my iPod and you know how difficult it can be. First of all I’d like to share this video with you starring Markus and Rainer telling about the Air_Ray’s wings and technology:

    I hope that you can watch it because it’s the mobile YouTube URL…

    Did you succeed moving your friend’s piano?


    1. Hi,

      We did get the piano moved. Thanks. I have tried to use the link you sent, but have had limited success. I did find a youtube rebroadcast of a Spanish language discovery channel show about FESTO. It is not something I’ve seen before. I’m watching it now and dusting off my Spanish skills.
      I want to send you a photo or two of the giant plant cell. Should I just post them on the blog?

      1. Hey Karl,

        May I send you the video via E-Mail in English? I downloaded it two years ago for my iPod. It was very interesting. Last year it got deleted. Mr. Mugrauer uploaded it again but in Spanish. It’s a horrible Lip-Sync because Markus speaks really slowly. I can post the link again but at the moment my laptop’s batteries are low.

        It would be great if you could post the photos of your project! I am really exited to see the result. I am out of school at the moment because I am doing my traineeship for three weeks. I like my boss, she’s very friendly and I am glad that I got the chance to work with her and her team together. We spend around one hour or more a day to talk about several things like cooking or Christmas and our families.

        Have a nice day!


  24. Thank you for your link. It looks fantastic and reminds me to the contemporary pneumatic architecture from the beginning of the last ten years. How long did you work with your class? It would be a good idea if some of my teachers would plan such projects for the younger students at school. Do your students wear an uniform at school?
    In year ten we don´t have the time because of our traineeships (currently I am working with the agency´s iMac to do some layouts).
    I hope you enjoyed the video. A long time went by since the last videos about the Air_ray. I thought that they won´t use it any longer after they created AirJelly or the SmartBird and the other stuff. I really liked the little movie when I found it on Sunday.
    Last week a friend told me that he will give me his tickets for next Hannover Fair! I am exited to see all the new creations from Festo and the other companies. Maybe they will present an improved SmartBird or some new flying machines. I have no clue which animal they will teach flying. And this year I don´t have the chance to have a special look at Festo´s new creations like last year. My advertisement agency doesn´t build any bionic projects…

    Well, back to work.


  25. I forgot to ask if you have planed to write another letter to Markus and the others. I would like to translate for you. If nobody has awnsered your letters why don´t you try to call them? I think it´s the most easy and personal way to communicate. I addded Festo´s phone number in one of my first posts I think.


    P.S. I created a WordPress-account!

    1. Hi Naomi,

      Sorry for the long delay in responding. The school gets to be a very busy place in the weeks leading up to the holiday break. Now we’re off for two weeks and have already taken a short trip to see some friends in nearby Port Townsend. Tomorrow is Christmas and our children are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Saint Nicholas. They have been good this year, so we are hoping he’ll find his way into our chimney-less home to fill their stockings.

      Our students do wear uniforms, but there is a movement underway to do away with the high school uniforms. Our high school is very small right now, and we are looking at finding improvements that will encourage more 9-12 graders to enroll. Along those lines, I wanted to share the news that two of my high school students just won a regional environmental video competition. You can see their submission here

      I really enjoyed the video you sent me of Festo’s work. Through your link, I found several other related films that also featured their work in a number of different languages! I do plan to write Festo again and perhaps call them in January. The NSF/STEM proposal put together by my bat flight modeling friends includes a significant amount of educational outreach. I would really like to convince Festo to participate in a meaningful way. Perhaps I’ll be able to use more persuasive language once the final document is submitted.

      I’m so glad to know that you will be at Hannover Messe again this year. Do you need some special ticket to get into the area where Festo is? Have you been watching any of the videos posted by Jarno Smeets at Human Birdwings? He is doing some really innovative stuff!

      If you celebrate Christmas, I hope it will be a great one for you!
      All the best,

  26. Hello Karl,

    currently I enjoy my Christmas holiday at my father´s apartment in Hamburg. Today we went to the North Sea. It was very windy and cold but it was nice. A few month pasted by since my sailing trip in the Netherlands.
    I celebrated Christmas together with my family. I am collecting money to buy an iMac because I already hate Windows and all the problems it had made the last years. I hope that you und your family had enjoyed Christmas. Did your children´s wishes come true?

    In Germany we don´t wear any uniforms at school. I am glad that we don´t need to because I don´t like wearing clothes someone else has selected for me. Last year the principals thought about launching a school´s collection with unitary shirts in blue or orange. In a workshop I took part in before summer holiday we tried to design new shirts but our principal didn´t like Heinrich Hoffmann of Fallersleben as Che on the t-shirts.
    Our grammar school is the largest one in my hometown with around 1.400 students. Students from year 5 to 12 take part in our school´s life and recieve lessons in different fields. After the holiday my class will have to elate the students in year 9 with an exhibition for the different jobs for their traineeship next year. My traineeship was very fine and next February I will get a job to work on several projects.
    I think I read about your student´s success on their blog. However, I will watch the video you´ve posted soon. Congratulations!

    I am glad that you enjoyed the video. Which other videos did you watch about Festo´s work? Maybe I can provide some more, I bookmarked and downloaded a lot over the last two years and filmed at Hannover Messe.
    It´s a good idea to write Festo again. I tried to contact them over 12 months until they invited me. I would like to volunteer myself to translate your letter if you want. To call them is the savest way to communicate with them but I don´t know how good Markus´spoken English is. Maybe you will be part of their BLN one day…

    I would like to take a duvet day to spend more time on Hannover Messe. It´s too much to see and most time my friend and I will stay at Festo´s booth I think. With the free ticket I have recieved I can visit almost the whole fair. For some special events you have to buy a special ticket. I am looking forward to see the new innovations made by Festo.
    I visit Jarno Smeet´s website but I didn´t spend too much time with watching videos. Maybe I will do it later.
    Currently I don´t have a WordPress-blog because I have no clue what I should post. Once I created a blog at Blogger but I think I deleted it last year.

    Have a nice new year´s eve!



    1. Hi Naomi,

      A rainy morning here in Bellingham with snow forecast to arrive this afternoon. I’m sipping coffee in the kitchen while the children play at building ‘forts’ with sheets and chairs in the living room. They did have a good Christmas, Thank-you. My mother passed several years ago from cancer. I used to feel conflicted about the materialism and commercialization of this holiday, but with children and the sweet memories of my mother’s favorite holiday (her birthday is Dec. 26), I’ve come to accept that more than anything, this holiday is about love and family. We didn’t go overboard, but made sure that the kids were surprised when they came downstairs early that morning. Do you have any siblings?

      We use macs at our school. The first school I was at used PCs. I prefer macs myself, but am happy to work with either really. Did you manage to get yours yet?

      I had not heard of Heinrich Hoffmann before so I had to look him up. Very interesting person! I will keep my eye out for a copy of Struwwelpeter. I like the creativity demonstrated by casting him as Che, but I can respect the difficult position of your principal. Perhaps he was thinking about blowback from the parent community?

      The professor I am working with was able to get in touch with Kristoff and Agalya. I think that they are willing to collaborate with him on his project involving robotic bats. He tried to get Markus involved but has not heard back yet. I intend to write another letter soon. I recently wrote to a gentleman in Australia who works for CSIRO and developed a highly efficient bio-elastomer. He has not replied yet either. Perhaps there is a flaw in my approach….

      In any case, I am overjoyed by the work of Professor Soon-Jo Chung and his team, Jarno Smeets, Tom Phillips and so many others. A few years ago, I had the feeling that I alone thought we could fundamentally change the way we fly, and now I see that this effort is progressing quite swiftly with massive amounts of collaboration and sharing. My students see this progress in our ‘Things That Fly’ club and they are inspired. With so much bad news coming to them every day about the health of our human community and fragile biosphere, the technical accomplishments of our most talented scientists in the field of bio-inspired flight remains a ray of bright sunshine in an otherwise often gloomy sky.

      Jarno has essentially completed his first set of human birdwings. The videos that document his progress are truly excellent (Thanks Floor!). It won’t be much longer and we’ll have some footage of his first trials. I would love it if Festo would find a way to support him and ensure his safe testing with their tremendous knowledge and resources. I’m really not sure how to make this happen or even if Jarno would appreciate me meddling on his behalf. He seems quite capable and well connected already. Still, I can’t help feeling that his partnering with Festo would bring them both great satisfaction.

      Kristoff asked me if I would be visiting Hannover Messe this year. I have yet to reply, but am setting a goal of at least attempting to find funding to get there. Did you say that you are going?

      I hope you are enjoying this Saturday and that your time in school is fulfilling.

      Best wishes!

  27. Hey Karl,

    it got very, very cold the last two day compared to the last weeks. We had temperatures around 10-14°C and today I noticed that it was snowing during the German lessons.
    You are right saying that there´s so much materialism at Christmas time. I hate my friends comparing their gifts and all the money they got. I am not sure about but my ex-stepmother told my father that she has given a cell phone to my five year-old sister for Christmas. I would never give my little daughter a cellphone. She´s not leaving the house on her own and still visiting the kindergarten and I also think that it is a crazy idea that she´s ready to visit school at the age of five. Well, I am looking forward to help her doing her homework soon.

    My school uses the cheapest PCs they could find, I think. Until 2008 we still used Win98, now we are glad that we can use WinXP. I prefer iMacs because of their easy way to use and the display. I bought my iMac two weeks ago at our local Apple-Store and received a 50-Euro-giftcard for students. I paid 1050€ for a computer, isn´t that crazy? I never thought that I will spend so much money for an iMac but I really love it.

    I forgot to explain the reason of our illustration of Heinrich Hoffmann. My teachers claimed to be very revolutionary and different compared to other schools. My school was founded in 1880 as a secondary school and later changed into a grammar school by Adolf Hitler. In WWII the building got destroyed by aircraft bombs and re-built in another place in the 1950´s. The teachers had to change the way of teaching and invented a new way of modern education. I am sure my principal didn´t accepted our idea because most of the students and parents don´t know Heinrich Hoffmann.

    It´s great that Kristof and Agalya are interested to work with your professor. They have a lot of great work done in IT and technology. I am sure that Markus will be interested in robotic bats. I think that he´s impressed easily by the bionic work of other scientists. The funniest thing for me is the fact that I have given you the information about the Facebook accounts and you may collaborate with them soon. Best regards to Markus, I am really looking forward to see his face at Hannover Messe when he notices me.

    You have founded a club called ´Things That Fly´? That sounds really interesting. I am sure that the younger students until year 10 would like to see such a community to discuss about flying machines at my school. I like clubs at school, you can enjoy a closer relationship to your co-students and teachers. I joined our homepage club in year seven. It´s a real rumor mill with the best stories from the teacher´s lounge told by my geography teacher. I also enjoy the cake he buys before holiday and my position as school´s photographer and oldest student at the club.

    I think you asked me if I have watched some of Jarno´s videos, right? I am sure that I visited his homepage and watched some of them. It is interesting to see all the different steps to complete the project. I am looking forward to see the first trials.
    Festo would be a good partner to collaborate with but I am not sure if they would see this as a way to improve automation and pneumatics, the reason for the BLN. Maybe they are interested?

    I am sure that I will Hannover Messe this year (I am still not comforted with 2012) but I can tell you with whom. My aunt´s friend will provide two tickets I think. I am not sure about to go with my friend or my grandmother. I only can suggest to make this experience. The fair ground is really large and you don´t know which exhibition you visit first. Maybe you will find a cheap flight to Frankfurt or Munich with a transport connection to Hannover. If you are able to come I would suggest you to order the tickets as soon as possible because they are expensive (29€ for one day). Good Luck!

    Best regards,


  28. I would like to share this Video with you. It was broadcasted last Wednesday on one of our private stations here in Germany. Well, it´s in German. It tells the Story about Mr. Mugrauer and his idea to create flying objects. There is a sequence about SmartBird as well.

    I hope there´s not too much commercial…

    Have a nice Sunday,


    P.S. I recieved my tickets for Hannover Messe on Thursday!

  29. Hi Naomi,

    Sorry again for the lengthy delay in responding. We gave finals at the end of January and then I had the students start science research projects for our school to complete in the Washington State Science Fair in March. Between that and a few days cross-country skiing, I’ve been longer in writing back than I intended. That said, I really enjoy this dialogue we are sharing about your life in Germany, mine here in Bellingham, our shared interest in Festo and the BLN and seeing bio-inspired flight achieve even greater acclaim.

    I am so glad that you will be at Hannover Messe again this year. I had hoped that things would work out for me to attend, but perhaps next year will be better. We are hoping to buy a slightly larger house and may be moving across town around that time. It will be good if we can find a place with nicer quarters for my mother in law who has been living with us for a year and a half now. She is a big help with getting the kids to school and often picks them up as well. We would like her to have a nice bit of private space to relax in. Right now she is in a tiny bedroom across the hall from us. She doesn’t complain, but it is not ideal for anyone.

    Since we last corresponded, I heard from Gerald Keller, Corporate Brand Management at Festo. He apologized for taking so long to respond to my letter to Markus and explained that Markus is too busy right now to respond to me personally. We will have to see what can be done to persuade Festo and similar companies that school kids should be given first hand experiences with inspiring technologies such as Smartbird and AirJelly. In this way, more children might maintain motivation and focus moving forward. Big questions lay ahead for us as a species, automation and efficient flight offer promising answers. As teachers, we must weave a story that increases the likelihood that more of our students will pursue STEM careers. The numbers have been falling in the US for some time now.

    Our ‘Things that Fly’ club has ended for this year. I’m now offering a film making club and having fun with the creative energies shown in this area. We have several groups of student ‘directors’ with scripts and actors moving around the school in preparation for a film festival in the late Spring.

    Thank you for the link to the bit with Rainer Mugrauer. I enjoyed it a great deal, despite not understanding what was being said. With video, it is easy to get the gist of a conversation, even in an unfamiliar language. I know I would enjoy getting to know and working with each of the persons on the Smartbird team. Whether they could tolerate me is another matter!

    I hope you are enjoying the lengthening days and warming temperatures. We are supposed to get another snowstorm at the end of this week. That is fine with me. Some species of birds are already beginning to increase their singing and nest preparations. We have bulbs in the beds starting to come up. Spring is a wonderful time here in Bellingham as I’m sure it must be where you are.

    More soon,
    All the best,

  30. Hello Karl,

    nice to hear from you!
    I have chosen my classes for my finals two weeks ago and I decided to have them in Arts, English and German. My fourth and fifth examination subjects will be Biology (I didn´t think that it is possible) and maybe History. I will quit Latin because it was getting more boring the last lessons. I tried hard to stay awake today because we are doing the same topic I was sitting a test about yesterday in German lesson. I was not that exited to do it again. In the last two weeks we started up our home page club because our server will not be payed any longer by the ministry of education. Now we are working on a WordPress blog, I will receive my administration permission today I hope because I am the only one having made experience with PhotoShop and InDesign and all this design programs. Now I am responsible for our blog design.

    I am glad that I have received the tickets from my aunt´s friend and am not sure with whom I will visit the fair. The biggest problem is that I will go to Hamburg the week before and will be absent at school on Friday. Well, this would´t be such a big problem if I had not planed to be absent again in the next weeks for Hannover Messe. Now I have to look how I solve the problem…
    I am sorry for you that you are not able to visit Hannover this year. However, it is nice to hear that your mother in law is helping you with the children and you plan to move in a larger house! We will also do next year and I am not that happy that I will live in a small village soon. Luckily, I will start studying in two years and I can finally go to Stuttgart.

    Wow, that is great! It was a long time ago you sent the letter, why did Mr Keller replied but now? Well, the only thing which is important is that you have got an answer from Festo (compared to me). Are there concrete plans you want to realize with them (what is the department for Corporate Brand Management doing?) or was this just a short reply? How many letters or E-Mails did you send at last?
    I just wanted to tell you that a friend and I will visit an exhibitions in two weeks in Wolfsburg. Another friend has given a little article to me with the information that in the Phaeno science center will be the “Robot Festival” over the weekend. I am quite interested in robotics and technologies (and my friend is loving automated vacuum cleaners) but the best thing was that there will be Festo with their AirPenguins flying over the crowds. The newspaper article told that the inventors of all robots will be there as well and I hope to meet anybody of the people working around the SmartBird team. Maybe I have the opportunity to talk to them, may I communicate any message from you? I will see them certainly on Hannover Messe but I will enjoy to see the penguins flying around live the first time.

    I dream about becoming a director one day because I am working on my first novel but I think you can show up emotion and situations much better with pictures than with movies.

    I heard that here in Germany in my area will be temperatures around 18°C at the weekend and I am looking forward to leave my winter anorak at home. In three weeks will be my Birthday and I have made the experience that it was still snowing in 2009. I hope that there will be a lot of sun the next weeks and also at Hannover Messe because my friend and I got quite wet running through the rain to the different exhibition areas.

    Have a nice remaining week and also a nice weekend,


    1. Naomi,

      Jarno just posted this link to an article in the Financial Times

      I have an English translation from Google here:

      The Flying Dutchman
      Jarno Smeets will ascend into the sky like a bird. For this he needs dragon wings from fabric, two lightweight motors and sensors from the Wii controller. Hanna Klimpe, Hamburg
      It can be very relaxing if you have a not quite as impressive role model. Jarno Smeets model is the albatross, a bird that is not necessarily known for its graceful takeoff maneuvers. “It is very encouraging to watch the young albatrosses Herumgehopse awkward,” says the 31-year-old Dutchman, who has just made himself his first Hopserschritte heaven.
      As once Leonardo da Vinci and the mechanical engineer Otto Lilienthal dreams soar into the air – not with a kite or plane, but flapping like a bird. “The observed life from the top to see the shadow of my wing stripe across rooftops and parks – that would be pure magic,” says Smeets. Eight meter span have the 20-pound wing, where he is working for half a year, he documented his progress on his blog, on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.
      Lilienthal says hello: Jarno Smeets before the first flight test … Lilienthal says hello: Jarno Smeets before the first flight test of its Human Bird Wings
      In January, he has taken the first flight test. It remained for a few small hops – but still the beating of the wings increased engine looked quite impressive. “Even birds must learn to fly the first,” Smeets said, shrugging. “The flight of birds, it’s not just about aerodynamics, but also about learning to control the movements of the body.”
      Since he was five years old, Smeets dreams of floating above the roofs of The Hague. At that time he found the sketches of his grandfather, who – had drawn up plans for a flying bike – all the Dutch people. When he blogs on the Aero and Daedelus sapiens like-minded people found that people are also working on wings, it was clear that the necessary technology is easy to obtain.
      “People can not fly on their own because their chest muscles are strong enough,” says Smeets. “But I thought to myself: We build smart prosthetics that bring people back to work, why we should not build any, to be able to fly” Strong, lightweight engines are now affordable, acceleration sensors, one could expand from Wii controllers, the wing skin he zerschnippelte his kite.

      More about

      Terrafugia Transition Trend – fly on wheels
      Out of office Wi-Fi in the sky

      Overall, he estimates his cost of materials at 5000 €. The biggest challenge is for Smeets, to find the right flight technique. Although described by Otto Lilienthal in 1889 in his classic work “The flight of birds as the basis of the art of flying” with its aerodynamic properties of the curved wing. But the principles by which works of the flight of birds, are still not completely clarified. , The last at the Hannover Messe from German robotics manufacturer Festo presented SmartBird flying robot is regarded as the first machine to start flying like a bird to land, and. Their makers have copied from the Herring Gull, Smeets is based on the Albatross “. They are heavy birds with large wings, a man with wings are the same dimensions”
      Even Otto Lilienthal wrote, fly the active man must learn by the bird-watching. Seven years later he died in a crash with a glider glider died. Smeets also trembled before his first flight test, the hands – with excitement, he says, not because of fear: “I have confidence in my wings.” When the cold season is over, he wants to start the next trial: “I feel certain that I am very close to my first successful flight.”

      Hope you are well.

  31. Hi Karl,

    nice to here from you. How are you and your family doing? Do you already have moved house?

    Thank you for the article. I have already read it on the Financial Times website when I was looking for another article. I haven’t thought that the Google Translator did well translating from German to English. It creates always bit strange sentences when you use it for German-English or German-Latin translations. Well, Jarno must be really lucky that he has so much media feedback on his wings and his whole project. It is really interesting to read or to watch how he has made his dream come true. I have also watched his first flight. I enjoyed reading about his role model for the project and the costs of it and I haven’t thought that he has used the sensors from Wii-remotes.
    If there is something in German you want to have translated I can do it for you. I don´t really trust these translating programs. I can do English to German translations as well as any Latin translations for you. I also can try on Dutch, it is quite similar to my mother language.

    Yesterday, one of my biggest dreams come true. As I said in my last post, my friend and I went to Wolfsburg near my hometown for an art exhibition and the Robot Festival at the Phaeno Science Center. After having visited the exhibition for modern art and the work of the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (one of my favorite photographers from the 20th century) we went for the robots. I have read that the AirPenguin will be flying around the exhibition ground but I had no clue that there will be AirJelly as well. I can not remember when I was so nervous the last time. The Robot Festival was really nice but my friend got really disappointed that the automated vacuum cleaner was not that what she has imagined. Well, we got to know some new employees from Mr Mugrauer´s Airstage Team and had a little talk with. There names were Markus and Frieder I think and they have applied for seven years until Mr Mugrauer has employed them. They were really impressed when I started telling them everything about AirJelly and the BLN and Festo. I also told that I applied for a traineeship at Markus Fischer´s department. Both haven’t met him yet and said that I should continue applying. I am not sure if that is such a great idea. They were quite amused I think. Later on, AirJelly was presented in flight. The hall was a little bit too low-ceilinged and it was hard to control the robotic jellyfish because the visitors tried to grab it and to pull it down. Being a bit too afraid to ask, my friend ask for touching AirJelly. I think I would not had been allowed to if I had not talked so much with them. Finally, I was allowed to touch the tentacles and the ballonet and to hold and carry it as well. It was a quite strange feeling because it is light-weight and really soft. We did hold the AirPenguin as well, it is quite lighter than its fellow. The guys gave us some more information related to the costs or the materials used for all the BLN-creations. For the AirJelly project Festo has spent around 100.000 Euros, SmartBird was much more expensive. Maybe I will meet both on Hannover Messe, they are not sure if they come or not.
    I have used on of my photos taken yesterday for my Gravatar image. It is a bit dark, my friend has no clue how to use a mirror reflex camera. I really liked my greek statue but I thought it would be better to have a more serious image than a nude Aphrodite because of our blog at school.

    Next week, we have easter holiday. Do you have something similar and if yes, how long can you go on holiday? I will be in Hamburg at one of the two weeks and will ask my boss for a new traineeship. I really enjoyed the time with her and hope she did not get to annoyed.

    Have a nice week and some sunny spring days,



    P.S. I am sorry if I do some mistakes. I don´t think that much while writing and my Mac is correcting the spelling mistakes, sometimes it is replacing whole words with other ones.

      1. Hi Kristof

        Nice to hear from you. I would LOVE to attend Hannover and meet you, Agalya and the rest of the Smartbird team. Unless I can somehow manifest tickets and an expense account between now and then, I will have to wait for my next opportunity. Until then, I hope you and Agalya are well and enjoying these early days of spring in your lovely country.

        All the best,

  32. Hi Karl,

    I can purchase some tickets for you next year if you want. My aunt´s friend works for Volkswagen and has the chance to get as many tickets as he wants. That is a great chance to save around 30€, you only need to register them on the internet and to create a account for Hannover Messe, it is free.
    Kristof, I hope that I will have the chance to come to Hannover Messe. Will you and Agalya be there this year to present SmartBird or another invention? Maybe you have noticed me last year on April 4th, I had to wait for a long time for my friend becasue she has left on the Festo booth. I think it is not usual that a young lady is messing around for around two hours at one booth. I felt a bit uncomfortable because I don´t have a good relationship to Corporate Design since I applied in 2010.

    Best wishes,


    1. Hi Naomi & Karl,

      I am really looking forward for the Hannover fair, although it is a lot of stress working on these fantastic inventions.
      Yes, we will both be attending the Hannover fair – not with Smartbird though that is all I can say. Of course there has to be something new 🙂
      Most likely we will be in separate halls though 15 and … dunno the other one.
      Naomi – we estimate there were more than 25000 people attending to the shows from Monday through Friday last year – I really cannot remember many of those people – for us it was always very very hectic to make sure that all goes well. Just talk to us this year.
      So one hint: a) don’t come on wednesday b) bring our smartphone (android).
      @Karl: try to come – there is more to see than just the Hannover fair in Germany and around!

      see you soon!

  33. Hello Karl and Kristof,

    I never thought that we will have a conversation with three.
    Well, Germany is quite nice to see, for example Hamburg. I really enjoy visiting my father there. However, there more than the bigger cities. I haven´t seen a lot of my country but I liked the things I have seen yet. Esslingen is also really nice, I enjoy staying there every time I visit my family.
    I will continue my traineeship, maybe I will get paid for it. I wasn’t told what I have to do there. I really hope that I will become a full member of the team and can work with them on several projects.

    Back to Hannover – That is all I wanted to know. I was afraid of behaving conspicuous while standing around there. I am also looking forward to visiting the fair and seeing all the amazing stuff shown by Festo. I was wondering how you and the team feel when you present something every full hour five days the week. How is it if you always say the same stuff. Is it getting boring?
    You said that it is not a good idea to come on Wednesday. I have planned to come on this day because I am not a big fan of my teacher´s physics lessons in the 7th and 8th period. I will not be at school than. Is there something special? Are you absent this day? Or is it quite chaotic? Ich weiss auch nicht an wen das ´bring your smartphone´ gerichtet ist. I Don´t use Android, I am using Apple and iOS. I am one of these crazy people being obsessed with the products with the bitten apple on. Why android, it has nothing to do with some of your inventions, doesn’t it?

    Have a nice sunny warm day,


    1. We might be absent some times this wednesday – so if you are unlucky nobody will be there :-/
      Well crazy Apple fans might not be able to fully experience crazy inventions in Hannover 🙂
      But we will be prepared for those Apple lovers…
      Where are you doing your internship?

      See you in Hannover

      1. Well, I even not have an iPhone, I only got my iPod because the functions of both devices are the same and I am not a big fan of cell phone and communication. What features should the device exactly have to work with your inventions? Is it something Festo has invented or will the Hannover Messe group purchase special services for their visitors? Mobile internet is not problem for me because you can purchase some NACs for the Wi-Fi networks at fairground. I would never swap my iOS with any other operating system, I am not able to work with android ´cause it makes me go crazy. I would not use Windows anymore as well. Why don´t you purchase services for iOS? Most people are using iPhone and in my opinion android will be displaced by the newer versions of iOS and Windows phone. Festo is quite late using smartphone technologies, I thought that they have thought about much earlier.

        I will do my internship at an ad agency in my hometown called “Ganz.Schoen.Mutig” (just google it if you are interested). It´s quite small, there is just my boss Esther and me and four other guys each with an own small company. I really enjoy working with her, we have similar interests and spend a big part of our time with talking about several things. I got my own Mac with all Adobe programs and maybe I will work on some projects because I have managed to train my skills a bit more since I did my last work experience.

        Have a nice weekend,


  34. It makes me so happy to see you two exchanging letters here. Thank you for that privilege. Robin and I use iphones as well, not that we will be in Hannover. I must find some grant money or sponsor before next year’s event. Lots of interesting developments in the realm of bio-inspired flight this week, don’t you think?

    1. Well, it´s bad that you can´t visit Hannover Messe. I think it would be quite interesting for you to see all the exhibitors presenting their newest inventions and innovations. I have joined the Festo-Group on Facebook in 2009 and read yesterday that they will donate fair tickets to 25 of their members on April 1st. Because there just around 60 members, there is a chance that I will have four tickets soon. I would enjoy giving them to you and Robin. I have to ask the guys from the ad agency I am currently doing my 2nd internship. Don´t care about the expensive tickets, you just have to find a cheap flight. I would suggest Lufthansa. We have booked our flights in May 2009 before we went for NYC in October and we just had to pay 400 Euros (this was quite cheap I think). Well, you live on the west coast and you have to fly some more miles to get to Germany (via Frankfurt/Munich)than I had to when I was flying to New York.

      I am quite sorry for you that Jarno´s/Flor´s test flight was not real. I was impressed when I saw the video first but wondering that he has succeeded that fast at the next moment. This dream to fly like a bird with a machine powered by his muscle power seemed still far away for me since we started our conversation and I began reading your blog. I have to say that Floris Kaayk is a great artist and designer. The video of his flight seemed to be so real and realistic! I don´t have much knowledge about flying and machine enabling those dreams but for me it looked quite great. How did your students react when you told them that Jarno is fake?

      Best regards! I am looking forwards to hearing from both of you soon. 🙂


      1. Yes, I agree that it is bad that I cannot attend Hannover Messe this year. With my teaching schedule and some obligations of Mrs. Frank, it will not be possible this time around. I look forward to getting a chance to meet you and Kristof and Agalya soon though. Perhaps next year. I think I mentioned before that I have some family in Sweden that I would like to see again. In the mean time, i look forward to learning more about Festo’s new projects from you.

        With regard to Jarno, many of my students were quite disappointed with him for being a faker. When I explained that he is making a documentary film about deception on the internet, many of them came around to begin appreciating what he has done. I certainly do. The hard part has been explaining to my students that I was ‘friends’ with a fictitious character. I have not heard from him since he posted part 14/14.

        Spring has arrived in the Pacific Northwest. Many species of birds that spent the winter in the tropics will be returning soon. I look forward to this time of year. The clouds part more often and we reacquaint ourselves with that big hot yellow thing in the sky. Hearing the migrants songs again brings a profound sense of joy. One of my favorites is the Swainson’s thrush. ( You have the Song thrush where you are, no?

  35. Well, you will have the chance to visit Hannover Messe one day, I am sure about it. Even if you can´t attend this year, you can see some new great innovations from all these exhibitors in the next year. I am not sure if this is my last visit at fair ground for the next years because I will do my final exams in two years and there is so much work to do next spring (e.g. coursework, exams,…). 2014 will be a quite busy year ´cause I will finally sit the last and most important exams in my life in April.
    Have you already planned when you want to visit your family and friends in Sweden? Maybe before the fair? Perhaps this year? I think I won´t be in Esslingen doing any internship this summer. I am quite sure that I will stay here, in my little ad agency. I am no longer allowed to contact Festo in any way, my mother want me to stand by Esther. She is also quite interested to visit the fair with me but I actually prefer other people from my family.
    I will give you some more information if you want about the projects when they will be introduced on the German site. I am looking forward to seeing them and to watch all the videos and to collect some more brochures at Hannover Messe. I planned to ask Markus or somebody else to help me with my coursework. I have no information about the final topic but I think it will have a wide range. It would be great if he could support, it would be quite interesting to study their bionic projects and the development process. However, there is the problem I have mentioned above.

    I appreciate his project. It is interesting to see how someone can create a fictive character who seemed to be real for the people like you interested in his idea of creating a flying machine. The internet provides people the possibility to create a fictive ego and to stay anonymous. Whether Facebook or YouTube, this platforms can´t check if a person is real or not. I am sorry for you that you had a friend-like relationship with “Jarno”. Have you heard anything from Floris?

    A lot of birds have returned already in February because it was quite warm. Than it was getting really cold, around -20 °C. We had to feed them. Now the birds are quite loud, especially my own zebra finches. They start singing early in the morning, around 7.00 am. It makes you go crazy with the time. They won´t stop before 8 o´clock in the evening. When I arrive at home from school, I open the cage´s door and let them fly around. One couple has built a nest in our lemon tree and enjoys the sun shining through the window. They already had one egg but it was damaged when we found it in their nest.
    I will listen to your link when I arrive home. My Mac here has no speakers and I think Esther would not appreciate to listen to any bird´s song at the moment.

    I have watched one of my favorite TV shows yesterday on the internet. It is called Galileo. I have found a clip about Otto Lilienthal and a man who tries to aim the same as you. He has built a flying machine inspired by Lilienthal´s sketches. It is the one he has flown before he broke his neck and died I think. Maybe you are interested (Yeah, it´s in German):

    Perhaps the clip on its own without sound helps you in any way…
    The second one I would like to share is the clip which has raised my interest in Festo and bionics. As I said, I knew Festo for a long time but I was not really interested in them but in their company building. Markus and Rainer as well as AirJelly will be introduced:

    Have a nice weekend and some nice holiday!


    1. Hi Naomi

      Thank you once again for your continued interest and contributions. How are your exams coming along? Are you finished with them now? You had indicated that these were the most important ones yet, and so I hope you are able to feel confident with the material and anxiety free. Some of my students suffer from test anxiety. I remember feeling that way myself, often because of inadequate preparation on my part. I hope you did well.

      Hannover Messe wraps up tomorrow. I hope that you were able to get there and make connections with the people you had hoped to. Did you talk with Kristof and Agalya? Rainer? Markus? Thank you for the information about new projects from FESTO. I was able to learn about SmartInversion and ExoHand and continue to be impressed by their approach to bio-inspired design. My students and I were left wondering about the practical applications of such a creation as SmartInversion. Perhaps its most practical application is a symbolic statement about bold innovation at FESTO.

      I was unsure what you meant when you explained that your mother wanted you to stand by Esther. Does that mean that you did not visit their station at the fair?

      It appears that we will be making some changes in the near future as a family the may require our moving from Bellingham. I will elaborate more on that as things develop, but I will say that we are excited about opportunities that lay ahead.

      As for Jarno, and the possibilities for deception that the internet provides, I think that it is a pity that people can’t just be themselves both in real life AND on the internet. Yes the internet gives us the option to be someone we are not, but I’ve always enjoyed being who I am and haven’t felt the urge to pretend to be someone else. What does that say about me? Perhaps I am just boring, but I don’t understand the appeal. I understand and appreciate that he is making a film about how easy it is to fool people on the web, but outright deceit is seldom an endearing quality. Here is the text his last message to me:


      Sorry for being very quiet about this…but i flew! Here is the video. (link attached)

      That’s it. That’s all he wrote. He just wanted to issue a personal invitation to his deception. Maybe it’s a cultural thing? My students found his actions hurtful and the fact that he hasn’t bothered to check in with me, or them, leaves us all feeling a bit disappointed. Now, when anyone is trying to fake something at our school, the kids are inclined to ask, Are you ‘Jarno-ing’ me? That said, I continue to admire his willpower and creativity immensely and am grateful for the boost he provided for GBM and Daedelus’ Notebook.

      You said that you feel as though we are about ten years away from achieving bird like flight. I hope that we get there sooner, but given the degree of money and focus required, it could be a while longer yet. There are so many voices discussing various approaches, but none seem to have the capital required to create even a larger mass (say 50 kg) ornithopter. Perhaps DARPA and the military powers of other nations are already making covert use of these and the lessons they’ve garnered will eventually trickle down to us civilians. I’m going to be focusing on fund raising efforts in the next few months. It would be nice to build a solid coalition of flapping flight enthusiasts with the skills to bring all the disparate pieces together.

      I have been reading a terrific book: The Snoring Bird by Bernd Heinrich. He is considered one of our best American naturalists. The book is a 100 year-long story of his father’s life as a wasp, bird and small mammal collector in Poland, Germany and ultimately, the US. I learned much about the war in Europe and some about the geography of Germany. Now I’m more interested than ever in coming there and exploring some of the areas his family knew such as the Elbe river.

      My students will come in from lunch break soon. I’ll have to cut this short for now, but I’ll write again soon. All the best to you!

      1. Hello Karl,

        nice to hear from you! I have finished the first part of the year when we have to sit the most exams, the next one is in June before holiday. This were´t the most important ones because I don´t want to leave school after year ten. I will have a lot more exams the next two years, finals are in April 2014 and I am already quite nervous. The next years I should also concentrate on my application for university and my art projects for finals. I am really glad that I don´t feel any test anxiety but one of my friends does so she went for a psychologist a few weeks ago.

        I went to Hannover Messe on April 24 with the guys from my ad agency. I won two more tickets on Festo’s twitter page (funny, isn’t it?) and gave three of my four tickets to Esther’s team. Well, it was quite funny, I never thought that I will ever visit the fair with them. We talked to several exhibitors about their innovations and gave them our flyers. Unfortunately, I haven´t talked to anyone from Festo at all maybe because Esther started every talk with the phrases “we broke out of mental house but don’t tell our nurses that we were here”. Well, everyone was laughing about this but I think not everybody understands her humor. Even if Esther wanted to say Hello to everyone there I wasn’t bold enough to talk to them. That is quite bad!
        Well, I was tweeting with the Social-Media-Team at Festo about having some work experience. I told them that it is quite difficult to find a traineeship if you are a student. They ask me for sending them my application via e-mail and I received a message today saying that they will check my papers looking for a place to do my traineeship in a department doing creative work. Esther won’t be happy hearing that I maybe will not visit her in summer…and my mother won’t as well. She would like that I don´t apply for any other companies, especially not for Festo.

        Well, Jarno’s or Flor’s film demonstrated how credent we humans are if we believe in something that seems to be real. He does a great job creating his character and the whole story and project, everything looked perfect. I am still very sorry for you and your students and friends that he has disappointed you that much. However, it is interesting for me to see or rather to hear that your students are that agitated and angered, they believed in the project’s success, didn’t they?
        I believe that you will succeed in flying like a bird as Jarno pretended to do.

        I think we should concentrate on the historical models e.g. the ones Otto Lilienthal has created. He archived in flying for a quite long distance (and he ended up dead) and today we have better possibilities and lighter materials we can create better flying machines with. Lilienthal has left some great sketches and plans that should not be forgotten while creating new vehicles for flying. Maybe the old things from 200 years ago are the way into the future of human flight?

        I am looking forward to hear if you will enjoy your journey to Germany and all the things you will discover in the next years. Have you already a clue when you will come to Europe and which places of my country you want to visit (e.g. Hamburg)?

        Have you heard anything from the Festo guys? They left you waiting for a quite long time, that is impolite. Have you sent another letter or e-mail?

        I got my rabbits up to my room and they start turning it into a real mess. I should take them back to their cage. By the way, my zebra finches have laid their first egg but stopped breeding after three days. Now I have to continue watching the GBH and red tailed hawk chicks waiting for some new eggs.

        Have a nice weekend,


  36. Markus left Festo or got canceled. You can stop writing e-mails or letters. Concentrate on cooperating with Kristof and Agalya and the others. I can´t tell where he is working now or if he quit working because of any diseases or familial reasons. I never thought that this will happen one day. I don´t know how I got it but I know his cell phone number. I have seen him one month ago in Hannover and now he left. Strange, I had a feeling that something like this will happen. Well, at least I won’t have any trouble with him during my internship…

    Have a nice weekend!


    PS My birds tried for another egg and now they have already bred for one week!

    1. Hi Naomi,

      Sorry once again for the long delay in getting back to you. With the move down to Los Angeles, I kind of put things on hold here for a while. It was nice to spend the time away from the computer this summer and concentrate on the kids and getting all of the boxes unpacked and such. How are things for you over there? Are you in school again? How are the zebra finches and rabbits?

      Thank you for the news about Markus. I hope he is well and doing something that he finds rewarding. Although, I was disappointed not to hear back from him, I could certainly understand. There are a great number of FESTO fans out there and I have not really developed the amount of momentum that would necessitate a response. Perhaps that will soon change. In any case, I was glad to hear back from someone there and continue to be glad to be a part of the conversation with regard to bio-inspired flight.

      I hope you’ve been well and enjoyed a lovely summer in Germany!

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