Our founder, LaToniya Jones, had an opportunity to interview David Lieb about Bump Technologies and his love of STEM in 2012. We recently learned that Bump was acquired by Google in 2013 and David is on the Product team at Google as well.
LaToniya Jones: What inspired the bump technology?
David Lieb: It was really inspired by my own personal frustration with the alternatives. I went to business school at the University of Chicago in the fall of 2008, and within the first week, I found myself meeting dozens of new classmates and manually typing phone number after phone number into my phone.
One day I just got sick of doing that, and the idea for Bump hit me while daydreaming in Accounting class.
LaToniya Jones: Do you plan to expand into the droid, other mobile markets?
David Lieb: Bump is already available for all iOS and Android devices. We believe these two platforms will dominate mobile in the next several years so we want to be laser focused on them. If other mobile platforms gain significant market share, we’ll expand to them as well.
LaToniya Jones: You have a very impressive background in technology, engineering, and mathematics We read that the bump app was created using an algorithm. Students use algorithms in schools daily and aren’t even aware of that term.
How would you describe a basic algorithm and challenges with algorithms to an elementary school student?
David Lieb: An algorithm is really just a fancy word for “a way to solve a problem”. It’s like a blueprint or instructions for solving a problem.
For example, you use an algorithm for tying your shoes every day — you just don’t think of it that way. First you pull the laces tight, then you cross one lace over the other and make the first tie. Then you make a loop with one lace and wrap the other one around, creating the bow.
We do the same thing in the software industry. We just program these algorithms into computers to automatically execute. And our algorithms contain really complex math instead of crossing show laces. But it’s really the same idea.
LaToniya Jones: What is the best way to help middle and high school students develop a better understanding of algorithms and encourage them to create their own algorithms?
David Lieb: The best thing to do is to start programming computers. Just like playing a sport or a musical instrument, the only way to really get good at something is to actually do it.
Take a programming class.
Start messing around on http://www.codecademy.com/.
Get good at math. It’s actually a lot of fun, and one day you can make your own video games instead of just playing others’.
LaToniya Jones: Tell us a little about your childhood and the influence your family had in preparing your for this time in your life.
Were there any specific activities, clubs, or classes that cultivated your interest in STEM?
David Lieb: I’ve liked math and science for as long as I can remember. Both my mom and sister were math teachers, so I guess I was around that a lot growing up.
But, the first class that made me realize that I wanted to work with computers when I grew up was a programming class I took in middle school. The final project was to create your own video game — whatever you wanted — and have the class actually play it. It was so awesome to see my friends playing the Star Trek game I created. (Oh, and I was also a Trekkie, so I think that helped encourage my love of science and technology).
LaToniya Jones: Some people in our society are very uncomfortable with math and some have a full fledged fear of math. Yet, they use math every day in very creative ways. Unfortunately, some people (especially parents and educators) pass their dismay for math on through their conversation and avoidance of math and it’s applications in our daily lives.
What’s your advice on changing societies’ perception about how relevant/applicable math is to our lives?
David Lieb: Math is a language, just like Spanish or French. The only difference is that it’s used in every country around the world. If you were going to live in France, you’d probably feel pretty stupid not knowing any French. So ignoring math is like choosing to not understand what people around you are saying to you.
The great thing is that it isn’t that tricky, like Spanish or French. Everything in math comes from simple logic, just like the logic you use when you are arguing with your parents (this is why parents tend to win arguments — they are better at logic!).
David Lieb: Theoretically, there’s no limit on what we can do with Bump, though we haven’t built all of our ideas yet. We think Bump helps make technology a little more human, a little easier to understand and use. That’s our real goal as a company — to make people’s lives a little better.
As technology progresses and gets easier to use, there is definitely a danger that it gets used incorrectly or people abuse its power. I think the best answer is to educate and empower parents and youth so they understand what exactly is happening when they use technology — “How is this thing I’m using really working? What should I be aware of when I do this?”. Another reason to learn math and logic!
About POWER Organization
POWER Org Math is an educational 501c3 organization whose mission is to embrace, engage, and empower at-risk youth ages 4-18 and families in metropolitan communities to increase their confidence, competence, and proficiency with math. It hosts conferences, math clubs, and family math affairs to help cultivate a more mathematically literate community. Customized programs for youth, parents and families through Title I funding, PTO/PTA, community outreach, and faith based groups are available.
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Originally posted 2012.