Tue09162014

News

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council last week approved the installation of two new directional signs on Foothill Expressway pointing motorists to the Woodland Plaza Shopping District.

The Los Altos City Council voted unanimou...

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Schools

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Edsel Clark, new Los Altos School District assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, above, facilitates a junior high mathematics curriculum meeting last week.

Edsel Clark, Ed.D., new assistant superintend...

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Community

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China


From IncredibleTravelPhotos.com
Jacque Kae’s “Mischievous” is one of the many photographs on display at Foothill College this month.

Photographs of the land and culture of Huangshan and Zhangjiajie, China, are on exhibit through Sept. 26 at t...

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Sports

Spartans shine in opener

Spartans shine in opener


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High’s Frank Kapp snares a touchdown pass from quarterback Owen Mountford in Friday’s win.

Leading by a point at halftime, the Mountain View High football team outscored visiting Del Mar 20-0 the rest of...

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Comment

A look ahead to the Nov. 4 election: Editorial

Election season is upon us. In Los Altos, we have three major local races ahead – two seats on the Los Altos City Council, and three seats each on the Los Altos School District and Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District boards of tr...

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Special Sections

Renovation complete,  Villa Siena looks to future

Renovation complete, Villa Siena looks to future


Above and Below Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier; Left Photo Courtesy of Villa Siena
Villa Siena in Mountain View recently underwent a $35 million face-lift. The five-year project expanded their senior living community’s space and ability to serv...

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Business

Transitioning from postage to pets

Transitioning from postage to pets


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A new Pet Food Express store is scheduled to open at the Blossom Valley Shopping Center this month.

A site that previously existed to meet postal service needs will soon have an entirely different purpose – serving pe...

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Books

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights


A good story about aliens is always great fun to read – after all, it’s only by attempting to understand the human race from another perspective that we can see ourselves more objectively.

But readers who might be tempted to dismiss ye...

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People

JEANNE PACKARD

After suffering a stroke in May, Jeanne Packard died August 10, 2014 at age 83. She was born in 1931 in Berlin, Germany, the only child of Emily Channel and Frank Howe Packard of Chicago, IL. Jeanne is survived by 5 great grandchildren. She was a lon...

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Travel

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska


Sandy Powell/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident and bird photographer Sandy Powell recently visited Homer, Alaska, to photograph Sandhill cranes, below. While there, Powell also encountered moose, left.

Los Altos resident Sandy Powell, a...

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Stepping Out

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos


Courtesy of Los
The cast of Los Altos Stage Company’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” includes, from left, Mylissa Malley as Lin, Vanessa Alvarez as Betty, and Christina Bolognini as Pickles. Altos Stage Company

Los Altos Stage Company...

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Spiritual Life

9/11 survivor Michael Hingson finds purpose

Imagine walking down 78 flights of stairs – 1,463 individual steps. You are in imminent danger as you walk, unsure whether you can make it out of the building before it collapses or explodes. Struggling for each breath, you smell the heavy sten...

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Magazine

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living


Courtesy of Spectrum Interior Design
In place of a more traditional fireplace, this modern living room features a linear-flame firebox that emits heat while offering a sculpturelike design element.

After traveling the world and visiting a host...

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It's all in the cards: Mountain View startup revives building games


Niuniu teo/Special to the Town Crier
Evan Murphy, above left in green, and Michael Woods co-founded E&M Labs, with the goal of inspiring the next generation of engineers.

With the advent of video games, iPhone apps and social media, the golden days of toys and their makers may be in the past.

But Michael Woods and Evan Murphy, co-founders of E&M Labs of Mountain View, beg to differ.

The startup’s most popular product is named Skallops. A starter kit comprises two decks of standard playing cards, one red and one blue, and 104 Skallops, wooden half-circle, laser-cut clips that hold the cards. The cards can be bent, folded or torn, then assembled with the Skallops to form a variety of shapes, from a 20-foot playing card Eiffel Tower to life-sized penguins and small, ingeniously crafted card-figurines.

“It got to the point when we saw that we could make whatever we thought of,” Woods said. “Every time we give it to somebody to play with, they come up with something new.”

E&M products are built on the belief that the current educational system overlooks the learning-by-doing philosophy. The founders strive to provide that experience through their products.

“I have a philosophy,” Woods said. “In school, you learn all this theory, but you don’t actually get to get your fingers dirty until after college, maybe. Learning by doing often teaches you a lot you’d never get from school, just by showing you how things work.”

For example, by playing with Skallops, children as young as 5 or 6 years old realized that triangles and cross-hatching were the most effective ways to build strong structures.

Competing with video games

Despite the proven benefits of playing with building toys like Skallops, the dominance of video games and other electronic forms of entertainment is hard to overcome. Even to these two toymakers, it’s apparent that video games are here to stay.

For Murphy, the main goal now is to “create a product that complements video games – not one that tries to push them out of the market.”

“I think there’s a lot of interest among parents in non-Internet toys,” he said. “Initially there was a lot of backlash against video games, when a lot of the handheld gaming devices became popular.”

Woods and Murphy continue to believe that there is a need and a purpose that only building games can fulfill.

“The most basic thing you learn (from our product) is physical intuition, and how to work with your hands and with things,” Murphy said. “And I think that’s really important.”

According to Murphy and Woods, their product has gained a significant following among Google, Facebook and Palantir employees.

“Skallops is, I think, a lot more freeform than most video games,” Murphy said. “There’s a lot more room for creativity.”

E&M Labs is housed in a big warehouse on Whisman Road. The founders share quarters with two other startups – one designs dollhouses; the other, wireless locks.

Before they started E&M Labs, Woods worked on a research and development team at a high-tech company in Los Angeles and Murphy for a financial software company in New York. They both worked on a software startup three years ago.

“We were applying for real jobs, and we realized that if we don’t try something now, we’re never going to,” Woods said.

Woods added that opposed to other places he has worked, he prefers collaborating with a small group, where you see the entire mission.

“Whatever you’re doing, you’ve chosen to do it,” he said.

E&M has a new product scheduled to launch in a few months.

“We’re going to continue focusing on physical, freeform products that are fun and create storytelling opportunities,” Woods said.

E&M Labs is located at 170 S. Whisman Road, Building D, Suite A, Mountain View. For more information, visit www.em-labs.com.

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