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News

LA council votes to delay community center update

LA council votes to delay community center update


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council voted to delay adoption of a community center conceptual design plan last week. The plan includes elements from a design charette held earlier this fall, left.

The Los Altos City Council last...

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Schools

Scientists bring experiments into MV classrooms

Scientists bring experiments into MV classrooms


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
During a Science is Learning geology lesson, Theuerkauf Elementary School students learn about igneous rocks by observing how sugar changes form when heated.

Hundreds of local elementary students perform experiments w...

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Community

Local actors star in PYT's 'Oklahoma!'

Local actors star in PYT's 'Oklahoma!'


Courtesy of Peninsula Youth Theatre
PYT’s “Oklahoma!” features, from left, David Peters of Mountain View, Jenna Levere of Los Altos and Kai Wessel of Mountain View.

Time is running out to catch Peninsula Youth Theatre’s production of “Oklahoma!”...

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Sports

Eagles advance

Eagles advance


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High’s Carmen Annevelink, left, and Kristen Liu put up a block against Mountain View. Annevelink totaled 20 kills.

Mountain View High’s out-of-the-gate energy could last for only so long against rival and he...

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Comment

Coping with addictions: Haugh About That?

Preparing to deal with my lifelong addiction, I stood in front of the mirror ready to confess the shame I’d been hiding. The first step to healing, I reminded myself, is to admit something is wrong.

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Special Sections

NASA, Google agreement preserves Hangar One

NASA, Google agreement preserves Hangar One


Bruce Barton/Town Crier
Hangar One, pictured here last January, will be restored under an agreement between Google and NASA.

NASA and Google Inc. forged an agreement last week that allows Google to lease a portion of NASA’s historic Moffett Fede...

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Business

State Street science center closing Nov. 30

State Street science center closing Nov. 30


Ellie Van Houtte/
Helix at 316 State St. is closing after the completion of a one-year grant from Passerelle Investment Co. The science center became a popular destination because of its various exhibits. Town Crier

A popular downtown destination...

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Books

Children's author signs books at Linden Tree

Children's author signs books at Linden Tree


Author Tiffany Papageorge is scheduled to sign copies of new her book 11 a.m. Dec. 6 at Linden Tree Books, 265 State St., Los Altos.

Papageorge’s “My Yellow Balloon” (Minoan Moon, 2014) is a Mom’s Choice “Gold” winner. In the book, the Los Gat...

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People

JAMES WINDELL SMITH

JAMES WINDELL SMITH

January 11, 1939 – November 6, 2014
Resident of Mountain View

James Windell Smith, a 40 year resident of Los Altos, passed away from complications after a post-surgery stroke November 6th, 2014 in Los Gatos, California.

Born on January 11, 1939 on...

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Travel

Olive Sonoma: There's more to the quaint town than wine

Olive Sonoma: There's more to the quaint town than wine


Eren Göknar/ Special to the Town Crier
While many day-trippers may think that Sonoma is all about the grapes, the region boasts other delights. Try a biplane ride over the patchwork landscape.

Sonoma, a scenic two-hour drive from Los Altos, boa...

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Stepping Out

LA Stage Company opens 'Fairway'

The Los Altos Stage Company production of Ken Ludwig’s new comedy “The Fox on the Fairway” is slated to run Thursday through Dec. 14 at Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave.

A tribute to the English farces of the 1930s and 1940s, “Fox” is a romp that p...

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Spiritual Life

Author of Jewish historical novel slated at Congregation Beth Am

Author of Jewish historical novel slated at Congregation Beth Am


The Beth Am Women have scheduled “A Conversation with Author Maggie Anton” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20 at Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills.

Anton, winner of the 2012 National Jewish Book Award for Fiction, will discu...

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Magazine

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years


Courtesy of Christopher Stark
Homes on the St. Francis High School Women’s Club’s Christmas at Our House Holiday Home Tour showcase a variety of architectural styles.

The days grow short on sunshine but long on nostalgia as the holidays approach...

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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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