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News

Street crack-sealing project begins Monday, May 4

The City of Los Altos is beginning a city-wide street crack-sealing project on Monday (May 4).

City officials said the traffic impact for this project will be minimal. No streets will be closed and vehicles can resume normal traffic flow shortly aft...

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Schools

Homestead students use projects  to solve environmental problems

Homestead students use projects to solve environmental problems


Alisha Parikh/Special to the Town Crier
Homestead High School junior Maya Dhar, a Los Altos resident, left, and classmate Carolyn MacDonald support the school’s AP Environmental Science classes at the Arbor Day Festival April 23.

As summer app...

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Community

CHAC appoints new leader

CHAC appoints new leader

Naomi Nakano-Matsumoto, LCSW, has been named the new executive director of the Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC). A seasoned nonprofit leader, Nakano-Matsumoto is scheduled to assume duties July 1. She takes over for outgoing executive direct...

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Sports

St. Francis swimmers shine

St. Francis swimmers shine


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Benjamin Ho competes against Sacred Heart Cathedral Thursday. The junior swam on all three victorious relays at the home meet, which the Lancers won easily.

Flexing its power in the pool, host St....

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Comment

Halsey House deserves preservation: Other Voices

Halsey House deserves preservation: Other Voices


Many contributing supporters to the Friends of Historic Redwood Grove believe that the Halsey House, designated a historic landmark by the Los Altos City Council in 1981, deserves to be saved and renovated for adapted use by the community.

Set in ...

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Special Sections

Sneaky shots: A photographer’s guide to capturing the proposal

Sneaky shots: A photographer’s guide to capturing the proposal


Elliott Burr/Special to the Town Crier
A stealthy photographer scouts locations ahead of time to find not just a place to perch, but also the ideal position for the subjects.

It’s showtime.

You’re about to ask the person in front of...

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Business

Pharmaca celebrates grand opening over weekend

Pharmaca celebrates grand opening over weekend


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Pharmaca is coming to 400 Main St. with a grand-opening celebration scheduled Saturday and Sunday.

If natural health and beauty products are your cup of tea, expect to find them – and hot tea – this weekend at the gran...

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Books

People

JANE BUTTERFIELD PRINGLE LYND

JANE BUTTERFIELD PRINGLE LYND

October 30, 1924 - April 8, 2015

Jane Butterfield Pringle Lynd, daughter to Liebert and Elise Butterfield of San Francisco, passed away quietly at her home in Palo Alto surrounded by her family, following a short illness. Jane was a proud third ge...

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Travel

Cuba libre: Local residents join mad rush of travelers

Cuba libre: Local residents join mad rush of travelers


Natalie Elefant/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident Natalie Elefant noted the vibrant street performances as a traveler in Cuba.

The U.S. restored diplomatic relations with Cuba late last year, enabling Americans to import $100 worth of cig...

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Stepping Out

'Birds' landing in Mtn. View

'Birds' landing in Mtn. View


Ray Renati/Special to the Town Crier
The Pear Avenue Theatre production of Paul Braverman’s “Birds of a Feather” stars Troy Johnson as mafia boss Sean Kineen, left, and Diane Tasca as private eye Frankie Payne.

Pear Avenue Theatre’s world premi...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Practice prudent pruning: Maintaining manzanita, ceanothus and toyon

Practice prudent pruning: Maintaining manzanita, ceanothus and toyon


tanya kucak/Special to the Town Crier
Shrub manzanitas are known for their sinuous mahogany trunks and branches. If the foliage hides the bark, prune selectively to open the center so that the bark is visible year-round. This Montara manzanita is ...

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Inside Mountain View

Up to the challenge: Local leaders unite to help at-risk youth

Up to the challenge: Local leaders unite to help at-risk youth


Courtesy of Challenge Team
Jeanette Freiberg, bottom of pile, has fun with family members. The Challenge Team named Freiberg, a student at Mountain View High School, its 2015 Youth Champion.

There’s an ongoing joke among members of the Challenge...

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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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