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S E C T I O N 2 Community S TO R I E S A B O U T P E O P L E A N D E V E N T S I N T H E C O M M U N I T Y ■ AUGUST 8, 2012 Student designs mural at Belle Haven School By Soo Song Special to the Almanac B elle Haven School will have a bright new addition to its campus this fall, thanks to Menlo-Atherton High School student Jeremy Chow. Jeremy, an incoming senior and five-year Boy Scout, designed and painted, with the help of family and friends, a mural on an exterior wall at the school. Aimed at inspiring students to attain the qualities of leaders, the mural is about 30 feet wide and nearly 8 feet tall. Planning for the work, part of Jeremy’s Eagle Scout project, started in March. The design team used tape and cut-outs of letters and people (including pictures from the Internet projected onto butcher paper), and then rolled paint over the cutouts. Then, they removed the cut-outs and painted in the details. He unveiled the mural on July 25 at the school site’s Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula summer showcase. “The top (of the mural) lists eight words that are supposed to symbolize leadership and what leaders represent,” he said at the unveiling, pointing to words on the wall that included “effort, responsibility, and creativity.” “A leader respects all the people around him,” he said as he passed the word “respect.” The mural includes other elements such as soccer — the kids’ favorite sport — and college gear. The planning process for the mural was extensive. “I first met with Maria Ibarra, the former principal of the school, who gave me the general format Photo by Soo Song she wanted,” he said. “I also Menlo-Atherton High student Jeremy Chow shows his new mural at Belle Haven School in Menlo Park. worked with Boys & Girls Club site director Liz Calderon and Community School Director He spent about 47 hours site director, expressed the and honored for him to come,” Alejandro Vilchez to develop planning and painting the excitement and gratitude the she said. “I can’t believe he’d the design and implement the mural, and volunteers contrib- school and community feels take the time to bring someidea of ‘College-Bound’ into uted another 140 hours. toward the work. thing so beautiful to the the mural.” Jackie Garcia, the assistant “(We) were really thrilled school.” A Menlo Park native aims to cut home-automation cost By Elena Kadvany Special to the Almanac I magine an inexpensive device that allows you to set an alarm on your smart phone that will automatically turn on your coffee pot in the morning, or turn off the lights when you leave the house to save energy. That device may become a reality with the launch of a company named brightblu, founded by Menlo Park native Taylor Umphreys, and based on the idea of affordable, customizable home automation. “We wanted to bring home automation to the greater market,” Mr. Umphreys explains. “So we decided to make a really cheap, affordable smart plug that you can plug into any device — a lamp, appliance, TV, whatever it may be — and give you control of that device through your smartphone.” Mr. Umphreys, 21, born and raised in Menlo Park, traces his interest in the world of electrical engineering back to high school. In his junior year at Menlo School he took applied science and engineering classes — a program unique to Menlo — and was hooked. “I knew instantly then I wanted to go into engineering,” he says. With that pursuit in mind, after graduating high school in 2008, Mr. Umphreys went to the University of California Santa Barbara to study electrical engineering. There, he performed undergraduate research and worked on various projects, one of which involved designing, building and testing solar powered reading lights to send to children and families in Ghana. But it was Mr. Umphreys’ senior project, a year-long collaborative effort with three other UCSB electrical engineering students who are now part of the brightblu team — Siddhant Bhargava, Ben Chang and Arshad Haider — that planted Founders of brightblu are, from left, Ben Chang, Arshad Haider, Taylor Umphreys and Siddhant Bhargava. the startup-seed in his mind. “About two months in, I started thinking, ‘Wow, we’re really sitting on something that could be pretty cool.’” The project went on to win second place in the UCSB New Venture Competition, in which 46 teams of undergraduate, graduate and doctorate students design and submit ideas for business plans. Last December, Mr. Umphreys approached the tech startup accelerator Plug and Play Tech Center to get the company up and running. Now, brightblu is participating in Plug and Play’s 10-week accelerator program, designed to immerse new busiContinued on next page August 8, 2012NTheAlmanacOnline.comNThe AlmanacN17

The Almanac 08.08.2012 - section 2

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