Welcome to John Cohn’s web home. I will use these pages to collect information on my life and projects. By way of introduction, here’s a little info about me.
I’ve lived in Jonesville, Vermont for the last 26 year.. Before that I was at MIT in Boston with a year abroad in Vienna. I grew up… to the extent that I did in Houston,Texas=… which is why I live in Vermont. I met my wife and soul mate Diane here in 1982 .She was an engineer but changed direction and now teaches Yoga out of our house. She is the most wonderful and grounded people I’ve ever met… Together we raised 3 very cool boys, Max, Sam and Gabe in our old Schoolhouse in Jonesville. Max is now 20, amazingly creative and musical and grounded, Gabe is13 and a very cool and colorful snowboard/skateboard/lacrosse player with an amazing sense of style.. Our beautiful son Sam was killed in a tragic traffic accident in November of 2006. At the time he was 14 . Wonderful, strong and talented. He was an excellent snowboarder and musician. (Classical guitar and heavy metal drumming)and an old soul. I can’t begin to capture here what losing Sam has meant in our lives… But I will tell you this.Finding ways to honor his memory and living the example he set have made us all better people.One of the thing we do is hand out ‘SamStones’ Our family and friends make these fired clay stones in Sam’s memory. You can read more about Sam and SamStones on SamStones.org. I also blog daily on topics related to my life, family and interests.
I am currently one of 63 acting IBM Fellows, the most senior technical rank in IBM’s 200,000 person technical community.My specific role is Chief Scientist for Computer Aided Design for IBM. The group I lead helps create chips for everything from camcorders to video games to supercomputers. Though many folks may not know it, IBM designs the ‘brains’ inside all of the latest video game machines from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. I love these chips. Just getting the physics to work so that you can get a billion transistor chip to run at over 3 billion operations per second without melting is a huge challenge. In my role as one of the most senior chip folks at IBM, I get frequent opportunities to share my views on the wonders and challenges of modern microelectronics with all sorts of audiences including kids groups, parent groups,, industry peers, university students and professors, and customers. The great thing about working on these game chips is that it gives me an immediate relation point to folks whether they like computers or not.
My love of science goes way beyond my day job. I’ve been a science fanatic since the time I began to walk. As a young kid in Houston,TX, I had lots of role models nearby as my parents were friends with many of the NASA astronauts. With that motivation, I began taking apart everything I could get my hands on to figure out how they worked. By the time I was 12 or so I could even put some of them back together again.I built my own laboratory where I experimented with every sort of science material I could get my hands on. I did experiments in chemistry, physics, biology and math. I also learned to cut, saw, weld, solder, machine, blow glass etc. to allow me to build things like rockets, and radios, high voltage generators, lasers, telephone bugs, and pyrotechnics. My whole adolescence was about “getting dirty and blowing things up.” That passion for hands-on science only grew as I went through MIT. While there I studied microelectronics by day and worked at the MIT Media Lab at night. I came to really love the overlap between science, art and culture. I began to realize how everyone could come to love (or at least appreciate) science and technology if it was presented in the right fun and accessible way.After graduating from MIT I moved to Vermont and began the job of being a ‘grown up’ . It didn’t last long, however. I very quickly created a new laboratory in my converted schoolhouse. Since that time my experiments have gotten bigger and weirder. Over the past 25 years I have built demonstration equipment for science museums, portable science shows, science videos, TV, neighborhood ‘happenings’ etc.
I get a huge amount of pleasure out of sharing my love of science and my field with others. I take pride in my ability to relate science topics to any audience. I love finding new, fun and sometime outrageous ways to demonstrate a concept. Many of my demonstrations involve large sparks or an explosion; I particularly enjoy the challenge of finding ways to relate to audience outside of my profession. I’m comfortable speaking in small groups, large groups and on camera. I very much enjoy interactive presentations and love being spontaneous. In 1992 my passion lead me to launch a science outreach program called ‘Jolts and Volts’ which illustrates the very cool properties of electricity from microvolts to megavolts. I use this program to drive home the importance of inventors and innovation. I specifically like to encourage people to begin thinking of themselves as inventors. In this same spirit I have developed an outreach stage program called ‘Inventors Like You’ designed to teach kids and teachers about inventors and invention. The program shows that inventors come in all ages, races and genders. I also enjoy doing science outreach to adult audiences. I give frequent talks to parents, university professors, and museum audiences on my field of microelectronics or other topics of general science. My current favorite is a stage show I developed called ‘High Tension’, the Life and Times of Nikola Tesla’ about the contributions of one of the world’s most prolific, and most overlooked, inventors. I estimate that as of 2008 I have performed science outreach presentations for more than 40,000 kids and adults at venues including schools, museums, camps, inner city programs, special needs programs, and universities both here and abroad .I am particularly proud of the program I do annually at Disney Epcot Center. My work has been covered by more than fifty US newspapers including USA Today, the New York Post, The Washington Post and the Boston Globe as well as network TV including CNN, CBS and ABC. (‘Google’ john cohn” science or “John Cohn” IBM to see some references. I also need to say that feel very fortunate that my company,IBM, and my family are so supportive of the time I put into these outreach efforts.