Rootstrap Blog

Cutting Education: Discussing Tech’s Role in Education with Samy Kamkar

Our recent collaboration with students in the Digital Storytelling class at USC Annenberg resulted in an augmented reality app that would change the way visitors experience the Los Angeles Public Library.  If you haven’t heard about the ARchiveLAPL app yet, then we clearly haven’t been hyping it enough.  Get over to iTunes and check it out.  Working on this app has definitely made us even more aware of the importance of AR and new tech when it comes to education.  We turned to innovative engineer, drone expert, master hacker, and good friend, Samy Kamkar, to get his thoughts on the subject.

Samy has worn as many hats as anyone can in the tech world.  By the age of 17 he’d co-founded a unified communication company that raised over $24 million in private funding called Fonality.  He followed that up with innovations like SkyJack and Evercookie and has played pivotal roles in discovering mobile security flaws and privacy issues within major companies.  We could keep going, but what you really need to know is the guy’s a total badass.  What we wanted to know was what he thought about tech’s place in the future of education.

Augmented Reality: The Cutting Edge of Education


Augmented reality has that special something, that space-age allure that can turn heads toward a subject they might have ignored before.  According to Samy, “AR is pretty interesting to me in regards to education because it’s naturally a cool and intriguing concept. I’m personally a high school dropout and for me to actually spend time in an area means it has to have the right type of sparkle for me to focus my attention, and I’ve noticed almost anyone who looks into a screen to see the real world augmented in a half-real, half-virtual way, gets pretty excited.

That sparkle can go a long way, giving that bored student a reason to perk up.  Samy continues, “Hopefully it will impact learning simply by allowing information to be accessed much quicker and regardless of intent of users, for example learning about something that you wouldn’t necessarily have looked up yourself.

Drones: The New Teacher’s Pet


Samy may be best known for creating SkyJack, a custom drone that could hack nearby parrot drones, giving the SkyJack operator control over them.  Drones aren’t just up Samy’s alley, they’re in his airspace, so we wanted to know if this new tech is being utilized in educational settings.  According to Samy, “Drones are opening up some new areas in regards to autonomy and how we can automate areas of our lives. For one, I see the exploration and mapping that drones are doing to become more mainstream which is simply going to provide people with more up to date information in all sorts of areas that were previously more expensive to reach.

The application in education is practically endless.  Samy continues, “The technology of drones themselves is constantly being developed and as we explore new ways of working with these machines, the fact that we need to continue to build and improve these systems will open up some pretty cool areas in education from physics to sensing and more importantly energy.

Mobile Security: Safety in the Classroom


There’s no question that technology is going to play a huge role in classrooms in the future.  In fact, in a lot of ways it already is.  More mobile devices are being worked into curriculum and students are relying on these devices to not only help them do their schoolwork but to store important information as well.  For us, this raises questions about security especially in light of discoveries that Samy has made himself.  In 2011, Samy discovered that most mobile devices constantly sent GPS coordinates even when turned off.  He’s also discovered major flaws in PHP programming that could have been used to hack major banks and social accounts.

So we wanted to know if he thought student security was a serious issue in the mobile age. “With every advance in technology, there are potential dangers, but I think what’s most exciting is that with the potential dangers that are explored, it simply requires use to produce more advanced technologies in the area of security — an area we haven’t explored as well as we should have,” he says. “We’re constantly learning about systems that have been in place for years that have had lax security simply because no one was looking and as the ability to look, to see, and to explore becomes more available, it will help enlist people to advance the security around areas we clearly weren’t thinking about.AdPfbXVY_400x400-300x300

If you want to keep up with Samy’s latest discoveries, innovations, and speaking engagements you can check out his website at and follow him on twitter.  If you want to know more about the latest developments with our Los Angeles mobile development shop you can always follow us on twitter as well.

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