Blog: Mel Drumm

Mel J. Drumm became the Director of the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum in October of 2004. During his tenure in Ann Arbor, the Museum team has broken multiple attendance records and updated exhibits, programs and facilities. The Museum has repeatedly been voted as the best local museum by Ann Arbor residents.

Mel's past museum experience includes seven years as President of the Detroit Science Center and a long association with the Cranbrook Institute of Science, which included positions as their Physics Coordinator and Assistant Curator of Education. He is a recipient of two museum-related awards: The first, from the Michigan Museums Association for the 2001 rebirth of the Detroit Science Center. The second, from the Metro Detroit Science Teachers Association, is the "Friend of Science" award given to a community colleague for support of formal science education.

Mel has also been involved in laser art on a national level. He has produced laser spectaculars for city celebrations and corporate events nationwide and has performed laser art with orchestras including the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops.

Mel earned his MBA at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in September, 2009. He sits on the Boards of the Michigan Science Teachers Association and the Michigan Information and Technology Center. He is the immediate past co-chair of the Washtenaw Cultural Leaders Forum and was the founding vice chair of the Clean Energy Coalition of Washtenaw County.
Mel Drumm - Most Recent Posts:

Mel Drumm - Post 3: Innovation – I’ll Choose Door Number…

With apologies to a long defunct television game show, it doesn’t matter whether you choose door number 1, 2, or 3 – you’ll find innovation at work in the businesses and labs located behind each of those doors and behind hundreds more within the greater Ann Arbor area. If this is ever in question, just peruse each issue of Concentrate. You’ll be amazed at the depth and breadth of the tech, medical, engineering, IT and yet to be categorized industries and products. It IS happening right here!

Think about it for a moment. Try to count the number of incubators, start-up companies, academic endeavors and related firms at work around us. Lose track? Me, too! Now, start thinking about all of the people involved in supporting and/or promoting new ventures through loose-knot or highly organized ventures. The number of people involved in innovative efforts in our community multiplies quickly.

Once again, the notion of people, or community, surfaces as the heartbeat of innovation. It doesn’t matter which door you open, each door will reveal a plethora of people working together to solve some impossible problem, or creating some new widget, contraption, software app or other miracle device.

Yes, I think there is magic occurring all over town. One of the rewarding aspects of my job is being given the opportunity to peek behind closed doors and to see the magic long before the miracle widget or gizmo sees the light of day. These glimpses behind the wizard’s curtain excite me and I’m convinced they would excite you and the budding scientists, engineers, physicians, artisans and skilled trade aficionados of tomorrow. Our innovators are an eclectic group and more often than not, they are willing to open their doors, pull back the curtain, and share some of their magic with us – well, (insert disclaimer here) at least the concepts and products that are protected by copyright!

As you look around the region, I invite you to ask yourself how often you see innovation in our community. While you’re at it, think beyond the obvious wonders occurring in the tech, engineering and sciences communities and innovation will be revealed at every turn – in mom-and-pop shops, in artists’ boutiques, in our cultural organizations, or in our schools and far, far beyond.

As an innovator, would you consider sharing your insights? I encourage you to do so – and to join with me in the quest to inspire the workforce of tomorrow. Let’s open the doors and make the idea of innovation inspiration a team effort. Join me and a community of friends as we celebrate innovation at the Hands-On Local Tech Event at the Museum on May 22. Whether you are an innovator or an innovator in training, we welcome you, and wholeheartedly invite you to open our door and to jump right in – the sea of change is upon us and the water is fine!

Mel Drumm - Post 2: Teamwork - Through the Eyes of a Cartoon Character

An incredibly strong community commitment has led the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum to nearly 30 years of providing informal science experiences to nearly 4 million people. Expanding that thought beyond our doors, I'm convinced that Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County are perfect examples of where community ownership and engagement has propelled a community to succeed at an unprecedented level.

We've all heard the multitude of definitions of teamwork and we see numerous examples of teamwork daily in our work and personal lives. As one that has spent a lifetime providing demonstrations to eager audiences, I would like to share, or demonstrate, an example of teamwork, as observed through our unique "Hands-On" way of interaction.

Imagine a cartoon character and how such a character may inspire teamwork in children. Over the last several months, Ann Arbor has been the adopted home of Bob the Builderä, a popular television character tailored to inspire teamwork and eco-friendly construction ideas to preschoolers and their families. It is amazing to watch people working together to solve a series of tasks in Bob's Project: Build It "exhibit" neighborhood. It is not uncommon to find families working together to repair a sink trap, building a wall or using make-believe power tools. Even better, it is amazing to see teamwork in dozens of children playing together for the first time, and in doing so, solving a series of age-related tasks with kids they have never met before.

The collaborative spirit of our community contributes to teamwork throughout the community and at the Museum. In our case, hundreds of volunteers provide thousands of hours of support each year. Countless collaborators from the academic, engineering, science, medical, cultural, civic and tech worlds have provided the resources, expertise, passion and collaborative spirit to allow the creation of over 250 unique-to-Ann Arbor hands-on exhibits and an unending variety of educational programs. Hundreds of generous donors continue to support the Museum through their unwavering financial generosity. Over 100 community leaders have served as trustees on our Board since our founding.

Teamwork, whether though children interacting with a cartoon character's exhibit, or in work, school, community or other social interactions equates to enhanced productivity and community engagement. Teamwork is reflected in myriad ways in individual organizations and throughout Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County. I believe that this teamwork positions our part of Michigan as an incubator of innovation, lifelong learning and creativity galore. It doesn't matter if you are two, twenty-two or one hundred and two, community-based teamwork is for kids of all ages.

Mel Drumm - Post 1: The Magic Of It All

As the Director of the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, I find myself involved in a non-profit that has been part-and-parcel of the greater Ann Arbor community for nearly thirty years. Like you, I often hear about the demise of Michigan as a viable place to live or work. While I know it is tough (and trust me, I've experienced the highs and lows), I am convinced that we are on the edge of a great, and positive, transformation. That transformation may not yet be visible to many, but in my position, I often sense that I am getting a glimpse of the future each and every time I step out into our community. In my opinion, the continued vibrancy of Ann Arbor, and the renewal of our regional economy, distills down to community ownership and engagement.

The very existence and continued sustainability of the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum is based upon community, and the idea of community ownership and engagement. Yes, this may appear to be a story about the Museum, but it is really about you.

While you probably consider us the "children's museum" or the "children's science museum", the Museum is a burgeoning community gathering space where kids of all ages explore, become inspired, or learn that learning is a lifelong adventure. Those that have ventured near the Museum on a busy day know that the adventure is one of excitement, curiosity, teamwork and social interaction. The best part of it all is that regardless of age, ethnicity or socio-economic background, this grand community gathering space is welcoming to everyone. In our environment, science, technology, math, engineering and culture are celebrated by all.

You've probably noticed the multitude of yellow school buses or the scores of people walking with families to the Museum each year. They, like most of the guests to the Museum, arrive from points near and far, with over 60% of them arriving from outside the county. Even with the economic crisis in Michigan, we see school groups from Detroit, Flint, Jackson and all destinations in between. The same is true on weekends, holidays and at other times where families routinely arrive from more than nineteen counties in southeastern Michigan and northern Ohio. They are not just visiting our Museum, they are visiting and participating in everything we call community.

So, where is the magic? The magic is in seeing how our community cares and embracing education, culture, innovation and creativity. Just as science often appears to be magic to many, I believe the science of success is firmly rooted in the magic generated in our community. My challenge to you is to think of how you represent community in your life, and, in turn, how community represents what you want for your life.

I'm convinced that our community partners are leading the charge in the transformation of Michigan into a knowledge-based, innovation-based and creative-based economy that also remains true to our roots of manufacturing and engineering. The stage for tomorrow is set and YOU have a front row seat.
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