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Project Loon

Rich DeVaul works at Google[x], where teams prototype, build, and test new ideas for Google. He is co-founder and first project leader of Project Loon, a Google[x] project to explore delivering balloon-powered internet to the 2 out of 3 people in the world who don’t currently have access.


Conversation Club

  1. Rich DeVaul begins his talk by providing a definition of a “moonshot.” Had you ever heard that term before? Can you imagine where the term came from, based on the two words it combines?
  2. DeVaul talks about the first hot-air balloon launch in 1783, saying it was the first vehicle that allowed humans to go up into the air in controlled flight. What would you say is the modern day equivalent to that breakthrough? What might the next “vehicle” be that allows controlled flight?
  3. DeVaul also mentions Charles Babbage, an Englishman who invented the first general-purpose computer in 1837. Does this date surprise you? Is there another invention, like the computer, that took less time to evolve from its earliest invention to its present-day use?
  4. DeVaul explains that it is challenging to get Internet connectivity to the 4.8 billion people in the world who do not currently have it. What are some of the reasons he gives, both financial and infrastructure related? How does the issue of connectivity affect you where you live?
  5. When explaining the design challenges that the Google [x] team faced when making these high-altitude, durable balloons, DeVaul also describes how these balloons travel through the atmosphere. How do they travel?
  6. What was the name of the city where these balloons first successfully delivered Internet (he mentions Christchurch)? Though DeVaul does not given an explanation, why do you think these balloons were initially tested in New Zealand?
  7. DeVaul tells a story about a new model of balloon that had trouble during a test flight: its landing system failed, it ran out of power, and so became lost. What was Google’s solution for tracking the balloon’s flight path across the USA and up into Canada after it was lost?
  8. What do you think of DeVaul’s position that it is sometimes easier to solve a problem by thinking bigger, or globally, than it is to solve a problem by thinking on a smaller scale, or regionally? Can you think of another example that either supports or challenges this position?

Video Series

This video exists as part of a series gathered around the theme of Entrepreneurship. Other videos in this series are listed below.

Melting Electronics
Melting Electronics
Project Loon
Project Loon
Elon Musk’s Journey to Mars
Elon Musk’s Journey to Mars
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Palmer Lucky’s Virtual Reality Revolution
Palmer Lucky’s Virtual Reality Revolution
Alexis Lewis’s Innovation Mission
Alexis Lewis’s Innovation Mission
3-D Printing for the Body
3-D Printing for the Body