Category Archives: Rotary Weekly Guest Speaker

August 17: Guest Speaker Jennifer Javornik of Filament Games Explained the Power of Play

–submitted by Sharyn Alden

Jennifer Javornik, Vice-President of Partnerships & Business Development with Filament Games, an educational games developer in Madison, said her program was interactive, just like play is an interactive experience.

“Games allow you to learn by doing; they give you confidence, help you hone skills, fail in a safe place. These playful experiences help improve people’s lives,” she said.

Filament Games has partnered with numerous companies to showcase topics in a fun, meaningful way. For example, they partnered with PBS Kids on the program “Hero Elementary” which features fundamentals of recycling.

In developing games she said you have to decide who the player (you) are going to be—like in Pac-Man where the player becomes Pac-Man.

After a brief background on how ideas for digital games are developed, she threw a challenge to the audience to become a game developer for the day. Each table was asked to describe a game around the survival of three animals– a gibbon, elephant and turtle. Each animal has unique characteristics like a trunk, long tail or hard shell that have helped them evolve

Javornik suggested young people in the Rotary audience might have good ideas.

She was right. One girl suggested animals could ‘shape-shift’ to change their identifies against predators.

Another child suggested a simple, effective idea. “When objects or predators block the animals, you could have buttons on screen help save them, but you have to hit the right button based on what you know about the animal.”

With a collective, ‘Ohhh” from the audience, it would seem these types of educational games already have interested fans.

If you missed our meeting last week, you can watch it here:

August 3: Dr. James Skibo, WI State Archaeologist, Describes Humbling & Thrilling Discovery, Recovery, and Preservation of 1200 Year-Old Mendota Dugout Canoe

–submitted by Sharyn Alden

James Skibo, PhD. Wisconsin State Archaeologist at the Wisconsin Historical Society, easily mesmerized Rotarians at the August 3 meeting. He described the amazing find in Madison’s Lake Mendota waters, the now world-famous “Mendota Dugout Canoe” discovered underwater last year.

The canoe has been selected as one of the top ten archaeological discoveries in the world in 2021. The largest and oldest boat ever sailed in Wisconsin waters attracted media attention from around the world.

The canoe was found buried in a slope in 27 feet of water about 200 yards offshore near Shorewood Hills.

Tammy Thomson, marine archaeologist for the Wisconsin Historical Society who dives year-round, found the canoe during a pleasure dive. She first thought the 15-foot long dugout canoe looked like a buried stick. During Skibo’s program he showed an underwater photo of Thomson recording the find on her underwater notebook.

The 15 foot-long canoe probably carried two people along with a catch of fish, Fishing artifacts –‘net sinkers’ were found in the boat. Skibo said it likely took hundreds of hours to carve the canoe from the hard wood of a white oak tree. After discovery, the team had only about six weeks before winter set in to figure out to carefully extract the canoe from its resting place. Members of local tribes including the Ho-Chunk Nation, were among those consulted.


On a cold day last November, it took about four hours to bring the intact canoe to shore.

“There were about 100 people on shore clapping and cheering,” said Skibo.”It was a humbling, thrilling experience.”

The canoe will be undergoing preservation efforts in the next two years before eventually going on display.

If you missed our meeting last week, you can watch the video here:

May 25: Reshaping The Future of South Madison

–submitted by Janet Piraino

On May 25th, Madison’s Director of Planning and Community and Economic Development Matt Wachter talked about the great redevelopment plans for Madison’s South Side. South Siders told the City they wanted new gathering places, affordable child care, better parks, improved bike and pedestrian infrastructure, increased transit service and better connectivity across Park Street.  Most importantly, they wanted to avoid gentrification of, and displacement from, their neighborhoods.  The City is focusing on The Village on Park, the Thorstad property and the Perry/Ann Street corridor. Common elements of the plans include transforming giant parking lots into buildings/programs that foster affordable housing, create job opportunities, support small business and improve amenities.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here:

May 11: Mike Falbo on UW System Leadership Transition

–submitted by Valerie Renk

Mike Falbo shared a path to university system success on May 11; 37,000 degrees will be granted this year by the UW System. Falbo is the interim president of the University of Wisconsin System.  He was a regent for 11 years, being appointed twice. 

Jay Rothman takes over the helm as system president June 1, following a national search that started in January. Falbo served on the search and screen committee when he visited all UW campuses and talked with many stakeholders. Rothman led Foley & Lardner, where he developed his leadership skills. Rothman grew up on a farm in the Wausau area. 

Falbo originally told Rothman, “You have zero chances of getting this job, but you’ll learn a lot from the process.”  While he has no academic experience, Falbo described Roth’s qualifications, saying a good leader knows their strengths, a great leader knows their weaknesses. 

The UW System is big business, with 40,000 employees, a $6 billion budget, and 165,000 students.  Falbo said the system is trying to leverage positives such as the Chancellor group, making it campus driven. They are building into a strategic plan in a short time frame, finishing by end of 2022.  He found separate groups during the campus visits, so team building is important. 

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here:

April 13: Monona Terrace: Building On A Dream

–submitted by Rich Leffler

From left: Club President Teresa Holmes, Connie Thompson and Ken Opin

Ken Opin, who was a leader in the effort to pass a referendum authorizing the construction of the Monona Terrace, and Connie Thompson, Executive Director of the Monona Terrace, spoke to us about history and reality. The original Frank Lloyd Wright plan was for a “Civic Center” of grand aspiration. For many years this plan languished and failed in two referendums. After the referendum calling for a less ambitious convention center passed 1992, newly elected mayor Paul Soglin, with the assistance of George Austin, and Roberta Gassman, began the planning and building of the Monona Terrace. Also involved were Rotarians Don Helfrecht, the late Wayne McGown, Fred Mohs, and Mary Lang Sollinger. Construction began in November 1995 and was completed in July 1997. Since it opened 25 years ago, the Monona Terrace has hosted 16,661 events with an economic impact of $697 million. Along with the Overture Center, it has revitalized downtown Madison.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here:

March 30: All Things Rotary – Local Rotary Clubs’ International Projects

This week’s program featured 3 international projects.  Our club’s International Committee Chair Gary Tree started the program by providing background information on the committee.  Next up, Tammy Thayer, a member of our International Committee, described plans for our International Committee’s new signature project which is a prevention program to help tackle child trafficking in Uganda. The project partners include our club, Rotary Action Group Against Slavery (RAGAS), other international Rotary Clubs, and Hope for Justice (HFJ).   Kathy Roberg from Madison West Towne-Middleton Rotary Club shared information about their club’s project in Haiti and several others that their club supports.  Kevin Frost from Madison Breakfast Rotary shared details about their club sponsored project in Guatemala.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: