hopper family playing


The Hopper is a tandem for-profit and nonprofit organization dedicated to pioneering new methods for science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) explorations that promote self discovery, real world innovation, and multi-generational group learning.

Our non-profit, called “The Hopper C3” connects families of all backgrounds through curiosity, discovery, and play. 

Mission: To make STEAM discovery accessible to everyone. 

Vision: To empower the next generation of problem solvers & impact makers. 

girl doing chemistry experiment

Why The Hopper C3?

We want The Hopper experience to be accessible for all families. We want families to rethink STEAM learning not as only a body of knowledge, but a way of understanding the world around us. In order to discover innovative solutions to the problems we face today – we need to broaden the pool of those that identify as “scientific thinkers.”

The Hopper C3 works in tandem with The Hopper Ltd., our for-profit. You can learn more about our tandem organization, and The Hopper’s future community space.


Our projects directly benefit all curious minds – regardless of age, background, or income – in Boulder County and the Denver Metro area. 

We connect young and old with real life scientists and world class innovators through engaging STEAM activities. We foster belonging through facilitated experiences that are based on personal, prolonged engagements to meet all learners and curious minds “where they’re at.” 

We produce programs, often in collaboration with communities, that don’t have easy access to resources or opportunities to connect with hands-on science learning and discovery outside the classroom.

Current Community Projects

Development of Integrated Play Structures (IPS)

The Hopper’s IPS will be Boulder County’s only free indoor play structure that  encourages interactive, open-ended play for people of all ages and abilities. Example installations include custom tunnels, climbable paths, and slides that connect throughout The Hopper’s physical space. Explore our artists-in-residence, coming soon. 

Through the generous support of a Colorado-based family foundation, our IPS project will be completed for The Hopper’s grand opening in late 2020. We are currently seeking additional funds to support the IPS.

Makers Without Borders - Makers Sin Fronteras

Together, The Hopper C3 and Centro Latino Americano para las Artes, Ciencia y Educación (CLACE) plan to launch “Makers Without Borders – Makers Sin Fronteras” at the Latin American Consulates in Denver, Colorado. 

This is the first project of its kind that aims to provide bilingual STEAM activities for US immigrant families in a culturally relevant way. A mobile “activity cart” will invite children and parents to play and learn together at The Consulate – an otherwise inactive, mostly bureaucratic environment.

Songs of The Synapses

Sounds of The Synapses is an immersive tech experience developed by multimedia experts, a neuroscientist, and Mickey Hart – drummer of the Grateful Dead. We intend to host this project as our first interactive installation, allowing families to experience and visualize the positive impacts of “their brain on music.”

This project showcases where novel discoveries in STEAM markets are headed and invites families to provide critical feedback on their “Songs of The Synapses” prototype experience that will help with product development and advances in neuroscience.

“Generation Hopper” Youth Ambassador Initiative

Our “Generation Hopper” – or “Gen H.” project – is modeled after global trends that incentivize participatory behavior in community-driven organizations from a young age (e.g. SySTEM 2020, a European-wide study into Science Learning Outside the Classroom). The project goal is to find students that are naturally curious, with a love for science, and making things – regardless of race, gender, or income.

“Gen H.” will therefore recruit a highly diverse group of 25 – 30 Middle and High School students that will join a dynamic network of young innovators to contribute to The Hopper’s development in profound ways.In turn, students will benefit from an active network for mentors who represent market leaders in STEAM. Students will be able to advance their personal interests in respective STEAM fields with the goal of acquiring skills to successfully participate in the STEAM economy.”


We are currently seeking additional funding in support of: 

  • Multilingual programming and staffing 
  • Tools for our workshop
  • Volunteer program launch 
  • C3 team staffing 

Are you interested in getting involved or supporting any of these projects? Email our Executive Director, Vanessa. 

Our Hopper C3 Partner Network

The Hopper is a convener at heart. We invite and unite esteemed leaders in science, education, tech, community development and the arts to become an active participant in our Hopper community:


Google Expeditions – Virtual Learning

Experiences Developed by Students for Students

The Hopper C3 partnered with St. Vrain School District’s Innovation Center (SVVSD) and the Sibinacocha Watershed Project team to launch this innovative educational project. Under the guidance of educational professionals and scientists, local students were recruited to develop content and curriculum for Google Expeditions – a free, virtual educational product that is accessed by millions of  students and educators around the world.

This project is one of Google Expedition’s few scientific, bilingual (English/Spanish) immersive learning experiences. Explore a brief demo of the final product.




















Martha Lanaghen


Dr. Mikki McComb-Kobza


Fernando Pineda-Reyes


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Executive Director

Vanessa has 15+ years of national and international experience in Fortune 500 companies, higher education, and government. Her career spans the private and public sector with award-winning projects in strategic planning and community outreach. Vanessa grew up in Munich, Germany. She discovered her passion for implementing positive change while taking down the Berlin Wall with a sledgehammer as a young child. Since then, Vanessa has lived and worked in different countries around the globe, including a brief stint of boat life in the Southern Pacific. Boulder has been her home base since 2004. Vanessa was one of the first team members to join The Hopper in 2016. As Co-Founder, she has built an active network of Hopper partners and supporters, including The Hopper’s Mind Trust – an advisory ecosystem featuring renowned tech leaders, innovative educators, creative misfits and intercultural advocates. As The Hopper’s non-profit Executive Director, Vanessa is committed to secure resources for local youth and their families that ensure The Hopper experience is accessible for everyone. When not busy climbing mountains with her Trail Ladies collective and her Alaskan Malamute, Scone, Vanessa enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling to remote destinations that are hard to pronounce, playing her cello, and teaching at CU Boulder’s College of Media, Communication and Information. Vanessa is curious about stories of belonging and how people experience the concept of home on this hyper-connected, rapidly changing planet and her favorite discovery is meteorite research that reveals unsolved mysteries about our solar system and the origins of molecules necessary for life.



Prior to starting a family, Jen spent 15 years in the private sector as an environmental consultant. She managed million dollar contracts, oversaw development of large-scale environmental analyses, and led extensive public outreach efforts. Jen’s work focused on bridging the gap between the needs of the communities surrounded by public lands, visitors to those lands, and scientists and land managers responsible for managing and preserving the resources contained in those lands. After Jen’s family met The Hopper at Girls in Science Day at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in 2017, Jen was curious to learn more about the team and their vision for pioneering new methods and resources for science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) learning. She started off her Hopper journey as a volunteer focused on community outreach and is now on staff tasked with managing special projects. Jen is curious about how – particularly as parents – we tackle our addiction to technology and encourage the next generation to live science and discovery, not just learn it. In her free time, Jen loves to mountain bike, experiment in the garden, and sit on her back porch while catching up with friends and family including her husband, two kiddos (ages 8, and 5), and dog, Starla. Jen’s favorite recent science discovery is the link between the human brain and the gut, and how gut health can impact physical and mental conditions in a human. Simply fascinating!!

Sumanth Headshot


Sumanth loves collaborating on globally impactful innovations that deliver market-based returns. He is currently involved with three primary efforts: positively impacting healthcare as the consulting Chief Architect at The Center, enabling cities to thrive (e.g., he is a co-founder of the CO Smart Cities Alliance), and investing in growth stage companies as a venture partner at 3 Lines Venture Fund in areas such as  health, urban innovations, learning, agriculture, robotics etc. In addition, as a Founding Director of The CORE he advises select leaders with strategy and business models to grow high-impact businesses, collaborations, and investments. His mentorship, board and advisory affiliations include Blackstone Entrepreneurs NetworkTechstarsRockies Venture Club,The HopperOpen Labs10.10.10, etc.

Impressed by The Hopper’s intended impact, Sumanth was one of our first strategic advisors and board members. He loves pondering questions like “why is there something instead of nothing, and what are our dogs thinking?” Sumanth’s curiosity is startled by nature, people, new ideas and he loves to travel, meet new people, kickoff efforts and to ask questions. Sumanth’s favorite discoveries are the Theory of Relativity by Einstein and algorithms by Ada Lovelace – both of which showcased our limitations and our potential at the same time!


Dr. Jonas is an experienced entrepreneur who founded CoPeace in 2018 after percolating the concept of “interdependent flux” at Carleton College a long time ago. He was named a finalist in the Denver Business Journal’s Who’s Who in Impact investing in the Fall of 2018 and currently serves on the Advisory Board for the Colorado College Innovation Center and the International University Sports Federation (FISU) Communication and Media Committee (based in Lausanne, Switzerland). Previously, Dr. Jonas served as international sports media executive – head of US delegation and part of broadcast innovations like the virtual yellow line in American football. Academically, he served as an Academic Chair of a Bachelor of Business Administration Program and a featured lecturer, speaker, instructor on diverse topics like Conflict Management, Marketing, International Management, Leadership, Global/Interdependent Studies, and Peace Studies. He was a college basketball “Coach of the Year” and was chosen to represent the United States at the International Olympic Academy in Greece (where he won the poetry contest). In 1993, he was the first American basketball coach to give clinics in South African townships post-Apartheid. 

Dr. Jonas met Vanessa, Executive Director of The Hopper non-Profit, at the 2018 Colorado Impact Days and was intrigued by her secret handshakes and The Hopper’s innovative network and inclusive creativity. He is curious about how to engage our young people for a better, interconnected future. In his free time, Dr. Jonas likes to read, take the dog for long walks, and he would love to play more golf (and, if his knees could be magically fixed, he would like to play basketball again). His favorite discovery, while growing up in India, is learning that we do not need material things to be happy, and that everyone is the same.

Martha Lanaghen

Martha wears lots of hats. Her professional experiences span executive leadership in Fortune 500 Companies, non-profit management and over 10 years successfully creating and operating a global education consultancy. Martha Executive Director of MakerBolder.com, a Boulder-based non-profit that produces interactive science content and events, including STEAM Fest which attracts over 4,500 people to the Rocky Mountain region every year. She has empowered youth and adults around the globe to pursue higher education, authored eight text books focused on preparing young adults for success in the workplace, and is the founder of The Sparrow Group, a successful international consulting agency. 

Martha has supported The Hopper’s development since its inception in a board member, partner, and game tester capacity. She is excited to help generate and spread the Hopper excitement throughout the Front Range and beyond. Martha is curious about the brain, and trees (and tree brains). She lives in Boulder with her family a labradoodle and some koi. A favorite science discovery she’s watching includes the ongoing CRISPR research. CRISPR is a new genome editing tool that is already changing the way we think about genetics and disease.

Dr. Mikki McComb-Kobza

Mikki is the Executive Director of Ocean First Institute, a local nonprofit dedicated to ocean conservation through research and education. She is a seasoned marine biologist by trade and her research focus is on shark sensory biology and their conservation. Mikki’s ocean conservation programs have reached over 110,000 students in 35 countries. She is one of the top shark experts in the world. Mikki speaks, teaches and conducts research internationally including destinations in South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. Her outreach efforts have been covered by the BBC, National Geographic, Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, and CBC National Radio Canada.

Mikki met The Hopper staff a few years ago and got involved in some of the early ideating about what the Hopper could mean to the community. She is excited to contribute with fun programming ideas that can translate into reality for visitors of the future Hopper space! In her free time, Mikki enjoys pondering her fascination with the ocean and its mysterious inhabitants. She is also consumed by space and time and black holes and the origins of the universe! And she loves photography, hikes, spending time in rivers. Mikkis favorite discovery right now is Tiktaalik, a fish species closely related to four-legged animals on land.