Phyllis in Silicon Valley

Phyllis arrived on a sunny afternoon on March 23rd and she was a little pooped. The little groundhog has been busy traveling all over the world: Mojave desert, San Antonio, Missouri, Philadelphia, Texas, France, and many other places. Click here to see her World Tour.

We were all very excited that she could visit us here in Silicon Valley (San Jose, CA). First order of business was to get rested up before her big day tomorrow. Here she is enjoying some shut-eye with a few friends.

Rise and Shine. Phyllis is a weather hog and fairly good at predicting the weather. She is way better than our silly weather clock. Phyllis knew the temp was only 47 degrees even though the clock said 66 degrees at 9am in the morning.

Location: San Jose, CA (elevation – 85 feet)
Date: March 24, 2012
Temp: Hi-53  Low-45
Conditions: Cloudy with some light showers

Phyllis knew that human meteorologists need to use computers to model weather patterns and make forecasts; they don’t have her special weather predicting abilities. Since we were in Silicon Vally, we visited the Intel Museum and learned a little about micro-processors and semiconductor chips in general.


Phyllis wanted to know why the San Jose and surrounding areas are known as Silicon Valley. This area is home to a large numbers of semiconductor companies. Semiconductors chips exist in every electronic gadget TVs, cellphones, cars, computers, and many more. Intel is famous for developing some of the first mainstream micro-processors, which became the brains of the IBM personal computers (PCs) back in the early 1980’s.

Phyllis wanted to know how the chips were made. She was astounded to learn that plain ordinary sand is used to obtain silicon. A purification process is used to obtain silicon that is 99.999999 percent pure.  This pure silicon is used to grow a solid ingot as seen in the picture on the left. Then it is sliced and polished to a mirror as seen in the picture on the right.

After that the layers of other material are deposited onto the wafer. In the picture below, each layer is shown with a different color. These layers are building the circuits that make-up the micro-processor. Phyllis’s head began spinning after learning all of this. So we decided to dress-up in bunny suits and have some fun. Semiconductor workers have to be covered from head to toe, since even a spec of dust can ruin a semiconductor chip. Rooms were wafers are processed are called “clean rooms”.

Phyllis wanted to wear a bunny suit too.

Everything here is measured in nanometers, the metric used in chip design. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. Phyllis was happy to know she was quite large by Silicon Valley standards, almost 500 million nanometers tall!

Phyllis had a very enjoyable time learning, but she doesn’t think she wants to be an engineer; weather forecasting is her first love.

In honor of Phyllis, we headed over later to the neighbors with kids in tow for story time and crafts. The kids enjoyed Phyllis’s company immensely. The loved the April’s Fool’s jokes and the riddles. Anjali, my eldest, has been pulling April Fool’s jokes since the reading, she can’t wait for April 1st to arrive. Following the reading the kids made some colorful portraits of Phyllis using this downloadable activity.

We enjoyed Phyllis’s visit very much and hope she had a good time too. We wished she could have stayed longer, but alas she still has many more places to visit. So we said goodbye and directed her to Clovis, CA.

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34 Comments to “Phyllis in Silicon Valley”

  1. This was great, and I learned so much! Phyllis looked wonderful in her bunny suit!

    This tour is so incredible, such a learning experience. Thanks, Darshana!

  2. Phyllis is learning a lot on this trip, what a fabulous experience!

  3. I like your cool (lol) weather clock! Glad to hear the pranks have started at your house too!

  4. I love the coloring done by the neighbor kids…so cute! Phyllis is learning so much on her tour….nanometers…wow! By the way…loved the bunny suit :•)

  5. Oh my goodness! I can see why Phyllis’s head was spinning :) But I learned a lot about silicon and micro-chips. What a very interesting and educational visit she had with you. I love the bunny suits :) And the kids did a fabulous job dressing up Phyllis – she looks VERY festive! Thank you so much for having her to visit. I can tell she had a terrific time!

  6. Darshana – Thanks for sharing your day with Phyllis. The Intel Museum looked like a lot of fun! I loved the photos especially the nanometer and the bunny suits!

  7. What a very educational field trip for Phyllis! It was nice learning about your world, Darshana!

  8. My head is spinning along with Phyllis! What a fantastic tour of Intel and the education on micro chips. Phyllis really got the royal tour as only engineers and scientists are allowed to wear the bunny (clean room?) suits, Darshana, what a great idea. Loved it!

    • Phyllis got a crash course in semiconductor technology, but she was a great sport! She also got to spell her name in binary (1’s and 0’s), the language of computers. Unfortunately we had a hard time getting a pic of that.

  9. wow, this was very interesting. We certainly are getting an education following Phyllis around. Went out today to check on a couple of places to take Phyllis to when she eventually turns up here…. can’t wait…lol.

  10. Oh my, I did a whole lotta learning along with Phyllis -fascinating stuff! This is going to be one of the most educated groundhogs out there. Personally I think Phyllis is likely to be asked to to a TED talk next year! Great visit, Dar!

  11. Fascinating! I never knew how those chips were made and what a great museum to have nearby. It has been such fun to see what everyone has been doing with Phyllis and it sounds like she had a wonderful time at your home.

  12. This was great! I bet Phyllis learned all sorts of things about computers and technology! That’s cool Phyllis got to try on a bunny suit :) AWESOME :)

    • yes she learned how semiconductor chips were made, how to spell her name in binary (1’s and 0’s), and many other high-tech concepts. it was a bit overwhelming at time, but she stuck it out the trooper that she is. her favorite was the bunny suit.

  13. I think Phyllis is wearing the bunny suit is hilarious! I learned something about microprocessors by reading your post. Thanks for sharing your adventures with Phyllis!

  14. Great post and I laughed at Phyllis in the bunny suit too! I am from Silicon Valley so it was great to see abit about home in your post. (I’ve lived in the UK for over 10 years now.)

  15. Darshana – I wish I had a chance to come and visit. My youngest four kids have never been to the US, and I would love to bring them to California to see the sights and the places I grew up. I also want them to be able to meet their aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins in person someday. Right now, even though they have been asking me to take them there, we can’t afford the trip. I have told my kids to keep their fingers crossed that my books get picked up by a publisher so I can save up some of the royalties to take them to visit home. (My 9 year old told me not to worry; if I don’t get published, she’s sure SHE will be published soon and then she’ll take us all to America! lol!)

  16. Great tour, Darshana! I think I only understood 10% of it, but I thoroughly enjoyed the geek aspect. Well done! :)

  17. It’s ironic that Phyllis arrived on march 23rd and was pooped. I know another little one that arrived on march 23rd and has lots of trouble pooping. J/k!

    Another great post, darsh! Phyllis is lucky to be getting such awesome press on this tour! Love all the photos!

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