Final Day

Everyone together one last time!

Everyone together one last time!

Today marks the final day of the 2019 Richi Innovation Camp. The past three weeks have been full of innovation, creativity, and learning—but they have also brimmed with friendships, exploration, and self-development.

This morning, the Innovators gathered one last time at Suffolk University both to commemorate and to take photographs. Then, throughout the morning and the afternoon, they joined RIC team, in filmed interviews. They spoke about their experiences at the camp—what they enjoyed, how they changed; what they wish that they could have changed in retrospect.

This afternoon, the Innovators gathered at the Suffolk University Law School to present their final Challenge Pitches to three professional panelists. The panelists included Rachel So, a neuropsychology fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital; Chuck Goldstone, a communications expert with an astounding resume; and Ricardo Garcia, president and founder of the Richi Childhood Cancer Foundation.

This year’s Challenge was to create a STEAM activity to help alleviate long-term learning difficulties in childhood brain tumor survivors. The Innovators were judged based on their comprehension of the task, creativity, strength of idea, and presentation.

Team 7 went first. They created a board game called Ike Island, in which children travel through a board game, stopping to play mini-games like Uno, eventually exploding a homemade volcano.

They were followed by Team 4, who created a plan called Richi Cooking. Richi, the inspiration behind the Cancer Foundation and Ricardo’s son, loves to cook. The Innovators made a series of videos detailing how to create a pizza, teaching children about polygons and concepts like fermentation along the way.

Then came Team 8, Richi Airlines. They devised a series of detailed instructions on how to create a paper airplane, a simple activity made both more and less complicated in order to better serve children with learning difficulties.

One of the Innovators teams presenting their Challenge Project

One of the Innovators teams presenting their Challenge Project

The Jury Panel during Q&A

The Jury Panel during Q&A

Team 6 had a game built around the water cycle, one of the most relevant scientific topics for young children. They created videos explaining the water cycle as well as an extensive puzzle, so that the children would have some basis before attempting to put the pieces together. 

After Team 6 was Team 5, Astrometry. In three short weeks, the members of Team 5 coded and designed a video game complete with a story, graphics, and animations. The video game deals with an astronaut attempting to find his way back to Earth, traveling through the solar system, pausing to deal with mini games that involve math. 

After a short break came Team 3, who came up with a plan involving circuitry. Electricity can be conducted by connecting potatoes or lemons together, and the members of Team 3 learned not only how to control this electricity, or even how to modify it for challenged children, but also how to give the children space to fail and experiment on their own.

Team 2 followed with a plan involving the digestive system. Their idea revolved around an apple—they created extensive, three-dimensional diagrams and games to help children better understand how food travels through and breaks down in the body. 

Finally came Team 1 with a catapult. Inspired by common images in the Lord of the Rings franchise, the members of Team 1 designed a catapult out of paper and tape, and then modified this design to suit children with learning difficulties. The children not only gained a learning activity, but a new toy as well.

After the Innovators’ presentations, the jury broke off for good conversation and company at the end-of-program party. There, facilitators joined the students once more, discussing with them their progress, struggles, and triumphs.

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The jury eventually called the members of the party back into the presentation room. There, every Innovator was given an individual certificate of completion. Thanks were given once more to the jurors and the staff of the Richi Camp.

This year, the three groups judged to have the best project were selected for the prize: a free one-year subscription to National Geographic and a one-year mentorship program in their home countries. This mentor would help them with their individual interests and professional pursuits. 

Astrometry, Richi Airlines, and Richi Cooking were the winning designs this year. The jury deliberated for quite some time, but ultimately had to settle. Congratulations to the winners!

Last Picture: Innovators, Educators, Facilitators, Jury Panel, RIC team and last but not least, Richi’s Family

Last Picture: Innovators, Educators, Facilitators, Jury Panel, RIC team and last but not least, Richi’s Family

This year’s Innovation Camp was the largest edition yet, though the program continues to grow. As previously stated, it’s not only about professional growth—it’s also about maturation and building lifelong relationships in a country far from home. 

Like what you’ve seen here? Stay tuned for future editions of the Richi Innovation Camp (including our upcoming winter edition) this year!

Emerson Monks

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Dress Rehearsal

The Innovators tune into a diplomacy lecture

The Innovators tune into a diplomacy lecture

The Innovators began their second-to-last day with a lecture on scientific diplomacy. The lecture was led by professional diplomats—members of the Science and Technology Diplomatic Circle of Boston. The Diplomatic Circle is an association of members from over 65 countries, most of whom are consular heads, counselors, or officers dealing with Science and Technology, as well as Education and Innovation.

The Diplomatic Circle facilitates science and technology activities, as well as seminars and visits from leaders from governmental, academic, and private sectors in Massachusetts

This morning, they gave the Innovators an overview of diplomacy in a broad sense, as well as diplomacy specifically within the scientific fields. Boston is a haven for scientific innovations, hosting some of the world’s best universities, startup companies, and foundations. The representatives from the Diplomatic Circle explained how diplomacy regulates this ecosystem

Then, after the lecture, the Innovators hopped on the subway to the MIT. There, they had the opportunity to engage in a career panel with current grad and PhD students at MIT, postdoc and industry researchers, splitting up into small groups, enabling them to ask questions specific to themselves and their professional ambitions. 

One of the students, Maria, was awarded the Rome Prize in Architecture from the Spanish Academy in Rome. She is currently a Master of Science in Architecture Studies student at MIT, and has worked with the Southern California Institute of Architecture, the firms of Grimshaw Architects and Dominique Perrault Architecture, and lectured at institutions including Korea University, the University of Plymouth, and the Architectural Association Visiting School in Madrid. 

Another student, Juncal, is a third-year PhD candidate in Applied Mathematics in MIT. She also holds a Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering. Her PhD studies have been funded by companies and foundations including Akamai Technologies and Google, among others. She is also a mentor for several undergraduates and advocates for gender equality in STEAM fields. Additionally, she is the president of Spain@MIT, the association of Spanish students at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology. 

The Innovators gain some invaluable advice

The Innovators gain some invaluable advice

Another, Hugo, did his undergraduate studies in Physics at Princeton University and completed his PhD in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program in David Pellman’s group at Harvard University (Dana Farber Cancer Institute), where he was a Howard Hughes International Fellow (HHMI). Now, he is part of the microbiome group within the Chemical Biology and Therapeutics division at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research. He is a codirector of Clubes de Ciencia Mexico and sits on the board of Clubes de Ciencia International, organizations dedicated to scientific mentorship, education, and research in their communities. 

Yet another, Miguel, is a Postdoctoral Associate with Robert Langer and Iovanni Traverso, currently working with synthetic chemistry and biology to create and improve microbial therapies. He was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at Columbia University and is a member of the Academy of Bioastronautics. 

No matter the Innovators’ interests, they had the opportunity to talk to someone that carried some relevance to their desired career field and path. 

Then, after lunch, the Innovators gathered for a Challenge rehearsal session, where they received individualized feedback on their proposals. After dinner, they took this feedback and applied it to their presentations. 

Tomorrow, they will officially present in front of the panel. Keep reading for the final details!

Emerson Monks



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Computer Vision and Climate Change

The Innovators explore the creations at Autodesk!

The Innovators explore the creations at Autodesk!

The Innovators once again assembled into groups this morning. Last week, half of the Innovators got the chance to tour the facilities of Autodesk BuildSpace, a collaborative design production space in Boston. The other half remained behind at Suffolk for a session on building a LinkedIn profile, or a professional networking platform. This morning, those groups switched place, ensuring that everyone engaged individually in every activity. 

Then, after lunch, the Innovators gathered for a session on climate change. Global warming is an active threat to the world at large, and the Innovators took the opportunity not only to educate themselves on the issue, but also to negotiate with one another.

The Innovators did so through role-playing. They separated into groups to represent one of six regions: the United States, the European Union, China, India, other developed nations, and other developing nations. Some represented other groups specifically—for example, a few students acted as fossil fuel lobbyist, while others acted as activists or journalists. 

The Innovators learned how to view the world through a region-specific lens. China and the United States lead the world in CO2 emissions. When looking at climate justice, however, China does not lead the world in the average ability to contribute to global remediation—but the United States, with an average GDP per capita of 50,000, does. Furthermore, the emissions per person as of 2013 in tons of CO2 number 17 in the United States, whereas those emissions are only 7.4 in the European Union and China, and 1.9 in India. 

The Innovators at the end of the Climate Change session with Curt Newton

The Innovators at the end of the Climate Change session with Curt Newton

The Innovators’ primary goal was to mimic a climate summit intended to reduce emissions so that the overall temperature would only rise about two degrees Celsius by the year 2100. The Innovators attempted to balance a variety of concerns, including budgetary constraints, deforestation, and afforestation. 

Climate change is an issue of great importance in the contemporary world, but the it is not only the issue itself that is important. It is the discord throughout the globe as to who should solve the problem and who is responsible for the problem when in actuality, irregardless of subjectivity and the past, everyone must live in the world and seek to right it.

The Innovators get an in-depth overview of machine learning

The Innovators get an in-depth overview of machine learning

The Innovators finishing the day during the Yoga practise

The Innovators finishing the day during the Yoga practise

Then, the Innovators engaged in a session on how computers learn. Machines are adapting every day—they can classify scenes and recognize images with alarming specificity. The new iPhone, for example, comes equipped with face recognition software instead of a traditional passcode or even fingerprint.

The Innovators learned about how computer learning has the potential to positively impact their lives. More than that, they learned how research on computer learning is done, and how it can be implemented in cutting-edge, state-of-the-art systems.

The Innovators gained a deeper understanding of concepts like computer vision, deeper learning algorithms, and the theories behind smart grocery stores like the ones Amazon is championing. 

After dinner, the Innovators engaged in a yoga practice. Yoga is not only an excellent form of exercise; it is also extraordinarily helpful when managing stress and improving mindfulness. The Innovators received a crash-course in yoga, taking a moment from exercising their minds to pay attention to the needs of their bodies. After all, as any yogi will tell you: it’s all about balance. 

Emerson Monks

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Presenting the Pitches

The Innovators began today with a visit to Boston University. There, they toured the BUild Lab, a collaborative student space dedicated to creative innovation. In the BUild Lab, the Innovators not only gained a sense of the atmosphere at Boston University, but also learned more about the importance of a space dedicated to communication and collaboration, allowing for cooperative, groundbreaking projects.

The Innovators tested this collaboration, in fact, by interacting one-on-one with current students at Boston University that have started their own company. To successfully create something with cutting-edge ingenuity, you must be willing to engage in productive conversation with others.

The Innovators interact at the BUild Lab

The Innovators interact at the BUild Lab

Then, they headed to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where they engaged in a session on visual thinking strategies (VTS). The museum was created by a wealthy benefactress in the early twentieth century who, upon being inspired by her vibrant travels and love for art, dedicated her life to creating an intellectual, artistic haven for all members of society to enjoy.

Some VTS facilitation elements include silent looking, asking three main questions, paraphrasing, pointing, staying neutral, linking comments, and avoiding summary, ending by thanking the group. These questions include:

  1. What’s going on?

  2. What is happening that makes me think that?

  3. What more can we find?

Visual thinking strategies can help to analyze artistic works. When approaching a complex, abstract painting, it helps to dissect the work from a detached, clinical purview; to break it down in all of its separate components and identify its setting, subjects, objects, and mood. The students tried out these methods with famous paintings, including one by Salvador Dalí—his famous Persistence of Memory.

After practicing visual thinking strategies in the classroom, the students headed to the galleries. There, they facilitated visual thinking discussions with real relics from the collection at the Gardner Museum—paintings, tapestries, and even the ethereal indoor garden intended to evoke thoughts of Venice.

The breathtaking Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The breathtaking Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

After the museum, the Innovators took the train back to Suffolk, where they engaged in sessions intended to improve their presentations—helpful seminars intended to prepare them for the upcoming Challenge on Thursday.

First came a session with Flavia Ibanez on designing a presentation. Successful, engaging presentations minimize content actively onscreen, highlighting main points with visuals rather than overwhelming them.

Content should be simplified not only in the presentation, but also as an overall concept. Moreover, the content should not appear onscreen—rather, its focal points should be exemplified, provided in helpful, simplistic bullet points. When in doubt, Flavia advises, always refer to the cardinal rule of presentations: less is more.

The Innovators practiced their Challenge presentations in front of the group as Flavia offered personal, one-on-one constructive criticism to help them better their pitches and raise their chances for eventual success. 

Then came a lecture from Chuck Goldstone on creating an effective pitch. The Innovators once again gave practice presentations, with Chuck interjecting to offer suggestions, teaching a lesson not only to the individual groups, but also to the class at large. 

The interactive sessions are where the students have a chance to experiment and truly learn. A good pitch is concise and engaging—in addition to giving tips on how to improve their presentations, Chuck advised the Innovators on how best to conduct themselves. They learned to stay animated but minimize their unnecessary movements. 

The Innovators finished the day collaborating on the Challenge, taking Chuck and Flavia’s recommendations to heart. Only three days left!

Emerson Monks

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Engineering, Education, and Entrepreneurship

The Innovators spent today in two different groups, switching activities after the other had finished to ensure that they had better access to the interactive sessions throughout the day.

In the morning, one group stayed at Suffolk for a session on applying to a competitive university in the United States. Applying to an Ivy League university—or a college in the elite tier—can be incredibly intensive, difficult, and, at times, confusing. The group got an overview of the tests, essays, and extra-curricular activities needed to apply, as well as particulars of the process like interviews and diverse recommendation letters, focusing primarily on the meaning and implications of the holistic process. 

The innovators trying to discover a DNA sequence

The innovators trying to discover a DNA sequence

Another group traveled to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. There, they learned about bioinformatics, or a combination of biology, information engineering, computer science, mathematics, and statistics. Bioinformatics is used to satisfy biological concerns with statistical and mathematical techniques. The Innovators learned more about the Chan School’s specific Bioinformatics Core and experienced tasks done by the computers related to DNA sequencing.

They also attained a better understanding of how big data is not only changing research, but also improving it. By using new statistical technologies, contemporary researchers can more effectively compile and analyze data.

After lunch, the Innovators headed to the MIT Museum for an interactive seminar on ship engineering. The Innovators learned about the design construction process as they built and tested their own model boats. They learned about the history of Nathanael Herreschoff and his award-winning shipbuilding company, and why his methods—such as the half-hull construction—were ultimately so effective.

Additionally, they made use of laser-cutting and computer design technologies, taking old methodologies and applying them to the advances of modern-day technology. 

The Innovators shape their boat with laser cutters at MIT Museum

The Innovators shape their boat with laser cutters at MIT Museum

The Innovators engage with Ricardo during his entrepreneurship session

The Innovators engage with Ricardo during his entrepreneurship session

Then, the Innovators headed to CIC, a collaborative center that houses startups and community businesses, and met with Ricardo Garcia, the CEO of the Richi Foundation, for a session on entrepreneurship. Ricardo outlined the different steps necessary to form a company or a startup. 

Ricardo taught the Innovators about skills like productive fundraising, professional negotiating, and the concept of execution rather than merely imaginative creation. He taught them that venture capital is key—it’s not just about making a prototype, but rather about managing a product on the market. In entrepreneurship, a marriage of pragmatism and ingenuity is key.


Finally, after dinner, the Innovators collaborate on their Challenge. Just one week left!

Emerson Monks

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