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RIC 2019

Nature in the City

This weekend, the Innovators had some free time to cut back, relax, and explore. On Saturday morning, some of the Innovators went on a guided tour of the world-famous Fenway Park, home to the Red Sox, or Boston’s baseball team. Some Innovators took the opportunity to buy tickets for a Sunday night game!

The Innovators at Fenway Park!

The Innovators at Fenway Park!

Then, in the afternoon, the Innovators took to the seas for a whale-watching expedition. The waters off of the coast of Massachusetts are rich with sea creatures, including humpback, minke, right, pilot, and finback species. In addition to whales, several species of tuna are found in that stretch of the Atlantic, as well as sea bass, and the Innovators caught a glimpse of many lobster pots. (Or, as pronounced like a Massachusetts native: “lobstah.”)

A humpback whale breaching… a rare and beautiful sighting!

A humpback whale breaching… a rare and beautiful sighting!

The Innovators were fortunate enough to see several humpback whales—including one that breached, or jumped, a rare behavior glimpsed on about 10% of whale-watching forays—two minke whales, and a finback whale. Finbacks are the second-largest animal on earth, ranging from about forty to seventy feet in length, only beat by the blue whale. They also caught an incredible view of the Boston skyline as they came in and out of the harbor.

In the evening, some of the Innovators explored the area around the New England Aquarium, one of the best aquariums in the world. On Sunday, many took the chance to simply travel around the city and all of its diverse neighborhoods. 

Emerson Monks

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A Practical Melting Pot

The Innovators spent today at the classrooms in Suffolk. Their day was jam-packed with learning and informative, engaging seminars. 

First came a session with Borja Peropadre, the Director of Technical and Strategic Alliances at Zapata Computing. Zapata is a quantum computing startup created in Harvard University in 2017. The startup is dedicated to developing quantum computing algorithms and software to alleviate looming problems in the computational industry.

The Innovators pose with Borja after his lecture

The Innovators pose with Borja after his lecture

Quantum computing is rooted in mathematics and physics. The computers are incredibly powerful—they can solve issues like complex factoring, improve machine learning optimization, and improve encryption techniques. There are two leading prototypes for quantum computers—trapped ions and superconducting circuits. The Innovators learned the pros and cons of each as well as the overall importance of the computers in today’s modern, ever-evolving world.

Then, the Innovators collaborated for some time on the the Challenge, oiling and fine-tuning their ninety-second pitch to prepare themselves for another session in the evening.

After lunch, the Innovators enjoyed a session from Chuck Goldstone, a master of storytelling. He taught the Innovators how to get others to listen, like you, and do what you want. 

It’s all about a personal story. The key to making a presentation excellent is making a presentation memorable—when telling a story, the key is to make it about the audience instead of the storyteller themselves. Find out what is in the audience—or stakeholder’s—interest, and how to best serve them.

To be successful, you need a good idea and a great way to communicate and ensnare your audience. No matter the actual subject of the company, there must be a successful communications department.

Presentations should not merely be a dry PowerPoint lecture with bullet points. The concept of visual learning and support is one of the most important things to attend to in today’s society. Every presentation must begin by capturing attention and engaging audience members. Keep the technical information to a minimum at first—like a newspaper article, start broad and then taper to narrow details. Make your presentation clear and memorable and drive action. Emphasize a narrative and emotional link. 

The Innovators learned some key tips to improve their presentations for the Challenge—tips like minimizing the amount per slide, making effective use of feedback, and doing away with pesky, distracting transitions and animations. Keep reading for more updates on those presentations!

The Innovators listening to Chuck’s talk on presentation skills

The Innovators listening to Chuck’s talk on presentation skills

Improv practice!

Improv practice!

After a short break, the Innovators reconvened for a session with Cheryl Lekousi, a hospital clown. Cheryl works with Hearts and Noses, a troupe of clowns that go around to hospitals to cheer up young, sick children. Her clown is named Tic Toc. 

Cheryl taught the Innovators about improvisation, or acting without preparation. The Innovators did a series of exercises, including passing around an imaginary ball. She also told them about some of her interactions in the hospital. Cheryl and her other clowns have been remembered by children for years; have been loved and made an important component of a life spent in a hospital. 

The Innovators finished off the day working on their Challenge again. More news on that front soon!

Emerson Monks

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Enhancing Leadership

After a relaxing weekend, the Innovators spent their Monday diving headfirst into the innovative world of entrepreneurship. 

The first half of their day was dedicated to a leadership workshop. Engagement Managers from a top consulting firm led the Innovators in a seminar on enhancing professional cooperation skills. 

The Innovators pose with the excellent instructors from the consulting company

The Innovators pose with the excellent instructors from the consulting company

The Innovators have been placed into groups of 3 for this year’s Challenge, which is to devise solutions for long-term complications caused by childhood brain tumors in cancer survivors. Working together in groups can be challenging. Everyone has a different style of working: some people like to complete things last-minute, while others prefer to do things ahead of time; some people act on intuition, while others make decisions purely on data.

The leadership workshop aimed not only to improve collaboration tools, but also to illuminate a deeper sense of self-awareness. First, the Engagement Managers gave a presentation on the Myers-Briggs Personality Types, or a series of sixteen personalities. With the help of interactive questions and hypothetical situations, the Innovators classified themselves as either extroverted or introverted, sensitive or intuitive, thinking or feeling; judging or perceiving. 

Then, once the Innovators learned more about themselves, they began to apply this newfound knowledge to professional scenarios. They assembled into their Challenge groups and worked on creative methods to think of solutions to a problem. First, they brainstormed ideas, implementing new tools such as idea trees. Next, they prioritized those ideas, selecting the most important and placing those on the top of their to-do lists. After that, in groups, they processed these ideas, planning to put them into action.

Finally, the Innovators practiced navigating tough situations. Conflict frequently arises in professional groups. To combat this potential scenario in the future, the Innovators enhanced their conceptual understanding of empathy in order to better their problem-resolution skills.

Then, after lunch, Eleven, a design company, gave a workshop on designing a product or concept and presenting it to a potential client. Eleven focused on the importance of experience design, or the attraction of the experience of a product in addition to the product itself. For example, if you go to the Apple Store, you don’t only buy a product, or get a product fixed; you also engage in the experience. You test out the newest models of iPhones and Mac computers and play with new, ultramodern applications.

The Innovators all partnered up and devised a gift-giving scenario, concentrating on the experience of the gift rather than the gift itself. They advanced through steps: first, they sketched an idea. Then, they interviewed one another, asking about one another’s last gift-giving experiences, digging deeper when instructed. After gaining some sort of vague idea, they synthesized their findings, taking a point of view on the partner’s needs. 

Some of the feedback given after the interactive, engaging system with ELEVEN

Some of the feedback given after the interactive, engaging system with ELEVEN

Once they conceptualized the problem, they focused on the solution, sketching radical ways to solve the problem and then reflecting and generating new solutions. Finally, the Innovators created props out of posters, pipe cleaners, puff balls, and other craft supplies to act out their solution to the problem.

In the evening, the Innovators had their first STEAM session with Núria Pairó, learning about the fundamentals of STEAM theories with hands-on activities. The Innovators split into two groups and each observed an experiment silently. Then, they devised a procedure for the experiment using the materials and their best educated guesses. Tomorrow, the Innovators will switch groups and attempt to perform the experiment using the other group’s procedure!

Finally, after dinner, the Innovators collaborated on the Challenge in their groups. Keep tuned for more developments on their projects!

Emerson Monks

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Breaking the Ice

This year’s Innovators together with Richi and his family

This year’s Innovators together with Richi and his family

Today marks the first official day of camp—a day packed with introductions, icebreakers, exploration, and creative challenges big and small.

This year, there are 26 Innovators, 15 more than last year. They come from four countries—Spain, Mexico, Colombia, and Chile—and their ages range from 15 to 19.

The Innovators live in dormitories at Suffolk University, a research university centrally-located in downtown Boston. The students are a five-minute walk from Government Center and Park St (and its conveniently-placed T stop), a ten-minute walk from the famous Boston Common and Public Garden, and another thirteen-minute walk from the Paul Revere House, among other attractions and places of interest.

Ricardo explains the mission and concept behind the Richi Childhood Cancer Foundation

Ricardo explains the mission and concept behind the Richi Childhood Cancer Foundation

They began their day with a series of introductions. First, Ricardo Garcia—father of Richi, the survivor behind the Richi Childhood Cancer Foundation—speaks for himself and the foundation. “I am not the President,” Ricardo says. “That’s Richi.”

Ricardo emphasizes above all the importance of strategy. “Plan ahead,” he advises. “Try to make a strategy for everything in your life.” 

When Richi was diagnosed with brain cancer, chances of his survival were minimal. But Ricardo and his wife, having heard of an expensive procedure in Boston, fundraised the money that enabled Richi’s survival—about half a million dollars.

A company paid them $200 per ton of plastic bottle caps—with the help of their community, they filled 100 tons. Richi began to paint as a part of art therapy, and, at his recommendation, they sold his canvases, at first on the street, and later online.

Their experience led them to create the foundation. “Every kid deserves what Richi had,” Ricardo explains. “The opportunity to survive.” The foundation, created with a business model, sustains itself not only through charitable donations, but also through initiatives like the Richi Innovation Camp. Next, the introduction of Berta Marti, PhD, one of the camp organizers. A biomedical researcher, Berta has a bachelor’s of science in physics and a PhD in biomedicine from the University of Barcelona. She first became fascinated by the concept of applied physics to medicine when she worked on nuclear medicine imaging with epilepsy patients, and since then has worked in some capacity in the medical field. In 2014, she moved to Boston for a postdoctoral program at MIT and, following that, stayed for a second postdoctoral program at Harvard Medical School. 

She didn’t just introduce herself—she also introduced Boston. Favorite view: the MIT sailing pavilion. Favorite part of the city’s unique energy and composition: how she not only learns about international people in an international city, but also, through the global exchange in Boston, learns things about herself. 

After introductions and lunch, the Innovators walk to the famous Boston Public Garden for fresh air and a series of icebreakers. The students begin by ripping off a piece of toilet paper from a roll passed around a circle. For each square, they name a fun fact about themselves. Oriol, for example, has broken his arms, fingers, and various other extremities throughout his life. Miguel can play the piano. Sociable Ingrid loves to make friends. 

Next, all Innovators give up a single shoe, which is distributed to another person around the circle. They must find that person and find out their name and one interesting fact about them to share with the rest of the circle. Andreas likes to travel. Alex loves the song “Elbow Pain.”

Berta explains the rules of the icebreakers in the Public Garden

Berta explains the rules of the icebreakers in the Public Garden

Then the Innovators get together in groups of three. They are instructed to run through the park and complete miniature challenges—they must, among other things, find someone visiting Boston, someone who was born in Massachusetts, someone married, and someone who has been to Spain and Mexico. They must take photographs with ducks, under a bridge, and with a monument. 

After icebreakers, the students head back to the classroom. Rachel So, PhD, a neuropsychology fellow at the Center for Neurology, introduces the topic for this year’s Challenge—finding a solution for those suffering from the side effects of childhood brain tumors.

Rachel So, PhD, introducing the clinical need of the 2019 Challenge

Rachel So, PhD, introducing the clinical need of the 2019 Challenge

Tumors occur as a result of a growth of abnormal cells in the central nervous system. Little about brain tumors is actively understood in the nebulous, ever-changing field of cancer research—the majority of tumors are spontaneous, not hereditary, and children and adolescents are not miniature adults. The way their brains work is fundamentally different, and so are the consequences of tumors.

Brain tumor itself is a misnomer; the tumors themselves are very nearly too heterogenous to be lumped in with a homogenous name. The exact symptoms and effects of a tumor, Rachel explains, depend largely on its cell type and class, and even within those categories, impairments differ based on location. “We think of a tumor’s grade on a continuum, not a black-and-white dichotomy,” Rachel says. 

The effects of brain tumors can be long-lasting. Outcomes include the possibility for a lower educational achievement, more limited employment, lower income, a lower likelihood of autonomy, and a poorer health-related quality of life. Neurocognitively, things like IQ, working memory, attention, and processing speed may be slower or lower than progress recorded in non-affected adolescents and adults.

The problem is very real, and so is the challenge and its results. The Richi Foundation rests upon a philosophy of helping others whenever possible. It’s not about win-win, and it’s not about quid-pro-quo. It’s about doing what you can to impact the world in a positive way. In this case, that means the Innovators are doing what they can to lessen the impacts of brain tumors in survivors.

Emerson Monks

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