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RIC 2019

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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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Cutting-Edge Design

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Cutting-Edge Design

The Innovators began today with a visit to Artisan’s Asylum, a creative workspace located in Somerville.

The workplace is located in a sprawling, three-building complex subdivided into small “shops,” or designated project-specific areas. The Innovators toured the main building, exploring the jewelry shop, bike shop, and circuitry and robotics shop. They discovered the different machines throughout the workplace—3D printers, industrialized sewing machines, and laser cutters, to name a few.

In fact, they experienced an in-depth demonstration of the laser cutter during their interactive session. After the tour, the Innovators gathered in a workshop, divided into four groups of around five or six, and collaborated on a sculpting activity. Each group had to make three sculptures out of spare wooden parts: one that could roll or move in some way, one that was at least twenty-four inches tall and stood on its own, and one mobile-esque construction with three separate parts that fit into one another like a nesting doll. 

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The innovators building their sculptures

In-between building, each group took a trip to the laser cutter, where they received an explanation of the theory behind laser cutting as well as its practical purposes. Oftentimes, laser cutters are implemented to form important small parts that fit into larger, more ambitious projects. Its precision is also paramount in textile creation. 

Additionally, the Innovators wrote instructions for each of their sculptures and, after they had finished building their three creations, they switched groups and attempted to build others’ constructions with the written instructions. 

Then, after lunch at Suffolk, the Innovators gathered for a session on entrepreneurship with the founder and president of the Richi Childhood Cancer Foundation, Ricardo Garcia. 

Fundraising is a crucial strategy to building not only a nonprofit organization, but also a startup company or business. Ricardo learned how to fundraise the hard way when he was conflicted with the bills for the expensive procedure that ultimately saved his child’s life. 

He also prepared the Innovators for a fundraising activity on Sunday. To help with the stress associated with intensive cancer treatments, Richi, Ricardo’s son, found solace in art therapy. Now, he paints for fun, and sells his canvases to help the foundation (richiartgallery.com). On Sunday, the Innovators will be selling Richi’s paintings, competing with one another to see who can raise the most. Keep tuned for more information on that front!

After the session with Ricardo, half of the Innovators engaged with a LinkedIn session to improve their profiles. Having a polished, professional social media platform is an important component to a successful contemporary career. In particular, networking—building connections—can help to ensure that you work at the company you want, in the field that you want, with the job that you want.

The other half traveled to Seaport for a tour of Autodesk, a haven of design technology. Autodesk is a software design company, but its technological build spaces—located in Boston, San Francisco, Toronto, and Birmingham—act as much more than that. Creative engineers, artists, manufacturers, entertainers, educators, and students with an innovative project can apply to be fellows at Autodesk. If they are accepted, they get full usage of the machinery available at Autodesk—including cutting-edge technology like jet cutters, robotic arms, and enormous 3D printers—for free. Not only that, but they also get free training in the Autodesk software.

The Innovators learning about one of the resident’s project at Autodesk

The Innovators learning about one of the resident’s project at Autodesk

One of the contemporary designs at Autodesk

One of the contemporary designs at Autodesk

The Innovators received a tour of the facilities, learning about past and ongoing projects along the way. One project involved 3D-printing with cement in order to make better bridge supports. Another entailed a timber frame for a skyscraper in an effort to be more ecologically-friendly. One group created a hybrid basalt chemical that could potentially be implemented for houses on Mars in a NASA-sponsored program. 

After dinner, the Innovators gathered in the Boston Public Garden for a game of rugby. It’s not just about improving the mind every day—it’s about doing something for the body, too. 

Emerson Monks

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