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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’ 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.
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.
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.
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:
What’s going on?
What is happening that makes me think that?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
The innovators building their sculptures