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Many
arrived wondering exactly what their parents had signed them up for.  Others who had participated in our programming in the past knew that whatever was in store would be interesting.  How could it not be?  We were at one of the most amazing places on the planet, MIT. Our day started out at MIT’s international design center – home of one of MIT’s newest graduate programs Integrated Design & Management (idm). The program integrates Design, Engineering and Business.  This intersection is becoming the epicenter of innovation in the 21st century.  Similar programs are popping up across the country as industry demands interdisciplinary skills and thinking.

In a sense, innovators4purpose is the MIT idm for middle & high school students.  We get students excited about becoming problem solvers at the intersection of Design, Science, Technology and Business. As innovation in the 21st century is becoming an interdisciplinary endeavor, it is also demanding a diversity of thought, perspectives and cultures.  In other words, inclusion is becoming a requirement for innovation.  Our programming is open to all students, however our emphasis is on youth residing in underserved communities. We focus on high potential youth in low opportunity situations.

Matt Kressy, director of MIT idm, has been a strong supporter of our work since we met. He immediately bought into our mantra – kids have “to see it to be it.”  A year ago none of our students knew what an industrial designer was.  Thanks to Matt’s generosity – now several have their sights set on undergrad at Rhode Island School of Design then grad school with Matt.  We have a long way to go to make that a reality, but the seed has been planted.

After receiving an introduction, several of idm’s newest grad students led our students through a design challenge.  Everything we do at innovators4purpose starts with the design process.  It was great for our new students to get indoctrinated on day 1. I must say that much of our group work in the past has been problematic.  However, today it went exceptionally well.  Some of our students are slowly beginning to understand how to collaborate.  Additionally, the space is designed for collaboration with everything on wheels, plenty of vertical writing space and natural lighting.

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Next we had lunch with some other MIT students.  Our students had opportunity to ask questions ranging from what is a Theoretical Physicist to what’s it like to live in a dorm.  We talked a lot about classes to take in preparation for college.  This alone could be a full blog post.  I always knew that MIT students were smart, but these kids are scary smart.

We visit MIT a lot because our organization is based in Cambridge.  Most of our students live in Cambridge, so they walk past MIT and Harvard all of the time.  Sometimes, it escapes the mind that these are two of the best schools in world.  There is not a gap between how these students are being prepared for college and how MIT students are prepared – it’s a chasm!  As I said, I will save that for another blog post.

Next stop was the MIT Glass lab.

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Glassblowing is one of the most popular extracurricular activities at MIT.  We witnessed two students in the process of making a vase.  We watched as they pulled glass out of the furnace, blew into a pipe to shape the glass then repeat the process.  Interestingly, the glassblowing lab was almost closed down in the late 80’s until a professor connected the art with a skill businesses are desperately seeking – collaboration.  Glass blowing is a team sport.  It is the one craft art that you can’t do by yourself.

We wrapped up reflecting on the day.  I wonder which if any of these kids will seize this opportunity and do something spectacular in their life? I wish that they all would.  I like that they spent a Saturday with us being exposed to a world that desperately needs them.

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Michael K. Dawson

Co-Founder, Chief Doer, Innovators For Purpose, Inc. Creative Doing - the act of changing or influencing with the intent of leaving a mark on the world...

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