2016 is a wrap! The following post captures the whirlwind of activities our students have participated in over past 6 weeks. You will see that we have been extremely busy exposing students to opportunities in the innovation economy. Our goals are simple
- Expose students to the growing segments of the economy
- Help them build skills to participate
- Become a trusted advisor guiding them along the pathway to their dreams
We have bootstrapped this organization since our founding. Fortunately, around mid-year as our bootstraps were getting shorter and shorter Cambridge Community Foundation and Cambridge Rotary Club recognized our work with a cash infusion. Not only did it allow us to pilot our Summer Program and launch iFp Saturdays, but it signaled to the rest of the investment community that we are doing something unique. We are really looking forward to leveraging those investments and building on our successes in the new year.
We wish you all a great holiday season and a happy New Year!
Our new Saturday program, iFp Saturdays, is evolving nicely. Over the past 6 weeks our students have built contraptions, flown drones and discovered their superpowers. Additionally, we have also been able to extend some of these opportunities to other like-minded organizations. For instance, we invited 21 boys from Fletcher Maynard’s Qualls Academy on a tour of Google’s headquarters in Kendall Square. We also had girls from St. Paul AME Church in Cambridge join our girls at MIT Museum on Girl’s Day. To deliver on our mission of developing a pathway into the innovation economy – exposure is the first step.
MIT Museum Girls Day
Our girls had a great time at MIT Museum’s Girls Day. The theme was robotics. Intermixed with lectures from MIT students and alumni were many hands on activities and demos. The girls flew drones, met the MIT Rocket team, watched Boston Dynamics’ four legged robot do amazing things and tinkered with many cool robots.
Boston Public Library Teen Central
While the girls were learning about robotics at Girls Day, the boys were discovering their superpowers at the Boston Public Library (BPL). First of all, after nearly an $80M renovation the BPL is truly a 21st century library. The first floor lobby is incredible with with elevated ceilings, tremendous amounts of natural lighting and a very open design. There are over 100 computers, on the first floor, available for anyone with a library card to use. The second floor is home to Teen Central – a very happening place where teens could get lost for hours. There is soft furniture spread throughout with booths for group work. A combination of 20 desktop and laptop computers are available for all teens. Another 10 computers loaded with the latest software can be found in the Digital Media lab which is adjacent to the Media Lounge with 2 eighty-inch monitors for playing video games. What an impressive place!
Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction @ MIT
Each year teams from all over build Rube Goldberg type machines independently, then meet at MIT on the day after Thanksgiving. The goal is to connect them all culminating in a giant chain reaction. Most of the participants are middle school age students with some younger and some older. A few of the teams participated for the first time, but most were savvy veterans. The gym was packed with over a 1500 people exploring the contraptions and waiting for the finally. Afterwards, I learned that many come each year – but haven’t worked up the nerves to enter.
About 7-8 weeks before the event, we were invited to field a team. Due to logistics and schedules, we were only able to get one brave soul to sign-up. We attended a couple of preliminary sessions to learn about the event and experiment with building contraptions. Each contraption would receive a golf ball at 2 inches then deliver it to the next contraption at 4 inches. The more interesting things the contraption could do between reception and hand-off the better.
Needless to say, on the day of the event none of the contraptions looked like the ones in the preliminary sessions. Some of the contraptions included robots, legos of all sorts – they were amazing. At least one team had been working on their contraption since summer, others obviously had invested much time.
As a Saturday based program, it proved to be extremely challenging pulling together enough contiguous time to dedicate to this project – especially since this isn’t our sole focus. Three hours before show time we were still struggling with our design. In theory, we would receive the ball at 2 inches into an elevator. The weight of the ball would trigger a “clothes pin” switch that would start a motor lifting the golf ball up a couple of feet. Then the ball would wind its way down to eventually be delivered at 4 inches.
We continued working on our design, but ultimately ran out of time. Our elevator design was flawed. We needed a bigger motor! That said, it was a great experience. We learned far more than we would have by just thinking about participating or spectating. I’m constantly stressing to our students that failure is simply an opportunity to learn. Innovators embrace failure – we do not not fear it!
Peabody Essex Museum Maker Lounge
Our last event of the year was a visit to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA. Students explored the Moonwalk mission exhibit showcasing how the Moon has inspired artists around the world. Using that as inspiration, students spent time designing their own moonship with everyday materials. The moonship had to contain a communication device, power source, orientation finder and a passenger container.
We are really looking forward to 2017. Sessions will include more activities at MIT and as well as a few visits with Harvard’s Science Education group. The school year will culminate with College Week which will include tours of UMass Lowell’s Plastics Lab, Rhode Island School of Design and Olin College of Engineering. How is that for exposure?
Michael K. Dawson
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