Over the past 3 months, I have enjoyed a unique opportunity to work as a student researcher at MIT facilities as part of a design-thinking bootcamp hosted by LabCentral, YouthCities, and the Boston Children Hospital.
During this twelve-week long “L3 Innovation Challenge,” selected students from the Greater Boston Area worked in teams to create technological solutions to real-world problems. This year, participants had to use smart textiles to create prototypes and actual products that addressed pediatric healthcare concerns. On November 14th, our team entered into the Final Round and presented our ideas to a panel of health care industry specialists, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists from top institutions and companies like AutoDesk, Tufts University, and MIT.
The spotlight is on, and the eyes of more than one hundred people are on us. Holding the 3D Prototype of SOGAI, which stands for System Of Glucose-Detection & Automatic Insulin-Injection, we gradually move onto the stage for our final presentation in the Youth CITIES competition. The adrenaline that had been accumulating for the past twelve weeks of the competition urged every single word on the tip of our tongue to erupt.
This is the story of our team — Jiho, Katherine, Jahmani, Serafina, and I — who have applied Smart Textile, 3D Printing technology, and comprehensive research on type 2 diabetes to create the SOGAI and mySOGAI app. The project got our team into the Final Round and was verbally commended by Dr. Kate Donovan, the Director of Immersive Technologies at Boston Children Hospital, as theBest Research.
Every Wednesday during the eight weeks of the L3 Innovation Challenge, we traveled to LabCentral in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Here, students from dozens of high schools in the Boston area were divided into groups with the goal of turning innovative ideas into real products that would solve demanding medical problems. We had the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from students of different schools, to meet with our mentors (VIP industry experts in various fields from medical entrepreneurship involved with cancer treatment to Biometrics), and to widen our perspective and respect for backend scientists, who quietly devote their resources and knowledge for a better world. At LabCentral, where the contest was hosted, we saw marvelous laboratories and R&D centers in a 70,000 square-foot historic, MIT-owned facility. I could not help but think that never before had Isaac Newton’s famous saying been so clear and convincing: “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.”
The experiences we gained from this competition went beyond the scientific knowledge accumulated from top-notch experts. It broadened and changed our perspectives and attitudes towards STEM as a field of endeavor. I found it realistic, practical, and very demanding. Awards, compliments, and recognition — albeit valuable and deserving — are just the tip of the iceberg that made this twelve-week rigorous journey worthwhile.
This article was adapted in part for publication in the CATS Academy Courier.