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Blue Sky Thinking in the Third Dimension

Students in the summer 3D printing course made their presentations around a Harvard University roundtable on topics ranging from a 3D printed moon base to 3D printed customized technical-training athletic gear. Blue Sky Creativity met with online research of current applications to produce substantive presentations.

This course would not have been possible without the generosity and considerable capacities of its developer and instructor, Ryan Truby whose PhD research aims to "blur the distinction between “material” and “machine.” Using 3D printing, specifically a technique called “embedded 3D” printing, I am interested in creating entirely soft machines and robotic systems capable of autonomous functionality." and Kelly Dare Moynihan as well as the Lewis Labs' graduate students and fellows at Harvard University's Wyss Institute under the leadership of Core Faculty member Jennifer Lewis, Sc.D,Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.  

Ryan Truby developed Ti2's summer program; he is a PhD candidate at Harvard's John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Dr. Moynihan recently earned her PhD in Bioengineering under the leadership of Darrell Irvine, Professor, Departments of Biological Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, MIT; Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT; and Harvard Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute. A glimpse at the work of the Irvine Lab.

Kelly recently thanked Dr. Irvine for understanding the importance of her outreach work during her defense (start at 7:27 minutes). Each of us needs a role model and mentor, and it is the generosity, commitment, and capacities of young, leading scientists and engineers such as Kelly and Ryan who make this possible. Critical to their ability to do so are the graduate advisors who recognize the delayed but transformative returns on investments fostered by the culture these PI's create in their labs in which these young grad students learn and develop. Ti2 is grateful to all of you!

Ti2 Students Strutting their stuff at MIT

Recently Innovation Institute (Ti2) students from Dr. Deani's (Cooper) Microworlds: Intro to Micro and Molecular Biology participated in a molecular biology LEGO learning workshop at MIT, developed by Dr. Kathy Vandiver of MIT's Edgerton Center.  

Our students sat together, and became the go-to group for all answers molecular. Hands shooting up in unison with each question made quite an impression, according to one of our parents.

I suspect that Ti2 students are regularly wringers for some unwitting instructor in science and engineering outreach sessions. It was gratifying for parents to see how much their children learned @Ti2 this year. Often, It's difficult for us to communicate the depth of student learning, because our intense teaching/learning relationships with students do not get recorded by a grade, a standardized exam, or even a course outline, etc. Instilling the habits and passion for lifelong learning is worth the lack of tangibles at this stage, I would argue. 

Ti2 partners with CuSTEMized!

The Innovation Institute (Ti2) is proud to announce its partnership with CuSTEMized, an award-winning creator of personalized educational storybooks that encourage kids in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Recognized by organizations as diverse as the Anita Borg Institute, Harvard Medical School, Scholastic Publications, BostInno, Scientista, Johns Hopkins University, and TEDx, CuSTEMized is a nonprofit that engages, encourages, and empowers young girls in STEM by providing them with tangible products and educational experiences that foster a positive scientific identity from a young age.

CuSTEMized was founded by Jean Fan, a Ph.D. candidate in Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics at Harvard University, as a response to the dearth of women in STEM:

“I think STEM is really cool. That's why I'm pursuing my PhD in a STEM field. But when I started my PhD program, I realized I was the only girl in my class. So I volunteered to teach young girls science. At the end of the year, I wanted to provide my students with a personalized gift that would teach them about all the scientific careers I didn't have a chance to tell them about and remind them that I believed in them. I saw how these personalized messages resonated with my students, so with a little imagination and computer science skills, CuSTEMized was born. I really do believe that when we empower our girls with the confidence and STEM skills to create tools for their community, they will change the world.”

CuSTEMized uses proceeds from book sales, along with donations, to provide free books to underserved communities. It also leads fun-filled, hands-on learning STEM enrichment events in collaboration with local Boston libraries and organizations including Ti2.

Ti2 hosted an “If You Can See it, You Can Be it” CuSTEMized coloring event in 2016. (photos below) Jean also has been devoting time to developing and teaching computer programming at The Innovation Institute for the past two years. Her course is a hands-down favorite amongst students. Kamil, who works with her, is also a Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics PhD candidate at Harvard. The creativity of CuSTEMized is ever present in these classes, inspiring students to learn to code for example in order to develop apps and websites that help increase the visibility of topics of societal importance to each student.

“It is always such a privilege when rising stars such as Jean take time from their already demanding schedules to teach young people. She serves as a role model for all of our students but particularly our female students who still have fewer relatable mentors and instructors in computer science than needed.”  Jennifer Montana, founder and executive director, The Innovation Institute

Ti2 Joins Cambridge Hackspace at MIT Mini Maker Faire

The windtunnel that MIT postdoc Dr. Bruce David Jones built at the Cambridge Hackspace and donated to us was on display today along with many other cool maker outputs from the Cambridge Hackspace at MIT's Mini Maker Faire. It was a lively and fun event that embodied the creative spirit and reminded me of how MIT is such an amazing playground for scientists, engineer and makers. It also was just another demonstration of the many faceted efforts MIT makes to reach out beyond its institutional borders. There were many children, young and old, having fun sharing and learning.

Walk the Talk: Our Students Visit 3D Printing Labs @ Harvard

Excitement and sharing to inspire and be inspired was palpable during our trip to Harvard's Weiss Labs. Scientists volunteered time to discuss their work with our students, and they let students observe and sometimes interact with their research equipment and materials. Students engaged with researchers who are working on creating bloos vessels on 3D printers, amongst other things. It was an amazing visit! The major takeaway--with 3D printing, complexity is free.

None of these opportunities happen without the capabilities and generosity of real people--incredible people. Ryan Truby is one of these spectactular individuals. Ryan, a Harvard graduate student, organized and orchestrated the entire visit only to depart towards the end to attend to a lab outing and social that he had also taken the lead on.

Enjoy the gallery of photos.

A 3D Startup Visitor:

MIT grad, Nick Sondej, MS, dropped by yesterday to visit with students. He joined a discussion on 3D printing in manufacturing and in the production of space vehicles after he talked about his work as a mechanical engineer in a 3D printing start up. Despite a demanding schedule, Nick took time to inspire some young people about the possibilities that lie ahead of them. Thanks Nick! 

The Moment of Robotic Truth: It Works!

Ready to Test.

Ready to Test.

During the Engineering Immersion summer course last week, students (ages 8-10) collaborated to design and build a robotic arm that successfully executed a desired task. Students discovered engineering brainstorming, planning and designing; learned some basics in computer programming, electrical circuits and motors; and built their prototype. We did not use kits. The engineering instructor cut lucite parts that the students then assembled.

Enthusiasm and creativity led  the way. The team designed a robotic arm for multiple tasks and insisted that I distract parents for an extra 15 minutes while they raced to ready the arm for demonstration.

It was a terrific experience for everyone, affirming our belief that if we expect students to achieve, provide them with an accessible process for doing so and offer them nurturing, high-quality support, young people will exceed expectations!