MIT and HUBweek showcase ideas and innovators making the future

Institute throws open its doors for the Greater Boston area’s fourth annual celebration of innovation.


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From Oct. 8 to 14, MIT will once again host an array of innovation-based events welcoming the public to HUBweek, the Greater Boston area’s annual “festival of the future.”

Kendall Square will serve as a key stage throughout HUBweek, now in its fourth year of convening innovators and celebrating and showcasing their work. Many of HUBweek’s 225-plus events will involve MIT faculty, students, alumni, and affiliates, ranging from an interactive “Innovation Playground” in the heart of Kendall to a policy “hackathon” hosted by MIT at the HUB, the main venue in Boston’s City Hall Plaza.

MIT was one of the founding partners of HUBweek in 2015, along with Harvard University, The Boston Globe, and Massachusetts General Hospital. An estimated 50,000 people attended last year’s festival, including participants from 49 countries. Building on that success, HUBweek organizers have added an extra day to the proceedings and several new events this year.

“Each year the number of organizations that are part of creating and building HUBweek continues to grow,” says Linda Pizzuti Henry, co-founder and chair of HUBweek. “We remain lucky to have the support of great partners like MIT, to continue to offer the majority of HUBweek events for free in order to eliminate traditional barriers to these kinds of experiences. MIT continues to be a heavily engaged leading force in the evolution and growth of HUBweek.”

MIT will help kick off HUBweek’s first day with the “Policy Hackathon,” unfolding across two days, Oct. 8 and 9 at City Hall Plaza. Hosted by the students of MIT’s Institute for Data Systems and Society (IDSS), and open to the public, the event will bring together students, data scientists, policy and urban planning researchers, and concerned citizens to tackle big societal challenges. In response to a set of challenges proposed by the city of Boston, interdisciplinary teams will roll up their sleeves and devise creative, data-driven ways to tackle them in partnership with city agencies.

“It’s been marvelous how HUBWeek has been gaining momentum,” says Kathleen Kennedy, director of special projects at MIT and co-founder and vice chair of HUBweek. “We have numerous MIT partners contributing events. HUBweek is a platform for us to open our doors and showcase the exciting work that’s happening across campus and Kendall Square. People can see, feel, and touch what’s actually happening.”

Both the present vitality and future visions of Kendall Square will be on display throughout the day on Oct. 9, during several events that are free and open to the public.

That morning, from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. at MIT Wong Auditorium, attendees can learn about MIT’s role in the local innovation ecosystem. “Inside the Dome: MIT and the Future of Kendall Square.” Hosted by the MIT Club of Boston, the event will feature presentations and panel discussions with key MIT leaders, including Israel Ruiz, executive vice president and treasurer of MIT, and Elisabeth Reynolds, executive director of the MIT Industrial Performance Center.

From there, participants can head to 292 Main St., where the “Innovation Playground” will offer a lively, interactive scene from 12 to 8 p.m. All are welcome to participate in a range of exhibits and activities, from teleporting to tech hubs around the world, to mixing music on the turntables with a local DJ, to drawing with laser graffiti and coloring in a life-sized coloring book in a project led by the Cambridge-based Community Art Center.

That afternoon, Cambridge residents and visitors alike are also welcome at an open house hosted by the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship — where MIT students learn how to launch ventures — from 1 to 2 p.m., and at an MIT List Visual Arts Center Public Art Tour highlighting art and architecture across campus, from 2 to 3 p.m.

The day will be capped by a ground-breaking ceremony at 5:30 p.m. for 314 Main St., the future home of the MIT Museum and a range of commercial tenants including the Boeing Aerospace and Autonomy Center. The event will feature remarks by MIT Provost Marty Schmidt, Cambridge Mayor Marc McGovern, Boeing Chief Technology Officer Greg Hyslop, MIT Museum Advisory Board Chair Phillip Sharp, and Community Art Center Executive Director Eryn Johnson. The public is invited to bring a small object to add to the building's time capsule, and to stay for a reception immediately following the ceremony. 

“These free and open-to-the public Kendall Square events are intended to bring the community together in a celebration of art, science, and technology,” says Sarah Gallop, co-director of government and community relations. The inclusive nature of the activities represents one of MIT’s primary goals in Kendall — to help create a fun, welcoming, and inviting environment for all.”

Friday, Oct.12 will be another busy day of MIT-related events. That morning, in the Ideas Dome in City Hall Plaza, the winners of the 2017-2018 competition hosted by MIT’s Climate CoLab — an open problem-solving platform from the Center for Collective Intelligence — will present their proposals. Later, at 5 p.m. at the HUB, the winning outcomes of the IDSS Policy Hackathon will be presented, laying out policy proposals related to the future of cities, health, and work. And nearby that afternoon, on the HUB Center Stage, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd will moderate a discussion on the future of cities with three luminaries from the MIT Media Lab: Neri Oxman, architect and associate professor of media arts and sciences; Pattie Maes, professor of media technology; and Rosalind Picard, professor of media arts and sciences and founder and director of the Affective Computing Research Group. (This event is part of the Hub Forum, which requires registration and a fee to attend.)

On Oct. 13, Demo Day, a yearly HUBweek fixture, will bring together hundreds of Boston-area startups and veteran and aspiring entrepreneurs. More than two dozen MIT-affiliated companies will be on hand, participating in sessions full of advice on launching and leading new ventures, business showcases, and the pitch competition. The day will culminate with the six competition finalists presenting their ideas to expert judges, and the selection of a grand prize winner — the climax of three months and four rounds of judging. (MIT has the largest number of affiliated companies and entrepreneurs participating in Demo Day of any HUBweek partner. The winner of last year’s competition, a venture using robotics to find leaks in water distribution pipes, was founded by MIT alumnus You Wu PhD ’18.)

A new addition to HUBweek this year is the Change Maker Conference, which will bring together more than 200 artists, activists, researchers, entrepreneurs, and problem-solvers for a focused, two-day multidisciplinary experience. Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, will deliver the keynote address, and several other MIT speakers will be featured, including Julie Newman, director of sustainability; David Kong, director of the Community Biotechnology Initiative; and Rashin Fahandej, an artist, filmmaker, and MIT research fellow. The winners of innovation competitions held by the MIT Enterprise Forum in Greece and Poland will also travel to Boston to attend the conference; several are MIT alumni.

Even as HUBweek shines a roving light on the many MIT players in the Greater Boston innovation ecosystem, it also offers an opportunity for the broader MIT community to explore and learn, through events such as a family-friendly Robot Block Party on Oct. 14, featuring 20 robots developed by Boston-area and other companies.

“HUBweek is a unique showcase of the region’s role as an innovative powerhouse,” says Jessie Schlosser Smith, MIT’s director of open space programming. “MIT’s events share a signature story of curiosity, collaboration, and creativity, and aim to bring people from diverse business sectors and neighborhoods together.”

This year's HUBweek theme — “We the Future” — emphasizes inclusivity. “MIT is part of a larger community in Cambridge and beyond, and with these programs, we express a warm invitation to all — to participate, learn, and play,” says Smith.


Topics: IDSS, Special events and guest speakers, Cambridge, Boston and region, Community, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), Kendall Square, Media Lab

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