From May 15th - 28th, 2016, i-Trek brought 8 students, from a variety of schools and backgrounds, to Boston to continue a research project the started last summer during their orientation program. During the two week period they met with MIT graduate students, developed their final product and produced posters to present to the community. They plan to present and publish their research, as well as find a way to make their findings public so farmers can take advantage of their optimization methods.
During their orientation the previous summer, our students were exposed the a wide variety of Water and Energy related issues. After learning about the ways they could contribute to these areas they decided on trying to optimize the energy produced from waste on farms. Prior to the two weeks spent in Boston this summer, they met regularly virtually to further discuss and develop their idea. Once together again in the same city they quickly used the time they had to run final calculations on each step of the anaerobic process that occurs on a farm. After verifying their findings with MIT graduate students and getting more tips on how to improve the process further they settled on way to make a contribution to this space. During the final days of the program, they worked in teams to put together a powerpoint and poster presentation for visitors. Each team was judged on their presentation skills and knowledge of the subject.
The two weeks in Boston was not entirely spent on research. The students also donated their time by visiting a Boston Charter School and engaging the students in STEM related hands on activities. The students enjoyed giving back to the community and helping to make STEM fun for younger students.
Overall, the students learned invaluable skills, made a variety of networking contacts, gained a better understanding of what STEM research is, and learned how they can contribute to current STEM issues with their own research. Thanks to support from the MIT Community Service Fund, NSF I-Corps, Accenture, Greystone CO. and donations from several individuals, we were able to provide a very rewarding Trek experience to our students.