MIT INSPIRE is the nation's first and only comprehensive high school research competition in the arts, humanities, and socials sciences. We encourage the next generation of thinkers, leaders and citizens to tackle societal problems of the 21st century through innovative inquiry in areas ranging from political science to history, literature, philosophy, and media studies.
With the generous support of MIT's Community Service Fund and several other MIT departments, INSPIRE had a successful second year. Collectively across two years, INSPIRE has impacted almost 900 students and over 500 educators from 160 schools across 38 states. We received over 400 project submission in our second year (doubling participation from our first year), and invited the top 100 projects to the final round of the competition held from April 3-5 on MIT's campus. 113 high school students, along with their parents and mentors attended our strong lineup of enrichment programs including two panels, several inspirational speeches, an informal mixer, public viewing of projects, sessions hosted by the MIT Libraries, and rigorous judging with MIT experts. Distinguished speakers included Prof. Eran Egozy, Co-founder of Harmonix, Dr. Lawrence Bacow, Tufts President Emeritus, MIT Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart, Dean Melissa Nobles of the MIT School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, and Prof. Alex Pentland of the MIT Media Lab. Mr. Paul Parravano played an active role during INSPIRE 2016's Awards Ceremony, co-announcing winners and presenting the CSF-sponsored Lincoln Community Choice Award to the delighted recipients.
The public viewing session engaged many members of the MIT, Greater Boston and Cambridge community. Visitors interacted with the high school student finalists, learned about their fascinating projects, and voted for the INSPIRE Lincoln Community Choice Award, sponsored by CSF. This year's Lincoln Award went to Jaden Jarmel-Schneider and Natalie Bunimovitz from San Francisco, CA, for their winning Anthropology project entitled, "Revolutionary Medicine: The Culture of Cuban Healthcare Abroad". Thanks to CSF support, we were also able to fund travel expenses for four students and one teacher, who otherwise would have been unable to attend the final event in April.
INSPIRE has made a profound impact on classrooms nationwide. Students have carried out research in a diverse and relevant set of topics, such as “Carbon Zero: Combating Climate Change through Architecture”, “Academic Apartheid; a Longitudinal Analysis of Educational Output Inequality in Post-Apartheid South Africa”, “Construction vs. Destruction: The implications of Social Media on Adolescents”, “A Robot Recession: The Rise of Technological Unemployment and its Implications on the Future Macroeconomic Landscape”, “Exploration of the use of Children as protagonists to explore issues of racial injustice in society”, “Defining the Virtual Cosmopolitan: the Citizen of Cyberspace” and “The Building Blocks of Rome: Analyzing Women’s Role in the Founding Stories of Ancient Rome”.
Many teachers across the nation have integrated INSPIRE into their classroom curricula in the form of final projects, senior theses, midterm exams, and afterschool activities. According to one student, “INSPIRE motivated me to chase my questions and pursue concrete evidence in non-STEM fields.” Another student told us, "“MIT INSPIRE catapulted me from adolescent obscurity to researching for a nonprofit and presenting at an international academic conference in less than a year.” A teacher from Michigan said, “I want to try to push the kids into real-world, project based thinking -- and these contests really help motivate and situate these moves.” Another educator wrote, “I am designing a course next year that will be modeled after the INSPIRE process.”
Through MIT INSPIRE, we hope to make a difference in the futures of high-school students around the country - enabling them to expand their horizons, follow their passions and curiosity, develop their interests in key societal topics, cultivate their critical thinking skills, learn the analytical process of inquiry, and exercise their communication skills. Having shared INSPIRE's progress and impact with Dr. William Adams, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as members of the U.S. President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, we are making major strides towards our vision of making INSPIRE the nation's premier high school competition in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.