From August 2nd – 8th, 2015, i-Trek brought 15 students, from a variety of schools and backgrounds, to MIT for a week-long STEM experience. The students networked with MIT graduates, students and alumni; toured MIT, Harvard and UMass Amherst; and learned about water and energy related research from graduate student research presentations and visits to the New England Aquarium and Deer Island. At the end of the program, the students worked together to brainstorm a research project that they will complete during their full Trek experience planned for the summer of 2016.
During the first full day (Monday, August 3rd), students spent most of their time touring prominent schools in the Boston area. They received a campus tour of MIT as well as lab tours in the MIT Media Lab, Drennan Lab and Precision Motion Control Lab. This was followed by a campus tour of Harvard. Later that evening, students spent time with MIT students and alumni playing board games and networking.
Tuesday, students traveled to UMass Amherst to tour their campus. After the tour, they left directly for a scavenger hunt around Boston. Students enjoyed having the time to explore the city on their own and find historical landmarks.
The following day, students attended research presentations by three graduate students. Topics included Biofilm structures, neuroimaging, and renewable energy policy. These presentations followed by a STEM scavenger hunt. Students had to solve STEM problems and find the solutions around the MIT campus.
Thursday featured additional research talks from graduate students on desalination challenges, turning research ideas into a viable business, navigating challenges, and STEM identity. The students also visited the MIT MSRP poster session to learn about current undergraduate research projects. This full day concluded with an evening at the aquarium learning about ecological water issues.
On the final day, students began the day at Deer Island learning about waste water issues. They were able to tour the facility and speak to some of the facility’s leadership team. The remainder of the day was devoted to brainstorming exercises for individual research projects and then “pitching” those research ideas to a panel of mock research funders in a “shark tank” exercise. This helped the students practice their negotiation skills and respond in real-time to challenging questions.
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 Office of the Dean of Graduate Education, MIT Community Service Fund, NSF I-Corps and donations from several individuals, we were able to provide a very rewarding Trek Bootcamp experience to our students and lay the groundwork for successful completion of their full Trek experience in 2016.