People Should Find A Safe Storm Shelter During Thunderstorm

Tuesday June 5, 2001 marked the start of an extremely fascinating time in the annals of my cherished Houston. Tropical storm Allison, that early summer daytime came to see. The thunderstorm went rapidly, although there was Tuesday. Friday, afterward arrived, and Allison returned. This time going slowly, this time in the north. The thunderstorm became still. Thousands of people driven from their houses. Only when they might be desired most, several leading hospitals shut. Dozens of important surface roads, and every important highway covered in water that was high.

Yet even prior to the rain stopped, service to others, and narratives of Christian compassion started to be composed. For a couples class, about 75 people had assembled at Lakewood Church among the greatest nondenominational churches in The United States. From time they got ready to depart the waters had climbed so high they were stranded. The facility of Lakewood stayed dry and high at the center of among the hardest hit parts of town. Refugees in the powerful thunderstorm started arriving at their doorstep. Without no advance preparation, and demand of official sanction, those 75 classmates started a calamity shelter that grew to hold over 3,000 customers. The greatest of over 30 refuges that could be established in the height of the thunderstorm.

Where help was doled out to those who’d suffered losses after Lakewood functioned as a Red Cross Service Center. When it became clear that FEMA aid, and Red Cross wouldn’t bring aid enough, Lakewood and Second Baptist joined -Houston to produce an adopt a family plan to greatly help get folks on their feet quicker. In the occasions that followed militaries of Christians arrived in both churches. From all over town, people of economical standing, race, and each and every denomination collected. Wet rotted carpeting were pulled up, sheet stone removed. Piles of clothes donated food and bed clothes were doled out. Elbow grease and cleaning equipment were used to start eliminating traces of the damage.

It would have been an excellent example of practical ministry in a period of disaster, in the event the story stopped here, but it continues. A great many other churches functioned as shelters as well as in the occasions that followed Red Cross Service Centers. Tons of new volunteers, a lot of them Christians put to work, and were put through accelerated training. That Saturday, I used to be trapped in my own, personal subdivision. Particular that my family was safe because I worked in Storm Shelters OKC that was near where I used to live. What they wouldn’t permit the storm to do, is take their demand to give their religion, or their self respect. I saw so a lot of people as they brought gifts of food, clothes and bedclothes, praising the Lord. I saw young kids coming making use of their parents to not give new, rarely used toys to kids who had none.

Unity Church of Christianity from a location across town impacted by the storm sent a sizable way to obtain bedding as well as other supplies. A tiny troupe of musicians and Christian clowns requested to be permitted to amuse the kids in the shelter where I served and arrived. We of course promptly taken their offer. The kids were collected by them in a sizable empty space of flooring. They sang, they told stories, balloon animals were made by them. The kids, frightened, at least briefly displaced laughed.

When not occupied elsewhere I did lots of listening. I listened to survivors that were disappointed, and frustrated relief workers. I listened to kids make an effort to take advantage of a scenario they could not comprehend. All these are only the stories I have heard or seen. I am aware that spiritual groups, Churches, and lots of other individual Christians functioned admirably. I do need to thank them for the attempts in disaster. I thank The Lord for supplying them to serve.

I didn’t write its individuals, or this which means you’d feel sorry for Houston. As this disaster unfolded yet what I saw encouraged my beliefs the Lord will provide through our brothers and sisters in religion for us. Regardless how awful your community hits, you the individual Christian can be a part of the remedy. Those blankets you can probably never use, and have stored away mean much to people who have none. You are able to help in the event that you can drive. You are able to help if you’re able to create a cot. It is possible to help in the event that you can scrub a wall. It is possible to help if all you are able to do is sit and listen. Large catastrophes like Allison get lots of focus. However a disaster can come in virtually any size. That is a serious disaster to your family that called it home in case a single household burns. It is going to be generations prior to the folks here forget Allison.

United States Oil and Gas Exploration Opportunities

Firms investing in this sector can research, develop and create, as well as appreciate the edges of a global gas and oil portfolio with no political and economical disadvantages. Allowing regime and the US financial conditions is rated amongst the world and the petroleum made in US is sold at costs that were international. The firms will likely gain as US also has a national market that is booming. Where 500 exploration wells are drilled most of the petroleum exploration in US continues to be concentrated around the Taranaki Basin. On the other hand, the US sedimentary basins still remain unexplored and many show existence of petroleum seeps and arrangements were also unveiled by the investigation data with high hydrocarbon potential. There have already been onshore gas discoveries before including Great south river basins, East Coast Basin and offshore Canterbury.

As interest in petroleum is expected to grow strongly during this interval but this doesn’t automatically dim the bright future expectations in this sector. The interest in petroleum is anticipated to reach 338 PJ per annum. The US government is eager to augment the gas and oil supply. As new discoveries in this sector are required to carry through the national demand at the same time as raise the amount of self reliance and minimize the cost on imports of petroleum the Gas and Oil exploration sector is thought to be among the dawn sectors. The US government has invented a distinctive approach to reach its petroleum and gas exploration targets. It’s developed a “Benefit For Attempt” model for Petroleum and Gas exploration tasks in US.

The “Benefit For Attempt” in today’s analytic thinking is defined as oil reserves found per kilometer drilled. It will help in deriving the estimate of reservations drilled for dollar and each kilometer spent for each investigation. The authorities of US has revealed considerable signs that it’ll bring positive effects of change which will favor investigation of new oil reserves since the price of investigation has adverse effects on investigation task. The Authorities of US has made the information accessible about the oil potential in its study report. Foil of advice in royalty and allocation regimes, and simplicity of processes have enhanced the attractiveness of Petroleum and Natural Gas Sector in the United States.

Petroleum was the third biggest export earner in 2008 for US and the chance to to keep up the growth of the sector is broadly accessible by manners of investigation endeavors that are new. The government is poised to keep the impetus in this sector. Now many firms are active with new exploration jobs in the Challenger Plateau of the United States, Northland East Slope Basin region, outer Taranaki Basin, and Bellona Trough region. The 89 Energy oil and gas sector guarantees foreign investors as government to high increase has declared a five year continuance of an exemption for offshore petroleum and gas exploration in its 2009 budget. The authorities provide nonresident rig operators with tax breaks.

Modern Robot Duct Cleaning Uses

AC systems, and heat, venting collect pollutants and contaminants like mold, debris, dust and bacteria that can have an adverse impact on indoor air quality. Most folks are at present aware that indoor air pollution could be a health concern and increased visibility has been thus gained by the area. Studies have also suggested cleaning their efficacy enhances and is contributory to a longer operating life, along with maintenance and energy cost savings. The cleaning of the parts of forced air systems of heat, venting and cooling system is what’s called duct cleaning. Robots are an advantageous tool raising the price and efficacy facets of the procedure. Therefore, using modern robot duct isn’t any longer a new practice.

A cleaner, healthier indoor environment is created by a clean air duct system which lowers energy prices and increases efficiency. As we spend more hours inside air duct cleaning has become an important variable in the cleaning sector. Indoor pollutant levels can increase. Health effects can show years or up immediately after repeated or long exposure. These effects range from some respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease, and cancer that can be deadly or debilitating. Therefore, it’s wise to ensure indoor air quality isn’t endangered inside buildings. Dangerous pollutants that can found in inside can transcend outdoor air pollutants in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Duct cleaning from Air Duct Cleaning Edmond professionals removes microbial contaminants, that might not be visible to the naked eye together with both observable contaminants. Indoor air quality cans impact and present a health hazard. Air ducts can be host to a number of health hazard microbial agents. Legionnaires Disease is one malaise that’s got public notice as our modern surroundings supports the development of the bacteria that has the potential to cause outbreaks and causes the affliction. Typical disorder-causing surroundings contain wetness producing gear such as those in air conditioned buildings with cooling towers that are badly maintained. In summary, in building and designing systems to control our surroundings, we’ve created conditions that were perfect . Those systems must be correctly tracked and preserved. That’s the secret to controlling this disorder.

Robots allow for the occupation while saving workers from exposure to be done faster. Signs of the technological progress in the duct cleaning business is apparent in the variety of gear now available for example, array of robotic gear, to be used in air duct cleaning. Robots are priceless in hard to reach places. Robots used to see states inside the duct, now may be used for spraying, cleaning and sampling procedures. The remote controlled robotic gear can be fitted with practical and fastener characteristics to reach many different use functions.

Video recorders and a closed circuit television camera system can be attached to the robotic gear to view states and operations and for documentation purposes. Inside ducts are inspected by review apparatus in the robot. Robots traveling to particular sections of the system and can move around barriers. Some join functions that empower cleaning operation and instruction manual and fit into little ducts. An useful view range can be delivered by them with models delivering disinfection, cleaning, review, coating and sealing abilities economically.

The remote controlled robotic gear comes in various sizes and shapes for different uses. Of robotic video cameras the first use was in the 80s to record states inside the duct. Robotic cleaning systems have a lot more uses. These devices provide improved accessibility for better cleaning and reduce labor costs. Lately, functions have been expanded by areas for the use of small mobile robots in the service industries, including uses for review and duct cleaning.

More improvements are being considered to make a tool that was productive even more effective. If you determine to have your ventilation, heat and cooling system cleaned, it’s important to make sure all parts of the system clean and is qualified to achieve this. Failure to clean one part of a contaminated system can lead to re-contamination of the entire system.

When To Call A DWI Attorney

Charges or fees against a DWI offender need a legal Sugar Land criminal defense attorney that is qualified dismiss or so that you can reduce charges or the fees. So, undoubtedly a DWI attorney is needed by everyone. Even if it’s a first-time violation the penalties can be severe being represented by a DWI attorney that is qualified is vitally significant. If you’re facing following charges for DWI subsequently the punishments can contain felony charges and be severe. Locating an excellent attorney is thus a job you should approach when possible.

So you must bear in mind that you just should hire a DWI attorney who practices within the state where the violation occurred every state within America will make its laws and legislation regarding DWI violations. It is because they are going to have the knowledge and expertise of state law that is relevant to sufficiently defend you and will be knowledgeable about the processes and evaluations performed to establish your guilt.

As your attorney they are going to look to the evaluations that have been completed at the time of your arrest and the authorities evidence that is accompanying to assess whether or not these evaluations were accurately performed, carried out by competent staff and if the right processes where followed. It isn’t often that a police testimony is asserted against, although authorities testimony also can be challenged in court.

You should attempt to locate someone who specializes in these kind of cases when you start trying to find a DWI attorney. Whilst many attorneys may be willing to consider on your case, a lawyer who specializes in these cases is required by the skilled knowledge needed to interpret the scientific and medical evaluations ran when you had been detained. The first consultation is free and provides you with the chance to to inquire further about their experience in fees and these cases.

Many attorneys will work according into a fee that is hourly or on a set fee basis determined by the kind of case. You may find how they have been paid to satisfy your financial situation and you will have the capacity to negotiate the conditions of their fee. If you are unable to afford to hire an attorney that is private you then can request a court-appointed attorney paid for by the state. Before you hire a DWI attorney you should make sure when you might be expected to appear in court and you understand the precise charges imposed against you.

How Credit Card Works

The credit card is making your life more easy, supplying an amazing set of options. The credit card is a retail trade settlement; a credit system worked through the little plastic card which bears its name. Regulated by ISO 7810 defines credit cards the actual card itself consistently chooses the same structure, size and contour. A strip of a special stuff on the card (the substance resembles the floppy disk or a magnetic group) is saving all the necessary data. This magnetic strip enables the credit card’s validation. The layout has become an important variable; an enticing credit card layout is essential in ensuring advice and its dependability keeping properties.

A credit card is supplied to the user just after a bank approves an account, estimating a varied variety of variables to ascertain fiscal dependability. This bank is the credit supplier. When a purchase is being made by an individual, he must sign a receipt to verify the trade. There are the card details, and the amount of cash to be paid. You can find many shops that take electronic authority for the credit cards and use cloud tokenization for authorization. Nearly all verification are made using a digital verification system; it enables assessing the card is not invalid. If the customer has enough cash to insure the purchase he could be attempting to make staying on his credit limit any retailer may also check.

As the credit supplier, it is as much as the banks to keep the user informed of his statement. They typically send monthly statements detailing each trade procedures through the outstanding fees, the card and the sums owed. This enables the cardholder to ensure all the payments are right, and to discover mistakes or fraudulent action to dispute. Interest is typically charging and establishes a minimal repayment amount by the end of the following billing cycle.

The precise way the interest is charged is normally set within an initial understanding. On the rear of the credit card statement these elements are specified by the supplier. Generally, the credit card is an easy type of revolving credit from one month to another. It can also be a classy financial instrument, having many balance sections to afford a greater extent for credit management. Interest rates may also be not the same as one card to another. The credit card promotion services are using some appealing incentives find some new ones along the way and to keep their customers.

Why Get Help From A Property Management?

One solution while removing much of the anxiety, to have the revenue of your rental home would be to engage and contact property management in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. If you wish to know more and are considering the product please browse the remainder of the post. Leasing out your bit of real property may be real cash-cow as many landlords understand, but that cash flow usually includes a tremendous concern. Night phones from tenants that have the trouble of marketing the house if you own an emptiness just take out lots of the pleasure of earning money off of leases, overdue lease payments which you must chase down, as well as over-flowing lavatories. One solution while removing much of the anxiety, to have the earnings would be to engage a property management organization.

These businesses perform as the go between for the tenant as well as you. The tenant will not actually need to understand who you’re when you hire a property management company. The company manages the day to day while you still possess the ability to help make the final judgements in regards to the home relationships using the tenant. The company may manage the marketing for you personally, for those who are in possession of a unit that is vacant. Since the company is going to have more connections in a bigger market than you’ve got along with the industry than you are doing, you’ll discover your device gets stuffed a whole lot more quickly making use of their aid. In addition, the property management company may care for testing prospective tenants. With regards to the arrangement you’ve got, you might nevertheless not be unable to get the last say regarding if a tenant is qualified for the the system, but of locating a suitable tenant, the day-to-day difficulty is not any longer your problem. They’ll also manage the before-move-in the reviews as well as reviews required following a tenant moves away.

It is possible to step back watching the profits, after the the system is stuffed. Communicating will be handled by the company with all the tenant if you have an issue. You won’t be telephoned if this pipe explosions at the center of the night time. Your consultant is called by the tenant in the company, who then makes the preparations that are required to get the issue repaired with a care supplier. You get a phone call a day later or may not know there was an issue before you register using the business. The property management organization may also make your leasing obligations to to get. The company will do what’s required to accumulate if your tenant is making a payment. In certain arrangements, the organization is going to also take-over paying taxation, insurance, and the mortgage on the portion of property. You actually need to do-nothing but appreciate after after all the the invoices are paid, the revenue which is sent your way.

With all the advantages, you’re probably questioning exactly what to employing a property management organization, the downside should be. From hiring one the primary variable that stops some landlords is the price. All these providers will be paid for by you. The price must be weighed by you from the time frame you’ll save time that you may subsequently use to follow additional revenue-producing efforts or just take pleasure in the fruits of your expense work.

Benifits From An Orthodontic Care

Orthodontics is the specialty of dentistry centered on the identification and treatment of dental and related facial problems. The outcomes of Norman Orthodontist OKC treatment could be dramatic — an advanced quality of life for a lot of individuals of ages and lovely grins, improved oral health health, aesthetics and increased cosmetic tranquility. Whether into a look dentistry attention is needed or not is an individual’s own choice. Situations are tolerated by most folks like totally various kinds of bite issues or over bites and don’t get treated. Nevertheless, a number people sense guaranteed with teeth that are correctly aligned, appealing and simpler. Dentistry attention may enhance construct and appearance power. It jointly might work with you consult with clearness or to gnaw on greater.

Orthodontic attention isn’t only decorative in character. It might also gain long term oral health health. Right, correctly aligned teeth is not more difficult to floss and clean. This may ease and decrease the risk of rot. It may also quit periodontists irritation that problems gums. Periodontists might finish in disease, that occurs once micro-organism bunch round your house where the teeth and the gums meet. Periodontists can be ended in by untreated periodontists. Such an unhealthiness result in enamel reduction and may ruin bone that surrounds the teeth. Less may be chewed by people who have stings that are harmful with efficacy. A few of us using a serious bite down side might have difficulties obtaining enough nutrients. Once the teeth aren’t aimed correctly, this somewhat might happen. Morsel issues that are repairing may allow it to be more easy to chew and digest meals.

One may also have language problems, when the top and lower front teeth do not arrange right. All these are fixed through therapy, occasionally combined with medical help. Eventually, remedy may ease to avoid early use of rear areas. Your teeth grow to an unlikely quantity of pressure, as you chew down. In case your top teeth do not match it’ll trigger your teeth that are back to degrade. The most frequently encountered type of therapy is the braces (or retainer) and head-gear. But, a lot people complain about suffering with this technique that, unfortunately, is also unavoidable. Sport braces damages, as well as additional individuals have problem in talking. Dental practitioners, though, state several days can be normally disappeared throughout by the hurting. Occasionally annoyance is caused by them. In the event that you’d like to to quit more unpleasant senses, fresh, soft and tedious food must be avoided by you. In addition, tend not to take your braces away unless the medical professional claims so.

It is advised which you just observe your medical professional often for medical examinations to prevent choice possible problems that may appear while getting therapy. You are going to be approved using a specific dental hygiene, if necessary. Dental specialist may look-out of managing and id malocclusion now. Orthodontia – the main specialization of medication – mainly targets repairing chin problems and teeth, your grin as well as thus your sting. Dentist, however, won’t only do chin remedies and crisis teeth. They also handle tender to severe dental circumstances which may grow to states that are risky. You actually have not got to quantify throughout a predicament your life all. See dental specialist San – Direction Posts, and you’ll notice only but of stunning your smile plenty will soon be.

Ernest Moniz addresses threats of nuclear weapons and climate

Ernest J. Moniz, who in January left his position as the 13th U.S. Secretary of Energy, spoke on Thursday about his long and ongoing history at MIT, and about his current work focusing on two major threats the world faces: nuclear weapons and global climate change, both of which were central to his role in the last administration.

The talk, held before an overflow crowd in MIT’s Huntington Hall, was part of the Institute’s Compton Lecture series that has continued since 1957. President L. Rafael Reif introduced Moniz, who is the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems Emeritus and special advisor to the MIT president, and noted that Moniz’ “record of accomplishment that would stand out in any context.” This record includes his years as chair of the Department of Physics, his role as founding head of the MIT Energy Initiative, and his three tours of duty in Washington. Moniz served twice in the Clinton administration and then for four years in the Obama administration, when he was appointed to run the Department of Energy by a 97 to 0 vote in the Senate.

In that post, Moniz said he had the great opportunity of working for a president who “put the clean energy and climate agenda and the nuclear security agenda very high in their set of priorities.” As a result, he was able to play a major role in the achievement of two significant international agreements: the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the Iran nuclear pact, both of which were finalized in 2015.

The two global threats that these agreements addressed are very different in nature, he said: Whereas the use of nuclear weapons would be a rapidly devastating event, climate change “is more like a slow-motion train wreck.” Back in 1992, he said, when he began his first stint at the DoE, “it seemed that we were on a path to managing both problems.” That year saw the signing of the Kyoto agreement on climate change, which, he reminded the audience, is a treaty, ratified by the Senate, calling for stabilization of greenhouse gases at a level that is sustainable. “We are committed to that,” he said. In addition, negotiations led to the beginning of drastic reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons stockpiles.

But the road since then has been far from smooth, and now the Paris Agreement on climate change, which Moniz helped to negotiate on behalf of the U.S., is under threat from the new administration and its energy secretary. “Bluntly, especially from the point of view of a policymaker, in my view it is completely laughable to say that the state of the science is not one on which we should take a prudent approach,” he said, noting that the Paris accord, to which 197 nations all agreed, represented such a prudent approach.

Given the U.S. Congress’s insistence, in passing the Kyoto agreement, that there be full international participation, the consensus reached in Paris represented a significant victory, he said: “This path has led us to where we want to go.”

Under the terms of that agreement, Moniz pointed out, the earliest the U.S. could actually withdraw from it, as the Trump administration has pledged, would be Nov. 4 2020, at the very end of its term.

He pointed out that with a single storm, hurricane Irene, a single company, Florida Power and Light, spent more than $4 billion on recovery. As such storms increase in intensity in a warming world, he said, “it’s a lot cheaper to mitigate than to adapt later. …There’s no going back.”

“We are going to a low-carbon future,” he added. “It’s clearly in the cards. If we don’t pursue the course, we’ll get to the same place, but it will be a rougher road.”

The transition to that worldwide low-carbon energy future, he said, “means there will be a multi-trillion-dollar market. No matter what you think on the climate side, decreasing our research programs doesn’t make sense.”

As for the threat posed by nuclear weapons, “the risk of a misunderstanding leading to the use of a nuclear weapon is probably higher today than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis,” he said.

To try to mitigate that threat, Moniz joined with former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn at a nonprofit organization called the Nuclear Threat Initiative, where Moniz is now the CEO. The organization advocates for negotiations, modeled on some nuclear weapons reduction programs that worked in the 1980s, to address the threats of weapons of mass destruction.

One significant accomplishment toward that end, he said, was the nuclear pact that he, along with then-Secretary of State John Kerry, negotiated with Iran. The highly technical agreement, which included meticulously detailed plans for verification measures, was made possible in part by the fact that of the four-person negotiating team – Kerry, Moniz, and their Iranian counterparts – three had PhDs from American universities (two of them from MIT), and all of them were able to negotiate in English without needing translators.

That agreement, he said, with its strong verification, “buys us a decade or 15 years of time, which could be used wisely” to negotiate further. If, instead, this administration fails to certify Iran’s compliance, “even though the IAEA says they are doing everything they are supposed to do, our European friends [who are also party to the agreement] are going to be not happy. That’s one more opportunity to put a wedge between us and our allies.”

As for North Korea, he said, an approach is needed that looks more broadly at the situation rather than just focusing on the nuclear weapons. “We have not had a serious dialog with China; we are not addressing all the issues that China is concerned with,” he said.

“I think that we do need to restart diplomacy. And that does not consist of choosing the most colorful words you can think of. We need to get a framework together that addresses all of our security concerns. … We have got to get back into the business of diplomacy, and then we can get to some progress.”

Projects make inroads on global food and water challenges

With goals that include finding better ways to purify and desalinate water, improving fertilizer production, and preventing food contamination, nearly two dozen research teams presented updates on their work at a day-long event on Sept. 15. The workshop featured the recipients of grants from the Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab (J-WAFS) program at MIT.

John H. Lienhard V, the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Water and Food and the director of J-WAFS, introduced the workshop by reporting that the program has received and funded grant proposals from all five of MIT’s schools, provided 24 seed grants and nine “Solutions” commercialization grants, and attracted industrial partners including the $4 billion water technology company Xylem.

J-WAFS has been awarding seed grants since its founding in 2014. The reports at the workshop included presentations on work that is just getting started under the latest grants, as well as progress reports from grants awarded over the past three years.

Among the newly awarded grants, three relate to improving water supplies for drinking and irrigation. Two others involve ways of providing low-cost, locally sourced fertilizers for crop production, and one is for a method to grow algae in bioreactors for use as animal feed or feedstock for biofuels.

Among the new water sector projects is one by Gail E. Kendall Professor of Mechanical Engineering Evelyn Wang and chemistry professor Mircea Dinca, who are developing a practical, low-cost device to extract potable water directly from the air, even in low-humidity regions. This project builds on technology previously developed in Wang’s lab and potentially could triple or quadruple the water output of the previous version, Wang said.

Another, led by Stephen Graves, the Abraham J. Siegel Professor of Management Science at the Sloan School of Management, and Bish Sanyal, the Ford International Professor of Urban Development in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, will focus on agricultural extension services in Senegal and why the current services do not reach small farmers. This research will probe to what extent private firms with knowledge of irrigation technology can supplement public efforts.  In particular, the research will analyze the current barriers to privately provided irrigation and identify ways in which the benefits of such irrigation practices can be channeled toward small firms.

The fertilizer projects included a concept for deriving potassium fertilizer from feldspar, a mineral that is abundant in Africa and other regions, instead of importing such fertilizers at high cost. The idea is being developed by Associate Professor Antoine Allanore of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Another project, led by Karthish Manthiram, the Warren K. Lewis Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering, seeks to develop an electrochemical method for producing nitrogen fertilizer using smaller, lower-cost systems than the huge industrial facilities currently used for such production.

“In sub-Saharan Africa, one of the major factors holding back a ‘green revolution’ is a lack of fertilizer use,” said Davide Ciceri, a research scientist on Allanore’s research team. These projects could help to address that lack and increase productivity on farms in Africa, which presently lag far behind those of other continents. “Africa has the lowest yields in the world and the lowest nitrogen fertilizer use,” Manthiram said.

Among the projects nearing the end of their two-year grant term was one that aims to entirely eliminate the need for nitrogen fertilizers, in this case by using biological engineering to create cereal grain species capable of producing their own fertilizer, as some leguminous plants already do. This project, led by professor of biological engineering Christopher Voigt, received a second J-WAFS seed grant this year to further develop the work.

Another concluding project, led by professors Noelle Selin of the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society and the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and Valerie Karplus, the Class of 1943 Career Development Assistant Professor of Global Economics and Management, examined the prevalence of mercury pollution of rice in China and its correlation with emissions from potential contributing sources such as coal plants. These results could help bring about policy changes that focus on both legacy soil contamination and future emissions from the power sector.

Other projects studied ways of using climate change projections to help guide water and agriculture policy in the developing world, and opportunities for increasing food production in these areas. J-WAFS-supported researchers are also studying water systems, including how water percolates into the soil under different conditions — a crucial factor for the recharging of aquifers. Others are investigating how to detect and remediate various sources of pollution in water systems, and ways of detecting specific kinds of pathogens in food, fish, and aquaculture systems, and throughout global food supply chains.  

Principal investigators of concluding projects reported that their seed grants have helped them to secure substantial follow-on funding, including a multimillion dollar award for a project on food safety and supply chains, led by MIT Sloan School of Management professors Retsef Levi, Tauhid Zaman, and Yanchong Zheng.

The J-WAFS program funds work in both the developing and developed worlds, Lienhard said. Its researchers have been studying not just new technologies but also the social, economic, and political factors needed to allow such improvements to move toward widespread implementation. “It isn’t enough to have a great invention that works in a lab here in Cambridge. It has to work on site,” he said.

The program was “formed to catalyze research around MIT in the areas of water and food,” Lienhard said. “We’re really interested to see how we can bring the unique strengths of the Institute, in technology and science and business innovation and urban planning and social science, to bear on the urgent challenges that we face around water and food, going into the future.”

“We’ve gotten a lot of great proposals, and we don’t have enough money to fund them all,” he said. “But we’re doing our best to make the money go as far as we can.” J-WAFS will issue a new call for seed research proposals to the MIT community this fall.

Increasing equity through educational technology

Justin Reich was ready to observe a teacher integrating technology into her lesson plan at a school in rural New Hampshire. Her school had bought the laptops, Reich says. She had reserved them. They were charged. All of the kids were logged in. The power was on in the building. The wireless network was working. The projector bulb was working. The screen was working. But when the teacher went to plug the projector into the wall, the electrical socket fell behind the drywall, foiling her attempted lesson plan. “New technologies have tremendous potential to improve student learning,” Reich says, “but many pieces in a complex system need to be working seamlessly to make this happen.”

Reich, an assistant professor in MIT’s Comparative Media Studies/Writing Program (CMS/W), has remained excited about the possibilities that constantly evolving technologies have brought to the learning process over the last few decades. But while many believe that the free and low-cost learning tools becoming available have huge potential to lift up students from low-income families, he’s found that, in truth, this educational technology still benefits the affluent the most.

“I think people underestimate barriers,” Reich says. “Many educators get into the work because they want to create a more equitable world. But educational settings often end up reproducing social inequalities and social hierarchies.”

Through his work as executive director at the MIT Teaching Systems Lab, which now straddles CMS/W and the Office of Digital Learning, Reich works toward finding educational models that incorporate technology in ways that actually will increase quality of education and equity for students.

“All over the world, people are looking to see a shift in classroom teaching practice to more active, engaged, inquiry-based collaborative learning,” he says. “And the only way that will happen is if we can dramatically increase the quantity and quality of teacher learning that’s available.”

Having started off as a wilderness medicine instructor, Reich comes from a hands-on teaching background. Now, he makes sure he and his projects are constantly engaging with real classroom settings. He co-founded EdTechTeacher, a professional learning consultancy which focuses on finding thoughtful ways to use technology in teaching and learning. He also keeps conversations going with classroom instructors through his Education Week-hosted blog, EdTechResearcher.

Reich has also created learning tools for teachers through two online courses, Launching Innovation in Schools, done in collaboration with Peter Senge of the Sloan School of Management; and Design Thinking for Leading and Learning. Both courses were funded by Microsoft with a $650,000 grant.

In CMS/W, he looks to explore the field of learning science and the role that media plays in expanding human capacity, particularly in a civic sense.

“We investigate the complex technology-rich classrooms of the future and the systems that we need to help educators thrive in those settings,” he says.

Back to school special

As part of this year’s freshman orientation at MIT, new students encountered the typical lineup of takeaways: booklets and brochures, a list of 101 things to do before they graduate, lots of T-shirts, pens, etc. For the first time, however, they were also given a completely new version of the old campus staple: the backpack.

Heaped into an uneven pyramid in the Coffeehouse, a room on the third floor of the Stratton Student Center that serves as orientation headquarters, there were dozens of bags — all with a seemingly identical black, white, and grey plaid design. They looked unassuming until Yoel Fink, professor of materials science, started talking to students about them: “These bags are the world’s first programmable backpacks!” he effused. The students leaned in closer, intrigued.

“We express our identity through the fabrics we wear,” said Fink. “And while each one of us is truly unique, the stuff we wear is certainly not,” he added. What if it were? What if our fabrics — say, the ones making up our backpacks — could communicate?

Thanks to Fink, now they can. A unique code is woven into the fabric material of the backpack given to each first-year student. Unlike a QR code, this fabric-based coding system is subtle to the eye but immediately recognizable by an app called AFFOA LOOKS. The owner can link his or her backpack to their mobile device and program it to display a song, a cause, or anything the owner chooses to share. Anyone with the app can scan or “look” the bag and receive this information (in Fink’s case, it’s his business card and a customized song of the day).

Fink is a co-inventor of the tech behind the bag and the CEO of Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA). Located close to the MIT campus, the nonprofit institute was recently created through a $300 million proposal backed by federal and state governments, as well as academic and corporate partners, with the mission of creating functional fabrics that deliver value-added services while facilitating domestic manufacturing and economic growth in this area.

“The fabrics we wear have been functionally the same for centuries,” Fink explained to a packed house in Kresge Auditorium later in the day. “What we wanted to create was a fabric that is as unique as you are.” The manufacturing process employs special looms and materials, he explained. And the bags themselves are exclusive — not sold anywhere. They were made by Inman Mills in South Carolina just for the members of MIT’s Class of 2021.

The plan to give out the backpacks was first proposed by Katharina Ribbeck, a professor in the Department of Biological Engineering, who pointed out that the pack could help facilitate interactions and learning among incoming students. Her proposal was supported by Ian A. Waitz, MIT’s newly appointed vice chancellor and former dean of engineering, who saw it as an opportunity to give new students a way to directly engage with novel technology and each another (and a free place to store their gear and books). There are already plans for a hack-the-pack event during January’s Independent Activities Period.

For Fink, the functional aspect of the backpack is social in another way. Every first-year student he speaks with leaves with a broader understanding of the term “software” (as in soft wear). He wants incoming students to glean that manufacturing is undergoing a transformation; it’s as high-tech and as hot as coding, artificial intelligence, gene editing, and autonomy. It’s an option, a pursuit, a place for passion and a way for self-expression and creativity.

“If you are coming to MIT for the fist time,” he said, waving at the pile of coded bags behind him, “this is what is the place is all about. It’s about innovation and making a difference.” 

Celebrating Walker Memorial’s 100th year

Labor Day Weekend of 1917 marked the opening of MIT’s new student center, Walker Memorial — although not for its intended purpose. As part of the Institute’s contribution to the World War I war effort, 400 naval aviation students moved into the new building, taking over the gymnasium and balconies of the big hall for dormitory space, as well as the rooms on the second and third floors that had been built for student and faculty recreational use.

The building’s namesake, former MIT President Francis Amasa Walker, is still the only MIT president to have served as a military general, so he likely would have approved. As The Tech of the day reported: “the building erected in memory of him will be devoted to military purposes before becoming what it is destined to be, the social center of Technology.”

A hub for campus activities was considered the greatest tribute to President Walker, who was beloved by both students and alumni for his efforts to improve student life on MIT’s cramped Boston campus. But making that ideal student center a reality took two decades.

When Walker died in 1897, the Alumni Association formed a committee to plan and fund the project, and, by 1902, the funds and land had been set aside. The project was postponed, though, when MIT announced plans to relocate from Boston. It wasn’t until the Institute’s move to Cambridge 14 years later that construction on Walker Memorial finally became possible.

It became a landmark for MIT students began even before it was finished. On Feb. 9, 1917, the Class of 1918 gathered for “the first Class Photograph ever taken on the steps of Walker Memorial … this spot will probably be chosen as a place to take all class pictures in the future,” the 1918 edition of Technique reported. The tradition holds generations later: Walker’s steps are still used for alumni group portraits, most notably that of the 50th reunion class before they march in the Commencement procession as official Cardinal and Gray Society members in their distinctive red jackets.

After the Army and Navy aviation cadets moved out in January of 1919, the building was formally inaugurated as a student center. Henry A. Morss, Class of 1893 and then president of the Alumni Association, formally presented Walker Memorial to MIT “for the students that the student body would thereby be united and the Technology spirit be fostered.” 

For many of those who have passed through Walker Memorial over the past 100 years, the most enduring images remain the murals in Morss Hall, which were painted by Edwin Howland Blashfield of the Class of 1869. Created and installed between 1923 and 1930, their allegories of alma mater receiving homage from scientific and academic disciplines have watched over countless MIT community functions, from dining hall breakfasts to the Assembly Ball and more.

For most MIT alumni and students, Walker Memorial holds indelible memories. A century after its completion, the tribute to President Walker has been realized in the best possible way — with the building continuing to serve as a community gathering place.

Hacking functional fabrics to aid emergency response

Hazardous environments such as disaster sites and conflict zones present many challenges for emergency response. But the new field of functional fabrics — materials modified to incorporate various sensors, connect to the internet, or serve multiple purposes, among other things — holds promise for novel solutions.

Over the weekend, MIT became a hotbed for developing those solutions.

A three-day hackathon on campus brought together students and researchers from MIT and around Boston who developed functional fabric concepts to solve major issues facing soldiers in combat or training, first responders, victims and workers in refugee camps, and many others. The event was hosted by the MIT Innovation Initiative, the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) Institute, and MD5, a partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and a network of national research universities.

Participants pitched their ideas on Friday night. By Sunday afternoon, more than 20 teams stationed around the MIT Media Lab’s sixth floor had design mockups drawn on poster boards, algorithms and brainstorming notes scribbled on large sheets of hanging paper, and even hardware and software prototypes on display.

Two winning teams earned grand prizes of up to $15,000, courtesy of MD5. Remote Triage, formed by MIT students, designed an automated triage system for field medics, consisting of sensor-laden clothing that detects potential injury and a web platform that prioritizes care. The other team, Security Blanket, designed a double-sided, multipurpose blanket for people displaced from their homes, based on an idea from a Drexel University student.

Some other ideas included smart belts that passively detect radiation exposure in submarines; military gear fitted with radio-frequency identification tags to manage materials and improve packing efficiency; biometric-monitoring stickers that detect potential post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms; lightweight body armor designed to better protect the heart and neck; stress-detecting shirts that improve military training exercises; and uniforms made with materials and tiny fans that deliver cool and hot airflow across the body. All teams were invited to continue working with MD5.

“This is just the start,” Bill Kernick, technology and partnership development executive for MD5 told MIT News. “The idea of the hackathon is getting the sparks of these ideas moving and creating a relationship with these innovators, who may have not thought about working with DoD, to help solve some really hard problems.”

In that regard, Vladimir Bulović, co-director of the MIT Innovation Initiative and the Fariborz Maseeh (1990) Professor of Emerging Technology, said the hackathon embodies MIT’s goal of developing innovations for real-world applications. “As long as we can deliver impact that leads toward productive next steps, we have succeeded in our mission,” he said.

Through the hackathon, Bulović added, participants were also introduced to the newly launched AFFOA — a consortium of which MIT is a partner — and learned about the ever-growing possibilities of functional fabrics. “Fiber as a format that can deliver electronics, optics, photonics … is an entirely new platform that has not existed before,” he said. “It’s a new frontier.”

On Friday night, hackathon participants listened to talks from various experts — including military officers, first responders, and government representatives — who described major challenges they face in their fields. Participants brainstormed solutions, pitched their ideas to all attendees, and ultimately formed a total of 22 teams. Experts and mentors, from MIT and elsewhere, were on hand all weekend to help teams shape their ideas. (Some experts also joined individual teams.) On Sunday, a panel of judges — including representatives from industry, AFFOA, and MIT — chose 10 teams as finalists to pitch ideas, with two teams emerging as the big winners.

Some teams entered the hackathon with established ideas they wanted to refine. The finalist team OREverywhere, for instance, tweaked its augmented-reality (AR) headgear over the weekend to help field medics. The AR system displays biometric information collected from wearable sensors worn by soldiers and connects all medics on the field. A medic, for instance, can see when a soldier is injured, alert nearby medics, provide advice during care, and monitor everything via video feed — all while helping another soldier. During Sunday’s pitch round, the team presented a live demonstration.

Other teams developed their concepts entirely over the weekend. The MIT students of Remote Triage, who are all friends, landed on their winning idea during dinner, after hearing from an expert about problems with battlefield triage efficiency. “We came in with literally nothing. We weren’t even planning on pitching,” team member Aditi Gupta, a PhD student in the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology, told MIT News.

In two days, the team of six, including a former military officer, designed a mockup of an automated triage system called VITAL. It includes a garment integrated with sensors that continuously monitor vital signs. Signals are sent to a machine-learning algorithm that determines the necessary order of care for injured soldiers, from least urgent to most urgent, color-coded as green, yellow, red, and black. Other features also help the medic determine the whereabouts of the soldier down and the location of their injury, among other things.

With the prize money and other resources from MD5, Gupta said the team now aims to design sensor-laden clothing and further develop the machine-learning algorithm that will power their platform. They’re meeting with MD5 next week to discuss options for moving forward.

Gupta was surprised at how much the team completed in a short time. Hackathons, she added, really help participants — especially tech-minded MIT students — find real-world applications for their ideas and people to help make those ideas a reality. “Hackathons are useful in opening your mind and seeing the bigger picture in terms of how your technology fits in society,” she says, “as well as meeting people out of your field that have knowledge and expertise you don’t.”

Christina Kara, a Drexel University student who manages a lab that researches functional fabrics, had a similar experience. After hearing a first responder talk about working with Hurricane Katrina victims — who were in desperate need of tarps and blankets, and suffered from bacterial skin infections — she pitched the winning concept behind Security Blanket.

Teaming up with that first responder and a few others, the group developed a multipurpose comfort blanket for refugee camps or disaster relief that consists of a waterproof, flexible, robust material on the outside. The inside is lined with antimicrobial, soft, and quick-drying microfibers. The blankets can roll out into a sleeping bag or fold into a backpack. Luminescent strips on the outside improve safety by increasing visibility at night, as well.

“In the five minutes we’ve talked to you, 100 people have been displaced in the world,” Kara said during her team’s pitch. “This is not a problem that’s going away. When we have something that’s fairly affordable, multiuse tool to empower them in their everyday life … you’re improving the experience of these individuals.”

After being announced a winner on Sunday, Kara was in shock, but excited to move forward with her idea, with help from MD5. “Being in a situation, where I have a problem to solve and think about was a new experience for me,” Kara told MIT News. “It was an amazing experience.”

SproutsIO aims to power a “Personal Produce” movement

MIT Media Lab alumna Jennifer Broutin Farah SM ’13, CEO and co-founder of SproutsIO, has spent nearly a decade innovating in urban farming, designing small- and large-scale gardening systems that let anyone grow food, anywhere, at any time.

All this work will soon culminate with the commercial release of her startup’s smart, app-controlled microgarden that lets consumers optimize, customize, and monitor the growth of certain fruits, vegetables, and herbs year-round. Moreover, the soil-free system uses only 2 percent of the water and 40 percent of the nutrients typically used for soil-grown plants.

After piloting the system in Boston homes and restaurants, and following a successful Kickstarter campaign last fall, SproutsIO is ramping up production and hitting the shelves in a few months. Philosophically, the aim is to power a “personal produce” movement, Farah says, in which more people grow their own food, encouraging healthier eating and cutting down on waste.

“Over the last 60 years, we’ve gotten out of touch with growing our food,” Farah says. “But when you grow your own food, you care more about what happens to it. You’re not going to throw it away, you’re going to know exactly what’s going into your plants, you’re going to share your food with friends and family. It gives a new meaning to produce.”

Customized plants

Tailoring plants for taste preferences may not be well-known outside of the wine-making world, where grapes are grown under specific climatic conditions to produce specific flavors. But produce and herbs have similar peculiarities. Even within a given species or variety, individual plants can have different characteristics and growing needs.

“Most of that is dependent on the environment,” Farah says. “If you can customize the lighting, the water, and the nutrients, you can really optimize certain variations in the plants, according to how you want them to taste. SproutsIO can reproduce these specific climatic conditions to a very precise degree.”

SproutsIO consists of a growing device, which is a large basin with a curving, overhead adjustable lamp attached; a replaceable and compostable “sIO” seed refill with growing media, seeds, and nutrients, that’s dropped into the growing device; and “SproutsIOGrow” software that includes a mobile app that collects and analyzes growth data and controls the system. Currently, the system supports basil, kale, wheatgrass, arugula, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, tea, and a variety of plants from root vegetables to fruiting plants.

The SproutsIO system has a number of innovations developed by the startup, stemming from early research at MIT. The hybrid hydroculture system, for instance, consists of “hydroponic” and “aeroponic” growing, where roots are submerged in or misted with water and nutrients. Varying the watering process optimizes water and nutrient use while supporting the growth of different plants at different phases. A tomato plant, for instance, grows large roots during the fruiting stage. The system can lift the plant up at that time to let the roots grow larger, but still deliver water and nutrients by misting.

There’s also a custom LED light that automatically adjusts, depending on need. If the device is located near a window, where sunlight is plentiful, the light will dim; if the sunlight diminishes or if the device is placed in darker areas, the light shines brighter. The system uses about half the electricity of a 60-watt incandescent light bulb.

Sensors monitor plant growth and transmit data to what Farah calls the “backbone” of the system: SproutsIOGrow. The app lets users customize their plants and monitor the plant’s growth in real-time. Depending on light and nutrients added, for instance, tomatoes can be grown to taste sweeter or more savory.

The app also provides predictive growth cycles and connects to personal activity trackers, meal planners, and calendars to help with meal scheduling. A built-in camera takes regular snapshots of growing plants for health diagnostics and to create time-lapse images for users on the app.

Growing plants in such a controlled environment boosts growth efficiency by six times and cuts the length of growth cycles by 50 percent over traditional gardening, according to the startup.

Farah says people often ask her if all the technology tends to remove people from the growing process. It’s the exact opposite, she says: “Technology creates a whole new lens on the growing process. Most of us don’t understand how plants grow because they exist on a totally different time scale. But we show people how the plants grow over time and how they react to certain changes. That’s really eye-opening.”

Shrinking greenhouses

Today’s SproutsIO system is the product of years of refinement for mass adoption. In 2009, while working for New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation, Farah designed a “vertically integrated greenhouse” system, called the Façade Farm. The system consisted of a large metal frame that could be affixed to the side of a building. Long metal planters were installed inside like shelves, and a pump system was installed on the floor. The boxes could be placed up and down a building like gardening balconies.

Though never fully realized, the system got Farah thinking about bringing growing systems to urban areas — a concept that’s popular now but was fairly novel at the time. Building massive structures, however, was a time-consuming and complex process. In 2011, Farah enrolled in the Media Lab, in the Changing Places Group, to develop the idea on a smaller scale.

For her master’s thesis, she built a slightly smaller indoor aeroponic system, called SeedPod, that consisted of modular planters made of inflatable plastic and suspended in three tiers by steel rods. The planters were equipped with sensors for monitoring the plants. An automated pump provided water and nutrients to each planter.

Partnering with Boston Public Schools, Farah installed the system in a middle school in Roxbury. Students started growing plants to eat, and teachers incorporated the gardening into their lessons. “It clicked that the more involved people are with growing food, the more they cared about what happened to it,” she says.

In 2012, Farah shrunk the system further, developing a microgardening “station” that could be used in homes. A number of growing pods — moving toward today’s SproutsIO device — were attached to a vertical pole at different levels, resembling a tree of pods. Included were early versions of the misting system, lighting, and sensors viewed through an app.

In 2013, Farah launched SproutsIO and entered the project into the $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, where she was a semifinalist, and a entrepreneurship competition, which she won. Through MIT Sloan School of Management and Media Lab venture-based classes, she honed the business idea and fleshed out her startup’s larger “personal produce” mission. “Those courses were very inspiring classes that helped to get students thinking about how their ideas apply to larger world context,” she says.

Years of user feedback and research and development helped the startup refine the product into today’s SproutsIO system. Early prototypes, in fact, were sent to Barbara Lynch, a renowned Boston chef who is now advisor to the startup. “What better way to really understand how well the system can perform than putting it in a professional chef’s kitchen?” Farah says. SproutsIO continues to work with a number of professional chefs across the nation.

Ultimately, however, what benefit does a smart microgarden offer over simply growing potted plants at home? “At a base level, we make it easier for people to start growing,” Farah says. But she also believes the system is “a small-scale solution that can have a big impact.”

Individual SproutsIO units can save consumers water, energy, and resources, while easing them into growing their own food. If enough people adopt the system, she says, it could save significant amounts of water and encourage local, efficient growing. But the concept of optimized watering systems, if designed at scale, could also benefit a world where around 70 percent of fresh water is used for industrial agricultural, she adds.

“We need to be considering different solutions for growing that start to optimize the needs of the plant, rather than just pouring tons of water and nutrients on them,” she says.

Featured video: A self-driving wheelchair

Singapore and MIT have been at the forefront of autonomous vehicle development. First, there were self-driving golf buggies. Then, an autonomous electric car. Now, leveraging similar technology, MIT and Singaporean researchers have developed and deployed a self-driving wheelchair at a hospital. 

Spearheaded by Daniela Rus, the Andrew (1956) and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, this autonomous wheelchair is an extension of the self-driving scooter that launched at MIT last year — and it is a testament to the success of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, or SMART, a collaboration between researchers at MIT and in Singapore.

Rus, who is also the principal investigator of the SMART Future Urban Mobility research group, says this newest innovation can help nurses focus more on patient care as they can get relief from logistics work which includes searching for wheelchairs and wheeling patients in the complex hospital network.

“When we visited several retirement communities, we realized that the quality of life is dependent on mobility. We want to make it really easy for people to move around,” Rus says.

Submitted by: Pauline Teo/SMART | Video by: SMART | 3 min, 3 sec

Defiance: Disobedience for the good of all

The mood was electric at the MIT Media Lab on July 21 when more than 500 people gathered for its annual summer event, this year called Defiance. Attendees were buzzing with news that had broken on the eve of the symposium: The Media Lab had not only chosen the winners of its new Disobedience Award, it had also selected several honorable mentions because the pool of more than 7,800 nominations was so rich with achievements that deserved recognition.

“We wanted to honor the people who found ways to say, ‘The systems aren’t working for us — we really need to step outside them and do something radically different,’” said Ethan Zuckerman, director of the MIT Center for Civic Media and a member of the award selection committee. Zuckerman said that the panel also wanted to recognize those working for good within institutions. “They’re taking brave steps and actions to make sure those institutions live up to their values and to their higher purpose, not just to the rules behind them.”

In selecting the honorees, Zuckerman, Media Lab Director Joi Ito, and 10 other committee members focused on work that impacts society in positive ways, and is consistent with a set of key principles, including nonviolence, creativity, courage, and responsibility for one’s actions. Nominees had to be a living person or group engaged in “extraordinary disobedience for the benefit of society.”

The creation of the award was announced at Forbidden Research, the lab’s 2016 summer event. Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, provided the funds after he and Ito came up with the idea last year. “The prize shines a light on the voices we should be listening to,” Hoffman said at Defiance. “On what examples we should be setting for ourselves and for our future selves. Some of the most important human progress comes when you are essentially speaking truth to power.”

Disobedience Award winners

The committee decided that’s exactly what Michigan pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha and Virginia Tech professor of engineering Marc Edwards did in investigating lead-tainted water in Flint, Michigan, and exposing official misconduct in the crisis. Both Hanna-Attisha and Edwards decided to donate their shares of the $250,000 prize to the people of Flint.

“It’s those kids who need these resources,” said Hanna-Attisha. “My activism today is to make sure that we don’t sit back and ignore the consequences of lead exposure. We know what it does to children. My commitment is to turn this around.” Edwards called himself a “serial troublemaker,” having exposed scientific misconduct by federal agencies connected to lead-contaminated water in Washington in 2004. “We were destined to see it repeated, and we knew something like Flint was going to happen. Ultimately, I got a call from a Flint mom who saw all the signs and then we started working with Flint residents so that they could save their own day.” Edwards and Hanna-Attisha persevered in the face of harassment and academic sanctions.    

Honorable mentions

James Hansen said his work also got him “in a lot of trouble.” He was one of three award finalists who received a $10,000 honorable mention. Hansen, widely recognized as a pioneer of climate change research, said he’s had “some differences with the scientific community, and I still do. There are many issues where we need to stand up and tell what we think is the truth even if the powers that be don’t like it.”

The co-founders of Freedom University Georgia, which offers free classes and college prep to undocumented students and were also recognized as finalists, faced pressure as well. “Freedom U initially emerged in 2011 as an act of defiance against our employer [the state’s higher education board],” said Lorgia García-Peña. She and three other professors also at the University of Georgia at that time — Betina Kaplan, Bethany Moreton, and Pamela Voekel — established the school in collaboration with a coalition of undocumented students and immigrants’ rights activists. Now one-fifth of Freedom University students win full merit scholarships to traditional colleges.

When he introduced the third finalist to be honored — the Water Protectors of Standing Rock, who launched the massive protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline — Ito pointed out that many successful movements don’t have clear leadership. LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said she doesn’t see herself as a leader. “Everything just happened because we stood in prayer and nonviolent resistance.” Allard mesmerized the audience as she related how the Standing Rock protest gained momentum. “It was all the people who came together. It was all the people who understood that water was important. It was all the people of the world who know that we have to change now. And we cannot back down.”

“We have been defiant for 500 years,” said Phyllis Young, a fellow protector of Standing Rock and longtime Lakota activist who shared the honorable mention with Allard, Jasilyn Charger, and Joseph White Eyes. Like Allard, Young also captivated the crowd as she chronicled the history of resistance by her ancestors. “We are the people on the edge,” she said, adding that she’d like to collaborate with MIT.

Young’s wish resonated with Megan Smith ’86, SM ’88, former White House CTO and a member of the Media Lab advisory council. Smith was so moved by the stories of Standing Rock that, together with MIT’s Vice President for Research Maria Zuber, she suggested a Dakota-MIT summit on green energy. That announcement drew loud applause, especially when Young said “Yes, we could coordinate with the brass ring.”

A nod to the past

“Defiance is a celebration of the highest instance in human nature,” said the event’s emcee, Farai Chidaya. The veteran journalist and analyst, who recently joined the Media Lab as a Director’s Fellow, said that defiant work allows us “to transcend unjust rules and restrictions, and to surface the love of humanity in ways that are brave and risky.”

Another new Director’s Fellow, Jamila Raqib, picked up on that theme. She’s executive director of the Albert Einstein Institution and a Nobel Prize nominee in the peace category. The Einstein Institution is based on the legendary physicist’s belief, said Raqib, “that strategically applied nonviolent defiance offers humanity the best hope for bringing about a world with more peace and justice.”  

Past achievements laid the groundwork for the Disobedience Award winners and finalists, stressed another speaker, Gregg Pascal Zachary, author and Arizona State University professor. “Your legitimacy as rebels and dissenters today in part depends upon the legitimacy gained by dissenters and rebels. History can show you patterns, how they play out, so you can anticipate what you might face in your struggle.” Fellow presenter Julia Reda agreed. She represents the European Pirate Party, a movement to defend freedoms online, and said that progress will only happen “if somebody has planted the seed for change of thinking in society. This is what defiant people actually do.” Reda went on to talk about her unconventional path to politics, as an outsider now making the most of having “a seat at the table.”  

Echoing that sentiment was Ed You, a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s Biological Countermeasures Unit. He thinks the agency would benefit from bringing biohackers to the table as well. “What a fantastic act of defiance that would be. Members of the hacker community can come up with solutions for the FBI, and it’s important for everyone to push their comfort level.” Adam Foss, a former prosecutor who is working to reform the criminal justice system, also talked about bringing more people — and greater diversity — to the table. Foss told the audience that “the seats in this room that are not filled could be representative of black and brown bodies that could be here sharing their ideas. The lack of those ideas is impacting all of us.”

Engagement with other people is critical, said journalist and author Masha Gessen. “It is really important to talk with people who affirm your reality. But if that’s all you’re getting, then you’re not actually engaging with reality. I think we have to accept a level of discomfort for ourselves, too.”

Giving voice to underrepresented people

Esra’a Al Shafei, another Defiance speaker, is a Bahraini activist and founder of, a network of online platforms that amplify marginalized voices. “Defiance goes beyond dissent,” she said. “It’s creating avenues for self-expression. If you keep lowering the barriers through music, for instance, it makes censorship much harder, and encourages young people to develop their own identity and feel more in charge of their own voices.” Speaking of music, Al Shafei somehow found a way to weave singers Céline Dion and Meatloaf into her presentation, cracking up the audience throughout her time on the stage. Jose Antonio Vargas also had them laughing. “Humor is so important,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, filmmaker, and media entrepreneur said. “If I didn’t laugh about my own circumstances, I don’t know where I’d be.” He shared the stories of his life as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S., his home for almost 24 years. “The reality now though is when you have privilege like I did, like I do, is … what are you doing to risk it? What does it mean to stand up for your undocumented neighbors, classmates, and co-workers?”

While Vargas focused on issues of today, the next session again drew from examples of defiance in history, and also considered the tensions between science and faith. In a discussion between Dominican priest Eric Salobir and Maria Zuber, moderated by Berkman Klein Center co-founder and Harvard Law Professor Jonathan Zittrain, Zuber said that “we should always be looking at what the data is telling us. If it tells us we should change our idea, then we should change our idea. In the process of change, one thing to learn is having a good enough dialogue and trying to get enough explanations that you can get buy-in to allow change to proceed.”

The audacity of disobedience

Lab director Joi Ito gave a special shout-out to Zuber. She took a risk, he said, in being part of the Disobedience Award selection committee, because she has a position on the National Science Board, which is an advisory body to the U.S. President and Congress. But Ito said that the committee was “very careful to not allow fear or lack of courage to enter the selection process. We were checking each other to make sure there was no kowtowing.” In the end, he said, they were all pleased with their choices.

Reid Hoffman agreed, and announced that he would continue to fund the Disobedience Award. “These are the things that matter. These are the issues that we should surface. This is the light we should point this beacon at. This was a well-validated ‘seed experiment’ that was totally awesome.”

MIT’s Solve initiative seeks solutions to its 2017 global challenges

Solve — MIT’s initiative that brings together problem-solvers of all stripes to tackle the world’s pressing problems — has four new global challenges for 2017: brain health; sustainable urban communities; women and technology; and youth, skills, and the workforce of the future. Applications for those who have a solution to any of these challenges are due August 1.

Solve issues challenges for anybody around the world to apply to participate in. The program identifies the best solutions through open innovation. And, it builds and convenes a community of leaders who have the resources, the expertise, the mentorship, and the know-how to get each solution piloted, scaled, and implemented.

At its most recent event last May, Solve convened technologists, social entrepreneurs, business leaders, policymakers, researchers, and change agents on campus for three days of Solve at MIT.

“As I look out on the world, I’m more certain than ever of the power and significance of the collaborative problem-solving global platform we call Solve,” said MIT President Rafael Reif at Solve at MIT. “In the two and a half years since we first announced Solve, it has evolved in important ways. As many of you know firsthand, since then Solve has launched specific, actionable challenges around refugee education, carbon contributions, chronic diseases, and inclusive innovation. In its first cycle, Solve attracted more than 400 solutions from more than 57 countries.”

The May event celebrated the first cycle of Solvers, who worked on those 2016 challenges, by bringing them together with the Solve community to form partnerships to help implement their solutions. Also at that time, Solve launched its new challenges for 2017. Those challenges are now getting ready to close on August 1. They are:

  • Brain Health: How can every person improve their brain health and mental resilience?
  • Sustainable Urban Communities: How can urban communities increase their access to sustainable and resilient food and water sources?
  • Women and Technology: How can women and girls of all socioeconomic backgrounds use technology to fully participate and prosper in the economy?
  • Youth, Skills, and the Workforce of the Future: How can disadvantaged youth learn the skills they need to prepare them for the workforce of the future and thrive in the 21st century?

Solve further announced three prizes for the 2017 challenges during Solve at MIT. Applicants for these challenges should be sure to opt in if they’re eligible.

  1. Atlassian Foundation International is pledging up to $1 million in grant funding for the Youth, Skills, and the Workforce of the Future Challenge to selected Solvers from non-governmental organizations, nonprofits, social enterprises, academics, entrepreneurs, and for-profit organizations.
  2. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is pledging up to $1 million in grant funding for the Youth, Skills, and the Workforce of the Future Challenge to selected Solvers who will have an impact in developing countries across the Indo-Pacific. 
  3. World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma is pledging to curate a mentorship prize for selected Solvers who propose solutions based in arts and culture to the four challenges.

Applicants who are selected as finalists will join the Solve Challenge Finals in New York City on Sept. 17 during the United Nations General Assembly Week. The Solve pitch session will take place in front of challenge judges, Solve members, and a live audience in New York. 

“This is just the beginning of the community, of the marketplace, of the movement,” said Solve Executive Director Alex Amouyel during Solve at MIT. “And to truly realize the vision of Solve, we need you to continue the charge.”

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