People Should Find A Safe Storm Shelter During Thunderstorm

Storm Shelters in OKC

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.

Leaning On God Through Hard Times

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 and help prospects move in by partnering with the right home services and moving company. 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.

Saving the radome

Perched atop the MIT Cecil and Ida Green Building (Building 54), MIT’s tallest academic building, a large, golf ball-like structure protrudes from the roof, holding its own in the iconic MIT campus skyline. This radar dome — or “radome” for short — is a fiberglass shell that encases a large parabolic dish, shielding it from the elements while allowing radio waves to penetrate. First installed in 1966, it was used initially to pioneer weather radar research. As the years passed and technology evolved, the radome eventually fell out of use for this purpose and was subsequently slated for removal as MIT began a major renovation and capital improvement project for the building. That’s when the student-led MIT Radio Society, who had found creative new uses for the radome, sprang into action to save it — and succeeded.

“When we say ‘save the radome,’ what we set out to accomplish was to preserve a scientific instrument with great potential from demolition and incorporate an in-place renovation of the dish into the overall building renewal project,” says Kerri Cahoy, associate professor in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, who serves as the faculty advisor for the MIT Radio Society.

The call to action

Starting in the early 1980s, the MIT Radio Society took up residence alongside the radome on the roof of the Green Building, leveraging the highest point on campus accessible to students that provided a manageable, unobstructed laboratory to house equipment like antenna arrays and an FM repeater. In recent years, the Radio Society adapted and upgraded the radome for their microwave experiments, most notably enabling its use for Earth-moon-Earth or “moonbounce” communication, where signals are bounced off the moon to reach Earth-bound receivers at greater distances than radio communications sent on the ground.

“Before the pandemic, we participated in a contest where we used moonbounce to make contact with as many people in as many places as possible to earn points,” says Milo Hooper, a senior in mechanical engineering and president of the MIT Radio Society. “We had to get up at 2 a.m. to make sure the moon was in the right position at the right time, and we were able to talk to people in Europe and on the West Coast. As a student, it’s amazing to have the opportunity to use a world-class instrument on a college campus. It’s unrivaled.”

To secure the large dish’s future and replace the deteriorating radome, the MIT Radio Society spearheaded a fundraising effort and immediately got to work. Building on the momentum of a previous successful fundraising campaign among Radio Society alumni that helped refurbish their equipment on the roof, they further mobilized the MIT community of alumni and friends by organizing a second campaign. The students also pulled together a successful grant application in record time to Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC), a non-profit private foundation supporting amateur radio and digital communications science, resulting in ARDC’s largest-ever philanthropic contribution, made in memory of the organization’s founder Brian Kantor. This lead gift brought the MIT Radio Society across the finish line to successfully meet their fundraising goal.

“We were overwhelmed at first by the amount we needed to raise, and the short time we had before the renovation project needed to begin. We just had to hope that someone would see the same promise and potential in the dish that we did,” says Gregory Allan, a PhD student in the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics who led ARDC grant submission efforts. “When we contacted ARDC, they were so supportive and willing to do whatever it took to make this happen. We’re really grateful to them for this incredible gift.”

Finding a new purpose

When it comes to satellite communication, the bigger the dish, the further you can send communication signals. The large dish atop the Green Building is 18 feet wide, which is unique because academic institutions don’t typically have access to a dish that size without partnering with a commercial provider. The dish rests upon a mount that also boasts a unique feature: Built and used initially for an earlier project to track aircraft movement during World War II, the mount can reposition the dish quickly. This will be particularly useful for tracking satellites in low-Earth orbit that streak across the night sky in less than 10 minutes.

“The dish is really perfect for both low-Earth orbit satellite communications because of the fast-tracking and also for deep space lunar CubeSats because of its large size. Additionally, the surface of the dish is in good shape, so we can use it for communications at relatively high frequencies which allow us to transfer data at higher rates,” says Mary Knapp ’11, PhD ’18, who is now a research scientist at MIT Haystack Observatory. “Basically, it’s ready to be put to use by many of the CubeSat projects in the process of being developed at MIT, and potentially for outside parties as well.”

The large radome has also proven to be a valuable asset in the classroom, particularly supporting remote-learning efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic. With the help of the MIT Radio Society, the dish enabled remote radio astronomy experiments for the Physics Junior Laboratory (J-Lab), a foundational course in the physics curriculum. The astronomy experiment typically involves using a small radio telescope to measure how the galaxy rotates from our perspective here on Earth. Instead, students collected “exquisite” high-quality data using the large dish, allowing the class to maintain operations close to normal even while working remotely during the pandemic.

“From my perspective, there are three big shining stars that helped make this happen: the initiative and energy of the students, the support of alumni and the MIT community, and ARDC who saw the potential and the exciting future of this facility and how we can use it to educate future generations and support forward-thinking research on campus,” says Cahoy. “We feel grateful that MIT gave us the opportunity to see this through, and appreciate the support, partnership, and guidance we received from the Department of Facilities Campus Construction team who helped us navigate this complex project.”

Turning technology against human traffickers

Last October, the White House released the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking. The plan was motivated, in part, by a greater understanding of the pervasiveness of the crime. In 2019, 11,500 situations of human trafficking in the United States were identified through the National Human Trafficking Hotline, and the federal government estimates there are nearly 25 million victims globally.

This increasing awareness has also motivated MIT Lincoln Laboratory, a federally funded research and development center, to harness its technological expertise toward combating human trafficking.

In recent years, researchers in the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Systems Group have met with federal, state, and local agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and technology companies to understand the challenges in identifying, investigating, and prosecuting trafficking cases. In 2019, the team compiled their findings and 29 targeted technology recommendations into a roadmap for the federal government. This roadmap informed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s recent counter-trafficking strategy released in 2020.

“Traffickers are using technology to gain efficiencies of scale, from online commercial sex marketplaces to complex internet-driven money laundering, and we must also leverage technology to counter them,” says Matthew Daggett, who is leading this research at the laboratory.

In July, Daggett testified at a congressional hearing about many of the current technology gaps and made several policy recommendations on the role of technology countering trafficking. “Taking advantage of digital evidence can be overwhelming for investigators. There’s not a lot of technology out there to pull it all together, and while there are pockets of tech activity, we see a lot of duplication of effort because this work is siloed across the community,” he adds.

Breaking down these silos has been part of Daggett’s goal. Most recently, he brought together almost 200 practitioners from 85 federal and state agencies, NGOs, universities, and companies for the Counter–Human Trafficking Technology Workshop at Lincoln Laboratory. This first-of-its-kind virtual event brought about discussions of how technology is used today, where gaps exist, and what opportunities exist for new partnerships. 

The workshop was also an opportunity for the laboratory’s researchers to present several advanced tools in development. “The goal is to come up with sustainable ways to partner on transitioning these prototypes out into the field,” Daggett adds.

Uncovering networks

One the most mature capabilities at the laboratory in countering human trafficking deals with the challenge of discovering large-scale, organized trafficking networks.

“We cannot just disrupt pieces of an organized network, because many networks recover easily. We need to uncover the entirety of the network and disrupt it as a whole,” says Lin Li, a researcher in the Artificial Intelligence Technology Group.

To help investigators do that, Li has been developing machine learning algorithms that automatically analyze online commercial sex ads to reveal whether they are likely associated with human trafficking activities and if they belong to the same organization.  

This task may have been easier only a few years ago, when a large percentage of trafficking-linked activities were advertised, and reported, from listings on Backpage.com. Backpage was the second-largest classified ad listing service in the United States after Craigslist, and was seized in 2018 by a multi-agency federal investigation. A slew of new advertising sites has since appeared in its wake. “Now we have a very decentralized distributed information source, where people are cross-posting on many web pages,” Li says. Traffickers are also becoming more security-aware, Li says, often using burner cellular or internet phones that make it difficult to use “hard” links such as phone numbers to uncover organized crime.

So, the researchers have instead been leveraging “soft” indicators of organized activity, such as semantic similarities in the ad descriptions. They use natural language processing to extract unique phrases in content to create ad templates, and then find matches for those templates across hundreds of thousands of ads from multiple websites.

“We’ve learned that each organization can have multiple templates that they use when they post their ads, and each template is more or less unique to the organization. By template matching, we essentially have an organization-discovery algorithm,” Li says.

In this analysis process, the system also ranks the likelihood of an ad being associated with human trafficking. By definition, human trafficking involves compelling individuals to provide service or labor through the use of force, fraud, or coercion — and does not apply to all commercial sex work. The team trained a language model to learn terms related to race, age, and other marketplace vernacular in the context of the ad that may be indicative of potential trafficking. 

To show the impact of this system, Li gives an example scenario in which an ad is reported to law enforcement as being linked to human trafficking. A traditional search to find other ads using the same phone number might yield 600 ads. But by applying template matching, approximately 900 additional ads could be identified, enabling the discovery of previously unassociated phone numbers.

“We then map out this network structure, showing links between ad template clusters and their locations. Suddenly, you see a transnational network,” Li says. “It could be a very powerful way, starting with one ad, of discovering an organization’s entire operation.”

Analyzing digital evidence

Once a human trafficking investigation is underway, the process of analyzing evidence to find probable cause for warrants, corroborate victim statements, and build a case for prosecution can be very time- and human-intensive. A case folder might hold thousands of pieces of digital evidence — a conglomeration of business or government records, financial transactions, cell phone data, emails, photographs, social media profiles, audio or video recordings, and more.

“The wide range of data types and formats can make this process challenging. It’s hard to understand the interconnectivity of it all and what pieces of evidence hold answers,” Daggett says. “What investigators want is a way to search and visualize this data with the same ease they would a Google search.”

The system Daggett and his team are prototyping takes all the data contained in an evidence folder and indexes it, extracting the information inside each file into three major buckets — text, imagery, and audio data. These three types of data are then passed through specialized software processes to structure and enrich them, making them more useful for answering investigative questions.                                

The image processor, for example, can recognize and extract text, faces, and objects from images. The processor can then detect near-duplicate images in the evidence, making a link between an image that appears on a sex advertisement and the cell phone that took it, even for images that have been heavily edited or filtered. They are also working on facial recognition algorithms that can identify the unique faces within a set of evidence, model them, and find them elsewhere within the evidence files, under widely different lighting conditions and shooting angles. These techniques are useful for identifying additional victims and corroborating who knows whom.

Another enrichment capability allows investigators to find “signatures” of trafficking in the data. These signatures can be specific vernacular used, for example, in text messages between suspects that refer to illicit activity. Other trafficking signatures can be image-based, such as if the picture was taken in a hotel room, contains certain objects such as cash, or shows specific types of tattoos that traffickers use to brand their victims. A deep learning model the team is working on now is specifically aimed at recognizing crown tattoos associated with trafficking. “The challenge is to train the model to identify the signature across a wide range of crown tattoos that look very different from one another, and we’re seeing robust performance using this technique,” Daggett says.

One particularly time-intensive process for investigators is analyzing thousands of jail phone calls from suspects who are awaiting trial, for indications of witness tampering or continuing illicit operations. The laboratory has been leveraging automated speech recognition technology to develop a tool to allow investigators to partially transcribe and analyze the content of these conversations. This capability gives law enforcement a general idea of what a call might be about, helping them triage ones that should be prioritized for a closer look. 

Finally, the team has been developing a series of user-facing tools that use all of the processed data to enable investigators to search, discover, and visualize connections between evidentiary artifacts, explore geolocated information on a map, and automatically build evidence timelines.

“The prosecutors really like the timeline tool, as this is one of the most labor-intensive tasks when preparing for trial,” Daggett says.

When users click on a document, a map pin, or a timeline entry, they see a data card that links back to the original artifacts. “These tools point you back to the primary evidence that cases can be built on,” Daggett says. “A lot of this prototyping is picking what might be called low-hanging fruit, but it’s really more like fruit already on the ground that is useful and just isn’t getting picked up.”

Victim-centered training

These data analytics are especially useful for helping law enforcement corroborate victim statements. Victims may be fearful or unwilling to provide a full picture of their experience to investigators, or may have difficulty recalling traumatic events. The more nontestimonial evidence that prosecutors can use to tell the story to a jury, the less pressure prosecutors must place on victims to help secure a conviction. There is greater awareness of the retraumatization that can occur during the investigation and trial processes.    

“In the last decade, there has been a greater shift toward a victim-centered approach to investigations,” says Hayley Reynolds, an assistant leader in the Human Health and Performance Systems Group and one of the early leaders of counter–human trafficking research at the laboratory. “There’s a greater understanding that you can’t bring the case to trial if a survivor’s needs are not kept at the forefront.”

Improving training for law enforcement, specifically in interacting with victims, was one of the team’s recommendation in the trafficking technology roadmap. In this area, the laboratory has been developing a scenario-based training capability that uses game-play mechanics to inform law enforcement on aspects of trauma-informed victim interviewing. The training, called a “serious game,” helps officers experience how the approach they choose to gather information can build rapport and trust with a victim, or can reduce the feeling of safety and retraumatize victims. The capability is currently being evaluated by several organizations that specialize in victim-centered practitioner training. The laboratory recently published a journal on serious games built for multiple mission areas over the last decade.

Daggett says that prototyping in partnership with the state and federal investigators and prosecutors that these tools are intended for is critical. “Everything we do must be user-centered,” he says. “We study their existing workflows and processes in detail, present ideas for technologies that could improve their work, and they rate what would have the most operational utility. It’s our way to methodically figure out how to solve the most critical problems,” Daggett says.

When Daggett gave congressional testimony in July, he spoke of the need to establish a unified, interagency entity focused on R&D for countering human trafficking. Since then, some progress has been made toward that goal — the federal government has now launched the Center for Countering Human Trafficking, the first integrated center to support investigations and intelligence analysis, outreach and training activities, and victim assistance.

Daggett hopes that future collaborations will enable technologists to apply their work toward capabilities needed most by the community. “Thoughtfully designed technology can empower the collective counter–human trafficking community and disrupt these illicit operations. Increased R&D holds the potential make a tremendous impact by accelerating justice and hastening the healing of victims.”

Media Advisory — MIT researchers: AI policy needed to manage impacts, build more equitable systems

On Thursday, May 6 and Friday, May 7, the AI Policy Forum — a global effort convened by researchers from MIT — will present their initial policy recommendations aimed at managing the effects of artificial intelligence and building AI systems that better reflect society’s values. Recognizing that there is unlikely to be any singular national AI policy, but rather public policies for the distinct ways in which we encounter AI in our lives, forum leaders will preview their preliminary findings and policy recommendations in three key areas: finance, mobility, and health care.

The inaugural AI Policy Forum Symposium, a virtual event hosted by the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, will bring together AI and public policy leaders, government officials from around the world, regulators, and advocates to investigate some of the pressing questions posed by AI in our economies and societies. The symposium’s program will feature remarks from public policymakers helping shape governments’ approaches to AI; state and federal regulators on the front lines of these issues; designers of self-driving cars and cancer-diagnosing algorithms; faculty examining the systems used in emerging finance companies and associated concerns; and researchers pushing the boundaries of AI.

WHAT
AI Policy Forum (AIPF) Symposium

WHO:
MIT speakers: 

  • Martin A. Schmidt, MIT provost
  • Daniel Huttenlocher, AIPF chair and dean of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing
  • Regina Barzilay, MIT School of Engineering Distinguished Professor of AI and Health; AI faculty lead of the Jameel Clinic at MIT
  • Daniel Weitzner, founding director of the MIT Internet Policy Research Initiative; former U.S. deputy chief technology officer in the Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • Luis Videgaray, senior lecturer in the MIT Sloan School of Management; former foreign minister and minister of finance of Mexico
  • Aleksander Madry, professor of computer science in the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • R. David Edelman, director of public policy for the MIT Internet Policy Research Initiative; former special assistant to U.S. President Barack Obama for economic and technology policy
  • Julie Shah, MIT associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics; associate dean of social and ethical responsibilities of computing in the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing
  • Andrew Lo, professor of finance in the MIT Sloan School of Management

Guest speakers and participants: 

  • Julie Bishop, chancellor of the Australian National University; former minister of foreign affairs and member of the Parliament of Australia
  • Andrew Wyckoff, director for science, technology and innovation at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
  • Martha Minow, 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard Law School; former dean of the Harvard Law School
  • Alejandro Poiré, dean of the School of Public Policy at Monterrey Tec; former secretary of the interior of Mexico
  • Ngaire Woods, dean of the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford
  • Darran Anderson, director of strategy and innovation at the Texas Department of Transportation
  • Nat Beuse, vice president of security at Aurora; former head safety regulator for autonomous vehicles at the U.S. Department of Transportation
  • Laura Major, chief technology officer of Motional
  • Manuela Veloso, head of AI research at JP Morgan Chase
  • Stephanie Lee, managing director of BlackRock Systematic Active Equities Emerging Markets

WHEN
Thursday and Friday, May 6 and 7

Media RSVP:
Reporters interested in attending can register here. More information on the AI Policy Forum can be found here

With a zap of light, system switches objects’ colors and patterns

When was the last time you repainted your car? Redesigned your coffee mug collection? Gave your shoes a colorful facelift?

You likely answered: never, never, and never. You might consider these arduous tasks not worth the effort. But a new color-shifting “programmable matter” system could change that with a zap of light.

MIT researchers have developed a way to rapidly update imagery on object surfaces. The system, dubbed “ChromoUpdate” pairs an ultraviolet (UV) light projector with items coated in light-activated dye. The projected light alters the reflective properties of the dye, creating colorful new images in just a few minutes. The advance could accelerate product development, enabling product designers to churn through prototypes without getting bogged down with painting or printing.

example

ChromoUpdate “takes advantage of fast programming cycles — things that wouldn’t have been possible before,” says Michael Wessley, the study’s lead author and a postdoc in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

The research will be presented at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems this month. Wessely’s co-authors include his advisor, Professor Stefanie Mueller, as well as postdoc Yuhua Jin, recent graduate Cattalyya Nuengsigkapian ’19, MNG ’20, visiting master’s student Aleksei Kashapov, postdoc Isabel Qamar, and Professor Dzmitry Tsetserukou of the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology.

ChromoUpdate builds on the researchers’ previous programmable matter system, called PhotoChromeleon. That method was “the first to show that we can have high-resolution, multicolor textures that we can just reprogram over and over again,” says Wessely. PhotoChromeleon used a lacquer-like ink comprising cyan, magenta, and yellow dyes. The user covered an object with a layer of the ink, which could then be reprogrammed using light. First, UV light from an LED was shone on the ink, fully saturating the dyes. Next, the dyes were selectively desaturated with a visible light projector, bringing each pixel to its desired color and leaving behind the final image. PhotoChromeleon was innovative, but it was sluggish. It took about 20 minutes to update an image. “We can accelerate the process,” says Wessely.

They achieved that with ChromoUpdate, by fine-tuning the UV saturation process. Rather than using an LED, which uniformly blasts the entire surface, ChromoUpdate uses a UV projector that can vary light levels across the surface. So, the operator has pixel-level control over saturation levels. “We can saturate the material locally in the exact pattern we want,” says Wessely. That saves time — someone designing a car’s exterior might simply want to add racing stripes to an otherwise completed design. ChromoUpdate lets them do just that, without erasing and reprojecting the entire exterior.

This selective saturation procedure allows designers to create a black-and-white preview of a design in seconds, or a full-color prototype in minutes. That means they could try out dozens of designs in a single work session, a previously unattainable feat. “You can actually have a physical prototype to see if your design really works,” says Wessely. “You can see how it looks when sunlight shines on it or when shadows are cast. It’s not enough just to do this on a computer.”

That speed also means ChromoUpdate could be used for providing real-time notifications without relying on screens. “One example is your coffee mug,” says Wessely. “You put your mug in our projector system and program it to show your daily schedule. And it updates itself directly when a new meeting comes in for that day, or it shows you the weather forecast.”

Wessely hopes to keep improving the technology. At present, the light-activated ink is specialized for smooth, rigid surfaces like mugs, phone cases, or cars. But the researchers are working toward flexible, programmable textiles. “We’re looking at methods to dye fabrics and potentially use light-emitting fibers,” says Wessely. “So, we could have clothing — t-shirts and shoes and all that stuff — that can reprogram itself.”

The researchers have partnered with a group of textile makers in Paris to see how ChomoUpdate can be incorporated into the design process.

This research was funded, in part, by Ford.

Study finds ride-sharing intensifies urban road congestion

Transport network companies (TNCs), or ride-sharing companies, have gained widespread popularity across much of the world, with more and more cities adopting the phenomenon. While ride-sharing has been credited with being more environmentally friendly than taxis and private vehicles, is that really the case today, or do they rather contribute to urban congestion?

Researchers at the Future Urban Mobility (FM) Interdisciplinary Research Group (IRG) at Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), MIT, and Tongji University conducted a study to find out.

In a paper titled “Impacts of transportation network companies on urban mobility” recently published in Nature Sustainability, the first-of-its-kind study assessed three aspects of how ride-sharing (more accurately called ride-hailing) impacts urban mobility in the United States — road congestion, public transport ridership, and private vehicle ownership — and how they have evolved over time.

“While public transportation provides high-efficiency shared services, it can only accommodate a small portion of commuters, as their coverage is limited in most places,” says Jinhua Zhao, SMART FM principal investigator and associate professor at MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning. “While mathematical models in prior studies showed that the potential benefit of on-demand shared mobility could be tremendous, our study suggests that translating this potential into actual gains is much more complicated in the real world.”

Using a panel dataset covering mobility trends, socio-demographic changes, and TNC entry at the metropolitan statistical areas level to construct a set of fixed-effect panel models, the researchers found the entrance of TNCs led to increased road congestion in terms of both intensity and duration. Specifically, they noted that congestion increased by almost 1 percent while the duration of congestion rose by 4.5 percent. They also found a 8.9 percent drop in public transport ridership and an insignificant decrease of only 1 percent in private vehicle ownership.

While many previous studies have focused on Uber alone, this study takes into account both Uber and Lyft — the two most popular ride-sharing companies in the United States. While Uber accounts for 69 percent of the market, Lyft accounts for a significant 29 percent, and its inclusion into the dataset would give a more holistic and unbiased estimate of the TNC effect.

The study also finds easy access to ride-sharing discourages commuters from taking greener alternatives, such as walking or public transportation. Survey data from various U.S. cities also showed that approximately half of TNC trips would otherwise have been made by walking, cycling, public transport, or would not have been made at all.

“We are still in the early stages of TNCs and we are likely to see many changes in how these ride-sharing businesses operate,” says Hui Kong, SMART-FM alumna and postdoc at the MIT Urban Mobility Lab, and an author of the paper. “Our research shows that over time TNCs have intensified urban transport challenges and road congestion in the United States, mainly through the extended duration and slightly through the increased intensity. With this information, policies can then be introduced that could lead to positive changes.”

The researchers think that the substantial deadheading miles (miles traveled without a passenger) by TNCs could contribute to the TNC’s negative impact on road congestion. According to some other studies, approximately 40.8 percent of TNC miles are deadheading miles.

“Our findings can provide useful insights into the role that TNCs have played in urban transport systems,” says Professor Mi Diao of Tongji University and SMART-FM alumnus, who is the lead author of the paper. “It can be very useful in supporting transportation planners and policymakers in their decisions and regulations with regard to TNCs.”

The research is carried out by SMART and supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) Singapore under its Campus for Research Excellence And Technological Enterprise (CREATE) program.

FM is one of five IRGs in SMART. FM harnesses new technological and institutional innovations to create the next generation of urban mobility systems to increase accessibility, equity, safety, and environmental performance for the citizens and businesses of Singapore and other metropolitan areas, worldwide.

SMART is MIT’s research enterprise in Singapore, established in partnership with the NRF in 2007. SMART is the first entity in the CREATE. SMART serves as an intellectual and innovation hub for research interactions between MIT and Singapore, undertaking cutting-edge research projects in areas of interest to both Singapore and MIT. SMART currently comprises an Innovation Center and five IRGs: Antimicrobial Resistance, Critical Analytics for Manufacturing Personalized-Medicine, Disruptive and Sustainable Technologies for Agricultural Precision, FM, and Low Energy Electronic Systems.

Spencer Compton, Karna Morey, Tara Venkatadri, and Lily Zhang named 2021-22 Goldwater Scholars

MIT students Spencer Compton, Karna Morey, Tara Venkatadri, and Lily Zhang have been selected to receive a Barry Goldwater Scholarship for the 2021-22 academic year. Over 5,000 college students from across the United States were nominated for the scholarships, from which only 410 recipients were selected based on academic merit. 

The Goldwater scholarships have been conferred since 1989 by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. These scholarships have supported undergraduates who go on to become leading scientists, engineers, and mathematicians in their respective fields. All of the 2021-22 Goldwater Scholars intend to obtain a doctorate in their area of research, including the four MIT recipients. 

Spencer Compton

A junior majoring in computer science and engineering, Compton is set to graduate next year with both his undergraduate and master’s degrees. For Compton, solving advanced problems is as fun as it is challenging — he’s been involved in algorithm competitions since high school, where, on the U.S. team for the 2018 International Olympiad in Informatics, Compton won gold. “I still participate — there’s a college equivalent, the Intercollegiate Programming Contest or ICPC, and I’m on last year’s MIT team that won first in North America,” reports Compton. “We were supposed to represent MIT in the World Finals in Russia last summer, but it’s been postponed due to Covid.” Compton brings his competitive and enthusiastic mindset to his areas of research, including his collaboration on causal inference with the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, and his work on approximation algorithms and scheduling with professor of electrical engineering and computer science Ronitt Rubinfeld and postdoc Slobodan Mitrović​.

In her recommendation letter, Rubinfeld, a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, spoke at length about Compton’s aptitude as a student but she also left a glowing review as to Compton’s character. “Spencer is extraordinarily pleasant to work with. He is kind and caring when he interacts with younger students. I once had a high school student follow me for a day on which I happened to have a meeting with Spencer ­­— she was so impressed with him that he became a role model for her,” wrote Rubinfeld. Following the completion of his current degrees at MIT, Compton plans to obtain his PhD in computer science, continue his research in algorithms, and teach at the university level.

Karna Morey

Morey is a third-year majoring in physics with a minor in Spanish. He got interested in physics while reading Albert Einstein’s biography in the seventh grade, and performed research for two years in high school on gravitational wave physics of a body falling into a black hole. On campus, he has been involved in physics research in theoretical and observational astrophysics, as well as in condensed matter experiments. He recently authored an accepted paper on measuring the lifetime of high-redshift quasars to better understand the ways that supermassive black holes grow. Currently, he is working in the Gedik group, exploring quantum materials using second harmonic generation. Morey plans on pursuing a PhD in physics and one day conduct research at the university level.

“It was a great experience working with Karna. He was the first student I worked with and he set the bar very high for any future students,” said Christina Eilers, a Pappalardo Fellow in the MIT Department of Physics; Eilers supervised Morey’s research estimating the timescales of supermassive black holes in the early universe and was extremely impressed by his coding skills and confidence as a researcher. Morey is also heavily involved in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the physics department and in the broader field, where he serves as one of the co-chairs of the cross-constituency Physics Values Committee, which seeks to work with department leadership and stakeholders to improve the climate and culture of the physics department. He hopes to make meaningful contributions not only to further scientific discoveries, but also to making science more inclusive.

Tara Venkatadri

A fourth-generation engineer and junior at MIT, Venkatadri is following her passion for space exploration, majoring in aeronautical and astronautical engineering with a minor in Earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences. During her time at MIT, Venkatadri became interested in aerospace structures, pointing out that the unforgiving space environment places unique spacecraft constraints, especially for crewed missions. “As we go deeper into outer space and send humans to other planets, we need to design new methods and materials to ensure the safety of astronauts when pursuing increasingly ambitious space exploration,” she said.

Her interest in aerospace structures eventually landed her in the lab of Professor Tal Cohen, the Robert N. Noyce Career Development Professor and assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and mechanical engineering. Venkatadri is trying to understand how adhesive materials deform under torsion in order to use them safely and efficiently in real-world structures, such as spacecraft. There has been increasing interest in adhesives across many industries because they can bond dissimilar materials together without welding and do not concentrate stress on the materials the way mechanical fastenings like bolts and rivets do. In his letter of recommendation, Olivier de Weck, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and of engineering systems at MIT, cited Venkatadri’s research rigor, academic scholarship, and significant acts of service to the department, noting “without hesitation that Tara is the most impressive undergraduate student I have seen in our department over the last decade.”

Lily Zhang

Zhang is a junior double-majoring in Earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences as well as physics, with minors in public policy and math. Zhang has a passion for climate science, something she’s known since she first viewed Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” as a child. That passion was encouraged by her father, a professor of meteorology. “He was really passionate about his research and loved his job, which helped me develop my own appreciation for science and academia,” says Zhang. Though her father passed away in 2019, Zhang says he remains a major inspiration on her life.

At MIT, Zhang is now in the finishing stages of two of her own research projects, including using satellite observations to fill in the historic Halley ozone record with Professor Susan Solomon, the Lee and Geraldine Martin Professor of Environmental Studies in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. “Lily never ceases to astonish me with her ability to tackle research questions and come up with clever solutions. The Goldwater scholarship is fitting recognition of her enormous potential,” said Solomon. Zhang is thankful to all of her mentors, both past and present, and says that the opportunity to work alongside them and observe their research approaches first-hand has been a dream. After finishing her undergraduate degree, Zhang aims to obtain her PhD and bring her zest for education and research as a professor in climate science.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater, a soldier and national leader who served the country for 56 years. Awardees receive scholarships of up to $7,500 a year to cover costs related to tuition, room and board, fees, and books.

A guide to when and how to build technology for social good

People frequently try to participate in political processes, from organizing to hold government to account for providing quality health care and education to participating in elections. But sometimes these systems are set up in a way that makes it difficult for people and government to engage effectively with each other. How can technology help?

In a new how-to guide, Luke Jordan, an MIT Governance Lab (MIT GOV/LAB) practitioner-in-residence, advises on how — and more importantly, when — to put together a team to build such a piece of “civic technology.” 

Jordan is the founder and executive director of Grassroot, a civic technology platform for community organizing in South Africa. “With Grassroot, I learned a lot about building technology on a very limited budget in difficult contexts for complex problems,” says Jordan. “The guide codifies some of what I learned.” 

While the guide is aimed at people interested in designing technology that has a social impact, some parts might also be useful more broadly to anyone designing technology in a small team. 

The “don’t build it” principle 

The guide’s first lesson is its title: “Don’t Build It.” Because an app can be designed cheaply and easily, many get built when the designer hasn’t found a good solution to the problem they’re trying to solve or doesn’t even understand the problem in the first place. 

Koketso Moeti, founding executive director of amandla.mobi, says she is regularly approached by people with an idea for a piece of civic technology. “Often after a discussion, it is either realized that there is something that already exists that can do what is desired, or that the problem was misdiagnosed and is sometimes not even a technical problem,” she says. The “don’t build it” principle serves as a reminder that you have to work hard to convince yourself that your project is worth starting. 

The guide offers several litmus tests for whether or not an idea is a good one, one of which is that the technology should help people do something that they’re already trying to do, but are finding it difficult. “Unless you’re the Wright brothers,” says Jordan, “you have to know if people are actually going to want to use this.” 

This means developing a deep understanding of the context you’re trying to solve a problem in. Jordan’s original conception of Grassroot was an alert for when services weren’t working. But after walking around and talking to people in communities that might use the product, his team found that people were already alerting each other. “But when we asked, ‘how do people come together when you need to do something about it,’” says Jordan, “we were told over and over, ‘that’s actually really difficult.’” And so Grassroot became a platform activists could use to organize gatherings. 

Building a team: hire young engineers

One section of the guide advises on how to put together a team to build a project, such as what qualities one should want in a chief technology officer (CTO) who will help run things; where to look for engineers; and how a tech team should work with one’s field staff. 

The guide suggests hiring entry-level engineers as a way to get some talented people on board while operating on a limited budget. “When I’ve hired, I’ve tended to find most of the value among very unconventional and raw junior hires,” says Jordan. “I think if you put in the work in the hiring process, you get fantastic people at junior levels.”

“Civic tech is one exciting area where promising young engineers, like MIT students, can apply computer science skills for the public good,” says Professor Lily L. Tsai, MIT GOV/LAB’s director and founder. “The guide provides advice on how you can find, hire, and mentor new talent.”

Jordan says the challenge is that while people in computer science find these “tech for good” projects appealing, they often don’t pay nearly as well as other opportunities. Like in other startup contexts, though, young engineers have the opportunity to learn a lot in an engaging environment. “I tell people, ‘come and do this for a year-and-a-half, two years,’” he says. “‘You’ll get paid perhaps significantly below industry rate, but you’ll get to do a really interesting thing, and you’ll work in a small team directly with the CTO. You’ll get a lot more experience a lot more quickly.’” 

How to work: learn early, quickly, and often

Jordan says that both a firm and its engineers must have “a real thirst to learn.” This includes being able to identify when things aren’t working and using that knowledge to make something better. The guide emphasizes the importance of ignoring “vanity metrics,” like the total number of users. They might look flashy and impress donors, but they don’t actually describe whether or not people are using the app, or if it’s helping people engage with their governments. Total user numbers “will always go up except in a complete catastrophe,” Jordan writes in the guide. 

The biggest challenge is convincing partners and donors to also be willing to accept mistakes and ignore vanity metrics. Tsai thinks that getting governments to buy into civic tech projects can help create an innovation culture that values failure and rapid learning, and thus leads to more productive work. “Many times, civic tech projects start and end with citizens as users, and leave out the government side,” she says. “Designing with government as an end user is critical to the success of any civic tech project.”

MIT launches new data privacy-focused initiative

Strategic use of data is vital for progress in science, commerce, and even politics, but at the same time, citizens are demanding more responsible, respectful use of personal data. Internet users have never felt more helpless about how their data are being used: Surveys show that the vast majority of U.S. adults feel that they have little to no control over the data that the government and private companies collect about them. In response to these concerns, new privacy laws are being enacted in Europe, California, Virginia, and elsewhere around the world.

To conduct more-focused research and analysis of these issues, last week MIT launched a new initiative to bring state-of-the-art computer science research together with public policy expertise and engagement.

Launched on April 6, the MIT Future of Data, Trust, and Privacy initiative (FOD) will involve collaboration between experts specializing in five distinct technical areas:

  • database systems
  • applied cryptography
  • AI and machine learning
  • data portability and new information architectures; and
  • human-computer interaction.

In addition to technical research, FOD will provide forums for dialogue amongst MIT researchers, policymakers, and industry consortium members, with a structure similar to MIT’s 2019 AI Policy Congress, which included members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. 

FOD is a collaboration between MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and the MIT Internet Policy Research Initiative (IPRI). Co-director Daniel Weitzner is both a researcher at CSAIL and founding director of IPRI, and previously served as the White House deputy CTO under President Obama.

Weitzner says that one of the larger goals is to reduce the cycle time between the development of new policies and new software systems. He also hopes to work with industry to develop new privacy-preserving tools and to help steer conversations focused on “shaping the future of data governance.”

Founding member companies include American Family Insurance, Capital One, and MassMutual. Initiative Co-director Srini Devadas, a professor at MIT, says that the effort will draw on expertise across MIT in the fields of cryptography, machine learning, systems security, and public policy.

“The goal is to solve challenging problems of collaborative data analytics and machine learning where sharing data provides significant benefit to all participants, while also preserving strong privacy protections,” says Devadas.

At the launch event, CSAIL Director Daniela Rus cited MIT’s long history of work in the privacy space, from foundational work on cryptography, to IPRI and the Trust:Data Consortium, which has created tools and architectures that foster the development of a secure internet-based network of trusted data.

Member companies stressed the benefits they see in being part of this initiative as not only helping navigate a changing policy landscape but also developing technical tools to help manage the new policies, laws, and regulations more efficiently. Speaking at the launch were MassMutual’s Head of Data Adam Fox, Capital One’s Machine Learning Research Director Bayan Bruss, and American Family Insurance’s Enterprise Chief Data Officer Brad Burke.

Companies interested in participating in the new initiative can visit the CSAIL site for more information.

Annual KSA meeting envisions Kendall Square coming back “better than ever”

No community has been immune to the hardships of the last year. But there have been bright spots. In response to the global pandemic, scientists developed effective vaccines. In response to tragic killings, people have begun important conversations about racial injustice and equity. In response to social isolation, we’ve adopted new digital platforms and community-building initiatives.

In many ways, Kendall Square has been a microcosm for those responses. The community has leaned into issues around inclusion, striven to support struggling businesses, and developed programs to overcome the loneliness and anxiety that have followed sudden changes in life and work. Of course, Kendall Square has also been home to some of the vaccine development work critical for ending the global pandemic.

Those efforts gave the 13th annual meeting of the Kendall Square Association (KSA) a decidedly positive tone. This year’s event was titled “The New Kendall Challenge” in a nod to the transformed landscape for work and life we find ourselves in. Even as speakers acknowledged the tragedies of the last 12 months and the tough work ahead, they also saw signs of positive change.

Chief among the optimists was MIT president and keynote speaker L. Rafael Reif.

“I think it is safe to say that, when we all come back to Kendall, things will be different,” Reif said in his address. “But I have no doubt that Kendall will come back better than ever.”

Reif also expressed gratitude that companies with such a large a presence in Kendall Square, including Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson and Johnson, were playing such a central role in vaccine efforts.

“To the general public, the vaccines seemed to come out of nowhere — an overnight success,” Reif said. “But of course, the ‘miracle’ of these vaccines was the fruit of about four decades of fundamental university science and applied industry research.”

Another speaker striking a positive tone was KSA President C.A. Webb. Webb said that while the KSA has been around for 14 years, the past 12 months has made the association rethink its role in the community.

“The KSA community has always been critical, but nothing like a global pandemic to take it from a nice-to-have to a must-have,” Webb said.

In the first few weeks of the pandemic, KSA brought together different segments of its community for discussion, including restaurant owners, human resources leaders, and facility operators. They quickly learned that everyone was grappling with similar problems.

In response to the value members were getting from those meetings, KSA launched the “Future of (how we) Work” task force to help answer questions about how the ecosystem will return to work after Covid-19.

Reif noted KSA’s task force is just one of several initiatives that show the alignment between KSA and MIT. Another is KSA’s Inclusion Drives Innovation program, which complements MIT’s Strategic Action Plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Equity and inclusion were the focus of another conversation at the event, between Bill Sibold, the executive vice president and head of Sanofi Genzyme, and Tanisha Sullivan, the executive advisor to the president of Sanofi Genzyme and the Boston chapter president of the NAACP.

Sullivan first entered the life sciences industry 25 years ago with Johnson and Johnson. In that time, she said, she’s been inspired in her NAACP work by her biotech colleagues, who are tackling some of life’s most complex and persistent challenges.

Sullivan said the conversations around racial injustice in the last year have been hugely important for the country.

“We are making progress,” Sullivan said. “In many respects, the tragedies of the last year heightened our collective awareness about race and racism in our country. In the last year, we haven’t been afraid to ask the question, ‘Why?’ Why are we here? Why is this happening? That has led to a deeper understanding of racial inequality in our country and it’s led to more of a commitment on the part of some to do something meaningful about it.”

Sullivan and Sibold also acknowledged the country is still struggling to decide how to address issues like police accountability, educational equity, and voting access.

“Anything we did in the last year wasn’t good enough, and now we’re in a new trajectory that we all have to move in,” Sibold said.

Other speakers at the virtual event included Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, who thanked the Kendall community for raising money to provide bulk regional testing and Covid-19 vaccine trials, and Broad Institute Chief Communications Officer and KSA board chair Lee McGuire, who described a collaboration involving Cambridge-based groups to provide door-to-door Covid testing at every Cambridge nursing home in one weekend.

Overall, the event’s speakers believe Kendall Square’s community will help drive each of its members’ success moving forward. They also said the community is just getting started.

During a Q&A session with Reif after his keynote, Webb asked what inning he thought Kendall Square was in. Reif said the third.

The answer underscored the fact that there’s a lot of work to do and progress to be made in the area. It also alluded to the continued potential of what has been called the most innovative square mile on the planet.

“I would like Kendall Square to be a place that never forgets the source of its strength: a great system of mutual inspiration, support, and collaboration, stretching from fundamental science all the way to practical impact — a system that embraces absolutely everyone in this room today,” Reif said.

MIT Press launches open access collection of 34 classic architecture and urban studies titles

The MIT Press has launched MIT Press Open Architecture and Urban Studies, a robust digital collection of classic and previously out-of-print architecture and urban studies books, on their digital book platform MIT Press Direct. The collection was funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as part of the Humanities Open Book Program, which they co-sponsored with the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For years, the MIT Press has fielded requests for e-book editions of classic, out-of-print works, like the two volumes of “The Staircase,” by John Templer; “On Leon Battista Alberti: His Literary and Aesthetic Theories,” by Mark Jarzombek; “Possible Palladian Villas: (Plus a Few Instructively Impossible Ones),” by George L. Hersey and Richard Freedman, and “Making a Middle Landscape,” by Peter Rowe. Many of these foundational texts were published before the advent of e-books and remained undigitized because of complex design requirements and the prohibitive cost of image permissions.

Now, with funding from the Mellon Foundation and the efforts of an open-access-savvy digitization team, the MIT Press was able to not only secure image permissions, but also to solicit fresh forewords that bring new insights to bear on many of these classic texts. Many of the titles will also be made available on the open access platform PubPub, where readers will be able to interact with and annotate the works with contemporary context and related readings.

Representing the breadth and depth of the MIT Press’s architecture and urban studies publishing program, the collection is a quintessential blend of theory, practice, history, and technology. 

“The books in this collection are drawn from an absolutely formative period in the discourse of architectural and urban history and theory,” explains Timothy Hyde, associate professor in the MIT Department of Architecture. “These are essential publications to have available again, as they represent to some degree the founding of an independent discipline.”

Explicitly global and timeless, the collection features texts such as Constantinos Doxiadis’s “Architectural Space in Ancient Greece,” Jean Gottman’s “Megalopolis: The Urbanized Northeastern Seaboard of the United States,” and four volumes of the “Survey of the Architectural History of Cambridge” series. And the major figures and movements that have shaped the modern built world are well represented by books like Donald Leslie Johnson’s “Frank Lloyd Wright vs. America: The 1930s;” Gilbert Herbert’s “The Dream of the Factory-Made House,” by Walter Gropius and Konrad Wachsmann; and Moshe Safdie’s “Beyond Habitat.”

This initiative combines two of the MIT Press’s core strengths — its legacy of publishing titles of the greatest importance and highest quality in architecture and urban studies and its longstanding support for open access publishing — according to MIT Press Director Amy Brand.

“The MIT Press is committed to reimagining daily what academic publishing can be,” says Brand. “This partnership with the Humanities Open Book Program not only gives these important works a second life and introduces them to new generations of scholars and readers, it also reaffirms our commitment to making scholarship available as widely and openly as possible.”

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