L3 Innovation Challenge: The Human Side of STEM

By DoHa Nguyen (Lead Reporter)

CATS students attending the L3 Innovation Challenge 2018 at LabCentral, Cambridge, MA

Best described as a design-thinking bootcamp that mimics a hackathon, the Youth CITIES L3 Innovation Challenge is an annual competition in which students work in teams to create technological solutions to real-world problems. This year, students had to use smart textiles to create prototypes and actual products that addressed pediatric healthcare concerns. Seven students from CATS participated in the competition and, on November 14th, presented their ideas to a panel of health care industry specialists, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists.   

The spotlight is on, and the eyes of more than one hundred people are on us. Holding the 3D Prototype of SOGAI, which stands for System Of Glucose-Detection & Automatic Insulin-Injection, we gradually move onto the stage for our final presentation in the Youth CITIES competition. Adrenaline that had been accumulating for the past eight weeks of the competition urged every single word on the tip of our tongue to erupt.

This is the story of DoHa Nguyen, Jiho Choi, and Serafina Mei, whose SOGAI and mySOGAI App was recognized by Dr. Kate Donovan, the Director of Immersive Technologies at Boston Children Hospital, as the most extensively researched project. 

Five other CATS students had revolutionary products as well. Anastasia Dvoryanchikova and Alex Shevtcova’s Diaperstic earned Anastasia the individual Award of Rising Innovator. Mia Huynh, Malak Elaouinate and Luisa Maia were complimented by Mr. Peter Parker, the CEO and Co-Founder of LabCentral, for the highly visual prototype of their project, TEMPA Temperature Regulating Children Suit and MyBABY TEMPA App. 

Every Wednesday during the eight weeks of the L3 Innovation Challenge, our CATS Team were taken by Mr. O’Donnell to LabCentral in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Here, students from dozens of high schools in the Boston area were divided into groups with the goal of turning innovative ideas into real products that would solve demanding medical problems. We had the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from students of different schools, to meet with our mentors (VIP industry experts in various fields from medical entrepreneurships involved with cancer treatment to Biometrics), and to widen our perspective and respect for backend scientists, who quietly devote their resources and knowledge for a better world. At LabCentral, where the contest was hosted, we saw marvelous laboratories and R&D centers in a 70,000 square-foot historic, MIT-owned facility. I could not help but think that never before had Isaac Newton’s famous saying been so clear and convincing: “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.”

The experiences we gained from this competition went beyond the scientific knowledge accumulated from top-notch experts. It broadened and changed our perspectives and attitudes towards STEM as a field of  endeavor. I found it realistic, practical and very demanding. Awards, compliments and recognition, albeit valuable and deserving, are just the tip of the iceberg that made this eight-week rigorous journey worthwhile.

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