HUBweek 2017 Highlights

A look back on this year’s festival for the future

HUBweek 2017 was evidence of the amazing work coming out of the Greater Boston area. Together with more than 180 organizations, the city came alive, City Hall Plaza was transformed into a centralized festival site, 175+ events were hosted, and tens of thousands experienced the future being built in Boston at the intersections of art, science, and technology.

After some intense thought over the last couple of weeks, we managed to narrow down our first round of highlights to just 21. We weren’t able to include all of our favorites — so we invite you to share any particularly awe-inspiring moments with us in the comments and via social using #ScenesFromHUBweek.

Roxbury Innovation Showcase

The showcase featured a poetry slam performance from 826 Boston students.

The Roxbury Innovation Showcase made its return to HUBweek after a successful first year. A rundown of what you missed: The Fab Lab Roxbury Demo. A discussion about the “Melting Pot of Innovation” happening around the heart of Boston. And a poetry slam performance by 826 Boston John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science students.

Reviving One of History’s Most Iconic Creatures

Have you ever thought about bringing back the woolly mammoth, of all things?

In a discussion held in Faneuil Hall, students from four Boston Public Schools engaged in a conversation with Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive one of History’s Most Iconic Creatures’ author Ben Mezrich. They talked the ethics, the flaws, and the successes of the project. Followed by talks with Mayor Marty Walsh and Vertex CEO Jeff Leiden, the conversation gave us a little insight into the fate of our future.

Kendall Square: Innovation Playground

From drone racing to laser graffiti, the event featured an array of hands-on activities for everyone.

The Organ Generation

“This is not just about fixing what’s broken, but this is an opportunity for making organs that are far better.” — Dr. George Church

Are we ready for human-made organs? That was the hot topic of Tuesday’s “The Organ Generation” presentation. The event, hosted by Harvard University, touched on other topics like the role that technology will play on the organ donor pipeline, especially emerging technologies like that of the self-driving car.

When the Best Idea Fails

Hosted by Massachusetts General Hospital, “When the Best Idea Fails” invited HUBweek attendees to explore the value of failure in the scientific journey. Physician researchers looked at innovation and the failures that accompany it in the scientific community, where negative results are unlikely to get published.

Marine Science Boston Harbor Cruise

“It’s really been an environmental success story. All the buildings were built to look away from the harbor because you never knew what was floating by or what would smell.” — Fred Laskey

Led by UMass Boston’s School for the Environment faculty, the Harbor cruise focused on sustainability, marine life, and climate adaptation —and how robots and drones relate to those areas.

GlobeDocs Opening Night — Bending the Arc

The GlobeDocs Film Festival is a five-day documentary film festival dedicated to engage, promote, and celebrate film production and talent. The first day of the festival opened on October 11th — and it did not disappoint.

The opening night film featured Bending the Arc focuses on Jim Tong Kim, Paul Farmer, and Ophelia Dahl, who came together to bring world-class medical care to the areas that were constantly ignored by everyone else.

Immersion Parties

HUBweek wasn’t all work, no play. Held in collaboration with BAMS Fest and Picó Picante and presented by Union Point, the nightly Immersion Parties included a live Silent Disco, the Cypher (featuring 12 local artists), and Picó Picante, a transnational bass party.

Beantown Throwdown

Beantown Throwdown, hosted in partnership with the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge, celebrates student-founded startups with a competition where different schools vie for bragging rights (and some pretty sweet prizes, too).

Grand Prize Winner: Brandeis’ WorkAround, an online platform dedicated to matching U.S. companies in need of microwork with refugees.

Demo Day


Speaking of startups, HUBweek’s Demo Day, presented by Bank of America, featured 100 startups across 13 industry categories competing for over $150,000 worth of prizes and cash. Demo Day included a day-long showcase in City Hall, breakout sessions from local leaders in Boston, and ended with the finale, where the winner was awarded $20,000 cash and cloud hosting services, among others.

Grand Prize Winner: PipeGuard Robotics, who designed a robot that can stop the leaking of clean water in pipes.

Krip-Hop Nation: The Crossroads Experience

“The essence of humanity is who you are, not your disability.”

Krip-Hop Nation: A Crossroads Experience used original music and poetry, along with imagery, to take the audience on a journey through the experience of being black in the world of disability.

On Point Live

Tom Ashbrook, host of WBUR and NPR’s On Point, recorded his show live in Faneuil Hall at HUBweek 2017. Attendees heard the guests take on the state of the nation.

Future Forum: Technology is Amoral; People Aren’t

“We shouldn’t be scared. We should be confident.” — John Kerry

Future Forum presented by MilliporeSigma was an invitation to listen to dozens of visionaries and experts about the most cutting-edge and impactful ideas coming out of Boston today. Thursday’s session, entitled Technology is Amoral; People Aren’t, focused on the ethical impacts of technology.

In “The Future of Diplomacy”, Bank of America Vice Chairman, Anne Finucane, interviewed former Secretary of State and U.S. Senator John Kerry on approaching the future of diplomacy. Later that night, Deepak Chopra, MD and Rudolph Tanzi, PhD discussed the potential to transform our lives and health with our brains in “Healthy Brain; Enlightened Brain”.

De-Stress Boston

Everyone needs a break from the hustle and bustle of the city every once in a while. De-Stress Boston offered reprieve from the headlines and online chatter. At the community-wide experiential education session, De-Stress offered reprieve from the headlines and online chatter.

Future Forum: Inventing the Future

“Autonomy is our greatest value in medicine. You go in an operating room, and a surgeon is like, ‘This is my domain.’ And this is a direct challenge to that value.” — Dr. Atul Gawande

In Friday’s Future Forum session Inventing the Future, topics surrounding biotech and biodesign as it relates to the state of innovation today were discussed. Abby Johnson, Fidelity Investments Chairman and CEO, and Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, discussed how we can put pressure on certain areas of innovation to create positive change. And in Saving as Many Lives as Penicillin”, Dr. Atul Gawande, the Executive Director of Ariadne Labs, was interviewed by Malcolm Gladwell, New York Times best-selling author.

MIT IDE Inclusive Innovation Challenge

The MIT IDE Inclusive Innovation Challenge was founded to promote the future of work through empowering people to improve their income and participate more fully in our rapidly evolving digital economy. The competition awarded over $1 million in prize money to 16 different organizations.

Grand Prize Winners: LaunchCode (Skills and Matching Category), AdmitHub (Technology Access Category), EFL (Financial Inclusion Category), Logistimo (Income and Jobs Category)

Sixteen runner-ups were awarded $25,000 each and four additional companies received $25,000 Judges’ Choice Awards.

Future Forum: Change Starts With You

Future Forum’s final session, dubbed Change Starts With You, turned attention to how we can tackle some of the most pressing challenges being left behind. Social psychologist and TED record breaker Amy Cuddy led a conversation on how gender is tied in to nonverbal behavior and stereotyping. The “Food Opera” introduced audiences to the idea of “food operas”, where concepts and technologies from the fields of video game design and sound installation create close pairings of music with food.

Robot Block Party

On Sunday, more than 20 robots descended on the HUB.

The Robot Block Party, hosted by the City of Boston and MassRobotics, brought over 2 dozen robotics organizations and companies into the HUB presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance for a showcase of the latest and greatest in robotics.

HUBweek Walls

Eleven humble shipping containers were transformed by local artists and dropped in City Hall Plaza. With murals of all different styles, the artists brought a lot of vibrancy to the brick expanse. Here are a couple of our favorites:

“Universal Prayer” — Rob Gibbs and Marka27
“Filed Under” — INSA

HUBweek Exhibits

Similar to the HUBweek Walls, dozens of different artists, organizations, and companies transformed the inside of shipping containers to showcase the future being built in Boston. Here are some of our favorites:

MIT’s “For a Better World” exhibit, featuring AR-enhanced murals.

Deep Dives

Presented by HUBweek founders The Boston Globe, Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital and MIT, along with Union Point, Deep Dives are sessions of interactive programming. They focus on engaging the audience in problem-solving and collaboration in areas that are effecting the future right now. The Deep Dives hosted this year include:

Ideas Out Loud | How to Make a Democracy Work (The Boston Globe) invited the public in to join Dante Ramos, Boston Globe Ideas Editor and David A. Moss, Paul Whiton Cherington Professor at Harvard Business School and author of “Democracy: A Case Study,” for a conversation about democracy, and what it means going into the future.

The A.I. Revolution in Medicine (MGH) united clinicians, researchers, the health care policy community, artificial intelligence experts, and others in an exploration of the public fear of A.I., the future of government regulation, and more.

Voices of Oncology Discovery (Harvard) invited individuals with a deep interest in the latest cancer therapeutics to exchange and discuss the scientific, business, and human stories of oncology discovery.

Open Innovation on Climate Change (MIT) invited participants from all walks of life to brainstorm and advance promising, high-impact solutions to climate change.

Smart Cities: A New Language and a New Vision (Union Point) focused on how to use new technologies as tools for the enhancement of the human experience in our communities.

It goes without saying: it was inspiring to see all of the innovation coming out of Boston at HUBweek 2017. Thank you to all who joined us in the weeklong celebration. For more information, be sure to visit or follow us @HUBweek. The countdown begins for HUBweek 2018 — dates will be announced soon!