THINK: Out of the Box

tl;dr: TechX is launching a new program called Out of the Box to bring research opportunities to inner city students in Boston. Reach out to Kavish Gandhi at gandhik@mit.edu or the THINK team at think@mit.edu if you have any questions or are interested in volunteering.

Hey everyone! My name is Kavish, and I’m a sophomore here at MIT and director of the MIT-THINK Scholars Program, a high school research program that’s a part of TechX. THINK stands for Technology for Humanity guided by Innovation, Networking, and Knowledge, and our guiding philosophy is that high school students, although inexperienced, still have the creativity and curiosity to do meaningful work in science and technology.

In particular, we look for students who have not had previous access to opportunities in science, especially those with ideas that are home-grown and self-conceived. The program was started in 2008, and has been funding and mentoring student projects on topics from disease resistance in pea plants to smart windows for home energy optimization to a novel electrolyte for improving the efficiency of carbon dioxide reduction. It also brings the finalists to MIT to attend TechX’s annual xFair, a 120+ company career fair and tech expo, tour MIT labs, and meet with MIT professors in their project’s area.

One of our students at xFair 2015 trying out the Oculus Virtual Reality Headset
Irena Gao, our 2016 winner, working on constructing a novel electrolyte for reducing carbon dioxide

This program has been successful in many ways, and we will continue to have it for the foreseeable future — I encourage anyone who is interested in helping this program grow and continue to thrive to apply to the THINK committee this coming fall.

However, despite our best efforts and though our projects are often home-grown and done without the help of a lab, most of our applicants still come from magnet schools, many of which already give their students a number of opportunities in science and a strong science education. We really want to target those students who are not getting these opportunities as well: students, like us, who love science and tinkering and have a passionate curiosity about the world, but who have not had any opportunity to realize this passion because of lack of opportunity.

To this end, we’re launching a new program, Out of the Box, which is targeted at low-income students in the Boston area. The program will function similarly to THINK in many ways, except will not require as much from the students at the outset.

In particular, we will have the students come up with only the bare bones of what they want to work on, and then our mentors will work with those accepted to develop the project idea to a workable state by teaching them about the topics surrounding the project and guiding them through the writing of a technical proposal. We will then choose as many of these students as possible to receive funding to pursue their projects under our mentorship in the spring and an additional educational scholarship for their pursuit of science in the future. We really want to bring the joy of science to these kids through them creating their own projects in whatever field they want, and us helping them carry it out.

Applications for Out of the Box will be opening sometime early in this coming fall. Thanks for reading and look out for more news from Out of the Box as mentorships get rolling and high school students start producing science! If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at gandhik@mit.edu or the team at think@mit.edu.