Harvard hosted the Cambridge 8th-Grade Science & Engineering Showcase, celebrating the joy of discovery

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Harvard Physics Department hosted the Cambridge 8th Grade Science & Engineering Showcase on May 25, 2012. Approximately 400 young students from the Cambridge public schools came to Harvard to meet faculty and graduate students, to experience hands-on (and messy!) demonstrations, and to show off their own projects at a large fair.

Arranged by Kathryn Hollar, Director of Educational Programs at SEAS, and Lisa Scolaro, Cambridge Public Schools’ JrK-12 Science Coordinator, the field trip brought science and engineering literally within reach.

"Experiences like this can be critical in helping young students to realize that they can contribute the ideas that will change the world," said Hollar. "If we can encourage their natural curiosity and present them with role models in science and engineering, our hope is that they will be more likely to consider research as a career a few years from now." [click through for photos]

Students develop hurricane response plans on Cambridge roads, gaining practical experience in computational science

Imagine a powerful hurricane has wreaked havoc on the city of Cambridge, Mass. Thousands of residents are injured, but debris blocks roads everywhere, preventing medical workers from reaching the victims.

Crews are mobilizing to clear paths between the victims and two medical centers, Mount Auburn Hospital and Harvard University Health Services. Which roads should they open first, in order to quickly reach the largest number of victims? How many of those roads can they actually clear each day with the equipment available?

This was the problem posed to tech-savvy students participating in the IACS Computational Challenge in January. The competition was part of ComputeFest, a 2-week program hosted by the recently created Institute for Applied Computational Science (IACS) within the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

“The amount of debris created by regularly occurring disasters is huge,” said Özlem Ergun, Visiting Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics at SEAS. In her usual post, Ergun is co-director of the Center for Health and Humanitarian Logistics at Georgia Institute of Technology, where she helps emergency management officials plan their response to disasters.

“The first problem,” she said, “is really to figure out in what order to open the streets so that you create connectivity between the population and the critical infrastructure.”

The Cambridge debris data was generated by Georgia Tech graduate students using the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazus software, which visually models the human and environmental impacts of earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods.

In the Challenge scenario, 2,478 disaster victims were distributed unevenly across 443 Cambridge locations served by two hospitals (one large, one small), connected by 604 road segments (blocked by varying amounts of debris), and accessed via a fleet of bulldozers that roughly doubled in size over a 9-day cleanup period. A penalty was imposed to simulate the real-life pressure of time—the chance of people losing their lives if help took too long to arrive.

In short, the number of data points and constraints was huge…. [more]

New resource will serve local students and alumni worldwide

Cambridge, Mass. – January 18, 2012 When the “next big thing” is invented in a dorm room, ruminated over in a late-night café, or discovered in a laboratory, it will now find more support in—and its inventors will have better reasons to stay connected to—the Cambridge area.

Today, The Experiment Fund (www.experimentfund.com), a new seed-stage investment fund, opens its doors with backing from storied venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates (NEA).

Designed specifically to support student start-ups and nurture novel technologies and platforms created in Cambridge (or by innovators educated here), the Experiment Fund will eventually include additional strategic angel investors and advisers.

“We are very excited about The Experiment Fund; we believe it will provide a much-needed set of people, skills, and financial resources to spur the innovation and idea creation of our students,” says Cherry A. Murray, Dean of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), who will formally launch the Fund on January 27, 2012…. [more]

Five Cambridge-born innovations (two from SEAS) that are about to change the world (Improper Bostonian)

Cambridge: One small city, so many great leaps forward. Nowadays, much of the thinking and tinkering takes place in Harvard and MIT labs on the Boston side of the river, but the epicenter remains in the first city of intellectual capital. From the north bank of the Charles springs earthshaking research that has upended the way we think and talk and move and eat and gaze at the stars…