Innovation took top billing at Nichols Hall on Sat., April 23, as the doors opened to the sixth annual Harker Research Symposium featuring the yearlong scientific endeavors of 79 middle and upper school students. Themed “A Call to Innovation,” the day merged students and their families with leading technology companies and executives, in the sort of synergy that created Silicon Valley. Anita Chetty, science department chair and symposium director, estimated there were about 500 visitors, up 50 percent over last year.
Chetty recalled how relatively slow and limited the communication of information was in the “dark ages” of card catalogs – when a laptop was not yet even a dream. Today, Chetty noted, “When our students begin their research, they stand on a mountain of readily accessible information, not only mining it but also building upon it.”
Collaboration between students, universities and businesses was evident in breakout sessions on the summer internship work of upper school students such as Michelle Deng, grade 11, who worked at the University of California, Santa Cruz, on a faster method to calculate the metallicities of stars, as an indicator of origin. “I’ve always been partial to science,” said Deng. “Some of it is the culture at Harker. It is a pretty big leader in science.” Topics at the sessions ranged from the use of algorithms to predict protein structure, to an anaerobic method of hydrogen generation.
Harker welcomed back Jessie Li ’07, Nikhil Deshmukh ’04 and Jennifer Ong ’07, who demonstrated how research impacts the world. Li spoke about her work at MIT to develop a video annotation tool that has applications in face detection and robotic navigation. Deshmukh presented his work at Princeton University in retinal image processing and ultimately a better understanding of the brain. Ong encouraged students to publish their research in the international, student-led forum, “The Triple Helix.”
The relationship of innovative research to application was epitomized by keynote speakers Scott McNealy, co-founder and former CEO and chairman of the board of Sun Microsystems, and Mike Schroepfer, vice president of engineering at Facebook. Both men spoke of the importance of creative thinking and risk-taking in developing an idea into a company. Sponsored by WiSTEM, Kari Lee, senior engineering manager at Facebook, talked about how to position oneself to take advantage of opportunities.
Corporate exhibitors at this event were Barnes & Noble (Nook), eBay, Ericcson, Google/YouTube, InSync software, Inc., Kno, Inc., Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center, Menteon Learning, Meru Networks, Motorola Mobility, nVIDIA and Symmetricom. Watch for the a complete roundup of symposium events and speakers in the Summer Harker Quarterly mailing in June 2011.