“Most of the great problems that we face today are not simply technical. Bringing together the arts, humanities, and social sciences with STEM fields is ultimately how we're going to face these challenges and find solutions to them.”
— William Adams, Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities
High school students from across the United States convened at MIT this spring to participate in the second annual MIT INSPIRE conference, a national high school–age competition for research projects in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.
Founded by Vaishnavi Rao, ’17, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and produced by MIT students, the mission of the MIT INSPIRE project is to encourage young people to seek innovative solutions to global problems through rigorous inquiry in the humanities, arts, and social science fields.
Original research honored with awards
Participating students, with guidance from school mentors, select and research a topic drawn from one of 13 humanities, arts, and social science fields. One hundred finalists are then invited to travel to MIT to present their work at the MIT INSPIRE conference to a panel of expert judges, including numerous MIT faculty.
Trisha Prabhu, from Naperville, IL, won the 2016 Aristotle Award for Best in Show with a project entitled "ReThink: An Effective Way to Prevent Cyberbullying in Adolescents." Munawar Rahman, from New York, NY, was awarded the Mozart Award for Most Original Research; and Jaden Jarmel-Schneider and Natalie Bunimovitz, from San Francisco, CA, claimed the Lincoln Award, based on Community Choice. This year's Athena Award for Mentorship went to David Cantrell, Instructor for Humanities, North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham, NC.
MIT's Eran Egozy, Visiting Artist in Music, provided the conference keynote, with special remarks by Professor Alex Pentland of the MIT Media Lab, MIT Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart, and Melissa Nobles, Kenan Sahin Dean of MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.
NEH Chairman offers a warm welcome
William D. "Bro" Adams, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, offered welcoming remarks, discussing the key role that humanities, arts, and social science research has to play in building a better world:
“Most of the great problems that we face today are not simply technical,” Adams said, “They're problems that occur at the intersection of our values, history, ideas, and culture. Bringing together the arts, humanities, and social sciences with STEM fields is ultimately how we're going to face these challenges and find solutions to them.”
Video message at MIT from William D. Adams, Chairman, the National Endowment for the Humanities
Student participants increase, come from across the country
With the support of the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences plus more than two dozen other sponsors, the INSPIRE conference experienced significant growth in its second year. The number of student participants more than doubled, from 271 in 2015 to 594 in 2016, and the number of participating schools more than tripled, from 44 in 2015 to 160 in 2016.
“Delving into my area of interest to an unprecedented depth was an absolutely phenomenal experience,” remarked one student participant.
Rao plans to continue expanding up the program over the coming years and to ensure that it lives on long after she has received her diploma. “We hope INSPIRE is adopted by high schools as a mainstream platform to engage and develop the next generation of students who will be prepared to tackle complex issues facing the world through original research in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.”
MIT INSPIRE website
Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications
Emily Hiestand, Communications Director
Daniel Evans Pritchard, Communications Associate
Photographs and video from MIT INSPIRE