FutureHack — Paving the Way to High School Entrepreneurial Talent

By Ankita Devasia.

FutureHack: how fifty-five students from eleven countries gather to learn how to turn their dreams and passions into solutions, and their solutions into a revolution.

I, a girl from a small town in New Hampshire, was fortunate enough to be a part of the FutureHack experience–and it completely changed my life.

Before I came to FutureHack, I didn’t see myself as an entrepreneur. I thought I was risk-averse and utterly devoid of charisma–and thus immediately disqualified from anything related to entrepreneurship. I believed that FutureHack, an entrepreneurship bootcamp, could teach me how to start a business, but it definitely couldn’t churn me through an entrepreneurial blender and shape me into Bill Gates. Even being at MIT couldn’t help me assimilate the totally-existent “entrepreneurship gene.”

I had never been more wrong in my life; it took only a few days at FutureHack to realize that yes, entrepreneurship can be taught, and yes, I am an entrepreneur. At the camp, I was able to combine what I learned about technology with my passions to create a solution to a personal problem. The outcome was greater than I could have ever imagined.

Ideation with some friends from Malaysia, Japan, and Memphis

Not only did FutureHack offer me a means to turn my dreams into reality, but an incredible opportunity to meet like-minded students from all over the world. My fellow FutureHackers are passionate about our visions and eager to change the world, and I learned a lot from them. Participating in various camaraderie-building activities, talking until 4 a.m, and hearing about the failures that had shaped our lives during “Failure Night” were some of the most memorable times of my life, and I’m grateful that I was able to share these experiences with my FutureHack family.

Technology Takes You Places

One of the things that made FutureHack so special was the strong focus on technology. Three days of the program were devoted to learning about various types of tech and working with Lego Mindstorms NXT, Microbits, and 3D printing. Under the guidance of Dr. Ethan Danahy, the Tufts University CEEO, I was able to 3D print a rocket, create a Pong-esque game on Microbits, and even make a Lego robot dance. FutureHack gave me so many opportunities to engage in hands-on activities that time flew by incredibly fast. I found myself wishing that my school education was as engaging and interactive as my FutureHack experience.r

Design thinking with teammates from China

On the third day of the program, FutureHackers completed a project that was a culmination of our tech journey. We integrated the several forms of technology that we learned about into a solution for a problem. Even though all teams had access to the same materials, each final product was completely different. This is likely because of the design thinking approach that each team took to the issue; by considering different facets of the customer’s plight, the teams were able to engineer contraptions that alleviated her pain in different ways. All the teams pitched their ideas to a group of judges who provided extensive feedback on both the efficacy of the product and how the teams tackled the problem. This feedback would come in handy in the next few days of the program, when team formation and final product development began…

The Road to Demo Day

My team — with representation from Tunisia, Cambodia, Japan, and America — on Demo Day

Thursday was Team Formation Day–which meant that it was pretty dramatic. Us FutureHackers had already participated in numerous team-building activities, and even had categorized ourselves as Hustlers, Hatchers, Hipsters, or Hackers (the four key members of a successful team). After the dust settled, I found myself as CEO of an incredible team with representation from America, Japan, Cambodia, and Tunisia. I was extremely gratified to have the opportunity to work with amazing individuals with such different cultural backgrounds, and I attribute our success to the diversity in our thinking.

In the next couple of days, my team started refining our idea. We received ample feedback as we pitched it to Harvard and MIT students, which was a scary but rewarding experience. FutureHack mentors also offered us critical insight and advice on how to further our idea. Motivated by the powerful stories of speakers such as Semyon Dukach, the Managing Director of Techstars, and AJ Perez, the founder of the New Valence Robotics Corporation, we were able to turn our passions into a solution. It took only a few all-nighters (and more than a few setbacks) to create a final result I couldn’t be more proud of.

Pitching on Demo Day

At Demo Day, my team pitched our idea to a panel of investors from all across Boston. We won the award for “Best Technological Solution,” which was extremely rewarding, considering the time we had spent delving into technology earlier in the camp. Overall, Demo Day was really fulfilling and fun–although not as fun as the after party and Talent Show!

FutureHack’s Influence on My Future

FutureHack was a whole new world for me; I had never had such an amazing opportunity to meet and work with students from incredibly diverse backgrounds. Being at MIT and having access to dedicated mentors was absolutely amazing, and I’m thankful for the level of involvement that all the speakers and mentors had in the program. I’m especially grateful for the guidance of Ning Shirakawa, the Co-Founder of Taktopia, and Joseph Jeong, the Co-Founder of EXLhub; these two incredible FutureHack Co-Founders really encouraged me and inspired me to #bearebel.

Me and mentors Ning Shirakawa and Joseph Jeong at MIT

Although I’ve always been a STEM geek, I feel that my experience at FutureHack helped me truly understand the power and versatility of technology. Engaging in hands-on activities and hearing from so many amazing speakers gave me a new perspective on the importance of technology in the world today. I now feel empowered to use my newfound knowledge about technology to create solutions to problems I’m passionate about.

FutureHack truly enabled me to unlock my potential. The numerous chances to collaborate with my peers and to apply my knowledge to real-world problems helped me understand that being an entrepreneur is more than being an iconoclastic genius: it’s simply being able to both identify a problem and create a solution that your customer can readily embrace. As long as I am able to translate my passions into a solution, I am an entrepreneur, and all I need is an amazing team to help me change the world.

September 25, 2017

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