30 Under 30 Honorees Give Back to Boston with Education Projects

This month, the best and the brightest of the millennial generation gathered together in Boston for four days full of live music, celebrity speakers, and bar crawls to celebrate the 2016 Forbes Under 30 Summit.

But while the event provided days of fun and networking opportunities for entrepreneurs and ambitious young people from around the world, there was a substantial amount of informational programming around a broad array of industries, including technology, media, real estate, sports, finance, and of course, education. Aside from the All-Access stage, there were four stages to house all this content: Impact, Technology, Create, and Capital.

Education was by no means a large focus in the programming, but it made its way into a number of sessions—on the Impact Stage, in particular. Katie Meyler of More Than Me spoke about her experience starting an all-girls school in Liberia—and how everything changed during the Ebola crisis. Felix Ortiz III, chairman and CEO of Viridis Learning, spoke on disrupting an industry as an outsider and, along with other successful social entrepreneurs, shared his advice for success in this enterprise.

And last but not least, the $1 Million Change the World nonprofit competition, funded by the Schusterman Family Foundation, awarded $500,000 to honorCode, an organization that “provides curriculum and training to schools to bring more web development into the general K–12 classroom.”

Yet the highlight of the education-industry programming was the very last day of the event, a service day dedicated to bettering the city of Boston.

“We’ve all been to lots of conferences, especially bigger ones, where you go and you feel like the whole city’s getting trashed. And you leave it, and they have to clean up after you,” said Lane.

Instead of leaving the city trashed, Forbes (and Lane) wanted to contribute to the City of Boston.

“What we’re really trying to do is build a conference where the city, our host city, is better off for us having been there in all sorts of ways,” said Lane.

Full interview with Randall Lane about the Forbes Under 30 Summit:

The service day was divided into two programs. One was a series of planned visits to ten different Boston public schools, where summit attendees shared their stories with students who might aspire to become like them some day. The other was a Hack-a-thon for good, hosted in conjunction with Hewlett Packard and Major League Hacking.

The Hack-a-thon for Good took place Wednesday, October 19 at District Hall, in the Seaport District of Boston. Participants were divided into separate groups, including two focused on education.

We spoke with memebers of the Hewlett-Packard Team to learn more about the idea behind the hack-a-thon:

Interview with Giulia Pastorella, Government Relations Manager at HP and Forbes 30 Under 30 Honoree, about the Forbes Under 30 Summit Hack-a-thon for Good:

Interview with Nate Hurst, Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer at HP about the Forbes Under 30 Summit Hack-a-thon for Good:

At the Hackathon for Good, the first education-related problem to solve was the disproportionate access to technology in Boston Public Schools. The “HP Access” team brainstormed a solution for hours, and decided that there were two major tools they could use to solve this problem: 1. The mobile devices that have become so ubiquitous in today’s classrooms and 2. The myriad of resources available on the Internet today.

To help solve this problem, the team devised a mobile app that would serve up resources, games, and tools to students who may not otherwise be aware of educational resources online. To solve any data usage problems, they suggested companies (like HP hint hint) sponsor the app’s data.

The second problem was that there are significantly fewer women in STEM careers than men. This is an issue across the globe, but one especially disconcerting in a city with access to the top scientific resources and schools in the country. The more the team looked into it, they realized the problem goes far beyond the number of women pursuing careers—it starts with the perceptions of young children based on stereotypes of men being in STEM fields.

To help solve this problem, the women in STEM team put together a mentorship program that combines both videos of women in STEM sharing their career stories and live interactions with the same type of mentors, as well as interactive activities to keep students engaged.

Although the amount of time they had to change the world (or rather, the City of Boston) was limited, the Hack-a-thon for Good participants left believing they had made a positive impact on the city’s educational initiatives.

“I think getting a group like this together is special,” said Andy Dudynsky, professional gamer, Halo Community Manager, and Forbes Under 30 honoree.

“As we went through the two-hour, three-hour process, you start to see the real intelligence coming out of the group. And you realize that all of these people are at this table for a reason.”

Dudynsky went on to say that once the team got the ball rolling, the ideas were flowing.

“I think…if cities and governments have specific things that they want solved, this is a fantastic way to at least get those ideas moving.”

Certainly Boston isn’t the only city that could benefit such an event. Forbes editor Randall Lane suggested the far reaching impact that the Hackathon for Good could have.

“If something works in Boston, it can work around the country and around the world,” said Randall Lane. “So it’s really fun to take these big problems and localize them.”

While most involved in the event came away satisfied, one might wonder the impact just a few hours with a few brilliant minds might have on the educational system of Boston, or even education as a whole.

While there certainly were brilliant minds in the room, and the number of ideas thrown around were not bad at all, the time limitations of the event may limit the impact any ideas have, or the possibility of them even being implemented. Not to mention, of the over 20 people working on educational initiatives at the Hackathon for Good, I could only find one actively working in education—likely because of the concurrent school visits going on during the service day. 

But if we could somehow connect the most brilliant minds of education maybe for a few more days, an event like this could impact education as a whole.

Hannah Nyren

Hannah Nyren

A Texan by birth but a Bostonian at heart, Hannah is an educational writer, AmeriCorps alum, and one-time StartupWeekend EDU (SWEDU) winning team member. She started her career at a Pearson-incubated edtech startup, but has since covered travel, food & culture, and even stonemasonry in addition to education.