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Launch Stories: Reginald Fils, Boston

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I can vividly remember sitting in my school library talking to my teacher about what I hoped to fulfill for the upcoming summer. The weather outside was an ordinary 40 degrees, but this did not stop the conversation, it actually fueled our conversation as we yearned for the warm weather to hit our faces. I spoke about how I really wanted to be on a college campus, taking classes that pertained to business. Immediately after I said that, we googled a few programs that offered what I was looking for—the first one we found was MIT Launch.

MIT Launch encompassed all of my interests and most importantly centered itself around entrepreneurship, which I was most passionate about. I applied with no hesitations and a few months later, got an acceptance into the program. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Upon arriving at MIT, like other students, I had already started a lifestyle brand called “Urban Inspired”; the brand bears a social message which is to be inspired by all things around you. UI has been featured in fashion shows, photo shoots, and some local Boston publications. It was great to already have some insight on what it takes to run a business coming into Launch, but don’t think that this is necessary to get into this program.

A few months before launch, some friends and I decided to hold a youth event in Boston. The date fell on July 29th (during session 2). As I was at Launch, I would attend classes, do work with my team, hang out with Launch friends and then find time at the end of the night to answer emails and plan the event. This went on seamlessly as I lived in Boston and the campus was very close. However, I wouldn’t recommend that you do this, as it may take away from your Launch experience. Luckily for me I made it work without it interfering with any work or fun times with Launch friends.

Continue reading “Launch Stories: Reginald Fils, Boston”

Launch Stories: Gabi Fullam, Ireland

Gabi

 

When I applied for Launch, I didn’t really consider the fact that I might ACTUALLY get in. It was more a far away cloudy dream. I had no idea that this dream would materialize in front of me into something so real and tangible.

I remember the nerves before my interview and excitement after the “Congratulations” email. I remember the relief that came with receiving a scholarship, and I remember long hours spent packing and hugging friends and family goodbye at the airport. But it only really sunk in when my feet touched MIT soil.

The environment we were all working in was amazing. Living with 70 innovators from all over the world as you try and build a company from scratch was phenomenal.

Having straight A’s and a million accomplishments wasn’t what ended up mattering in Launch. Sure, prior experience is great, but hard work, excitement, passion, resilience and grit helped to propel me through the four weeks and have the best time ever while I was at it.


I built a great start up at Launch with my team, but I also built friendships and bonds to last forever. I’m more confident and relaxed, with the risk of being cheesy, I’d like to say, you can take the girl out of Launch, but you can’t take the Launch spirit out of the girl.

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While attending Launch, Gabi co-founded Politifund with guest blogger- Jason Zhao, Rahi Patel and Nick Majer. Best of luck to Gabi in all of her future endeavors!

Launch Stories: Rodrigo Ruz, Mexico

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Being accepted into Launch was a valuable recognition that told me: “You are on the right track.” Fortunately, I have learned to use my time not doing the things a college, job or someone else expects me to do; but rather for the things I am passionate about and I love. When I was accepted into the program it was a reassurance that MIT was the kind of place I wanted to be and it valued me as a person. There was still a long way to go, and I was skeptical at first. 

I decided to attend Launch because I believe you are only presented with opportunities like these once in a lifetime and it takes courageous people to take them. My parents supported me as much they could, and I used the money from my past four summer jobs and from threes months of constant academic tutoring for my classmates, to pay for the program.

Rodrigo and his team successfully launched their company, Eko, which generates electricity through sound absorption. We can’t wait to hear about all of the wonderful things Rodrigo accomplishes!

Eko2.jpg-Rodrigo and his teammates, Tak-Ho, Pascal and Paulina

Introducing Launch Stories: Kiara Wahnschafft

I never really had a comfort zone growing up. I was often the newbie on soccer teams that had been composed of the same group since elementary school. I walked into theatre camps full of rock-solid friend groups knowing absolutely no one. So instead of gaining a familiarity through routine, I gained a certain familiarity with the unfamiliar.

My craving for exploration probably started from my Montessori school days, where the curriculum was mostly student driven rather than teacher driven. There was no strict schedule shuffling you from activity to activity and there was no daily procedure to grow accustomed to. One day I could investigate the species of butterflies because that subject had piqued my interest the night before. But another day I could count some beans merely because they were beans and they’re quite entertaining when you’re three. So the norm became that which I wanted it to be – the norm became creating my own intellectual challenges and delving into them.

As I got older, my summers became the times when I could do exactly that. I ended Montessori school, and was in a more structured school system, yet wanted to explore again. My family graciously helped me do that. I went to summer programs where I could study topics that I enjoyed ranging from sustainable energy to mock trials. When I was a sophomore, I discovered programming and joined a competition called Technovation, in which high school girls create an app and a corresponding business plan. While I loved programming the app, this new idea of entrepreneurship was all too appealing: a way to act as my own teacher and foster my own innovation.

When I found Launch after searching for entrepreneurship programs online, it seemed like the ideal summer challenge: turning an idea into a real company with a tangible product in just four weeks. Within days of leaving Launch I wanted to go back, but I at least knew that I would continue working with a small subset of Launchies every week – that subset is made up of my two co-founders, whom I continue to meet with to this day.  The community of Launch extends beyond my co-founders, though, to a group of individuals drawn to innovation and exploration of how challenges can be harnessed to create a vision of a better reality. My love of the unfamiliar found a sense of familiarity in the ambition and curiosity of my peers who I am excited to have as my network, friends, and collaborators.

International Students at Launch

For students who live outside of the United States, MIT Launch seems like another world away. From the moment they click “submit” for their application to the moment they arrive Launch, there is a tremendous buildup of anticipation, excitement and perhaps even anxiousness. During Launch, these students grow from the experience and make the most of the resources at Launch, then remain in close contact with the friends that they made here, and use the Launch network to expand their projects at home on an international level. Through this post, we want to share with you the experiences of some of our international students to help you understand why the Launch experience can be especially rewarding for students from abroad.

 

ryan.png“Coming from an international background, I was worried that it would be difficult for me to make friends and have fun with others at Launch due to my different culture. I was also concerned that I would have trouble adapting to life alone in America. Luckily, I was proved wrong – not only was the community extremely friendly and supportive, I was able to make many friends that I still keep in touch with now. Meeting people from different countries and cultures has truly broadened my perspective as I went out to dinner with people from India, Mexico, China, and the USA.”– Ryan Chang, Taiwan

 

Continue reading “International Students at Launch”

The Key to a Strong Team

When we think about the people behind successful companies like Facebook and Tesla, the first names that come to mind are Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. Media tends to portray these CEOs as individuals who run the show with a billion dollar idea. It is important to recognize, though, that it takes a cohesive team to build a successful company. At MIT Launch, team dynamics is one of the most important parts of our entrepreneurial culture.

Usually students are anxious about the teaming process long before they actually arrive at Launch. From the day that admissions decisions are released to the day that teams are finalized, students ceaselessly bombard the MIT Launch team with questions about the “hows” and “whys” of teaming. This post is our attempt to explain the complex process and the important considerations of teaming, though unfortunately, there is not a secret recipe or fail-proof algorithm to build perfect teams — it’s a case by case situation.  There are MANY components that are taken into consideration to increase the chances of Launch team alignment and success.

After the first few days of the program, ideas are pitched to the class and students submit their preferences of ideas and teammates.  MIT Launch uses this as one factor to determine well-balanced and passionate teams, but there are many more items that are considered.

Continue reading “The Key to a Strong Team”

Should you bring your own idea to Launch?

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Before coming to Launch, many students ask if they should be coming with or may bring in their own established idea or company. There is no correct answer to this but there are some things to keep in mind when weighing your options.

Entrepreneurship is not a Solo Sport: If you are the idea originator, it’s important to remember that your teammates at Launch are considered your co-founders which means there should be equal respect amongst everyone. It takes a collaboration across different skills and personalities to be able to start a company, and all must work in harmony and with full drive.  Success is more about the team and execution of the business than the idea.  The entrepreneurial mindset will be the most important thing you learn leaving Launch, but can only be learned when working well in a team.

Team > Idea: It’s also important to remember that while it might be your original idea, you are now working with a well-equipped team of brilliant peers with whom you need to find a common vision of success – for the summer and the company.  Ideas are a dime a dozen, with most having been thought of or even worked on before, so success comes down to execution. To execute well, you need all the skill sets of your team.  This includes market research first and foremost, with open-mindedness to feedback.  Almost ALL ideas change from their origination to actual implementation, especially in successful companies, and your teammates will be well positioned to bring a fresh perspective.  Humility and openness to feedback is key.

Continue reading “Should you bring your own idea to Launch?”

How to Get the Most Out of Mock Boards

Help is good, but see if you are really listening. Check out these tips to get the most out of mentorship engagements.

1) Don’t interrupt each other.

If you can’t handle having a conversation about your company, how can you handle running the company? It is disrespectful to your teammate and disrespectful for those trying to listen. You may think you have a better thing to say or better answer to a question, but by interrupting you have a worse answer by default. If you strongly believe that your answer is more accurate, just wait until questioning is over and pull aside the mentor to clear things up.

 

2)  Realize you will have to decide for yourself.

We’ve all been there, we give an essay to multiple people and everyone is saying something different. So whose or which advice do you go with? Learn why each person gave that advice, if one executive tells Uber to go “expand to Europe”, and the other says “focus on growth in the U.S”, Uber can’t take both pieces of advice. Instead they will continue to ask why each executive feels that way and have them back it up with numbers, do the same with your mentors.

 

3) Why you, why this, and why now?

HBS professor Lynda Applegate came to speak to Launch and discussed the elements of a great elevator pitch. Meeting with mentors is a great time to start out with your elevator pitch, the people listening need to know why you care about changing this part of the world, and why this is the way to do it.

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Continue reading “How to Get the Most Out of Mock Boards”

Week One Reflections

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Now that we’ve started week two of Launch, we’ve asked our Launchies to reflect on their first week here at MIT. Read on to learn more and follow the journey with us!

 

Check in Impressions:

Q: What was going through your mind when you first got to Launch?

A: Michael W.

I arrived late, and it was amazing that people were eager to make connections, and there was such a community dynamic. It just made me so excited for the summer just from that one day.

Launch Thoughts:  During the first days at Launch there is an amazing buzz in the air. Students are so excited to be meeting their peers and potential teammates. They know that the students in the room could very well be potential business partners and not just for duration of the session.

 

Entrepreneurship:

Q: Your first class touched on the basics of entrepreneurship. What were your thoughts?

A: Varun W.

I was really impressed by guest speaker Jaylen Bledsoe. He is the same age as us but has already achieved so much.

Read more about Jaylen here: http://jaylenbledsoe.com/

Launch Thoughts: Jaylen Bledsoe is just one of the many incredible guest speakers we have here at Launch. Students are encouraged to apply the guest lecturers’ lessons into their own companies.

 

Self-Awareness:

Q: The second half of day one was about how as entrepreneurs it is important to be self-aware. What did you learn?

A:  Adhiv D.

Something I didn’t realize before was about how important the person is in regard to starting a company. It is about the kind of person we are, whether we are a hacker, a hustler, or a designer, or even a mix of all of them. I think it is cool how personal entrepreneurship is.

Launch Thoughts: Adhiv is correct in that every entrepreneur is different and by knowing our strengths and weaknesses, we can be sure to hire teams that compliment our strengths.

 

Customer Persona:

Q: On Friday we learned about market research. We were lucky enough to have Entrepreneur in Residence, Elaine Chen, tell you a bit more about what a customer persona is. What is your company’s customer persona?

A: Nakul G.

Our customer persona is an international student who is most likely a student from India. He misses the food of his home. He is a college student, and he has no meal plan, most likely a grad student. The second customer persona is a grad student who loves to cook and could cook a home cooked meal for the other student.

Launch Thoughts: Identifying your customer persona is a crucial step in developing your venture. Launch students are continuing to sharpen their market research skills in week two. 

Elaine

Closing Thoughts:

We are excited for the second week, and we’ll be updating everyone soon! Check out our Instagram to see pictures from each day of our summer adventure!

Last Minute Tips for Launch

Launch Summer is about to take flight in just a couple days. We want to touch on some last minute things about preparing for your entrepreneurial journey, exploring Boston, and making the most of this life changing experience.  We asked our alumni for their most helpful tips for you to prepare.

“Entrepreneurship won’t be the only thing you’ll learn at Launch. Be excited and take the opportunity to learn about yourself.”  (Anant Agrawal)

You might do this subconsciously, but if you really think about it, you are all coming to Launch for a reason, certainly not the same reason. Of course, it has something to do with your curiosity and expressed interest in entrepreneurship, but you were accepted for your strengths, and those include so much more than the listing of your resume items.  It includes your values, personality, and quirks – and Launch is a great place to embrace those facets.

“Understand that coming up with ideas and choosing an idea have two different approaches.”  (Lillian Chen)

It can be really tempting, especially for creative and aspiring students to chase after huge ideas and ventures. Be realistic with your goals when choosing your company idea- remember you only have 4 weeks. But during ideation phase, don’t let yourself think that an idea is too impossible or out of the box. Let your passions, problems, and interests guide you. Problems make products but passion sells the business.

Food and cooking (there was a lot of advice for this!):

  1. EAT SHAKESHACK. (Sunny Cui)
  2. Toscaninis ice cream is a must. (Trisha Kagalavadi)
  3. The lobster in Quincy Market will change your life. (Saahil Katyal)
  4. Flour Bakery is amazing for food. (Sunny Cui)
  5. Hit up Chinatown for HOTPOT. Also, Sebastians has the best crepes ever! (Lillian Chen)
  6. Insomia Cookies! (Rohan Shah)
  7. Turn on the fans when you cook. (Alex Xu)

Continue reading “Last Minute Tips for Launch”

Launch Life: Roommate Edition

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Session one of Launch is just over a month away! We hope that you are as excited as we are for the program to start. There are many reasons why Launch is a worthwhile experience, and the college experience of roommate living is just one of them.

You might be nervous about living with a roommate for the first time. Maybe you are an only child or a like to listen to music at all hours of the night. Rest assured, our Launch team works hard to make sure that students enjoy a positive living experience throughout the program by intelligently matching roommates, while also offering some single rooms. Launch admits fill out a pre-work survey that includes questions about lifestyle and work habits, giving us some key information that is statistically proven to contribute to positive roommate experiences.

While there is an option to request a single room, Launch alumni highly suggest rooming with a classmate to have a richer experience during the program. For some students, this may be your first time away from home for an extended period of time. Not only will your roommate keep you company, they will surely provide motivation during the intense four weeks of the program. Launch roommates have often become best friends and continue to inspire each other in their business ventures.

Still feeling nervous? We’ve asked some of our previous Launchies to share their roommate experiences. Here’s what they said:

“Launch couldn’t possibly have got my roommate allocation more right. Before the program even began my roomie Lauren and I were best friends, and our bond only grew as a result of our month together. We were on different teams, so we were there for each other to help brainstorm ideas and support each other when things got tough or the workload piled up. I’m still super close with Lauren and we definitely have a sisterly relationship. I know we’ll be friends for life!” -Ciara

Continue reading “Launch Life: Roommate Edition”

No meal plan?! No worries!

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Obligatory Boston clam chowder photo

One of the most commonly asked questions we get at Launch is regarding the lack of a meal plan.  Unfortunately, the dormitory dining halls are closed during the summer. While many students ask about how much to budget for meals, it’s difficult for us to provide a recommendation since it’s very dependent on the student (and their appetite).  Not having a meal plan, though, also means that there is a lot of flexibility the offers great culinary experiences.  One of our former Launchies, Sunny, is here to share some of her adventurous explorations.  Rest assured, though, there are lots of options at the MIT student center and Sloan cafeteria for those who prefer to stay on campus.

Hi, my name is Sunny and I attended Launch in 2015. Launch was one of the best experiences of my life, and my tastebuds would agree. As a self-proclaimed foodie, the culinary adventures that Boston has to offer trumps any meal plan. I want to share with you nostalgic Launchies and prospective Launchies some of my favorites and some reasons why it’s beneficial to not have a meal plan. (Beware of photos of excessively delicious food. Caution to readers on an empty stomach.)

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially when you will be challenging yourself in class all morning.  A few of my favorite spots include Clover, Rebecca’s Cafe, Flour, Cosi and Au Bon Pain. These cafes/restaurants are all found around Kendall square near your classes. I highly recommend Clover’s breakfast sandwich or popover, and Cosi’s breakfast wraps. Plus, there is a Starbucks nearby if you want your dose of caffeine.

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Chilled borscht soup from Flour

Continue reading “No meal plan?! No worries!”

Ciara Judge: Last Minute Inspiration

ciaraThere are three weeks left to apply for MIT Launch – and I’m here to tell you why a last minute application could change your life.

Around this time last year I was surfing the internet, looking for things to do to fill up my summer when a Facebook notification popped up on my screen. My sister had sent me a link with a single sentence caption: “THIS IS THE PLACE FOR YOU!!!” One click led me to the MIT Launch website and I began to explore.

Everything I read about the program just screamed out from the page to me as something I wanted to participate in. I had always been the entrepreneurial type from a young age, starting up little businesses or making a fortune by lending to my friends and charging interest as soon as I found out what the term meant (I drove a hard bargain). But I never took this attitude of mine seriously until I read about MIT Launch. Suddenly I saw myself growing up to be an entrepreneur, forging my own path and working with a team of like-minded individuals. So without hesitation I decided I just had to apply.

I had two weeks, so I was on quite a tight deadline, but thankfully I got my application in on time. And fast forward to a few months later in April, I received news that I had been accepted. Suddenly it all became so real! That summer, I was going to actually start up a proper company!

However, upon arriving at MIT Launch I realised that this experience was going to mean so much more than cofounding a startup. Over that summer I made friends for life, learned skills I’ll carry with me forever, and built a network of contacts to call on in the years to come as I travel along this journey of entrepreneurship. Of course I met my fantastic PurchaseMate team, and we are still working together now with big plans for the future. PurchaseMate is currently in beta and we plan to get it up on the app store very soon. The course perfectly combines fun and enjoyment with professionalism, and I now a more well-rounded, competent individual as a result of my involvement.

purchasemate team

That last minute application last year certainly changed my life, and who I am. Ironically, although entrepreneurship is usually seen as a high-risk career path, I am now so much more certain of my future. Because MIT Launch taught me that even if I fail over and over again I can keep going if I have enough determination grit.

If you were one of those kids who always challenged the status quo, who saw another way of doing things, maybe entrepreneurship is for you. If you like making things, creating things, maybe entrepreneurship is for you. If you want a life of excitement and are willing to put in the work to make it so, maybe entrepreneurship is. You’ll never know unless you take that leap, and applying for MIT Launch is a perfect way to do that. You have three weeks, so you better get going!

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International Applicants: Hello From The Other Siiiiide

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Less than one month left to apply to MIT Launch 2016, and the questions from international applicants are rolling in! I’ve collected some advice from former international Launchies for all of you with similar questions out there:

Do I need a visa if I’m admitted to Launch? What kind of visa will work best?

Many international students come to Launch using a tourist visa. According to Launch alum Nicholas Raga, “…since you don’t get any college credit and it is short then you don’t need a student visa.” Alumna Ciara Judge from Ireland says that “any tourist or B1 visa will work.”

Of course, this can vary by country, so be sure to check the specifics of your location.

How do I submit my grades? My school doesn’t use a GPA! What if my school doesn’t grade on the ABCDF scale?

“As a student from the UK, the whole GPA thing was pretty foreign to me, so when it came to transcripts I simply submitted my internal grades from school. I also submitted my grades for GCSEs (our external exams at the end of 10th Grade). All in all, I would say aim to submit enough material to allow Launch to gauge your academic strength – and don’t be afraid to provide extra explanations here so that it’s clear what each grade means!” -Ashwin Agarwal 2014

Basically, help Launch calibrate your school’s grading system as much as possible.  There are some suggestions within the application for how to do this, though also use your best judgment.  We’re not trying to be overly prescriptive here – we just aren’t experts on every single potential academic system and need your help, so your translation of grades to a GPA and letter grades is much appreciated.

Keval Patel: Never Too Young

It’s been four months since Launch ended, but the memories will continue to live. The experiences I faced and the friendships I made are unforgettable and will always be a part of my life. One of the key messages from Launch is that you are never too young to be an entrepreneur. This was embedded in all of us since day one.

Launch gives students the opportunity to become immersed in the entrepreneurial world. From day one, we were tasked to develop a mini-businesses overnight out of forty dollars.  This assignment taught me that money isn’t the foundation of successful entrepreneurs, but rather it is the thought-process and focus that are key. Even though a certain idea may seem to be unique and desirable to the public, you have to find your differentiation – the customers you serve better, and the way you serve them better with your product and marketing.  Young entrepreneurs have this innovative imagination that allows them to come up with truly novel ideas. With the correct passion, they are able to make their fantasies into entrepreneurial realities, despite the opposition they may receive.

A couple days into Launch, one of the instructors drew two axes of a graph on the board and a positive parabola in the middle. She then labels the x-axis “Time at Launch”, and the y-axis “Level of Happiness”. This image represents that entrepreneurs will start their project with ambition and excitement, hit a few rough patches, and then the excitement will ensue again. I never expected to follow the Happiness Curve during my entrepreneurial experience. However, I realized in Launch that it is inevitable.

happiness curve

Continue reading “Keval Patel: Never Too Young”

Financial Need Scholarships

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Hello future Launchies! My name is Russell Reed, and I serve as the Onboarding Coordinator at MIT Launch. I know that, among the questions you have about the application itself, many of you have another concern: paying for Launch if you are accepted. I’m going to do my best to demystify our financial aid process in this post, but if you have any further questions, please post them here and we will do our best to answer them.

First of all, admission to Launch is need blind — if you indicate you will be applying for financial aid, it will only be used to follow up appropriately when / if you are accepted. Our goal is to make Launch affordable for every accepted student, and therefore financial aid packages are curated on an individual basis with the intention of meeting all demonstrated need.

“Affordability is the last thing one should worry about when applying to MIT Launch. The program has all the resources to help you and your family afford an amazing entrepreneurial education… As we say in Launch: ‘an entrepreneur is someone who pursues an opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.’”

-Besart Copa, 2015 Alumnus

At Launch, we are dedicated to bringing together the most ambitious and driven young aspiring entrepreneurs from across the globe, and we will ensure that financing the program does not stand in your way of attending.  We have compiled information from previous sessions to provide these average financial aid offers, but remember that each package is made individually, so they may vary based on some additional factors of the admitted student and family circumstance.

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“MIT Launch changed me in more ways that I could have imagined. Now I am confident in my potential and I know I have what it takes to start a company. Even though I couldn’t afford to pay for the program, it didn’t matter, because I knew there’s financial aid in place to make sure everybody who is admitted could join the program. So be one of the bold ones! Apply!

– 2015 Launch Alumnus 

Best of luck to everyone applying, and please feel free to contact us through the College Confidential post linked earlier in this post if you have any more questions!

Trisha Kagalavadi: The Reciprocity Ring

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Launch is much more than a group of students working tirelessly to create their companies: it’s a community. The power of the Launch community is an invaluable network comprised of people with a variety of different skills, resources, and knowledge. I began to see the power of the network when we created the Reciprocity Ring.

Everyone wrote down an obstacle they were facing on a blue post-it note, then we arranged all of the notes on the wall in a circle. Together, we brainstormed possible solutions to these obstacles, and wrote down ways we could help each other on yellow post-it notes. It really showed how everyone at Launch has an abundance of talents, and regardless of whether someone was facing a technology or design obstacle, there was always another Launchie who could help out! After we thought about ways to help each other, we drew lines connecting the obstacle we were facing, to the one we were able to help out with.

reciprocity     reciprocity2

Launch provides you with access to amazing resources, connections, and people, all at your fingertips. This activity allowed us to help each other reach our goals and illuminated the importance of the Launch family. As a family, we helped each other, laughed a lot, and argued a little bit, but at the end of the day, we were always there for each other. Even in the midst of AP classes, and SAT prep, I still talk to the friends I made at Launch everyday, and the connections I made have continued to thrive, long after the four weeks ended!

Brian Coombs: Mens et Manus at MIT

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Launch just ended, but the memories refuse to fade.  My most prominent memories stem from the challenging learning experience of designing and implementing our hardware product. I co-founded Vintage Vitality, a health wearable company dedicated to connecting ailing loved ones to their family and keeping them safe.

Heading into the development phase, my group was worried about our lack of experience in prototyping, particularly electrical hardware. I became team lead for product development, but my experience was limited to architectural CAD (computer aided design), and I had never done any electrical engineering before. Luckily resources abound at Launch. I was assisted personally by MIT professors and students:

  • Marty Culpepper, MIT Maker Czar and Mechanical Engineering professor, scheduled times with all the hardware teams, and advised us on silicone molding and potential difficulties inherent in the manufacturing phase.
  • Entrepreneurs at the Global Founders Skills Accelerator plus EIRs (Entrepreneurs in Residence) and other staff at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship provided assistance with anything from wiring to 1-on-1 learning about Arduino to 3D printing.

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There was never a dull step along the way. Within the Trust Center’s Protoworks, every tool was specific to what small companies like us needed to bring our ideas onto the workbench of reality.

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Continue reading “Brian Coombs: Mens et Manus at MIT”

Ayden Howle: A Home Away from Home

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Walking through those large transparent doors, I already knew was entering my new home: a place where we are all family, where we are welcome. Here at Launch, valuable speakers from across the world present our lessons, creating this wonderfully powerful learning environment. While brainstorming and pitching, other teams always are willing to help and give advice. Here at Launch, innovation is driven by collaboration, rather than competition. Since I entered the program, I already made lifelong friends, both with members of my team and with everyone within Launch. The people at Launch are unlike any group I’ve met. Everyone is unique, with different passions and skills. In less than five minutes, Launchies immediately connect. When I came to Launch, everyone accepted me for who I was. All the life skills we learn in the classroom can be implemented socially. I really feel that we embrace each other’s differences and we are careful to not make quick assumptions.

Continue reading “Ayden Howle: A Home Away from Home”

Introducing Simmons: Commons, Culture, and Location

This is the second part of a two-part introduction to Simmons Hall. Please check out our last blog post for more information on Architecture, Rooms, and Resources.

Simmons Hall logo

Commons
On every floor there are at least a couple of common rooms and meeting rooms. Common rooms are usually carpeted and furnished with couches and beanbag chairs and a TV. These are typically areas to play music or hold a Super Smash Bros tournament. Common rooms are also equipped with board games and the larger common rooms/lobbies on the first floor even have building blocks and foosball tables (see Culture).

Commons

Meeting rooms are usually closed off by a glass wall and contain large conference-type desks. Meetings rooms are often where teams choose to work because they are conveniently scattered throughout the dorm, while still remaining separate enough and quiet enough to concentrate and be highly productive.

Culture
As mentioned before, Simmons is a quirky cool dorm with a lot of personality. As soon as you enter the building, you’ll notice a small pond with tiny rubber duckies bobbing around, and on the walls you may notice posters with references to velociraptors. These two are the unofficial “mascots” of Simmons and you’ll find signs of them scattered around the building.

rubber ducks

Simmons culture also comes from the unique architecture. The undulating concrete walls are actually similar chalkboard material, and you’ll see that people draw all over the walls with colorful chalk. Furthermore, in the front lobby, there are piles of wooden building blocks, and in the commons rooms there are plenty of board games. If you didn’t get the chance to doodle on the walls and build dangerously high Jenga towers as a kid, this is your chance 🙂

Location
The MIT campus is a long triangle that flanks the Charles river, and Simmons is located at the west end of this triangular layout. Directly across the river from Simmons is Boston University, and just a little further down Massachusetts Avenue is Harvard University.

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Simmons is just about on the opposite side of campus to the MIT Sloan School of Management, where classes will be held. Fortunately, the MIT campus shuttle stops right in front of Simmons and will drive all the way to Sloan. If you want to enjoy a morning walk to class, you can walk along the river for about 20 minutes to reach Sloan.

Located much closer are the Student Center, the Z-Center, and other athletic fields. Some athletic fields are right outside of Simmons while the Student Center and the Z-Center are about 8-10 minutes of a walk from Simmons.

Introducing Simmons: Architecture, Rooms, and Resources

SimmonsSimmons Hall might be one of the most recognizable buildings on the MIT campus (other than the Great Dome and the Stata Center). Famous for it’s architecture and culture, Simmons is definitely one of the most exciting dorms to live in and explore. In fact, architects from all over come to study Simmons, and some even try to sneak in to get an inside peek into this fascinating building! I’ll break down the tips and tricks of Simmons hall into 6 categories (Architecture, Rooms, Resources, Commons, Culture, and Location) and today I’ll be covering the first 3.

Architecture
Simmons is generally referred to as “The Sponge” by MIT students because–well, it really does resemble a sponge. There are many rows of small windows on each floor (it’s almost like having a grid of pixels) which makes it very convenient for spelling out words and shapes by lighting up certain rooms. The quirky architecture only gets weirder from the inside. The whole building is made of concrete, and many of the walls are not straight, and will have large, intentional undulations in them. There are also 3 towers in Simmons, and elevators service each tower. However, because of the arrangement of the towers, it’s often necessary to switch elevators multiple times to get from one tower to another. The architecture is quite confusing, but don’t worry–there are maps in every single elevator that will explain how to travel within the building.

Rooms
Launch students will be living in doubles (rooms with 2 beds) inside Simmons. These rooms are generally pretty spacious and come with a full set of furniture for each student: extra-long twin bed, bookshelf, desk and chair, a set of drawers, a wastebasket and a simple wardrobe. True to Simmons spirit, all the furniture is modular. Yes, you read that right! You can arrange your furniture creatively to achieve a loft-bed layout, or just adjust your bed and desk height by using the sets of drawers to add height where needed.IMG_3434

There are a lot of windows in each room for really great natural lighting, and the rooms also have ceiling lights, so desk lamps really aren’t necessary. All the rooms have tile flooring, which makes it easy to keep the rooms clean, but some students may choose to bring small throw rugs to make the space more cozy.

Most importantly, there are bathrooms for at least every three rooms. Some rooms will have private bathrooms inside the room–lucky you if you get one of these! Other rooms are arranged so that usually two (or occasionally three) rooms will share a bathroom.

Resources
Laundry rooms are located every few floors. As of 2014 it cost $1.00 per washing load, and $0.75 per dryer load and both machines accept quarters. Detergent may be left over from the semester, but your best bet will be to bring a few detergent tablets/pods.

During the school year, Simmons residents subscribe to the mandatory meal plan so there are no real kitchens in Simmons. However, there is a small kitchenette on one of the floors equipped with a sink, a hot plate, a few plates, a microwave, and a communal refrigerator. If you do buy food, make sure you label it with your name or else you may not see your food again! This kitchenette is pretty much only good for heating up leftovers, because it is nearly impossible to actually cook with such a limited kitchen.

The MIT app is available for both iOS and Android devices, and will show a campus map, shuttle maps and locations, and other vital MIT campus information. Download the MIT app and you will never get lost going to and from Simmons!

Lastly and probably most importantly, MIT wifi is campus-wide, free, and super fast. No more buffering when you’re trying to stream Netflix!

An introduction of Simmons commons, culture, and location can be found here!

Jennifer Tran: Discovering CIC and Venture Café

Cambridge is buzzing with amazing learning opportunities outside of the Launch classroom. Last summer when my friends and I weren’t in class or hard at work on our companies, we scoured the city for new experiences and entrepreneurial activities. Some of my favorite finds were the Cambridge Innovation Center and the Venture Café.

The Cambridge Innovation Center, or CIC, was a hub of activity that housed over 600 startups. The brief descriptions on door plaques displayed the wide variety of ventures being explored at the CIC. As I observed entrepreneurs from all of the startups meet in communal break rooms to exchange ideas and collaborate, I imagined that someday my team’s startup would have an office at the CIC surrounded by innovators and creators with the same passion for their work.

Venture Cafe

Russell, my teammate, and I also made trips to the Venture Cafe in search of valuable advice and exciting connections. Venture Café is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building communities of innovators and entrepreneurs, and every Thursday evening the space lights up with networking opportunities and entrepreneurial advice. Everyone from angel investors to designers to scientists meet to make business deals and personal connections. The times that we visited, the energy and excitement of the room was palpable. We conversed and tested different pitches for our company, the Bridge Initiative. We gained tips and ideas to grow not only our businesses but also ourselves as entrepreneurs.  As the night progressed we became much more confident in approaching people and asking questions about our companies and the business path. Everyone from the fledgling entrepreneurs to the seasoned investors showed an amazing amount of passion and excitement for everything they spoke of. We heard from so many diverse minds: from a solar energy engineer who explained the mechanics of a solar panel and the future of alternative energy to a restaurateur who detailed the process of turning a brick and mortar operation into a sleek app-based service.

Visiting the CIC and the Venture Café were only a few of the amazing opportunities for learning and inspiration.  They were a great opportunity for team bonding and being able to connect to the vibrant startup community sparked creativity in the toughest parts of launching our startup.

Goodbye to MIT and our beautiful dorm

Sadly, today is the last day of Launch.  That means goodbye to our classroom, goodbye to MIT campus and the beautiful Maseeh Hall dorms that have been our home for the last four weeks, and goodbye to the amazing friends that everyone made.  But just for now – everyone plans to stay in touch!

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Although we don’t think the parents of Launch students will ever truly be able to understand the magic of what happened here this summer, we tried to give them a taste of it on the last day of classes by inviting them to their own private class session.  They performed one of the simulations and walked through a few of the early activities, laughing and questioning and engaging in the same way their kids had done just four weeks earlier.

Among these activities is the “Real Deal”, from one of our strategic partners, Peak Learning.  This tool allows you to select the most important motivating factors to you from a deck of cards, which can then be a powerful foundation for a discussion with your team about how to work with one another.

We hope the parents have a bit better understanding now of their kids’ transformational summer.

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The Power of Improv

Several of the students had some good laughs tonight at an improv show of Rebels Without Applause.  Some of the students’ businesses were used as examples in skits and a few students even got pulled on stage as part of the show!

Later in the program, Howie Reith of Rebels Without Applause came to Launch to teach an improv class before the final pitches, helping release some stress and use improv to prepare for the impromptu nature of questions during final pitches.  It was just what they needed before the big day!

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Go Red Sox!

Scavenger Hunt!

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Students had the option today of participating in a scavenger hunt.  They were sent with a “T” pass (the Boston MBTA train and bus pass) to different famous places around the city to discover the wonders of Boston outside of MIT campus, see historic landmarks, and enjoy some tasty treats.  Teams submitted photos of their accomplishments throughout the race and enjoyed bragging rights upon successful completion.

Exploring MIT Campus

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When not in classes, visiting labs, or working on their companies, students enjoy exploring the MIT campus: finding lectures, playing sports, or enjoying the beautiful sculptures and engaging aura that the campus exudes.

Kickoff Lunch

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We kicked off today with a lunch for parents and students to get to know one another, the Launch staff, and be inspired by today’s keynote speaker, Anita Elberse.  Anita is a professor at Harvard Business School of Strategic Marketing in Creative Industries,  a very sought after course, where her research sometimes finds her working with icons such as Lady Gaga and Jay-Z.

Anita shared some great lessons including:

  • Fail spectacularly
  • A good idea / product is only a small part of the battle, it comes down to execution
  • The real value is in the “blockbusters”
  • Be a superstar

Anita also had some fun by putting parents in the room on the spot with their knowledge of pop icons.  All in all, a great way to kick off what will be a fun and intellectually stimulating summer program.

Greetings from Cambridge!

View from Maseeh

Today’s the day! Students will be arriving today from all over the country and overseas and moving into our beautiful MIT dorm. We like to joke here that our students are in for a rude awakening when they actually get to college because their dorms will likely be half the size and about 30 years older than the dorms that we’re living in here at MIT. Plus, you can’t beat this view of the Charles River and Boston. Stay tuned for more adventures!

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