This week’s interview features Megan Smith, CEO and Co-Founder of shift7 and former US Chief Technology Officer. JB and Megan discuss innovation/collaboration, human-centered solutions, and how they tie into the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Hosted by JB Holston. Produced by Jenna Klym, Justin Matheson-Turner, Christian Rodriguez, and Nina Sharma. Edited by Christian Rodriguez.
Learn from leaders doing the work across the Capital Region and beyond. These conversations will showcase innovation, as well as history and culture across our region, to bridge the gap between how we got here and where we are going.
About our guest:
In 2014, President Obama named Megan Smith the United States Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. In this role, she served as an Assistant to the President. As U.S. CTO, Smith focused on how technology policy, data and innovation can advance the future of our nation.
Megan previously served as CEO of PlanetOut, a leading LGBT online community in the early days of the web, where the team broke through many barriers and partnered closely with AOL, Yahoo!, MSN, and other major web players. Megan was part of designing early smartphone technologies at General Magic and worked on multimedia products at Apple Japan.
Over the years, Megan has contributed to a wide range of engineering projects, including an award-winning bicycle lock, space station construction program, and solar cookstoves. She was a member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) student team that designed, built, and raced a solar car 2000 miles across the Australian outback.
Megan has served on the boards of MIT, MIT Media Lab, MIT Technology Review, and Vital Voices; as a member of the USAID Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid; and as an advisor to the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the Malala Fund, which she co-founded. She holds a bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT, where she completed her master's thesis work at the MIT Media Lab.
Megan Smith 0:00
We take the topics of the day. So today, it's big data, you know, and algorithmic justice. It's inclusive entrepreneurship and innovation. It's sort of all of the key technology topics like 5g and AI and synthetic biology and you know, everything related to COVID and medicine.
Nina Sharma 0:22
Welcome to fresh, take a candid interview series featuring thought leaders and innovators from across the capital region, these one on one conversations, highlight the incredible work happening in our communities, and showcase both where we are and where we are going as a region. In this episode, you'll hear from JB hosted CEO of the Greater Washington partnership, in conversation with Megan Smith, the third Chief Technology Officer of the US under President Obama, and the first woman and first engineer to hold that role.
JB Holston 0:58
You know, I don't want to talk a lot about the current administration. But you know, they really, at least for a while, they just kind of decimated the Office of Science and Technology Policy. And really, the look, we've seen in COVID response, because we've been working on that as an issue for the region, you know, what's missing, etc. And there seems to be an approach that, you know, the federal administration should do as little as possible and basically react. And what I hear you saying is, you know, a lot of what you folks were trying to do is, okay, here's, here's the issue of the day, Let's rally, both internal and a lot of external constituents to move, you know, at pace to come up with ways to take advantage of this opportunity, or address this issue. And, and basically create momentum, but, you know, be a catalyst is that is that a fair? You know, way to think about some of the things you were able to do.
Megan Smith 1:52
So I think we, we maybe not divided but we were working in three sectors that were overlapping a lot, or methodologies one is really classic policy, you know, like, should we have an open source policy, you know, technology policy and technology for policy, and a nishapur, who was, firstly, to really drove that we continued that, you know, default open data, unless it's private data, IRS data is not open. But you know, that weather data, these data should be open. And we see on our phones every day, the results of US Geological Survey and mapping data being open, you know, companies can build products. One of my favorite things that happened was the US Census team, the administrator was amazing. And we were able to flow all kinds of things in there. And so the opportunity project allowed us to use open datasets from HUD and Ed and all these agencies that might have said, Hey, can you guys help me with a website? Instead, we said, what data do you have? Let's take HUD housing, urban development. You could say what are you trying to do? They say housing, mobility, housing, affordability, all their key goals. Then we'd say wait a minute, Airbnb, Redfin, Zillow, all the industry come here, what data sets you have, what kind of features could you all launch in your highly popular products that would broaden the capabilities here? How could nonprofits get in line? How can we see better? So that's an example of a policy move, and then maybe an organizer, man, so the first one is policy, the second was capacity build this government, which was really what Todd started, and we continued, you know, he started came, he's like, where's everyone had made multiple companies. And he's like, so Presidential Innovation Fellows, and entrepreneur and residents, you know, everywhere. These wonderful colleagues, we see, bring them in government do a tour service government is only who shows up, right? So come serve your country, the United States Digital Service capabilities, the 18 F 10, which is in the General Services, Administration, agency teams, and IT teams finding colleagues within government who are already there, who just needed like, I've tried to do this in a little air cover, so that the Secretary and the DEF SEC could know that was amazing. And the third one was, really, we call the innovation nation, which is how can the American people, how can we see what they are already doing and more rapidly share? One of my favorite ones, to your point about, you know, the the policy, we talked about the policies that were happening, because Obama was working on criminal justice reform. And so Valerie Jarrett, and others were like, you know, what do you guys how can you plan and policy work government work? Well, one of them was just looking at who in the country was already doing extraordinary work like scouting scale. And so examples that came the Presidential nation fellows, some of them and others began working with domestic policy council on the police Data Initiative, opening data on officer involved shooting use of force data, Dallas, others were already opening this and you know, here's a photo of a young woman, her name is Grace. She's in 10th grade teaching the police chief how to code. So we're doing STEM together with a real city problem work on your hometown for your homework. And so we were able to get 120 jurisdictions also data driven justice, which is more of what did the enterprise on Camden had half their murder rate, dropped their police brutality, you know, really shifted the funding on policing. Miami had done that high 7000 people were in prison, they dropped to 4700, close to jail, save $12 million by taking mental health and substance abuse challenged people who are facing the challenges and routing to services instead of jail. And they were able to reduce the prison population save incredible money and strife. And so how do we have Miami share? They're busy being Miami, they're not Wichita, like so creating communities of practice and flow almost like IPO-ing. And tech hire was like that, you know, the coding boot camps were coming. And so how did you get more people in cities code Louisville was happening and launch code and St. Louis, how could they share faster, so we had five or six cities go to 20, go to 40 go to 70. And we had 70 People in the tech ecosystem. It's kind of a not government program, right? It's just an organizing, and community organizing. And then Katie Ryan Berg found $150 million budget of the Department of Labor, we call them dusty budgets. There's so much money the US government is the richest thing in the world. So just look around the budget and find something Yes, does this apply to this group of retraining, they're like, of course, and all these proposals came in 39 cities got, you know, a couple million dollars each I remember Albuquerque 's program had foster care, kids aging out veterans, people coming out of prison, as single parents, like all kinds of folks were getting training for jobs that pay three times the average American salary, you know, and the cities are starving for them. So this is the kind of third area which is really an innovation organizing move. And using the network that we have both human and digital, to faster share what's already working are promising. I'll pop a link actually, for you guys have some of that stuff.
JB Holston 6:48
Yeah, that'd be great. Megan, appreciate that. And while you're doing that, let me let me turn a little bit to the greater Washington region, since that's the remit for for this group. And, you know, the partnerships interesting constructs about 30 of the largest employers from Baltimore, to Richmond, it's consciously Baltimore to Richmond, and obviously, DC is at the center of all this, but it from the start was all about what, you know, what can we do on a regional level that augments accelerates what we're trying to do otherwise, and, you know, some of the work, the work has historically been around things like mobility, you know, transportation. So it's a logical one, where there really wasn't anyone driving the decisions, the hard decisions that have to be taken to make sure that you've got regional approaches on some of these things, work on housing with or institute a lot of work on digital skills, to try to broaden and deepen the pipeline of people in the region who have those capabilities. But over the last few months, of course, the whole question of reopening scaling, testing, just sort of how can we augment what's not happening, so that we can all you know, get back to a reasonable life, particularly for schools faster? But a lot about inclusion, too, right? I mean, I think since Black Lives Matters since the death of George Floyd, you know, the companies, to their credit, have have all said, inclusion is, you know, it's not a CSR kind of thing. It's, it's what we're all fundamentally about. And I think we've come to his view that, you know, kind of inclusion is the new innovation that, you know, if you've got a region that is, first and foremost about inclusion really is the most inclusive economy in the country, it will, by definition, become the most attractive economy in the country that all the, you know, sort of things that we found in Colorado that got folks to want to come there 20 years ago, if you are fundamentally inclusive, and have that as your primary objective, that is what, you know, the next folks that we want to have common to the region think as as paramount. So we got a lot of work going on to try to figure out, you know, what does it mean to say that inclusive growth is foundational to the work that we do? And then what can something like the partnership to in a region like this, to augment that? So I'd love to just get some thoughts from you, as you think about inclusive growth, inclusive innovation, if you think about sort of inclusion as the foundation for, you know, sort of old school tournament for economic development on a regional basis? What comes to mind? Yeah, what are things that you've seen places that look like they've got some of this going? Well, obstacles, just thoughts would be great.
Megan Smith 9:22
Yeah, there's, there's First off, there's great stuff all around a region, people should be really proud and the more we can cross share, what's going well, you know, one of my favorite programs, it's youth and some adults, but it's rec to tech up in Baltimore, you know, and we talk about fab labs and makers and 3d printing and all this stuff. But really thinking about a studio like a library, you know, what do you want to make today? What do you need when he what's urgent and one of my favorite things is watching especially as people get makerspaces and these fab spaces in Schools, watching the arts and history teachers. And then I love my math and science teachers, of course, they're going to use them. But when the other teachers start to realize that this is a cool place to just build and express, you know, there was a school that was doing, you know, social justice meets the MakerSpace. And what would you physically make students doing really interesting sort of art slash makers pieces. So Rector tech is rec center to Tech Center, it's a rec center. And so repurposing these beautiful spaces that we have, like libraries and others, and adding rooms or opening rooms, dusting them off. And putting capabilities in this case, they have nano and mega Nanos little kits, Vegas, the big kids and the big kids teach little kids, which is great for everybody. You know, and when I say it was a little bubblegum machine, and one of the first private starter projects is to just learn how to make something in 3d printing, and then pop it into the box, so the little kids can get one, you know, and they have coins together, just clever things. And these teams are just, you know, it's learning the confidence, it's about confidence building around them. So that's a wonderful example. There's those kinds of resources are around the thing that I loved the Scouten scale idea, either we did the UN we met because the United Nations Solution Summit that we put together, which was as the world was ratifying the Sustainable Development Goals, I have my SDG pin, you know, with Varos
JB Holston 11:27
Megan Smith 11:31
You know, and these are the global goals for people aren't familiar, it's like, you know, climate goals and economic inclusion and gender equality and poverty and hunger in every goal. And they're well thought out my my business partner, Susan Austin, was at the center of bringing the public voice when she was working at the UN. And so that's how we partnered and the question we had, which is also something we could regionally do, and you guys did in Colorado at the time, who's already solving these many challenges we have, what are you doing? This is a very Silicon Valley like move, right? The venture capitalists don't make the companies they find these innovators. It's just that we've given so much voice to one group and a whole other sets of people aren't able to get the resources they need. So let's open for business. And let's let's ask who's already fixing things? I found my my Colorado Solution Summit. Yes. You know, this is the global goals and
JB Holston 12:24
You win the prop award, this is awesome.
Megan Smith 12:26
So, you know, this was coming together with the university, you know, with and I remember actually now Senator Hickenlooper, Governor Hickenlooper was there with us. We did some of this during the tech jobs here. This is getting people to talk to each other. A lot of times we get this idea of, well, let's talk to the economic people. So then we're talking to the companies. And we're talking to the research part of the university and these things, but we could instead talk to them, and we could add in the community, various community, the churches, like the thing about our region is its people. And the people have the capability. So the more we include the breadth of people, the more breadth and when I favorites when I got another crop for you. This is a book from the whole house, which I hadn't known much about. So I don't know if you know about Jane Addams double the atoms, but most people don't know. But he won the Nobel Peace Prize for inventing social work. But they created this whole house in the middle of industrial age, Chicago in the second industrial revolution, every talks about now, the fourth. And I hadn't realized until he went upstairs, that they did amazing data science. These are the city wall. And this is the wages and what jobs are there. So what they were working on was the smart, wise city, I called the Smart why city, the smart wise city isn't just like, the robots are shipping us around and spread them because it's about us. And the wisdom that the collective genius of our collaborations can have fun. So the key is to, you know, a lot of people say, Why aren't there more people come into tech, you know, from different groups and like, well, have we created hospitable environments? And also, what are they working on? Why don't we join their team and see what they're trying to prioritize? And then maybe some of our capabilities can come with that. So how do we mix it up much more across the silos booth, the thing we've been talking about for government is break the silos of who's in the room, you know, include all the capabilities, in this case, break the silos across the different sectors of society, and kind of play the whole orchestra together and make sure that the senior leadership is broadened. So that all of all of the leaders, no matter what age, you know, who are really driving in creative ways to solve things are included in the conversation. And then we find the people the easiest thing, of course, is to find someone who already fixed it. So that's why I love it. promising I love finding them, you know? And then you're like, Wait, what did you do? And then you start to support them in that way. And we have so many people in our region, who have already done that in other regions who we can collaborate with. So I'm very excited that you guys are here, because I know you think in this network wet,
JB Holston 15:18
Yeah. Now, look, that's, that's awesome. And we do. And, you know, it's interesting coming from Colorado, to kind of observe the differences. You know, I've sort of lived in Colorado from the point where it was siloed. And there was like, you know, cable TV and oil and gas. And those were, you know, those are the industries and, and agriculture is to, you know, to really kind of a very grassroots ground up, you know, energize the collective to do stuff, and then share fast and scale quick. And one of the interesting things that I've observed just interested in your views on this is, there's also, you know, that's the classic sort of cultural question. I mean, the nice thing about Colorado was like, even oil and gas, it was kind of a risk taking sort of world, you know, it was, yeah, we're gonna put somebody on by one hit, lose all our money, we'll try to get whatever, you know, ranching, similar. I mean, it's pretty hardy, and pretty, pretty tough. Here, there's, there's a lot of, you know, big, successful, stable, contracting firms, you know, that, look at some of the work that, you know, that you've done, and I've done, you know, things like those, you know, the cloud solutions, or whatever, and sort of go, what is that thing? Right, you know, how do I, you know, it just looks like, it looks like everything looks like an alpha and feels really uncomfortable. Right? So I mean, it takes time, right, to get folks to the point that they see the value in all of that. But I know you've been in this region, obviously, traveling around the country as well. But any observations about, you know, what sort of unique if you think about kind of Maryland, Virginia, DC, Baltimore, down to Richmond, obviously, there's the the really unique history, you know, the differences between Baltimore and Richmond are extraordinary. You mentioned people and there's just so much talent here. Some of its ending for a bit, so it's gone. But you know, what else sort of strikes you is different? But the reason I can ask is it only been here for a few months, so I can, I can tap in.
Megan Smith 17:14
I've loved I wasn't planning to come to DC, you know, I got pulled by President Obama. I didn't know about this. And I encourage anybody serve your country at some point, do a tour service and government. We need all of us to do it. i It's so beautiful here. I'm originally from Buffalo, New York. I guess maybe, you know, one of the things there's so many things. I think the history I think also the whole history is really important. Like I'm I'm Churchill said the further back you can look, the farther forward you will see. And so being more inclusive, you know, as I was thinking, as you mentioned, Colorado's remembering one of your colleagues, Nina Sharma, we went to see Captain at Dwight, who was he was in the first group of astronauts, African American. And you know, when Kennedy was shot, he was given a transfer. And that's a hidden finger story. People don't know that that Kennedy's goal was to have an interracial team and figured out gender equality, but on the moon first, and we didn't do that. And that was unfortunate. I love who went to the moon and it would have been nice to broaden that to certainly in those Apollo groups, you know, and the mercury 13, etc. So we need to tell the whole story of the history and, and really, with agency of how incredible work that people did no matter what position they were in, you know, we're talking about President Washington, you know, him asking for an audience with the poet Phyllis Wheatley. Um, you know, I've been recently tracking on a story about Eliza Hamilton who I hadn't realized, spoke Mohawk and was inducted into the knot on a dog and Mohawk tribes at 13. So you know, federalism, Benjamin Franklin said definitely, like history wise, are constant constitution is based on the Haudenosaunee Iroquois Confederation Federation, and the great law of peace. And so how much influence did Eliza have and others in the Mohawks? So there's like, so I encourage us using that, you know, Ada Lovelace invented computer science and talked about AI at the same time, as Frankenstein was written by Mary Shelley, when, when Mary was with her father, so like, the whole history is here, even though it's hidden. So I think that's important for us because it makes us be more inclusive and see the future. And then I think maybe some of the almost the recipe, you know, and the regionality the beautiful way that our land is you know, people are placed based and so there there are many things there to draw from I'm think environmental opportunities for innovation and collaboration, and building on the history there. And again, my number one thing is Scout and scale, like figure out who's already doing stuff, look broadly, do it in an open way. So that you really capture not just the folks you already know about but all the other people and and Be open to different ways of thinking about it, you know, we ring a bell between our subjects at school when the kids change classes, like, why are we doing that? Right? We don't need to do that in our list. The universe is just interconnected. Yeah.
JB Holston 20:14
Well, yeah, speaking of scope scale, I know when you you mentioned, we mentioned, we met through the Solution Summit. And you know, in many ways, you were kind of the, the creator of that. And that just struck me as a, you know, the way that you went about creating it as an effort. Media, I take a lot of lessons from that. Maybe you could talk a little bit about that, like, how did that come about? What was the process? You know, what, how did you find the solutions? Right? That was one of the things that was always amazing to me, maybe talk a little about that?
Megan Smith 20:44
Yeah, there's there's two key things, two key insights that come together there. One is mine. And one is actually us is an Australian business partner in the UN team at the time. My perspective, because I'm always like thinking about innovators of all kinds as well, we have these great goals, like who's already working on them? How do we find them? Right? So now, we know, I know, if you mentioned a problem, there's 7 billion plus people. Somebody in this world is working on that. And probably several people, what are they doing? You know, it's very much the same with the Malala Fund, you know, Malala will lead us around girls education, youth education, just like Elon is taking us to space, right? So people do things. So so, you know, finding them. So that was part of that. And then Ponyta hero, who's one of the other co founders of shift seven Mets, who's an author at the UN, she was in our White House team at the time, and the CTO team. And she sort of asked this question, could we do this? And Susan said, Sure, I know how to do that, because she was running all the public engagement. And so her innovation was, if we're going to talk about refugees and migrants, let's have refugees and migrants come if we're going to talk about, you know, whoever the topic is, let's have, you know, it's really design thinking from an engineering perspective, like, who are the users or the people affected? The people who are most marginalized or facing the challenge or doing that are the most knowledgeable typically, and, you know, inevitably, and so it was in this conversation, that this kind of two ideas came together. So look for the doers already solving something promising something existing. When we run the Solution Summit, you know, it's not your idea, your post it note, but what are you already making? You know, Bernice is making bamboo bikes and scaled and 30 made 1000 in 1000s. In, you know, Ghana, because they don't have a ceiling steel industry. She's sequestering carbon and bamboo and making these beautiful, beautiful surfboards, beautiful bikes, or, you know, the logistics team who's doing vaccine distributions, like, on and on just genius solutions from every part of the world. And because we opened it using scissors method, the way she has structured that was to do an open call, and then make an open selection committee. And then make sure the committee was representational, like gender balance, region, balance, topic, balance, you know, we were lucky, you came in this committees, you know, as an engineering, you know, the expert, and they said topics. So having this breadth, then look through the solutions, and then nominate, and then the UN would do the final selections, but it was a way to really scout in an open way. And so we've continued that work at shift seven. So the Solution Summit, has, you know, we the fifth year attracted 1400 solutions from over 141 countries in three weeks and an open web form. It's open, people can see if we can we can share that. When so there's been over 65 also taken that methodology to work with Island innovators. We work with MIT with Native American innovators in the MIT solve indigenous communities, fellows, why wouldn't we go to reservations and other places and ask what people were solving and doing just like we would to Silicon Valley, or Austin or Boston, right anywhere in the world. And then you we also you hosted us for the tech jobs tour, which was an early project of just, again, organizing the place based colleagues who are getting people to the kind of future of work in an inclusive way, coding boot camps and other metadata and well, creating welcoming festivals. And not a competition. Yeah, to really invite people make sure the culture is hospitable to everybody, and that you bother to reach out metalli was the genius behind that. And she'd social storm the city before we were coming into 25 different cities, Cheyenne and Birmingham and you know, Cleveland everywhere, and really social sort of the social organizations and the churches and everybody as well as the tech sector. You know, and people came, we have 2000 people in Oakland, trying to figure out how to get in to the tech sector right there took a valley and it was incredibly diverse.
JB Holston 24:53
We should we should social storm vaccine resistance right, you know, go ahead and use all these revenues and find the way to get people excited. Right? To help each other. Right? Exactly. Yeah, a couple of things you mentioned, shift seven, talk a little bit more about what you folks would do, and maybe a couple of representative projects. So people can understand that,
Megan Smith 25:13
sure, six, seven, if you look at your keyboard shift, and seven means and, and so we wanted to work in partnership, and we only work together. And our idea was, instead of God, I just felt like instead of going back into pure tech, you know, like, there's tons of us, I love my colleagues are doing amazing things. But how about stay as tech and innovation people in places where a bit more rare and and blend some of these methods with our genius colleagues from these other sectors, maybe we can help move faster, more effectively, more broadly, more inclusively, once so we end up if you look at this shift, shift seven.com website, you'll see sort of a cluster of interrelated activities. And then we apply them to a lot of topics, so kind of Studio, you know, sprints and pilots. And, you know, there's kind of like work that you do when you're prototyping together. Second one is really networking and ecosystem and playspace. Like, I kind of call that y'all should meet each other. And that glue layer is often missing. That's why I'm excited about the greater Washington partnership is that blue layer of sharing. And the third one is kind of media storytelling, let's call that as seen on TV. And a lot of times things that work are not as much included, or the balance, like you know, these stories of lost histories or, you know, I recommended the Katherine Johnson for the Medal of Freedom. You know, President Obama chose her like, she's incredible, who knew that an African American woman calculated us to the moon, mathematical genius, and many other trajectories for that future? So how do you make sure that we shift from deep media bias? So we've been working with those different innovation communities, we work on policy, a lot of challenges around bias in AI, bias in data, face recognition in this rather racist camera that we have on you know, that the needs light balancing for some skin tones and not others, like this is horrific encoding of racism and sexism and other things into our technology products. So a really broad range of work that we're up to, and we welcome partnerships.
JB Holston 27:18
And I put a link to the website in the chat once I know that I figured out how to share in the chat, not just across the panelists. So I've now won the technology day, you win the award for having the most the greatest props, though, Megan, that's incredible.
Megan Smith 27:32
I'm a mechanical engineer.
JB Holston 27:35
You know, there's our thing. It's not real right now. But that's great. Hey, John, last question for me. And then I know we're getting toward the end of the time. So just wanted to thank you again, for taking the time. It's just so exciting to have the chance to talk with you again. And but I want to go back a little bit to sort of internationalism, globalism, sustainable development goals. You and I talked a little bit about, gee, could we harmonize the sustainable development goals of the grand challenges, right, because they're, they're these frameworks, and there's all these things and but, you know, we've we been in a period of time where America's disengaged from a lot of things around the world, and now we're gonna go back to re engaging. And if you think about that, and again, just back to the original question, how do you think about things like the sustainable development goals as a frame for that, for that work?
Megan Smith 28:22
I think the I love them as a frame, because they're so broad. And so there's something in them for everyone. And also, one of the things we found when we're working with the different solution, solution, solution makers. It's not like they're like doing one of them. They overlap. They're meant to be in a cluster. And so you can say, Oh, my solution is, you know, is across all these different sectors, or even there was a one group that was working on them. They were people who worked on green buildings, and they realized they kept shipping the waste. And so they figured out how to do all the food waste, all kinds of food waste grinding, and the machines, they're called Mako. They're from Malaysia, in 24 hours, make soil in your basement. So just like, just smart stuff, right? Like, that fixes many different things. So if you look at the different solutions out there, they usually overlap. There are people first off in our region who are already solving and what I loved when you guys did Flight to Denver, bringing the solution makers from the institution summit to match with and have an entire weekend with the Colorado solution makers. As as teammates, like who's doing similar things. It just creates surface area of action, and acceleration and having the validation that you're using that crazy having a you know, just some acceleration of your specific work, like really paying attention to what each other is trying to do or groups and come home. I think one of the keys is our youth. You know, our youth are our high schools are ways of teaching in touch genius teachers who are hiding in classrooms with their solutions for us. How do we help them bring forward the stuff they've figured out to do within budget and within the curriculum roles. That's really active stem active engagement, one of my favorite ones out of LA that we should still for our region is called the data science Federation. And, you know, I think data science will become a capstone. For high school like calculus, that it's, it's something there and in our computer science for all work, which is everyone learns to code before you graduate from high school, maybe a little bit in kindergarten, but also realize for any topic, you know, it's just as much for social justice and, and arts as it is for commercial use or robotics. So how do you run that, and one of the things that Jeanne home did in LA, who's the Deputy Mayor, she's a UCLA data science faculty member. So she asked her city teams, what challenges they had. And then she went to the college level and said, assigned those problems as capstone projects. So it is it production software for the city. But it's it's a demo prototype dashboard. And for the students, it broadens their experience of data science, rather than what I think of as a professor, it's, oh, wow, I could work on the city's homelessness issue. I could work on air quality, I could work on, you know, transportation, I could work on homelessness, whatever the challenges are. And so I think work on your hometown for your homework is a big opportunity for our region. Because the breadth of what we need and the framing of that using the Sustainable Development Goals, could be extraordinary. And using leveraging Greater Washington partnership, and others to more rapidly share what everyone's doing across our region, without silos is very powerful.
JB Holston 31:37
Yeah, 100%. But a few takeaways, I wrote down a bunch of stuff, which my handwriting is so bad that I almost failed first grade twice, so but I will interpret these things. But yeah, one of the things that I really liked about our conversation, Megan is, you know, if we look into this year, we can get together again. So you know, you talked about things like festivals. And so much of this is about sort of rapid, quick, cross, it's not zoom, right? You know, it's how do we actively create that surface area and a lot of that love the serendipity, we were able to create a lot of those connections once because you made we made those connections, by definition across those kind of silos. And I think it's really one of things that I'm looking forward to this year is being able to do that, again. And I think with respect to inclusion with respect to underrepresented groups, etc, I think it's gonna be hyper critical, that we accelerate those kinds of activities as fast as we can. Because people I think we're pretty bereft of all that, with everything that's gone on.
Megan Smith 32:31
Very much. So and, and really one of my favorite things, I was just thinking a little bit about the Fab Lab network, which is the maker space network, we started a little bit of a conversation talking about that. But Neil Gershenfeld, Sherry last year, the creators of that, at one point, they were working with Mel King, who leads this is a Boston story, but it's similar to us. And Mel was in the, one of the areas of South End. And, Neil, everyone's saying, Hey, you should bring your kids over to MIT, which is fine. But he's like, Well, why don't you bring your stuff over here. And so the South End Makerspace Fab Lab is one of the coolest spaces. And so really going where each other are, and understanding what people are trying to accomplish creating listening capability for people to hear each other, because when we hear each other, and what we're already doing, or trying to do, humans want to help each other assist in our nature, you know, we want to team up, we want to be social and being social in in a purposeful way matters. And the young people really, really care about this. One of the programs I'd love to bring Shane, another picture is the Arizona started Chief Science officers, these are kids who came to visit us and made us imagine, like we're a government place. And so many of us who, you know, come on government, maybe we're like a class president or student council. Well, why wasn't there a chief science officer in your high school, or in your middle school? You know, who was driving things and what these kids do, they work on helping other students love stem in a way that would matter for them. And doing something that matters in your community. That's the goal. And they did. And there's over 800 in the country now, as well, and also indicted Kuwait, Mexico, and Kenya. So this is a network of kids who can join us and be in there. So again, back to that, that example of network, the network's you know, get in the studio together. And make sure the media helps pick up some of these stories when we talk about a problem. Share some solution makers to is key.
JB Holston 34:37
Yeah, this is great. Megan, I know every time we get on a call, or we have a meeting, I know we feel like we go forever. And I know I could but I wanted to thank you for for taking the time. Thanks for all that you're doing. Really looking forward to working with you and your group as we extend and expand what we're doing. And I think you know, I know you and I share a lot of the same views but I just think they're tremendous opportunities to be in the present moment. accelerate these kinds of things again, and they'll feel really fresh because we've all we've all not had that opportunity for a while. So, on behalf of the partnership, Megan, thanks for what you've done and what you will do. And thanks for taking the time with us today.
JB Holston 35:14
Thanks, JB And thank you everybody for listening and look forward to generating hospitality and clevis teamwork together.
JB Holston 35:21
Great. Thanks, Megan.
Nina Sharma 35:23
Thanks for tuning into fresh take. This episode was produced by Jenna climb, Ian Lutz, Nina Sharma and Justin Matheson Turner if you liked what you heard, share it with your network. For more information and to access all of our podcasts, events and publications visit Greater Washington partnership.com.