For National Geographic Explorers, technology and exploration go hand in hand—cutting-edge science and high-tech tools are invaluable to their expeditions. Join National Geographic Explorers on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts to examine the many intersections of technology and exploration, artificial intelligence (AI), and robotics. Attend seminars on a range of topics—from remote exploration of space and sea to engineering microscopic robots—and participate in related experiments. Weave your experiences together by creating a capstone project proposal that uses cutting-edge science to help address an important issue in your own community.
Note: Specific activities and workshops depend on the current work of labs and researchers. This description is representative of last year’s experiences and will be updated closer to the summer. Please call with any questions!
Meet the Expert
||Skylar Tibbits, Architect & Design Researcher
Skylar Tibbits is the founder and co-director of the Self-Assembly Lab housed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Morningside Academy for Design (MAD). The Self-Assembly Lab focuses on self-assembly and programmable material technologies for novel manufacturing, products, and construction processes. His invention of 4D printing has established a unique area of design research focused on programmable materials that can sense and actuate in response to internal or external stimuli. His work on self-assembly has demonstrated the scalability of this natural construction phenomenon with synthetic design and fabrication systems. The research is the first to apply the principles of self-assembly to construction and manufacturing: for example, a cell phone that can build itself, a chair that self-assembles, and the self-construction of aerial balloons. Skylar is an assistant professor of Design Research in the Department of Architecture at MIT where he teaches graduate and undergraduate design studios and co-teaches “How to Make (Almost) Anything,” a seminar at MIT’s Media Lab with Neil Gershenfeld. Skylar is also the Editor-In-Chief of the 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing Journal and the founder of SJET LLC, a small multi-disciplinary design practice.
||Cameron Kruse, Technologist
Cameron is a Creative Technologist with Earth Genome and Bridges to Prosperity. With Earth Genome, Cameron leads the Plotline, an initiative exploring the intersection of food systems and climate change. With Bridges to Prosperity, Cameron leads the technical development and implementation of Fika Map, a tool designed to better predict where trail bridges are needed to reduce rural poverty. Cameron’s background is in machine learning and map-based storytelling. He is an explorer with National Geographic and has led several expeditions where he has produced films, photo essays, and interactive map-based stories focused on rural communities and climate change. In addition to his work with National Geographic, Cameron has worked with Earth Genome, Mapbox, Booz Allen Hamilton’s Strategic Innovation group, and 23andMe, always in pursuit of discovering ways to use technology to connect individuals with the people and places around them. In his free time, you may find Cameron trail running or struggling to climb large rocks in Yosemite. Learn more about Cameron’s work at cameronwkruse.com or reach out on social media @camkruse.
This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.
Arrival • Travel Day • Meet your fellow high school student travelers in Boston, Massachusetts, either at the MIT campus or Boston Logan International Airport.
Cambridge, Massachusetts • 8 days • Arrive at the MIT campus, join your group for an orientation and tour, and get acclimated to university life in Cambridge. Each day features a hands-on workshop or field study followed by a discussion-based seminar or group meeting to further examine and apply what you’ve learned. Program leaders guide the group through each activity and facilitate workshops and discussions with National Geographic Explorers. State-of-the-art research labs and applied technology centers in the local area serve as your classrooms as you explore scientific solutions to some of the most critical and compelling issues facing the modern world.
Visit the Self-Assembly lab at MIT and learn about how researchers are using wave energy and underwater structures to promote sand accumulation as part of a project to rebuild coastlines and “build” islands. Work with tanks designed to mimic the ocean experience, manipulating water and sand to see a small scale of this action. Next, visit the newly revamped Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel and learn about researchers’ thoughts on how to build better and more efficient planes. In the late afternoon head out to explore some of Boston’s “green roofs” and learn about these and other innovative and accessible urban farming solutions.
Examine how developments in robotics technology are providing deeper insight into some of the world’s most spectacular places. Work alongside National Geographic Explorer Cameron Kruse, who specializes in rapid prototyping within the AR/VR and AI space, to combine artificial intelligence, multimedia technology, and 3D printing. Prototype your own designs and then test them in different conditions.
Join National Geographic Explorer Skylar Tibbits at his lab, where he’ll provide an overview of how 3D printing is being used to improve our lives—from creating more comfortable human prosthetics to building flexible structures that adapt to changing environmental conditions.
Take breaks from seminars to explore the vibrant cities of Cambridge and Boston. Peruse the shelves at bookstores in Harvard Square, kayak along the Charles River, meet culinary entrepreneurs at the Boston Public Market, or visit one of the area’s world-famous museums. Wander the cobbled streets winding through some of our country’s oldest neighborhoods, and delve into Revolutionary War history during a walk along the Freedom Trail. Each evening, gather on campus for a group activity, such as a presentation by one of our National Geographic Explorers, a panel discussion with current MIT students and researchers, a film screening, or a concert.
Engage in a friendly multi-day hack-a-thon competition directed by your Expert, a specialist in finding applications for new technologies in the service of environmental conservation and protection. Finish the competition with your own AI-powered prototype and design in hand. Design and hone a final project that focuses on an issue important to you and your home community.
Departure • Travel Day • Depart from the MIT campus or Boston Logan International Airport.