My name is Delson Faria Dasilva and I am a mechanical engineering student at Wentworth Institute of Technology. I currently work for MIT on the NASA funded, Search for Extra-Terrestrial Genomes project (SETG), at MGH’s molecular biology laboratory. This is my story of how I hacked my way into this amazing opportunity, from Binnovative’s NASA international space apps (ISAC) challenge in Boston.
The year is 2014 Binnovative is hosting Boston’s first ISAC Boston. When Founder and CEO of Binnovative Eriko Nishimoto invited me, I remember thinking this should be interesting “a whole weekend dedicated to hacking solutions for challenges proposed by NASA”.
When I arrived I was blown away, Binnovative had created an environment full of mentors fostering collaboration between students, professionals, artist, engineers and everything in between. On top of that Binnovative’s Boston ISAC, would be the first chapter to support and facilitate a cross cultural collaboration between Boston and Tokyo, Japan! I was completely in awe of the projects these international teams had come up with, in simply 48 hours. From that moment on it was clear that just being involved with Binnovative wouldn’t be enough for me, I had to compete in the NASA ISAC.
At first the idea of competing was scary. I had competed successfully all through high school in various competitions, but I had no experience programming and I didn’t know anything about space. But I would soon find out, that this is the beauty of Binnovative’s ISAC. The focus of the boston event has always been on collaboration not competition. The goal is to just dive into the challenges, explore unknown territory and learn as you go. That’s why this event is unlike anything else in the world.
The more diverse a team is, the easier it becomes to develop real innovative and original ideas. 2015 was my first hackathon ever and I needed a team so I convinced my friend Josh who was a electrician apprentice to join me. We attended Binnovatives Ideathon pre-hacking event. This is where newcomers and veterans come together to pitch their project ideas for tackling the various challenges. It’s a great time just to meet people, make friends, and build a team for the main event. That’s where Josh and I met John Hrovat a medical programmer, and Nick Gonzales a history teacher/yoga instructor.
That almost sounds like a bad joke “an engineer, electrician, programmer and yoga instructor walk into a bar….”
Josh and I were there to meet new people, learn new skills, and just have fun. Josh was there to make friends and practice his japanese, Nick wanted to learn more about coding. This was my team, together we decided to tackle the wearable technology challenge!
We started by getting to know each other by taking inventory of our skills and experiences to see how we could learn from each other and leverage each other’s strengths to become a better team. We all agreed that to get the full experience of everything Binnovative had to offer, so we decided to participate in the Mixed teams initiative. This is when a USA team is partnered with Japan based team. This added such a unique element to the event. A real opportunity to make friends in another country, work with amazing people on the other side of the planet. It was really interesting to practice translating ideas from english into japanese and vice versa. An opportunity to seeing how different cultural perspectives allowed for different approaches to problem solving. It was an unforgettable experience. I still talk to Katsuhiro Morishita, one of our japan teammate!
Binnovative attracts some of the most extraordinary people from all fields and industries, how could it not. At the hackathon there are various designers, scientists, engineers, artists, and entrepreneurs that provide incredible mentorship for all kinds of projects. At the 2015 ISAC Boston I met Dr. Christopher Carr, a research scientist that works on Martian life detections systems. Excuse me, WHAT NOW‽ It turns out that Dr. Carr had also worked on a wearable computer for the NASA EVA space suit and referred us to some of his work for possible directions for our project. This is just what our team needed. We reviewed Dr. Carr’s paper and pitched him some ideas and he helped us refine them into a solid feasible concept to develop and prototype.
Dr. Carr’s feedback along with various other mentors circling around the event were all an immense help to our project. The feedback, tips, techniques for presenting have proven powerful tools helping me through classes as well as jobs over the years.
I think it’s very important to one’s personal growth to be a part of a supportive community and to give back to that community. You never know where your professional relationships can take you, thats why it’s so important to be engaged. I was very fortunate to learn of Binnovative when I did, and I still consider myself fortunate to be a part of this wonderful community.