MIT Students and Alumni “Hack” Hong Kong Kowloon East | MIT News

The year 2020 has undoubtedly been a challenge for everyone. The pandemic generated vast negative impacts on the world at the physical, psychological and emotional levels: mobility was restricted; socialization was limited; economic and industrial progress has been suspended. Many industries and small independent businesses suffered, and universities and research also struggled. The education of future generations may have evolved online, but it limited in-person learning experiences and social growth.

At the college level, freshmen were excluded from planned learning and research on campus, while seniors were extremely anxious about the lack of in-person consultations and the uncertainty of their degree. In response to the growing desire to reconnect, the MIT Hong Kong Innovation Node has taken on a new role: expanding the MIT Global Classroom initiative and crossing the boundaries of learning through collaboration with colleagues, students and alumni. students around the world.

Since its inception in 2016, the MIT Hong Kong Innovation Node has focused on cultivating the innovative and entrepreneurial capacities of MIT students and Hong Kong university students. Collaboration with alumni and students of MIT has helped set up many landing programs around the world. This achievement is best illustrated by the success of MIT Entrepreneurship and Maker Skills Integrator (MEMSI) and MIT Entrepreneurship and FinTech Integrator (MEFTI).

In 2020, the node executed the Kowloon East Innovation and Inclusive Growth Project, which carried out smart city activities that would drive inclusion, innovation and growth for communities in Hong Kong. The exchange of ideas between MIT students, professors, researchers and alumni, working with the rest of the Hong Kong community, revealed opportunities beyond Kowloon East to neighboring towns in the Delta region of the Pearl River. Some of these opportunities involved the production of internships and public engagement opportunities.

“Hacking” Kowloon East: Activating Technology for Urban Life

MIT Hong Kong’s Innovation Node welcomed 2021 with a virtual site tour during the period of independent activities in Hong Kong in conjunction with the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. The two-week ‘hack’ series proposed by Associate Professor Brent Ryan, Head of the City Design and Development Group, has changed the concept of smart cities by exploring how the current initiative in East Kowloon can be better exploited by emerging digital technologies to connect residents. to each other and improve economic opportunities.

As a high-density urban planning paradigm and at the center of a wide variety of global and local challenges, Hong Kong offers an opportunity to rethink how physical spaces can be integrated with digital technologies for better synergy. The participants in the “Hacking” series took advantage of this fact. An equal number of undergraduate student ambassadors were recruited from local universities and matched with Boston-based MIT students and Hong Kong-MIT graduate students. Some of the project ideas focused on how to revitalize retail, how to promote healthcare and the environment, and how to establish holistic, human-centered urban design.

“Even though I couldn’t physically travel, special lectures from experts in the field and the student matchmaking system with student ambassadors from Hong Kong helped me uncover a specific issue I wanted to address,” Younjae Oh says , second year master’s student in science. in the architecture (design) study program at MIT. She went on to say that the series “inspired creativity within the team and led us to make more insightful and thoughtful decisions on cultural awareness. What I found invaluable in this workshop is the extreme engagement with the intercultural team. “

This mix of “Hacking” contributors collaborated in an open structure where they proposed and developed reality-based projects to promote “smart and fair urbanism” in the Kowloon East (Kwun Tong) district of Hong Kong. Queenie Kwan Li, a first-year master’s student in the Architecture (Design) Science program at MIT, describes aspects of the program, noting: “Direct consultations with local and international experts in the field aligned by MIT Innovation Node have immensely deepened my understanding of the development of my hometown. She adds, “It also gave me a unique opportunity to tell about my continuing education at MIT for potential impact in Hong Kong.”

World class in action

Despite its progress in innovation, entrepreneurship and smart city restructuring in this collaboration with the node, the pandemic has highlighted the ongoing challenge of how the School of Architecture and Planning can deliver. a hybrid learning experience to a professional audience with mentoring and learning.

Architecture and urban design training emphasizes the design studio culture of collective learning, which is very different from learning solo at home. This learning usually begins with a physical visit to the site: surveys, interviews, meeting and interacting with locals to get a first-hand engagement experience. As part of experimenting with a hybrid format, the teaching team must organize and piece together fragments to mimic refreshing local perspectives through personalized exercises using online interactions and team collaborations.

While travel experiences are always the best and most direct ways to understand a region’s advantages and deficits, appreciate the culture and customs, and identify the challenges locals face, it is easy to forget that people are the core, the identity. of a place, when learning online only. To make up for this shortfall, the “Hacking” series invited the physical presence of local and international members of the MIT alumni community with relevant expertise in the field.

Sean Kwok ’01 says, “Five decades of MIT graduates have volunteered to teach and guide current students. In turn, this workshop gave us alumni of MIT the rare opportunity to participate again in the academic life of MIT, to learn from our colleagues and to give back to the school at the same time.

Some of the expertise in the field included people with backgrounds in architecture, urban design and planning, real estate, mobility and transportation, public housing, workforce development, human sciences. city ​​and urban analysis, arts administration and engineering. In fact, a total of 23 subject matter experts, local stakeholders and eight mentors from various disciplines were physically involved in the program at the node’s headquarters in Hong Kong.

Throughout the series, they shared their knowledge and experiences in a hybrid format so that non-Hong Kong-based members could participate as well. Joel Austin Cunningham, a first-year master’s student in the science program in architectural studies (design) at MIT, praises the ‘Hacking’ series, noting that it ‘has tackled the unprecedented constraints of the coronavirus with a solution innovative educational… As architects and students of urban planning, we rely heavily on active engagements with the site of a project, which has been considerably constrained this academic year. The IAP workshop answered this question, through multi-institutional collaboration that compensated for our inability to travel through active engagement with a range of local stakeholders and collaborators based in the city.

Learning is a feedback loop – part of it is taken from reconstructing a previous experience, and part of it is built by us as we develop the learning experience together and assimilate from new information, ideas and ideas from each other. As part of this interconnection, a human-centered approach, communication skills, cultural and moral values ​​imply inclusive diversity and individual empathy.


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Perry Perrie

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