Alumni stole the show at Friday’s Yale Technology Summit held at the School of Management.
The second annual summit, hosted by Yale Information Technology Services, drew around four times as many alumni from the New Haven area as the summit did in 2014. Whereas last year’s summit aimed to generate discussion about the use of technology on Yale’s campus, this year it addressed technology among the broader community of Yale alumni in and around the Elm City.
“This year’s summit exceeded expectations,” said Susan West, associate director of strategic communications at ITS. “Our goal is to celebrate the varied accomplishments in technology from the entire Yale community. So much is happening with alumni.”
The all-day summit included a keynote address from computer science professor Brian Scassellati on robots that teach emotional skills, as well as discussions on topics ranging from hacking to health care and poster presentations about new uses for iPads and Classes*v2. In total, around 450 people registered over the course of the day. Around 400 people attended the summit last year.
Unlike last year, this year’s summit centered on technology as opposed to research. The advisory committee that organizes the summit also had a more diverse membership this year, with fewer people from technology departments and more from other areas of campus, West said. The committee included Assistant Provost for Research Lisa D’Angelo, Yale College Council Events Director Megan Ruan ’17 and Graduate and Professional Student Senate President Elizabeth Mo GRD ’18. In an effort to increase student attendance, West said next year’s summit will try to include more presentations from students.
West said the goal of the summit is to bring educators, professionals and students together to talk about technology in all its manifestations.
West said the summit occupies its own niche on Yale’s event calendar. Other STEM-focused annual events, like the Day of Data in September, revolve around hard sciences and technology and less on technology’s application in non-STEM fields, she said. The summit provides a place to show the intersections of technology with other fields, even including the arts and humanities, West added.
Attendance was up in part because of ITS’ collaboration with undergraduate organizations like the YCC and a group of undergraduates who run workshops on coding and web development through the Student Developer Program, an organization under ITS that employs students to develop software for Yale. The summit was co-sponsored by YHack, a group that hosts an international hackathon.
The tech summit had double the number of sponsors it had last year. The cost of the event — almost exclusively covered by sponsors — paid for refreshments and marketing costs. Attendance was free and all the speakers were unpaid volunteers.
“We have worked very hard to make sure this has little to no cost monetarily to Yale,” West said.
Although the event was only open to the Yale community, ITS expanded its advertising of the event to the thousands of alumni who live in the New Haven area through paid ads, posters and emails. ITS’ increased engagement with alumni was also evident at the summit’s presentation of the Miller Prize, a $25,000 prize through the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute funded by former hedge fund manager Brian Miller. This is the prize’s first year, and although the winner will not be announced until April 2016, several Yale alumni came to Evans Hall at the SOM to discuss how their work relates to this year’s prize topic: Big Data, Internet of Things and Materials Science.
Josh Geballe ’97 SOM ’02 lives in Branford, Connecticut but came to campus to talk about his software company, Core Informatics, which works with research laboratories to help them manage data. Geballe said having a software company in the New Haven area is like being a big fish in a small pond.
“There’s a lot of big things happening around New Haven,” he added. “New Haven has always had really good critical mass in the life science industry.”
Geballe attributed much of the technology activity in the area to Yale’s Science Park, where ITS is headquartered, and to innovations like SeeClickFix — a website invented in New Haven that allows residents to report non-emergency neighborhood issues related to community policing and public safety.
At the summit, Anirudh Narayanan SOM ’16 talked about his company iTrucks, a technology provider that helps truck drivers in developing countries like India communicate with suppliers and customers. Intending to simulate an episode of the TV show “Shark Tank” in which contestants try to convince titans of business to invest money in their ideas, Miller questioned both Narayanan and Geballe about the logistics of their respective businesses to test their financial potential.
Over 200 people attended the summit’s keynote address.