Schirin Rangnick

Last Friday, students, faculty and alumni converged at the School of Management for the third annual Yale Technology Summit — a full-day celebration of technology and innovation on campus.

The Tech Summit, organized by Yale Information Technology Services and free to all members of the Yale community, showcased innovative and emerging technologies in teaching, research and entrepreneurial and administrative activities at Yale and beyond, according to the summit’s website. The event featured 23 presentations from members of the Yale community, as well as workshops, poster sessions and a technology exposition.

“In ITS, we see a lot of what people are doing in technology, but there was no centralized platform that we knew of where everybody could talk about what they’re doing,” said Summit organizer Susan West, associate director of strategic communications. “So our intent was, let’s bring people together and give them the opportunity to develop partnerships and celebrate technology at Yale.”

The summit is organized around a theme this year, West explained, and its 2016 iteration focuses on connected health and health care-related remote technology. She added that approximately 530 people attended the event, which exceeded ITS’ expectations for both attendance and engagement with the University community.

In order to secure a wide range of speakers, Yale ITS publicized the event through the summit’s advisory committee, which was composed of representatives from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, the Office of Development and the Center for Teaching and Learning, among other partner organizations, West said. In addition, Yale ITS sent out an open call for proposals through University deans and department heads.

“One of the challenges that I see in IT at Yale is we have such a large, diverse user group,” said Senior Vice President for Operations and Interim Chief Information Officer Jack Callahan ’80, whose office oversees Yale ITS. “I think [the summit] is a good opportunity to bring people who have all these interests together. It gives the community a network of opportunities.”

Anushree Agrawal ’19, who led a session with Kristina Shia ’19 on visualizing mobile health data, said the summit was helpful because it allowed her to “distill technology in a way for the layman to understand.” Agrawal and Shia’s workshop used an interactive website to display health data collected by participants’ wearable devices. Wearable devices are often used to track health and fitness-related data.

The keynote address was a conversation with Eric Friedman ’99 GRD ’00, the co-founder and chief technology officer of Fitbit, which produces the type of wearable devices that provide data for Agrawal and Shia’s website. T. Kyle Vanderlick, the dean of the Yale School of Engineering and Applied Science, moderated the conversation.

“I think [Friedman] made a great point about how engineering is about not just technical problem solving, but all kinds of problem solving,” Vanderlick said. “What he has done with his life is a great example of what a Yale education empowers our students to do, especially those that come here to study engineering.”

During the talk, Friedman spoke about his experience of building a successful start-up company. He emphasized the importance of distinguishing between luck and skill in entrepreneurial ventures and entertained the audience with humorous personal anecdotes. Audience members also asked Friedman about topics ranging from the future of wearable technology to his dynamic role as chief technology officer.

Friedman underscored the importance of his undergraduate experience, adding that Yale helped him learn the importance of taking a multidisciplinary approach to problem solving.

“The thing I most valued [about Yale] was, you could sit around a table having a conversation with a microbiologist — me being a software engineer — and someone is studying Shakespeare and someone else is studying hieroglyphics,” Friedman said during the keynote. “I learned more at the dining hall table than I did in the classroom, because it was about how those disciplines wove together to spin a story.”

Fitbit was founded in October 2007.