Groundwork had the pleasure of hosting Mark Parsons, founder and executive director of New Bedford Research & Robotics, this past Thursday and we are glad we did. There was much to learn from Mark, and everyone who attended had much to discuss and think about afterward. It was inspiring to listen to someone so passionate and knowledgeable about their field. Here are some key takeaways from the presentation.
1. “It’s about people!”
Mark spoke at length about the ecosystem of the NBRR collaborative community. The ecosystem consists of all the key players in the business model, including large corporations, small startups, and the larger New Bedford community. What makes the ecosystem model unique is that it does not place any one aspect over another; it emphasizes the notion that all channels are of equal importance and should therefore be given equal attention. For example, funding STEM programs in local schools is of equal importance as getting large corporate sponsorship, community outreach is of equal importance as doing extensive lab research, and people are just as important as robotics. And, at the end of the day, the ecosystem is simply a tool to bring all of these aspects together, for the greater good of the community, because as Mark says with enthusiasm, “It’s about the people!”
2. STEM Programs are key
Each part of the NBRR ecosystem is important, as stated above, but one aspect that Mark highlighted in particular was STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs. Mark highlighted the importance of bringing STEM programs to local schools and the engagement of young scholars. Education is key to any program, but specifically in the STEM field. The more programs and presentations that can be offered in schools, the better. Getting kids interested and involved is key to keeping the industry alive and thriving.
3. We should be in control of our technology
Mark touched on the rapid growth of technology and how many of us fear that growth. Mark advised that instead of fearing technology, we should attempt to be in control of as much of it as we can, and that one of the ways we can do that is by investing in projects like this one. By learning about and investing (mentally) in new projects like NBRR, we allow ourselves to learn and grow alongside emerging and expanding technology. Instead of fighting against it, we can learn about technology and regain some control.
4. Accessibility, visibility, and diversity!
It was clear that when creating his vision for NBRR, Mark kept these key aspects in mind at all times: Accessibility, visibility, and diversity. When Mark spoke about the proposed location and design plan, he touched on the importance of each of these aspects to the success of NBRR and the potential positive impact to the community. For example, he spoke about the building being close to a main road that has ample foot and vehicle traffic, making it visible and accessible to a wide variety of people in many different walks of life. He spoke about the importance of how the building will look from the outside and in, what programs will be offered both on and off site, and the aspects of community it would potentially reach, which brings us nicely to our last, and arguably most important takeaway:
At its core what NBRR is hoping to do is foster community. The first sentence in their mission statement states the intention to, “bring people and organizations together to benefit society.” The whole ecosystem is set up around this goal. The revitalization plan revolves around this goal. The idea behind the inception of NBRR is based around creating community. And, isn’t that what we are all here for?