i-Trek Volunteer David

By Adriana Hammond

David Hill is a member of the co-founding i-Trek Team. As a volunteer, he finds time to contribute to i-Trek as well as pursue a PhD in Media Arts and Sciences. Find out more about David and his contributions to i-Trek. 

1. What drives your passion for STEM?

My passion for STEM is mostly driven by a love of mathematics and problem solving. As a child, math class was always my 4th favorite time of the school day. It followed closely behind dismissal, lunch, and recess. As I grew older, I began to gain a better understanding of how the principles I learned in class could be applied to solving common problems, which kept me motivated throughout grade school and bled over into other STEM subjects. The love of problem solving carried through to college and drove my choice of major and other pursuits as an undergraduate leading up to a graduate education.

2. Tell me about your background? What are some things most people would be surprised to know about you?

Prior to MIT, I attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA, where I majored in physics. Research was a major part of my undergraduate experience. Throughout college, I conducted research on nano-scale optics for EUV Lasers, working under a professor at Morehouse and collaborating with engineers from Colorado State University. I had zero experience working in my current field prior to coming to MIT, so I loaded up on relevant courses to best prepare myself for the switch in focus before graduating.

3. I would love to know a little about your research at the MIT Media Lab.

My current research focuses on the development of technology to assist in or augment human locomotion. My lab, MIT Media Lab's Biomechatronics Group, is known mostly as a prosthesis and exoskeleton lab, using principles and techniques from robotics to build devices that closely mimic the behavior of biological legs. More specifically, the goal of my project is to build models / simulations of walking that can replicate human gait dynamics, which will be used to govern the behavior of prosthetic devices.

4. We met when you were teaching a Saturday session for i-Trek in the schools. What did you enjoy most about teaching?

The most enjoyable part about teaching is when the students have that "Aha" moment, the moment when it all clicks. That moment signifies not only that the students get the concept, but also that they see the value in it. Too often in STEM, concepts are thrown out at students without them receiving any information about applications or interesting ties to their daily lives. This causes them to miss the value. Any time you can get a student genuinely excited about some concept you feel uplifted as a teacher. Since I am inexperienced as a teacher, those "Aha" moments are not a guarantee for me, but when I do see them it makes it all worthwhile. The Saturday i-Trek sessions have truly been highlights in my teaching career, as the students seemed genuinely excited by the topics we taught.

5. Where do you see yourself taking your education regarding your career?

I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in the MIT Media Lab. Upon graduation, I would like to apply the knowledge I have gained in industry, building technology to assist elite athletes in training or rehabilitation.

6.Is there anything about your education that you feel impacted you on a more personal/ intellectual level? (career isn't everything!)

Since arriving at MIT, I have come to understand how access to resources impacts the quality of education and how wide of a gap there is between those with access and those with limited access. This gap is one of the root causes behind the general lack of socioeconomic and racial diversity in STEM and higher education and it has driven my desire to contribute to organizations like i-Trek.

i-Trek would like to thank David and all of its volunteers for their contributions to the mission and cause.