Honoring Woodie Flowers

Dr. Woodie Flowers, Pappalardo Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, received a B.S. from Louisiana Tech University and S.M., M.E. and Ph.D. degrees from MIT. Throughout his career, Dr. Flowers emphasized and demonstrated the critical relationships between creating, learning and understanding. As a lead advocate for the value of hands-on engineering design, Dr. Flowers established a practical foundation and academic underpinning for higher education makerspaces.

Dr. Flowers’ contributions have been recognized with membership in the National Academy of Engineering, as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Society of Mechanical Engineering, and as a Distinguished Partner and member of The President’s Council at Olin College of Engineering. He helped create MIT’s renowned course “Introduction to Design.” He received national recognition in his role as host for the PBS television series Scientific American Frontiers and was awarded a New England EMMY Award for a PBS program on design. He received The Joel and Ruth Spria Outstanding Design Educator Award from ASME, a Public Service Medal from NASA, and a Doctor Honoris Causa from Andreas Bello University in Chile. He was named a MacVicar Faculty Fellow at MIT for extraordinary contributions to undergraduate education. Additional honors include service as the Distinguished Advisor for FIRST, Co-Chair of the FIRST Executive Advisory Board, Inaugural Recipient of the FIRST Woodie Flowers Award, and advisor to many.


Ayah Bdeir
“A Conversation with Ayah Bdeir”

Ayah Bdeir invented littleBits, the electronic building block that has transformed education through invention and play. In 2011, Bdeir founded littleBits Electronics Inc, a company with the mission of empowering kids to be change-makers through invention and creativity. While Bdeir was CEO, littleBits was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art into the permanent collection, sold millions of units, won over 150 awards in education, tech and play, and led partnerships with Disney, Pearson and the New York Department of Education. In 2019 littleBits was acquired by Edtech company Sphero. Bdeir is an alumna of the MIT Media Lab, a TED Senior fellow, and her TED talk has over 1 million views. Bdeir’s work to get more girls into STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Math) has been featured on 60 Minutes, the World Bank, and the White House. Bdeir has been named one of Popular Mechanics 25 Makers Who Are Reinventing the American Dream, Inc. Magazine Top 100 Female Founders, and MIT Technology Review’s list of 35 Innovators Under 35.

Roya Mahboob
“Making the Future – Opportunities in Afghanistan and Beyond”

Roya Mahboob is a serial entrepreneur and advocate for experiential technology-based learning. She is a tech entrepreneur and founder of Citadel Software, a software development company based in Herat, Afghanistan; the Digital Citizen Fund, a nonprofit that aims to increase technological literacy, educational opportunities, and career possibilities for girls in Afghanistan; and the Dreamer’s Institute, a new school for Afghan women focusing on robotics, artificial intelligence, and block chain technologies. Her work bridges the gap between education and professional careers by creating practical technology-based skills for women and youth in developing countries. Roya creates transformative programs for youth by providing them with the chance to make, create, and build, with these experiences forever changing the participants’ lives. Roya’s programs provide women and children in developing countries with experiential learning and digital resources that connect them to a world beyond their borders. Her focus creates digital citizens that are capable and confident in their voices, and empowered to establish and sustain economic livelihoods.

Roya is a 2019 Presidential Leadership Scholar where she joins a network of world leaders to collaborate on projects and learn about leadership through the presidential experiences of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, and Lyndon B. Johnson. One of her projects was recently profiled by the New York Times as an example of the possibilities that await Afghan women who know how to design and create technical systems. She was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World for 2013 for her innovative initiatives to expand computer education. Roya has created 13 IT centers for girls in high schools across Afghanistan and plans to expand her programs to 40 schools, ultimately reaching more than 160,000 female students. She has also taken her model beyond Afghanistan to schools in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal. After facing death threats from the Taliban and others for her work, Roya left the country in 2013 and spent two years working remotely before returning to Afghanistan in 2016.

Higher Education Makerspace Initiative
“Making: Examples, Structures and Communities”

The Higher Education Makerspaces Initiatives (HEMI) is a collaborative of leading universities focused on solving the challenges of academic makerspaces and making their combined learnings available to others. Case Western Reserve University, Georgia Tech, MIT, Olin College, Stanford University, University of California-Berkeley, and Yale University are HEMI members. HEMI is the organizing body for the International Symposium on Academic Makerspaces and the soon-to-be published International Journal for Academic Makerspaces and Making.