Innovation & Technology Festival celebrates new West End district

The festival, which welcomed over 1,000 guests, included a start-up business competition, panel discussions and tours of the new academic infrastructure on campus.

by Kristin Chapman
| 5/17/22 5:15am

From May 12 to May 14, the College hosted its first ever Innovation & Technology Festival in celebration of new infrastructure at the West End. The festival featured various events including a start-up competition with 12 student teams, panel discussions, building tours, cookouts, food trucks, a light show and other interactive experiences. 

The festival honored the late March opening of the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society and the Class of 1982 Engineering and Computer Science Center — home to the department of computer science, the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship and the DALI Lab. College spokesperson Diana Lawrence wrote in an emailed statement to The Dartmouth that the building of this infrastructure marked the largest construction project in Dartmouth history. 

“The district adds 205,000 square feet of state-of-the-art teaching and research facilities focused on energy, computer science, and engineering,” Lawrence wrote. “It is funded by $500 million in investments through The Call to Lead Campaign.”

According to associate vice president of advancement Tim McGowan, the outdoor community picnic and food trucks hosted more than 1,000 people during the festival. He noted that the festival also featured the dedication of the Class of 1982 Engineering and Computer Science Center with a musical performance from the Dartmouth Sings. 

In an emailed statement to The Dartmouth on May 13, College president Phil Hanlon wrote that the festival was intended to celebrate a transformed part of Dartmouth’s campus and would not include a direct fundraising component. 

According to Lawrence, events at the festival highlighted topics such as artificial intelligence, cryptocurrency, healthcare and energy with an emphasis on sustainability within science, technology and business-related fields.

Siddhant Parwal ’23 said he attended the festival out of interest as an engineering major and his desire to hear from alumni in the field. 

“I spend a lot of time on this end of campus and there’s a lot of cool people that came into town — a lot of really interesting and well-accomplished alums — and [I] wanted to get to hear them [and] get to meet some of them,” Parwal said. “They put a lot of work into planning [the festival], and it was a very upbeat vibe.”

In addition, Parwal said he volunteered at the building dedication ceremony at the Engineering and Computer Science Center and attended discussions, fireside chats, open houses, the start-up competition and cookouts. Parwal added that a highlight for him was hearing from alumni and seeing their sustained involvement with the College. 

Former head of the Board of Trustees Laurel Richie ’81 said that she attended the festival because she helped to oversee the planning and development of the West End district during her leadership at the College. Richie, who is a member of Hanlon’s Call to Lead executive committee, added that she emceed an event at the festival on Friday and attended seminars throughout the day. 

“The most amazing part was actually to see the buildings filled with students and with faculty members who were already working, learning and collaborating together in these new spaces because the value of the buildings is not the structures, but what happens inside of them,” Richie said. “To see students really enjoying the space, coming together, meeting together — that was truly amazing.” 

Richie said that following the festival, she is excited about the possibility for greater collaboration between the various institutions within the West End — which includes the Tuck School of Business and the Thayer School of Engineering — since they are in close proximity to one another. She added that the architecture and design of the buildings also encourages students to work together. 

“The spaces themselves have been designed for collaboration — they’re flexible, they’re connected, there [are] lots of open spaces where you can just sit together on a couple of couches and continue to work — so I think those were the things that were most exciting to me,” she said.

Lehigh University president and former Dartmouth provost Joseph Helble said he was also in attendance at the festival for his role in the “development of ideas” that led to the creation of the new West End. He added that various departments at Dartmouth, including the Energy and Advancement Team, the President’s Office, the Provost’s Office and the Engineering School planned and organized the festival. 

Helble added that he enjoyed the discussion between Hanlon and Sen. Rob Portman ’78, R-OH, as well as the keynote speaker event featuring University of Maryland, Baltimore County president Freeman A. Hrabowski III. 

“[It] was great to hear those conversations — just talking about innovation in legislation to support innovation and competitiveness, and then things that [UMBC] has done to support a diversified STEM population and encourage students to go out and seek Ph.D.s,” Helble said. “Those are things that all of us — we as university leaders — think about.”

Helble said he also led a fun run on Saturday morning, which came from his tradition of leading fun runs for students at Lehigh every week, occasionally with alumni he meets around the country. 

“I thought it would be a fun way just to bring the Dartmouth community together — anyone who is interested in going on a four mile run — to get a little exercise and have a conversation about the great things that are happening in higher ed and at Dartmouth, and just enjoy your time,” he said. 

Helble noted the importance of a diverse range of ideas and perspectives when it comes to projects in innovation. 

“[The festival] emphatically says to the Dartmouth community, and the local community, that innovation needs to bring together a broad range of perspectives,” Helble said. “And that’s so consistent with the liberal arts emphasis of a Dartmouth education.” 

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