The MIT AgeLab had nine high school and college interns on staff in the summer of 2020, all working remotely with the team via Zoom calls, Slack discussions, and emails. Collectively the group worked on a variety of projects, including the AgeLab’s OMEGA outreach program, the Lifestyle Leaders panel, the C3 Connected Home Consortium, and other research.
High school interns Jake Birnbach, Talia Chait, and Zofia Kierner brainstormed and designed an expansion of the AgeLab’s OMEGA program, which is dedicated to supporting and expanding intergenerational opportunities that connect high school students and older adults. The OMEGA program currently offers the OMEGA Scholarship, which awards college scholarships to high school students who lead intergenerational programs in their communities, and hosts the yearly OMEGA summit, which helps high school students brainstorm, design, and seek advice around the development of and support for intergenerational programs. This year, the AgeLab also launched monthly OMEGA Chat Hours sessions, designed to provide a space for students interested in or currently working on intergenerational initiatives to drop in virtually and meet other students, share resources, and talk with experts. OMEGA is sponsored by Five Star Senior Living, which also funded one of the AgeLab’s 2020 college internships
Birnbach, Chait, and Kierner outlined three new resources for OMEGA to offer: a resource guide describing select intergenerational programs across the United States with ties to Five Star Senior Living locations; a competitive ten-month OMEGA fellowship that allows high school students to receive ongoing guidance and training from AgeLab experts to support the development of their intergenerational program; and a condensed OMEGA “boot camp” that offers a crash course on the basis of intergenerational programming for six weeks. The aim of these new resources is to build a more comprehensive support infrastructure for a high school student to move from having minimal knowledge of intergenerational programming to designing and leading a program that qualifies for the OMEGA Scholarship.
MIT undergraduates Nina Rhone and Shreya Thipireddy served as college interns under the MIT UROP program, primarily on the C3 Connected Home Project. Rhone focused in her internship on user interface design and branding for a prototype smart home platform that the C3 team is developing. Thipireddy analyzed data collected from prototype sensors in the home and worked with the research team to develop a model of activity recognition for a smart home system that works independently of user input.
Undergraduate interns Talia Belz, Christina Bulkeley, and Kathryn Chan worked on a variety of projects within the lab. Each did work on the AgeLab’s “Day in the Life” study of the lives of members of the 85+ Lifestyle Leaders Panel during the COVID-19 pandemic. They coded transcripts of phone interviews that had been conducted by AgeLab researchers, and in August they conducted phone interviews with the Lifestyle Leaders themselves.
While the interns only worked at the AgeLab remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they nonetheless found opportunities to connect with AgeLab researchers. In addition to their collaborative work on AgeLab projects, the interns joined a weekly chat with members of the AgeLab’s staff, which was organized for the interns to learn about the professional development of AgeLab researchers and gain insights about their own potential future careers.