Next Generation Summit
updated: May 10, 2014, 11:45 AM
By Nathan Siegel
What do drones, sustainable business, crowdfunding and new media
have in common? Innovation, according to organizers of the Next
Generation Summit, a student-run entrepreneurial conference that took
place last weekend at UCSB.
Featuring a half dozen keynote presentations from leading
professionals and a variety of peer-to-peer workshops, the second
annual NGS attracted aspiring innovators from all over California for an
opportunity to network, exchange ideas, and promote business
Over 100 tickets were sold to students from UCSB, SDSU, UCSD, Cal
Poly, Claremont, various local community colleges as well as a handful
of non-students for the two-day event. Participants engaged a wide
variety of topics including technology, entrepreneurship, health and
wellness, media, and sustainability. NGS was created to "develop
tangible solutions by amalgamating the knowledge of students from
numerous educational backgrounds," said founder Kiyan Rajabi, a
UCSB student and member of the Entrepreneur Association.
For most attendees, being surround by likeminded individuals was one
of the conference's greatest assets. "It was an incredible opportunity to
network with young people with similar life goals," said 3rd year
Economics major at UCSB, Zach Williason. "And I will definitely be
attending next year."
In order to encourage active participation between attendees, NGS held
student-run workshops that comprised of small groups and a flexible
structure. In the intimate workshop setting, students could teach what
they knew and what they were passionate about, said Isaac Linson,
Assistant Director of NGS and a 4th year in UCSB's Technology
The 45-minute sessions, which included themes such as "The Art of
Mastery" and "The International Advantage: How to live locally and
succeed globally," were designed to "embrace a practical, real-world
solution approach" and foster "an entrepreneurial spirit that at times is
lacking in college classrooms," explained Daniel Pawlak, NGS's
The workshops' focus on peer-to-peer learning was balanced with
keynote speeches from prominent professionals, many of them UCSB
alumni. Zachary Hargreaves, founder of drone company VIRES
Aeronautics and member of NASA's Curiosity mission presented
"Manned vs. Unmanned: Making the World More Connected," a riveting
look inside the world of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or drones).
Others included David Fortson, UCSB alumnus and founder of LoaCom
and LoaTree, an environmental consulting firm and community outreach
organization based in Santa Barbara; Dr. Andrea Neal, president of
Blue Ocean Sciences; Dr. James Rogers (another UCSB alum), founder
of the organic technology company Apeel Sciences; KEYT anchor
Shirin Rajaee; and a founder of local crowdfunding platform
Crowdismo, José Huitron.
And then there was Eric Wilson, a reigning junior-high-school-state-
science-fair prizewinner, who happened to wander into NGS with his
father. The next day, he introduced his experiment on an evolutionary
algorithm titled, "Balancing Diversity and Fitness while Evolving Neural
Networks." Once finished, the 14-year-old addressed the group of
intelligent and ambitious college students: "Questions?"
"Could you repeat that?" came the amusing, but completely serious
response. Thanks to Eric, organizers want to open up the event to local
high schoolers and middle schoolers next year.
NGS is also looking to expand to others campuses. The Entrepreneur
Society at SDSU will most likely put on a similar, possibly affiliated,
event next year, said Linson. UCSB's own Entrepreneur Association
and Technology Management Program are interested in becoming
involved as well.
"The entrepreneurial spirit here is strong," said Linson, "and only getting
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