Nazmus Saquib Of KolpoKoushol On Creativity, MIT Media Lab, And Missing Paradigm Of Our Education System
Nazmus Saquib is the Founder and Director of KolpoKoushol-an initiative by MIT Students and Alumni with a vision to inspire and train Bangladeshi students about research and innovation. The platform aims to promote multidisciplinary thinking among Bangladeshi youths and educate students about collaborative and combinatorial approach to learning and problem solving.
Saquib, who is a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab, works at the intersection of mathematics, machine learning and hardware. Saquib has been programming 3D games since middle school. As a result, he has developed and maintains a keen interest in game engines, graphics, and visualization.
He has several technical publications in physics and computing journals, and published a book on mathematical programming and data visualization algorithms.
Recently, we spoke to Saquib about his passion, his initiative KolpoKoushol, his plan for KolpoKoushol, multidisciplinary approach to problem solving, creativity, education, and missing paradigm of our education system and how KolpoKoushol aims to bridge the gap and more.
At Future Startup, we believe that creativity is combinatorial and meaningful innovation requires a multidisciplinary approach. We have found Saquib’s perspectives extremely inspiring. This interview will tell you why a business is more than a business, why entrepreneurs should understand psychology and sociology, and how world’s finest Institute teaches innovation and creativity.
Briefly tell us about yourself and your passions.
I am currently a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab. Before coming to MIT, I studied computational mathematics (MS), and physics and computer science (BA) in USA. I completed O and A levels from Maple Leaf International School in Dhaka. At MIT, I am a research assistant at the Social Computing group.
My passions are a little varied. My current research interest lies at the intersection of mathematics, machine learning and hardware. I design sensors and hardware devices to collect data from urban environments, and analyze the data to create mathematical models of large-scale social interactions. Before social computing, I worked in several different research groups in my undergraduate and Master’s programs, including cognitive science, particle physics, augmented reality, astrophysics, and scientific computing.
My passions are a little varied. My current research interest lies at the intersection of mathematics, machine learning and hardware. I design sensors and hardware devices to collect data from urban environments, and analyze the data to create mathematical models of large-scale social interactions.
I am a music composer and singer, and some of my instrumental tracks were featured in several county festivals in the recent years. I also love reading, cooking, and writing. I published a book on mathematical programming and data visualization last year.
Briefly tell us about KolpoKoushol. What is it and how it works?
KolpoKoushol is an initiative by MIT students and alumni to nurture and engage with the young minds of Bangladesh. The word roughly translates to ‘imagination engineering’. We want to promote multidisciplinary thinking among our youths. What that means is we want our students to think using perspectives from different fields, not narrowing themselves down to one field. We also want to promote the importance of creative thinking over traditional academic learning methods. Another goal is to encourage participation of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
We plan to offer a series of hands on workshops to students, and we would like to work with exceptional workshop alumni to deploy community based small research labs in Bangladesh.
What was the underlying motivation behind starting KolpoKoushol?
I always stood against the general tendency to study only one subject in our degree programs, and associate ourselves to a single label, like a software engineer, or photographer, or doctor, etc. We are still stuck with the paradigm that was introduced in the early industrialization era. Remember that the ancient scientists of Persia or Greece were also artists and poets. Today’s engineers are mostly engineers, and artists are mostly artists. The lack of communication between different communities results in inefficient solutions to problems that exist in the society. The main motivation behind KolpoKoushol is an urge to solve this problem and inspire students to bridge that gap.
I always stood against the general tendency to study only one subject in our degree programs, and associate ourselves to a single label, like a software engineer, or photographer, or doctor, etc. We are still stuck with the paradigm that was introduced in the early industrialization era.
Tell us a little about the founder [s] and people involved with Kolpokoushol.
I am the founder and director of KolpoKoushol. There is an immensely talented group of MIT students and alumni who share a similar spirit. They are advising and taking care of different aspects of our goals. Our advisers are Ehsan Hoque (Assistant Professor of CS, Rochester University, PhD from MIT Media Lab), Shammi S. Quddus (MIT’10, Harvard Kennedy School and Stanford Graduate School of Business), and Sujoy Kumar Chowdhury (Product Manager, Microsoft, MIT Media Lab alumnus). Tamanna Islam Urmi (MIT ’16) and SumaiyaNazeen (PhD student, MIT EECS) are our Program Managers. We have a few other members from MIT. Saif Kamal from Toru – The Idea Tree has helped us in every local organizational issue. We are grateful to him for his support.
We have seen that you are calling applications for a week long workshop from Kolpokoushol? What are the eligibility criterions for the program?
Basically, any student studying any subject can apply. The application form asks a few questions that check for a minimum technical background. All questions are mandatory for engineering/science students. Some questions are optional for the rest of the students (the form mentions which ones). Providing a portfolio of previous projects will increase the chance of getting selected. The application form can be accessed from our website: www.kolpokoushol.org
The workshop also encourages applications from misfits who always felt left behind in traditional academic programs, but are genuinely passionate and interested about innovation and research.
Why one should take it seriously and apply for the program?
This is a good chance to learn about creativity, research methods and product design from people who are/were educated in a very prestigious institute. We want to share our MIT experience with students, and since we are a diverse team, anyone will hopefully find something useful in the workshop and benefit in different ways.
Do you think interdisciplinary approach is critical for innovation?
Absolutely. MIT Media Lab is the prime example of a leading innovation and research lab. They gather all sorts of experts in one place: Computer scientists, engineers, mathematicians, architects, designers, artists, and entrepreneurs.The engineer learns to integrate good design practice, and the designer learns how to code. The entrepreneur learns about technology, and the technologist learns more about entrepreneurship. No one can be experts in everything, but it’s necessary to have a good understanding in a diverse number of topics. The knowledge exchange between a diverse set of people and the collaborations between them make all the inventions at MIT Media Lab so unique and impactful.
You are a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab. Compared to what you have experienced there, what does our education system lack? How can we fix it?
Our education system lacks lessons and attitudes that nurture creativity and promote multidisciplinary thinking. Many of our students also lack seriousness to pursue ideas. I see a lot of good ideas going around, but unfortunately they always remain in the idea stage and never make it to the real world.
We need a fundamental change in our mindset in how we see the world, how we think successful projects work, and how we honor other people and their respective work. Scientists and engineers tend to look down upon artists or entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs or artists do the same. Problems in our society can only be addressed if people understand each other’s work better and collaborate. Our education system isolates different groups of people from the very beginning, so we can’t expect to nurture a collaborative learning environment.
The only way out is increasing awareness about these issues and making different disciplines work together to solve different challenges. KolpoKoushol aims to do just that.
Problems in our society can only be addressed if people understand each other’s work better and collaborate. Our education system isolates different groups of people from the very beginning, so we can’t expect to nurture a collaborative learning environment.
What is your future plan for KolpoKoushol? How it is going to evolve in coming years?
Over the coming years we plan to offer a series of workshops, each aligned with the above philosophy but with different themes. We want to push the limits of our students’ thinking abilities. We are particularly interested to find a set of talented and motivated students from these workshops, who will be willing to set up low-cost, multidisciplinary research labs that solve community problems in different areas of Bangladesh. They will be connected to other workshop alumni and our MIT network.
This growing network of creative people will hopefully spread our philosophy and nurture an ecosystem for inventions. The growth will be decentralized and organic. This is an ambitious project and we require continuous support from local sponsors.
We also plan to make this initiative open to all, so that Bangladeshi students can open KolpoKoushol chapters in their universities, which will be affiliated with us. The idea is to spread our philosophy in a decentralized fashion.
KolpoKoushol is an initiative by MIT students and alumni to nurture and engage with the young minds of Bangladesh. The word roughly translates to ‘imagination engineering’. We want to promote multidisciplinary thinking among our youths.