Pittsburgh Hosts Innovation-themed White House “Frontiers” Conference


Matt Di Michele, Staff Writer

The University of Pittsburgh, along with Carnegie Mellon University, co-hosted the White House Frontiers Conference on October 13, 2016, to help people learning about all different types of innovative topics discuss their ideas and thoughts.

Hoping to stress the concept of discovering and subsequently breaking through scientific frontiers, President Obama and his administration have been working for eight years now to accomplish goals that will “continue to shape the 21st century and beyond”, according to the convention’s official website at frontiersconference.org.

President Obama himself was in Pittsburgh to help host the conference and even take part in a panel regarding brain sciences and other neurosciences.

But the medical field was not the only aspect of the convention which is set to keep the U.S. ready and able to innovate with the rest of the world. The Frontiers Conference had five different tracks or topics of discussion, along with a final plenary meeting (where all of the smaller groups convened).

The five major topics that were at hand were entitled as having to do with personal, local, national, global, and perhaps most excitingly, interplanetary studies. Each of the independent topics took place in different rooms from 8:30 A.M. to 12:00 P.M., and then the plenary session lasted from 1:45 to 4:00 P.M.

The conference as a whole featured tens of dozens of speakers throughout all of the different sessions. On the “local” level, speakers included Mayor Bill Peduto and a series of transportation innovators and government workers. Pittsburgh has been pegged as a major player in technological advancements regarding transportation in recent months, as Uber’s “self-driving cars” have been tested in the local area with success.

The “national” track saw Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf open discussions on emerging technologies and how the U.S. is (and should be) working to utilize them. A plethora of researchers and professors from all over the nation then joined in to add their thoughts to the topic of artificial intelligence.

The conference focused more on issues occurring outside of U.S. soil during its “global” and “interplanetary” discussions. The two tracks focused on the climate and exploration respectively, with the interplanetary field also diving into education and privatization of extraterrestrial expeditions. This topic even featured an introduction by Rod Roddenberry Jr., whose involvement in the famed “Star Trek” franchise helped to show how much these “frontiers” affect daily life.

But all of the topics certainly led up to President Obama’s involvement in the discussion, which concluded the conference aspect of the very busy day. But the day would finalize much later at night, as the Allegheny Observatory at the University of Pittsburgh hosted an “Astronomy Night” to celebrate the many ideas of discovery and innovation that helped bring about the day’s “spirit of discovery”.