Perkins School for the Blind Teams with MIT to Host Hackathon: The Super Bowl of Accessibility

A team working on ideas to adapt technology for those with disabilities at #HackDisability: AI for Accessibility Hackathon hosted by MIT and Perkins School for the Blind. (Courtesy of Perkins School for the Blind)

CAMBRIDGE — On any given Friday night at MIT there’s bound to be a few stragglers hanging around the Strata Center, the architecturally world-famous building in Cambridge that houses the MIT Computer and Artificial Intelligence Lab. On Friday Feb. 23, there were more than a few folks about, and not just from MIT: people from Perkins School for the Blind, Amazon, the Museum of Science, Cisco, and even a representative from the White House gathered for Perkins’ “#HackDisability: AI for Accessibility Hackathon,” the Watertown-based school’s second-ever hackathon and the first focused specially on harnessing artificial intelligence for a group that is often left behind by technology. The task was seemingly simple.

Food Insecurity in Watertown: Hunger is a Multi-Faceted Problem — It Won’t Magically Go Away

The Watertown Food Pantry set up outside the United Methodist Church while its facility was being repaired. (Photo by Kathy Cunningham)

For the last several weeks, Watertown News, in conjunction with Watertown Cable Access Television, published six stories in a series called “Watertown’s Hidden Problem: Food Insecurity Among Us.” (See part one here). In the course of reporting these stories on food and hunger in our community, one absolute fact has emerged: how indelibly intertwined the problem of food insecurity is with other challenges. Food is too expensive. If you can afford food, it might only be cheap, low-nutrient food.

Through Pandemics & Collapsed Ceilings, the Watertown Food Pantry Stays Open

Food on the shelfs at the Watertown Food Pantry, which has seen an increase in the number of people using its services since the start of the Pandemic. (Photo by Charlie Breitrose)

With her pert Boston accent and indefatigable can-do attitude, Kathleen Cunningham welcomes visitors into the basement of the Belmont-Watertown United Methodist Church. It’s a big open space, with low ceilings, pink walls, some generous storage space and an older industrial kitchen. It’s also very obviously crumbling. Construction tape blocks off part of the kitchen.

Hunger Hits Home: A Watertown Teenager’s Struggle to Feed Herself

Shivani Sharma reaches into her refrigerator, which is more full than was when she was finishing high school. (Photo by Dan Hogan)

A glass of milk and a granola bar, eaten slowly; this is breakfast for 19-year-old Shivani Sharma. On this particular day it’s noon and she actually hasn’t eaten yet. It may not seem extraordinary, but for her, these days, it’s a big improvement in her situation over how she had to live at the end of high school. Sharma shared her story with Watertown News, in conjunction with Watertown Cable Access Television, as part of the series “Watertown’s Hidden Problem: Food Insecurity Among Us.”

Two Watertown Natives Bring Play Focused on Interrogation of JFK’s Assassin to the Mosesian Center

Louis Fantasia was in West Junior Middle School — the former name of Watertown Middle School — when the principal came on the school P.A. system and announced the school was closed for the rest of the day. “They didn’t say anything about what it was. They just dismissed us and sent us home,” he said. “In those days there were maybe 10 houses between the school and Main Street, so all the old ladies saw us coming out of school, and they knew something was up, and that’s when people turned on their radios and TV.”

What had happened? JFK had just been assassinated, one of those moments that pauses our collective historical memory and everyone can recall clearly exactly where they were and what they were doing.

Students, Parents Get a Look Inside the Temporary Watertown High School After Ribbon Cutting

The temporary campus for Watertown High School at PFC Richard Moxley Field opened after a ribbon cutting on Aug. 31 by, from left, Superintendent Dede Galdston, Principal Joel Giacobozzi, Assistant Superintendent Steve Magoon, and City Council President Mark Sideris. (Photo by Maya Shwayder)

The huge, empty hallways smelled like the wood aisle at Home Depot. Large boxes – empty and not – lined most corridors, and all the computers and monitors in the media room were still wrapped in plastic. But nonetheless the modular Watertown High School at PFC Richard Moxley Field held its grand opening five days before the first day of school, complete with a red ribbon and giant scissors to cut it.

Q&A: Watertown’s Jen Trynin Nearly Became a Rock Star, Now She Embraces Her Literary Side

Watertown’s Jen Trynin, a former rock musician who is now writing about her life, also runs Earfull with her friend Tim Huggins, the original owner of Newtonville Books. (Courtesy of Jen Trynin)

What’s it like to almost become a rock star, and then walk away from it? That’s the unique experience Jen Trynin had in the 90’s when her song “Better Than Nothing” suddenly grabbed the attention of every major record label. But after signing, she actually decided to put her professional music life on the back burner and embrace her more literary side. This summer she has a new story out in Ploughshares, the prestigious literary magazine published by Emerson College.

Watertown Preparing to Form a Human Rights Commission, Working on Details of Group’s Role

Charlie BreitroseWatertown City Hall

Watertown is on the verge of a milestone as it moves closer to establishing its first-ever Human Rights Commission. After a vote in the Subcommittee on Rules & Ordinances on June 5th, a final draft of the Human Rights Commission ordinance passed out of the committee and will move to a final vote in the Council. No one, it seems, expects it to meet much blow-back. “This is incredibly exciting and overdue,” said Bevin Croft, who was a member of the informal residents’ committee and a former member of Cambridge’s Human Rights Commission. “It’s exciting to see something that was so controversial before get another push and be met with almost no resistance.