Some of the world’s greatest minds packed the building on Friday, May 5 as we threw our Genius Gala 6.0, an annual star-studded event honoring pioneers in science, technology and innovation.
For this year’s Genius Gala, we celebrated optimism. Specifically, “techno-optimists,” the brilliant technologist entrepreneurs who are inventing a better future for all of us.
“We live in uncertain times…what should give us comfort is science,” LSC President and CEO Paul Hoffman explained.
We were thrilled to honor Katherine Johnson, the former NASA mathematician and subject of the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures; inventor Ray Kurzweil, who has been described as “the rightful heir to Thomas Edison; and SpotMini – our very first robot honoree – and his carbon-based enabler, Marc Raibert, the CEO and founder of Boston Dynamics.
As the night began, guests knew they were in for an unusual evening. There were robots around every corner – even on the Red Carpet! – including R2-D2, Bumblebee of Transformers fame, and of course, SpotMini. There was also a demo station by Picatinny Arsenal, the leading NJ center for military technology.
Guests also enjoyed a special “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto Laser Show” in our massive IMAX Dome Theater while they waited for the program to start.
Our first Genius Gala award, awarded to Katherine Johnson, was presented by former Genius Gala stars David Blaine, LSC’s Magician-in-Residence, and football player John Urschel, the Baltimore Ravens guard who is a doctoral candidate in mathematics at MIT.
Johnson’s award was accepted by her daughter, Joylette Gobel Hylick, a resident of Mount Laurel. Accepting the award, she said: “I just wish my mother were 40 years younger, because you wouldn’t have been able to get her out of here.”
Before the next award was given out, guests were treated to a performance by Jersey City’s “Pizza Boys” Nicholas and Michael Testa, 12-year-old and 10-year-old brothers who have gone viral online – including a video with more than 50 million views – for their pizza-spinning abilities.
The second Genius Gala award, given to SpotMini and Marc Raibert, was presented by Jersey City resident and Olympic wrestler Helen Maroulis, the first American woman to win a Gold Medal in wrestling.
She was asked to present the Genius Award to SpotMini, because they both share an incredible athleticism and the ability to stay on their feet when they’re down.
Raibert, accepting the award after SpotMini, gave these words of advice to all young minds: “Be an engineer or a scientist, because it’s nothing but fun.”
Immediately after receiving the award, we surprised Raibert with a special treat: a robot-shaped cake, made by the team at Cake Boss/Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken. All guests got to take home a piece of the jaw-dropping cake.
Before the last award was given out, cyber illusionist Marco Tempest presented an illuminating drone show.
Finally, we brought George Harris on stage. Harris is a network engineer who just last week beat out more than 300 teams from 38 countries to win the $2.5-million Qualcomm Tricorder Xprize for inventing a medical device – similar to Dr. McCoy’s futuristic Tricorder on Star Trek – that can non-invasively diagnose a host of medical disorders.
Fittingly, Harris presented the award to Ray Kurzweil. Accepting the award, Kurzweil spoke of his love for learning and said, “I think we can solve every problem in the world if we just find the right idea, and that idea is out there.”
It was such an exciting night, made even more exciting by several major announcements by Paul Hoffman: First, that Jersey City had transferred the title of 14 acres of land for the creation of LSC’s planned SciTech Scity, a mini-city of scientists, technologists, entrepreneurs, students, and educators who will come together with the shared goal of creating a better future.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, a major advocate for SciTech Scity, said at the Gala: “It’s going to put Jersey City on the map as a place developing some of the best minds of this country.”
Hoffman also announced that we’re on schedule to open the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium by the holiday season.
Thanks to a generous $5 million gift from Jennifer Chalsty, we’re converting our IMAX film theater into a digital theater and the biggest and most technologically-advanced planetarium in the Western Hemisphere.
From the robots to the drones to the presenters to the performances, it was an amazing evening, and we raised $2.7 million to support the Center’s multitude of science education programs for underserved children and K-12 students. See more photos from our photo booth, red carpet, and the awards program on our Facebook Page.