This August, 40 pioneering millennials will embark on a train journey across the country. Where early pioneers went west, these millennials will go east—from the San Francisco Bay to the District of Columbia—stopping in ten cities along the way to explore local examples of innovation and advance creative projects of their own design.
Since our earliest days as a nation, each generation of Americans has taken it upon themselves to reinterpret what it means to be a pioneer in the context of our ever-changing world.
What pioneering aspirations and initiatives will define our generation? This question is the driving force behind the Millennial Trains Project (MTP).
Our train is a caravan of refurbished mid-20th century cars that double as a mobile innovation lab and dormitory. Through our custom crowdfunding platform, it will be powered by the diverse aspirations of forward-looking young changemakers whose ideas, networks, and collective efforts will shape our world for decades to come.
The idea for MTP comes from a similar train journey that I helped lead as a 2010-11 Fulbright scholar in India, where I conducted research on informal sector e-waste recycling. Despite the many hours I spent documenting and searching for heaps of discarded electronics, my biggest take-away from my time in India was an appreciation for how an older form of technology—trains—could be repurposed to serve as a tool for nation building in the Digital Age.
Long before the internet brought the world to our fingertips, trains served as vehicles of discovery, connection, and economic opportunity. Here in America, our rail system was designed to inspire awe and connect the diverse regions and peoples of our nation. Impressive and useful as it may be, no amount of techno-wizardry can possibly overshadow the vast landscape of natural beauty, history, and community to which trains connect all Americans.
To get on board our inaugural journey this August, applicants pitch a creative project they want to advance across the localities where our train will stop. They then race to be among the first 40 applicants to meet a $5,000 fundraising goal to underwrite expenses by July 1st. Over the course of 10 days, our train will stop in 10 cities and provide participants with opportunities to explore local examples of innovation, learn from distinguished on-train mentors, and advance projects of their own design.
From local governance systems to K-12 computer science education, applicants are stepping up to explore many of the key challenges and opportunities facing our generation. Already, applicants have proposed projects focusing on a wide-range of important topics, including: wireless data systems, mindfulness, open data, wearable technologies, poetry in public places, sustainable transportation, autism, gender stereotypes, and efficient energy infrastructure.
So, what are you waiting for? If you have an idea for a project that could positively impact our future, take a shot at getting on board our August journey. If you can’t make it, consider supporting one or more of the projects that have already submitted, and follow the journeys of the passengers you support.
As I see it, the future is ours to shape, and new frontiers await. Our train is a platform for emerging pioneers of the next generation to explore these new frontiers on a national scale. Whether on board or at the station, I hope you’ll join MTP in taking a radically analog approach to contemplating and exploring the possibilities of our Millennial Age.