The annual forum was designed to be adaptable to different host countries, varying time and funding constraints, and changes in relevant, modern content. However, in order to maintain consistency and guarantee effective leadership learning, we segmented the forum into 3 sessions, and each of these sessions is equally important; there are leadership and thematic sessions, as well as a group project.  The leadership sessions are where we teach the concepts of distributed leadership, which we believe to be the most effective in areas related to science and technology. The thematic sessions explore a current theme (different every year), relevant to science and technology, and we use this as a medium for discussions and knowledge sharing.  Lastly, the group project is where the participants take the skills they learned in the leadership session along with the knowledge they gained from the thematic sessions, and practice those in a rigorous 3 day team challenge.


Leadership Education Sessions

The guiding principle for the leadership education is the distributed leadership model developed at the MIT Leadership Center. Various case studies, games and exercises were modeled after education materials developed at MIT. These activities cover various aspects of leadership education, but they each target at least one of the four components of the distributed leadership model; sense-making, relating, visioning and inventing.


The thematic material is based on the theme of the forum, which changes every year (see Past Fora below for different themes we've had). The theme will be on a very broad topic, but we then scope down the content through several sub-categories we believe stress the important aspects of the theme. Themes almost always involve a global issue that heavily relies on our utility of science and technology, but may not necessarily always be solvable from this alone. The material is generated new every year to maintain relevance, and we bring in professionals from the field to share their insight with us.


We consider the group project the capstone of the forum.  This project is usually two or three days with your primary group and requires intensive design and creativity.  The goal is to practice leadership skills in a 'close to real world' situation, and these group challenges tend to model real dilemmas relevant to the theme.  We also stress a hands-on project, so that we have actual deliverables at the end of the forum, not just a written proposal.  While no technical skills are required for this project, participants tend to gain a lot of skills because of the nature of the project.


There are a number of other components to STeLA that we have maintained through the years, as we have found them to be rewarding for the participants.

Site Visit

At some point during the forum, we'll take half a day or more to go somewhere to see and hear about what professionals are doing in the field. These are always based on the theme.  Some site visits in the past have included Google, JAXA, Merck, Genetech and more recently Lenovo HQ.


Keynote Speakers

Every year we'll have one or two keynote speakers that are renowned in their field and demonstrate a strong perspective on leadership or have made notable contributions to their technical field.  These are followed by Q&A sessions for the participants.

Reflection Sessions

We've found that spending a lot of time reviewing and discussing the lessons learned in a group setting to be very effective.  Every day will have at least one or two reflection sessions that give participants time to share ideas, perspectives, and personal experiences.

Final Presentation

The group project concludes with a presentation and demonstration typically in a public setting so that the community has an opportunity to see what we're all about.  This is then followed by a large group reflection and then a farewell party.


Since 2007, STeLA has been organizing an annual forum, each year at another interesting location. These have included Boston, Tokyo, Beijing, San Francisco and Delft. There have been various fascinating speakers from different fields, both from Universities as well as global corporations and startups. All fora included lectures, strategic games, site visits and a final group project to test all the newly learned skills. Have a look below for a more detailed descriptions and get an idea what to expect this year.

2017: Leiden, the Netherlands

  • Date: August 6th - 14th
  • Location: Leiden University
  • Theme: Technology, Responsibility, Society
  • Site Visits:

-  Leiden Observatory

  • Group Project: The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Speakers:

- General Rob Querido (Brigadier-General in Dutch Armed Forces)

- Professor Jan van den Ende (professor of management and innovation at Rotterdam Erasmus University)

2016: Okinawa, Japan

  • Date: August 20th - 30th
  • Location: Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST)
  • Theme: The Future of Science and Technology
  • Site Visits:



  • Group Project: Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Speakers:

- Dr. jonathan Dorfan (CEO & President of OIST)

- Dr. Machi Dilworth (Vice president for gender equality and Human Resource development at OIST)

- DR. Hiroaki Kitano (Director of research at Sony Computer Science Laboratories Inc. & Professor at OIST)

2015: Beijing, China 

  • Date: August 13th - 21nd
  • Location: Peking/Tsinghua University, BIT
  • Theme: Era of Information Technology
  • Site Visits:

- Microsoft Research Asia

- Lenovo HQ Beijing

  • Group Project: Thinking through IoT
  • Speakers:

- Xiaosheng Tan (CTO/CPO of The 360 Company)

- Prof. Ying Huang (Vice President of Lenovo Group)

- Dr. Feng Zhao (Assistant Managing Director of Microsoft Research Asia)

- Jeremy Chau (CEO of Jide, 103th Employee of Google)

- Daniel Price, Thomas Gillman & Patrick Haverman (Pole to Paris/UNDP)

  • Participants of 40 Total from US, Japan, China and Europe (including Middle East)
  • Conference Report: Coming soon


  • Date: August 15th - 23rd
  • Location: Stanford University
  • Theme: Health and Bioethics
  • Site visit: Genentech
  • Group project: Design educative games in health and bioethics
  • Speakers:
    -Manu Prakash: Stanford University
    - Hank Greely: Stanford University
    - Tina M. Larson: Genentech
    - James J. Cummings: Stanford University
    - James K Scarborough: Stanford University
  • Participants: 48 total from U.S. Japan China and Europe

2013: Delft, the Netherlands




  • Date: August 23rd - Sept 1st
  • Location: Delft University of Technology
  • Theme: Managing 10 Billion People
  • Site Visits:
    - Maeslantkering
    -Maasvlakte 2
  • Group Project: Redesigning Hong Kong
  • Speakers
    - Jeroen van der Veer Former CEO of Shell
    - Paul Hughes: Ten Meters of Thinking
    - Tom Bosschaert: Except Integrated Sustainability
    - Rob van Nes: Delft University of Technology
    - Hendrik Tieben: Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Participants 44 total from U.S., Japan, China and Europe
  • Conference report 2013 PDF

2012: Tokyo, Japan

  • Date: August 11th - 18th
  • Location: National Institution for Youth Education
  • Theme: Natural Disasters
  • Site Visit: The Port and Airport Research Institute
  • Group Project: Search and Rescue Robots
  • Keynote Speakers:
    - Junichiro Kawaguchi: Project Manager of Hayabusa, JAXA
    - John V. Roos: U.S. Ambassador to Japan
  • Participants: 48 total from U.S., Japan, China and Europe
  • Conference report 2012 PDF part 1
  • Conference report 2012 PDF part 2
  • Conference report 2012 PDF part 3
  • About the theme: 

    The natural disaster theme was motivated by the recent Tohoku disaster in Japan the previous year. Our goal was to address the concerns of rapid development in disaster-prone areas and assess possible technologies to aid communities when disasters strike. The content was broken down into three sub-categories: disaster prevention, immediate response, and disaster recovery. 

    Participants were given the opportunity for a site visit to Tohoku prior to the forum, to see some of the real damage and recovery process. During the forum, the participants visited PARI to understand how infrastructure is designed for damage and enabled for quick mitigation mechanisms. U.S. Ambassador to Japan, John Roos, came to talk about his role in leadership during the Tohoku disaster and how he managed to protect many through such a trying time.

    Our group project provided a hands on a approach to new upcoming disaster recovery technologies: search and rescue (SAR) robots. Using the knowledge they learned from the thematic sessions and the skills they learned from the leadership sessions, teams spent only 2 days designing, developing, and testing a real robot that would be robust enough to unknown environments, just like a real disaster scenario. The final presentation and demonstration was held at the Rinkai Disaster Park ( in the iconic, Odaiba, in Tokyo.

2011: San fransisco, US

  • Date: August 21st - 29th
  • Location: Stanford University
  • Theme: Environmental Sustainability
  • Site Visit:
    - SolarCity:
    - Google:
    - Armageddon Energy  :
    - TechShop:
  • Group Project: Sustainable House
  • Keynote Speakers:
    - Phil Libin: CEO of Evernote
  • Participants: 45 total from U.S., Japan, China and Europe
  • Conference report 2011 PDF
  • About the theme: 

    This forum explored environmental sustainability, focusing on electricity distribution planning, water resource management and biodiversity. Discussions on pertinent case studies was facilitated by lectures from experts and enhanced by site visits to businesses in the San Francisco area. Role-playing session and leadership exercises_drawn from the curriculum of the MIT Sloan School of Business and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government_helped participants see the perspectives of different stakeholders and put them in the position of making difficult decisions. In all these sessions, participants contributed knowledge from their different fields of study, various home countries and diverse backgrounds.

    The last three days of the Forum were devoted to a "leadership laboratory," in which participants were given a unique opportunity to practice the leadership skills that they had learned. The participants were split into small teams to build an intensive, hands-on group project in a competitive setting. This project challenged the participants' visioning, inventing and teamwork skills, as well as fostering an atmosphere of innovation and building friendships that last beyond the Forum. The final keynote lecture and presentations of the group project were open to the public.

    The STeLA 2011 Forum provided a unique opportunity to invest in the next generation of leaders who are not only interested in the advancement of science and technology, but in using their skills to better society. By providing education about specific global issues and honing their leadership abilities, STeLA participants were equipped to grapple with larger issues throughout their future careers in science and technology.

2010: Beijing, China

  • Date: August 15th - 22nd
  • Location: Peking University
  • Theme: Technology Transfer
  • Site Visit: 
  • Group Project: Solar Energy Collectors
  • Keynote Speakers: 
    - Phil Libin CEO of Evernote
  • Participants: 40 total from U.S., Japan, China and France
  • Conference report 2010 PDF Part 1
  • Conference report 2010 PDF Part 2
  • About the theme: 

    The widening social and political gaps across the world have increased the challenge to maintain a global community.  Within this context, technology has played an important role.  Does the development of new technology prevent this imbalance?  Or perhaps it accelerates it?  Participants looked into a few key ares of modern concern; the Green Revolution of agricultural development and clean coal technology research for a straining pressure for clean fuel.  Some key factors to these conversations was identifying stakeholders for the technologists.  Who will be affected by these technologies and in what form?  Will it profit for large industries or provide resources for the masses of the lower class?

        To enhance the scope of the issues, the participants group project was to design and build a working solar collector and figure out ways to use it effectively in its low power form.  Participants gained a sense of the real challenges faced in making cheap and efficient clean energy while placing it in a competitive market.  Participants spent some time walking around Beijing asking some of the locals about their views on clean energy and how it can help people of lower income and in regions where infrastructure is not established.  Each group presented its working solar collector at the Beijing Institute of Technology to the public.

2009: Tokyo, Japan

  • Date: August 23rd - 31st
  • Location: National Institution for Youth Education
  • Theme: Dual-use Dilemma of Science and Technology
  • Site Visit: 
    -Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
  • Group Project: Catapult Challenge
  • Keynote Speakers: 
    - Konrad Osterwalder: Undersecretary-General of the United Nations 
    - Dr. Kiyoyuki Tshujimura: Senior Executive Vice President of NTT DOCOMO
  • Participants: 55 total from U.S., Japan, China and Europe
  • Conference report 2009 PDF
  • About the theme: 

    As most of us are scientists and engineers, we tend to look only at the positive aspects of growing technology.  However there is a continuing area of concern of dual-use technology; that is, technology used potentially for destructive purposes.  Our focused sub-themes were nuclear technology, aerospace technology, and biological technology.  Each of these fields have shown development in both constructive and destructive technologies, and therefore, powerful places for discussion and insight.

    Participants visited the Japanese aerospace agency, JAXA.  Given military restrictions, JAXA demonstrated a real-world dual-use scenario, in which they must carefully develop technologies for research without encroaching on government sanction limits.  Participants in that joined for the pre-forum trip traveled to Hiroshima, Japan, to see the prevailing damage from World War II.

    The group project challenged participants ability in negotiation, technological creativeness, and even to some extent, ethics.  Teams were to build catapults in response to a war, but were able to negotiate disarmament in possible.  This group project not only testing their team dynamics and leadership skills learned throughout the week, but also their integrity and stamina under peer-pressure.  The entire experience was rewarding.

2008: Boston, US

  • Date: August 2nd - 9th
  • Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Theme: Global Public Health
  • Site Visit: 
    - Merck Research Laboratories Boston
  • Group Project: Public Service Announcement Video
  • Keynote Speakers: 
    - Professor Susumu Tonegawa: MIT Professor / Nobel Prize Laureate 
    - Professor Phillip Sharp MIT Professor / Nobel Prize Laureate
  • Participants: 45 total from U.S., Japan, and China
  • Conference report 2008 PDF
  • About the theme: 

    Why is it that the U.S. can deliver massive amounts of vaccinations, medicines, and medical assistance to its people when many countries around the world have hundreds of thousands of deaths from curable health problems? There exist a number of "neglected diseases"; diseases that affect many of the poorest people around the world where large corporations have little to no profit incentives in assisting these people and regions. This year at STeLA we looked into this problem of global public health and the imbalances of drug production and delivery.

    Participants had several opportunities to interact with the real world to see where some of the concerns derived from. A site visit to Merck, a global leader in healthcare, was scheduled for the participants to see how drugs are manufactured, but also learn how they're designed, researched, and how cost effectiveness is sought out. Participants also had lectures from two MIT nobel prize laureates with experience in genetics and immunology, and of course, an alternate perspective on global public health from that of the corporations.

    A lot of emphasis was placed on negotiations and defining stakeholders. We ran a 6 hour negotiation game to simulate public health discussions in developing nations. The experience gained from this simulation led to our final project; a public service announcement. Participants had an intense 2 days to walk around Boston and interview people about their perspectives on these issues and compile a 1 minute PSA to address some key issues of health in developing countries. The goal was to inform and convince the public to take opinion on these issues, and this had to be done in a very short amount of time. The final projects were presented to the public at the MIT Museum.

2007: Tokyo, Japan

  • Date: August 18th - 26th
  • Location: National Institution for Youth Education
  • Theme: Global Climate Change and Energy Technology
  • Site Visit: 
    - Nippon Steel Corporation
    - Nissan
  • Group Project: Rube Goldberg Machine
  • Keynote Speakers: 
    - Koji Omi: Japan's Minister of Finance 
    - Dr. Toshio Yasui: e-Access
  • Participants: 40 total from U.S. and Japan
  • Conference report 2007 PDF
  • About the theme: 

    Our first ever forum was created from a number of students studying at Harvard, MIT and Boston University, with the hope of building a network of young scientists and engineers from across the globe that could communicate critical modern issues and brainstorm solutions.  These students returned to Japan, established a second branch there, and resultantly began planning for the first STeLA forum for 2007.

    Participants were tasked with discussing several major contemporary issues, such as global climate change, the energy crisis, and globalization in manufacturing.  Alongside this thematic content, the groups studying team dynamics and distributed leadership in order to better understand how to solve problems in unique environments.  The leadership material was developed out of the MIT Sloan School of Business and the thematic content was prepared by the staff and also provided through keynote speeches from current professionals.

    The Rube Goldberg machine was the final project and the centerpiece of the forum.  Bringing together the skills of leadership learning from the week, participants had to work out the difficulties of an operable machine that would deliver quality and effectiveness, while meeting stringent time requirements.  The successfulness of the forum has created a self-sufficient, sustainable program to teach and learn distributed leadership.