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MIT student blogger Cam T. '13

A Splash of color! by Cam T. '13

and a bigger splash of water.

As something of an absent blogger over the past few months, one of the questions I have to answer upon returning to active duty is: where exactly did all that time go?

That’s an answer too long and boring for this post (and for maybe any post; the last few months have been either a) pretty nonexciting, b) nonexciting to people who don’t care about operating systems research and development, c) exciting, by which I mean “Stargate SG-1 only has two days left on Hulu!”, or d) all of the above). However, here is an apology blog post, complete with interesting topic and colorful pictures! Also, something or other about MIT, because that’s my job, right?

Also, true to form, I have returned bringing you something of a double (or triple — slightly debatable) pun in the title and subtext. For starters, and for something MIT-related, let’s talk about Splash.

Splash is a pretty cool program that MIT runs every year (biannually, I think?); by ‘MIT’, I mean my friend Michele and a few of her cohorts in the Educational Studies Program office — which is student-run, woot woot — and by ‘pretty cool’, I mean this:

Splash is a program lasting for one weekend where MIT students can teach /almost/ anything, and high / junior high school students can learn less than or equal to /almost/ anything. It’s a pretty cool program to consider when in high school; although I wouldn’t recommend taking it as a program to pad your MIT application (something I get asked about far too often >_<), I would recommend taking it as an awesome experience. My friend Maysarah, from my (local) high school attended it once; he came back with a ton of exciting stories and a duct-tape tophat (and more, but my memory’s going — you know, once you turn 19 it all goes downhill). This means he obviously took classes more interesting than mine.

My classes, I say? What, do you ask, do I mean by that? Also, what do I mean by the last two sentences with their overloaded ugly grammatical structure? Good question. Well, this year, I kicked myself into shape in time to fill out the teacher application form for Splash, and decided to teach two classes. The ensuing disaster played out something like this:

Class 1: Beat Me at Kirby’s Avalanche!
In high school, I used the ZSNES emulator to play the Super Nintendo Entertainment System game Kirby’s Avalanche. I played it with three or four friends, and got pretty good at it. A game always (rather loosely) compared to Tetris when one first sees it, it involves creating combinations of falling, popping blocks to drop more blocks on your opponent’s screen. It looks something like this:

And the class was something like this:

(Ok, not exactly like that, but that image came up in my google search and I decided to use it). The Splash program gave me the money to buy a SNES console with two controllers, a copy of Kirby’s Avalanche, and several pounds of assorted candies. For an hour, I battled any challengers who wanted to take me on for a shot at winning a prize, and at the end the two people to beat me walked away with the grand prize of the SNES and game and the second prize of all the extra candy. I had an awesome time teaching and playing the game, and a more awesome time losing.

Class 2: Pointers on Pointers
This class was a little more academic; having just taken MIT’s 6.828 this fall (maybe more on that later; it’s the one class I’ve taken here so far (the rest being mostly requirements) that I actually *really* cared about and was interested in). 6.828 is MIT’s junior/senior/graduate/something level operating systems course; we spend the semester studying, reading about, and developing operating systems. After a semester of that class, I was fully brushed up on my C-fu (C, the programming language) and wanted to share my enthusiasm for the awesome construct that is the memory pointer. The class began with an intro to variables in programming and memory, and ended with development of a stack tracing program for Linux and an out-of-time overview of fun things to do with function pointers. If that all sounded like gobbledegook, the moral of the story is: I have this awesome but extremely geeky interest, and for an hour a classroom full of high school students both wanted to and did sit and listen to me talk about it, and hopefully they had fun.

Now, that was Splash; time to talk about my most recent splash (har, har): an experiment in the physics of waves*.

*(apparently, moving an almost-full fish tank on the top shelf of a wheeled shelving unit can lead to several gallons of slimy, fish-solution-treated water splashing onto you and your clothes)


Tiny guppy #1!

Tiny guppy#2!

Two dalmatian mollies!

Two SWEET tiger platies!

And various plants.

Yep. I got fish. Not as exciting as I’m making it seem, but I love it; for better or for worse, I find them about as equally mesmerizing as TV. Eventually, I’ll have more fish in the tank, but right now it’s still developing a stable population of necessary bacteria… yada, yada, yada, too soon. (For the aquarium lovers among you: any suggestions for more freshwater fish for a 29G?) The awesome part, though, is that I’m allowed to keep these fish in my dorm. Not only that; we’re allowed to keep cats. I love living in a dorm with pets, because when everybody’s gone to sleep and you find yourself still awake and still working during the witching hour, they’re incredible company. It’s incredibly soothing to have something moving and alive in your room at all times — e.g. fish — and incredibly more soothing to have something nuzzling your foot when all other life around you has retired for the night *(ok, maybe only if that something is a cute, fuzzy, cat/dog/other pet). One reason I really like my dorm at MIT.

Which is why I’ll just end with this: meet my friend, Cat.

because who can resist a kitty?

21 responses to “A Splash of color!”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Guys, calm down. I’ll repeat what Vivek said before – “Do you know that exact same thing went through my mind a couple of days ago. I asked myself if I should stop commenting. But then I realized that what I was doing wasn’t neccessarily contradicting myself.” I know how annoying it could be to see the same person commenting over and over; but, come to think of it… the bloggers must be noting this thing too. In case they find something wrong with it; they will notify him accordingly. smile

    And, this is such a nice community, let’s not turn it into some raving forum or talk. Chill. wink

    P.S. “Trying to catch a glimpse of a place that you may or may not spend 4 years of your life at is not the same as keeping yourself updated anxiously on admission updates.” – I do not see anything wrong with it. Seriously.

  2. Vivek says:

    @?? – It’s OK. I know how you feel. On Becca’s post, titled ‘Another Journey’ or something like that, a person called Observer was similarly disgruntled. I wrote a reply to him that seemed to help explain my point of view. I hope you can respect that. Anonymous has also quoted from that. No hard feelings. smile
    @Anonymous – Thank you.

  3. Phoebe says:

    Cam, your cat looks exactly like mine!! My cat even has a “splash”/water themed name…his name is Nemo because he has a gimpy leg. So seeing that cat on my computer screen made my morning smile

  4. AnotherNoob says:

    I’ll ask Cam to remove “??”‘s post. This is totally unwarranted and IMO, it does not fit in with the whole MIT spirit.

    @??: Even if you had a problem you could’ve talked it through with Vivek. Instead you said what you said.

  5. AnotherNoob says:

    On a side note: what’s the cat’s real name? I’m sure it won’t mind being famous. And I won’t be even able to facebookstalk it. So give it away smile

    Looks like a thinker of a cat I must say.

  6. Cam says:

    Yikes; I woke up, checked my e-mail, saw that nasty comment, and came straight over here to remove it, but it appears one of the magical blog-admin fairies (new nickname, Chris?) already took care of it.

    You know, I don’t actually know the cat’s real name at the moment. Geneva? Eevee? Buddy? Cat?

    And I guess a post about OS research I shall have to do, then. Glad to hear people are interested O.o

  7. Norah says:

    Cats are irresistible Cats are irresistible <3

    If it were me moving the tank, getting soaked would be the least of my concerns. My priority would be looking for a sink to save the poor fishes. (Yes, I would accidentally drop the tank O.o )

  8. Vivek says:

    “nonexciting to people who don’t care about operating systems research and development” – That may/may not be a majority in terms of readers, but I, for one, do not count myself in the OS-R&D-resenting category. Would love to hear more about it!

    I’ve never heard of the Splash program before this post, but this is still pretty interesting. Did Splash really just let you walk away with money for a SNES, game and assorted candy without raising a single (i.e. collective, sine Splash isn’t a single individual) eyebrow? If not, would love to hear the sordid tales behind that. smile

    Also, which grade were the ‘subjects’ of Class 2 studying in? Gives a better perspective as to who you were attempting to teach the consequences of uninitialized pointer and the subsequent implosion of all of existence.

    And that’s a really nice aquarium you’ve got there. Must say that I didn’t expect MIT to be so liberal in what you can get into your dorm room? Next you’re going to tell me the guy/girl next door has a small thermonuclear fusion plant under the bed.

    “ok, maybe only if that something is a cute, fuzzy, cat/dog/other pet” – lulz

    And is your cat’s name Cat?

  9. Hey Cam smile

    Splash sounds like something I would like to do if I got into MIT. I run a compsci club at school and teach people who are interested in comp sci what I know. Oh, since you mentioned C-fu, did you know you could add “C Programming Language” to the “Languages I know” info portion on Facebook? I got excited when I was able to add Java and other languages to it. Check it out. Haha (that is, if you have Facebook)

    On the topic of operating systems, what is your take on the Angstrom Project? I’ve read the 5 part series and I’m pretty psyched about it.

  10. Forgot to add, do they allow dogs at MIT dorms?

  11. Nikita says:

    Welcome back after the hiatus, Cam!

    The classes you taught sound very interesting! Especially Class 2, since I’ve learnt how to program in C++ and totally dig pointers, stacks, linked lists…

    Btw, Cat is the most adorable ball of fur ever. Love your kitty!

  12. Cam says:

    Hehe, I should probably say that it’s not actually my cat, nor is its name Cat, although I wish both of these things were true. However, that is my bed that it chooses to nap on regularly, and I do call it Cat because I can never keep track of what its owner has decided its name is.

    Also, Vivek: Splash allocates money to a standard amount per class, with the requirement that they keep that which you buy but do not give away to students. I got a small extra budget for my class to support the somewhat-more-expensive SNES purchase. And I put the requirement on my class that students be grades 9-12, and have at least minimal exposure to programming.

  13. Nikita says:

    Ooohh..I see!
    And speaking of cats…I’ve just remembered some names that a friend suggested when I’d just got mine : erpillar, astrophe, enation, apult.
    They make perfect sense if you can find out what links the words together. smile

  14. Some dorms allow pets while others do not.

  15. Vivek says:

    Ah. That makes perfect sense. So who’s cat is that anyway? Do you feed it? Does it spend time nuzzling against your ankles? (Love when pets do that, although I have none)

    And tell us more about your OS research. I shall serve as a captivated audience of one in case Nikita’s not interested. =)

  16. Splash is an awesome program. I taught for it all four years that I was at MIT and have seen it more than double in size from ~1000 students to over 2500 for the most recent one. I loved being involved in it so much that when I started grad school at Northwestern University, I founded a Splash program here as well. This year it’s running on April 2. Any high schoolers in the Chicago area should totally come!

    Also, my cat served 3 terms as a Senior House JudComm. She beat out several human contenders in the election.

  17. Nikita says:

    I’m all ears for OS research too! smile
    Yes, Cam, tell us all about it!

  18. Silly Me says:

    I was at Splash in November. An incredibly fun, crazy experience. And it definitely rejuvenated my interest in MIT as well. Of course, absent-minded as I am, I didn’t even think of mentioning my attendance on my application. Silly me. I hope that doesn’t make any significant difference…

  19. AnotherNoob says:

    Yeah OS-research ftw!

  20. Cam says:


  21. Vivek says:

    OH MY GOD! I’M SO HAPPY FOR YOU! YOU MUST BE SUCH A PROUD …. UH … AQUARIUM OWNER … (sorry, couldn’t come up with a better one) raspberry