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MIT staff blogger Chris Peterson SM '13

ISEF, BAMF, and other west coast adventures by Chris Peterson SM '13

planning my next two weeks

I’m blogging from above approximately Michigan en route from Boston to San Francisco. I’ll be spending two weeks on the left coast for a mix of professional and personal travel. I typically blog about these kinds of trips retrospectively but figured I’d lead on the front end for this trip to a) explain why I might be uncharacteristically quiet on the blogs for the rest of the month, b) alert Californians to some interesting opportunities and events, and c) illustrate the bicoastal life that I (and a lot of other MIT people) increasingly live on different ends of the Boston <-> Bay Area wormhole.

So, here’s a quick overview of what my next two weeks (probably) will look like:

May 13-14: Bae-Area Bloggers

I’ll arrive this afternoon, try to grab a quick coffee with CMS/Civic classmate Rodrigo, who now runs product at Neighborly, before heading over to a celebration dinner for Jess K. ’10 graduating from med school.

Tomorrow, I’ll drive down to South Bay and conduct reconnaissance work out at Stanford; I’m there often enough that I keep spare Cardinal gym passes in my wallet (as Allan K.’ 17 once put it, “Stanford is never far from MIT”). Grab some brunch with a friend in Palo Alto and then stop by the Stupid Shit No One Needs And Terrible Ideas Hackathon to hang out with Rachel F. ’12 and Danny B.D. ’15 before flying to LAX that night.

May 15-19: ISEF @ LA

This coming week I’ll be tabling at ISEF, the world’s largest and most prestigious science and engineering research competition for high school students (you can read my trip reports for ISEF in 2015 and 2016). ISEF is a great competition that sends many alumni to MIT and is broadly aligned with the international strategy recently announced by MIT. I’ll be holding down booth 307 in the ISEF Commons with Laurie Stach and her team from MIT Launch, as well as giving symposia talks on the application process for researchers and international students. Anna H. ’14, blogger alumna (and now PhD student at Dread Caltech), will probably be helping me out at the table, along with some of our LA ECs.

If you are at ISEF, come say hi; if you’re in the area, definitely stop by the competition on Thursday, which is Public Day and when the finalists are at their projects to talk about with the lay public. It’s a great opportunity to see some of the most promising future scientists and engineers ahead of time, like seeing a future Hall of Famer play at your local minor league affiliate.

ISEF will take up lots of my time, so I won’t get to do much else in LA, but I’m definitely going to try to see some of my old CMS friends who are PhD students at USC and eat crazy-good LA food.

May 20-21: BAMF

Next weekend I’ll return to the Bay for the annual Maker Faire Bay Area to give a talk about our Maker Portfolio. Longtime readers will remember that I typically visit the big Faires in Bay Area and New York to give versions of this talk. It’s also a good time to catch up with my MakerEd colleagues from the Open Portfolio Project, which is coordinated by Stephanie Chang ’05. Plus watch giant robots fight (which still needs volunteers, btw!). This weekend will also hopefully feature a blogger reunion BBQ; rest assured I will post it if that happens.

May 22-26: Civics in the Sun

Next week, I’ll head down to San Diego. My plan is to take Monday and Tuesday as hard vacation: no work or email, just surfing and reading.

Starting Wednesday I’ll be attending Partnership for Progress on the Digital Divide (PPDD), a conference organized in conjunction with the International Communications Association (ICA), which is the big annual conference in the field. I’m going to present on research I’ve been conducting at Civic on Internet filtering in public schools and libraries as part of an broader project on contemporary censorship in public institutions. I’ve been continuing this kind of research since I finished grad school as a way to stay current and involved with academic research and policy interventions I care about while working a job in admissions I love.

Then, if all goes well, I’ll get back in Boston on Saturday morning, just in time to catch the final two days of Boston Calling, with Memorial Day as a Day-Of-Reckoning-With-My-Laundry before returning to regularly scheduled admissions office work on Tuesday.


That’s the plan, anyway! Please feel free to come by and say hi at ISEF or Maker Faire, and I’ll post a trip report with pictures (and restaurants) when I return.