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On UROPs by Mimi S. '22

Research at a private research institute? Naaaaahhhhh, couldn't be!

Look at this if you don’t what a UROP is: https://mitadmissions.org/discover/the-mit-education/undergraduate-research/.

On the MIT application, as many of you know, you are asked to talk about a program that interests you. If you’ve read my other posts than you know that I love video games and making video games, so naturally I wanted to eventually work with MIT’s Game Lab. I thought that I would have to work up to it. It barely crossed my mind first semester. And yet, one day in a December, an email showed up in my inbox from the Game Lab. A UROP! That I was under-qualified for? Let’s see the relevant skills:

  1. Unity: ❌
  2. C#: 👍
  3. Developing for VR headsets: ❌
  4. Developing for touchscreens: 🤢
  5. 3D modeling and animation: ❌
  6. 2D illustration and graphic design: ❌
  7. User interface design: 🤢
  8. Github: 👍
  9. Working in teams: ❌

2/9 (well, more like 2/7 since 5 & 6 are more design orientated). Good! Perfect!! Great!!! So, I applied. And I had a interview. And I showed a game I made two years ago. One that I had to design a user interface for and develop for touchscreens (see emoticons above). Literally the user interface didn’t scale for different phone models, so when I showed it off on my new phone everything was very small and hard to tap. I was way past embarrassed.  And then they hired me!

The position is quite interesting. You can read details about the project here, but let me TL;DR it: basically we are trying to integrate VR tech into high school classrooms. In this game, one person uses the VR headset to navigate a cell in a first person view, while a second person uses a tablet to highlight different organelles of the cell. This is still very much a work in progress, but we have a lot of cool stuff to show off in the near future.

I didn’t think I would really do much when I joined. I figured the first few weeks would just be me (and the other student that was new to the project) reading through the source code and figuring out where everything was. Yet, by the end of our first week, we had fixed three bugs! Strangely enough, I remember being excited about hunting down a bug in this large code base. It was oddly invigorating and I don’t really know how else to describe it. Was it because I was finally working on a legit game project? Because I was working for the Game Lab? I don’t know, but I’m excited to be working on this from now until the end of summer!

One of the biggest changes that has happened so far is my view on Unity. I used to not like it all. I thought it was weird and hard to understand, but now I have a pretty deep appreciation for Unity’s component system. It’s really flexible and seems pretty powerful. But I have no respect for Unity units. Maybe I’ll get use to it in the future, but it’s pretty weird. I’ll keep playing around with it, but I don’t know.

I don’t know what else to talk about right now, but to hype up my future posts: I’m working on one about my hall. Welp, see ya :P

Also, here is a small game I made playing around with Unity (no sound, btw):