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MIT student blogger Laura N. '09

Q&A Part II by Laura N. '09

Why the Media Lab is cool. Bonus: A great "You Know You Go to MIT When..." moment.

Time for some more questions:

MIT App Mom asked: “Maybe it’s just me, but I am confused about your title “Tecker.” My son is on a trip with school right now, otherwise I would ask him–is this computer terminology for something I don’t understand or do you mean “Techer” as in technology?”

Here’s the story: I went to a school called High Technology High School, and a lot of my friends and I would semi-jokingly refer to us as “Techers,” “Teckers,” or “Tekkers,” depending on your personal spelling preference. So it partly referred to the school and partly referred to “technology” in the more general sense. “Life of a Tecker” was the title of my personal blog, which is how Ben first “met” me last year. So when he created this blog template for me, he named it “Life of a Tecker” after the first name and I was too lazy/uncreative to think up a new one. It made a lot of sense as my personal blog, since lots of my friends from different schools would read it. Now that I go to MIT…well…not so much. It’s almost redundant. =) But hey, any suggestions for a new title are more than welcome in comments or email. If you suggest something I really like, I may even pull a Mitra and dedicate an entry to you. Or something.

Ajit asked: “how are enrolled students accomodated?I mean are they assigned rooms/halls of their preference on first come first serve basis?for example if the nomber of students willing to live single exceeds the availability of rooms acomodating singles, what do MIT staffs do?”

This, like all other housing questions, is interesting. That’s because MIT has the most insanely complicated housing system ever. There’s no real answer to your question. Once you go through the whole readjustment lottery business and end up in your permenant residence hall, the process varies. In dorms like Next, where there aren’t such distinct personalities between different areas of the dorm, you’re basically entered into a lottery. You’re assigned a number at random, and person #1 gets first pick of the rooms. Once they decide, it goes to person #2. And so on. A lot of dorms have “In-House Rush,” where you go around and see all the different floors/entries/whatever and fill out a preference sheet indicating your interests. Once you’re assigned to your floor, you all sit down in a big group and just work it out. If there are available singles, they sometimes use a lottery. Maybe they just give it to the person with the cooler name. Maybe they have you play Rock-Paper-Scissors. It’s all up in the air. I really hope that answers your question, because that’s honestly the best I can do.

Emi asked: “I was wondering if you could tell me what other projects are being developed at the Media Lab because I’m particularly interested in it!”

This is a great question, because it lets me showcase some more cool things about MIT.

My advising seminar (Designing Technologies for Kids) is all about the Cricket project. Crickets are currently still being developed (when I played with them 2 weeks ago, they were just completely exposed circuits with no plastic housing) and are basically second-generation Mindstorms. They deviate from Mindstorms in a very important way: instead of presenting kids with pre-designed robots/devices/projects, the goal is to provide kids with the tools to develop their own fun and innovative toys in a super-interactive way. The idea is to provide a kit with the Cricket computer, some motors and sensors, lots of LEGOs, some craft supplies, and user-friendly software that allows kids to write their own programs to control their toy. At the first meeting of our advising seminar, we split into a few groups and set to work making whatever we wanted. One device would just spin around until a loud noise made it switch directions. My partner and I made a little robot than ran around in funny patterns with a sensor that told it when it ran into a wall so it could back out. Another group made a catapult out of LEGOs, and the last group had a really neat musical device. They played a beat they created with the software, and used the sound sensor to trigger an LED, so the lights blinked in time with the music.

I also went digging around the MIT Media Lab website and found some other cool things, like…

If you’re interested in: more interactive toys similar to the Cricket program or art, you’ll probably like:
The I/O brush, a toy that uses a small video camera to literally capture the colors around you to paint on a screen. Kids get to run around and interact with their environment to look for virtual “paint.” Neat fact: The brush will let users select a color on the screen and play a few-second video flashback to see where the color came from and what was happening when the color was captured.

If you’re interested in: things like community service and international relations, you’ll probably find this one really cool in multi-disciplinary way:
The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Project aims to develop a $100 laptop that can be marketed to education ministeries in developing countries so they can distribute them to their underpriveleged students like textbooks. Talk about trying to save the world. Neat fact: It can be hard to develop connectivity since the developing world may not have much in the way of telecommunication services, so the laptops will constitute their own peer-to-peer network right out of the box.

Now here’s a really, really cool story. I wrote for my high school newspaper, and I decided to help out the staff at The Tech. I wrote my first story a couple of weeks ago and am currently working on my second. It’s pretty cool, since you get to be on the news-writers email list, where people basically gossip about the hearsay around campus. Plus, you have some awesome resources. The editors have been around for awhile, and they know a lot of stuff about the inner workings of the Institute. They need to know where to begin to look for information, so they know a lot about the different administrators, offices, departments…so it’s pretty cool to have the chance to pick some of that up. Anyway, the story I wrote was about the MIT Musical Theater Guild, which will be performing 2 numbers from their show “Star Wars: Musical Edition” to kick off the Boston Museum of Science Star Wars exhibit. (Here’s the cool part- they’ll be performing in front of George Lucas!) Anyway, while digging around the Media Lab website, I decided to check out their press links. I was making my way down the list and saw that the next link was about the Media Lab’s role in the Star Wars exhibit and I thought, “Hey, I remember reading about that before, I even mentioned it in my article.” So I clicked on the link and was immediately re-directed to my article! I was completely shocked. It was the coolest thing ever. I was just messing around on the Media Lab website, looking for cool ideas to tell you about, and happened to stumble across the fact that an article I wrote is linked from the Media Lab’s press release site! How insanely awesome is that?!

It totally made my day. =)

Speaking of Star Wars, I will now leave you with one amazing “Only at MIT” moment: Last night, a bunch of people from my floor (including Sam) went out to the PourHouse Bar and Grill to take full advantage of their brilliant “Burger Mania” promotion- half price burgers Saturday nights. (Eating at the PourHouse is featured on “101 Things to do Before You Graduate,” so I just got to check another one off. That’s always fun.) Anyway, April (my roommate), Meara and Adelaide (the other 2 frosh girls who live in the suite across the hall), Zach ’08, Joe (graduation year unknown, at least to me) and I all squeezed into a booth meant for 4 people and started talking about classes we were taking. I believe at some point we started making fun of Joe for being Course 7 (Bio) and went around the table discussing the pros and cons of each other’s (in most cases prospective) majors. Keep in mind that this conversation included few actual words, since all MIT majors are referred to by number. At some point we managed to switch the conversation Star Wars episode preferences.

Adelaide: Oh, 2 is absolutely the worst. I don’t like it at all.
Zach: What? 2 is was the best!
Adelaide: Are you serious? 2 is awful. Or do you mean 5? [Confusion between the original and modern trilogies, you see]
Zach: Oh! I see what you mean. Ok yeah, then 5 is definitely my favorite.
Joe (who has looked slightly confused the entire time): But they have the worst professors!
*confused silence falls, since there are no professors in Star Wars*
Zach: Are you still talking about course numbers? We’re talking about Star Wars, man.

It was a brilliantly MIT moment. We all had a good laugh. (Please note that I cannot possibly vouch for Joe’s opinion that Course 5 (Chem) has the worst professors, since I’m not actually in anything from Course 5. 3.091, as the number suggest, is part of Course 3 (Materials Science and Engineering). I do know that April, who is currently enrolled in 5.111 (another course which satisfies the chemistry GIR, really likes her professor.)

So that concludes this week’s Q&A Session. See you next time for a Woodie Flowers story! (Bonus points to anyone who already knows who that is!)

6 responses to “Q&A Part II”

  1. nehalita says:

    Ah! Woodie Flowers was the teacher of a class formerly called 2.70 (and now 2.007) — i saw a video of him posted up on one of the robotics forums i’m on. Woodie Flowers is incredibly famous in the FIRST robotics — we even have an award in his name: the Woodie Flowers award.

  2. Merudh says:

    hey you went to HIGH TECH!!! wait a minute I might know you lol…did you go on that NCSSSMST trip last year.

    im me on aim mvplivinlarge…I’d like to talk to you about my application to MIT. I go to Academy of Allied Health by the way.

  3. Laura says:

    Wow! Blogging excitement!

    Nehalita is absoluetly right about Woodie Flowers. Way to go, fellow FIRST-er. Yay for bonus points! (I have no idea what bonus points will actually be useful for but hey…whatever works).

    And Merudh, I do in fact remember you from NCSSSMST. Fun times.

    Sometimes this blogging thing is so, so much fun. =)

  4. Merudh says:

    lol yes so it is you. That’s awesome. So first thing first…I’m applying EA to MIT because I’ve come to really like it. I still have yet to arrange a visit there but yeah… just hoping if you had any tips…especially for someone applying from our district and well my school (I’m interested in BCS-Course 9) by the way.

    idk about high tech’s grading system etc…but I assume they don’t rank? They don’t rank at allied so how does that whole thing work?

  5. Emi says:

    Lol! I’m a total Star Wars geek, so I got really excited about your bit on the Theater Guild performing at the Boston Museum of Science Star Wars Exhibit.

    The whole episode-course number confusion was funny.

    LOL!

    Anyways thanks for the info on the media lab, it really shed some light on more specific projects within it.

    I also took your advice and checked out the website.

    Helped a lot.

    Again, I must say thanks. smile

  6. Robb Carr says:

    I can try and mess around a bit with a new banner/name (I do web-design on the side…well DID I have not done anything significant in…nearly a year for a variety of reasons). I will post in the most recent entry at the time if I can throw anything intresting together.

    -Robb Carr