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MIT student blogger Connie H. '15

The Results of My Summer by Connie H. '15

cookies, web usability, and painting

Now that the semester has started, it’s an opportune time to procrastinate and let you know how my summer turned out. Did most of my diet consist of Doritos? Will the effects of eating so many Doritos have a long term impact on my well being? Did I do anything meaningful other than bake dozens and dozens of cookies?

The scintillating answer to those questions is yes.

Okay, so I actually did do something — more than just baking all the time! Although I made these gingersnap lemon sandiwch cookies with Liz and they turned out awesome.

We also learned a few life lessons along the way:
1) For the grittiest frosting you’ll ever taste (feel?), use granulated sugar instead of confectioner’s sugar
2) Nobody will actually notice that they’re shoveling gritty butter sugar paste into their mouth
3) Despite all the butter and sugar I’ve put into what I’ve been making, I have no problems with contributing to life lesson #2

But beyond that, I’ve also been working at the Media Lab under the Lifelong Kindergarten group on the Computer Clubhouse Village. The Village is an online community that consisting of youth age 8-18 across the country and globe that go to afterschool clubs to use technology to create everything from graphic design for personal websites, music videos, robotics and circuitry projects, and DIY crafts. Led by amazing coordinators who facilitate the work that gets posted onto the village, kids from Mexico will comment on projects by peers from Ireland as they all delve into their first (or hundredth) Photoshop, SketchUp or Sculptris project.

More specifically, I get to work with my awesome supervisor Chris (also an MIT alum!) on improving the site’s usability. On top of creating a user experience that is intuitive and friendly to a younger age group, a lot of consideration is also put into reaching the international/non-English speaking audience, which makes up a huge portion of the site. As Ann Hutchinson Guest put it when recording a set of movements onto paper, the goal would be to “avoid words because they are a strong deterrent to international communication.” Much of the site is translated by bilingual volunteers, but many nuances of the wording of labels and instructions are lost. An emphasis is put on the consistency of icons and the familiarity of the website to ensure that the artists make full use of the website’s features.

Which is awesome, because I get to think about what goes on through an increasingly tech savvy youth’s mind when navigating new software and new interfaces, and then I get to make them!

But what do I actually do? I’ve been learning a lot of Ruby on Rails to figure out how all the data actually works together behind the scenes to make up the Village. Designing the interface is one thing — but making all the pieces connect is new to me, so a lot of the time it looks like this:

Luckily I’ve been in a super supportive environment, so even though the work is definitely a process, I’m enjoying myself immensely! :)

In my free time I also broke out my tablet and started painting again (and might be doing a series of children’s book illustrations? stay tuned!) which was super relaxing. Here are some of the fruits of my labor:

Thankfully no one was upset about me butchering their identities.

So all in all, not a bad summer. I’m not sure how this upcoming semester will turn out, but it’s already gotten off to a good start because…

 

 

ANASTASSIA IS MY LITTLE TWIN STAR IN MY SORORITY! (What the hell is a little twin star? In short, it means I now watch over Anastassia like a wise and weathered guardian, helping her fend off the evils of 8.01 and poor life choices).

Blogger success! :)