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things work out by Danny and Allan G. '20

following up on confusion

This past June, we wrote Axes of Confusion, a post about our struggle to decide whether to stay in our current major, 21E Humanities and Engineering which allows us to combine CMS with Course 6, or to switch into solely CMS.

One axis we were considering in this post was Time, specifically in terms of a course 6 class we ended up taking last semester, the infamously brutal 6.031 (Elements of Software Construction). This is what we wrote:

On average (based on end of semester surveys), students spend 10.1 hours/week on 6.009, while we spent on average 20. On average (based on end of semester surveys), students spend 20 hours on 031. So, doing the math, we’d most likely spend close to 40 hours on 031.

And spend close to 40 hours on 031 we did. This class CONSUMED our lives last semester. We anticipated this in the summer, and the angst associated with this anticipation (namely, “aaaaa-do-we-really-want-to-throw-away-one-of-our-precious-four-semesters-left-at-mit-to-this-damn-computer-science-class-when-we-feel-like-we’d-rather-be-doing-more-artsy-things”) was a big reason we wrote Axes of Confusion.

In the end, what let us decide to dedicate last semester to this class, was precisely not deciding. After mulling and mulling over the summer, we couldn’t decide between 21E and CMS, and ended up deciding to not decide. We didn’t want to make this decision rashly, so last semester we stuck with the path of least resistance — staying in our current major. This entailed taking 031.

Now that we are on the other end of this class, what can we say. Do we have regrets? What’s the status of our 21E vs. CMS struggle?

The short answers are no regrets and it’s (more-or-less) resolved! We are set on sticking with our current major 21E. This is because, this semester, we finally enjoy our schedules FULLY, even the course 6 class we are taking!

Before moving onto describing our classes, we want to underline that we feel like we still never had a *deciding* moment between 21E and CMS, even after finishing 031. We just made small steps based on what felt right in the moment, balancing requirements/pre-reqs, and our interests, and ended up here in this semester that we really enjoy. And now, since we finally enjoy the classes on this path, it just makes sense to continue along. Things seemed to just have worked themselves out.

Now, these are our schedules:

Both taking:

18.06 Linear Algebra

We both have to take this class because we need a REST (Restricted Elective in Science and Technology), and we specifically chose this class as opposed to other REST’s because of its applications in Computer Graphics and Image Processing. This class is probably the class we enjoy the least, out of the four, but something about doing math has always been oddly satisfying to us, especially when you finally Get It and Make Connections. Those moments make the class worth it.

6.815 Digital and Computational Photography

This was one of the two classes (the second is 6.837 Computer Graphics which we hope to take next semester) that we struggled through 6.00, 6.009, and 6.031 for. And was it worth it? Definitely! In this class, we get to learn how to code a variety of image manipulations from gaussian blurs to bilateral filters to 8-bit quantization to morphing! Almost every function we write in the class returns a visual output whether that be a photograph made to look like a paint-by-numbers painting or a sequence of images that transforms our professor into a werewolf (like what happens in the this Michael Jackson Music Video)! Coding is now fun!

Danny’s Classes:

CMS.S60 Drawing Comics and Sequential Art

You get to draw comics! This class just has three assignments – make a 4-5 page comic individually, make a 8-12 page comic in groups of 2-3, and make a 10-16 page comic individually. You get the theme here. And every week, our assigned readings include comics/graphic novels – definitely the most entertaining readings I’ve had from a class. So far my favorite one has been The Secret to Being a Great Artist. <–The author shares the first fifteen pages of the comic here, but sign up for their newsletter to get the full thing. I think it’s worth it for the read! Overall this class has been a blast and great way to force me to find time to make art!

CMS.611 Creating Video Games

I used to play video games in middle school, but kind of lost interest in them when I got to high school. So, I never really planned to take any of the many game related class offered through CMS. I was also a bit scared of these classes because I felt that I would feel like an outsider in the class since I just haven’t played video games in so long. But I think my mindset changed after participating in the Reality Virtually Hackathon at the Media Lab over IAP. It was my first experience in making interactive visual media as opposed to passive ones, like animations or paintings. I actually really enjoyed it, and decided that I really want to explore it more. And I am really glad I did! This is a pretty fast-paced entirely project based class, with a large focus on project management and teamwork. So far, I helped make a video game spinoff of Gess and a game where you play as a sea turtle trying to eat fish and avoid trash! Right now, we are in the beginning stages of our final project, which is to make an educational game for middle-high school students in Nepal. I’ve learned a lot in this class and have had a lot of fun in the process! Also fun fact: Nisha is also in this class and we are in the same group for this last project!

Allan’s Classes:

4.191 Independent Study in Maya Generative Tools

I really wanted to take a class this semester on scripting, modeling, and lighting in Maya. MIT doesn’t offer anything like this, and MassArt’s classes in Maya are more focused on animation. But about 3 week’s into the semester, a friend reminded me that Independent Studies exist, and I quickly figured out how they work, and registered! Independent Studies vary from department to department but for Course 4, all you need to do is find a supervisor for your study, and then fill out a simple form! Independent Studies allow you total freedom, guided by your supervisor, to learn and pursue what you want to! What my project is shaping into is a story of a child’s attic and imagination! I am lighting and modeling, manually and with python scripting, everything in my scene, and it is SO fun! Because I’m modeling from basic shapes like cones, cylinders, and cubes, it involves a lot of geometry, which was one of the math classes I found most fun in high school. It’s very math-nostalgic! I honestly wish I could dedicate more time to this class.

CMS.339 VR and Immersive Media Production

This class is both a theory and production class on VR! Every week we have incredible guest speakers, all of whom are pioneers in VR! Around week 4, we split up into teams to create our very own VR projects. My team is creating a VR experience/game to show the harms of Global Warming on coral reefs. My specific role involves modeling the coral in our experience, which I am also using Maya python scripting for! Essentially half my classes this semester are learning/making in Maya, and I am beyond pleased!  

We feel really happy in our major this semester. We’ve found balance in two levels that previous semesters didn’t strike: work/life balance and creative/technical balance. We’re busy, but not over-worked most weeks, and we’re thinking artistically, while making technically. Our first five semesters here were weighed much more heavily on work than on life and on the technical than on creative. And that’s why we were so confused this past summer. It took a long time to get here and it was far from easy, but we’re so happy we made it.

Distilling down all the stressful experiences, angst nuggets, and retrospective perspective, what we learned from this is to have the patience and self-confidence to see how your decisions — and “not-decisions” — unfold.