August 31, 2007

All Settled In

Wednesday was In-Dorm rush. Basically what that means is I had to decide on which floor I would live, since I was placed into Burton Conner permanently. In-Dorm rush consists of touring all the floors of Burton Conner for three hours, eating lots of food and trying to figure out where you'll fit in. My roommate, Jon, and I, decided that Conner 2 (second floor of the Conner side) would be our favorite floor, but it's always up in the air as to whether you get what you want. MIT seems to be very fond of the lottery system, deciding on nearly everything with a lottery in some form or another. The same was true with In-Dorm rush, we ranked all the floors and then waited until the next morning to hear the results. After mucho anticipation, I was delighted to hear that Jon, Yuki, Dan, Michelle, and I had all been selected to live on Conner 2! Conner 2 is also where Laura lives, which will create all sorts of fun and taunting and yelling and crap-giving.

Yesterday was moving day, and move we did. We hauled all our bags into the kitchen near our room and prepared to move in. Before we moved in though, we decided to paint our room, so we took a trip to the hardware store, which Laura graciously walked us to. She also graciously told us, after we spent 20 minutes picking out the perfect paint colors, that she hated them and they were ugly.

Paint in hand we headed back to campus and began taping, painting, and panting for air since it's really hot here and there's no air conditioning. My two roommates, Jon and James (there are 3 of us in a double, a lovely little thing called crowding) did a lot of painting while I went on a tour of the Media Lab and James painted with Laura while Jon and I went out to eat. By the time our evening escapades were over, it was 1 am and the room was half painted. That's when I made the brilliant decision to pull an all-nighter to finish. James helped a little and then crashed, while Jon was asleep before we knew it. I finished all the painting at about 3 and managed to stay up until 4 IMing people.

I was so deliriously tired while typing that I think I said "brb" or "just a sec" so I could look something up, and then fell asleep accidently. The next time I looked at the screen I saw "That's a really long 'Just a sec'" and realized that it was time to sleep a little. I don't remember if I said goodbye or not to the people I was talking to, or even how long I left them there when I accidently fell asleep, or what I actually said to them. I was a wee bit tired after all.

I woke up at 7 this morning (read 3 hours of sleep) and spent the whole morning moving everything into my room and completely unpacking. That is finally done, and now we have a completed dorm room, ready to live in. The only things that aren't done are

a) Lofting the single bed so we can put a desk under it and open up a wall.
b) Add some shelves above the wire shelving unit.
c) Add a dresser (still not sure how that'll fit, but James seems to think it will. I think the bookcase will have to go)

I took some pictures of the room, just try to ignore Jon and James at their computers, they're studying really hard (YouTube).

August 30, 2007


As you know, I'm in the thick of MIT right now. Yesterday was an academic expo which gave freshmen a chance to explore booths set up by all the majors, programs, and sports teams. I walked away with a bunch of free swag (including a nice 10 ft Ethernet cable) but there was one item of devious swag that I'd like to discuss further, and that is the Terrascope Cactus. An organization called Terrascope does something here, and to advertise that, they decided it would be a good idea to hand 200 of the 1,000 freshmen a small cactus. Now, use you brain here, what happens when a ton of people in a small area have cacti? Nothing good, that's for sure!

I try not to touch cacti as a rule of thumb, but people kept pointing out that it was fuzzy and fun to pet. Well, I couldn't resist, because I mean look at how cute it is! I pet it and "ooh"d and "aw"d and then went back to exploring booths. Then, all of a sudden, something hurt in my hand. Then, something else. Then, something really hurt my lip. All of a sudden I was in quite a bit of pain and couldn't figure it out. I left the gym and went outside to figure out what was going on.

Apparently that fuzzy cactus had allowed me to strip hundreds of tiny barbs out of it, which promptly embedded themselves in my skin and pores. I, of course, had rubbed my face, which now had cactus covering its lips. This was problematic, because I was in quite a bit of pain and had no way of getting the barbs out. I spent 5 hours doing various activities and meetings before I had a chance to get back to my dorm and attempt a recovery. I tried duct tape, which worked ok for my face, but failed miserably with my hands. Later I tried running a rope really fast through my hands, giving my a rope burn but getting rid of cacti. In the end, many of barbs are gone, but a few remain, slowly swelling the areas of my body they reside in.

There are two lessons in all of this:

August 28, 2007

DME Final Competition

Alright, sorry this has taken so long to get here, but it's almost impossible to find free time during Orientation, craziness! As you know, I've been doing/did a pre-orientation program known as "Discover Mechanical Engineering" where I built a robot playing soccer bot. Saturday was the competition and I got plenty of coverage.

We started the day with a warm breakfast of eggs and pancakes before heading over to the science museum. I've been to the science museum before, but I took the T that time. This time we walked . . . in the humidity . . . the 80% humidity . . . and the 80 degree weather. I managed to complain about the weather the entire way there, all one and a half miles.

When we got into the museum and realized that it was air conditioned we all went nuts. We were cheering and leaning up against the concrete wall and gasping and generally being happy that we were no longer dying of heat.

(That entire last paragraph was an exaggeration. Just replace the "we all" and "we were" with "I" and "I was")

After getting all settled in and finding our competition location we had some down time to wander the museum.

Check out the end of the post for a video of all the festivities. A couple of stories are worth mentioning though, the first being the exploding robot. Our leader's name was Trip and his main chore was to make sure all the wireless receivers were functioning. He ran around the entire week making sure everything worked. After assuring that everything was functional and ready, he ran off and put on the Tim the Beaver costume. Here's me and Tim:

After being back for about 3 minutes in costume we heard somebody yell. Glancing over we saw a control box pouring smoke. Trip, as he told me later, totally panicked and wanted so badly to try to fix it, but he was dressed as a giant beaver. Completely helpless, he did the only thing he could do, which was run up to the box and wave his arms around wildly and jump around. It was quite a sight to see.

Our team didn't do so hot, although we did win one round. Mostly it was just fun to watch robots destroy the other robots, nobody really paid attention to the rankings. I took a picture with my camera phone from 2 floors above the playing field.

Here's a picture of my team with our robots

As you can see, I have the "Green Monster," so now you know which one to look for in the video at the end of this post.

After the competition we headed to the sailing pavilion to do some sailing. During the down time before actually sailing I got in a semi-good nap. I say semi-good because all of my teammates decided to tie my shoes together while I was sleeping. After my nap we hopped onto the sailboat and sailed around for a bit, which was quite fun. We especially enjoyed the pirate war.

Pirate war? Here's the jist of it, you sail up alongside another sailboat so there's about 2 feet between you and them. Then, using balers, splash as much water into the other boat as possible. We all got soaked! Oh, speaking of pirates, did you know you could get a pirate's license at MIT? You have to take a ropes, sailing, fencing, and pistol class. Nifty, eh?

After we docked we decided to ambush the other boat, which can be seen at the end of the video at the end of this post. So, without further adieu, the video that I keep referring to!

My advice to incoming freshmen hopefuls? Do DME! If nothing else, it's free admittance to the Science Museum!


"One Laptop Per Child"

I keep talking about the hundred doller laptop, I'm sorry about that, but I have one more thing to say about it. Yesterday I was at the Media Lab listening to a description of a program I'm going to do there. Sitting at the same table I was were two $100 laptops just asking to be played with, and who was I to say now. I spent a good hour playing around with it and here's what I've got to say:

The mouse trackpad is fairly decent, but does tend to fling the cursor off to odd corners of the screen at random moments.

The applications take a while to open (a minute or two) but I was in no hurry.

The keyboard is tiny! I had some issues with that.

It has TETRIS on it!

And, finally, remember that program I'll be doing at the Media Lab? Part of it involves giving the entire class $100 laptops to tinker with, explore, study, and research. These things are impossible to find, yet MIT seems to be willing to just do anything with them! I love <3 this place!

August 26, 2007

Legends of the Hidden Temple, MIT Style

So, wanting to see some cool Legends of the Hidden Temple retro footage and for some reason, MIT came up. Well, I had to watch a video made at MIT, so I did. This video may not make sense to anybody who is not currently enrolled or crazily obsessed with learning about the school, but it's hilarious all the same. The blackboard thing, amazing!


What? No blog of the final day in DME with the robot soccer competition and all the awesomeness? All in good time blog readers, because guess what! Orientation as officially started, and it's ridiculous! It's basically exactly like CPW, full of sleepless nights and activities. I'll try to blog some of it later, but to get a fairly accurate idea of what I'm going through right now, visit here:

I will say that I visited some cool places last night, note the red spots.

'nuff said. Got to bed at 5 am. Tired.

August 25, 2007

DME Day 4

Wow, quite the day for me today, full of disappointment, triumph, and running around with rubber balls. Let's start from the beginning.

The day started with me going to the lab and trying out my robot. I plugged him into my control box, plugged in the batteries, and then pushed the button to make him go forward. Nothing happened. I pushed another button. Nothing happened. I pushed two more buttons. Nothing happened. I knelt down to examine my robot, perhaps the connection was loose. That's when I felt the wires leading to my robot and realized that they were scalding to the touch. For those of you who aren't aware, crazy hot wires are a sign that something really really bad is happening. I frantically tried to get the batteries out of the robot but they were stuck so I had to pry them out with a screw driver. I eventually got them out and assessed the damage. I looked at my control box, noting that it too was quite warm. I saw little whisps of smoke creeping out through a seam so I opened it up, only to be blasted in the face by a giant acrid cloud of smoke.

I broke it, in other words.

Something in my box, due to all of my wonderful soldering skills, had shorted and melted all of the plastic on all of the wires. I took a nice little picture to demonstrate how bad this was.

Go ahead and click the picture to see a zoomed up version of how bad it really was. I decided to take a break from the control box after that little fiasco and decided to work on the hat for my robot. After a couple of hours my robot looked like a respectable dragon lizard green thing!

I was quite proud! It's one of the few artistic things I've done that's turned out the way I wanted it to!

After roboting for a while we went on a lab tour of Design Continuum in some city outside of Boston. When we first walked in, what did we see?

$100 laptop

I swear, this thing is everywhere! If you go to MIT and don't see the $100 laptop then you did something wrong. The lab is a product design company, they take an idea and a prototype and do all the research and product development to make it into a finished and markatable item. They're responsible for the Rebok "Pump" shoe and the Swiffer.

In the model room they had a bunch of tupperware containers containing parts and tools to be used. Two confused me though.

Go figure.

Continuing on through the model room we happened upon a poster that, believe it or not, had pictures of the


When we finished our tours we were presented with a nice going-away present: Bright Orange Bags!

Go ahead and add that to the list of things I've gotten for free! Oh, and that reminds me, this school is amazingly well funded. We took a trip to a lab 20 minutes from campus, right? Well, guess what we rode to get there. Not a school bus, not the T, not taxis, we had a charter bus. That's right, they spent money for a charter bus for our 20 minute ride there and back. That's how rich this school is. We all had dinner the other night, the total was $511, MIT picked up the tab. I shudder to think how much all the robot supplies cost, plus the two times we've gotten free ice cream, and then the "Shear Madness" tickets ($20 each, 40 people, that's $800 folks). It's nice never having to worry about resources, limitations, or budgets, MIT rocks!

After the lab we went back to our lab (after dinner of course) to do some more robots. This is when I loaned my camera to somebody so they could take pictures for the DME website/video. I present to you, in Photobucket Album form, the candids that I didn't take from the Papalardo lab at MIT, DME 2007:

Click For Candids!

After all of this we headed straight to the athletic center, known as the Z-Center, to play some dodgeball. Have I mentioned that I love dodgeball?! I spent an hour and a half playing before heading back to my dorm to relax and go to bed. That was 2 hours ago and somehow I'm still not in bed. I think it's nearly time though, so without much more typing, I'd like to say goodnight, and wish me luck at my robot competition tomorrow, it should be great!

August 24, 2007

DME Day 3

Greetings again! I didn't carry my camera around yesterday (Thursday) so there won't be a lot of pictures but I will post some videos of the stuff I saw. We started in Lab in the morning, tinkering with our robots. I spent all morning building a remote control for the robot by soldering big wires to tiny little toggle switches and buttons, only to find out that one of my toggle switches didn't work at all. After desoldering and resoldering (I equate that process to living in hell) I tried again. It didn't work. At this point I was out of ideas so I cut the other end of my wire off and put a new plug on it. Apparently that did it, because now I have a remote control, a robot, and both work! After working on robots we ate lunch and then took some lab tours.

I'll skip talking about 2 of the labs (they were cool but not noteworthy (which is ridiculous, because everything at MIT is noteworthy, so I guess I just don't feel like talking about them)) and skip straight to talking about the Media Lab. The Media Lab is the coolest building in the world, omg! I consider it a toy factory in all honesty, the stuff in there is just so cool! The even have a Lego room, ok, that's how awesome. My favorite thing about it, though, is that I've already seen a bunch of the stuff they're developing on TV and on the internet. It's VERY neat to see it in person. What did I see in person?

$100 laptop


(the funny part about that Elmo scene is that later on in it (we were shown the full clip in the lab) he holds up Big Bird and Leo cowers in fear, covering his face with his hands.)


Musical Jars

City Cars

The Opera of the Future

All in all, a very cool experience. I'm going to try to get a job there doing research freshman year, wish me luck! After all the touring we went back to lab to work on our robots, where I succeeded in cleaning mine up and actually making it work fairly correctly, just in time for competition on Saturday.

After lab was dinner and then a comedy show called "Shear Madness." It was set in a barber shop and the audience was sitting really close to the stage so we could interact with the cast. It was really funny, especially after they realized there were a ton of MIT kids in the audience, they kept saying things to make us angry and we'd boo and jeer. For example, one of the main characters was talking about how she used to go to Wellesly and we all yelled and booed. That was before the cast knew we were from MIT so they looked at us like "what is going on? why do they hate that school?!" but later on when we booed at the mention of Harvard I think they figured it out. Then, later on, the detective on stage asked a suspect a question. The suspect didn't know the answer so he said "How should I know? Ask one of these Smoots from MIT out there!" It was very fun, quite hilarious. After Shear Madness we went and got some ice cream (all of this is free by the way) and then headed back to campus on the T.

A group of 5 of us, including a girl from Oregon, went to the lounge at my dorm and played wii for a while, so we shot plungers and swung cows until midnight when we decided it was probably time to sleep, so we did. Here I am now, the next morning, telling you about my exciting day and about ready to go out on another one. Wish me luck!

August 23, 2007

DME Day 2

It was another exciting day of robot building yesterday! I took a picture at the end of our lab period of how much I've gotten done, here you go:

Note the mad braiding skills, I was braid crazy yesterday. I braided four wires together, then another four, and then two more. I then took all of those wires and braided them to each other, making one giant monster braid, rivaling that made by anybody. All braiding aside, I'm done with the actual building of my robot, now I need to add all of the electronics and then I should be able to drive it around!

After lab we had lunch and then headed to George's island.

See that courtyard there in the middle? That's where we played DME Wiffleball, which had slightly different rules than normal wiffleball. First off, it was guys versus girls, so in order to be fair we let the girls use the "Mr Fat Bat" while we all used the "Skinny Normal Yellow Bat." Also, according to the girls, in DME Wiffleball it was perfectly legal to, while playing in the infield, steal first base and run off with it, making it impossible to actually make it to first base.

This is Emily, the pitcher for the girls team:

And as you may be able to see, we kind of had to improvise the bases, utilizing two sewers, a duffel bag, and a t-shirt.

As we left the island I noticed that there were gallows in the courtyard. Go figure!

We took a ferry back to Boston and ate at a place called "Dicks." It's called that because, well, they're dicks. They yell at you from the instant you walk in, throw handfuls of straws and sugar at your table, and taunt you the entire night. They even made a girl at our table help serve drinks. They then tied a balloon to her hair that said "I'm the waiter's bitch." She wasn't the only victim, almost all the girls ended up with balloons tied to their hair, while three of the guys ended up with giant, ridiculous paper hats, all with gay jokes. The jokes ran the gammut from "Cruzin' 4 Dudes" to "I <3 Same Sex Marriage" to "Hung like a AAA Battery."

Those balloons you see are all tied to hair, like this:

We watched some breakdancing after dinner which was REALLY funny because a homeless guy just ran into the middle of these guys's show and did a sommersault, followed by some pelvic thrusts and some skipping, then he wandered away. Good times in the North End ladies and gentlemen!

After that we all headed back to campus and I proceeded to fall asleep. These days are just too action packed! That's all for now, I'm late for breakfast and then I have to build robot, I'll update again tomorrow!

August 22, 2007

First Day of DME

Hi all! I'm all semi-settled in to MIT now (I may have to switch rooms during Rush, but other than that I'm pretty settled) and loving it! Before I take off today to go build some robots I thought I'd share some of my robot building experiences from yesterday.

As I told you before, I'm doing DME for my FPOP. That means I get to build a robot! After breakfast in McCormick Hall we headed to Paplardo Lab to begin construction. We were briefed on a variety of tools and skills, including arbor presses, belt sanders, drill presses, soldering, crimping, and the band saw. After that we were given a big tub full of parts, an instruction manual, and a yellow toolbox.

Essentially, we were given two minute lessons on tools and then told to "Build." Psh, sounds good to me, get straight down to cutting stuff!

There was quickly carnage, as you can see. One of the first steps was to dissassemble some cordless screwdrivers and take the gearboxes out. Here's what that looked like at my table:

I also got some pictures of some people working really hard. Here's Paul's back as he works to mark the base of his robot . . .

And some more people marking bases . . .

And a quick shot of the lab itself . . .

After slaving away all day in lab we took a tour around Boston, which I happily took some pictures of. It was very cool, especially when I realized that there was a Best Buy, Popeye's Chicken, and a Fire Station all really close!

Of course, walking across the Harvard bridge we saw some Smoots.

That's all for now, I really have to go, but I'll continue to fill you in on what's going on! BYE!

August 20, 2007

MIT Swag and Freebies

Alright everybody, I know you’re all dying to know what the coolest school in the world gives you on your first day there. Well, I’m prepared to offer you a glimpse into the “Red Folder” that is orientation registration. Ready for this? Ok, here we go!

The first thing you’re handed at registration is a red folder that looks a lot like this:

It has your name, the time and place of your math diagnostic, the date of your swim test (a graduation requirement), the name of your FPOP if you’re doing one (mine is ME) and then your “Number.” My “Number” is 61, meaning, if I understand this correctly, at some point I’m going to be looking for somebody amid a crowd of 1,100 freshmen who will be holding a sign with the number 61 on it. Anywho, what’s inside the folder is much more interesting.

The next thing we come across is the material for whatever FPOP you’re participating in. Here’s what the “Discover Mechanical Engineering” papers look like:

Next are instructions for accessing the Z-Center and all of the MIT Athletics facilities.

Also included is the official welcome letter that, luckily, has a reminder of all the important things to go to. They assume that we’ll forget these things (good assumption) so this paper will probably get read by me a lot.

Included also is a list of 101 things to do at MIT before you graduate. Take some time to peruse this, many of them are pretty interesting!

Like the FPOP material, there’s another item that isn’t necessarily in everybody’s folder, but since we bought one, I got a freshman picture book. It looks like this . . .

Something I just realized recently is that Orientation appears to be a lot like CPW in that there a ton of activities all over campus for several days. They give you a guidebook so you know what’s going on:

Also included was a paper talking about the COOP

A book with important numbers, such as local stores, MIT Police, various bookstores, hours for buildings, all that jazz . . .

A CD that contains the course catalogue

A coupon for a free shirt from the COOP

which I picked up, and it looks like this:

One of my favorite items is a bookmark/leaflet entitled "Copyright, Subpoenas, and YOU!" that highly discourages filesharing.

Finally, the last (and most definitely the coolest) item in the red folder was my official MIT ID card. I now have access to almost every building (I say almost because there's gotta be some super secret lab somewhere here that I'm not allowed/don't even know about).

Alright, so that was your glimpse into the "Red Folder." Now, branching out a bit, I've discovered something about Orientation that they don't tell you about. I'm convinced, at this point, having only been here for one day, that one could pack no shirts and still have plenty to wear. That's because they're giving out free t-shirts like there's no tomorrow! Here's my collection so far:

I'm picking up another tonight, which will make a total of four free t-shirts, which means one more week I can go without doing laundry! Life is good, lemme tell ya!

That middle shirt is kinda fun because on the back it says "Because there is more to being really, really, ridiculously smart." Everybody should have a shirt like that (all you have to do is pass the swim test!). That's all for now, I'll save talking about my dorm room, my chat with Ben Jones and Matt McGann, and various other activities for another entry, this was just to focus on free stuff. Weeeee, free stuff!