Saturday, August 17, 2013

1 Week later!

Mostly I've been sleeping. The first day back I got 10 hours of sleep and it was maagicaal. I've been going to sleep early and sleeping in every day since then, and taking naps in the middle of the day. I feel like I've been catching up!

Our last day at E2 was the symposium and dance. The symposium was really cool, and seeing all the different projects was awesome! It was really long though (from 9-3) and by then everyone was exhausted, so there were always a ton of people asleep during the presentations(including teachers and TAs).

We got our little diplomas and class pictures(really cool) but were bummed to find out that our meal cards had expired a day early. I had $20 still left on there!

After the symposium we had several hours of free time, which was the first time I had had more than 10 minutes of free time all week. I didn't know what to do with myself! I ended up trying to nap and then giving up and wandering through Simmons with some of my friends. We found a couple cool abandoned lounges and interesting parts of the dorm like a really curvy wall you could run up.

That night we had dinner(really good dinner) and the dance. The dance was awkward because I had no idea how to dance and at first I just stood around awkwardly. But my friends were super understanding and helped me not be awkward and by the end I was having a lot of fun. XD Since it was the last day no one wanted to go to sleep, I just stayed up and hung out on one of the balcony/room/things and talked. We were so, so, so tired. But it was awesome!

E2 was the best experience of my life and I miss everyone there very much!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Days 4 and 5

1:12 AM.

Happy late afternoon(for an MIT student) guys.

So we finished our project and are presenting it tomorrow.  Here's how it went:

Our lab hours to completely build the ROV from scratch were, as usual 1-4:45 and 7-10:30. We have never, ever, ever gotten back before midnight. Except this time, we were being "charged" for every hour we went over planned.  So we were super determined to get it done before then. We organized, planned, and prepared, and at 7 we attacked our pile of materials(which we calculated carefully and "purchased") with great zeal.

And we actually did it too! I wired the control box myself, which was cool since on Monday it was driving me crazy and I didn't know anything about it.

At around 10:30, we were by far first to finish and fluttering around getting ready to present to Ms. Schroyer. The TAs and instructor don't actually instruct us at all except on the tools the first day. They just answer questions and most of the time they let you figure out the answer yourself.

When Ms. Schroyer started criticizing us, my heart started to sink. She(not literally) really started ragging at it XD. "You'd better submit the petition for extra lab time."

I was actually rather infuriated. XD The other groups were hours and hours of work behind us. We had really planned this out and she was being way too critical, I thought. Ms. Schroyer is super chill and sarcastic and funny, but she is EXTREMELY demanding and strict and unmerciful.

With all the changes she requested, we didn't get out until 2AM. That's a 10 and a half hour lab time and a 19 hour day overall. -_______-

Today we had the actual trial with the ping pong balls and rig and stuff. They made it so actual ping pong balls exploded out of the sides of the rig. We got a lot of attention at the pool(indoor, good thing cause it was pouring rain). Despite all the stress and everyone being frustrated, I believe ours was really effective. The visual team never got out at all, they were just overwhelmed with technical/design difficulties.

We have our presentation tomorrow. I can't believe it's the last day.

One thing this program has really done is break a lot of social and mental barriers. There are a lot of negative attitudes about minorities and affirmative action in our community and culture. I read a lot about AA but never understood the spirit of it until I met all this kids and talked to them and heard their stories and depended on them.

Their stories aren't stories designed to make you feel sorry for them. They're stories of victory and triumph. I can't imagine waking up to the obstacles they face and overcoming them with the vivacity they do. They're amazing smart, dedicated, hardworking kids with stories to tell and tough decisions that most people aren't faced with till much later in life. Compared to a lot of kids in my area that just live up to the expectations placed on them by my competitive community, extremely high test scores, SAT prep every summer, math team, music, sports, volunteering, so much of it is just contrived to get them into college, to help them become doctors or lawyers or engineers. Could they have stood up here where we stay up till 3AM figuring out problems and building things, or figuring out metal design problems?  I look up to them in every way. Affirmative Action kids are striving for academic excellence when they're often the only ones for hundreds around to be doing so. They've overcome so many obstacles, but have the intellect to dream and the dedication to make it happen. Wouldn't you rather admit one of them, even with lower scores, than another cookie cutter, bright, talented, middle class kid with higher test scores who could afford the time and money to pay for a class or study books?

I can't believe our last day is already tomorrow. There is a lot I haven't got the chance to write down yet.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Things about E2@MIT(Day 3)

First break all day today! Fifteen minutes, let's go.
Awesome things about E2:
The people. They are incredible. Imagine your typical classroom with average kids, lazy kids, and smart kids who usually answer questions and do their homework and try hard and everyone looks up to and depends on. Then imagine all those kids taken out of their high schools and put into this program. That's how I feel when I talk to the other kids. Every kid here is smart. We work in groups. Normally I worry about being put in groups with "dead weights", lazy kids who rely on me to do all the work and just derp around and let other people decide things. There's nobody like that here. There's no bad groups because everybody here is the kind of person who contributes, who innovates, who goes beyond the expected. It's an electrifying environment. Everyone works really hard, carefully notates all the steps, and thinks about what they're doing. Small things. If their work is too messy for their taste, they'll copy it onto a fresh page. When speakers ask for questions at the end, there are always a ton, so many that question time is usually as long as or longer than the actual speech. And they're good questions! I'll have a question but the speaker will call on someone else, and then the other person asks what I was going to ask.

These people know what they're talking about, know what it takes to be successful. I never have to explain something more than once if I'm trying to communicate, and often I don't even have to explain, they just understand!

Everyone is so dedicated and hardworking. The Engineering Design kids had lab until 3AM. Then they had homework until 5. The work here isn't graded or go on your transcript or anything, but they'll work really hard for the sake of it. There's no one dumbing themselves down or trying to seem cool by not caring. It's cool to care.

The conversations are invigorating. We'll have a discussion about a scientific or social topic and elaborate and hypothesize for a while(we are always stopped and made to return to work, but while we walk we talk). Today we talked about submarine warfare inspired by our underwater robotics course and it launched into a broad discussion on technology's effect on war. A guy shared a quote:

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.

What a sobering thought. It's true though. The technology that is in war now will cause a large war to destroy everything. Entire cities leveled in seconds, Code Geass style.

We just had a great conversation about technology's effect on humanity, just for fun. It was a great way to stretch our brains.

This morning we saw a lecture about google glasses, a freakily terrifyingly awesome new technology with the screen projected right into your eyes, gesture controlled, and sound directly into your ear bones without a headset.
I was walking with K the friend who accompanied me to Anime Expo and who we hung out with in Boston before the program and referring back to the conversation.

Me: "Countries are making an effort to avoid nuclear war because technology definitely is taking warfare toward a point where you could definitely destroy civilization with a couple shots fired."
K: "But that's what I want though? :3"
Me: "You want to 'destroy the world and create a new one?'" [reference to an anime we both like]
K: "Nope, I"m just fine with destroying the world" XD

Apparently the point of K's engineering fixtation and MIT dreams is to create a bunch of giant mecha robots to destroy humanity. I suggested he find a better topic for his college essays.

We also went to the Cambridge Innovation Center, which was a really cool building incubator for startups with an incredible culture and amazing view of the Charles River. I got to go to the MIT Coop and talk about anime with my friends for 45 minutes, which was super fun.

At the end of the day:
In class we started planning for our final projects. It's 12:43 AM right now. Staying up till 1 or 2 doesn't even feel weird or radical anymore even though it's the latest I've ever gone to sleep. It's just like regular hours. 10:30 PM, my usual bedtime, seems more like "late afternoon". I'm one of the earliest to go to sleep right now.

Part of the reason is that we had a mandatory study break scheduled, half an hour in which we just got to eat barbecue and relax. Although it was fun, it really delayed all our work. XD We needed it though. The Engineering Design class, the one that went till 4AM yesterday, was actually banned from assigning any homework today by the program adminstrators. They've probably had five hours of sleep total this week, so they get to rest today.

I learned something. I LOVE design in engineering. During lectures and meals I like to draw out all the designs and prototypes for EVERYTHING that we're doing and talk and talk and talk about the robots and jump up and down when we got ours working. It is really exciting to discuss all the different ways to accomplish a task and really sparks my creativity.

Our final project is a model cleannup of an ocean oil rig. We will be doing the task in the MIT olympic size pool with the rig represented by a 7 foot PVC pipe with a floating platform and the oil spill represented by black ping pong balls. Our team needs to inspect the pipe with underwater cameras we're wiring onto the robots and clean up all the ping pong balls.

Long story short, I'm the project manager of my three person mini team whose task is to  scoop up the ping pong balls with a big mesh net to be removed. It's very stressful. Build day is tomorrow and we want to finish ON TIME because we are doing real budgeting and we pay $20 per person per hour for any overtime we incur past 11:30. We need to budget for every single screw and pipe. We have a total of $600 to be shared between four teams.

I have three college application samples to read by college counselling class tomorrow, as well as final preparations for build day. I need to write a 2 page letter to the sponsor who's sponsoring me to come to E2 as well as a biography of myself for something. These are all due like now. Not to mention blogging. No wonder there are no E2 bloggers. Nobody has any dang time!

I have the stomach cramps i usually get when I'm stressed. I'm still very energetic, optimistic, and positive mentally, but it's hard to tell that to my stomach. XD

E2@MIT Day 2

I guess the most important thing is that we finished building our robot! It was a lot of work. My group was the first to be done by far! :D We would have been faster if we hadn't blown a fuse XD.

The wiring was the most work. Here are some in progress pics and a demo video I made XD.

A picture of Trang and me in front of the dome! :D
Everyone here is very smart and nice and they really encourage us to get to know everybody. Since we were delayed in building the robot we were a lot behind and had to come into lab from 9-11PM when we weren't originally going to. We had outings today with our cluster(kind of suite mates) and we went to Toscanini's ice cream and to go look at the view from Harvard  Bridge.

A lot of groups went to Harvard and didn't get back till 9:30, including half of the Underwater Robotics class. So this means we didn't actually start class until nearly 10. We got back at midnight but still had homework to do. XD It was easy though, just design for a robot which we will be building to accomplish a task. Most of the other students were still working. The Architecture students were all building really complicated looking structures in the lounge. XD 

I made the decision to stay up later since I still had energy and since we were working straight from 7:40 to midnight, we really couldn't get to have fun and relax a little without staying up late. So when I finished the homework at around 12:30 I decided to hang out and play foosball until the curfew at 1 XD. If I didn't stay up late I wouldn't really get to hang out with all these amazing people and get to know them so I may as well take the opportunity. XD One of them is a really good programmer and was mentally programming writing the commands down in his notebook during lecture. Another is a nationally ranked swimmer who gets up at 5:15 every day to train for the World Junior Swimming Championships.

There are exactly three asians here including me. A LOT of people from California. I think it is the most represented state. There is one girl from Orange County(Santa Ana) so that was pretty cool!

Monday, August 5, 2013

E2@MIT Day One


I got up at 6:45 to go running and had one five minute break in the afternoon and then get to write now but the rest of the time I had literally no time to stop or breath or explore MIT or do ANYTHING.

These are the two dashed emails I wrote to family and friends:
It is 7:03PM :D.

This is the first break i have and I actually have to get going in like one minute they just knocked on my door. I got up at 6:45 to run on the track with a group of friends and have been busy with no time to go back to the dorm at all or stop we went to two talks the first was the graduate school dean she talked alot about her research of designing armor based on scales and stuff in nature. Also google center info session and dean of engineering. Underwater robotics is really really really cool we solder and cut pvc pipe and have a lot of wires and batteries and motors pictures maybe too. We are making a underwater robot controlled with a tether. we were in lab from 1-4 today and have to go back from 7:30 to 10:30 to finish and test the robot so I actually have to go cause it takes 20 minutes to get back over there. Goodt hing is that we don't have paper homework like most of the other classes they have physics problem sets.

My roomate is a Christian and I got to pray with her before we left today so that was cool.

And what I wrote just now:

We were supposed to have our robots finished by 10:30 tonight. We didn't get out until 11:30 and that was because they practically kicked us out so they could go to sleep. No one finished their robot it was so hard :o. A lot of soldering and gluing and screwing and cutting and making a lot of mistakes and getting burnt by soldering irons. XD People from the other classes are still up doing homework and they look like they are about to explode and die. :D We have to get up 20 minutes earlier tomorrow morning. XD i have officially given up on running,

Maybe I'll write more and upload all the pics I took. XD Probably not. I still gotta write the answers to some of the questions in the book. There is a lot of bonding going on in the halls walking around everyone is awesome. Don't get me wrong it's a lot of fun, but more work than anything else. XD

Sunday, August 4, 2013

E2@MIT day one

Super exhausted. XD

Yesterday we went on the Freedom Trail with Kevin and William from E2 and Rebecca from Girl Scouts. I It was awesome, relaxing, fun, saw many historical sights and a lady playing a glass harmonica and a chocolate making demonstration.

E2 is AMAZING already. I met so many people and having a horrible time forgetting faces and names. Simmons is so cool with undulating walls and random colors and a super clean and modern yet earthy aesthetic appeal.

They really really really really emphasize that we're going to be doing a LOT of work. They messed up with my course and sent me the electronics email. I was kinda bummed cause underwater robotics was my first choice. When I got here it turned out that I actually was in underwater robotics and they made a mistake.

Today I got to Simmons and checked all in. The room was nice and I excitedly ran up and down the hallways and met people. Then we had our orientation and an Engineering Design 101 class, then more orientation. Our schedules are packed tight. XD

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Harvard and MIT

Just dropping in to say that I am now in the Boston area(deceptively close sounding, it takes over an hour to drive to and from Boston at any hour of the day because of traffic).

I visited Harvard yesterday and MIT today, taking the T. Besides visits, we're basically hanging out, going fishing, playing video games, going on the trampoline, good times, good times.

Harvard: Pretty nice campus, PACKED with tourists, most of the people weren't even Harvard students, spread out and urban and kinda small. Not really my thing and  somehow it didn't feel like "Harvard" to me. XD I imagined it to be more like Cornell, big and looming and silent and impressive. The Harvard Natural History museum was amazing, packed to the gills with all sorts of fish and birds and birds and birds and insects and birds and large mammals and displays and AMAZING rocks and geodes and tons and tons of stuffed birds.

MIT MIT is definitely my top choice and I haven't even done E2 yet!  My favorite thing is definitely the unique culture of discovery and interdisciplinaryness and freedom and creativity. You can definitely load and double load and triple load your schedule with so many activities from clubs to sports to sailing it can become a problem. We heard lots of stories of students inventing cool things, just getting the resources and funding to do things like create a mechanical arm to open your dorm room door or create a batman device to help you scale walls. or start a Chocolate Science lab. The myriad pranks and lore are a lot of fun, you should google them! My second favorite thing was the amazing facilities and pretty cool campus. If you go to MIT you're giving up most of the awesome brick or greco/roman architecture at a lot of top schools and getting a lot of concrete and glass in return, be warned. The Charles River is right there and beautiful. Honestly as soon as I stepped on campus it felt like home.