January 30, 2009

Lightweight Men Avail Themselves of 30 Year MIT Tradition

Jan. 25, 2009

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - The focus of the team has changed with their return to Cambridge from Cocoa Beach, Florida. Gone are the rigors of blister maintenance, a concentration on sustaining proper sunscreen coverage, and staying hydrated in the balmy sun. Instead the focus of the oarsmen has turned outward to a 30 year tradition at the Institute. The Independent Activities Period (IAP ) provides team members a unique opportunity to organize, sponsor and/or partake in a wide variety of campus events and programs outside the traditional MIT academic arena.

IAP offerings are distinguished by their variety, innovative spirit, and fusion of fun and learning. Student athletes can set their own educational agendas, pursue independent projects or research, meet with faculty, or pursue many other options not possible during the semester. Activities range from credit activities such as human biochemistry lectures and community service workshops, to noncredit offerings such as Mediterranean cooking classes, improvisational comedy workshops and printmaking.

Below is a sampling of opportunities that Lightweight oarsmen have undertaken during IAP:

Aaron Blankstein '10 (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Sophomore Year - Battlecode We write an artificial intelligence for virtual robots that will be battling other teams' robots at the end of IAP. We end up doing a lot of cool AI to get our robots to communicate, navigate difficult terrain and generally kill the enemy while capturing key areas. http://battlecode.mit.edu/2009/

Russell Ryan '09 (Indianapolis, Ind.)
Sophomore year - Playstation 3 Development I took 6.189, a Playstation 3 development course. I designed a Real-time Interactive Raytracer for the Playstation 3, which achieved particularly impressive framerates due to the processing power of the PS3 mixed with some really cool algorithms a heavyweight varsity rower (now graduated) and I came up with. We then presented it at the 2007 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco as special guests of Sony Corporation. That was definitely the coolest thing I've ever done for IAP; not many undergrads get the privilege of presenting their work at a major conference in their field. It's why I love MIT so much; it's so easy to get exposure to the real world. http://www.cag.csail.mit.edu/ps3/blue-steel.shtml

Freshman Year - Robotics Design Competition I enrolled in MASLab (6.186) : Robotics Design competition, we built (from scratch) a computerized robot and programmed it to use vision algorithms to seek red balls on a complex playing field, pick them up, and carry them to goals. The class is definitely an awesome use of IAP for mechancial/electrical engineers and computer science majors (even aero/astro people). http://maslab.csail.mit.edu/

Peter Iannucci '11 (Palo Alto, Calif.)
Sophomore and Junior Year - Autonomous Robot Design Competition: This year, I'm an organizer for the MIT 6.270 Autonomous Robot Design Competition. Here's a short summary of the contest: In 6.270, teams of 2-3 contestants design, build, and program an autonomous robot from LEGO and additional electronics. Using the supplied microcontroller-based "HappyBoard" brain and their own planning and coding skills, contestants construct a strategy to explore and manipulate the game arena to score points in a public double-elimination tournament. This year's contest, titled "One Small Brick", is themed after privatized space exploration on Mars in the year 2067. http://web.mit.edu/6.270/www/

Alex Hayman (Maiden Rock, Wis.)
MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team I've been involved since freshman year, was the leader of the team for two years, and I'm currently trying to ensure a smooth transition of leadership. This IAP, the team has been working very hard to prepare a brand new vehicle for a trip to a windtunnel in Detroit. We will test the aerodynamic properties of the car to ensure safety at highway speeds and to help us estimate its performance. The team is planning to compete in the World Solar Challenge next October in Australia. http://www.mitsolar.com

Diana Wu, '11 (Weston, Mass.)
Sophomore Year: MIT Women's Initiative. We created a presentation for high school girls about careers in engineering. We are leaving next week for Kentucky to present our program that will show young women about different fields of engineering and also to explain the need and opportunities for women in these fields. Our program is interactive and should be really interesting. http://web.mit.edu/wi/