Students in Peru far under perform in reading, math, and science by comparison to their peers in 64 other countries, despite the country’s economic boom. “The situation for education in Peru is pretty dire,” said Eduardo Marisca SM ’14, commenting on the results from the most recent OECD Programme for International Student Assessment rankings.

Participants in CTPL 2015

Participants in CTPL 2015

That’s why he and several Comparative Media Studies/Writing MIT alumni started the Creative Technologies Prototyping Lab (CTPL), a three-day workshop held in Lima, Peru. In late May, CTPL brought together 80 participants from across Lima—designers, entrepreneurs, communicators, students, technologists, and educators—to work on interdisciplinary teams and prototype digital technological ideas for improving Peru’s educational system. A panel of MIT Club of Peru alumni judged the final ideas.

The country’s economic boom has allowed millions to move into the middle class and attend college for the first time. Yet, Marisca explained that students do not always know which career path to take. One team addressed this challenge by developing a phone app that serves as a library of career success stories from professionals across Latin America. The team envisions the app acting as a virtual mentor by educating students about careers they might not be exposed to in their own social circles.

Another team developed a maker culture toolkit for teachers to include in classroom lessons. The kit could provide rural and urban teachers with lessons and activities for kids to build projects. As part of the kit, the team thought up a lego-like interface that could teach basic programming.

The event served as a venue for people in different industries to collaborate and potentially team up in the future. “The entrepreneurial ecosystem is very narrow, very closed off,” said Marisca of Peru. “This was an effective way to get new blood into the environment and new air in the room.”

Guide and Inspire

Guide and Inspire

“MIT has such a strong culture of building things and making things happen,” said Marisca. “What we’re really trying to do is take that cultural spirit and apply it to a big thing like education.”

This year’s workshop was the second annual event of the larger Creative Industries Prototyping Lab. The 2014 workshop convened 40 professionals and focused more broadly on integrating technology into cultural institutions and arts and research organizations. The lab also serves as an ongoing support system for teams that decide to turn their ideas into businesses.

Visit CTPL’s website to see how you can get involved. Listen to an MIT CMS/W podcast with Marisca about CTPL


Externship Story_Slice

MIT students who externed at NASDAQ earlier this year.

MIT’s Independent Activities Period (IAP) each January is a nearly 50-year-old tradition that gives students an opportunity to pursue interests outside MIT classrooms. For some, this means non-credit courses like Introduction to Classic Cocktails or the Art of Glass Blowing. For other students, it means working full time alongside MIT alumni through the Alumni Association’s Student/Alumni Externship Program.

Since 1997, the Association has placed thousands of MIT students in short-term alumni-sponsored internships around the globe. This year the program placed nearly 400 students—including 45 graduate students—at 278 companies in 16 states and seven countries.

“It’s unique in that you learn and experience so much in such a short amount of time,” says Nayeon Kim ’16, who externed at the San Francisco startup Pomello. “It was a great experience. Every week it felt like I was working on something different.”

This year’s program saw a record 1,028 students apply for roughly 500 possible positions sponsored by more than 300 MIT alumni. Many large organizations, like NASDAQ, offered multiple externships. Single externships were more common at smaller companies such as Pomello, a four-person startup co-founded by Xian Ke ’03, MEng ’04.

“It was a win-win situation for us,” says Ke. “It forced us to think about our company needs and search for a student who could help fill those needs. MIT classes are very intense; it’s not new to them to hit the ground running.”

The program’s application process begins in September. Students can apply for up to three externships, and the Alumni Association uses an algorithm to help match students with opportunities that fit their qualifications. About half of the 2015 externships offered some kind of compensation, and 75 alumni and MIT parents provided housing.

Because of the short timeframe, students must focus quickly on their projects, says NASDAQ extern Berj Chilingirian ’16. “We got a rough outline of the work that needed to be done, and our team was motivated to attack the presented problems. They basically said, ‘Here’s what we can give you—what can you do with it?’”

The most sought-after industries were proprietary trading and health care; more than 80 students applied to be an assistant trader at Jane Street Capital. Overall, student applications in 2015 increased more than 10 percent from last year.

“This was the first time our company participated,” says Ke. “And we didn’t know what to expect from student interest. We ended up receiving eight applications—way more than we thought.”

The alumni sponsors work with Alumni Association staff to craft the externship description, review applications, and conduct interviews. The sponsors can work directly or indirectly with the students during the externship.

“For employers, the algorithm they use to match students is great,” says NASDAQ EVP and CIO Brad Peterson, SM ’89, whose daughter, a member of the Class of 2016, previously participated in an externship. “Everyone in our company was really impressed with what these students could do,” he says.

The program gives students direct experience in business and industry, and in some cases, companies are introduced to MIT’s collaborative mens et manus ethos.

“We didn’t know each other before we arrived,” NASDAQ extern Bryan Williams ’16 says of his experience working with fellow MIT students. “But by the end we were inseparable. We were able to apply the things we’ve learned at MIT in a business environment.”

Participants on both sides agree that the keys to successful short-term placement are a thorough interview process, an organized pre-orientation, and the resources to wrap up projects in a month.

“We realized we’d be busy, so we completed much of Nayeon’s onboarding before she arrived,” says Ke. “By the time she left, she was the design expert on the team. She basically redesigned our entire home page!”

For more information on the Alumni Association’s Student/Alumni Externship Program, visit


Directions (© Philip Sager).

Directions (© Philip Sager).

Philip Sager ’77 lives in San Francisco, CA. He is is a photographer and a cardiologist deeply involved in biotechnology and drug development policy. View more photos on his website. View more alumni via the Photo of the Week category



On July 4, 1986, hackers avenged New York’s “theft” of the Boston Pops and recreated the Statue of Liberty on Bldg. 54. Image: Journal of the Institute for Hack, Tomfoolery, and Pranks at MIT

Aside from the Great Dome, the Cecil and Ida Green Building (Bldg. 54) is MIT’s most notorious hacking location. The hack chronology Nightwork calls it “a hacker’s dream” thanks to its height (23 stories), width (150 windows), and location (visible from Boston and Cambridge).

The Green Building’s most well-known hack took place in April 2012, when hackers played the video game Tetris on the building during MIT’s Campus Preview Weekend, a prank that MIT’s Gallery of Hacks called “the Holy Grail of hacking.”

Other hacks have also utilized the building’s massive facade over the years, including two patriotic pranks that took place on the 4th of July in 1986 and 1993, respectively.

On July 4, 1986, Boston’s traditional Independence Day celebration was put on hold when the Boston Pops Orchestra participated in the re-dedication of the Statue of Liberty in New York City.  According to Nightwork, hackers—calling themselves the “Even Exchange Commission”—avenged New York’s brazen theft of the Pops by recreating Lady Liberty on the building’s roof-top radome.

From Nightwork: A History of Hacks and Pranks at MIT:

“The crown was constructed of aluminum masts sheathed in white cloth and mounted on a wooden base…Guy wires kept it in place. With the artful positioning of a yellow sheet, the crow’s nest that rises beside the radome was pressed into service as Liberty’s torch. Thus, a sense of civic balance was achieved as the Pops serenaded New York.”

VU Meter

In 1993, the building was transformed into a massive VU meter that was keyed to the music of the Boston Pops concert and fireworks. Image: Nightwork

Exactly seven years later, in 1993, patriotic pranksters turned the building into (allegedly) the world’s largest sound measurement device when they converted ventilation ducts between floors 19 and 20 into a VU meter that measured the Pops concert and fireworks. The 5,ooo-plus-watt meter was 250 times the size of an ordinary VU meter and used bright right lights to indicate sound.

From Nightwork:

“The light show was keyed to the music of the Pops concert (which didn’t quote work because sound travels slower than radio waves) and later to the sounds of the fireworks (which did work well). The delighted crowd watched as “Cylon” scanning light patterns (reminiscent of Battlestar Galactica) alternated with one-dimensional Tetris and even ‘IHTFP’ in Morse Code.”

But unlike Tetris in 2012, video and photographic evidence of the July 4 hacks are scant. Grainy images from Nightwork and its precursor publication, the Journal of the Institute for Hack, Tomfoolery, and Pranks at MIT, seem to be the only photographic evidence.

So we’re asking you, the MIT community, what do you remember about these hacks? Are there any July 4 hacks that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below and on Facebook or Twitter. And have a happy and safe 4th of July!



ALC takes place Sept. 25-26, 2015, on MIT campus.

MIT alumni volunteers are the Institute’s greatest ambassadors. And each year, hundreds of those ambassadors return to MIT campus for the Alumni Leadership Conference. The 2015 ALC takes place September 25–26 and will bring together MIT’s most dedicated volunteers for two days of networking, celebration, and developing new leadership skills.

Registration is now open for the conference. RSVP now to reserve your spot for this year’s conference then choose from more than 50 sessions and programs already on the ALC schedule.

Here are five things that you can expect at ALC 2015:

  • Gain and share insights for your club, group, or upcoming reunion.
  • Learn about life at present-day MIT from current students.
  • Hear in-depth updates from MIT leadership on new maker spaces, diversity, and more.
  • Rediscover MIT! Visit the newest campus buildings or take an ALC walking tour.
  • Celebrate! Reconnect at the Friday evening reception, network during lunches, and celebrate volunteers at Saturday evening’s festive Volunteer Leadership Awards.

You’ll hear from MIT faculty and leaders, including:

MITChancellor Cynthia Barnhart SM ’86, PhD ’88
Keynote Conversation, Saturday, Sept. 26, 9:00 a.m.
Chancellor Barnhart oversees graduate and undergraduate education at MIT, student life, student services, and other areas that impact student experience.

Culpepper_sliceProfessor Martin L. Culpepper SM ’97, PhD ’00
Opening Conference Keynote, Friday, Sept. 25, 9:00 a.m.
Culpepper is the Maker Czar for the Department of Mechanical Engineering. He the voice of the department’s makers and builders and provides oversight of its machine shops.

Gosline_sliceAssistant Professor Renée Richardson Gosline
Faculty Keynote, Saturday, Sept. 26, 10:30 a.m.
Gosline was named one of the world’s top 40 professors under 40 by Poets and Quants. An MIT Sloan faculty member, she studies how status-based bias and technology affect self-perceptions and behavior.

Grimson_sliceChancellor for Academic Advancement Eric Grimson PhD ’80
A Conversation with MIT’s Deans, Friday, Sept. 25, 4:30 p.m.
Grimson is a central adviser to MIT President L. Rafael Reif on strategy. He is playing a key role in gaining the sustained input of faculty and students that help set MIT’s fundraising priorities.

Visit the ALC website for more information, including details on logistics, FAQs, and the leadership awards celebration.

Connect with ALC and fellow volunteers before the conference. Share your ideas and post questions on the Alumni Association’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and view campus photos on the Alumni Association’s Instagram page. Use the hashtag #mitalc to participate in the online conversation.

Curious about last year’s ALC? Relive the 2014 conference and read an ALC summary on Slice of MIT, view an Exposure photo gallery, and check out the top 14 tweets from ALC 2014.

Register today! And don’t forget to reserve your discounted rate at one of three campus-area hotels.


AL-QAMAR: Luna's Wanderer contains spatial spherical moon-shaped pods for algae-based air-purification and biofuel collection to produce and store oxygen.

AL-QAMAR: Luna’s Wanderer contains pods for algae-based air-purification and biofuel collection to produce and store oxygen. Photo: Yoram Reshef.

Sturdy, wearable skins that transform hostile environments into friendlier ones are among the projects developed by Media Lab’s Mediated Matter group, headed by Associate Professor Neri Oxman PhD ’10.

Oxman, who earned her PhD in design computation, leads her Mediated Matter group through explorations of “Nature-inspired Design and Design-inspired Nature” using the tools of computational design, digital fabrication, materials science, and synthetic biology. Many projects rely on advanced 3D printing technologies.

Four artifacts that represent this intersection of 3D printing and synthetic biology were unveiled in Germany last fall in an exhibit of Wanderers: An Astrobiological Exploration, a collaboration with German designers Christoph Bader and Dominik Kolb.

Mushtari, inspired by the human gastrointestinal tract, is designed to be filled with liquid containing cyanobacteria and E.coli bacteria.

Mushtari, inspired by the human gastrointestinal tract, is designed to be filled with cyanobacteria and E.coli bacteria.

The wearables, printed with Stratasys multi-material 3D printing technology, are designed to create the necessities of human life in space environments. Capillaries are expected to hold synthetically engineered microorganisms that could produce oxygen, light, food, and biofuels. Mediated Matter members led by Will Patrick and Sunanda Sharma are working on embedding living matter in the form of engineered bacteria inside the 3D structures.

“The future of wearables lies in designing augmented extensions to our own bodies, that will blur the boundary between the environment and ourselves,” according to Oxman. “With this collection, we have designed spatially and materially complex wearables pointing towards the possibility of containing living matter that can interact with the environment.”

Learn about Oxman’s earlier work in a previous Slice post, “FAB:REcology–Building on Natural Principles,” and current projects on her Media Lab page.


Senior Cimran Virdi spends a lot of time thinking about physics, but she’s not majoring in it. Virdi is a pole vaulter for MIT Track and Field. In addition to physical training, Virdi uses her knowledge of physics to help launch herself ever higher over the crossbar. So far it’s working—Virdi just captured another NCAA DIII Championship title in the event. She credits her success in part to Coach Patrick Barragán ’08, SM ’12, PhD ’15.

“Not many people can say their coach has a PhD,” she says. “Pole vaulting is a sport that requires an understanding of physics and he gets that—it gives him a big upper hand.”

Recruited out of high school as a Division I athlete, Virdi, who is originally from Canada, has long been a top pole vaulter with dreams of the Olympics. So why MIT? Virdi says it was an easy choice. “It was between MIT and UCLA and a coach told me to pick the school based on where I would be happiest if I were injured,” she says. Her choice became obvious.


Virdi clears the crossbar during this year’s NCAA Championship. Photo courtesy of MIT DAPER.

Though a Division III school, MIT has a history of a strong track and field program, collecting 286 All American awards, 34 of those awards to pole vaulters. Director of MIT’s Track and Field program Halston Taylor has a simple explanation for this dominance, “Tremendous coaching,” he says.

Virdi herself has earned three NCAA DIII Championship titles and the NCAA DIII women’s pole vault record at 14 feet. She also holds the rookie record for MIT women’s indoor pole vault as well as the varsity record for outdoor, along with numerous other accolades.

To continuously increase her athletic performance while taking on an MIT course load, Virdi leans on both her coach and teammates for help. “If I don’t understand something, so many of my teammates are Course 6, and I can work with them,” she says.

Virdi also looks to her teammates for motivation, “Not many other schools are filled with engineers, so it can be hard to stay motivated for such a high level of academics. That’s just not the case here.”

Virdi, who is spending the summer training in Boston, hopes to qualify for the Olympic team in 2016 or 2020. Look for her on Team Canada.


Kennebunkport, Maine (© Rowland Williams).

Kennebunkport, Maine (© Rowland Williams).

Rowland Williams ’72 is a photographer living in Amesbury, MA. View more photos on his website. View more alumni via the Photo of the Week category



The Spokes American team leaving Washington, DC: Simon Shuham, Brian Wagner, Jorge Troncoso ’18, Drew Bent ’18, Shadi Fadaee, Francesca Childs, and Tola Omilana.

On June 1, Drew Bent ’18 and Jorge Troncoso ’18 arrived in Washington, DC, after a nine-hour drive from Boston. The end of this trip marked the official start of their summer-long journey—biking across the country in an effort to rethink education as part of the Spokes America team, a collaboration with edX and Teach for America.

Spokes was founded in 2013 by two MIT students, Claire O’Connell ’14 and Turner Bohlen ’14, as a way to combine their interests in biking and teaching. O’Connell and Bohlen brought on Philip Daniel ’13, Titiaan Palazzi, and Jeff Prouty ’14 along with a few students at Harvard and one from Columbia for their first cross-country trip. This year’s team includes two students from MIT and five from Harvard. Together, they will bike across the country from Washington, DC, to San Francisco and along the way, hold 12 learning festivals to incite a passion for STEM education in children across the country through hands-on, project- and exploration-based teaching methods.


Drew Bent ’18(right) teaching a computer science workshop

The learning festivals are located in mostly rural communities at schools, libraries, engineering spaces, and home-school networks for students in grades 5-12 and feature three different workshops. The computer science workshop shows students how to program using Scratch (the digital programming language that came out of the MIT Media Lab), the mechanical engineering workshop shows students how to build and launch model rockets, and the electrical engineering workshop shows students how to build a small robot. The Spokes team knows they can’t teach the kids everything they need to know about programming or robotics, but their goal is to get them excited about something they may not have been exposed to in this way before.

They’ve only held three festivals and already they can see the value in their work. “The most rewarding part of the journey is seeing how our workshops make a difference in the lives of our students,” says Troncoso. At their first stop in Hazard, KY, several students ran across issues with their robots and weren’t able to complete them. “When the students came back the next day,” says Bent, “we were surprised to see that their robots were working—they’d gone home and spent the whole night fixing the problems.”

The results they have had from the teaching portion of their trip is just the beginning—they are thrilled at the opportunity to get to bike across the country, push themselves physically and mentally, and see the US from a very different vantage point. “We try to show the students how dedicated we are,” says Bent. “We come with our bikes and we actually use the bikes in the workshops. It means a lot to them that we traveled to their towns from half-way across the country, especially given that some of them traveled up to three hours to get to us.”

Spokes is one of several student clubs and teams supported by the Edgerton Center. The team has gotten national recognition, with coverage from The Associated Press as well as many local newspaper and television channels. Follow their blog to see how the trip is going.


In this Slice of MIT podcast, recorded at the 2015 South by Southwest Interactive festival, five MIT alumni discuss how their work and research are tackling these questions in innovative ways. Listen at

Data is everywhere—nearly anything can be represented by a number. In its simple form, data tells a story backed by numerical truth. But data is rarely simple or pure—and we have access to more data than any time in history.

So how can we make sense of this never-ending wave? And how can we better understand data and use it solve real-world problems? In this Slice of MIT podcast, recorded at the 2015 South by Southwest Interactive festival, five MIT alumni discuss how their work and research are tackling these questions in innovative ways. (Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.)

You’ll hear how five-star ratings online are driven by social identity; how designers are mapping data to improve major U.S. cities; how data can affect privacy and though stagnation; and how a Jeopardy!-winning computer is discover new recipes like Italian-Pumpkin Cheesecake. (Read the “Art_of_Data” transcript.)

Featured MIT Alumni

Sinan_AralProfessor Sinan Aral PhD ’07 (@sinanaral)
Professor of Management, MIT Sloan; Chief Scientist, Humin

Aral is an expert on social networks, social media, and digital strategy who has worked with Facebook, Yahoo, the New York Times, and Nike.

Denise_ChengDenise Cheng SM ’14 (@hiDenise)
Peer Economy Expert

Cheng is an expert in civic technology and the peer economy. Denise has been featured in Harvard Business Review and on NPR.

Tiffany_ChuTiffany Chu ’10 (@tchu88)
Cofounder, Remix

Chu is a cofounder of the transit planning tool Remix. She has worked at Code for America, Zipcar, and Pixar Animation Studios.

Jacquelyn_MartinoJacquelyn Martino PhD ’06 (@jamartino)
Designer, IBM

Martino works in the IBM Watson Group, where she helps Chef Watson brings cognitive computing to consumers.

Matt_StempeckMatt Stempeck SM ’13 (@mstem)
Director of Civic Technology, Microsoft

Stempeck leads Microsoft’s strategic outreach. He has designed technologies for civic impact at non-profits, startups, and consultancies.

Chef_WatsonChef Watson* (@IBMWatson)
Computer, IBM

Watson is a computer best known for winning $1 million on Jeopardy!  More recently, he helps consumers develop creative recipes.

*—Not an MIT alumnus/ae.

Listen to podcast above or on the Alumni Association’s SoundCloud page. And don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes and rate the podcast and leave a review. Tweet your thoughts on this episode to @mit_alumni.

This podcast was produced in association with MIT’s Comparative Media Studies/Writing. For more data-related topics at MIT, visit




{ 1 comment }