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The U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings on America’s best colleges and graduate schools were first released in 1983. In that time, the rankings and comprehensive guidebooks have become an integral part of the college application process and MIT has placed high in nearly every applicable category.

The magazine’s 2016 graduate rankings were officially released on March 10 and the Institute ranked first in more than 20 categories and sub-categories, including the best engineering graduate program for the 27th consecutive year.

The first-place School of Engineering’s top-ranked graduate programs include aerospace/aeronautical/astronautical engineering, chemical engineering, computer engineering (tied), electrical/electronic/communications engineering (tied), materials engineering, and mechanical engineering.

MIT’s other top-ranked graduate programs and departments include:

Biological Sciences
Economics
Chemistry
Computer Science
Discrete Mathematics and Combinatorics
Econometrics
Information Systems
Inorganic Chemistry
Materials Engineering
Math
Mechanical Engineering
Physics
Production/Operations
Supply Chain/Logistics

The MIT Sloan School of Management was ranked the fifth best graduate program for business and Sloan’s graduate program in entrepreneurship ranking third. Overall, more than 60 MIT programs and departments ranked in the top 10. View all of U.S. NewsMIT rankings.

In determining rank, U.S. News weighs factors such as reputation, research activity, quality of faculty, research, and students, and student selectivity to rank the top graduate engineering schools.

U.S. News released its most-recent undergraduate ranking in September 2014. MIT was ranked seventh overall among national universities and had the top-ranked undergraduate engineering program for the 25th consecutive year.

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The first edX course that Minh-Tue Vo ’14 took was Street Fighting Math. A seven-week problem-solving course, 6.5FMx focuses on tackling math problems with reasoning and analogy on the fly.

Minh-Tue Vo '14.

Minh-Tue Vo ’14.

Vo liked it so much as a complement to his MIT campus education that he enrolled in another: Autonomous Navigation for Flying Robots.

Vo loved the variety of courses on the edX platform and its ease of use, but in its first two years, it catered only to English speakers. What if he could translate it into his native Vietnamese?

After graduation this spring, Vo applied for an internship at edX in Cambridge, where he spent part of his summer doing just that.

To his surprise, Vo found the Vietnamese translation project already underway, as were efforts to translate edX into nearly 80 languages. An open-source brain-trust run entirely by volunteer coders fluent in those native languages, the project will have far-reaching impact in scaling up online learning, says edX CEO Anant Agarwal.

“Our goal at edX is to reach as many learners around the world as possible,” says Agarwal, “and we know that one way to do this is to increase the number of languages on our platform.”

To translate hundreds of instructional and static pieces of content into his native tongue, Vo created an account on Transifex, a platform for collectively translating large amounts of data, and got to work. The project even has a support group on Facebook.

“Every string on the website is marked with some markers, and, for most languages, it’s just one to one mapping,” Vo says. “A volunteer creates a free account and finds a list of phrases to translate or review. Once a project is completed or at 99 percent completion, the edX team downloads it into the database and integrates it with the website.”

Efforts to translate the edX platform into 76 languages is currently underway.

Efforts to translate the edX platform into 76 languages is underway.

In the past year, France, China, and Saudi Arabia unveiled edX platforms in their native languages. More partnerships are expected to launch as volunteers finish translations in dozens of other languages and governments discover the financial and social benefits of online learning.

Vo, who now works in San Francisco as a software engineer at Box, found the work on the Vietnamese translation both rewarding and challenging. “The grammar is consistent, but the vocabulary is not,” he says. “And a lot of the terms are newly invented, so a corresponding translation might not even exist!”

Currently, less than a thousand students in Vietnam use the edX platform in English, says Vo. He hopes to see that number rise when the Vietnamese version goes live this winter. “The project aims to raise the awareness of edX among Vietnamese speakers, and a Vietnamese website will definitely appeal to older generations,” he says.

Agarwal agrees. “Because the edX platform is available as open source, course creators can contribute courses in local languages. Now that the edX platform is [becoming] available in Vietnamese, we can look to the open source community to help provide courses.”

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This week, MIT alumni and student tweeters shared advice about how to thrive at MIT as part of the Twitter chat “Tweets to My First Year Self.” Conversation ranged from healthy ways to keep perspective to great courses and must-see places to explore around Boston.

Take It All In
Many tweeters talked about favorite courses and interesting opportunities to learn at MIT. Janelle Wellons ’16 shared how she first learned to code, and Erick Pinos ’17 tweeted about why he became an MIT Admissions blogger.

Alumni shared how skills they learned at MIT have taken them far in their careers. Ting Ting Luo ’09 discussed how MIT’s emphasis on group work has helped her advance in her career as a consultant and now MBA student at Warden Business School. Stever Robbins ’86 chimed in with how improvisational comedy taught him public speaking, a skill he will be using this weekend at MIT’s Alumni Leadership Conference.

Keeping it in Perspective
But how do you cope when stresses arise and PSETs are looming? Noah Warner ’01, SM ’03, PhD ’07 and Keriann Durgin ’16 shared favorite resources, while Nasr and Robbins encouraged students to keep perspective.

15_Resources_Tutors

Michael Figueroa ’97 and Erick Pinos ’17 reiterated the importance of learning when the going gets tough.

7_Advice_General

Beyond the MIT Bubble
The chat concluded with discussion about MIT’s events, why you have to check out the MFA, and great opportunities for volunteering in and around Boston.

10_Advice_Speakers 11_Advice_Time to Explore 12_Volunteering 13_Boston Marathon FINAL_Nasr

What advice would you add? Tweet it using the hashtag #MITAlum or post in the comments below.

Search #MITAlum on Twitter to read the full chat. The event was co-sponsored by MIT’s Division of Student Life 
and the MIT Alumni Association

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7.18.14_Jeopardy

What is “wrestling?”

When Sam Ford SM ’07 found out that a class he had taught at MIT in 2007 was featured on the July 9 episode of Jeopardy!, he was ecstatic. After all, how many college courses are mentioned on national television more than seven years later?

“Maybe I should retire; what can top this?” Ford tweeted. “My MIT class was the answer to @Jeopardy last night.”

Then again, the course focused on a topic rarely—if ever—associated with MIT: professional wrestling.

Sam Ford SM '07

Sam Ford SM ’07

Since its one-time offering, Topics in Comparative Media: American Pro Wrestling has been no stranger to the purview of popular culture. It was profiled in the Boston Globe; one blogger declared the class “the undisputed end of higher education”; and Mental Floss, Buzzfeed, and the Metro all named it among the strangest courses offered by any U.S. college.

“One radio host called it a sign of the apocalypse,” Ford says. “In reality, it looked at the cultural and media history of American pro wrestling. The course brought an eclectic mix of students from media studies, humanities, science, and engineering.”

Internet quips aside, the course focused less on powerslams and dropkicks and more on the idea of wrestling as performance art and how it has evolved with new media technologies. Through a partnership with WWE, the world’s largest professional wrestling organization, guest speakers included broadcaster Jim Ross, wrestler-turned-head trauma expert Chris Nowinski, and author and wrestler Mick Foley, whose Comparative Media Studies/Writing (CMS/W) colloquium packed a Green Building lecture hall.

“I never felt much need to defend the class or explain it to anyone,” graduate student Kate James wrote in a 2013 CMS/W blog post. “It was incredibly rigorous and visionary, using the performative medium of professional wrestling to look at subjects including gender dynamics, performance tactics, good-evil duality, religion, race, and the use of the human body in the throes of violent enactments of cultural paradigms. If others didn’t get it, so what?”

Wrestler Mick Foley's 2007 lecture at MIT was titled “The Real World’s Faker than Wrestling.”

Wrestler Mick Foley’s 2007 lecture at MIT was titled “The Real World’s Faker than Wrestling.”

Ford, who is now director of audience engagement at the marketing firm Peppercomm, originally co-taught a version of the wrestling course as a quadruple-major undergraduate at Western Kentucky University. A life-long wrestling fan and licensed professional wrestling manager, both Ford’s honor’s thesis at WKU and his graduate application to MIT centered on WWE.

“My thesis focused on three areas: Mick Foley and the changing views on masculinity in the 21st century; a business perspective of WWE as a trans-media empire; and the ethnographic role that the audience plays at WWE live events,” Ford says. “Part of my MIT application looked at how wrestling fans trade videotapes of matches and what the media could learn from those practices.”

Ford, who maintains a research affiliate position with MIT, also taught the CMS/W course American Soap Operas in 2008. Now based in Bowling Green, Kentucky, he’s bringing the wrestling course back from the mat this fall at WKU. He’s open to bringing the class back to MIT.

“It was probably the most enjoyable class I’ve ever taught,” says Ford. “It was definitely unique subject matter. I have a great affinity for Boston and I’d love to come back and teach it again.”

For more information on Topics in Comparative Media: American Pro Wrestling, listen to CSM/W podcasts with Mick Foley and Jim Ross, read the course’s blog archive, and revisit the course the via MIT’s OpenCourseWare.

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Patrick Antaki '84

Patrick Antaki ’84

In February 2002, 38-year-old Patrick Antaki ’84 was—by his own account—fat and bored. And then he watched the skeleton events at the Winter Olympics.

Four years later, Antaki represented Lebanon at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy, and is the most recent MIT alumnus to compete in an Olympic Games. The oldest competitor in Skeleton, he finished in 27th place.

Now an entrepreneur and engineer living in Texas, Antaki answered 10 questions about his motivation, his training, and his surprising coach.

What’s more difficult—graduating from MIT or qualifying for the Olympics?

“That’s a tough one—both were four-year projects and required complete commitment. But Olympic training was a full-time activity for four straight years.”

You took your first skeleton run in 2002 and competed in the Olympics in 2006. When you began training, did you believe you would take it that far?

“I was looking for a challenge outside of the scope of anything I had done before—something I wasn’t confident I could achieve. I did some research after watching the ’02 Games. I fell in love with it—complete adrenaline rush! I realized there was potential to go further and I set a goal to qualify for the Olympics.”

In MIT Technology Review in 2006, you wrote, “The U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation …politely snubbed me, which made me all the more determined.” How did that give you more resolve to keep going?

“It was a good thing—it gave me more motivation and I wasn’t subject to U.S. regulations. Since I covered my own expenses and have dual citizenship with the U.S. and Lebanon, it was easy to receive approval from Lebanon.”

You have an MIT degree in electrical engineering and built and installed accelerometers, gyroscopes, and cameras in your sled. How did that help?

“I quickly realized that there was no science developed for the sport. Most people had no idea what they were doing. The technology helped me review my practice runs. I also ran wind tunnel tests that helped determine that my body was crooked (during runs). After the Olympics, I was able to sell the sensors and software I had built to the Canadian National Team.”

Qualifying for the skeleton in the Olympics is a two-year process. Was there any point during training you felt like you might not qualify?

“Qualifying is based on points earned during the previous two race seasons and there is a limited number of slots. It was a 100 percent year-round commitment—lots of time away from home. Not even the top athletes know if they will qualify until the last race. I kept a clear vision of the end-goal. I was lucky to achieve it but it could’ve easily turned out differently.”

Antaki represented Lebanon in the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Antaki represented Lebanon in the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Did you have any coaching?

“I got a lot of help and advice, especially from the United Kingdom. Technically, my son was my coach! He was 16 at the time and accompanied me to the Olympics. Although he didn’t do much coaching (laughs).”

Can you describe the experience of living in the Olympic Village?

“It’s like freshman year at MIT—the big deal is actually getting there. Once you get in, you’re really excited. There were thousands of people from all over the world in one community for a couple of weeks—it was great.”

The average Olympic skeleton race is about one minute, lying face-down and going about 80 miles per hour with no brakes. What do you concentrate on during a race?

“The speed you don’t notice—what you feel are the turns. You don’t see anything except what’s barreling in front of you. The velocity of the run is strictly due to how fast you sprint at the beginning. Once you’re on the skeleton, you focus on control.”

Is there anything different between a regular run and an Olympic run?

“The biggest difference is that, during practices, there is no one around. During the Olympics everyone is watching. My first Olympic run was terrible. I was not mentally ready for the crowds and cameras. I reflected between my first and second run. I made it a point to be more mentally ready and my performance showed it. My second run was better (nearly two seconds faster).”

Your Olympic story is atypical. Aside from a mastery of the skeleton, what’s the most important thing you gleaned from your Olympic journey?

“Ignore conventional wisdom that says you shouldn’t be there because it doesn’t matter. People were laughing at me when I started. I was 50 pounds overweight—they called me the Lebanese Tony Soprano! In the end, I competed in the Olympics when a lot of other people didn’t.”

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Imagine a tiny device stuck to a car’s front bumper that could scan for cars ahead of you on foggy roads and warn of their approach.

First-year student Saumil Bandyopadhyay. Photo: Alessandra Petlin/Smithsonian.

First-year student Saumil Bandyopadhyay. Photo: Alessandra Petlin/Smithsonian.

You could use that same detector, the size of a postage stamp, to scan for radioactivity in shipping containers, to detect cancer in bones, or to gauge melting on polar ice caps.

MIT first-year student Saumil Bandyopadhyay is thinking through these solutions, given the success of a new nanoscale infrared detector that he co-invented with his father, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The 18-year old has already impressed Nobel laureates and government and military researchers with his invention. Last month, the Smithsonian honored Bandyopadhyay with its American Ingenuity Award, given for groundbreaking work in the sciences, technology, and humanities.

Named this year’s youth honoree, Bandyopadhyay received his award at the National Portrait Gallery on November 19 alongside Stanford professor Caroline Winterer, acclaimed author Dave Eggers, singer-songwriter St. Vincent, and five others.

Bandyopadhyay’s infrared device capitalizes on nanotechnology to minimize the enormous heat given off by traditional infrared detectors. Requiring no liquid nitrogen to cool it down, the device may prove widely useful, perhaps even aiding the search for new planets or helping to detect land mines.

In his father’s lab at VCU, Bandyopadhyay was able to improve his invention while gaining great experience with chemistry and physics. Bringing the new device to science fairs, he attracted the attention of Nobel laureate astrophysicist John Mather, who alerted Smithsonian to what a great idea it was. “He’s a brilliant kid,” said Mather.

Arriving at MIT this fall, Bandyopadhyay felt right at home and has been enjoying his first experiences studying EECS. The environment on campus, of course, is rife with nanotechnology, with professors and labs discovering uses of it for cancer research, military defense, and chemical spills.

Despite being new to him, the MIT campus provided Bandyopadhyay with some familiarity. The fact that there’s no entryway into MIT dorms labeled “I” gave him a pleasant sort of welcome, as he explained to Smithsonian Magazine this month.

“In math, the convention is that the square root of negative one is I,” he said. “So I is imaginary.”

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What makes up a city? In the recent MIT course, In this Building: Multimedia and Place-based Storytelling, architecture and urban planning students became urban storytellers, learning how to uncover the personal side of everyday Boston storefronts and homes.

Their resulting multimedia projects revealed the cooperative culture of MIT’s PIKA dorm, the upward path of a homeless addict turned Dorchester home owner and family man, and a South End sandwich shop with a clientele for the history books.

Rindge Towers

Rindge Towers Photo: Ashwin Balakrishnan

Graduate students Ashwin Balakrishnan and Rachel Finkelstein reported on the controversies surrounding Rindge Towers, the largest affordable housing development in Cambridge. Opened in 1971, critics still dismiss the three 22-story buildings as “urine towers”—an unwelcome eyesore to the surrounding Cambridge neighborhood. But for residents, the towers’ 504 apartments are home to a rich melting pot of diverse cultures, ages, and experiences.

“The people here are my family,” remarked Tenant Association President Pat Casola in an interview with the students. Under her organizing force, tenants prevented the mid-1990s market-rate conversion of all apartments, which would have forced many to find new homes.

899-907 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge

899-907 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge

Graduate students Lawrence Barriner, Kirsten Greco, and Ruth Sappelt uncovered the colorful past of 899-907 Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square, Cambridge. Home to Toscanini’s Ice Cream, Cinderella’s Pizza, and at one time a brothel, this post-Civil War, mixed-use building sits on real estate that “for many years has been worth more down that up,” according to owner Patrick W. Barrett III.

The building’s uncertain future demonstrates a common challenge for independent mom and pop shops struggling to compete with more powerful big box chains. “You see this all the time in changing neighborhoods where things that seem like irreplaceable institutions go away,” said Toscanini’s owner Gus Rancatore.

Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe Photo: Carmela Zakon

Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe
Photo: Carmela Zakon

Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe is another irreplaceable institution that graduate student Carmela Zakon and Nse Umoh Esema MCP ’12 explored.

Located at 429 Columbus Avenue in Boston’s South End, the 86-year old restaurant was one of the first to serve black customers and became a popular late night hang out for Boston jazz musicians and the Black Porters Union. Legend has it that a young Sammy Davis Jr. tap danced in the restaurant’s entry way for extra change.

“You have completely changed my perspective on what a city is,” said Dewald LaGrange, project manager at Epi Use, who attended the final project presentations. “In order to do proper city planning, you have to understand people.”

In this Building was taught by MIT Associate Professor J. Phillip Thomson, Boston Globe Assistant Metro Editor Steve Wilmsen, and Alexa Mills MCP ’08.

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Ms Nelly A Rosario '94 sent this photo of a treasured undergrad memory: the 1994 Ebony Affair event.

Nelly Rosario ’94 sent in a photo of a treasured undergrad memory: the Ebony Affair event.

Sophomores at MIT face a whole new set of pressures, but unlike first-year students, they cannot blame their stress on inexperience. As Tien Nguyen PhD ’91 put it, sophomore year is “the real thing … no more Pass/Fail.” In order to provide sophomores with inspiring stories from alumni who conquered their second-year second-guessing, we emailed the members of the Institute Career Assistance Network (ICAN). Here are some of the responses we received:

“Choose your major by what excites you most, but explore other areas that intrigue you. You can change your mind later.” – George Pavel ’72

“You still might have no precise idea of what you want to do, but you sure feel the pressure to succeed. Guillaume d’Orange, a European medieval Prince, is supposed to have copied Charles le Téméraire’s saying: Point n’est besoin d’esperer pour entreprendre, ni de reussir pour perseverer [One need not hope in order to undertake, nor succeed in order to persevere]. It’s a great saying about finding the resources into who you are, and not what the peer pressure pushes you to be.” — Jean-Louis L. Roux-Buisson SM ’78

“Forget what you told parents or high school teachers, and future salary.  Figure out what really interests you, grabs your imagination, fires you up.  Then choose.” – Mark Radka ’81

“In 1986, I was a materials science undergrad at MIT, taking literature courses for fun. I am now the chair of a film and photography department. Do what you love, not what other people told you would make money.” – Dr. Walter C. Metz ’89

“The best thing about MIT is that you can switch fields easily because MIT concentrates on basics. I switched 5 times at MIT (all in EE), and became a theoretical Plasma Physicist! After 25 years, I did computer security and air traffic analysis.” – James A. Rome ’64, EE ’67, ENG ’67, SM ’67, SCD ’71

“No matter how much pressure you feel, put things in perspective. Dedicate time to yourself and your loved ones, they are your most important support. Try and exercise, it’ll help take the pressure away … three or four of us used to run early in the freezing mornings along Memorial Drive, crossing the Charles on Mass Ave, coming back on Storrow Drive, crossing the Salt and Pepper bridge, to end at 60 Wadsworth. We would get inside a small car in the parking lot to see the windows fog with condensation. A stupid thing to do, but a lot of fun back then. Steam would come off our bodies like if we were in fire. I wanna think that steam was a form of stress getting out of our bodies.” – Jose L Antoniano PhD ’83

We also asked our Twitter followers to provide advice via the hashtag #MIT2016. You can read our round-up of tweeted advice here, and continue to participate via that hashtag or here in the comments. What do you remember about your sophomore year? What do you know now that you wish you had heard during undergrad?

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As summer days dwindle and students ready themselves for autumn back in Cambridge, Slice of MIT asked faculty about their own summer reading adventures. We presume that those who didn’t write back by deadline are too buried in beach reading, but a few wrote in answer to this query: with only a week or two of summer left, what one book would you have us read?

Professor Robert Langer of MIT’s Langer Lab recommends The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (Riverhead, 2013; $27.95). It’s a warm, All-American novel, wrote the New York Times Book Review, “but it’s also stealthily, unassumingly and undeniably a novel of ideas.”Chipcase_plainsight

Daron Acemoglu, professor of economics, enjoyed Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time by Ira Katznelson (2013, Liveright; $29,95). The book is, in the words of the American Prospect review, a “relentless investigation” into the themes behind Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency.

Miklos Porkolab, director of the MIT Science and Fusion Center, suggests Search for the Ultimate Energy Source: A History of the U.S. Fusion Energy Program by Stephen O. Dean (Springer, 2013; $24.99). The Energy Collective calls Dean’s book a detailed exploration into the roller-coaster history of fusion funding and experimentation in this country.

Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media, recommends Jan Chipchase’s Hidden in Plain Sight (HarperBusiness, 2013; $19.88). “Chipchase is a designer, ethnographer and blogger who draws inspiration from the ways technology is adopted and adapted by its users around the world,” says Zuckerman. “His first book summarizes many of the insights from his years of watching how people repurpose technologies, especially mobile phones, to meet their needs and offers a terrific introduction to thinking about product design that starts not from a blank sheet of paper but from the ways people use technologies in the real world.”

If none of these titles strike a vein, there is plenty of summer reading from alumni and professors (the above professors notwithstanding) to be had. Let us also give the Slice bump to Brain and Cognitive Sciences professor Suzanne Corkin, whose Permanent Present Tense: The Unforgettable Life of the Amnesic Patient, H. M. was published this spring by Basic Books and was reviewed in the July/August issue of Technology Review. A humane and inspiring portrait of one man’s sacrifice for science, it will leave you weighting each day with a little more worth, whether in summer or any season.

Got a must-read addition to the list? Add a comment and let us know.

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Guest Blogger: Monica Kelley, Alumni Association intern

Webinars are old news at MIT, but the Sloan School of Management is taking online instruction to a new dimension. Last spring, Sloan launched a new Executive Education program called Big Data 4Dx, an online version of its popular program Big Data: Making Complex Things Simpler. Unlike online courses where participants watch lectures, Big Data 4Dx uses AvayaLive EngageTM, a web-based, immersive collaboration environment that allows participants to interact with each other in a virtual classroom.The next two-day session—both in person and online—is set for October.

Online students participate as avatars in the Big Data 4Dx course.

Online students and faculty participate as avatars in the Big Data 4Dx course.

The online course is offered concurrently with the classroom course, which allows online participants to observe the lecture in real time. In the virtual classroom, the live lecture and presentation materials can be viewed on three screens. Each online participant has a personal avatar that can move around the room to view the screens and engage with other online participants. Professors Erik Brynjolfsson PhD ’91 and Sandy Pentland PhD ’82 also assume avatars and join the online participants in the virtual auditorium. The virtual auditorium is projected on screen in the campus classroom so participants using both platforms can interact.

What is 4D? AvayaLive EngageTM uses technology that allows participants to become “directionally attuned” to the location and proximity of sounds in the virtual environment. Thus, a conversation between avatars standing nearby will sound louder than one on the opposite side of the virtual space. Despite a few early kinks, the program received positive reviews from online participants.

Executive Director of Executive Education Peter Hirst believes this innovation complements rather than competes with classroom instruction. “This is a cutting-edge way to deliver interactive, dynamic programs to more participants around the world, and opens the door to even more formats for our programming. The traditional model will remain, but this type of virtual component is the direction of the future.”

The next course is scheduled for October 15-16.

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