Red umbrellas at the Eiffel Tower during a hail storm. (© Owen Franken)

Red umbrellas at the Eiffel Tower during a hail storm. (© Owen Franken)

Curious about Owen Franken? View more of his work via the Franken Photo of the Week category, learn more in this profile, read a What Matters opinion column he wrote called “Life in Brownian Motion,” or visit his Web site.

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Instructables offers myriad valentine do-it-yourself projects.

Instructables offers do-it-yourself valentines.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day—have you made your token of love? Don’t despair–it’s not too late for your MIT mind-and-hand training to kick in. Here are some ideas brought to you by alumni working in the maker zone.

Check out the Valentine’s Gift Guide for makers, hackers, artists, and engineers at Adafruit Industries, founded by Limor Fried ’03, MEng ’05.

You could buy cool gifts—like the full color MiniPOV that would let you project your sweetheart’s name in light—or make your own gift using tutorials in the Adafruit Learning System. You can create a light-up heart display or a Ringly, a bluetooth notification device build into a metal and stone cocktail ring, with a few Adafruit components.

Make a lighted heart with Adafruit instructions.

Make a lighted heart with Adafruit instructions.

Popular Mechanics named Limor among the “25 Makers Who Are Reinventing the American Dream” along with Eric Wilhelm ’99, SM ’01, PhD ’04 and Christy Canida ’99, who launched the how-to company, Instructables.

Instructables has its own maker Valentine options. For a last-minute option, grab a dollar bill and watch the video to make a Dollar Bill Origami Heart. And with scissors, straws, and colored paper plus a few drink ingredients, you can still toast your love with Cheers to Valentine’s recipes and tokens.

To make a wooden cartouche, get out your woodworking tools and craft a chunk of hardwood into a polished heart. For a more electronically attuned Valentine, try making a Steampunked Heart-Beat-Box, which will provide a personal light show.

Another option is to visit the Makeymakey website, created by Media Lab colleagues Jay Silver SM ’08, PhD ’14, founder/CEO of JoyLabz/MakeyMakey, and Eric Rosenbaum SM ’09, a doctoral student in the Lifelong Kindergarten group. Makeymakey invention kits can be transformed into interactive projects such as Sketch It, Play It, which connects a simple drawing to a jam station with lights and sounds, and Interactive ‘Zine, make a ‘zine that triggers soundscapes and animations programmed in Scratch.

And, as long as you are working in Scratch, a free programming language and community based in the Lifelong Kindergarten group, you could try the Valentine poem maker and the Valentine’s card maker.

More MIT-style Valentines:

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Taylor’s photograph on the stamp was taken circa 1890, when he was an MIT student. Photo: MIT Museum.

Taylor’s photograph on the stamp was taken circa 1890, when he was an MIT student. Photo: MIT Museum.

The United States Post Office is honoring one of MIT’s own today, issuing a stamp to honor architect and educator Robert Robinson Taylor. He is MIT’s first African-American graduate and is believed to be the country’s first academically trained black architect.

Taylor’s lifework included supervising the design and construction of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama while also overseeing the school’s programs in industrial education and the building trades.

MIT President L. Rafael Reif addressed Taylor’s contributions at the dedication ceremony at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, DC, on Feb. 12.

“As we honor the legacy of Robert Taylor, today’s ceremony reminds us that he was a builder…not only of structures, but of communities…and an architect who designed not only a campus of national importance…but a more promising future for generations to come,” said President Reif. “Robert Robinson Taylor truly represents the best of MIT.”

Taylor, who was born in North Carolina in 1868, learned carpentry and construction from his father, a former slave. After working as a construction foreman a few years, he moved to Boston in 1888, and threw himself into his MIT studies. He took as many as ten courses per semester, earning honors in trigonometry, architectural history, differential calculus, and applied mechanics.

After graduating from MIT’s architecture school, the first in the US, he accepted an offer from educator and activist Booker T. Washington to work at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

At Tuskegee, he had an enormous impact—first by establishing a beginning architecture curriculum, which helped graduates enter collegiate architecture programs or win entry-level positions in architectural offices. He raised the sights of African-American students to look beyond working as builders and carpenters to taking on professional roles as designers and architects. His second major contribution at Tuskegee was designing and building major campus structures over a 30-year period, creating state-of-the-art buildings where cabins once stood.

Beyond Tuskegee, Taylor designed academic and commercial buildings and helped found the Booker Washington Agricultural and Industrial Institute in Liberia. After he retired in 1932, Taylor was involved in public service and advocacy until his death in 1942.

Taylor addressed MIT’s 50th anniversary in 1911, summarizing what his MIT training helped bring to Tuskegee: “the love of doing things correctly, of putting logical ways of thinking into the humblest task, of studying surrounding conditions, of soil, of climate, of materials and of using them to the best advantage in contributing to build up the immediate community in which the persons live, and in this way increasing the power and grandeur of the nation.”

Tuskegee named its architecture school after Taylor in 2010.

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Last Light on Mt.Washington (© Rowland Williams).

Last Light on Mt.Washington (© 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

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Kira Kopacz '15

Kira Kopacz ’15

The way Kira Kopacz ’15 sees it, there are no two groups more typecast than MIT students and pageant contestants. So why not dispel stereotypes about both—at the same time?

“There are definitely misconceptions about both groups,” Kopacz says. “Pageant contestants aren’t dumb blondes. And MIT students aren’t anti-social—they’re actually pretty outgoing.”

Kopacz is one of 14 contestants who will compete for the titles of Miss Boston and Miss Cambridge on Sunday, February 8. The winners receive a $1,500 academic scholarship, a $1,995 public speaking scholarship, and are eligible to compete in the Miss Massachusetts pageant this summer.

Kopacz, a Course 9 major, entered her first pageant in high school and has competed for Miss Cambridge since 2013. She finished as third runner-up and won a STEM-related scholarship in last year’s competition.

“I get backhanded compliments all the time,” she says. “People at MIT ask, ‘Aren’t there better things for you to do?’ But it’s helped me build confidence, break stereotypes, and take a break from the MIT academia.”

Kira Kopacz (right) won the Miss Middleboro crown in 2014.

Kira Kopacz (right) won the Miss Middleboro crown in 2014.

And much like MIT, pageants competition—Kopacz was named Miss Central Massachusetts in 2013 and Miss Middleboro in 2014—can be more practice and preparation than fun and games.

“Pageant season is basically January to June,” she says. “During that time, my schedule is schoolwork until 5 p.m., rehearsal until midnight, and then I just crash. But it doesn’t feel like work—I love it.”

The Miss Boston/Miss Cambridge pageant is divided into five phases, including a talent program. Kopacz will perform the song “I What I Am” from the 1973 French musical La Cage aux Folles.

“Luckily I live in Burton Connors,” she says. “So I can use the music room to practice instead of my dorm.”

The pageant’s other phases include interviews, on-stage questions, and the evening wear and swimsuit competitions.

“The swimsuit competition is about being comfortable in your own skin,” she says. “The judges are looking for self-confidence. It’s about being able to handle any situation you’re thrown into.”

Kopacz’s journey to Miss Massachusetts isn’t unprecedented. Erika Ebbel Angle ’04 was named Miss Massachusetts in 2004 (Joanne Chang ’03 was fourth runner-up) and Jacqueline “Chacha” Durazo ’14 competed in Miss Cambridge in 2013.

Kopacz will graduate from MIT in June and plans to attend medical school. She hopes to stay involved in pageant competitions and help her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, raise awareness for the Boston chapter of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), a community program that advocates for abused and neglected children in courtrooms and communities.

The Miss Boston and Miss Cambridge pageant takes place on Sunday, February 8, 5:00 p.m., at Boston’s Park Plaza Hotel. Tickets are still available.

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Ice shells become strong and artful objects.

Ice shells become strong and artful objects.

When MIT students are out in freezing weather making things, anything can happen. During Independent Activities Period (IAP), they made structurally complex objects using the power of frozen water-soaked fabric. Watch the video Forces Frozen: Structures made from frozen fabrics.

The three-day workshop drew students from many disciplines.

The three-day workshop drew students from many disciplines.

The IAP workshop, titled Forces Frozen, pushed the boundaries of ice shells through design, experimentation, and fabrication. Led by Assistant Professor Caitlin Mueller ’07, SM ’14, PhD ’14 and post-doc Corentin Fivet, the workshop invited 30 students to research and design ice/fabric forms and the methods for making them on the first day and then spend the second day building formwork and rigging systems.  On the final day, they constructed an outdoor landscape of frozen structures and shared the work in a public exhibition.

The projects focus “on thin shell structures that get their strength not from the materials they are using or a thickness of material, but from the form they are using, just like an eggshell,” says Mueller. “The shells that we are designing are inspired by a twentieth-century Swiss structural designer, Heinz Isler…he was really inspired by nature and the forms that come out naturally through the forces of gravity. This is a really fun opportunity to combine physics, mechanics, and science with creating something that is almost artistic.”

Learn more on the Forces Frozen tumblr and a BetaBoston article.

You can try this at home.

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Ben Bernanke MIT Business Insider Most Successful?

Ben Bernanke PhD ’79 spoke at MIT’s 2006 Commencement ceremony.

Determining one’s level of success is entirely subjective. And determining the most successful MIT alumni seems impossible.

But, according to the news site Business Insider, 21 MITers stand out in a field of more than 130,000 alumni. The site’s list, which was released last week, includes architects, CEOs, and scientists but gives no defined method for determining success.

While it’s an impressive list, we’ll let you decide if the ranking truly constitutes MIT’s most successful. (“Most well-known” may be a better descriptor.)

The 21-person list, which actually features 22 alumni, list is below. Click on each name to jump to Business Insider for more info.

Let us know your take—and which other alumni merit mention—in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

21. Lorenzo Mendoza SM ’93, CEO, Empresas Polar
20. I.M. Pei ’40, architect
19. Drew Houston ’05 and Arash Ferdowsi ’08, founders, Dropbox
18. William Hewlett SM ’36, co-founder, Hewlett-Packard (HP) Company
17. Jonah Peretti SM ’01, founder, BuzzFeed and Huffington Post
16. Brian Halligan MBA ’05, CEO and co-founder, HubSpot
15. John W. Thompson SM ’83, chair, Microsoft
14. William Porter SM ’67, founder, E-Trade
13. Robin Chase SM ’86, co-founder, Zipcar
12. Ivan Getting ’33, engineer, co-credited with development of GPS
11. Shirley Ann Jackson ’68, PhD ’73, president, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
10. James Woods ’69, actor
9. John Potter SM ’95, former United States Postmaster General
8. Benjamin Netanyahu ’75, SM ‘76, prime minister, Israel
7. Amar Bose ’51, SM ’52, ScD ’56, founder, Bose Corporation
6. Andrea Wong ’88, president of international, Sony Pictures Entertainment
5. John Thain ’77, chair and CEO, CIT Group
4. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin ScD ’63, astronaut
3. Salman Khan ’98, MEng ’98, founder Khan Academy
2. Kofi Annan SM ’72, former secretary-general, United Nations
1. Ben Bernanke PhD ’79, former chair, Federal Reserve

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How do you transition from being an engineering graduate student at MIT to training individuals  to survive in the wild with very limited gear? That’s a question that Cliff Hodges ’02, MEng ’04, survival expert on gets all the time. “It’s something I’ve always been interested in. I would often wonder how I would survive outdoors if I didn’t have all my gear,” Hodges explains. But that’s not the whole story.

Hodges (in the red jacket) leading a 2003 IAP course on wilderness survival.

Hodges (in the red jacket) leading a 2003 IAP course on wilderness survival.

While at MIT, Hodges used his breaks to attend survival training camps and even taught a survivalist class during IAP 2003. “We built shelters and started fire by friction right in front of the dome,” he remembers. After Hodges graduated from MIT, he took a tech job in California, but quickly changed his mind about his career path. “It was just a bad starter job for me,” he says. And, at that job, Hodges began wondering what it would be like to work in his passion.

After a few months in the tech world, Hodges set out to launch his company, Adventure Out in Santa Cruz, CA, where he offers survivalist classes and training. In the early days of his business, Hodges says it was hard to fill the survival training classes.  But in recent years as survival shows like Man vs. Wild and Naked and Afraid, have become popular, his business started booming. “It’s hard to say which came first. I think the shows are increasing demand, but that demand may be increasing interest in the shows,” he explains.

DeadlyDessert_023_RemoteSurvivor

Hodges is a survival expert for Remote Survival. Photo: NatGeo

Hodges recently joined the fray of survival shows after NatGeo asked him to be a survival expert for their new show Remote Survival. On the show, untrained campers are dropped into the wild with limited gear. Hodges helps these campers survive by offering them instructions through radio communication.  The job is especially difficult , he says, because the campers are constantly on the move, the worst option for survival. “Unless you’re in imminent danger, you stay put,” he explains.

These difficult situations are when Hodges makes use of his MIT background. “A degree in engineering is a degree in problem solving,” he says. “I can take these situations that seem insurmountable and break them down piece by piece.”

Remote Survival’s first mini season is on NatGeo now.  Hodges is hoping to be renewed for a full season.

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Blue dasher dragonfly, Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA (© Gary Blau).

Blue dasher dragonfly, Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA (© Gary Blau).

Gary Blau is a photographer in Cambridge, MA. View more work on his website. View other alumni photos of the week.

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An average of seven million cats and dogs enter animal shelters each year, and 2.7 million are euthanized, according to the US Humane Society. In Silicon Valley, 40 percent of adoptable shelter pets were euthanized in 2013.

AdoptMeApp

AdoptMeApp’s CynthiaTypaldos (right) with mobile app developer Helena Merk and their dogs Lucky, Bunny, and Tiki.

Meet Cynthia Typaldos SM ’81, founder of a number of Silicon Valley tech startups and a pet owner to three shelter dogs and six cockatiels. With her full house, she was unable to keep Bronco, a gray pit bull that had wandered into her yard. So she dropped him off at her local municipal animal shelter. When he was still there a couple months later, she fliered her region with hundreds of posters to find him a home.

The idea for AdoptMeApp was born.

“A lot of the municipal and county shelters are run by police. They do a great job of getting animals off the street, but a poor job at getting the word out about adoptable pets,” said Typaldos. She adds that shelters are often hindered by archaic client-server technology and dependent on volunteers with varying levels of communications expertise to spread the word about adoptable pets.

She and her team developed AdoptMeApp, a smartphone app that shelter volunteers can easily use to post stories about shelter pets complete with video and photos to tell an animal’s story from his or her point of view. It’s already having a positive impact on adoption at Humane Society Silicon Valley. “What our app does is say these are great pets…they just happen to be homeless,” she said.

Canelo on AdoptMeApp

Canelo on AdoptMeApp

There’s the story of Canelo, a two year-old Chihuahua mix: “I am cautious of strangers initially, but once I warm up with some happy talk and yummy treats, I will dazzle you with my charming smile that goes ear to ear.”

Foxy Cleopatra, a one-year-old domestic short hair cat, shares a bit of her personality in her post: “I know that my jaw-dropping gorgeous eyes and indescribably beautiful coat has struck you like no other feline you’ve ever met. And yes, you are seeing right, I have both brown AND gray markings.”

Can’t adopt a pet? Typaldos and her team have also developed SponsorMeApp, which allows animal lovers to donate money to the shelter on behalf of a specific pet. In return, the sponsor receives updates on and photos of the animal.

The company recently received a Red Cross Technology Hero Award and has joined up with the MIT Club of Northern California’s Bay Area Venture Mentoring Service to expand. The technologies behind AdoptMeApp and SponsorMeApp could extend far beyond just dogs and cats. “It could be for sponsoring a baby elephant…it could be for a fire truck,” she said.

Visit AdoptMeApp’s website or Twitter feed for more information, and follow along on Humane Society Silicon Valley’s AdoptMeApp Twitter feed for tweets linked to the stories of adoptable pets. 

 

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