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2.009, the highlight of MIT

Alice Dragoon’s article “Three Months, $6,500, and Billions of Hours of Fun” (May/June 2012) was a thorough account of the students’ experience through Product Engineering Processes, but to me, there’s even more to say. I still find myself challenged by 2.009 even though it’s officially over. Maybe I’m more sentimental than my mechanical-engineering counterparts, or perhaps the fact that I am graduating this June is making me overly nostalgic. But it was the highlight of my time here at MIT.

In fact, I think of it in the same way as I do my entire experience as an undergraduate: with deep relief that it’s over, with a humble sense of accomplishment for the incredible things I learned and built, and with indescribable appreciation for the people who helped me along the way. I hope that all MIT undergraduates can point to some class, UROP, or project that summarizes their academic pursuits in the same way. Yet I wholeheartedly believe that the students who take 2.009 have a unique opportunity. 

It was inspiring to be surrounded by so many brilliant and diverse minds. It was a physical and mental marathon. It made me confident. It made me work harder and even suffer. I learned what working as a team actually means. I learned how hard excellence is to achieve, and even in the toughest course at what’s arguably the most challenging school in the country, I achieved it.

Dani Hicks ’12 
Cambridge, Massachusetts

If you had asked any of my friends at MIT if they knew me during the fall of 2011, they probably would have replied, “Oh, of course I know him—he’s that kid who keeps whining about 2.009.” It’s what every 2.009 student does during the course of the class.

My experience in 2.009 had its ups and downs. First, the ups: it was the most fun class I’ve ever taken at MIT. It has a culture of learning without caring about grades. You may think that people would take advantage of that, but from my experience it’s an effective way of learning. As always, Professor Wallace put on a great show during lectures—which never felt like traditional “lectures.”

Then there were the downs. When your teammates do not coöperate and decisions are made behind your back, conflicts occur. When a teammate does not do his or her assigned task and you find yourself a week behind schedule, it’s up to you to pick up the slack. These not-so-happy moments did serve a positive purpose, however, because they taught me about team dynamics. And I’m going to be dealing with team dynamics for the rest of my life in the real world, whether it’s with a project team, a department, or any group of people in charge of getting something done.

The other important thing I have taken away from 2.009 is that as an engineer, you need to use all the skills you have learned and all possible ways of ideating, testing, and fabricating to take a product from concept to reality. I learned that all the courses I have taken at MIT—not just the Course II ones—will come in handy at some point when I’m dealing with a project. Bringing a product idea to life may seem like a grueling task, but if you use everyone’s skills and follow the motto of 2.009, it’s not as hard as it seems. Ideate. Model. Test!

Alban Cobi ’12
Cambridge, Massachusetts

MEET Creates Common Ground

I was pleased to see Lina Kara’in’s story about her experience with the Middle East Education through Technology (MEET) program (“Scaling Walls,” May/June 2012). In the summer of 2008, when I was an MIT undergraduate, I had the privilege of traveling to Jerusalem to teach computer science to a mixed class of Palestinian and Israeli high-school students as part of MEET. Over the course of the summer, I mentored a group of students who designed and implemented a chat program with drawing capabilities. I will never forget the excitement in the room when the students could finally send drawings back and forth across the computer lab. As Lina’s article described, the MEET program creates a common ground where students can work to overcome misconceptions, and barriers can begin to fall. Just as late-night problem sets at MIT form lasting bonds, working for long hours on these technical challenges causes the students to strive together toward common goals and emerge as colleagues, partners, and friends.

This summer, the MEET program is expanding to include high-school students from six cities in the region, and each year we send more MIT students and recent alumni to Jerusalem to share their enthusiasm for computer science and business principles. Given the current successes and the students’ continued involvement, I have no doubt this program will enable these students to leave a lasting impact on the region in which they live.

Kim Jackson ’10, SM ’12
Cambridge, Massachusetts

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