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A Day in the Life of MIT

Members of Technique, the yearbook and photography club of MIT, were glad to see Technology Review’s sampling of the photos taken as part of our A Day in the Life project (“A Day in the Life … ” March/April 2010). The original ADITL project was pioneered by Reid E. Williams ‘02, MEng ‘03, who wrote the software and provided the computing expertise for the project in 2003 and again in 2005. I participated in ADITL 2005 during my freshman year and later became actively involved in Technique; I vowed early on to make ADITL happen again. So I recruited Reid (now in graduate school in California), who provided institutional knowledge about the project, and Quentin Smith ‘10, who served as the technical lead for ADITL 2009, rewriting much of the software and providing support. Quentin and I then did the bulk of the software and publicity work for ADITL 2009.

Technique will publish the 2010 yearbook in May. We also are happy to sell past yearbooks to alumni and have most volumes going back to the 1930s. The new yearbook may be ordered online at technique.mit.edu; inquire about the availability of past volumes at technique@mit.edu.

David M. Templeton ‘08
Cambridge, MA

The DARPA Balloon Challenge

As a pair of marketers and social-media enthusiasts, we were excited to learn that DARPA’s Network Challenge would study the propagation and corroboration of crowdsourced intelligence (“The Great Balloon Race,” March/April 2010). Our goal in entering the challenge was to position our team (www.redballoonrace.com) as the central hub of information in the social-media world.

Being MIT graduates with little time and no budget, and facing fierce competition, we knew we’d be fighting an uphill battle. By using real-time analysis on social-media sites like Twitter and optimizing ads on Google, we targeted individuals who had sighted balloons but didn’t know what to do with the information. We contacted local businesses for visual confirmation that the submissions were accurate and then reached out to competing teams hoping to trade data. To assess the veracity of incoming information, when we made trades we asked for a data point we already knew. Since we were trading concurrently with multiple parties, we leveraged the same data points into multiple new sightings and confirmations.

Ultimately, this was an exercise in both online marketing and negotiation. Instead of trying to blanket the country, we focused on the people who mattered: individuals who spotted the balloons and the competing teams who themselves had amassed balloon data. We were thrilled to end up in third place, and we invite fellow alumni to follow us on Twitter at @misstarachang and @mrchrisrod.

Tara Chang ‘08 and Christian Rodriguez ‘08
Cambridge, MA

Examining the Gender Equation

As a member of the Class of ‘82, I can attest that in the late 1970s and early ’80s, women were greatly underrepresented at MIT. Currently, I am the department chair of mathematics at the Dalton School in New York City. As I read your article (“The Gender Equation,” March/April 2010), I thought how proud I am that we are one of those schools where girls truly succeed in math and science.

Our math program is rich and rigorous, and girls are succeeding in every area. This includes equal representation in high honors courses, math team, and math team awards. Our high scorers in the American Mathematics Competitions and our American Invitational Mathematics Examination qualifiers are gender balanced as well.

It is refreshing that Professor Ellison considered the role of environmental factors in the math gender gap, as that is something that can be tackled. A longitudinal study is a great idea: I would be interested in gaining a deeper understanding of environmental factors that result in a gender gap or, even better, environmental factors that don’t. It is so important for educators to understand how to help our students reach their fullest potential in math, and it would be wonderful to get to a point when there is gender balance in mathematics and science.

Lisa Borenstein ‘82, ‘83, SM ‘83
New York, NY

More on HAL, IBM, and Dr. Laning

Recent letters concerning the naming of the onboard computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey (Alumni Letters, January/February and March/April 2010) prompted me to write about the talk Arthur C. Clarke gave at Kresge on the evening of October 9, 1968. He was asked if the name was derived from IBM (as Dr. Laning had believed) and answered that it had been a coincidence. Unfortunately, nobody asked if either HAL or IBM had been named after Dr. Laning.

Carl Goodwin, SM ‘70
Wilsonville, Oregon

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