2011: The Year in Projects (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of my projects from 2011. For January thru June, see the previous post.

July: Dropbox mobile redesign
My summer project at Dropbox was a redesign of their mobile web app. Having not touched web development for the last 7 years, it was great to work with newer technologies. It was a summer of everything from designing the product and performing basic market research to developing and testing the product to doing everything possible to polish it up. Dropbox put up a nice blog post about it, and there were some other mentions too!

August: DEECS
Discover Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (DEECS) is a annual preorientation program for incoming freshman to explore EECS. In 5 days, 40 students build, code, and test LEGO line-following robots (assuming no prior LEGO theory and hardware or software skills), in addition to exploring MIT, checking out Boston, touring labs, and making friends with one another. I’ve been involved for the last 4 years, but last year I ran the robot project, with Nick. We bumped up the bar a bit by introducing training for lab assistants, and it was my first time lecturing.

September: Selling HKN resume books
Another sales-related project was figuring out how to best market the MIT EECS resume book to the large number of companies that want MIT EECS students. Alongside Alex, we fixed up the website, coordinated helpers to personally pitch the resume book to company representatives at the Fall 2011 career fair, and organized sales campaigns.

October: TimeTracker
I wanted to know how much time I was spending on email each day; it seemed like hours, and that was 1) terrifying, and 2) unacceptable. Pranjal wanted to quantify everything. Together, we wrote a few scripts that tracks computer usage down to the second and then gives you stats on where and how you spend your time. At the time of writing, I was averaging 1.8 hours for email, 3.5 hours in the terminal, and 8.9 hours of computer usage over the past week (per day). More daily averages: 4 minutes on Facebook, 20 minutes on Feedly, 8 minutes on Google Calendar, 1 minute on Wikipedia. The TimeTracker source can be found on Github.

November: Sentiment Analysis
Sentiment analysis is the detection of emotional content in writing. For 6.867, Pranjal and I applied a bunch of machine learning techniques to IMDb reviews and Yelp reviews to see how easy (or hard) it was to detect sentiment. We essentially replicated and then extended a bit Pang’s 2002 work. Although I set out by assigning projects to months, I actually end up assigning months to projects. This is prime example of how projects span more than a single month because we are still working on it (nearly done!). The Sentiment-Analysis source can be found on Github.

December: Asiatrip
I wrote extensively on my recent Asiatrip with Nancy, Julian, and Josh to see manufacturing, makerspaces, relatives, and general touristy things, but there’s still so much left untold and unwritten! Regardless, it was an amazing way to spend Winter Break, it doubled the number of countries I’ve stayed in, and it widened my world by even more than that.

So, that’s all for 2011 and it was a fantastic amount of learning. w00t for the new year!

2011: The Year in Projects (Part 1)

Last year, I decided to try to do a project every month. Projects are the little journeys in life, the real learning experiences, the realization of an idea. They result in gained skills, friends, inspiration, and sometimes, an improved world. They are technical and they are non-technical.

I quickly realized that projects don’t take a month. They either take a few days or much longer, but the idea is still valid. I did my best to focus my efforts on a particular project each month. Here are the results.

January: Maslab
Mobile Autonomous Systems Laboratory (Maslab) is MIT’s most intense IAP robotics competition. There are 4 weeks to build a robot from scratch to compete in a game requiring computer vision, navigation, and ball launching. Last year, Dan, Stan, Leighton, and I built, coded, debugged, tested, and didn’t sleep too much, but then we won! Check out our paper and the competition highlights.

February: Machine Learning Pilot
Alongside Chenxia, Diyang, and Stan, I ran a couple undergraduate machine learning reading groups (sponsored by IEEE/ACM), with the intent of gauging interest and appropriateness for a larger program with more technical topics. The idea was to experiement with this way of making friends while better learning technical material. We had a more applied group, as well as a more general group. Having never started an organization of my own, it was an incredible experience running the pilot program, and the results were very encouraging.

March: Kinect Symphony Conductor
I hacked up a symphony conductor demo using the Microsoft Kinect, with thanks to Brian for choice of music. The tempo of the music changes depending on how fast your arms move. I demoed this at the MIT 150th Open House, alongside other IEEE and EECS department booths.

April: Everything in the Kitchen Sink
My solution to the problem of dirty dishes piling up in communal kitchen sinks is to use cameras to detect the addition of dishes to a sink and who is using the sink at the time, and then to yell at them or blast out shaming emails. For 6.869 (Advances in Computer Vision), I worked on the dish detection portion of this solution.

The Undergraduate Reading Group Experience (URGE) is the program that grew out the Machine Learning Pilot of Spring 2011. With an amazing staff and support from IEEE/ACM and UMA, I directed this larger technical reading group program in Fall 2011. We had 8 groups this time, spanning EECS, math, and physics. The idea is to help create a cohesive technical undergraduate community at MIT, so that even more awesome productive things can happen. We recently got recognition from the The Institute, the IEEE newspaper!

June: Selling Maslab
I am Maslab‘s Sponsor Coordinator, so I had a lot of fun working with sponsors new and old to make Maslab 2012 possible. Having never done any kind of sales before, it was grand adventure of making brochures, designing sponsorship packages, writing emails, pitching Maslab, handling finances, and organizing events. Thanks to the sponsors of 2012, Maslab is going great!

Next up: July thru December!