MIT

Prompt: a.We know you lead a busy life, full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do for the pleasure of it.

Dance Dance Revolution is a special game for me. Though it's a simple concept, stepping on indicated arrow patterns to music, it has some ineffable quality—in the scrolling arrows, the pumping bass, the flashing lights, I lose myself and escape the stresses of the moment. I've been told that “I think too much,” but with DDR, I just play. Perhaps its comparable to the trance induced by ancient tribal dance or an endorphin-fueled “runner's high.” Regardless, I'm sure that at MIT, I would occasionally find temporary escape from a stressful problem set on the student center's DDR machines.

Prompt: b.Although you may not yet know what you want to major in, which department or program at MIT appeals to you and why?

Course VI is most appealing, specifically 6-2 because I excel at and enjoy the theoretical aspects of CS, but would like more experience in the hands-on world of EE. 6.115 would allow me to fulfill a dream: making a computer “from scratch”—both hardware and software. I'd like to UROP in the Media Lab because “Inventing a Better Future” sounds worthwhile and fun. While visiting campus, I saw several of the Tangible Media Group's projects and found them really cool. With some of its other groups, I could incorporate my interests in music and language too. I'd also like to work at CSAIL because AI and Systems are extremely interesting fields with lots to explore,and because I'm awed at the concept of sharing Stata with RMS and the staff of the W3C.

Caltech

Prompt: Share an ethical dilemma that challenged you. What did you do? (Please limit your response to 1500 characters or less)

I have been no stranger to honor codes. Both my middle school and high school have had one—my middle school didn't even put locks on lockers because the honor code was so strong there. I hold such codes in extremely high regard and thus have repeatedly come across the same challenge: how to help classmates with problems when asked, but do so appropriately. I have known several people who just respond to such requests by simply giving the answer. This has never sat well with me both because it is dishonest and it doesn't really help my classmates. Thus, I have instead always done my best to direct them to the right answer without giving it to them directly; most often I do this by trying to figure out where their logic is going awry and ask them questions to get them back on track. This can be difficult and quite time consuming because if they give an answer that is not wrong, but that wasn't the line of thought I was going down, I have to adapt my own thinking and strategy to still get them to understand what they need to. Still, its worth it because I feel accomplished that I have really helped out and don't have to worry that I've violated the rules or failed to live up to my personal integrity.

Prompt: Caltech students have long been known for their quirky sense of humor and creative pranks and for finding unusual ways to have fun. What is something that you find fun or humorous? (Please limit your response to 1500 characters or less)

People have a tendency to take themselves too seriously. It's always best when people realize they are ridiculous and just laugh at themselves. If they refuse, however...well, we just have to do it for them. This is why we have satire.

Regularly viewing two of our time's most popular satirists, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, I really appreciate this. Lampooning politicians at the end of the day is a great stress reliever. I also enjoy the web-comic xkcd. The author, Randall Munroe, makes fun of many of my (and his) interests: computer science, higher level math, the internet, and language. Rather than finding it offensive, I think it just that much more enjoyable because with it I can take a second to stand back and laugh at myself.

I am not a stranger to creating satire either. My friends and I created a skit called EASTer SIDE STORY for Destination Imagination. We parodied West Side Story, making the gangs into the J-beanz and the Peeps and rewriting several of the songs to fit the new theme. It was pretty ridiculous, but it did legitimately comment on the absurdity of prejudicial hatred and gang violence by giving such odd specifics to the concept. In a similar vein of creation, but with opposite intentions, I rewrote the lyrics of Journey's “Don't Stop Believing” at Governor's School this past summer (where it was something of an inside joke amongst the students) as a tribute to our Mentors, RAs, and teachers which we all sang at a reception in their honor.

Prompt: Please elaborate on one of your activities (extracurricular, personal activities, or work experience)(150 words or fewer).

This past weekend, I went to the Virginia Theater Association festival and had an amazing time. I performed my part, an East German baseball player, pretty well, but it was much more than that. I gained a new appreciation for theater. Sunday morning, one of the finalists, Wit, about a woman dying of ovarian cancer really touched me—it made me sob. Not just cry, sob. This festival made me see that theater is truly more than entertainment, it's a wonderful art that lets actors and audiences take on new perspectives they couldn't otherwise understand. It can make you cry, as I saw. It also can make you laugh, as several workshops on improv reinforced for me. Even more, it attracts a certain kind of people—warm, excitable, and just fun. Coming out of this weekend, I have a strong resolve to stay involved with the theater.

Georgia Tech

Prompt: Describe an intellectual or creative activity for which you feel special passion and commitment, and explain how that activity has affected you.

It is said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. This was certainly my experience when, enrolled at age six in weekly training at FutureKids, I was introduced to computers. FutureKids provided only basic instruction—the use of Microsoft Windows and Office, but to me, it was absolutely captivating. I was able to make things appear on a page, move them around, change the way they looked without anything tangible; I could express my thoughts, work out my own ideas, and endow their expression with flare. The computer gave me a tool of creation, seemingly from scratch, and it has held my attention ever since.

Once introduced to the art of computing, I jumped into study of it. This is to say, I played around with it a lot, but my hours of idle experimentation and tinkering were rewarded. Not long after beginning, I surpassed others and became exceptional. My preeminence began simply, an ability to create 3D text that no one else could replicate, but by the end of first grade I was traveling around my elementary school fixing frustrated teachers' technical difficulties. The next year when computer specialists were being hired, my principal quipped “we don't need one, we have Donald.”

This was only the beginning of my study, however. Employing computer camps and CS classes, but mostly through self-study, I have come to have a deep understandings of the inner-workings of the machine. Using books and the internet, I've mastered Perl, PHP, C/C++, Java, and Ruby. Further, I've been able to use my knowledge to help others: working with various Open Source projects and writing and maintaining a website to let classmates discover who's in their classes before schools starts.

I don't know what exactly I'll do in my future, but it's sure to involve my passion for computing.

Prompt: If you could focus your professional career on one crucial issue, what would it be and how would you use your Georgia Tech education to further that goal?

It is a wonderful fact that the world we live in is extremely diverse and interacting more every day. Money, ideas, and other information fly across nations and oceans every second from sunrise in Hong Kong to sunset in New York—24 hours apart. Its an unfortunate side effect of this fact, however, that inevitably an inability to communicate with one another leads to conflicts, all because we don't truly understand each other. While such problems stem largely from cultural differences, even these could be overcome if everyone could just communicate.

To change the world for the better, I'd like to tear down the language barrier. I don't suggest we should get rid of varied languages; they represent a beautiful range of human expression and creativity. I wish, however, to take them out of conflict—to allow people to better empathize by talking about their differences and being able to really listen. In highly sensitive matters, this needs to happen in real time. The best solution would be to create a real (and less fishy) version of Douglas Adam's fictitious Babel fish—a system that would allow language to be heard as though spoken in one's own language.

Undoubtedly, this would be an extremely difficult undertaking, but as Georgia Tech is literally the textbook example of a school that “recognizes that the world is increasingly going to be operating off the flat-world platform,” an education here would provide an excellent starting point. Within the College of Computing, where my interests lie, I'd think the Platforms and People threads would prove especially helpful. An understanding of parsing and other language structures would be necessary. Meanwhile, classes like Psychology of Human Language (PSYC2760) and Mobile and Ubiquitous Computing (CS4605) would help to work out both theory and implementation details.