I worked as a UROP in the Media Lab for most of my time as an MIT undergrad. I was mesmerized by the place, where so much interesting research happened and there was so much crossing over of art, engineering, and science. I first started out as a freshman, helping Jie Qi in Responsive Environments with her fun and engaging "circuit stickers" project, which was a great introduction to what the Media Lab was like. As a sophomore, I wanted a UROP I could dedicate a significant amount of time to in a field I was interested in, robotics. I found a posting for the DCP Project, a construction robot, and that led me to working with Julian Leland and Steve Keating in Mediated Matter for the next two years. I learned so much—so much more than I could have learned from class alone—and really understood what it meant to be a researcher. I was even lucky enough to be there and work with Julian, Steve, and Levi Cai to produce the world’s largest 3D-printed object as a test of our system. I entered my senior year after Jie and Steve both defended their theses, and Julian graduated. I then switched to perform a UROP and senior thesis in my home department (Mechanical Engineering) before graduating this past June, but I still feel, after all the time I spent there, a part of the Media Lab community. It’s still one of my favorite places on campus.
However, I never would have guessed that I’d be invited to speak about these experiences, alongside other such incredible and accomplished Media Lab students, scientists, and faculty. Part of the reason I was invited to the Comic-Con panel was because of a video I co-directed as a student blogger in the MIT Admissions office. We remind people of the regular-action admissions decisions date (3/14, of course—Pi Day!) with a fun video each year, and in 2017, we decided to draw inspiration from a new Marvel character, Riri Williams. Riri is a black teenager who is a student at MIT, lives in Simmons dormitory, and collects materials around campus to build her own Iron Man suit. She gets a visit from Tony Stark, and he asks her to take up the Iron Man mantle as a new hero, Ironheart.