When I mentioned in my previous post that for the underclassmen stackees, Ditch Day began at 7:45 a.m. on May 26, 2017, I left out the other half of the story: that for the senior stackers, Ditch Day began a long time ago. Technically, my friend Anjali and I knew we wanted to do an original theme sometime in our junior year. By the beginning of winter break, we had assembled our team, and by the beginning of third term this year, preparations were already on their way.
A quick refresher of the story/activities covered in the last post which will make it less confusing as I talk about the logistics that went behind making each of them:
1st hour: puzzles in Venerable involving breaking into seniors’ rooms, assemble into a prophecy at the end (8-9 a.m.)
Jousting: balloon sword making and tournament to prove valor (9:05-9:40 a.m.)
Trolls under the bridge: Zoombini-style math game of only being allowed to cross one of two bridges if your outfit fell into a specific category (9:45-10:05 a.m.)
Town market murder mystery: find the guilty merchant who killed the princess and execute them for justice (10:10-10:55 a.m.)
Magical art project: something to protect against future instabilities of time-traveling portals and dragons (11-11:50 a.m.)
Portal: build a life-size and stable-standing portal to time travel through (11:55 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.)
Town market 2: choose the right person (12:20-12:25 p.m.)
Finale: fight a dragon (12:30-1 p.m.)
The first station I had conceived was the portal section. My initial idea had been to have the stackees build a portal out of Lego-shaped frozen blocks of jello. It would be tremendously pretty, not to mention add the exciting component of time as the ice slowly melted into the equation. For this express purpose I bought 5 boxes of jello mix from Vons and ordered some Lego molds online. When the molds arrived, I tested them using different juices from open kitchen:
The juice ice cubes turned out in beautiful colors, but there were several problems. First, ice molds can only shape one side of the Lego, but in order to build anything useful with a Lego you need both the indentations and the protrusions. I had Mugdha attempt to make a clay mold of the models so I could use them as a stamp to make double-sided Legos; the clay failed dramatically to hold the shape without folding in on itself or having air bubbles. Another issue was that I hadn’t accounted for the non-zero thickness of the silicon mold itself, which would make the indented holes of the Legos of larger diameter than the protrusions–a poor fit that would definitely not hold up in the air. Yet another problem I ran into was the breaking off of the little ice protrusions. Plain water ice cubes were fine; sugared juice or jello Lego ice cubes would not stay in one piece. Eventually, when it became a pain in the rear to heat up exactly the right amount of water twice a day to make the jello ice, I gave up on the idea of this happening. We would find another material for the arch.
Eric was put in charge of figuring out how to make balloon swords, and ordering the balloon and pump. Mugdha and Bolton wrote the murder mystery, with memorable characters such as Bob the grapefruit farmer; a love triangle between the farmer’s daughter, a Jewish bard, and a Christian knight; Heloise, the vampire-hunting nun; Turpin the crusading archbishop who wins extra points for persuading the knight to join his army (borrowed straight from the Medieval Romance class Bolton and I were in); Og the village idiot; and Arthur the stable boy. Meanwhile, Anjali worked on various puzzles for the 1st hour and the costumes–felt hats and fur belts, which careful variations in color for the Troll game.
It is a Caltech tradition for each stack to also have a themed T-shirt. Lucky for us, Caltech has a silk-screening room that we can use. Mugdha was in charge of ordering the shirts and making the screens after I drew the designs for the front and back of the shirt.
Here’s the front of the shirt:
Anjali, Mugdha, Eric (and I) screening the shirts:
How they turned out!
Next up: painting set pieces for the murder mystery and painting the wallboard mural for the stack.
This summer I had the incredible opportunity to do a 10-week internship at Gilead Sciences in Foster City, CA. For those unfamiliar, Gilead Sciences, Inc. is a research-based biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development, and commercialization of innovative medicines.
With 45 Nobel Laureates on its Faculty Roster, it’s not surprising that research is an integral part of the Caltech undergraduate experience. One of the programs that promotes such research is the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). There is no minimum knowledge or experience required to participate in a Caltech SURF. In fact, students can participate in a SURF as soon as the summer after their freshman year. It is not difficult to get a SURF. All you need to do is find a mentor who is working in an area of research that interests you and willing to mentor you through a research project. The mentor can work in a Caltech lab, at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), or at another participating institution. Once you find a mentor, you work together to write a project proposal that you later send to the SURF office for review and approval. About 98% of the SURF proposals get approved. This fellowship is a great way to explore various fields of research and obtain real, hands-on experience where you get to apply the theoretical knowledge you’ve learned in class. Not only do you get to work and learn alongside your mentor, but you also get compensated for your time. The length of the SURF is ten weeks, and it starts at the beginning of the summer. However, it is not uncommon for many students at Caltech to continue their research project throughout the academic school year.
Like many students at Caltech, I suffer from a slight boba addiction, where side effects may include over caffeination, minor sugar highs, and of course, a large toll on one’s wallet. This addiction is not helped by the fact that there are at least three boba shops within walking distance of campus. So, after an entire term’s worth of boba runs, I came back from winter break with a new year’s epiphany: it was time to get a job. Rather than try to curb my addiction, I decided to find a way to subsidize it.