Last day of the orientation was relaxing in the early morning. David, Phuc, and I went to have breakfast at The Friendly Toast in Kendall Square. It was delicious! We then headed back to the conference room to work on the Shark Tank presentation. We had about 3 hours to prepare for the Shark Tank. I personally think my team did a great job. The group that won got $31,500 because the grant donor gave them $19,000, while we got $30,500. Plus, we definitely earned more profit than the other two teams because we made pretty good deal with the donors. I think the activity was a bit off from what I “specialize” in, but it was a great exercise. At first I did not have a clear clue on what to expect from the three donors, but after negotiating with the private donor, who wanted to get 70% of profit from what we made, my team was more experienced. When we had to make deal with the business donor, who offered us $10k for 50% of profit, we decided to take the deal, in return, they can only get 30% profit, and the deal was made! Even though my team did not win and I did not win a single gift card from all the activities we have done here, I feel like what I have earned are more than that. I got to spend some wonderful time with the team exploring Boston, used all the material I have learned to solve the problems for the second scavenger hunt, and practiced public speaking as well as raising funds for a project. I think that is great and there is nothing else I could ask for, especially the provided food, they are always delicious and more than enough for us. Every day is a journal and with i-Trek, my journals have been so colorful and adventurous.
After today’s session, I have learned that to work with business and individual companies, we need to focus more on the profits and revenues while with the grant donors, they care more about how our products will contribute to the community, as it seemed like they were willing to give a big amount of money to someone who they think will give the community the most benefits.
After a modest 5 hours of rejuvenation, I started the second day in Boston. On sore feet, I took a visit to Deer Island Water Treatment Plant. I thought this plant had to have something to do with Deer Park water.
On the island, it was a sure sight of classic factory-manufacturer type of area. On the right was the enormous body of water and to the left was a fenced top-secret area with mechanical giants standing.
The team was greeted in the reception area that resembled a common university hall, with actual classrooms. A display of a water processing machine from early last century was nothing but merely an outdated piece of metal scrap. Thanks to his curiosity, I managed to bust a display door open and not being able to close it.
The tour guide came and gave them a presentation on the history of the Island. The intro video was, frankly, probably recycled from last few decades; it reminded me of a video on how to use the internet. The guide then showed samples of water in different stages of purification.
The crew was led outside. Grey clouds covered the sky, attempting to cause some troubles to the tourists. A stench immediately hit me; it reminded me of the river I sometimes passed by when I went to school back in Vietnam. The team was advised against taking photos inside buildings, so sadly I could not showcase some tubes and chambers. The guide explained steps of processing raw sewage to release it back to the environment safely. Raindrops fell as the crew toured around the plant. From a distance, a strange-looking windmill was spotted; it was introduced as a new design which would be much more efficient than the current one. From the overpass, the team found a pleasant scene of raw sewage water, with foam and plastic cups floating atop; it was mentioned that the scene was much more tolerable than some other samples. At the end of the tour, the tour guide told the team about his entry to the field. He never expected to end up at the plant, but he has been enjoying it since. A key to finding your passion is to go out there and try different things: your passion might lie somewhere unexpected.
The water treatment plant was an underrated man-made marvel. The whole construction successfully transformed murky waters to release back to the environment while also produced clean air and fertilizer. Such body of work was the contributions of all scientists and faculty throughout decades. The team would like to express their gratitude towards their hard work. The future is hopeful with more methods to treat sewage with more efficiency and accuracy. Speaking of future, the future belongs to future researchers like Trekkers, who will take on previous foundations to develop more marvels. Topics alert: renewable power or pollution treatment?
Leaving the plant, mister Gage assigned Trekkers the scavenger hunt and went home to do administrative work. I was teamed with Monica and Alex. But teams were no longer a thing, because the whole crew decided to form a Team Alpha, comprised of all ten Trekkers. They first headed to MGH station, followed by an avoidable 13-minute walk to reach the giant dinosaur.
The team then reached Fenway Station to get to Fenway Park, home of Boston Red Sox. I could not care less because baseball will forever lie in his dark book. The exterior was strangely unassuming for such a big sport team.
Somehow, the ended up in a sketchy convenience store. I was very concerned because of all convenience stores in the whole Boston metropolitan area, why this knife-fight stadium? The items were probably decorative, as they probably expired already before this town was founded. However, behind the also sketchy vending machine, a little hip-hop-ish shoes boutique. The shop itself was pretty banal, but the entrance, it deserved the credit.
The library, in short, impressed me. The grandeur of the building was admirable, both exterior and interior. Different section and different rooms connected each other to form a maze of knowledge. The courtyard was nothing short of spectacular. A sitting patio surrounded a garden and a statue fountained located harmoniously in the middle of the courtyard. Queen Elizabeth would probably be very impressed with the designing job. The statue was funny to me though; it reminded me of a mother taking a selfie with her baby, although she was holding a toy or a flower.
The team reached Copley Square, a sight of knowledge and relaxation. The team spotted the Tortoise and the Hare, and they were quick to run their bodies all over the statues.
Fatigue finally hit them, and they were looking forward to going home. However, they decided to get one last push to the Public Garden. Such a nice spacious park! They promptly found the guy Summer in the list, but realized that it was actually spelt Sumner. The crew lingered for the bit in the park.
I lied down on the grass, the tingling touch of slight damp grass was soothing. I then thought about the time I was waiting for i-Trek result. Because of travelling inconvenience, I was so certain that I was going to give up i-Trek regardless of the decision letter. Nevertheless, I took this risk and endured a little bit more flying to join the program. I am glad I joined. Sure, sleeping on an air mattress and day 2 already drained me a lot. However, I met some really nice people and gained insight to the best institute out there, MIT. This was the first time I came to Boston area, and probably would not be the last. Isn’t that the idea of putting yourself in the unknown? I joined i-Trek, never been to the area and did not know anybody in the program. But after the program, I would have much more experience and connections to help me with grad school application. Heck, it would probably make into top 5 of my most favorite trips ever. I might not be a yearned-for grad candidate right after the program, but this would be a start. I would plan a bit more carefully, be a bit more proactive, and feel a bit more confident.
The team dragged themselves back to the train station nearby. It was rush hour. The struggle was real. The station filled with people. The trains were stuffed like a turkey. They had to wait for the third train of the route to even get on. While they were waiting, on the platform, a street band performed “Daylight” by Maroon 5 with violin.
Today’s presentations by MSRP students were very interesting and impressive. We saw Ranine, a former Trekker, explain to us what her research was about. Some of the posters that grabbed by attention included developing new transistors that would continue to obey Moore’s law, analyzing image recognition, and using virtual reality to improve our current technological systems.
After finishing the poster presentations, we continued with our research and began brainstorming about the different methods that we could use to detect harmful agents in water. A team mate and I had already discussed the idea of detecting higher concentrations of lead by developing some kind of conductive/non-conductive material that would change its conductive properties upon contact with lead. After spending a few hours, we found a compound formed of graphene and some type of modified MultiWalled Carbon Paste nano tubes. This compound is shown to increase its electrical conductivity when higher concentrations of lead are present. Ideally, we could implement this technology at a low cost and make it available for anyone.
today was a very successful day as we started with the MSRP session which lasted till lunch time. The MSRP poster board presentation was a very educative session which created a base for interaction between the trekkers and various researchers. Their research presentations gave me an insight on the scope for any research project and the planning that goes into the achievement of the desired result. The really sparked my interest was a research project that dealt with the modification of solar cells for cheaper and more efficient production using Aluminium as cathode and ITO as anode.
We also went through a discussion and developmental session which helped us to better analyse our research topic and assign various sub-units that each person will be working on over the school year. We also started looking up our various sectors and looking into the materials that will be needed, the materials we will be making ourselves, the average user population, the price range of the final product etc. At the end of the day, we were able to talk with Kelvin who I really appreciate for taking his time at the airport to talk to us. He gave us a scenario asking the factors for investment in a business plan, the amount of unit product the company will be making and the factors to consider to increase the number of consumers. This question’s really got us thinking about how our product can be produced and put into the industry for investment. I would recommend this question to help other trekkers think about technological consultation and financing before creating a product.