Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue. We Are Awesome, And So Are You

In my last blog, I promised that my next entry would be about “holistic” admission processes.  Then both Jamilla and Thyra stole my thunder with their entries.  So liberated, yet wanting to fulfill my promise, I offer a split blog.  A short piece on holistic admission, but omitting what I composed about the HMC process, since that dead horse has been sufficiently flogged.  Then I venture into something completely different. (OK, BIG Monty Python fan here: “And now for something completely different”.  If you don’t get this reference, ask your parents. Python (not the computer language) were the comedy rage in the late 70s and early 80s. ) Back to my blog now: yes, something different. And awesome. Literally.

Holistic Review

What qualifies as “holistic review” of applications? Having attended more than my share of conferences, seminars, and panels about the college search process, it is clear there are many models that can claim to be “holistic”, and that term can seem pretty ambiguous. I have yet to see anything that resembles set-asides or quotas for certain students, and I have worked in admission and talked with admission colleagues for over 25 years.  Instead, I am aware of various ways to place students into certain groupings to assist the selection process.  Here are a few examples:

  • The context of the local area. The University of California system uses “Eligibility in the local context” as a mechanism for students that fall within the top 9% of their high school class.
  • Students reviewed relative to others in their particular grouping
    • One might put legacy cases into one group, athletes into another, musicians into a third group, first-generation-to-college students into another, etc. The most common seem to be:
      • Geographic
      • Socio-economic background
      • School groups
      • By majors

You already know (or can read about) the selection process at Mudd.  Let me just add the quote from one of my favorite sayings (I have since lost the placard) “when all is said and done, more will be said than done”.  Seems about right for admission work….  JK

Awesome Things.

One of my favorite events at HMC is the mostly semi-annual, “Awesome Things” contest.  I first learned of this when two Mudders decided to play around with designing things that others thought were awesome.   The two, Adam and Marc, chose bicycles.  I might add that anyone familiar with Mudd knows that there are many modes of transportation around campus and some are downright clever – and/or take a certain amount of practice, learning balance, and a supple vertebral column.  Adam and Marc chose to redesign bicycles.

The first attempt was wacky.  They moved the pedals to the top of the rear wheel, and replaced the seat with a small bench (like a 2 foot long weightlifter’s bench). You rode the bike while prone. This ride worked but it seemed uncomfortable. They tried again. The second effort was more devious. They installed a gear system where the handle bars affix to the frame, and made it so one turns right to go left. I only saw a few people able to ride this beast, and they were fighting themselves and their muscle memory the entire ride.  Most people who tried simply crashed.  (Yeah, you turn right and bank left!) It was amusing. The third iteration, that probably created the Awesome Things contest, was a double-decker bicycle. (It remains one of my all-time favorite images of HMC.) They soldered a single frame cycle onto a tandem, reworked the cables, then positioned 2 sets each of pedals and chains (one vertical, one horizontal). It was a little tricky to ride around corners, but it was WICKED COOL!!

The first time I witnessed the Awesome Things contest (as a volunteer judge) I saw:

  • a skateboard press to make one’s own skateboards
  • a cocktail table on 3 legs, but none of the legs touched each other – a tension cable kept pressure on the legs and held them upright – a simple rotation of the winch and the whole thing collapsed
  • a “perpetual motion machine” that took a series of ball bearings on a roller coaster ride made from thick-gauge copper wire. The balls could follow one of 3 paths:  a see-saw; a downward spiral; or fall off the rails entirely and strike a rubber stopper and bounce back up 18 inches to land back on a different rail.
  • A light and music show. Ozzie had measured and cut 8 thin tube lights and wired them so that one end wrapped around his wrist (stability) and the other at each finger tip with a contact for electrical current.  4 for each finger on each hand.  Each thumb had a contact to complete the circuit, so he could make a light show. But with 8 contacts to be made, he also had an octave, so he wired some gizmo to make a different note with each finger.  Then he could change octaves with a switch on a box.  A cool light show.  But at the time of the contest, his project was still incomplete and inconsistent.

There were several more entries, but I want to move onto this year’s event. We had six teams participate:

(1st place)            An Anti-gravity Robot made by James and Alistair.

Anti-gravity robot! Note his hand is NOT holding the robot.


(2nd Place)           The LED Light painting stick fashioned by Kenny.

lightstick projecting onto air!



(3rd tie)                Grant’s Homemade Combination Lock:

Inspecting the combination lock.


(3rd tie)                A Hydroponics Garden: Travis and Ileane

Also rans:            Skateboard Underlighting Kit by Andrew

Good for night skateboarding?


GLaDOS by Jason, Sarah, and Joshua

Why do I enjoy this?  Three reasons (or questions)!

  • First, who even THINKS of this stuff??!  (Mudders!)
  • Then, who has the audacity to spend hours making them, toiling, failing, redesigning, oh, with finals coming in 2 weeks? (Very creative, determined, and nervy smart people. People who know circuits, power tools, duct tape, and a lot of Physics – aka Mudders)
  • Finally, WHY??!  (I think the answer to the third question is “Because you might have fun and you might learn something, you might get your friends involved, and because you are creative and we let you do things that are mostly legal.”)

Truly Awesome.

P.S. I owe a great thanks to Kenny Huang for sending me photos. During Finals. Thanks Kenny!