REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK: Experiencing Techfair 2013

I should have brought a resume, and other musings

5606 techfair
An automated network 3D printer made by Alfonso A. Perez ’13, Forrest W. Pieper ’14, Christopher M. Haid ’14, and Mateo Pena Doll ’14, was on display at Techfair on Monday, February 4. It has the ability to network and remotely connect to computers.
Jaswanth Madhavan—The Tech

“Please leave your resumes at home,” read Techfair’s preface to the event, reassuring students not to expect a stressful recruiting atmosphere.

So of course I did. Sure enough, I was asked for a resume at nearly every booth I stopped by, given several brochures on job opportunities while still unsure what the companies I was talking to actually did, and thrown a few interview-style questions. “Assume I’m thinking of a random number. What is your strategy to guess it in as few tries as possible?” And thus began the internship hunt.

Although Techfair is meant to be a fusion of technology exhibition and career fair, I felt a heavy emphasis on the latter. Even though I am only a freshman, I found most companies were willing to reach out and talk to me, much more so than I expected.

This may or may not be due to the fact that I’m Course 6. This turned out to be a mixed blessing. With summer fast approaching, I was happy to use Techfair as a launching pad for my internship search. However, I can imagine other students might appreciate a simple show of cool projects and technology. Several of my dorm-mates expressed disinterest because they felt there was no niche for those outside of Courses 2 and 6, a recurring complaint every year.

Although the fair was not what I initially expected, the Techfair management put on an impressive show with over 90 exhibitors, the largest number yet, and Rockwell Cage was packed throughout the day.

Even if you weren’t looking for a job, you could appreciate displays like a self-taught student’s handmade electric/acoustic violin, of which one piece took over 100 hours to carve.

Another of my favorite exhibits was student project BarBot, an autonomous bartender that will mix your favorite drink on the spot, in a nice red Solo cup.

Techfair, now in its ninth year, has grown to beyond its eponymous event to include, among other events, a post-fair formal banquet and afterparty.

It officially kicked off last Saturday with HackMIT, the largest campus hackathon of the year. HackMIT grew from just three schools last year to include 200 hackers from as far as Princeton and Columbia this past weekend.

The hackathon is arguably the best embodiment of MIT culture: innovation, enthused students, fearless coding, complemented by copious amounts of RedBull and bouts of powernaps in the wee hours of the morning. Jack Zhou, a kickoff speaker from Palantir, HackMIT’s sponsor, likened the hackathon experience to running a full marathon: unimaginably painful at times, but extremely gratifying at the finish line. By hack’s end, the twenty teams still remaining — stuffed with free Momogoose and sandwiches, I fell asleep long before the hackathon’s end — powered through their demos. The winning idea was a webcam that allows paralyzed users to dial phone numbers by tilts of their head.

TechTalks, the week’s final event, will be held this Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. They will feature speakers whose impressive achievements include making Popular Science Magazine’s list of “The Brilliant Ten” and New England’s Entrepreneur of the Year.

I plan on checking out the TechTalks. And next year, I will to Techfair (definitely with my resume), grab a few free t-shirts, and enter the raffles (I’m still eagerly waiting to see if I won the inflatable living room this year).