Which of the academic communities and social communities that now comprise the University of Pennsylvania are most interesting to you and how will you contribute to them and to the larger Penn community?
I see the beauty in our natural assembly of neurons, the splendor of circuits in digital chips, and of course the undying symphony of computer code running through a compiler. As a firm believer of the values of interdisciplinary education, I embrace Benjamin Franklin's drive to create an intellectually adaptable campus dedicated to closing those traditional bridges in academia. With my own explorations in the fields of neuroscience, computer science, and engineering, I admire Penn's programs combining management with technology, international studies, and life sciences. I aspire to combine business (Wharton) with my technological musings (SEAS), in the hopes that through these mutual efforts of integration, true leaders well versed in multiple spheres will arise. I realize that these academic fields, when taken in isolation, are less meaningful to society and thus strive to focus my interests over a variety of scholastic concentrations.
Yet, perhaps the most important facet of Penn education is that student's are driven by their love of knowledge; without this love for learning, one cannot enjoy the fruits of education or expand the horizons of knowledge. I am awed by Penn student's initiative to use their knowledge to solve viable problems within their community. Looking to the entirely student-run club Communitech for inspiration, I am eager to disseminate my knowledge of computers and technology to the surrounding neighborhoods. As a leader of technology clubs at my own school, I have seen how the harnessed dedication of a small group of people can elicit major changes in the community. Collaboration is the breeding ground of novelty, and when a potpourri of different disciplines is thrown into this mix, the resulting ideas can have revolutionary reverberations. One only has to look to Penn's long standing history of paving the way for new emerging technologies such as ENIAC to gain proof of these brainchildren materialized.
Paying tribute to the incredible research being carried out at Penn, I look forward to taking full advantage of the resources and adding my own research in reverse engineering the human brain through a mixture of computer and cognitive science. The ground-breaking investigations in robotics at the GRASP (General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception) facility at Penn is astounding, especially in its role as an affiliate for a cognitive sciences institute, and I hope to become a part of this community of tech developers. With my experiences in these fields, I intend to facilitate cross-talks between faculty and students as together we attempt to unravel the mysteries of human consciousness.
With this environment of unity among diverse individuals, I long to do my part and hope to contribute to this dynamic infrastructure. Franklin's venerable legacy of advocating the harmony of the colonies against British invasion rings loudly in Penn, forming the underlying atmosphere for acceptance and tolerance. As a young Jain, I hope to join The Hindu Students Council and Young Jains of America to foster the spirit of acceptance, broadcasting those principles of peace, non-violence, and morality that are central to Penn's motto.
Yet, once can't thrive on academic immersion alone. I aim to actively participate on the Penn Club tennis team in order to complement my intellectual pursuits. I hope to bring my many years of experience as both a singles and doubles player to the club. With sports such as tennis and, of course, Ultimate Frisbee, I can actively relax and at the same time maintain school spirit through friendly competition.
I am ready to bring to join this energetic community of leaders, innovators, and those researchers willing to traverse unknown academic territory. I am ready to wholly engross myself in Penn's atmosphere, leaving my very own legacy in the shadow of Franklin. I am ready to make the University of Pennsylvania my new home.
It moved timidly at first, its gears slowly churning as it felt the spark of life flow through its wires. Slowly, it turned, rotating on its treads, as it scanned the arena for any signs of movement. Its light sensors on the alert, it sensed that something was near. It nudged forward as it felt its touch sensor activated. Immediately, like the Nordic god Thor wielding his hammer, it released its plastic Lego hammer of doom with the force of two robust motors behind it. Yet, in that time, without a warning, another robot crashed into it, sending it flailing in confusion. The true robotics battle had begun. As robots thrashed each other to pieces, many were catapulted out of the arena, with their wheels ripped off, and their motors strewn across the floor. My robot engaged in its last battle, as it struggled to stay inside the boundaries, but it was mercilessly pushed out by a more vigorous, bull-dozer robot.
Bearing witness to the raw force of technology applied and mechanized, I was astonished. Simple commands could transform an inanimate machine into a humanoid full of life. I loved that I could build a structure with Legos, attach some sort of a controller, write a few lines of code, and have my own robot that would follow my exact instructions.
Taking everything I learned from this small in-class Lego Mindstorms robotics competition, I enthusiastically joined the school's Botball robotics team. The objective was to build an autonomous robot that could carry out a range of tasks including sorting, gathering, and moving objects. I was surrounded by a group of highly motivated students, who all shared the utmost goal of building a sensational robot. Every idea was taken into account, dissected, and analyzed for its validity. The robot had to compete against others so our goal was not only to maximize our points, but to inhibit the other robot from completing its task.
Every day after school, our robotics workstation (a messy garage) became our haven as we labored to find the best design for our robot. Scattered across the floor were sheets of engineering design, details of mathematical formulas, and heaps of extra pieces as we tried to determine the best heuristic algorithm and design for our robot.
Somewhere between keeping detailed reports of our work and trying to reconcile programming with engineering, I realized how much I had come to adore robotics. In creating retractable arms, and forklifts, we were essentially trying to replicate things that were so natural to us. Even though we had a physical model– the human body – by which to base our plans on, it was exceedingly intricate to think of muscles and neurons in terms of wires and Legos.
Yet in this challenge I found the incentive to keep trying to create a model of humanity. Just as Victor Frankenstein labored to find the secret to life, I too wanted to make sense of our elaborate construction. Even the simplest things like teaching a robot to raise its mechanical arms took hours of tweaking lines and lines of code and experimenting with unusual Lego orientations. This fascination with trying to emulate our most primitive features kept me creating that new programmable formula or improving the robot's "eyes."
After two and a half months our garage only got messier, existing in a state of perpetual frenzy. As the deadline approached, we worked faster, perfecting our designs, running test trials, and celebrating with soda when appropriate. At the Southern California competition, we received first place in double-elimination and documentation, and 3rd overall.
I hadn't yet realized the reverberations of this event, that the seeds of my future occupation had been cast and the faculties of my mind committed. Could my interest in robotics turn into a fervent enthusiasm about the simulation of a human brain in a robot? As time would tell, the ideas were already frothing, and the machinations of my wildest imaginations were set into motion. I never imagined that the brainchild of these playful explorations in engineering would ultimately lead to the development of the world's first completely autonomous robotics company, one that changed the face of mankind…