First-year MIT aerospace engineering major Melvin Aucoin faced his biggest analytical problem to date last Saturday.
“I had just finished competing in the Massachusetts Problem Solving Aerolympics and I was asked to fill out a form so they could mail me my engraved trophy,” said Aucoin, who scored a 2390 on his SATs. “This wasn’t on any of the practice tests.”
MIT’s Aerolympics coach Jennifer Bluth tried to advise Aucoin through the process but without luck.
“I tried to explain the postal address as a familiar algorithm, but Melvin insisted that he’d never had any use for the formula,” said Bluth. “I suggested that one of his teammates provide an address and get Melvin’s trophy for him, but none of the students had learned their campus postal addresses.”
“Using the mail is like programming in Fortran,” insisted Aucoin in a follow-up email to the Aerolympics planning committee. “I think this was just a way for the idiot planners to humiliate the smart kids and make themselves feel good.”
“We tried to do some quick problem solving on the spot and told the students we would notify them of our next steps by telephone, said one of the competition directors. “Unfortunately none of the students knew their own phone numbers.”