Archive photo of the Baker House piano drop.

Archive photo of the annual Baker House Piano Drop.

As campus-wide preparations step up for the 150-day celebration of MIT’s 150th birthday, set for spring semester 2011, the MIT Museum is reporting the results of the popular vote for items to be displayed in the MIT 150 Exhibit, a collection of items that depict Institute life and culture.

Some of you were definitely watching and voting because when we reported it in Slice on Nov. 10, the count surged. “Hacking” had just edged past the “Baker House Piano Drop” as number one. However, a boost by Baker backers returned the piano to top ranking. And that helped secure the lead for good.

Although museum staff will make the final decision on what’s to go on view, you can view the results of the popular vote now. Here are the top five with the vote count:

  1. Baker House Piano Drop, 721
  2. Hacking, 647
  3. Glass Lab, 572
  4. Brass Rat, 487
  5. IHTFP, 437

At 90, Bill Stern ′40, SM ′41 has been running for 46 years. And in early August, he competed in the 2009 Summer National Senior Games—and did MIT proud.

Bill Stern '40, SM '41.

Bill Stern ′40, SM ′41.

“The games went well,” Stern emailed the Alumni Association. “Good accommodations, excellent race management. I lucked out in my 90-94 men’s age group, getting gold in the 1500 meters run, silver in the 200 meters dash, and bronze in the 100 meters dash.”

Of course, Stern was well prepared for the races—he’s a member of the venerable Cambridge Sports Union running club, he completed a Boston Marathon, and now belongs to the New England 65 Plus Runners Club. You can read about his life and his successful career in sensing, measuring, and recording equipment, including starting a company with MIT faculty, in his alumni profile.

After his run, he was up for fun. “Now we (the whole family) are week-ending at Point Reyes National Seashore, north of San Francisco,” he wrote, “wonderful weather, great hiking, and gawking.”

Hung Ng (back right) at the Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, California

Hung Ng (back right) at the Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, California. Photo: Orlando Sentinel / Hung Ng

If you could harness the intellectual stamina and determination required to earn a degree from MIT and apply it to athletics, you’d expect to see alums climbing Mount Everest, biking to their 50th reunions, and sailing around the world. And you have.

Now meet Hung Ng, a 42-year-old alum who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1990 and went on to run 92 marathons and 27 ultramarathons to date. Ng, like many of the other athletic alumni profiled on this blog, seems to enjoy preparing for his races almost as much as he enjoys running them.

“In sports, there are people who jump into it, and then like me, there are people who read all about it and try to control as many variables as they can,” Ng recently told a reporter at the Orlando Sentinel.

While regular marathons are 26.2 miles in distance, ultramarathons are anything longer—50 miles, 100 miles, etc. In fact, the last ultramarathon that Ng ran was the Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, California. Spanning 135 miles, Ng clocked in at 33 hours, 45 minutes, and 26 seconds.

That was in mid-July. Barely two weeks later, on July 24th, Ng competed in a 24-hour ultramarathon in Wakefield, Massachusetts where he came in second.

Interested in learning more about ultramarathons and ultramarathon culture? Check out this list of “Ultra Blogs” or find a race in your state.


The shopping cart-turned-go-kart, dubbed LOLrioKart. Photo: MITERS

More years passed than I care to acknowledge before the practice of perching on a shopping cart and zooming through the grocery store got old. In fact, it never got that old. Not to me, and evidently, not to these MIT students.

According to gadget blog Gizmodo, a group of MIT students recently fashioned a go-kart out of a shopping cart using a stack of NiCd aircraft batteries, a 15hp brushless motor, and some new wheels. The best (read: scariest) part? It can reach 45 miles per hour.

I don’t think they’ve taken it to any grocery stores, though they did record a charming tour of campus. Check it out on YouTube or view below:

Vic Sahney practices ladder climbing at base camp.

Vic Sahney practices ladder climbing at base camp.

Vikram Sahney SM ’05, MBA ’05 started getting serious about climbing in 2002, when he took a six-day glacier mountaineering course. He did his “first respectable climb,” summiting 14,411-foot Mount Rainier, while doing his MIT internship in Seattle in 2004. In May, he reached the ultimate summit— Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain at 29,035 feet.

“I think the best thing about mountain climbing is that is gives me perspective on daily life,” said Sahney, who works as an engagement manager at McKinsey & Co. in Seattle.

Sahney earned his degrees in an MIT program designed for manufacturing professionals. Created in 1988 as Leaders for Manufacturing, the program was renamed Leaders for Global Operations (LGO) in June. LGO students earn two degrees in two years: either master’s in management and a second master’s in an engineering field.

See the view from Mount Everest in a movie clip by Val Hovland ‘98, SM ‘98, who completed the climb this spring.

Val Hovland '98, SM '98 on Mt. Everest

Val Hovland '98, SM '98 on Mt. Everest

Last spring Val Hovland ′98, SM ′98 set to work on a project she had diligently prepared for: climbing Mt. Everest. She knew the odds—roughly 2/3 of climbers fail to summit Everest—and she had read Into Thin Air,  Jon Krakauer’s account of his 1996 ascent in which eight climbers died on the mountain. She went for it anyway, and while en route, she managed to make a movie. Read more about Hovland’s adventure and watch her trailer below.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

If you’re near Golden, CO, you can meet Hovland TOMORROW (Wednesday, April 22) and learn more about her trip. She’ll be speaking at the American Mountaineering Center at 710 10th St. between 7 and 8:30pm. Register online at

Guest Blogger: David Bradwell MNG ’06

For a fortnight in late March, I joined 50 students from around the world, including five other MIT students, on an expedition to the bottom of our planet. We were invited to Antarctica with the common interest in addressing perhaps the greatest challenge of our generation, climate change. And as I reflect upon my experience—watching blue icebergs calve off of slowly advancing glaciers, laying breathless as we camped beneath a dazzling night sky, or admiring the majestic tails of humpback whales as they dove from our world into theirs, I can’t help but smile…

Read about the expedition and see the amazing photo gallery.

Students approach Zodiac Mountain.

Students approach Zodiac Mountain. Photo: David Bradwell.

MIT alums like challenges, but this is extreme. Rich Wilson SM ’76 is competing in the 100+ day Vendée Globe race–solo sailing the Great American III in a lap around the world starting and ending in France. Unlike Charlie Wilson’s War conducted in the dusty sweeps of Afghanistan, this battle is about will, water, and wind. Only 11 of the 30 starting vessels are still in the race and, on Feb. 5, Wilson was still one of them, edging along Uruguay’s coast. And there are weeks to go.

wilsonThe physical challenge is huge for Wilson, who is the oldest competitor and has acute asthma. As the only sailor in often treacherous seas, he gets little sleep. He eats freeze dried food, has a bucket for a toilet, and the New York Times has reported that he’s broken a rib, slashed his face, and last weekend nearly capsized.

He’s been alone since the race began Nov.11, but he’s in touch with supporters and the world daily. Share this adventure virtually via his SitesAlive Foundation site offering daily blogs, podcasts, photos, a live map, and Q&As about sailing and oceanography answered by experts. He’s documenting it all to share this learning experience with K12 students around the world—and you, too, if you like.