Application: Upenn Supplement

Pseudonym: Fred Jones, Computer Science and Engineering / Business, MIT 2014

Acceptances with this essay: UPenn


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.


4. You have just completed your 300-page autobiography. Please submit page 217.

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…


To be completed only by applicants to the Wharton/Engineering Coordinated Dual-Degree: Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology.

2a. Discuss your interest in combining management and technology. How might Penn's coordinated dual-degree program in business and engineering help you to meet your goals? Please be sure to address the nature and extent of your interests in both business and engineering.

2 months of coding and design. Endless all-nighters. Now, the time had come. The service was set to go live the following day. 1 day later: 6 countries. 1 week later: 14 countries. 3 months later: 78 countries.

My first attempt at creating an online service was the result of a desire to help those students like me who were frustrated at spending excessive amounts of time looking up long lists of vocabulary words. Fueled by this inspiration, I created EasyDefine (www.easydefine.com), a handy Web 2.0 tool that would automate the whole procedure. After enlisting the help of a friend with Photoshop, I released it into the mainstream. Within a few months, it had users from over 75 countries and over 1350 cities. I envisioned expanding this into a whole suite of Easy software, targeted specifically at the education sector. Featured in blogs such as Diigo and Reddit and bookmarked by many at Delicious.com, this service began to create a buzz not only with international youths, but also within the teaching community.

It was at this point that I began wrestling with management principles. I needed to determine at what point one should start adding advertisements to the site without taking away from the aesthetic interface. Embracing this fickle nature of business, I want to be able to efficiently determine not only how to accurately gauge user response with respect to interfering advertisements but also how to produce those cutting-edge technologies bound to charm even the least technologically-inclined user. M&T classes such as Management 235: Technological Innovation and Entrepreneurship address this exact issue of broadcasting technical advances with respect to entrepreneurship.

My evolving interest in business matured as I explored the vast diversity of cyber-businesses through web technologies. The initiation of my own web programming and graphics business allotted me the opportunity to learn better ways to interact with clients, increase customer satisfaction, and develop consumer loyalty. Soon I came upon a central precept: with a business it is not just about the benefits of the product, it's about offering memorable service that paves the way for more customers. The customer had to realize the unique benefits of enlisting my web-development services, so stylistically, I was prompted to develop a signature way of integrating asynchronous and client-side technologies. With Wharton's novel programs in business management, I will be able to master the fundamentals of administration, especially in a self-owned business. Combining this with Penn's engineering programs I can learn every aspect of research & development of a new product or service from marketing to operation management.

Through all the robotics competitions I participated in, there was one recurring theme: while we could write thousands of lines of code, we couldn't come close to simulating the complexity of the brain. This application of computer science, neurophysiology, and engineering – imitating the human brain – truly intrigued me to the extent that I wanted to combine these three interrelated fields into a unified study. I devoted substantial amounts of time combining the fields, whether I was trying to simulate the human brain through intricate artificial intelligence or perfecting the limbs of a robot to give it more anthropomorphic qualities. The Computer and Cognitive Sciences option in the BAS program embodies this intersection of two entirely different disciplines. Under the aegis of the M&T program, I will be afforded the ability to study under multiple layers of highly specialized fields; while still learning how to integrate computer and cognitive sciences, I can also learn the principles of management of a business and even a lab. The fact that this program does not limit one to a specific business or engineering aspect, but rather offers the freedom to choose from a variety of concentrations substantiates the beauty of the interdisciplinary approach.

Yet even more importantly, the assimilation of technology and management is meant to have beneficial consequences for humanity. One needs to be able to circulate these new findings, to have an ability to bring advances to the common man. As a child growing up in India and America, I have seen the vast divide between those with the knowledge of technology and those unaware of it. I hope through my studies in management that I can become a mediator and publicize new findings to bridge the technological divide.

As a result, I have found it necessary to draw from several fields, technology, science and management, to accomplish many of my goals with regard to robotics and cyber-businesses. Yet, one can't overlook the emphasis given to the study of humanities, as a true liberal arts education is just as necessary to the success of these inevitable interactions as is the professional education. With Wharton's "business and more" mantra, and the SEAS' hands-on-research and practical design experience, it is evident that the integration of these two departments is a precursor for success. I hope that with the M&T program, I can realize my dreams of creating that ultimate robotics business. The key fact of the program is that it doesn't just produce intelligent individuals – it produces leaders ready to innovate and tackle the most imperative problems of our day.



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