February 04, 2014

If there’s any week to raise your geek flag high and proudly, now is the week! With WPI’s first-ever Geek Week already under way, students are proving their skills with Rubik’s Cubes, participating in a gaming tournament, and showing off their Big Bang Theory trivia skills at the Goat’s Head. And on Friday, everyone can geek out with the arrival of Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, and Grant Imahara from MythBusters at a 7 pm show in Alden Hall.

With a coveted silver-plate trophy at stake, 42 teams with more than 200 total students participating have signed on to rack up points with each event they participate in during Geek Week. At the end, at Saturday’s SocComm Geeky Film event (Captain Phillips at 8 pm in Fuller), the winning team will be named.

Last summer, the Student Activities Office started thinking about some version of Geek Week at WPI, a new idea despite the university’s decidedly technical focus. Two student organizers, Phill Blake and Ron Sherrod, think the idea is well-suited to WPI.

“People are excited,” says Blake. “At Geek Week, you can show your true colors.” Sherrod says Geek Week brings pride to a word that can sometimes be used negatively. “Being a geek is not necessarily a bad thing,” he says. “We’re a different school and this is a way to celebrate the technical side of our college experience. It’s a different spin to consider.”

The week promises fun and frivolous activities, as well as some that are more seriously technical. But all activities, including MythBusters, are free to WPI students.

Wednesday brings a lunchtime talk in Higgins House with Sam Feller ’07, who will talk about his success as founder of AwkwardEngineer.com. He’ll share his story about starting his own company and figuring out how to decide on a life path; he says he hopes to impart a little confidence. “I want to tell them it’s not even about open-ended problem solving,” he says. “It’s open-ended about deciding what you want to do. Everything you learn helps you with the next thing.” Feller, who keeps in touch with professors, says it’s very validating to be happy with what he does and to have his products (like the “eject” and “launch” buttons that are really working light switches) enjoyed by others.

Wednesday afternoon is given over to robotics demonstrations by WPI faculty and students in Alden Hall from 2 to 5.

On Thursday, students’ wardrobe choices will be transformed by anyone who wants to affix their glasses with black tape and hike their pants high for Dress-up Day. Sherrod thinks there might be a few Big Bang character dress-ups, but that pocket protectors and suspenders will rule the day.

Friday, of course, is MythBusters in Alden Hall at 7 pm. Kari, Tory, and Grant from the popular scientific show will hold court for what will surely be a welcoming crowd. Erin Murray, graduate assistant for leadership and programming in the Student Activities Office, says she didn’t know what to expect when Geek Week planning got under way. “I’m so excited it’s taken off the way it has!”

Murray credits senior Brendan Stephen, who is spending this semester studying in California and will miss Geek Week, with being instrumental in bringing MythBusters to campus. What started out as a far-flung wish soon became reality with the planning of Friday’s show. Although he can’t attend, Stephen is sending updates to students with daily Geek Week emails, she says.

She likes that Geek Week turns stereotypes upside down. The Student Activities Office tried to take things that are seen as typically geeky and show them in a positive light. After Saturday’s movie showing, one of the teams will be awarded the coveted trophy in what students hope to be the first of many Geek Weeks.

Team members are given priority for MythBusters tickets; general admission tickets will follow. To find out about ticket availability, email geekweek@wpi.edu.