Proof that 'MIT Can Talk'

IAP activity promotes campus-wide awareness of good oral communication skills.


Many of the great thinkers of the past — the so called "Renaissance Men" — excelled in both engineering/science and exposition, rhetoric and oration. There is no reason why the MIT engineers and scientists of today, the creative men and women who will be the leaders of tomorrow, cannot do so as well. "MIT Can Talk 2012" was conceived and organized by Tony Eng, a senior lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, to promote campus-wide awareness of good oral communication skills. The week-long Independent Activities Period (IAP) event, from Jan. 26 to Feb. 2, consisted of a series of independent workshop sessions on public speaking/oral communication, that culminated in a speaking competition.

There were 10 hands-on workshops that covered various aspects of public speaking related to delivery such as: breathing and commitment, being expressive, the use of space, the use of humor, storytelling and stage presence. These workshops were open to the MIT community, ranged in duration from 1 to 3 hours, and were attended by 20 to 40 participants each.

The speaking competition was open to current MIT students only. Students had to prepare 4 to 5 minutes worth of material that spoke to this year's theme: "Proving Them Wrong." To be eligible, students were required to attend at least four hours of workshops so that they could incorporate ideas presented in these workshops in the delivery of their material.

Fifteen finalists (eight men, seven women) were selected by a preliminary group of judges (Vinayak Ranade, Alejandro Ojeda, Rohit Gupta) to compete in the final round on Feb. 2. These finalists spanned all Classes between 2011 and 2015, and were from Courses 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 18. They spoke before an audience in Room 6-120 that included a panel of five judges, one from each of the schools at MIT: 

  • Professor Lawrence Susskind (School of Architecture + Planning);
  • Professor Albert Meyer (School of Engineering);
  • Professor Alan Brody (School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences);
  • Professor Erich Ippen (School of Science);
  • Senior Lecturer Leigh Hafrey (School of Management).

The first place prize of $800 went to Maggie Lloyd; second place of $600 went to Bruna Moscol; and third place of $400 went to Anisha Gururaj. The Audience Choice Award of $300 went to Bruna Moscol.

Various local establishments provided gift certificates as door prizes. The event was sponsored by Tau Beta Pi, Office of the MIT Chancellor and MIT IEEE/ACM.

2012 finalists (in alphabetical order)

  • Priyanka Chatterjee, "From Generation to Generation"
  • Will Drevo, "A Man Named King"
  • Bruno Faviero, "Vision"
  • Anisha Gururaj, "Gems of Humanity"
  • Charles Huang, "Ice Cream Battleground"
  • Jeff Lin, "B"
  • Maggie Lloyd, "Julia Child"
  • Samuel Markson, "A Physicist's Elevator Pitch for the Real World"
  • Halla Moore, "Perseverance"
  • Bruna Moscol, "Our Essence"
  • Kate Rudolph, "Tetrahedron Packing"
  • Sam Shames, "Proving You Can Dream"
  • Josh Wancura, "The Gas Gauge"
  • Andrew Wang, "The Three S's"
  • Jennifer Wang, "Two Poems by Taylor Mali"

Topics: Education, teaching, academics, Faculty, Independent Activities Period, Special events and guest speakers, Staff, Students

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