High-Tech Orientation: Mingle and Find

By Anna Babbi Klein, Communications Manager, DUE

Mingle…

As incoming freshmen arrive on campus, one of their first stops is Orientation check-in. This year, in addition to being welcomed to campus and getting orientation information, the students were given a free Mingle Stick. What is a Mingle Stick? It looks like a memory stick but has the ability to “beam” information from one user to another using infrared technology. The concept was that as students met during Orientation, they could “mingle” and beam their information to each other. Think of it as an electronic business card. It was originally designed for use at tradeshows and conventions.

The Mingle Sticks created a real buzz among the students. In fact, those who checked-in before they were available came back in search of their “free Mingle Stick.” As one of the first universities to try this concept, the Mingle Sticks were donated to the Institute. Unfortunately, the cache of the Mingle Sticks quickly faded. Chi Chi Okeke, a student Orientation Coordinator, commented “I've heard it was cool to have them simply because everyone had them, but like any fad, it went away quickly. I liked mingling with the Orientation Leaders and freshmen during orientation, simply to mingle with them, but I haven't actually connected it to my computer to look at the contacts, and I haven't mingled nor have I seen anyone mingle since Orientation.”

Also, as Paul Spangle, Assistant Director of Student Activities noted, technology cannot replace the personal connections students make during Orientation by talking and getting to know each other. Orientation activities facilitate these types of interactions. “Mingling” facilitates a quick exchange without requiring much interaction; this could become a crutch for students who need to be pushed to interact with others. In the end, when students made personal connections, they used the technology they had used in high school to solidify the connections, namely Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging.

...and Find

During Orientation, a scavenger hunt is a great way to get students working together in teams while they orient themselves to the MIT campus. Typically, paper clues would lead students throughout the campus. This year’s scavenger hunt had a technology twist – students were given clues and directions through texts. The hunt was setup in SCVNGR.

Here is how it worked. One person in each group would be the texter. As a group, the students would answer a riddle, text it in, once successful, they would get a text telling them the next location. Each team received 5 points for a correct answer. Once a team reached 60 points, they would go to Kresge Oval and unscramble letters to finish the scavenger hunt. Prizes included t-shirts, boxes of fruit snacks, peanut butter crackers, cereal bars, and more.

Jennifer Earls, a graduate intern in UAAP, explained that “this technology improved the efficiency of setting up a large-scale scavenger hunt, and definitely made the experience more high-tech and professional. It saved Chi Chi Okeke (the primary organizer of this event) from writing out hundreds of clues to place around campus for the hunt. As a result, Chi Chi was able to focus more on creating fun and challenging riddles to input into the system.” The best part is that the students seemed to love it.