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Sophomore wins prize in MIT essay contest

Interviewed by Rachel Seigel

School One: How did you get involved with this contest?

Nelson Healy: I had entered a contest last year with the “MIT Society of Women Engineers (SWE),” the same people who did the essay contest. It was a contest to build two towers and a bridge spanning across them using only paper, straws, pasta, felt and tape. The bridge had to support the weight of a bowling ball. My group designed a bridge that flexed instead of breaking. We won second place in that contest.

School One: What got you interested in the topic of nuclear engineering and technology?

Nelson Healy: I got interested in the subject when I saw something related to uranium glass. I was surprised to learn that they had not yet developed a way to deal with the waste caused by it, so I decided to look into it myself. One of the things that got me interested was the fact that people are afraid of it, and I saw that as a challenge. There are so many misconceptions with nuclear technology; people thought a nuclear power plant was being built in Fall River when in actuality it was just a cooling tower for a coal plant. It just looked similar to the towers used for nuclear power plants. I wanted to find out how nuclear technology works, instead of following rumors. It’s also a great career path, even if you don’t get a job as a nuclear scientist you can still work at power plants and government agencies. It’s an interesting profession.

School One: How many entries were there and how was the winner chosen?

Nelson Healy: There were at least 300 entries from all over the U.S., China and India. It was reviewed by some students from MIT and the MIT SWE. It was judged on writing style, soundness of the concepts and knowledge of the material.

School One: Was there a prize and if so, how did you use it?

Nelson Healy: The first place prize was two hundred dollars and the second place prize was one hundred and fifty, which you receive in an amazon gift card. However my parents converted it into cash and I used it to purchase computer parts from Micro Center in Boston. I’m using the parts to build a high-performance PC.

School One: How did you get involved with MIT?

Nelson Healy: I took a class through MIT’s high school enrichment program called C++, which deals with computer programing. I also attended a series of lectures by Walter Lewin. These were mostly lectures on Physics. He was really interesting and very energetic.

School One: Is nuclear technology what you’d like to study in college?

Nelson Healy: I’m either going to do nuclear engineering or artificial intelligence, I can’t decide which one. With artificial intelligence there are pre-programmed responses from humans, I figure computers can do the same thing.

School One: How does School One help you with achieving these goals?

Nelson Healy: Well, they are a good high school and they do their best to help me to get in to where I want to go. They are really supportive of my activities even though they are outside of the school system. Cary assisted me with proofreading my essay and was able to help me with the grammar.

School One: Thanks, Nelson! We look forward to hearing about your activities in future!