Michael Plasmeier is a sophomore at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA, pursuing a double major in both Management Science (15) and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (6-2). Michael bridges the divide between computers and people - more interested in how technology can be used to help people's lives rather than the raw math behind them. Michael has experience in both web development and designing user interfaces as well as managing a team and business strategy.
At MIT, Michael is involved in many activities. In his first semester, Michael became a research assistant at the MIT Media Lab where he developed Facebook applications and user interface concepts for use in research projects. Michael also got a campus job as a Residential Computing Consultant, a position in the Information Services and Technology department offering front line support to students in his dorm. Michael was also elected VP of Facilities and Services in his dorm where he has a $6,000/year budget to maintain the stock of common rooms and loanable equipment.
Michael is also active in student government on campus. In freshmen year he was the undergraduate rep on the committee to evaluate changes to the Athena and printing systems. The institute has already implemented some recommendations, and is working to implement the rest. Michael also served as a representative on the Institute committee to award the new House dining contract (worth ~$4 million/year) putting him in the center of the largest political conflict on campus.
In freshmen year, Michael participated in a Entrepreneurship and China seminar.
Michael is concentrating in Science, Technology, and Society as a humanities concentration.
In the summer of 2010, Michael worked at Deutsche Bahn, the state-owned railway of Germany. Michael worked in the Project Mobility/Touch&Travel department, under the "Innovations Manager" for NFC (Near Field Communications). Michael worked with him to extend NFC acceptance across other Deutsche Bahn departments, as well as Germany-wide, including taking part in meetings with partners and vendors. Michael also designed the system architecture for new form factors of Touch&Travel, as well as the look of the smartphone interface. Michael also prototyped (mockups) and developed (PHP, MySQL, HTML, JS/AJAX) a concept for pulling data together from different data "silos" within the Bahn to give consumers quick access to data to make their trip easier.
In the summer of 2011, Michael worked at NextJump in product development. NextJump provides corporate perks portals to much of the Fortune 500.
Michael graduated from Haverford High School with a 4.7 out of 4.0 GPA. In later years he was a regular anchor of H-Vision, the school’s morning news program. Michael supports education for all, through his website, ThePlaz.com, where he has several thousands sheets of knowledge, freely available to all with a connection to the internet. Michael's passion for knowledge enables him to excel in school. Among Michael's peers, he has earned a reputation for hard work. In his freshman year, the yearbook staff chose Michael to be the section cover page of the "Academics" section title page.
Michael developed several websites and web projects while in high school. The most notable among them was GridView. GridView was an application for Facebook which let users display of their friends' profile photos on their own Facebook profile. Michael got the idea for GridView on the last day of 10th Grade, "What does the name Facebook mean? There is no place to see everyone's face." Michael used his newfound free time to experiment with the newly announced Facebook platform. Very quickly the application became popular, with the number of users snowballing. Michael attributed GridView's success to Facebook's Newsfeed which spread word about the application, as well as its visibility on user's profiles. "I think the cleanness of the design attracted users to it. I tried to keep it clean and usable, without all of the ads everywhere."
Michael attracted some light angel funding for the project and a minority partner who brought years of experience in the industry. Together they started building up GridView. Michael designed a "rearrange" flash applet for GridView and then put it out for bid. For the month as the flash application was being developed, Michael got up at 5AM every day before school to manage the overseas development team building the project. Michael also hired and managed an independent domestic developer.
GridView grew to over 1,300,000 users. Unfortunately in 2008, Facebook changed the layout of the profile and the usage of GridView fell precipitously. GridView was essentially profile artwork - when Facebook changed the profile the art work become hidden. We tried twice to build a second act, when we acquired my business partner's old firm ForumsPlace and building a petitions platform 4Change. Unfortunately I did not have the time to dedicate to the projects and they never got any traction. I think the timing of the economy had a lot to do with it, GridView's revenue was mostly from other app developers waving VC cash advertising their applications. However the Facebook bubble burst and the entire economic environment became a lot more challenging. Still, I personally made a profit from the venture, and I gained far more experience than other experiences high schoolers.
Michael also produced Tecker 911, a video podcast to help people with basic technological concepts. The show was shot in Michael's house by a team of his friends. Michael led the team, diving out the duties to write, host, shoot, and edit the episodes. The shows were also shown on the local public access cable TV station. 100 episodes were ultimately produced over the 3 years. One of the former participants went on to major in new media production.
Michael developed an open-source application. SeniorQuoter, a free, open-source PHP application allows high school yearbooks to collect senior quotes. Michael wanted to start an open-source project to give back to the community. In 11th Grade, Michael led a 5 person group study at Haverford High School where the group, under Michael's supervision, learned PHP and MySQL and built version 2 of SeniorQuoter. A few yearbooks have adopted SeniorQuoter, but Michael was most proud of the team work which brought version 2 together and the UI/design Michael designed and implemented.
One project which was less successful was Dictionary Robot. Dictionary Robot's goal was to make it easy for students to do vocabulary lists. Michael tried to implement the feel of AJAX applications sliding around, but he was never able to get the front end or the back end to work.
Over the summer of 2009, Michael designed a new skin for my website "Nuvola." Michael first fell in love with the Nuvola icon set in 2006 and he sketched a first design for the site then. "It was a lot of work to upgrade the look of MediaWiki because years of subtitle accumulated modifications in MediaWiki make the code hard to decipher. It also required a lot of CSS trickery to get it to work in all of the major browsers." Michael also implemented a lot of the Yahoo! Speed optimization tricks into the site - such as image sprites - significantly improving page load. In addition, Michael implemented server-side caching with Memcached. Since then I have also made a few more extensions to MediaWiki.
In middle school and early high school Michael made a lot of programs for the TI-83+ graphing calculator. This was Michael's first exposure to programming. "Looking back the syntax was very basic - but I could build really simple program while sitting in the car."
Michael posts a great deal of what he does to his website. Furthermore, much of his work is freely available under the Creative Commons license. For example, over 50,000 of his photos are online and licensed under the Creative Commons license. Michael is also the technology manager for the publications department.
In middle school and early high school Michael was involved in both acting and behind the scenes in both school and professional theater. He was in three shows while he was at Haverford Middle School, stage managed a fourth, and was a casting consultant for a fifth. Through the People’s Light and Theater Company’s youth school, he has performed at the National Constitution Center in downtown Philadelphia. Michael also volunteered at People's Light in the lighting department.