About Bryce

I was born and raised on Galveston Island, just off the coast of Texas. I am currently a freshman at Baker College and plan to major in Computer Science. Extracurricular wise, I am involved in The Rice Players, Rice Theater Department, and Bakershake (Baker-Shakespeare). Personally, I like to play piano/ guitar, learn anything new, and run.

The EtherNest: An Innovative Harbor

There’s a new place on campus called the EtherNest.  Its purpose is to “serve as a collaborative space for students to explore creative uses of technology.” (The Rice Thresher, 2014). It does exactly that and more.

The idea for the space is that students come whenever they want and use the tools available to work on school or personal projects, specifically ones involving electronic components that might need to be soldered. In addition, the creators are sponsoring several guided workshops to introduce newbies to different aspects of electrical engineering, including wearable electronics, noise-making circuits, and the workshop I attended, TV-B-Gone.

Invented by Mitch Altman, the TV-B-Gone is a simple but reliable device that acts like a remote.  Whenever activated, it cycles through all kinds of different infrared, or IR signals, that different TVs recognize as a turn-off signal.  The result: a single universal “off” remote.  The idea is pretty socially complex, as it deals with advertising and putting the power into the people’s hands, a sort of ‘stick it to the man’ if you will.  Drawn in by both the collaboration and the event, I reserved my kit and headed on down on a quiet Friday night.

The space itself, in Abercrombie Lab room 119, is quaint.  There are a few tables covered in soldering irons in the center, and computers line the walls.  There are projects everywhere: an incomplete 3D printer, a color changing lamp, and circuit boards that do things I wouldn’t know how to explain. In a corner, there is a LP player, and the selection is “a sad girl with a guitar,” a folk blues band, and a Devo album.  The music is fitting, and it gives the space a grassroots feel, like you’re just hanging out in a friend’s garage playing around with transistors and soldering irons.

Once everything is ready to go, the man in charge, Reed Jones, a senior at McMurtry College, gives us a simple tutorial on how to solder components onto a circuit board. I haven’t soldered anything in at least two years, but anytime I screw up on something, Reed is more than willing to give me a hand, as is everyone else in the room. The camaraderie between all of us in the room is apparent by the fact that questions are just shouted out to the room as a whole and will be answered without hesitation by someone who knows.

The EtherNest, to me, is a great example of the “Rice Geek,” someone who is passionate about what they do.  As we all sit and solder our devices, jokes are tossed around like, “a resistor is like Skrillex; it drops the voltage,” and “a capacitor is like pac man, it just eats and eats until it gets full.” I barely know most of these people, and I’m not even an ELEC major, but I feel like I fit right in.  The entire feel of the EtherNest is wonderful.  It’s a place created by students, a place to hack, innovate, explore, design, and have fun.

A Midautumn Night’s Dream

The summer before I came to Rice, I saw that someone had created a Facebook event for auditions for Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  My only recent theater experience was as an alternate,  but I decided to audition despite my obvious lack of experience. After auditioning for a different production earlier that afternoon, I stayed for a pizza party before the auditions.  I didn’t know anyone there, but neither did any of the other freshman trying out. I was used to introductions by this point, but I didn’t really have to ever start a conversation;  the upperclassmen were so excited to meet all of us.  They asked us about our experience with theater, other activities we did, and about our impression of Rice in general.  They were funny, kind, open and accepting of everyone,  and just ecstatic.  In the time since,  I have not met a friendlier group of people than those who are in theater at Rice.

I was eventually called back and cast for the role of Francis Flute/ Thisby, the cross-dressing dimwit actor.  Rehearsals usually went as such:  15 minutes of warm-ups, which included sun-salutations, circle runs, and various vocal exercises and tongue twisters, 15 minutes of running through a scene, discussion about the events and characters, etc,  15 minutes of blocking, and 15 improving it.  All of the rehearsals moved at a whirlwind pace, and as we got closer to opening night, the work got even more intense. Christina and Tasneem, the assistant director and a senior at Duncan, pushed us to do our best.

The shows were held outside at the Rice Gallery and Founder’s court. The set was beautiful and merged with the natural setting of the play perfectly.  If you’re curious, the entire show was recorded! Personally I though we did an awesome job and I have never been prouder of a cast and crew.

Once you start theater at Rice,  it’s hard to go back.  Not long after rehearsals for Midsummer started, I was recruited to operate the sound board for the Rice Player’s Production of Rabbit Hole. And not long after Midsummer ended, I joined the crew of Hanzen and McMurtry’s Production of [title of show], again for sound board. All of these shows were put on by completely different groups of people, and each comes with unique challenges and experiences.