ESP Biography



DAVID BENJAMIN, MIT masters student




Major: 6

College/Employer: MIT

Year of Graduation: 2012

Picture of David Benjamin

Brief Biographical Sketch:

This specimen was found in the corn fields of Indiana. Although now in captivity in an arcane system of tunnels and buildings, it seems to enjoy it here. Very little is known about the species, but there is continuing evidence for a primary diet of mangoes. However, this poses some question as to how the creature was able to survive in its original habitat. Whether David Benjamins are nocturnal is unknown as all studies so far have been inconclusive. It also appears to exhibit an interest in computers and mathematics. How these features developed in the face of natural selection has yet to be determined.

Please do not feed.



Past Classes

  (Look at the class archive for more.)


Operating Systems in Spark! 2010 (Mar. 13, 2010)
A remarkable amount of stuff happens "behind the scenes" when you press Alt+Tab on your computer to switch between your web browser playing a YouTube video and your word processor displaying that English assignment you're procrastinating on. Come to this class to learn about (a small fraction of) them!


Algorithms for Awesome in Spark! 2010 (Mar. 13, 2010)
Algorithms rock But sometimes they don’t make sense Segmentation fault Topics: Big-O (runtime analysis), sorting, searching, data structures (heaps, trees), graph theory (flood-fill, disjoint set, Dijkstra’s algorithm).


Scheme in Splash! 2009 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2009)
Ever wanted to learn Scheme? Have you heard of functional programming, but never learned any functional languages? Come to our class, and we’ll teach you the basics of Scheme, and how to learn more.


The Secret of Monkey Island in Splash! 2009 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2009)
You are Guybrush Threepwood, mighty pirate of the Caribbean. Well, actually you’re not all that mighty, and you’re not really a pirate yet… but you really want to be! And you can hold your breath for 10 minutes. That’s got to count for something. Join us as we play through this LucasArts adventure game with its notoriously complicated puzzles and witty humor. Face devious enemies including the evil ghost pirate LeChuck! Featuring vegetarian cannibals, odd uses of rubber chickens, insult swordfighting. “You fight like a dairy farmer!” “How appropriate, you fight like a cow!”


Algorithms for Awesome in Splash! 2009 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2009)
Algorithms rock But sometimes they don’t make sense Segmentation fault Topics: Big-O (runtime analysis), sorting, searching, data structures (heaps, trees, lists), hashing, graph theory (Dijkstra’s algorithm, minimal spanning tree).


Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge in Splash! 2009 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2009)
After the Secret of Monkey Island, we will be playing parts of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge. Having played the first game is not required.


Scheme in Spark! Spring 2009 (Mar. 07, 2009)
Ever wanted to learn to Scheme? Want to take over the world? We recommend a class in the social studies category. Ever wanted to learn Scheme? Have you heard of functional programming, but never learned any functional languages? Come to our class, and we’ll teach you the basics of Scheme, and how to learn more.


Real-time Graphics: Drawing pretty pictures REALLY REALLY fast! in Spark! Spring 2009 (Mar. 07, 2009)
So you load up your newest video game, and a giant mango-eating purple alien with fifteen eyes pops up on your screen. You marvel for a few minutes at the 3d rendering and how realistic it looks, during which time the alien has already stolen all your mangoes and run away. You are left only with a profound desire to find out how the creature got here anyway. While you play your video games, a chip inside the computer works hard to render 3d scenes as fast as 60 times a second. Starting from only coloring individual pixels, it is possible to build up the ability to render something as complex as an alien (or a teapot). This class will explore how this is done. Note: This is neither an art nor a video game class.


LaTeX in Splash! 2008 (Nov. 22 - 23, 2008)
Ever tried to type up math, and found that Microsoft Word really is not up to the task? Want to learn a Turing-complete markup language? Liked the look of some of the textbooks you've read, and want to know how they typeset it? The tool most mathematicians use for typesetting math is $$\LaTeX$$, and we'll try to teach you the basics. We'll look at * Writing a basic document without any math * Basic math * Defining simple commands * Finding out more $$ \begin{align} \langle a, b \rangle &= \sum_{i=1}^n a_i\cdot b_i\\ (a+b)^n&=\sum_{k=0}^{n}{n \choose k}a^k b^{n-k} \end{align} $$


Real-time Graphics: Drawing pretty pictures REALLY REALLY fast! in Splash! 2008 (Nov. 22 - 23, 2008)
Your spaceship has been boarded. You have no means of communication with the rest of the crew. It has been ages since the last save point. After a glance at the odd green bar in the corner and a bite of mango, you turn into the corridor and go. While you are having fun running around saving the universe from evil brain-eating alien pirate zombie ninjas from Cleveland, a chip in your computer is drawing pictures over and over again just so everything looks pretty. This class will explore how computers render real-time 3d scenes, like what you see in video games, and how they are able to do so very quickly 60 times a second. We will see how one builds up a basic software renderer from only knowing how to draw individual pixels and discuss some things graphics cards do to make this efficient.


Algorithms for Awesome in Splash! 2008 (Nov. 22 - 23, 2008)
Algorithms rock But sometimes they don't make sense Segmentation fault Topics: Big-O (runtime analysis), sorting, searching, data structures (heaps, trees, lists), hashing, graph theory (Dijkstra's algorithm, minimal spanning tree).


Copyright: Laws and Implications in Splash! 2008 (Nov. 22 - 23, 2008)
We often hear scare stories about kids who download songs from the Internet and then gets sued for millions. Downloading music and other media is considered by many to be equivalent to stealing. But what is it that the kid steals when he downloads a song, and from whom does he steal it? We would like to think that it is the music itself, but the downloaded file just contains a bunch of numbers that the computer uses to make sound. And why is the fine so high? Surely, the song doesn't cost thousands of dollars, especially when a CD with a dozen of them costs just a few bucks. In this class, we will discuss the theory behind copyright laws, and what the court cases and battles that go into them are. We will also discuss some of the interesting implications of these laws (such as the fact that 80-year-old Mickey Mouse cartoons are still under copyright).


Monkey Island in Splash! 2008 (Nov. 22 - 23, 2008)
You are Guybrush Threepwood, mighty pirate of the Caribbean. Well, actually you're not all that mighty, and you're not really a pirate yet... but you really want to be! And you can hold your breath for 10 minutes. That's got to count for something. Join us as we play through this LucasArts adventure game with its notoriously complicated puzzles and witty humor. Face devious enemies including the evil ghost pirate LeChuck! Featuring vegetarian cannibals, odd uses of rubber chickens, insult swordfighting. "You fight like a dairy farmer!" "How appropriate, you fight like a cow!" (We will play Monkey Island I and Monkey Island II in the two sections, so feel free to come to only one or both of them.)


Monkey Making in SPARK (2009)
I like to make monkeys. Do you like monkeys?