17-y-o girl, accepted to MIT, sends her admission letter into space

Chris sez, "My name is Chris Peterson. I run web communications for MIT Admissions and have been a loyal BB reader for years. For the last several years we have been sending our admitted students their acceptance letters in cardboard tubes. First because we sent a poster, but now it's its own thing. 2012 is the anniversary of an old MIT balloon hack, so we put a letter in all of the Early Action admit tubes telling them we wanted them to hack the tubes somehow, and set up http://hackthetubes.mitadmissions.org to collect responses. Lots of them are great, but this one, from Erin King (MIT '16) in Georgia, is the best."

Update: Erin sez, "I goofed on my Erin king 'MIT admit letter in space' submission. She is 17. I plain forgot what year it was - been too buried in applications!!"

16 year old girl from Georgia launches her MIT acceptance letter into near space (Thanks, Chris!)



  1. Dear MIT, every year is the anniversary of an event. It may not be an even numbered anniversary but it is still an anniversary none the less.
    The Universe That You Are The Center Of

  2. I’m getting a little tired of these weather balloon videos shot with fisheye lenses that then claim that they are videos from space. As if we’re supposed to be fooled by the fisheye lens into thinking that we’re seeing the curvature of the earth. Why doesn’t anyone send up a weather balloon with a non-fisheye camera?

    91,000ft != space. Depending on the definition, space starts at 400k ft (re-entry altitude), 387k ft (the point where solar wind dominates over the atmosphere), 330k feet (according to international treaty),  or 264k ft (according to NASA’s astronaut program).

    However, 91,000ft is well recognized as the Stratosphere. What’s wrong with the headline “’16 girl, accepted to MIT, sends her admission letter into Stratosphere”? It’s still impressive!

    1. Why doesn’t anyone send up a weather balloon with a non-fisheye camera?

      Go right ahead. Don’t forget to submit it via Submitterator.

    2. > Why doesn’t anyone send up a weather balloon with a non-fisheye camera?

      Because fish-eye lenses have a very wide field of view, thereby maximising the amount of coverage from the camera?

  3. Hi everyone – 

    Erin is both 16 years old AND a member of the class of 2016. 

    Glad you liked it! She’s awesome. 

  4. Looks to me like her dad and the rest of the amateur radio club were the brains behind the operation. Why so much praise for her? 
    Sure she’s a future MIT grad, but as of right now she could not have done one aspect of this project herself.
    …Congrats dad for your awesome project with your child’s acceptance letter!

    1. So, did ya see the same clip that I saw? The one that starts out with her building the instrument package?

      1. To paraphrase a comment I heard somewhere about the writing process, those who insist that achieving great creative success is entirely solo, uninformed by prior works and unassisted by peers, must be entirely unfamiliar with achievement and with creativity.

      2.  Worked for eight years for a biochemist.  One of her many strengths was her ability to collaborate with several labs in multiple institutions, within related fields.  It’s how a lot of science is done. 

    2. Of course I asked my friends for help, as it is not a one-person project, but it was in fact my idea, and I did all of the planning and preparation. It was my project. Thanks to everyone else for sticking up for me.

    3.  Was that her dad with a blonde wig soldering the thing? Who typed this response on your behalf, because you’re clearly too stupid to have figured out keyboards on your own.

    4. Hate those astronauts and NASA engineers and scientists too.  None of them had the balls to make it into space singlehanded.

    5. I am sure you make your own transistors when building your radio circuits, right? RIGHT?

      Because Jerri Ellis did. So step up, or step off.

    6. I’m usually glad not to have a “dislike” button, since it’s nice to keep things positive. But right now, I wouldn’t mind being able to vote down comments.

  5. Wow, it’s a bit chilly in here. Congratulations Erin! And thanks for the inspiring vid. I’m going to start a new project myself right now.

      1. At 6:12 there’s a whole bunch of paper-like debris from the thing just after it reaches apogee. I was assuming that 6:21 was another piece — it looked vaguely like a cardboard tube with fins.

        1. That seems reasonable, but my buddy at the Smithsonian gave me an answer I like better: “I assumed it was Jesus giving her a high five.” 

          1. Haha! that’s awesome. XD Thanks, y’all. It was actually just what my friends and I like to call a “balloon shard”

    1. What you saw was NOT a space ship. The word Enterprise was just printing on the shreds of the balloon. To order more balloons for your next trip to near space write us at Our address 1701 Enterprise Street, Asheboro, NC

      (Stupid primitive distributed matrix for distribution of images and video. Now we are going to have to go back in time and zap that camera. What? Did I just type that out loud? Stupid mind to text translator. Stop typing what I’m thinking. End. Quit. Stop. Reverse the polarity. Log out.

  6. Our childrens future is in great hands with the interest and enthusiasm that is currently displayed by the likes of Erin. Continue to be creative (but still enjoy being a teenager)

  7. Not to reduce her achievement at all, but I preferred Noah’s expression of the right of every American to bear citrus-based projectile weapons.

    1. There are a lot of really awesome hacks on there…and it’s only the EA admitted students. I’ll probably make a big blog post after the RA kids send theirs in too. 

  8. Great job Erin.  I’m going to link to this from my blog so my studenta can be inspired. You rock!

  9. Just when I think the idiot clones at the mall are the END of our species, and we have nothing left to offer,   bright young rays of light shine through!     Go Large, invent, dream, build amazing things!   and thank you for being bright!

  10. Dammit, where’s the NSFMS tag??? (not safe for motion sickness) going to go and throw up now.

  11. Once upon a time, many years ago, I was an MIT student and a photographer for The Tech (MIT’s oldest and largest newspaper), and was told to go to a certain location at a certain time, to witness a hack of truly epic proportions. I overslept. The other photographer, got lost. So I ended up in the offices of The Tech, and then the phone started ringing. The Boston Globe and the Boston Herald called to get information. Someone found a TV and tuned in to EPSN, so we could see a video. And my girlfriend and I wrote the story, which you can read here: http://tech.mit.edu/V102/PDF/N55.pdf (The pictures were taken by the Harvard Crimson (student newspaper) photographer, Nevin Shalit, son of TV personality Gene Shalit. Nice guy.)

    Hearing “an old balloon hack” made me feel really, really old (it happened before Erin was born!) and a little sad. It was, to me, the very best hack ever perpetrated. Totally unexpected, flawless, and a marvel of engineering.

    No flies on Erin, of course. Shooting an acceptance letter into “near space” — good work! Now get to work inventing explanations for IHTFP.

  12. Erin, best of luck to you in school!  You will get much further up than your balloon did!  Nice work and keep at it.

  13. What an inventive project! Awesome ladies like yourself are so inspiring. Additionally, the time you took to respond to everyone here shows a lot about your character! Have a blast in Cambridge and Boston.

  14. I love this video. The cinematography and editing are great and add a lot to capturing the fun of the hack. 

  15. Fantastic in so many ways!  Congratulations on your acceptance.  MIT’s lucky to get you :).

    Jay MIT, Class of 1988

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