That strikes more at the heart of the issue here than you may realize. The actual aircraft sitting in their hands is much closer to a compiled binary than source.
You can poke at it, run it, look inside and try to reverse engineer it, but the real secret sauce that goes into making drones like this is the design/manufacturing techniques and massive high tech industrial base that are necessary to produce the components. The aircraft's engine isn't likely going to give up the secrets of directional crystal growth that go into manufacturing the turbine blades, and the camera's CCD isn't likely to yield the secrets of semiconductor fabrication necessary to produce another one.
I was in your situation about 7 years ago myself, was visiting RPI, applied to MIT as my long shot. Got into MIT somehow, got my SB MechE, MS MechE (had the chance to go PhD, decided not to), working in industry now and I think I've got a little bit of perspective on the engineering school experience.
From working directly with lots of engineers, helping profs select grad students, my own job search, and helping hire engineers there's a couple things you can do that'll greatly help your success no matter where you go to undergrad. Be passionate about something, stay focused, and do substantial work on it. Whether it's Robocup, Formula SAE, rocketry club, etc, just do it and make an impact. Do design, learn, work with people, and have fun doing it. Add being friendly and reliable (don't underestimate these!) to that and you really can go anywhere.
I think I could have gotten a similar education at most reputable engineering schools, everyone has the same statics and dynamics equations, but if you're passionate about what you do a top school can be a truly exhilarating experience. Besides getting the opportunity to do substantial work during undergrad for top PIs, there was just an intense forward current that came from living, working, and keeping up with brilliant people. Make sure you've got the humility to deal with people smarter than you and can take failures in stride and you really can come out with a tremendous life experience.
Whether you do Aero+MechE, or Aero or MechE will really depend on the specific program where you eventually go. When you end up working on real projects you'll likely find the impact is small, and from what I've seen Aero and MechE resumes are often thrown into the same pile. Both programs should be teaching structures, dynamics, design, controls, thermo/fluids (different spin, but it's the same math) and you may find your time is better spent on your own independent study than the specific requirements of a double degree.
YMMV and such. Good luck!
You might not have noticed, but we've got this thing called the US Constitution. It says that the President is the Commander In Chief of the US Armed Forces. He answers to nobody on Manning's treatment. Say what you will about Manning's choice to cede his rights upon joining the armed forces, it's still terribly unbecoming for a nation that professes due process to allow this situation to happen. If it's all sensationalist lies about his treatment then it wouldn't do any harm to show that they're false either.
You're suggesting that the President doesn't have adequate control over the military. If that's the case, I'd say he's doing a pretty bad job. If he can't stand up for a Private how can he wrangle bigger issues?
Have you even looked at Nokia's stock price over the last 10 years? The stock dropped 20% on the Microsoft announcement after dropping 70% from its high in 2007. And that's after being down 32% from its highs in 2000. The company was sinking well before Microsoft came into the picture.
You've never wished you could have someone you're helping just show you their computer screen instead of trying to incorrectly describe it (or god forbid trying to walk them through setting up a remote connection)? A shot of the broken faucet they're bothering you about? It would cut a large part of the guesswork out of my random tech calls. Anyone who's a go-to technical person should see the value in the video chat cell phone form factor. Picture text messages work too, but the interactive nature of video chat really speeds things up.
Cambridge is too expensive, we all moved out to Somerville.
If anyone here is actually interested in the science behind this you should have a look at some of the lab's publications on the subject. As per Slashdot tradition, all the brilliant points brought up so far in the comments already have answers, they're just a little bit harder to find this time.
Our research group's website:
On the actual perching work:
Rick's PhD thesis on the subject:
and on the controls side:
Why does everyone keep saying investors will be angry as a fact when as this has been happening Google's stock price hasn't budged. In fact, the only thing that's made it move lately is the signal that the founders (the guys you seem to think will be bludgeoned) are going to be selling stock to bring their stake to less than 50%.
Considering how little we know about the emergence of intelligence from networks how is it possible to claim outright that an ANN can't approach the capabilities of a human brain? Real neurons are vastly more complex and aren't accurately modeled with such simple systems, but we don't have any idea what those complexities have to do with intelligence, so it seems to be quite the leap of faith to make claims on the topic.
Care to suggest how they differentiate between the thousands of applicants with both grades and standardized testing scores smashed up against the limits of the scales? Along that point, how do you pick the kid who's going to make MIT look good rather than hiding out in a room in Baker for four years? They need to lean heavily on the more subjective portions of the application like the essays and work portfolios in order to get any sort of meaningful picture of the applicant. That's also why this move makes perfect sense, splitting up the essay gets them a view from different angles without sacrificing any depth. After all, the 500 word essays didn't have any depth to begin with, and a 125 word essay is less likely to get polished to death by outside help.
It is much easier to suggest solutions when you know nothing about the problem.