The third annual Career Fair Free Stuff Awards

by Matthew M. Lug - Newspeak Staff

I usually start the awards article each year with comments on how Newspeak had screwed up my previous articles. However, I haven't found any mistakes in any of my articles so far this year, so I'll just say that it's pretty stupid to print the crossword puzzle solutions right side up and immediately next to the crossword puzzle. I know they're ridiculously easy to begin with, but that is going a bit too far.

If you were at WPI this time in either of the last two years and read Newspeak at the time, you might have noticed one or both of the previous Free Stuff Awards articles. If this is the case, then you can skip ahead to the awards, because none of the rest of this commentary will be new to you. For the rest of you, I'm going to fill up some space to build up suspense, anticipation, irritation, and anything else that you might feel as a result. If you don't read it, you might miss something terribly important, so you have no choice but to do as I tell you. Now keep reading and don't skip a word. Hey, I saw that, now go back and read it properly. Good. Now remember, I'm watching you. No, really, I'm watching you, behind you and off to the right. Your other right. No, that's up, up is nowhere near right. Closer, closer... Oh, wait, that's not you, unless you're that medium-height cute girl with shoulder-length brownish hair and glasses. I realize that a large percentage of the women on campus fit that description, but I can't reveal all of my secrets at this time.

No, I'm not done yet, although I am going to get back on the subject now. I would normally describe what the career fair is, but I noticed that someone did that in last week's issue, so I don't really need to repeat everything. In brief, the career fair is more than just a lot of people in uncomfortable clothing crowding into Harrington and sometimes Alden on a September afternoon. It is also companies trying to attract attention by giving away unique and interesting, and usually completely useless, items, and of course people like me walking around with several large bags of these items. I have an excuse though, since I have to judge all of it.

I started these awards two years ago because of the sheer volume of stuff I had accumulated from my trips through the booths at the career fair. I was trying to think of articles for Newspeak (I usually run out of ideas sometime in B term), and I had more than enough material for a large article (it was a full-page article in that issue) on the subject of free stuff. A year later, some people had actually remembered the awards, and there was apparently interest in seeing them once again. Being low on ideas that year, I had already been planning on doing them again, even if people didn't want to see them. By now the awards have gained quite a bit of recognition, mostly by students and faculty. However, many company representatives I have spoken to vaguely remember hearing something about some kind of awards, and some even know if their company had won an award at some point in time. You can find the past two awards articles and all of my other articles in my personal archives at You may now take a short break to read these articles, but be sure to get right back here to finish reading this article.

Finally, last year there was a letter to the editor about the awards article. I don't particularly remember much about it, but the main point seemed to be that someone didn't like the article and that it went against the spirit of the career fair, or something like that. It was at least good for giving me another idea for an article, even though the author completely missed the point of the awards. Anyway, if you have a problem with these awards, please seek professional help. And now, as soon as the career fair is over, I'll get back to you with a summary and the long-awaited awards.

Ok, let me catch my breath. Today's humidity definitely didn't help any for those of us carrying large bags of assorted items, so I'm just a little bit tired. It was an interesting afternoon in Harrington, with several new items on the gym floor and free refreshments on the balcony. A lot of companies didn't bother to bring anything more interesting than cheap pens or bottle opener key chains, mousepads were as prevalent as ever (although most were rather dull), and some companies put a respectable effort into coming up with new items to give away. Cups and other beverage containers were scarce, as were message boards (only Mitre had any that I saw). Stress relievers were also rather rare, quite unlike last year.

Before I begin listing the awards, here's a few words on how the winners are decided. All award decisions (with the exception of the Newspeak Editors' Choice Award, since I am not, never have been, and never will be an editor of Newspeak) are made by me. I personally make two or more trips through the crowded aisles collecting anything I see that appears to be free. Occasionally I talk to the people there to tell them what I'm doing, and sometimes I even sacrifice a resume to obtain an item. I also hand out copies of the awards from previous years every once in a while. After getting several bags full of stuff (3 this year), I dump it out on my bed (so I have an incentive to get everything sorted out quickly), sort everything into categories, and decide the winners and runners up. Categories are added and removed depending on the number of items available for judging. I then bag everything back up and throw it all into my closet with the rest of my useless junk. That's the extremely exciting process that leads to what you are about to read.

The Awards

Best Pen
Winners: Mercury Computer Systems and Hewlett Packard for their bubble blowing pens.
Runners Up: Compaq, for their gold-trimmed metal pens, and Lucent, for their sleek black pens.

Best Pencil
Winner: Aspect Telecommunications, for their plastic mechanical pencils.
Runner Up: Travelers Insurance, for their somewhat impractical wooden umbrella-shaped pencils.

Best Highlighter
Winner: Texas Instruments, for their erasable highlighters.
Runner Up: United Technologies, for their three highlighter set inside a triangular case, which had won in this category in the previous two years.

Best Sticky Note Pad
Winner: Cambridge Technology Partners, for their odd-shaped note pads.
Runners Up: Raytheon and Bell Atlantic for their large rectangular note pads.

Best Key Chain
Winner: Pervasive Software, for their key chains with red LEDs in them.
Runner Up: Gillette, for their key chains with little pewter razors.

Best Mousepad
Winner: APC, for their "Use it or lose it" cartoon mousepads.
Runner Up: Data General, for their uniquely shaped round mousepad with jagged edges.

Best Flying Object
Winners: Clarion and United Technologies, for their balsa planes, which won this award last year.
Runner Up: Raytheon, for their floppy frisbee things.

Best Toy
Winner: BASF, for their five different sports ball yo-yos.
Runner Up: APC, for their square slinkies.

Best Beverage Container
Winner: BASF, for their ceramic mugs.
Runners Up: General Motors, for their full bottles of water, and Boc Edwards for their belt pack bottle holders with empty water bottles.

Best Candy
Winner: Parametric Technology, for their Lindor chocolate truffles.
Runner Up: Connected Network Backup, for their nice assortment of chocolate.

Most Useful
Winner: Quantum, for their nice looking wooden post-it note holder that came in an equally nice looking box.
Runner Up: Torrington, for their ice scrapers.

Most Useless
Winner: Boc Edwards, for their binoculars that don't magnify much.
Runner Up: UPS, for their flimsy plastic clip things that don't clip very securely.

Most Original
Winner: APC, for their silly putty.
Runner Up: Sun Microsystems, for their magnets with assorted computer words.

Honorable Mentions
Cognex, for their playing cards with plastic cases.
Teradyne, for their "Global stress relief in a box," which appears to consist of a globe stress relief ball and slinky with a map of the earth printed on the outside, even though there was no stress relief ball inside the box.
Avici Systems, for their @ shaped letter openers.

Cutest Company Representative
Before you start getting offended, let me just say that these are my awards, and I can add any categories I want. This one does fit in with the theme of the awards because viewing and conversing with the company representatives is free.
Winner: InScribe Technologies. I had a couple of very nice conversations with Kathy of InScribe during my trips past the many tables.
Runner Up: Fidelity Investments. I didn't see a name tag, so I don't know who she was, and I didn't really talk to her, but she seemed nice.

Most Masculine Company Name
Like the above category, I just felt like including this one, even though it is even less related to free stuff.
Winner: Naval Undersea Warfare Center
Runner Up: Husky Injection Molding Systems

Newspeak Editors' Choice Award
Winner: Lucent, for their small pens with spiral antenna-like ends, which were hidden indide the spiral binding of their brochures.

Most Original Assortment
Winner: BASF, for their playing cards, sunglasses, sports ball yo-yos, plastic coffee mugs, and ceramic mugs. Their table was a very interesting place.

Most Self-Glorifying
Winner: Compaq, for their "The Legion of Q" comic book about underwater superheroes saving the world with the Alpha chip.

Most Over-Hyped
Winner: Microsoft. Their representatives were more agreeable, so I gave them a resume for one of their Koosh things. They seemed to think that their free item was the best in the world, but as usual it wasn't that great.

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