Monday, February 29, 2016

MIT's 2016 Celebrations: a Century of Calling Cambridge "Home"!

by E. Rosser

Killian Court, courtesy of
(Can you see why it's the Institvte?)
For a century’s worth of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Instivte (as they like to call their school--take a look at the famous inscription in Killian Court, and you’ll see why!) has considered Cambridge “home.”  It’s hard to imagine that one hundred years ago, MIT went by the nickname “Boston Tech,” rubbing elbows with Trinity Church and Boston’s Copley Square.  When the promising technical school started to outgrow its city dwellings, however, then-President Richard Cockburn MacLaurin, the MIT Corporation, and their few but fervent supporters began looking for a fresh start, finally deciding to erect their new campus on the open plots of Cambridge.

A Souvenir Program from the 1916 dedication,
courtesy of the MIT Archives
After an impressive architectural race to erect the “New Tech,” the heart of the new campus was ready for business in the spring of 1916--nearly 100 years ago.  The only buildings constructed at the time were the “main group,” Buildings 1 through 10 surrounding the Great Court, which was not to be renamed “Killian Court” until three decades later.  The Institvte’s new home was dedicated in style from June 12th to 14th, 1916, with a weekend of banquets, class reunions, picnics, tours, and a final ceremonial crossing of the Charles River in an elaborately decorated barge.  With that grand arrival, MIT officially relocated to Cambridge, spurring 100 years of innovation that have made the city the incubator of science and technology that it is today.

This spring, on the 100th anniversary of MIT’s momentous move to Cambridge, the MIT community plans to match the revelry of its predecessors with the MIT 2016 Celebration.  From February 29th to June 4th, the Institvte will remember its humble beginnings in Boston in 1861, explore the challenges of carving out a brand new home across the river, recognize the years of discovery and technological development that has been fueled on- and off-campus, and speculate what further adventures the future might hold.  Some of the events include:

  • The  “Imagining New Technology” Exhibit at the MIT Museum opens on March 1st.  A brand-new exhibition highlighting the design of the new Cambridge campus joins other science, technology, and MIT history exhibits at the MIT Museum.  At the heart of the exhibit is a crowd-sourced 3-D printed model of the campus and its surrounding community, which will be dedicated by Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons and MIT President L. Rafael Reif.
  • A special Celebration Concert by MIT Music and Theater Arts on April 2nd, 7pm-9pm, in Kresge Auditorium.  Enjoy not only performances by the MIT Symphony Orchestra, MIT Concert Choir, MIT Chamber Chorus, and members of the Chamber Music Society, but the unique architecture and excellent acoustic design of Kresge Auditorium--its roof is one-eighth of a perfect sphere!  This concert is free, so no advance tickets are required to attend.
  • Explore all five tenets of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) at the Cambridge Science Festival from Friday, April 15 to Sunday, April 24--hosted at various locations around Cambridge!  This year marks two big anniversaries, since in addition to MIT’s Cambridge centennial, 2016 is the Science Festival’s 10th year.
  • MIT opens its doors to the community during the Under the Dome MIT Open House on April 23rd.  Countless departments, research groups, clubs, and activities are putting their most exciting work on display.  From learning Creme Brulee Chemistry with the Educational Studies Group, to driving a robot arm with the Research Laboratory of Electronics, there’s something to fascinate everyone under the Dome!
  • History will be recreated on May 7th during Moving Day, starting with the Crossing The Charles Competition.  The MIT and Cambridge community are invited to make the trek from Boston to Cambridge by bridge or by water, with Grand Marshal Oliver Smoot (MIT class of ’62) leading the procession starting at 2pm.  The multimedia presentation “Mind and Hand: a Pageant!” (echoing the famous 1916 pageant, “The Masque of Power”) will commence on Killian Court at 8pm, followed by an evening of community dance parties.
An artist's rendering of "The Masque of Power."  The Court was so full,
MIT was even selling tickets to watch from the roof and windows! Courtesy of the MIT Archives

The colorful history of MIT, the Cambridge area, and science and technology are wonderfully intertwined, and this spring’s anniversaries are the perfect way to weave your way through the fascinating threads of that history.  Come take a peek into a world-class lab, step into the shoes of an engineer, or just join in the festivities as we remind ourselves, just as President MacLaurin did in 1916, why we’re so proud to call our community “home”!


Hello, everyone!  My name's Rosser, and I'm finishing up my last year at MIT--a place that has grown very near and dear to my heart over the years, so I naturally can't wait for the big celebrations!  I'm studying Science Writing and Mechanical Engineering, and trying to learn as much MIT lore and history as possible along the way.  Join me as I investigate some nifty questions about science and geek out about the upcoming Cambridge Science Festival!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

TENacious Engineering: Celebrating TEN Years of the Cambridge Science Festival

By Marybeth Martello, Ph.D.

TEN years ago, in the Cambridge, Massachusetts City Council chambers, a whimsical, Rube Goldberg-inspired chain reaction launched the first Cambridge Science Festival. The MIT students who built the intricate machine stayed true to the well-known, playful humor of MITers; they used an oversized red sneaker to perform the Festival “kick off.” Since 2007, the Festival has carried forth the spirit and creativity of that first chain reaction. In fact, the Festival is a chain reaction. Through community building and public outreach, the Festival has triggered a decade of interest, excitement, and fun around STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics). The ripple effects of its growing programs have steadily extended the Festival’s geographic boundaries. While still thriving in Cambridge, the Festival now touches communities across the Commonwealth.

TENacious Engineering is a project to celebrate the Festival’s TENth Anniversary. Inspired by the first kick-off, TEN teams, spanning the state from North Adams to Cape Cod, have been hard at work constructing TEN original and fascinating chain reaction machines. And these aren’t any old teams. They each reflect unique partnerships linking college departments, museums, organizations, high
schools, K-12 students, artists, and engineers. The machines echo the people, places, and collaborations from which they emerge. And there will certainly be some surprises. Billiard balls, pink flamingos, and drones – oh my! On the evening of April 15, at the Festival's Big Ideas for Busy People event, Governor Charlie Baker will unveil a short film. In this film, the chain reactions will count down to the Festival's TENth Anniversary opening via a meta chain reaction that links all TEN machines together. Machine TEN will set off machine nine, and the chain reaction will proceed in sequence until machine one sets off the Festival itself. Watch closely. You might even catch a glimpse of that red sneaker!

The MIT Museum team was the first to complete their chain reaction (see photos). The other nine TENacious Engineering teams are working, largely in parallel, with little knowledge about what the other teams are doing. They must, however, coordinate the exit and entry points that link neighboring machines in the meta chain reaction. What will the chain reactions look like? How will they all link together? We can’t wait to find out! In subsequent CSF blog posts, we will check in with these teams and learn about their chain reaction experiences. 

Were you at the State House for the first Festival kick-off?

What do chain reactions mean to you? 

Try your hand at chain reactions and other engineering feats at one of these Festival events...

Friday, February 12, 2016

Music at the Cambridge Science Festival!

Hello, Everyone!

My name is Shantasia Jones and I am currently a senior at the Community Charter School of Cambridge. I am currently interning with the Cambridge Science Festival. I find what they do here absolutely astounding because I get to see the different functions of the MIT Museum and how the festival operates. I am truly grateful to have this opportunity of interning at the Cambridge Science Festival because I know that science is all around us on our journey of everyday life, and to learn more about it makes me so excited.

One of my personal passions is music - What is the purpose of music? What does it mean for us? What does it mean for the listeners, the audience? As for me, I always listen to music whether I'm doing my homework, on the train, or even doing laundry. Music creates a mood. It gives you a creative mind outlook!

But wait, before I get too deep in my thoughts, let me explain the basics on how we are able to hear music. Sounds are different noises that come together to create energy that soon turns into an array of vibrations. In order for this process to end up being successful, you will always need to have air. Conveniently, we breathe in air so that will never be a problem. The formula for sound can be viewed as an equation: Energy+Vibrations+air = Sound, but if you eliminate air from the equation you get Energy+Vibration-air = No sound. Perhaps no human life as well? Just kidding!

Anyways, the air around you carry the vibrations, which is why air is so essential.
The creativity found with a music note would be lost without science. New science and technology allows me to carry music around with me, allows me to listen to new styles and music from all around the world and different cultures.

Most importantly to me, music puts me in a state of mind where I can think. While listening to music, I feel anything is possible! Music gives me space to imagine and create. For example, if you were listening to the sounds of waves you might imagine a seabird in its natural habitat by the seashore. This could bring you further curiosity and questions about sea-life and biology. Without curiosity and questions, the science would be meaningless.

If you were to listen to music with a harsher beat, the harsher sound could connect to a different mood, leading you to imagine a lion in the wilderness chasing its prey. Or, perhaps, a techno beat illustrates how far music production and digitization has come in the last century.

Music has an impact on individuals minds that can open doors to an extravagant world in science and technology.

Try it, turn up your music, and see what comes to mind. Don't forget to buckle up because it might be a crazy ride or come hang out with us and experience what your brain has to offer!

Here are some of our Cambridge Science Festival events about MUSIC!
Youth Balinese Gamelan Workshop
Soundscience Fun!
Giants of Science
Science, Music, and the Art of Creative Thinking
Harbinger of Spring

See full Schedule of Events here.