2017-2018 Alumni Class Funds Recipients

Compact classroom "fusion device" (CCFD) to investigate the plasma physics and nuclear science of fusion energy - $50,000

Anne White, Nuclear Science and Engineering

Plasma physics and fusion energy are topics that enthrall our undergraduates, yet are not covered experimentally in any of our currently offered courses. With the support of the Alumni Class Fund, we propose to introduce laboratory activities in a range of undergraduate classes offered in Engineering and Science at MIT. These laboratory activities will be enabled by the construction of a table-­‐top, portable, “fusion device” aimed at analyzing and quantifying basic plasma properties and nuclear properties using state-­‐of-­‐the-­‐art instrumentation. We aim to provide students with a hands-­‐on-­‐tool to promote active learning about the practically intangible plasma state of matter both in the classroom, and as part of a pioneering new concept – a Nuclear Makerspace.


Expert Problem Solving for Novice in 8.01L using MAPS - $50,000

David Pritchard, Physics

We will make a new residential MITx course for 8.01L in a new way. Instead of starting from zero, we will combine resources from 6 different existing edX/MITx courses that are appropriate for 8.01L students – typically freshmen with subpar preparation in math and physics who need more expert strategic problem-­‐solving skills (see proposal for details). ODL engineering has made LORE, a tool that combines resources from different edX/MITx courses into one searchable repository and allows creation of new courses from these resources. We propose to enable it to detect near-­‐duplicates and closely related resources using natural language processing, add metadata about the resources (some of it already in Ike Chuang’s MITx analytics), and make our new 8.01L course from this library.


Initiative for Socially Engaged Academics - $50,000

Lee Perlman, Experimental Study Group

This program offers classroom engagement on questions of social justice and human relations between MIT students and others students who are in radically different circumstances. The heart of this initiative is the joint MIT/prison courses taught in the men’s prison at MCI Norfolk, and the women’s prison at MCI Framingham. These have already been piloted at MIT through the Experimental Study Group and the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. The courses are offered in collaboration with Boston University, which operates the Prison Education Program, the only program in the country that grants Bachelor degrees to incarcerated students through an in-house university program. The courses take place inside prison, and are comprised of approximately 10 prison students and 10 MIT students. We seek funds to support the teaching of two HASS-H classes in AY 2017-18 and to support on-campus activities for MIT students who have participated in the prison classes as students and TAs.


Integrating Biological Engineering into MIT's Maker Movement - $50,000

Steve Wasserman, Biological Engineering
Maxine Jonas,, Biological Engineering
Natalie Kuldell, Biological Engineering
Julie Sutton, Biological Engineering

MIT’s culture of independent exploration and hands-­on learning defines the undergraduate experience. There are more than 130,000 ft2 of facilities on campus devoted to the fabrication of “hard” objects made out of things like metal, wood, glass, and silicon chips. Despite strong demand, there are few opportunities for students working with “squishy” (biological) materials to participate in the kinds of self-­‐directed experiences available to students in other disciplines. We believe that these kinds of activities will enhance the learning experience of life-­‐science students, and furthermore that all of the human precursors of a vibrant bio-­‐maker community exist on campus in large quantities. We propose to use Alumni Class Funds to seed and sustain a biological maker movement on campus.


Introducing Supercollaborative Research into MIT Classes - $50,000

Eric Demaine, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Martin Demaine, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Supercollaboration is an unusual way of conducting research that we have been experimenting with in Erik Demaine’s MIT classes in recent years. Our goal is to introduce the supercollaboration model into other MIT courses. We already have multiple commitments from other professors to experiment with introducing open problem sessions into their classes. Students in these classes will benefit from gaining research experience working on real problems, getting exposed to research in a positive atmosphere with a low barrier to entry, learning from their peers as they collaborate, and with the potential for research publications. Instructors will benefit from discovering and recruiting students to continue research after the course.


Replacing Cookbook 8.01 Experiments with Real World Measurements using MICA (Measurement, Instrumentation, Control and Analysis) - $50,000

Ian Hunter, Mechanical Engineering
Peter Dourmashkin, Physics

Funding is requested for a collaborative effort between the Departments of Physics and Mechanical Engineering to extend a 2016 pilot program that is focused on enhancing the hands-on learning experience of students in the 8.01 physics class by providing them with modular instrumented sensors that have been developed in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. The current 8.01 in-class experiments are guided experiments with predetermined outcomes. The students often indicate in their evaluations that these experiments are their least favorite part of 8.01. MICA sensors with their integrated mobile application will be incorporated in one section of 8.01 and used in two separate lab modules, one focused on linear motion and the other on rotational and translational motion.


Rethinking World Music 2.0: Explansion and Creation - $40,275

Patricia Tang, Music and Theater Arts
Leslie Tilley, Music and Theater Arts
Evan Ziporyn, Music and Theater Arts

The instructors of 21M.030 (Tang, Tilley and Ziporyn) propose to revamp the course in response to student desire to cover fewer geographical areas in greater depth. In conjunction with this change, we propose to pilot a new, “sister” class, numbered 21M.031 (tentatively called “Exploring World Music”). Unlike 21M.030, 21M.031 will not be a CI-H. Instead it will be a project-based class, incorporating hands-on music-making, dance and instrument-building, as well as multi-media and ethnographic fieldwork projects. For students wishing to take both, the two subjects are designed to be complementary and mutually supporting.


Wallace Astrophysical Observatory 16-in Education Telescope Replacement and Upgrade - $46,000

Richard Binzel, Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
Michael Person, Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences

MIT’s largest telescope used for the GIR-LAB subject 8.287J/12.410J "Observational Techniques in Optical Astronomy" is no longer operable after 45 years of service at the MIT Wallace Astrophysical Observatory (WAO; Westford, MA). Consequently, MIT is lagging behind its peers in delivering state-of-the-art education at the frontiers of astronomy. We request Alumni Class Funds funds to fully replace this education telescope. Specifically, the telescope to be replaced is a 16-in Cassegrain currently housed in a 16-ft dome. We propose incremental options, beginning with the direct replacement of existing equipment, but strongly recommend further upgrade paths so that MIT no longer trails other regional institutions in the quality and capability of its astronomical education facilities.


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