MIT: Independent Activities Period: IAP

IAP 2018 Activities by Sponsor - Aeronautics and Astronautics

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Aviation Accident Investigation or Agatha Christie for Engineers

Brian Nield (Boeing Commercial Airplane)

Enrollment: Unlimited: Advance sign-up required
Sign-up by 01/05
Attendance: Participants welcome at individual sessions
Prereq: Spreadsheet Skills (Excel); Some Familiarity with Aviation

Commercial aviation is extremely safe, in part due to knowledge gained from studying accidents. The investigation process and some of the most significant accidents are discussed. In addition, participants will have the opportunity to work with their peers in a small, self-directed, investigative team to solve a realistic (but fictional) aircraft accident mystery. New information on the crash will be given out at each session as you piece together the facts to determine what caused the accident and build recommendations for improving flying safety.

Sponsor(s): Aeronautics and Astronautics
Contact: Liz Zotos, 37-219, x3-7805,

Aviation Accident Investigation

Add to Calendar Jan/09 Tue 02:00PM-03:00PM Room 33-319
Add to Calendar Jan/10 Wed 02:00PM-03:00PM Room 33-319
Add to Calendar Jan/11 Thu 11:00AM-12:30PM Room 33-319, Time moved from 2-4 to 11-12:30

See main description.

Chasing Coral

Dava Newman, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Add to Calendar Jan/25 Thu 07:00PM-09:00PM 35-225, Open to the public

Enrollment: Unlimited: No advance sign-up

Join us for a special screening of the original documentary Chasing Coral and witness a journey to reveal how the greatest impact of Earth’s changing climate may be hidden beneath the surface of our oceans. There is inspiring work being done around the world to protect and preserve Earth's marine ecosystems. Take the first step to be a part of this great transformation.

Plot Synopsis:

Chasing Coral taps into the collective will and wisdom of an ad man, a self-proclaimed coral nerd, top-notch camera designers, and renowned marine biologists as they invent the first time-lapse camera to record bleaching events as they happen. Unfortunately, the effort is anything but simple, and the team doggedly battles technical malfunctions and the force of nature in pursuit of their golden fleece: documenting the indisputable and tragic transformation below the waves. With its breathtaking photography, nail-biting suspense, and startling emotion, Chasing Coral  is a dramatic revelation that won’t have audiences sitting idle for long.

Watch the trailer here:

Learn more at:


Sponsor(s): Aeronautics and Astronautics, Environmental Solutions Initiative
Contact: Jeremy Stroming, (425) 466-7759,

EarthHack: An Environmental Hackathon

Dava Newman, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Add to Calendar Jan/26 Fri 09:00AM-05:00PM 33-116, Bring your laptop, charger, and best ideas.

Enrollment: Limited: Advance sign-up required
Sign-up by 01/24

The Earth is at a tipping point. The decisions we make and actions we take in the next 10 years will affect the next 1000 years. Join us on Friday, January 26th from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm in 33-116 for a hackathon event to generate technology and design based solutions to Earth's environmental and climate challenges. We are driven by these questions:

We're rethinking the ways people engage with the overwhelming amount of climate and environmental information, and we'd love your help. At EarthHack, you'll collaborate with students, faculty, & professionals: spending the day brainstorming and designing. Meals will be provided. You can continue working with our team to use these solutions to transform environmental engagement. Top ideas will receive support to turn them into reality!


Sponsor(s): Aeronautics and Astronautics
Contact: Jeremy Stroming,

MIT Lincoln Laboratory Air Traffic Control and Satellite Program Tour

Dr. Tom Reynolds

Add to Calendar Jan/19 Fri 12:00PM-04:00PM Lincoln Lab;, 1-3 pm at the lab; transportation provided.

Enrollment: Limited: Advance sign-up required
Sign-up by 01/15
Limited to 15 participants
Prereq: Must be a U.S. citizenship

MIT Lincoln Laboratory was established in 1951 as a Department of Defense Federally Funded Research and Development Center to develop and prototype technologies to meet national security needs. This tour will provide an overview of the history of the Laboratory, its role today and more detailed information on two of its missions areas: Air Traffic Control (ATC) and satellite development. Tours of the ATC laboratories and TESS & TROPICS satellite fabrication & testing laboratories will be conducted.
Restricted to U.S. citizens with email addresses.  Participants must bring passport to be admitted to the tour. Participants need to sign up by January 15 by providing full legal name to Marie Stuppard,
Shuttle bus will depart from Building 39/Vassar Street entrance at noon for arrival at Lincoln by 1:00pm. Drop off back at Building 39 by 4:00pm.  

Sponsor(s): Aeronautics and Astronautics, Lincoln Laboratory
Contact: Marie Stuppard, 33-202B, 617 253-2279, MAS@MIT.EDU

Private Pilot Ground School (16.687)

Philip Greenspun, Tina Prabha Srivastava, Matt Guthmiller

Add to Calendar Jan/16 Tue 09:00AM-05:00PM 56-114, Bring your tablet or phone and laptop.
Add to Calendar Jan/17 Wed 09:00AM-05:00PM 56-114, Bring your tablet or phone and laptop.
Add to Calendar Jan/18 Thu 09:00AM-05:00PM 56-114, Bring your tablet or phone and laptop.

Enrollment: Unlimited: Advance sign-up required
Attendance: Participants must attend all sessions
Prereq: Register for 16.687 (3 units; graded PDF)

Would you like to fly a plane, helicopter, or commercial drone?Or understand the engineering behind today's human-occupied aircraft and air traffic control system? Come spend 3 days with us and learn everything that an FAA-certificated Private pilot or Remote Pilot needs to know for the official knowledge test.

The course includes qualitative aerodynamics, airplane and helicopter systems, practical meteorology, navigation and cross-country flight planning, and human factors. We present the FAA-required theory, pose some thought-experiments, and offer practical advice based on instructors' real-world experience.

Course staff:Philip Greenspun, an FAA Airline Transport Pilot and Flight Instructor for both airplanes and helicopters, MIT alum (Course 18; Course 6 PhD); Tina Prabha Srivastava, pilot and MIT alum (Course 16; SDM SM, ESD PhD); Matt Guthmiller, a Course 6 undergraduate who flew a 6-seat Bonanza around the world at age 19.

Prerequisites: About two evenings of reading. Download three free PDFs from the FAA web site:  Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (read Chapters 1, 3-8, 12, 14-16), Airplane Flying Handbook, (read Chapters 1-3, 7-8, 10), and Helicopter Flying Handbook (read Chapters 1-4, 9). Download ForeFlight (iOS only) or Garmin Pilot (Android or iOS) and set yourself up with a 30-day free trial. Bring your tablet or phone to class and also a laptop, if convenient. In-class exercises will be done in pairs, so you don't need to have your own devices.


Sponsor(s): Aeronautics and Astronautics
Contact: Philip Greenspun,

Space Propulsion Crash Course

Catherine Miller

Enrollment: Limited: Advance sign-up required
Attendance: Participants welcome at individual sessions
Prereq: Calculus, Differential Equations, Electricity & Magnetism

Want to learn about spacecraft propulsion but don’t have time to take 16.522? This five lecture course covers the essentials of space propulsion and will give you the tools to understand the inner workings of electric thrusters. Knowledge of single variable calculus, differential equations, and basic electricity and magnetism are strongly encouraged. Each lecture is one hour.

Sponsor(s): Aeronautics and Astronautics
Contact: Catherine Miller, MILLERCE@MIT.EDU

Introduction to Space Propulsion

Add to Calendar Jan/22 Mon 01:00PM-02:00PM 33-319

This lecture will cover the fundamentals of rocket propulsion, including the ideal rocket equation. The working principles of both chemical thrusters and electric thrusters will be presented. The performance of chemical and electrical thrusters will be compared and suitable applications for each will be discussed.

Catherine Miller

Plasma Physics Fundamentals

Add to Calendar Jan/23 Tue 01:00PM-02:00PM 33-319

Many electric thrusters use ionized gases, or plasmas, to create thrust. This lecture will cover what plasmas are, how they are made, and how they are characterized. The Child-Langmuir Law will be derived and plasma sheaths will be discussed.

Catherine Miller

Plasma Thrusters

Add to Calendar Jan/24 Wed 01:00PM-02:00PM 33-319

This lecture covers the physics behind the most mature electric propulsion technologies: gridded electrostatic ion engines and Hall effect thrusters. The working principles of VASIMR will also be discussed.

Catherine Miller


Add to Calendar Jan/25 Thu 01:00PM-02:00PM 33-319

The advent of CubeSats and microspacecraft has necessitated the development micropropulsion technologies. This lecture is focused on the physics of electrospray propulsion, a technology naturally suited to small scales. Colloid thrusters, ion electrospray thrusters, and liquid metal ion sources will be discussed. 

Catherine Miller

Characterization Techniques

Add to Calendar Jan/26 Fri 01:00PM-02:00PM 33-319

Many experimental methods have been developed to characterize the performance of electric thrusters. This lecture will focus on some of the most often used techniques: Langmuir probes, retarding potential analysis, and time of flight mass spectrometry. How measurements are used to compute the specific impulse, thrust, and efficiency will be discussed.

Catherine Miller

Spacecraft Surface Charging and Deep Dielectric Charging in Space Environment

Dr. Shu T. Lai

Enrollment: Unlimited: No advance sign-up
Attendance: Participants welcome at individual sessions
Prereq: N/A

These lectures offer awareness of hazards in space environment.  Spacecraft charging affects electronic measurements onboard and may be destructive for a spacecraft. The physical concept will help equip the students for pursuing future scientific research ideas in fields of space physics, space propulsion, plasma physics, spacecraft engineering, and material science.  

The attendants may have little or no background in this area.

Sponsor(s): Aeronautics and Astronautics
Contact: Dr. Shu Lai,

Spacecraft Surface Charging

Add to Calendar Jan/08 Mon 10:00AM-12:00PM 33-319

This lecture explains what, where, when, and why spacecraft charging occurs. Current balance determines the spacecraft potential.  A critical temperature of the ambient electrons governs the onset of spacecraft charging.  In sunlight, the photoelectrons may be trapped on the sunlit surface. 

Deep Dielectric Charging in Space

Add to Calendar Jan/12 Fri 10:00AM-12:00PM 33-319

High energy (MeV) electrons penetrate deeply and accumulate inside dielectrics.  The accumulation builds up internal electric fields.  Eventually, internal discharges may occur.  They may damage the electronic instruments and cause spacecraft anomalies.  Delayed anomalies are characteristics of deep dielectric charging.  There are methods for mitigating spacecraft surface charging and deep dielectric charging.