Open House

Air and Space Flight

MIT hosted demonstrations and hands-on activities related to man-made things that fly, float, and orbit. Visitors had a rare chance to learn about the TALARIS Hopper (a robotic planetary explorer designed to traverse the moon's terrain), tour a wind tunnel, make water bottle rockets, watch radio-controlled aircraft swoop and soar, and much more.

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Scheduled Activities

The list below includes descriptions of events that open-house visitors were invited to attend.

Water bottle rocket launch

Watch as students launch various rocket designs made from a 2-litre plastic bottle and powered by water and compressed air. Learn why weight, mass, fin design and placement all make a difference in rocket performance.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) – MIT lead mission to the moon

Come see a model of the the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft and learn about this MIT lead mission to the Moon, scheduled to launch this fall. GRAIL (which stands for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) will measure the Moon's gravity field in unprecedented detail.

Scientists will use the gravity field information to map the inside of the moon from crust to core to reveal the moon's subsurface structures and, indirectly, its thermal history.

With this new knowledge about the Moon, scientists will have a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed.

Sponsor: Dept of Earth, Atmospheric, & Planetary Sciences

Fly a SPHERES satellite

The Space Systems Lab has many of their basketball-sized self-propelled satellites aboard the International Space Station. Now’s your chance to operate an identical one here on earth in a series of one-minute contests!

Good piloting skills will win you a SPHERES sticker. And while in the SSL, take a look at lots of other cool vehicles and projects.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

MIT Museum inside out

Free admission all day at the MIT Museum, as it turns itself inside out for the Institute's Under the Dome: Come Explore MIT! (and the first day of the Cambridge Science Festival). Go behind the scenes of the museum and explore unique artifacts from MIT's history, as well as innovations in art, science and technology in Cambridge and beyond.

The day's programs will feature tours, hands-on activities, and a chance for visitors of all ages to see and chat with the people behind the Museum's MIT150 exhibition.

Sponsor: MIT Museum

Design-build-fly exhibit

See the amazing radio-controlled aircraft that Aero-Astro students design, build, fly (DBF), and win in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Aeronautics annual DBF national contest.

Team members will be on hand to describe the competition.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Army National Guard and MIT ROTC UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter fly-in

The UH-60 Blackhawk is the Army’s utility tactical transport helicopter, entering service in 1979 to replace the smaller UH-1 Huey of Vietnam-era fame. Courtesy of the Rhode Island Army National Guard and MIT Army ROTC, a pair of Blackhawks will land in Briggs field and be available for up-close inspection.

Their crews will be happy to tell you about the aircraft and answer your questions.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Timeline of MIT engineering

Engineering has been at the heart of MIT since the Institute was founded 150 years ago. As part of the Institute's anniversary celebration, the nine academic departments of the School of Engineering have collaborated to create a large, legible, and visually compelling history of MIT's research accomplishments and educational advances in engineering.

Sponsor: School of Engineering

Rhode Island Army National Guard ROTC UH-60 Blackhawk fly-in

The UH-60 Blackhawk is the Army’s utility tactical transport helicopter, entering service in 1979 to replace the smaller UH-1 Huey of Vietnam-era fame.

Courtesy of the Rhode Island Army National Guard and MIT Army ROTC, a pair of Blackhawks will land in Briggs field and be available for up-close inspection. Their crews will be happy to tell you about the aircraft and answer your questions.

Sponsor: Military Science

Personal tracking made easy

Try out a practical tracking system for pedestrians employing inertial sensor and state-of-the-art communication and signal processing techniques.

Sponsor: Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems

Aircraft carrier deck operations — action planner demo

Orchestrating the movement of aircraft (manned and unmanned), support vehicles, and crew within the confines of a carrier deck is an extremely complex operation. See how our computerized large tabletop display will help supervisors overseeing these critical activities.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Paper airplane competition

We will be producing airplanes of all colors, shapes and sizes! Prizes will be awarded to the models with the longest range. This activity is ideal for elementary school kids, although all ages are welcome!

Sponsor: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Technology through time: 150 years of MIT history at the MIT Libraries' Maihaugen Gallery

This multimedia exhibition showcases in words, documents, photos, video and sound, the broad and varied history of MIT. View original MIT documents and historically significant materials that played a role in making MIT the unique place it is today. The exhibit also features items from the MIT Museum's 150 Exhibition, as well as Infinite Histories, video stories of those who have shaped—and been shaped by—MIT.

Sponsor: MIT Libraries

Meet spacesuit-testing robot, land on the moon, and more in the Man-Vehicle Lab demos

11 am–3pm, hourly on the hour: Meet M.Tallchief, the lab’s spacesuit-testing robot, and see our designs for future planetary exploration.

11:15am–3:15pm, hourly on the quarter hour: Moonwalker demo – our special treadmill that simulates walking and running on the moon and Mars.

11:30–3:30, hourly on the half hour: In a weightless environment, astronauts lose bone and muscle mass. See how our short arm centrifuge might spin them back into shape.

11:45–3:45, hourly on the 3/4 hour: Try your hand at our joystick controller and computer simulator to see if you can land on the lunar surface just as the astronauts did.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Build a paper mini helicopter or a straw rocket

For kids! Members of Aero-Astro’s Graduate Aeronautics and Astronautics Association will help you build a paper mini helicopter or straw rocketship, and then test them out.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Aviation and the environment

See how over time aviation has affected our environment and how MIT researchers are developing ways to make aviation greener. Displays of potential alternative fuel sources, aviation history, maps of Boston-area aviation noise impacts, and more.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

MIT150 welcome lounge

All are invited to visit the MIT150 welcome lounge, located in room 26-110, for information on the anniversary programs and events. Visitors to the center may read books and watch videos about MIT, browse photographs from the Institute’s opening in 1861, and see items on loan from the MIT Museum.

Sponsor: MIT150 Committee

Celebrating discovery at MIT: an undergraduate research poster session

Since 1969, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, commonly known as “UROP," has been facilitating research collaborations between faculty and students, across all disciplines. Today, UROP is considered MIT’s "signature" program, and more than 85 percent of undergraduates participate.

This poster session will showcase current UROP students conducting research in a diverse and interesting array of areas that potentially include engineering, cancer, energy, linguistics, humanities, social science, robotics, media studies, artificial intelligence, and others.

Sponsor: Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming

Zero robotics competition

Try your hand at programming a Space Systems Lab SPHERES self-propelled microsatellite like the ones we’re testing on the International Space Station.

Programming throughout the day, until 3"00pm. Then at 3:30pm we will run the programs in competition at 3:30 pm. Top four places win a t-shirt and patch, all competitors receive a SPHERES Zero Robotics certificate.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Wind tunnel tour and demo

Tour MIT’s historic Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel. Opened in 1938, tunnel tests have ranged from WW2 fighters, to the Epcot Center, to the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautic's new super efficient commercial passenger jet.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Exploring with the lunar reconnaissance orbiter

Explore the moon with data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Trace the tracks of the Apollo astronauts, navigate the rough floor of Tycho crater, and wonder about the oblong-shape of the Earth's only natural satellite.

This is an exhibit of spectacular 4 ft X 15 ft high-resolution images of the lunar surface and topographic map presented by MIT students who study the moon and planetary science with these images and data.

Sponsor: Department of Earth, Atmospheric, & Planetary Sciences

Space Propulsion Laboratory poster session

A poster explaining the research going on at the Space Propulsion Laboratory will be displayed at the entrance of our lab. Images of our thrusters firing and the different experiments currently being performed in our lab will be shown.

Our research ranges from different space propulsion techniques (hall thrusters, electro-sprays) to the use of very long space tethers for elimination of charged particles in space or the use of very rapid discharges to ignite lean fuel-air mixtures.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Aeronautics and astronautics Newman Hangar displays

From big to small, some of the most fascinating items from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics will be on display in the hangar. Exhibits will include jet engines from WWII to today (including an MIT engine the size of a shirt button), the D-8 wind tunnel model of our super-efficient and environmentally friendly commercial airplane (featured in last November’s "Popular Mechanics"), a unique UAV built by Aero and Astro students and Lincoln Lab for the US Air Force, an autonomous car and forklift, a supersonic wind tunnel, and lots more.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Transition: the flying car (or drivable airplane)

Several years ago three Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics grad students began testing in our Wind Tunnel their concept for the first practical flying car. Today, degrees in hand, they have started their own company, Terrafugia, flown a prototype, and are now manufacturing the vehicles.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Carbon nanotube display

See just how this amazing seemingly tiny/delicate material will make next-generation airplanes and satellites stronger, safer, and multi-functional.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Computers that fly robots!

The Aerospace Controls Laboratory researches how to control air and ground vehicles, such that they can fly and perform missions autonomously. Stop by to see a live quadrotor demo and learn how our computers fly them indoors!

Sponsor: Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems

MIT OpenCourseWare: unlocking knowledge and empowering minds

Come learn about MIT OpenCourseWare – a website that makes course materials used in the teaching of almost all of MIT’s undergraduate and graduate subjects available, free of charge, to any user anywhere in the world. Hear about our milestones as we celebrate our 10th anniversary, and find out about our next decade initiatives.

Sponsor: OpenCourseWare

Radio control aircraft flying and demonstration

Demo by Professor Mark Drela (and designer of the world-famous Daedalus human-powered aircraft) of a typical radio-controlled airplane from AeroAstro’s Unified Engineering Flight Competition.

For this event, small teams of sophomore AeroAstro students design, optimize and build the aircraft to perform an assigned mission, and then determine the best airplane in a fly-off contest.

Typical missions are to lift the maximum payload weight, or achieve a maximum speed, or some combination of these. To mimic real-world cost and manufacturing constraints, the airplane is intentionally restricted to a low-cost electric motor, simple radio-control equipment, and foam and balsa building materials.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

TALARIS and Exoplanet Sat: how do Draper and MIT engineers get a spacecraft to hop or look at stars in space to discover planets?

Since the inception of NASA and its Apollo program, Draper Laboratory (formerly the MIT Instrumentation Lab) has been on the leading edge of space exploration technology. 

Join us as we demonstrate our latest partnerships with MIT in the area of space exploration: TALARIS, a planetary hopper that is a joint Draper and MIT Aero/Astro project being developed for the Google Lunar X Prize, and Exoplanet Satellite, a cubesat  designed by MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) and Draper to study nearby stars for evidence of transitory planets.

Sponsor: Draper Laboratory

Mobile advanced command and control system display

MACCS is a mobile, always connected command and control station for controlling unmanned aerial vehicles and other systems.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Eye in the sky

There is a new way of sensing the environment that is global and capable of providing a bird’s eye view of moving and shifting weather systems, of seasonally-changing ecosystems, and ebbing and flowing ice-sheets, wetlands, among other things. That is by putting sensors in Earth orbit and measuring how the land, atmosphere and oceans emit or scatter radiation in different frequencies. Much like imaging technologies have revolutionized modern medicine and the practice of surgery, satellite Earth observation is about to revolutionize Earth science and the practice of environmental management.

Come see how remote sensing instruments work and what it takes to put together a satellite in the service of environmental science. See a scale model of a NASA satellite scheduled to launch November 2014. The satellite will measure soil moisture in the surface soil all around the Earth. This tabletop model rotates to simulate how it collects data on a large swath of the Earth as it orbits around it at 680 km. The Soil Moisture Active and Passive (SMAP) mission will provide global measurements of soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state.

These measurements will be used to enhance our understanding of the processes that link the water, energy and carbon cycles, and to extend the capabilities of weather and climate prediction models. SMAP data will also be used to quantify net carbon flux in boreal landscapes and to develop improved flood prediction and drought monitoring capabilities.

The exhibitor is Bacardi and Stockholm Water Foundations Professor Dara Entekhabi.

Sponsor: Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

What is the Engineering Systems Division (ESD)?

Watch a video about the MIT Engineering Systems Division, talk to students and staff, and take some ESD materials. There also will be videos about and info tables for the Leaders for Global Operations program and the MIT Portugal program.

Sponsor: Engineering Systems Division

Flying parrot, unmanned aerial vehicles

Watch as we control our micro aerial vehicles … by an iPhone! These little guys are test beds for new little UAVs suitable for urban environments.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Take your photo as an astronaut on the moon

Kids: Climb into a mockup Apollo spacesuit, stand in front of a lunar backdrop and then have your friends or family snap their cameras to take your photo “on the Moon."

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Ion rocket motor firing

Witness the firing of a Plasma thruster for spacecraft propulsion, designed and built at MIT. (Thruster is fired in a vacuum chamber. Viewing limited – 12 in lab, 1 at a time observing though chamber port, also viewable on video panel.)

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Gas Turbine Laboratory open house and tours

From the earliest jets to the latest in engines so tiny they resemble shirt buttons, MIT’s Gas Turbine Lab has been on the forefront of turbine engine design and development.

See our labs, blast-proof test cells, giant compressors, and more. Leaders of this Laboratory are Professor Z. Spakovszky, Professor E. Grietzer, and Dr. C. Tan. Our tours will run approximately 30 minutes at 11:30, 1:30, and at 2:30 pm.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Student clubs & teams open house

Come visit the MIT solar car formula, The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) racing, electric vehicle, marine robotics, and robocup soccer teams as they build their projects for this year's competitions.

From 12-4 the shop will be open for drop-in visits and mini-tours. Many teams will be present, actively working, and able to give tours, answer questions, and show off their works-in-progress.

Sponsor: Edgerton Center

Blimp Competition hosted by AeroAstro Professor and former astronaut Jeff Hoffman

Students from Intro to Aerospace Engineering and Design compete with radio-controlled, lighter-than-air vehicles they designed and built, flying them around an oval course in the Johnson ice rink.

Commentary throughout by Aero & Astro professor and former astronaut, Jeff Hoffman.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Tackling real-world challenges: ESD PhD poster session

Engineering Systems Division PhD students share their research in areas such as energy & sustainability, healthcare delivery, critical infrastructures, and extended enterprises.

Sponsor: Engineering Systems Division

Fly robotic helicopters at the Aerospace Controls Lab!

Interested in hands-on airplane control? Want to fly a helicopter using an XBox controller? Come check out the Aerospace Controls Laboratory (ACL)! We will have lab tours as well as several live demos, including cooperative control of unmanned aircraft and ground robots, aerobatic flight control, hands-on flight demos, and much more!

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Meet MIT authors! Book signing with David Mindell, author of "Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight"

Please join us at the MIT Press Bookstore for a series of book signings with celebrated faculty authors. Each of our special guests has recently published a book with the MIT Press, MIT's renowned publishing house. Come and meet the authors, learn about their research, and check out the newly expanded bookstore!

1:00pm — David A. Mindell "Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight" How human pilots and automated systems worked together to achieve the ultimate in flight—the lunar landings of NASA's Apollo program.

Sponsor: MIT Press

Women in engineering: coffee and dessert

Questions about opportunities for women in engineering? Join representatives of the Women’s Graduate Association of Aeronautics and Astronautics for coffee, tea, and discussion where you can learn about the many opportunities available in aerospace engineering.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Display and flight demo: TALARIS planetary exploration hopper

TALARIS is an exciting new concept for planetary exploration that, rather than driving about, flies/hops from point to point on the surface. This prototype platform is partially lifted by fans and propelled by compressed gas jets.

Sponsor: Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Gender, race, and the complexities of science and technology

From 2:45 - 4 PM, join the GCWS for an interactive series of presentations in Rehearsal Room A of the Kresge Building. During that time, graduate students from all nine Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies member institutions (Boston College, Boston University, Brandeis University, Harvard University, MIT, Northeastern University, Simmons College, and UMass Boston) in an exploration of gender and race as it applies to the disciplines of science and technology.

Students from the GCWS course Gender, Race, and the Complexities of Science and Technology: A Problem-based learning approach taught by Sally Haslanger (Professor of Philosophy, MIT) and Peter Taylor (Professor in the Science in a Changing World program at UMass Boston) will present their ongoing research on topics as diverse as race and technology access, anarchism and science, the radical science movement, and more. Presentations will be interactive.

Sponsor: School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences