Event Rental


THE MIT MUSEUM'S 15th Annual
Friday After Thanksgiving (F.A.T.) Chain Reaction

Friday, November 23, 2012, 1 – 4 PM
Rockwell Cage Gymnasium
120 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA 02139


Whether it's the reaction induced between one creative contraption and another equally crafty contrivance, or the joyful reactions sparked on the faces of the spectators, the MIT Museum's Friday After Thanksgiving (F.A.T.) Chain Reaction is a one-of-a-kind, must-be-seen-to-be-believed engineering feat.

Artist/inventor Arthur Ganson masterminds the choreography of this Rube Goldberg machine, assisted by MIT teams and participants who range from Girl Scout troops to artists and engineers. Spectators talk to the teams, engage in spontaneous contraption making and fill the seats waiting for the magic moment when all the machines are linked up to set off a chain reaction with a surprise ending.


This is a great family event where "kids" of all ages enjoy watching, playing and making things at F.A.T. In years past, more than 1,500 people attended this unique event, so arrive on time to be assured of a place to watch.

Note: There is significant construction on Vassar Street, but do not be deterred! The Rockwell Cage gymnasium remains open and we will have signs and volunteers to direct you to the entrance. (Hint: cross at the crosswalk immediately in past the West Garage and double back down Vassar St (back toward Massachusetts Avenue) behind the chain link fences).

Spectator Admission:

$15 for adults or $12.50 in advance (sales end at noon on Wed, Nov 21)
$5 for youth ages 5-17, students (with ID), seniors, and MIT ID-holders
Children younger than 5 admitted free with parent, guardian or chaperone
Spectator fee includes free same-day admission to the MIT Museum

*Note - Accompanying adults (parents, relatives, friends) of team participants who are not listed as team members are expected to pay for admission to the event. Each student team gets one free admission to the event for a chaperone.

Guidelines for Teams

Team Admission (up to 4 team members):
  • Pre-registered: $12 in advance (open until 4 p.m. on Tuesday, November 20) or $15 at the door
    Additional team members, $5 each (in advance or on-site) up to a maximum of 8 people per team
  • Each all-student team gets one free admission to the event for a chaperone. Other accompanying adults, students, seniors or children are expected to pay for admission (see spectator admission fees above)
  • Your link in the chain reaction should be no wider that 2', no taller than 4', and no longer than 6', should use no chemicals (small amounts of baking soda and vinegar OK), no plug-in electricity (batteries and low-power DC OK), and use no more than a cup of water.
  • Your link must be repeatable.
  • Test your chain reaction before bringing it to the event.
  • Make your reaction last AT LEAST 30 seconds and end in LESS THAN three minutes. Give your audience time to enjoy your event, be it funny, playful, clever, whimsical, or elegant.
  • There will be a section of the Chain Reaction connected by tubes to pass a single golf ball from machine to machine. You'll receive the ball at a height of 2" above table height. You will then integrate this ball into your link, using it in any way that you can imagine, and then release this same ball to the next link in the chain at a height of 6" (this is not a typo, we mean 6", NOT 2") above table height. We (the good folks at the Museum) will be bringing along extra tubes, ramps and slides in order to transfer the ball from the 6” release point on your machine to the 2” receiving point on the next machine.
  • You may also connect your machine using single string pulls. These reactions must begin AND end with a string pull. Be sure that it takes no more force than the hanging weight of a golf ball moving 1" to start your link and ends by pulling a string AT LEAST 1" in length with enough force to lift a golf ball.

Your chain reaction could be as simple as books falling against one another or as complicated as a Rube Goldberg invention. Look at the Game MOUSETRAP, the Japanese TV show Pythagoras Switch, or IDEO's Incredible Global Rube Goldberg Chain Reaction Experience. See also the music video This Too Shall Pass by OK Go.

New for 2012:
It's the Chain Reaction's 15th anniversary, and according to contemporary commercial lore that means this year should celebrate all things crystal! Let your creativity shine as we gaze into the future of F.A.T. - although you don't have to be psychic to predict what will happen when we link the machines together - and reflect on where we've been.

We encourage this year's F.A.T. builders to create machines that employ the anniversary theme of "crystal ball". Think about integrating predictions, reflections, crystals, sparkles, and sport balls into your link. Spectators will enjoy your creations as well as hands-on activities for artists, engineers, and scientists alike. Show up in a ball gown or slap on a baseball cap; even without a magic mirror we know this is one anniversary party you won't want to miss!


E-mail: museuminfo@mit.edu
or visit Arthur Ganson's F.A.T. Advice page.


Team registration for F.A.T. 2012 is now closed. New teams may register onsite beginning at 11:00 a.m. on the day of the event.

The Day of the Event:

Bring your chain reaction to the event site at 11:30 AM and we'll connect your device to others to make one grand chain reaction. MIT engineers and Arthur Ganson will be on hand to help. Participants will set up their links between 11:30 AM — 1 PM, then introduce their teams to the audience, demonstrate their links and tinker from 1–3 PM. We will set off our grand chain reaction at 3:30 PM.


Parking is available for free in the West Garage on Vassar Street across from Rockwell Cage Gymnasium, or on the surrounding streets (metered rates apply). Food is not allowed in the Rockwell Cage gymnasium; however, Central and Kendall Squares offer numerous dining options before and after the event. All MIT facilities are wheelchair accessible.

F.A.T. Chain Reaction is always looking for volunteers to help out during the event. Tasks include helping to run hands-on activities in the kids' area, setting up tables and chairs, selling tickets at the door, and more. Please email museuminfo@mit.edu for information.

Back at the MIT Museum:

Don't forget to visit MIT Museum; the visit is free with the special F.A.T. admission. Check out Arthur Ganson's popular Gestural Engineering exhibition. The Museum will be open until 6:00 p.m. the day of F.A.T.

Videos from Past Years

2006 Chain Reaction | 2007 Chain Reaction | 2008 Chain Reaction
2009 Chain Reaction | 2010 Chain Reaction | 2011 Chain Reaction

The Council for the Arts at MIT provides principal funding for F.A.T.