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CAMBRIDGE, MA, Mar. 25-- The Massachusetts Institute of Technology students awarded "Good Will Hunting" its third Oscar Tuesday night--a 185-foot version in lights.
The windows of 16 stories of the Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences Building were lit in the pattern of the Oscar statuette for three hours, from 8 PM to 11 PM.
The Electric Oscar was featured by the Associated Press, the Boston Globe, Channels 4, 5, 7, 25, 38, and 56 in Boston, and was featured nationally Wednesday morning on "The Today Show" on NBC.
"This was giving the third Oscar to 'Good Will Hunting' and the people of South Boston," commented Ken Campbell, MIT spokesman, who received an anonymous call from one of the pranksters. The film is about Will Hunting, a South Boston mathematical genius who is a janitor at MIT.
The movie won two Oscars on Monday night, for best original screenplay and best supporting actor: Robin Williams, who played a psychiatrist in the film, won best supporting actor. The award for best original screenplay went to Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who wrote the screenplay and starred in the movie. They are Cambridge natives who graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School and attended Harvard before pursuing their movie careers.
The Electric Oscar at MIT on Tuesday was the latest in a century-long tradition of anonymous and clever engineering pranks by MIT students. In 1994, students put the shell of a police car on MIT's Great Dome which overlooks Killian Court, a 10-acre park where the commencement ceremony is held.
In 1982, in one of the most famous "hacks," as they are called at MIT, the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity secretly dug a trench in the Harvard football field and inflated a black weather balloon at the 50-yard line. The headline the next day was, "MIT 1, Harvard-Yale 0," although the football game was won by Harvard 45-7.
The How to Get Around MIT guide defines the hack: "Hacks at MIT tend to differ from your average college pranks through their emphasis on originality, humor value, technical brilliance, and, most important of all, benign intent (which means not harming, physically or otherwise, the people and/or structures being hacked)."
The MIT Museum has many of the pranks on display, and has published two paperbound books about the hacks at MIT. The first book, the "Journal of the Institute for Hacks, Tom Foolery and Pranks at MIT" says, "Hacks are not performed by any one kind of MIT student. Many hacks are perpetrated by living groups, student organizations, informal organizations formed specifically for hacking or by small groups of individuals.