Student Life


Images via Humans of MIT

In summer 2010, photographer Brandon Stanton created Humans of New York, a photography blog that has since catalogued more than 6,000 New Yorkers and become a best-selling book.

The blog’s success spawned spinoffs in locations all over the world, and earlier this year, four current MIT students created Humans of MIT, a Facebook page that profiles MIT community members through a single photo and the subject’s own words.

Zachary Abel G

Zachary Abel G

Some portraits discuss the ordinary aspects of MIT life while others veer towards the random, like wearing stilts for the first time.

Some lean towards the inimitable: Health Gould ’14 ponders trying out for the Olympic bobsled team and Lena Yang ’16 describes her custom MIT-themed brass knuckles.

“We created this page to dispel some of the myths about MIT,” says Emad Taliep ’14. “We hope that someone might read it say, ‘I guess I’m not the only one who feels that way.’”

The page, which began on February 17 and now has nearly 2,000 likes, was created by Taliep, Abra Shen ’16, Jenny Wu ’14, and Lawrence Wong G, who are members of Students at MIT Allied for Student Health (SMASH).

“There’s a perception that engineers and scientists are introverts and anti-social—they just go to their room and study,” says Wong. “That’s not true. There’s something unique and special about everyone and that’s reflected here.”

Taliep says the most popular posts have described the stressful aspects of the MIT life, and the perseverance that goes with it.

Lauren Jefferson '14. Image via Humans of MIT.

Lauren Jefferson ’14

Lauren Jefferson ’14:

“It took me a very long time to get to the point where I was comfortable setting my own expectations and following those, instead of following all the other expectations that other people have…But try to set your own expectations. When you have so much pressure around you, follow your own standards. That’s probably the best thing I’ve taken away from MIT.”

New subjects are posted three times per week and future profiles will include members of the MIT administration.

“We hope this really connects with the people of MIT,” Shen says. “We’re showing that you can have a conversation with anyone and everyone has a story.”

Perhaps the best indicator of the page’s success: a parody. The Facebook page Robots of MIT aims to tell the Institute’s stories through the eyes of its robots, “one robot at a time.”

According to its Facebook description, the page (which is not affiliated with Humans of MIT) paints intimate pictures that capture the beauty and vibrancy in every robot’s personal narrative, which includes robot marriage and antagonism from humans.

While the robots depicted are only loosely affiliated with MIT, at least one, CSAIL’s Domo, can be found on campus.


Update: Happy April Fools’ Day! Currently, there are no plans for a moving walkway in the Infinite Corridor. Walk safely! 

The Infinite Corridor may soon seem much less infinite. Beginning in 2015, portions of the corridor will include a moving walkway, called Zero Footprint, which will allow members of the MIT community to safely text, read a book, or study as they travel through the corridor.

The proposed walkway—similar to the slow-moving conveyors commonly seen in airports—was designed by researchers at MIT’s Historical Edifice Innovation Center and will have a dual purpose of safety and sustainability. According to a new MIT study, 30 percent of MIT students reported injuries related to texting or reading while walking within the Infinite Corridor or other busy MIT pathways in the past school year.

Fran Swanson, Hayden S. Finch Professor of Building Theory, says the walkway will add another layer of safety to campus while also being mindful of MIT’s commitment to sustainability. Zero Footprint will be a first-of-its-kind carbon-neutral moving walkway.

A mockup of Zero Footprint. Credit: Alan Scott

A mockup of Zero Footprint. Credit: Alan Scott

“It’s called Zero Footprint because it will create nearly 95 percent of the power required to operate,” explains Swanson. “The most important issue is student safety, but the name is a nice tie-in with the Infinite Corridor. It explains just how sustainable this new installation is.”

Based on research from MIT’s Urban Re:Construction Lab, Zero Footprint will be powered almost entirely by piezoelectric tiles that will frame the walkway. Those who choose to walk outside of Zero Footprint will generate energy with each step on the tiles.

To allow for maximum mobility within the corridor and easy on/off access, Zero Footprint will consist of five short moving walkways.

Additionally, to mitigate traffic congestion in the corridor, Zero Footprint has been designed as a one way walkway that will change direction depending on traffic flow. For example, as students rush to campus for morning classes, Zero Footprint will move away from Lobby 7 towards Bldg. 4. The walkway will then reverse directions in the late afternoon as students return home.

Plans for Zero Footprint are pending final review by the Cambridge Historical Commission. Currently, construction on the walkway is slated to begin April 1, 2015.


Register for the Mar. 19 webcast.

Update: Watch the March 19 webcast.

Solving the world’s problems is synonymous with MIT. It is a quality that has fired the imaginations of students, faculty, and alumni.

In the March 19 Facutly Forum Online, three current MIT students shared how they are incorporating mens et manus into the 21st century. Public Service Center Dean Sally Susnowitz, alongside current MIT students Laura Stilwell ’14, Sofia Essayan-Perez ’15, and master’s degree candidate Rodrigo Davies, discussed the importance of public service in student life and how their  work is  address crucial global issues. Following their comments, the dean and students took live questions from the worldwide MIT community.

Watch the full webcast then return to Slice and continue the discussion in the comments.

The March 19 webcast is one three special public service-themed Faculty Forums Online, themed “One Community Together in Service,” that coincide with MIT Public Service Center’s 25-year anniversary. The first service-themed webcast, MIT Research at Work in the World, took place on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, and featured Chancellor Eric Grimson PhD ’80, Dean Christine Ortiz, and Dean Sally Susnowitz. Watch the archived webcast.

Sally Susnowitz

Sally Susnowitz

Sally Susnowitz

Sally Susnowitz has served as Director of the MIT Public Service Center (PSC) since 2000. She has co-developed many of the Center’s programs and initiatives, including the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge, which involves hundreds of MIT students in innovative social entrepreneurship each year.

Before MIT, Sally served as Director of the Service Learning Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and has spent more than 20 years as a scientific and technical writing teacher at several universities including CU-Boulder, CU-Denver, and the Colorado School of Mines.

Rodrigo Davies G

Rodrigo Davies G

Rodrigo Davies G

Rodrigo Davies—a master’s degree candidate and research assistant at the Center for Civic Media—spent a fellowship in Kansas City, MO, helping non-profit organizations develop fundraising strategies for civic projects that benefit the local community. He helped create a crowdfunding campaign that expanded a Kansas City bike-share scheme and hosted a series of interactive open workshops that helped organizations learn more about community-building strategies.

Davies has presented at South by Southwest, the Library of Congress, and the Federal Reserve. Prior to MIT, he was an advisor to the UK crowdfunding platform Spacehive, co-founded Conde Nast’s digital business in India, and worked as a broadcast journalist at the BBC.

Sofia Essayan-Perez

Sofia Essayan-Perez ’15

Sofia Essayan-Perez ’15

Sofia Essayan-Perez is a brain and cognitive sciences major in with a minor in applied international studies. Her public service work focuses on strengthening math and science education in rural Nicaraguan high schools and she helped create a new approach to teaching math and science, grounded in local health and socioeconomic challenges.

Essayan-Perez has also conducted research on autism at MIT’s Picower Institute, and attended University of California Berkeley as an Amgen scholar and the Pasteur Institute in Paris on an MIT-France internship. She is involved with many MIT community initiatives, including the Experimental Studies Group (ESG), the Office of Minority Education, and the Burchard Scholars Program.

Laura Stilwell

Laura Stilwell ’14

Laura Stilwell ’14

Laura Stilwell is an economics major with minors in biology and public policy. Since 2011, Laura has been involved in GlobeMed at MIT, which works to create a better understanding of global health and provide comprehensive health care services to communities in northern Togo.

In 2015, Laura will work at the Jameel Poverty Action Lab and has future aspirations to work at the intersection of global health, public policy, and economics.

About Faculty Forum Online

Eight times per season, the Faculty Forum Online presents compelling interviews with faculty on timely and relevant topics. Viewers watch and participate in live 30-minute interviews via interactive chat. Since its inception in 2011, archival editions of these programs have been viewed more than 50,000 times.




Click image for updated tournament bracket.

The 1982 Harvard-Yale football game outlasted 31 MIT hacks over five rounds and, at long last, is crowned MIT Hack Madness Champion. View full results in the updated bracket.

In the tournament’s championship round, the Harvard-Yale game—three separate hacks that unfolded on national television—defeated the Caltech Cannon Heist, a 2006 prank that transported Caltech’s three-ton Fleming House cannon more than 2,500 miles undetected to MIT campus, by a score of 63-37 percent.

PrintIn total, the football game collected a tournament-high 5,045 votes and overwhelming defeated its opponents—including an early favorite, the Smoot—in each round. On Facebook, Scott Berkenblit ’86, SM ’90, PhD ’96 called the game “a hack for the ages.”

“It was sad to have to vote against Smoot (sorry, Ollie),” Bruce Bottomly ’65 wrote on Facebook. “But nothing can beat Harvard-Yale in terms of MIT creativity, complexity, skill, stealth, national attention, and establishment of infinite bragging rights against that place down the street in Cambridge.”

The more-recent Cannon Heist put a valiant effort throughout the tournament, including winning by a tournament-best margin of 86 percent in Round 2 and soundly defeating Tetris on Bldg. 54—the so-called “Holy Grail of Hacks”—in the penultimate round.

Overall, the two-week tournament generated nearly 29,000 votes on Slice of MIT and social media and hopefully generated a significant amount of Tech nostalgia and polite disagreements. Choosing 32 hacks from MIT’s 153-year history was difficult and subjective—some favorites were undoubtedly omitted—and Slice respects all viewpoints of what truly is the MIT community’s favorite hack.

Thanks to all of the voters, especially those who shared opinions on Alumni Association social media. Five of our favorite comments:

Click to see full voting results.

Click to see full voting results.

“Dirty little secret: this is what we *really* do at MIT.”
- Robert L Krawitz ’87

“I vote for Cow on Dome! My great-grandfather is milking the cow!”
- Sophia Edwards, great-granddaughter of William A Pitbladdo ’31

“My dad was there…a Harvard Grad. He fully had to acknowledge MIT was the winner, hands down!”
- Elise Rose ’86, on the Harvard-Yale Game

“I still don’t know how they did all that (and I read the narrative.) The Brass Rat put it over the top.”
- David Plass ’90, on the Caltech Cannon Heist

“I was there for the ‘snow in shower.’ I don’t remember whose idea it was to call the newspaper, but it was a cool idea and they fell for it hook, line, and sinker. And the story was picked up by wire services and ran around the world. Best part was the sub-head of the front page story in Boston…went something like: Cold Air + Steam => Snow!”
- Paul Epstein ’51

For more on the tournament, view the completed bracket and overall voting results. Re-live the tournament and read descriptions on all 32 hacks in the original tournament bracket. Congratulations, Harvard-Yale Game!


Eagerly anticipating—or perhaps just patiently waiting for—the Pi Day announcement of the MIT Hack Madness champion? The winner of the final-round match between the 1982 Harvard-Yale game and the 2006 Caltech cannon heist will be announced at noon at Friday, March 14 (Pi Day, of course).

In the interim, check out Slice of MIT’s collection of hack-related stories, dating back to 2009, some of which were included in the tournament and many that were left out. Read about these pranks then head to the Hack Madness Championship to learn who was named the MIT community’s favorite hack.

Pac-Man, Hacked.



  • Even a Dome under Construction Can Be Hacked” (November 14, 2012). The Great Dome was lit blue and green in honor of Amphibious Achievement’s annual Erg-A-Thon.
  • Holy Hack, Batman!” (July 23, 2012). Mystery assailants–channeling their inner Commissioner Gordon–illuminated the Bat-Signal on the Green Building (Bldg. 54).
  • Heads Up! The Baker House Piano Drop” (April 27, 2012). About 200 spectators watched a piano tossed from the roof of the Baker House onto another piano six stories below.
  • Hacked! Tetris on the Green Building” (April 23, 2012). One side of the Cecil and Ida Green Building (Building 54) was transformed into a giant video game canvas.

Infinite Corridor Attacked!




View results for all 31 Hack Madness matches in the updated tournament bracket then visit Slice or social media to learn who was named the Hack Madness champion.


Update: We have a winner! See who was named Hack Madness Champion.


“Hacking is the students reminding the administration that they are smarter than them.”
- Former MIT administrator Ben Jones


According to the seminal anthology Nightwork, an MIT hack is ingenious, benign, and ephemeral mischief pulled off under a cloud of secrecy or misdirection.

Some hacks—like ones that interrupt a football game or misplace a police car—receive national attention. Others, like a nerd cathedral or a building-size video game, are purely for the enjoyment of the MIT community.

To honor this tradition, coupled with the tournament-mad month of March, the MIT Alumni Association announces Hack Madness: The MIT Tournament of Hacks, a two-week contest that invites the MIT community to vote for their favorite hack. View the full interactive bracket. Tournament voting is now closed.

The five-round tournament began on Monday, March 3. Votes can be cast on Slice of MIT and the Alumni Association’s social media pages. Jump to the official tournament page for the schedule and voting details.

Choosing the hacks was difficult and subjective—some favorites will be left out. The 32 selected hacks cover nine decades of pranks at more than 20 MIT locations plus, of course, off-campus classics at Harvard and Caltech.

But there are hacks for all kinds, like a cross-country cannon heist, a new unit of measurement, and a cow on a roof. Vote to help your favorite hack advance.

The bracket was compiled based on input from the elusive Institute of Hacking Theatrics and Fugacious Pranks (IHTFP) with invaluable research culled from Nightwork, the MIT Museum’s Institute for Hacks, Tomfoolery, and Pranks, and the online MIT IHTFP Hack Gallery. The tournament would not be possible without those resources.

In a nod to history, each region of the tourney honors infamous hacking legends: Jack Florey, James Tetazoo, Edwin Phortey, and Institute Historian T.F. Peterson.

Check back with Slice of MIT and the Alumni Association’s social media outlets each day to vote. Visit the Hack Madness official page for the tournament schedule and more information.


Guest Blogger: Bill Doncaster, for MIT Sloan

The 2014 MIT Sloan Women in Management (SWIM) Conference added a new challenge this year, a chance for MIT women entrepreneurs to pitch their startups for a $1,000 prize. Held February 8 at the MIT Media Lab, this is the first time such a competition was held for women entrepreneurs at MIT.

Systems president Natalya Brikner presents her satellite propulsion technology.

Systems president Natalya Brikner presents her satellite propulsion technology.

Ten startups, selected from 30 applications MIT-wide, presented new ideas ranging from app-based parenting resources for educational activities to a new device to monitor and prevent leg injuries for prize show horses. In the end, the high-caliber presentations led to a quandary for the panel of three judges—who chose two winners rather than one for the $1,000 prize.

One winner was Accion Systems, presented by CEO and president Natalya Brikner. Accion, which is developing propulsion systems for small satellites, is queued up for its first space test in April. Most of the 300 or so satellites launched each year remain only in orbit for days because there is no propulsion system to keep smaller satellites in orbit. According to Brikner, a PhD student in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Accion’s cost-effective systems would increase the life and operability of small satellites.

“The engines that are flying on satellites today were designed before the first handheld calculator was invented,” Brikner said. “We want to change that. Our systems are lighter, smaller, and more efficient than existing systems and our product line is infinite—customers can put thrusters anywhere they want on a satellite.”

Caroline Mauldin, a first year student in MIT Sloan’s dual degree program with Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, stayed closer to the earth with her company, Love Grain, the second winner. Love Grain serves the growing gluten-free food market through products made with teff, a gluten-free grain from Ethiopia. The company is already selling its first product, a pancake and waffle mix, and is developing an energy bar.

“Here in the United States, there are 42 million gluten-free consumers who lack nutritious and delicious options, and I know that because I’m one of them,” said Mauldin. “We’re expected to spend $6 billion on gluten free products by 2015. Teff is a tiny part of the market right now. We are creating a sustainable, compassionate business model that connects Ethiopian farmers to the United States.”

Learn more about the pitch contest and the conference.



Update: we have a winner: a Star Trek spacecraft!

While it’s been proven that MIT is the most romantic place on earth, that doesn’t solve the annual conundrum of finding the perfect gift for one’s alum-valentine. Not to fret, this year, however. The staff at Slice of MIT have been hard at work on a wish-list of last-minute items that truly showcase one’s romantic talents.

So while it’s likely that MIT alums out there are destined to have another romantic Valentine’s Day today, this list begs the question: what is the most romantic MIT gift one could give?

  1. A box of chocolates from the MIT chocolate lab.  
  2. A 3D valentine pendant from founders Gregory Tao ’10 SM ’12 and Toby Nwanna ’11.
  3. A private concert with the MIT Logarithms a cappella group.
  4. Purchase and restore a Star Trek spacecraft as Adam Schneider ’78 did.
  5. Find a transiting exoplanet and name it after your valentine.
  6. Write and deliver an even better pickup line than our 2010 winner: “I wish I were your derivative so I could lie tangent to your curves.”
  7. A 3D chocolate printer from Levi Lalla ’05 would make every day Valentine’s Day!
  8. Book a trip with fellow MIT alumni to Oxford, Cuba, Antarctica, or other romantic getaway.
  9. A pair of 3D-printed spiral earrings from the MIT Museum store.
  10. Four phys-ed credits at MIT to enroll in and complete the MIT Pirate Certification.

What truly says MIT romance better than any other gift? Cast your vote by 5pm today! In the meantime, send your valentine a special alum-designed romantic e-postcard.

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The study of heavy metal has long been a discipline at MIT. The music that is.

Now in its eighth year, the four-part seminar series “Bang Your Head! Heavy Metal 101” is taught by departmental systems administrator Jeffrey Pearlin for MIT’s Independent Activities Period. “Rule number one: Always end with an explosion,” said Pearlin of the music’s tendency to shock critics and awe enthusiasts.

Photo: Mark Kurkjy

Heavy metal fans at 2005 Megadeth concert in Portland, Maine. Photo: Mark Kurkjy

In his first session, Pearlin charted heavy metal’s 50-year history for a crowded room of students and alumni rhythmically bopping their heads (the metal term is head banging) to Pantera’s “Walk,” Judas Priest’s “Metal Gods,” and other musical examples. Many were coming to the lecture series for the third year in a row.

“I think it’s always good to learn more about the music you love,” said Joe Díaz ’10, a metal enthusiast since grade school who majored in music and theater arts at MIT. “For me, that means breaking it down into the components of what makes metal metal.”

Unlike other forms of rock n’ roll that are directly influenced by American Blues music, heavy metal has its roots in earlier rock. Songs often have fast, aggressive drumming, vocals that span from operatic to more intense screaming, and a distorted synthetic tone created by maximizing the wattage going through electric guitar amplifiers. The lyrics run the gamut from themes of liberty and freedom to the satanic and even fantasy.

The British band Black Sabbath is largely credited as first playing heavy metal’s unique synthetic sound out of Birmingham rock houses in the 1960s. Today, Pearlin notes that 70 percent of the world’s countries are home to a recording heavy metal band, and the Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives has records of more than 90,000 past or present metal bands.

MIT even has its own connection to heavy metal. Derrick Green, lead singer of Brazilian band Sepultura, is also the brother of Professor Renée Green, director of the MIT Program in Art, Culture, and Technology.

While long hair, tattoos, and black leather are common among fans and musicians, “image is not important,” said Pearlin. “It’s how authentic you are in your metalness.” One true sign of metalness? Making the hand gesture of devil horns to express enthusiasm during concerts.

For those wary of the music’s sound, Pearlin argues that classical music and heavy metal both require years of discipline and practice to understand and appreciate the genre. “If the MIT mind can relate to classical music, there’s no reason why the MIT mind could not relate to the musicality behind heavy metal,” he said.

Many more MIT minds are starting to relate to heavy metal. In addition to Heavy Metal 101, Pearlin has been tapped by MIT professors to conduct guest lectures on heavy metal as a globalized music and offer analysis of metal band Mastodon’s musical interpretation of Moby Dick.

The remaining seminars will be held January 23 and 30 from 5-6 p.m. and are free and open to the public.

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Slide background The beaver was formally accepted as the MIT mascot in January 1914 and made official in the Feb. 1914 issue of Technology Review.
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The first known appearance of the MIT beaver on campus: menu cards in the Bursar Dining Room.

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The MIT Alumni Association logo, from a 1914 issue of Technology Review.

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This picture was taken at MIT Alumni Day in 1919. Beyond that, we’re really not sure!

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A 1921 issue of the Tech explains the history behind the beaver’s selection as MIT mascot.

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There were no beavers in Massachusetts until 1932, when the state reintroduced them into the wild. They may explain this-stand in at MIT’s 1925 Reunion.

Slide background A beaver celebrates the Class of 1948.
Slide background A beaver hard at work. From a Feb. 1948 issue of Technology Review.
Slide background The foreword to the 1948 Technique, MIT’s student yearbook.
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A celebratory beaver toasts to the Class of 1949.

Slide background The title screen from the Social Beaver, a 1956 promotional film written and directed by Oscar Henry Horowitz ’22 that introduced prospective students to MIT.
Slide background A seldom-seen draft of the MIT logo believed to be from the early 1970s.
Slide background The Class of 1930’s reunion sticker from its 40-year celebration in 1970.
Slide background A trio of patriotic beavers help MIT celebrate the United States’ bicentennial in 1976.
Slide background The MIT beaver did not make its first on-campus visit until 1977. The Class of 1952 enlisted the beaver to help celebrate its 25-year reunion.
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"Beaver fever…wear it!" An advertisements for “Beaver Shirts,” MIT-themed clothing created by the Class of 1980.

Slide background An under-the-weather beaver (perhaps the same one from the Class of 1949) adorns an MIT pharmacy bag from the 1980s.
Slide background A bow tie-clad beaver helps new graduates celebrate at MIT's 1988 Commencement.
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A lesser-known beaver skill: skiing. From a 1989 MIT holiday card.

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The beaver poses in a 1930 Model A Ford to help the Institute celebrate its successful $700 million fundraising campaign. From the Tech, July 15, 1992.

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The MIT mascot and cheerleaders help celebrate homecoming in 1994. From a 1994 issue of the Tech.

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The beaver represents MIT Athletics on its 1994-95 Sports Annual magazine.

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A provocative-yet-tasteful beaver promotes the the 1998 Brass Rat unveiling in a 1997 issue of the Tech.

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The familiar, modern-day beaver mascot costume made its campus debut in spring 2000. Originally published in MIT Tech Talk on May 10, 2000.

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Tim the Beaver and the MIT cheerleaders excite the crowd during DAPER's Beaver Madness event on Oct. 19, 2012. Photo by Tom Gearty.

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A celebratory thumbs up for the then top-ranked MIT Engineers men's basketball team in October 2012. Photo by Tom Gearty.


Beaver_SliceMIT’s longtime mascot, the Beaver, turns 100 on January 17, 2014, and everyone is invited. Since its arrival, the beaver—now known as Tim—has become a familiar face around campus, both in person and in print. To honor his centennial, check out a gallery of rare images that honors Tim and highlights how much the beaver has changed over past 100 years.

For more on the MIT mascot, read an exclusive interview Tim gave to Slice, watch a video history from MIT News,  and visit the official birthday website.

Unless otherwise noted, the photos and images are courtesy of the MIT Historical Collection. If you have any additional information on the images, let us know in the comments below or Facebook or Twitter.