Crosslinks: connections across the MIT curriculum

The concepts and skills you learn in an MIT class are never confined to just one class; they build on each other, cross disciplines, and lead to new insights. The website Crosslinks makes these connections clear.

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Crosslinks is a website authored by MIT students, edited and checked by MIT faculty, that relates topics across the undergraduate curriculum. Each topic links to reference material, making frequent use of OpenCourseWare resources! Take a look at Block Diagrams, for example:

crosslink exampleYou can learn about block diagrams on OCW in 18.03SC, 6.003, and 16.06. You’re linked not just to the course, but to the specific lecture note or book chapter that’s most relevant to the topic. Once you study the material, you can apply what you’ve learned to a question on a problem set.

If a topic you’re interested in is on Crosslinks, this is a great way to zero in on what OCW material will be most helpful to you. Crosslinks is just getting started, and more topics are added all the time. (You can see all the topics here.) Visit the site and let us know what you think!

A Masterwork in Simplicity: The Story of the CC Logo (CreativeCommons.org)

Photo of a museum exhibit hall, with the on/off symbol and Creative Commons logos on the wall.

Creative Commons logo and installation view of MOMA’s exhibit “This Is for Everyone: Design Experiments for the Common Good” by Jim.Henderson. Copyright and related rights waived via CC0.

New York’s Museum of Modern Art has a new exhibit, “This is For Everyone: Design Experiments for the Common Good,” that’s close to the heart for all of us in the open education movement.  The Creative Commons blog reports:

Displayed on the white walls next to the internationally embraced symbols for the on/off button, recycling, and the @ symbol, one will find a mark of equally great significance: the “double-C in a circle,” or simply, the “CC,” Creative Commons mark.

This most visible icon of the free culture movement is on view in the exhibit, but the MoMA took even further steps to recognize the impact and importance of the “CC” logo and its accompanying ShareAlike, NonCommercial, Attribution, and NoDerivatives icons. On March 4, 2015 MoMA Senior Curator Paolo Antonelli announced that the Creative Commons logo had been formally acquired as part of the museum’s permanent collection. It is both a symbolic and very practical kind of acquisition. As part of the collection, the icons and their history will enjoy perpetual protection and recognition by MoMA. But their work is far from complete: like so many of the other instantly-recognizable icons in the MoMA collection, the “CC” logo will continue to be used and appreciated by millions of people in millions of situations, and for many years to come.

Read the full story of the CC logo here, written by Jay Walsh in collaboration with Creative Commons staff.

News from MIT MechE: more juice, more ketchup

Two stories this week out of MIT’s Department of Mechnical Engineering highlight the range and potential impact of its research.

Prof. Tonio Buonassisi’s Photovoltaic Research Laboratory has just published promising results with a new solar cell design.  As MIT News reports, their proof-of-concept “tandem” solar cell, which combines a layer of perovskite material with a layer of more conventional silicon, may one day deliver substantially better power efficiency over other cell designs.

Photo of several square devices.

Test sample of a monolithic perovskite-silicon multijunction solar cell produced by the MIT-Stanford University team. (Image: Felice Frankel.)

Learn more about solar energy science, technology, and markets in Prof. Buonassisi’s OCW course 2.627 Fundamentals of Photovoltaics. This video-rich course includes complete lecture videos (tandem cell designs are covered briefly in Lectures 4 and 20) and four background tutorials.

While high-efficiency solar cells aren’t (currently) household items, many of us have struggled to get the last ounce of ketchup out of a plastic bottle. Several years ago, Prof. Kripa Varanasi’s research group realized their work on super slippery “non-wetting” coatings for machinery like steam turbines could also solve this mundane but widespread household problem. Their LiquiGlide coating for bottles took runner-up honors at the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship competition, garnered plenty of attention from national news media, and has since joined the ranks of startup companies with roots in MIT research.


As The New York Times reports this week, LiquiGlide coated bottles are coming closer to market.  Such bottles, with both consumer and industrial uses, could eliminate the 15% to 25% product waste that conventional bottles leave behind.

OCW recently published its first course by Prof. Varanasi. 2.06 Fluid Mechanics is an undergraduate-level introduction to the subject, and features many assignment and exam problems to test your understanding.

LiquiGlide is one of many examples of MIT’s flourising culture of entrepreneurship. Learn more with our Entrepreneurship course collection.

Mega Menger: Building a Menger Sponge at MIT (MIT News)

A Menger Sponge is a three-dimensional fractal curve that has zero volume and infinite surface area. That may be hard to picture, but this MIT News video explains how the Menger Sponge is also an origami project you can make out of folded business cards, and a lot of friends, time, and coordination.

MIT alumna and OrigaMIT origami club member Dr. Jeannine Mosley created one through her Menger Sponge project, and that inspired the club’s contribution to the global Mega Megner collaboration.

You may recall we recently featured origami in Prof. Erik Demaine’s OCW course 6.849 Geometric Folding Algorithms: Linkages, Origami, Polyhedra. In his video for Class 5 on “Tessellations & Modulars,” Prof. Demaine describes business card-based modular origami, including the Menger Sponge and Jeannine Mosley’s other work. The video ends with a short lesson on building and working with these cubes.

Photo of Prof. Demaine about to join together two cubes.

Learn from Prof. Erik Demaine how to create modular origami with interlocking cubes made from business cards.

Rocking It In Class and Out—Way Out

Photo of students and teacher in the woods, in discussion near a stream.

An Introduction to Geology field trip in action. (Photo courtesy of Taylor Perron. Used with permission.)

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

Introductory geology can be among the most enjoyable educational experiences for students if only because there is so much hands-on activity in the labs, with all the rock samples and minerals to identify and analyze, and of course, there are field trips!

Students get to leave campus for the great outdoors and go on hikes to look at landscapes, geologic features, outcrops, rocks, and the life forms that have adapted to live in these places. They see the world as they have never seen it before. What could be more fun?

OCW has just published an updated version of 12.001 Introduction to Geology. The course is co-taught by Professors Taylor Perron and Oliver Jagoutz, and the OCW site has abundant and detailed lecture notes, colorful lecture slides, and an extensive set of labs and lab exercises.

A highlight of the course is a field trip to eastern New York and western Massachusetts. The field trip is really many trips rolled into one, with 11 stops over a weekend spent camping. Included on the OCW site is a thorough field trip guide, which has an itinerary for each stop (with directions and a schedule), explanations of what is being observed, geologic maps and illustrations, and exercises. The trip exposes students to “geologic evidence for the past action of plate tectonics” as students examine “various rocks from different tectonic settings that have been used to reconstruct the complex Paleozoic history of the eastern United States and Canada.” This is so much more than leaf peeping!

On their This Course at MIT page, the instructors explain the importance of providing students with a narrative context for the trip, in other words “a good story,” so students can appreciate what they are experiencing. The instructors share other key insights, such as the advantages of co-teaching (developing a “repartee” by playing off of one another in class adds to the excitement), the relevance of geology to human society, and the importance of getting students comfortable with “messiness.”

Videos Find Their Place In and Out of the Classroom (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Videos Find Their Place In and Out of the Classroom
March 17, 2015 by Casey Fabris

Among today’s students, videos as an educational tool are as expected as textbooks.

A new study has found that 68 percent of students watch videos in class, and 79 percent watch them on their own time, outside of class, to assist in their learning.

Table listing student survey data on educational video uses.

Students were asked to select all responses that applied. Respondents were not required to answer every question in the survey. (Source: SAGE Publications – Get the data)

Elisabeth Leonard, author of the study and executive market-research manager for SAGE Publications, said many of the students she spoke with said they couldn’t remember a time when videos weren’t part of their educational experience.

Read the complete article. >

We know that video is a highly valued part of the OCW publication, especially video lectures. We’re adding more video-based courses to our site all the time. See the growing collection on our Audio/Video Lectures page.

And for something a little lighter, be sure to check out the fun and informative MIT+K12 Videos.

From MITx: Shaping the Next Generation’s World of Work


By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

Even after the Great Recession, the American economy continues to be the wonder of the world—nimble and efficient in a tumultuous environment. Innovative products and services crop up every day, implementing exciting new ideas and new technologies. The stock market is booming. Inflation, once an untamable menace, has vanished.

Yet somehow this picture of bountiful productivity has left many high and dry, and for younger people the American Dream seems elusive. Even those who study hard and act responsibly have trouble finding decent paying jobs. Many are hobbled with massive student debt. Their future, rather than being bright, seems in jeopardy. How can this be? Is this just the way capitalism works in the 21st century?

MIT Sloan Professor Tom Kochan provides the keys to understanding these issues in his new MITx on edX course, 15.662x The American Dream for the Next Generation. The course starts on March 23 and runs for nine weeks. Professor Kochan brings to the discussion the knowledge he has accumulated from decades studying employment patterns and labor-management relations.

You can familiarize yourself with some of his work by visiting the courses he has published on OCW: 15.668 People and Organizations, 15.676 Work, Employment, and industrial Relations Theory, 15.343 Managing Transformations in Work, Organizations, and Society.

The situation is dire, Professor Kochan admits, but he insists that it is decidedly fixable.

“I don’t believe that it’s some invisible hand of the market that’s created the challenges we’re facing,” he says in the introductory video to 15.662x. “Instead, it’s policies and attitudes, and actions or inactions that have created these problems. But I also believe that we can make a difference.”

That difference can arise from cooperation between employees, managers, educators, and government officials, and also from individuals making decisions about their own futures. Professor Kochan will take the students of 15.662x on a personal journey, helping them define the American Dream for themselves, and building a career plan to carry them forward.

Why not join them and see if you can find a way to a brighter future?

> Explore all of the upcoming MITx on edX courses here.