IAP: A Fusion of Fun and Learning at MIT

A Texas Hold’em game from a player’s point of view. (Courtesy of Peter Hopper on Flickr. License CC BY-NC.)

Every January, MIT students, faculty, and staff come together and design a special learning experience. Infused with creativity, inventiveness and fun, the four week term, known as Independent Activities Period (IAP), gives rise to some of the most ingenious courses that aren’t all part of the MIT curriculum.

From beekeeping to Japanese archery and computational law to academic resilience storytelling, the variety of workshops and sessions are created and organized by MIT members passionate about their subject area.

On OCW, there are more than 100 IAP courses that are available for you to work through at your own pace. The following are a sample of IAP courses, but you can find all of the IAP courses on OCW.

15.S50 Poker Theory and Analytics

This course takes a broad-based look at poker theory and applications of poker analytics to investment management and trading.

This course is offered during the Independent Activities Period (IAP), which is a special 4-week term at MIT in January. IAP provides members of the MIT community including students, faculty, staff, and alums with an opportunity to organize, sponsor and participate in a wide variety of activities and topics that are often outside of the regular MIT curriculum.

18.S097 Applied Category Theory

Category theory is a relatively new branch of mathematics that has transformed much of pure math research. The technical advance is that category theory provides a framework in which to organize formal systems and by which to translate between them, allowing one to transfer knowledge from one field to another. But this same organizational framework also has many compelling examples outside of pure math. In this course, we will give seven sketches on real-world applications of category theory.

6.S095 Programming for the Puzzled

This class builds a bridge between the recreational world of algorithmic puzzles (puzzles that can be solved by algorithms) and the pragmatic world of computer programming, teaching students to program while solving puzzles. Python syntax and semantics required to understand the code are explained as needed for each puzzle.

6.057 Introduction to MATLAB

This is an accelerated introduction to MATLAB® and its popular toolboxes. Lectures are interactive, with students conducting sample MATLAB problems in real time. The course includes problem-based MATLAB assignments. Students must provide their own laptop and software. This is great preparation for classes that use MATLAB.

21W.794 Graduate Technical Writing Workshop

This course is designed to improve the student’s ability to communicate technical information. It covers the basics of working with sources, including summarizing and paraphrasing, synthesizing source materials, citing, quoting, and avoiding plagiarism. It also covers how to write an abstract and a literature review. In addition, we will cover communication concepts, tools, and strategies that can help you understand how engineering texts work, and how you can make your texts work more effectively.

Learn to Build Your Own Videogame with the Unity Game Engine and Microsoft Kinect

This is a 9-day hands-on workshop about designing, building, and publishing simple educational videogames. No previous experience with computer programming or videogame design is required; beginning students will be taught everything they need to know and advanced students will be challenged to learn new skills. Participants will learn about videogame creation using the Unity game engine, collaborative software development using GitHub, gesture handling using the Microsoft Kinect, 3D digital object creation, videogame design, and small team management.

Climate Action Hands-On: Harnessing Science with Communities to Cut Carbon

This course explores how citizen science can support community actions to combat climate change. Participants will learn about framing problems, design ways to gather data, gather some of their own field data, and consider how the results can enable action. Leaks in the natural gas system—a major source of methane emissions, and a powerful contributor to climate change—will be a particular focus.

Gender diversity leads to better science

Photo by Christopher Harting

By Welina Farah | MIT Open Learning

The value of diversity in the workplace, especially as it pertains to women in STEM, can have a profound impact in advancing science and research.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) published an article in February of 2017 titled, “Gender diversity leads to better science” where 10 researchers sought to add empirical data to the truism “gender diversity enhances knowledge outcomes.” What they found was that “teams may benefit from various types of diversity, including scientific discipline, work experience, gender, ethnicity, and nationality… [that] gender diversity matters for scientific discovery [by] broadening the viewpoints, questions, and areas addressed by researchers.”

For Women’s History Month, we celebrate contributions by women in the field, including those from the past, current scientists, and future innovators of science, technology, engineering, and math.

The following course offerings—from two day-long workshops to a semester of history—provide a lens into the roles women have and can play in STEM.

  • WGS.S10 History of Women in Science and Engineering – This course provides a basic overview of the history of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Students will learn about the specific contributions of women across a variety of disciplines and will gain a broad perspective on how these contributions played a larger role in the advancement of human knowledge and technological achievement. The class also discusses how both historic and modern biases within the STEM disciplines, as well as in representations of women and girls in media and popular culture, can affect outcomes.
  • RES.2.006 Girls Who Build Cameras: One-Day Workshop – In this workshop, high school girls have a one day hands-on introduction to camera physics and technology at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory Beaverworks Center. The workshop includes tearing down old dSLR cameras, building a Raspberry Pi camera, and designing Instagram filters and Photoshop tools. Participants also get to listen to keynote speakers from the camera technology industry, including Kris Clark who engineers space cameras for NASA and MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and Uyanga Tsedev who creates imaging probes to help surgeons find tumors at MIT. During lunch, representatives from the Society of Women Engineers and the Women’s Technology Program at MIT will present future opportunities to get involved in engineering in high school and college.
  • RES.2.005 Girls Who Build: Make Your Own Wearables Workshop – This workshop for high school girls is an introduction to computer science and electrical/mechanical engineering through wearable technology. The workshop, developed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory, consists of two major hands-on projects in manufacturing and wearable electronics. These include 3D printing jewelry and laser cutting a purse, as well as programming LEDs to light up while walking. Participants learn the design process, 3D computer modeling, and machine shop tools, in addition to writing code and building a circuit.