HSSP Spring 2009
Course Catalog

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Arts Engineering
Humanities [Deprecated] Math & Computer Science
[Deprecated] Science Miscellaneous

HSSP online registration is now closed and the first day of classes was Saturday, March 14. If you have only recently heard of the program and would like to register late, you may show up to MIT room 1-136 next Saturday (March 21) between 8am and 10am.


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Object Manipulation

This is no ordinary juggling class.
Wikipedia defines object manipulation as “a form of dexterity play or performance, in which one or more performing artists physically interact with props including balls, hoops, rings, poi, staff and clubs.”
I do not intend to teach any toss juggling in this class. However, I do intend to teach a variety of skills possibly including, but not limited to:
Contact juggling, poi, staff spinning, contact staff, hooping, club spinning, pen spinning, hat manipulation... The list really goes on forever, and I intend to introduce you to as many and as much of these as I can.
Object manipulation is fun, and with a little practice you can amaze others, and probably even yourself.

East Asian Art: Sumi-e and Origami

In this course we will cover japanese brush painting (sumi-e) and paper folding (origami). For origami, we will start with basic folds like the waterbomb and move onto more complicated folds like the lily and the crane. We will also briefly investigate the wonderful world of modular origami and make kusudama (flower balls). For brush painting, we will introduce traditional sumi-e methods and themes beginning with bamboo forests and plum blossoms and including many animals and other natural objects. Classes will have brief instructive segments and a lot of time to enjoy the art on your own.

Steady attendance of classes is important.

Introduction to Photoshop Fundamentals & Details
Teachers: Vincent Lee

Adobe Photoshop
Photoshop is one of the most powerful digital artist tools and one of the most popular pieces of software in the graphics industry.

This class intends to quickly cover the basics of Photoshop, then move onto advanced techniques, with a possible concentration in the details of reality, the thinking behind beautification and manipulation of photographs, and the replication of the natural world.

It is not at all required that students bring computers.

Introduction to Practical 3D Graphics Using 3DSMax
Teachers: Van Nguyen

Writing a research paper, report, or presentation? Tired of turning in a plain, boring assignment? Learn how to create your own images in 3D to set yourself apart from the other students!

This is an introductory level course where modern graphics paradigms and technologies will be overviewed. Students will learn to design elements in a scene, build them, texture them, light them, and render them to image using 3dsmax software. Animation will either be touched upon lightly or left for a subsequent course.

Mild computer literacy is required: know how to navigate through a Windows program, move and click a mouse, etc. No prior graphics knowledge required. An understanding of Cartesian coordinates is helpful.


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How to Think Like an Engineer

Engineers design and build the world around us. From buildings, to airplanes, to the computer on your desk, most of the "stuff" in the world was designed by or reviewed by an engineer at some point in its life cycle.

This class will attempt to teach you how to think like an engineer. We will cover many basic engineering concepts and show you why the material you are learning in your science and math classes is important (though, we won't ask you to do much -- if any -- math!). Students will work in teams to design and build their own engineering projects, and we'll test them and compare the results. The first half of the class will have several small-scale projects, while the second half will focus largely on a much more detailed, long-term project.

The ability to work well in a team, and an uncanny desire to build (and destroy?) things!

Fun with robots
Teachers: Joseph Okor

Learn robotics by programming our robots to perform a variety of tasks.


ASTRONAUT SCHOOL for Middle Schoolers
Teachers: Hemant Chaurasia

Did you know that the first human that will walk on Mars is most likely a middle-schooler today? Maybe it's... you!

The Astronaut Corps needs you and there's a lot to learn: rocket science, the Solar System, a grand tour of the Universe, spacecraft design, the history and social impacts of spaceflight, space survival skills, using space technology to improve life on Earth, and even the prospect of alien life on other worlds!

Astronauts are multi-talented people: physicists, engineers, biologists, astronomers, doctors, pilots, poets and pioneers all rolled into one. As a trainee in my class you'll learn basics of all of these disciplines and how to use them in the real world at the cutting edge of Space Exploration. Not to mention, there'll be a whole lot of fun and really cool stuff along the way! (If we're lucky, we may even meet a real Space Shuttle astronaut!)

So come and make your first small step towards your future "one giant leap": sign up for ASTRONAUT SCHOOL!

Preferably you would have taken the Spark class "Rocket Science for Middle Schoolers", which forms Lesson #1 of this Astronaut School course. But even if you haven't, you are welcome to join. The only other prerequisite is an elementary school science background -- nothing more.


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Ancient Greek

This course is an introduction to the language of Homer, Euripides and Plato. Students will learn the basics of the grammar and its history within the Indo-European family of languages. Other topics will be decided by the interests of the class.

None. Knowledge of Latin is helpful but not required.

The Short Fiction of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Teachers: Thomas Kilduff

The Short Fiction of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
A Canon of Illusion, Courtesy and Science Fiction

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was one of the twentieth century’s most original, post-modern authors, a hero to the baby-boomer generation and an icon for secular humanists. He penned stories and novels that included settings ranging from small-town New England to the outer moons of Saturn. He threw his everyday characters into humiliating situations to see how they would react. A pessimist at times, KVJ desired to extract the largest amount of humanity from his characters and from his readers.

Our class will be reading select short stories from his two compilations, “Welcome to the Monkey House” and “Bagombo Snuffbox.” Class time will be spent analyzing film, video, and audio clips as well as discussing assigned reading, conducting experiments, and playing games. "The Short Fiction of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr." is intended for students from grades 8 through 10 and will explore issues related to KVJ's most prominent themes and analyze his tongue-in-cheek dialogue and literary techniques.

Students are asked to bring a notebook, a few writing utensils and an open mind to each and every class. Handouts of each story will be provided.

Introduction to the Short Story
Teachers: Cristi Carman

Ever wonder why Hemingway was such a drunk and how Faulkner won the Nobel prize? And how do we know that all the things your English teachers says are important really are? Well, if you love to read and want to learn more about literary analysis and the short story then this is the course for you! We will read some the 19th and 20th Century's most beloved short fiction, work to build an understanding of literary elements, forms and styles, and do a lot of interesting close-reading activities along the way.

Creative Writing with Cognitive Linguistics
Teachers: A L

Here's the beginning of a flash fiction piece: I stand on a mountain of lies. The ugly, crooked, fetid terrain is unstable, shifting under my feet.

How might readers like us think about this? What might the writer have been thinking about when writing this?

This class encourages the exploration of the relationship between thought and language through creative writing and cognitive linguistics. In each class, we'll become acquainted with a cognitive linguistics concept through discussion and examples; then with an awareness of this concept, we'll engage in writing as well as sharing and critiquing each other's pieces. Creative writing in this class need not be explicitly concerned with the concepts we explore (unless you want to do that!), rather we will be considering these concepts to develop some perspectives on creative writing.

Utopias and Government
Teachers: Josh Shaine

What makes a government good or bad? What makes a law good or bad? Is it possible to make the one we have better?

In this class, we will explore the notions of ideal government and sufficient government, looking at the roots of our own, historical efforts to create utopias, and both philosophical and fictional treatments of the question.

Willingness to read, ask questions, and express opinions are required. Willingness to write will make this class more fun for all, I think.

Intro to Creative Non-fiction
Teachers: Bridget Pelkie

Welcome to a general introduction to the world of non-fiction writing! There's a lot out there, so we'll do our best to cover the field of non-fiction as broadly as possible. This may include essays, memoir, literary journalism, travel writing, sports writing, columns...class will be strongly directed by student interest.

In addition to reading and discussing examples of the aforementioned genres of non-fiction, our class will also include in-class writing exercises and some workshop time for student writing.

No previous experience or knowledge of non-fiction writing is necessary. Only a willingness to read and discuss a variety of pieces--both published and student-written--and an interest in writing.

Working in Criminal Justice
Teachers: Shar Gunn

In this advanced and politically incorrect class, we will jump right into the ingredients that help make up the criminal justice system such as racial disparities, stereotypes and sexism. Students will learn the "REAL DEAL" in working within this system. Students will engage in class discussions, debates, experiments, role-plays and activities to say the least.
*Students will be provided a syllabus and will explore a new topic each week, related to criminal justice.

Students should be mature and able to handle topics related to criminal justice, such as sex crimes, murder, assault, hate crimes, drugs, etc.


Interested in writing science fiction, fantasy, alternate history or speculative fiction? This may be the class for you. Students will pick a genre to work in, build a plausible world (including its societies, technology, magic systems if any, ecology, language, geography, aliens and culture), and create characters to suit. Students will spend approximately five weeks on worldbuilding before diving in and writing either a short story or an outline of a longer work such as a novella. This course will be ten weeks long.

1. An interest in writing. 2. An interest in reading - this is not mandatory, but most writers benefit from having read books and stories in the genre they're interested in. 3. A willingness to rewrite when necessary. It's better to have one finished story than a dozen wonderful beginnings; you can always go back and improve the story after you've finished writing it.

How Poetry Works
Teachers: Lance Ozier

Poems aren't like regular speech; at first glance, they are sometimes confusing and hard to understand. But if you know how they work, you can see how powerful and beautiful many poems are. In this course we will explore simple poetic elements such as rhythm, rhyme, figures of speech, lineation, and other uses of language, then apply them to see how poems work. We will study classic poems by Shakespeare, Whitman, Dickinson, cummings, Yeats, Frost, and Eliot, as well as more contemporary works by Mary Oliver, Elizabeth Bishop, Audre Lorde, Gwendolyn Brooks, Billy Collins, and Wislawa Szymborska.

Interest in words and language.

Introduction to Linguistics
Teachers: Antony Nguyen

This class will cover the various aspects of human language, including syntax, phonology, and semantics. As the course progresses, students will be able to draw syntax trees, and transcribe English text and speech into IPA among other things.

Disclaimer: There will be relatively short homework assignments that will allow students to practice and apply what they have learned in class.

An interest in or a desire to learn about linguistics and fluency in English.

Conflict: Roots and Responses
Teachers: Josh Shaine

Why do people fight? Why do some people seem less ready to do so? Are we, as a society, doomed to fight - or as individuals?

We will explore both the societal and personal roots of conflict - and ways to approach those conflicts to change, lessen, or even eliminate some of it.

Some reading, lot of conversation, I hope.

[Deprecated] Math & Computer Science

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Vectors And Beyond
Teachers: Andrew Geng

So perhaps you've heard about vectors--you know, these things that have a magnitude and direction and stuff.

Of course, that understates how awesome they are. We'll take a look into the world of vectors, starting from what it means for something to be a vector. We'll introduce matrices as descriptions of linear transformations--things that turn vectors into other vectors in certain predictable ways. (Oh hey, matrices are useful after all!) As we explore the uses of vectors and matrices, we'll try to answer the questions that arise, such as: Why do we need a right-hand rule for cross products? What can we say about things that turn matrices into other matrices? And what happens to a coconut when you stretch it?

Planned topics include: vector spaces, matrices and matrix groups, dot and cross products, covariance and contravariance, tensors, and applications to physics.

Familiarity (or at least comfort) with mathematical reasoning and proofs. Most likely this implies you'll also be proficient in algebra and geometry at the high school level. It will really help to have seen polynomials, complex numbers, and the trigonometric functions.

Topics in Mathematics
Teachers: Andrew Spieker

Have you ever wondered if there was a way to generate Pythagorean Triples in a simple way?

What is the difference between a coffee cup and a doughnut?

How can we construct the real numbers from the rational numbers?

Why does e^($$\pi$$i) = -1 ?

Let's face the facts...there are so many cool things in math that go unexplored. That is why instead of covering one big topic, each week will be devoted to one particular field in mathematics.

If the above questions are interesting to you, ALL will be answered in this course, plus many more. The topics have been chosen very carefully from a wide variety of mathematical fields, including Topology, Analysis, Number Theory, and Abstract Algebra.

Classes will include hands-on activities, group work, and exciting demonstrations.

Knowledge of algebra is assumed, as well as basic geometry. Precalculus will be helpful, but may not be necessary for more advanced sophomores. Willingness to think in new, abstract ways will be essential to this course regardless of your prior experience with mathematics. There will we be a lot of problem solving, and some group work involved as well; keep an open mind!

Teachers: Robert Assaly

Come meet the challenge of solving these popular mind-enriching puzzles. I shall present two or so of these more difficult Sudokus and after some interval of time, I'll show you procedures that I use to solve them. Please bring both a black pen and a red pen. You won't need an eraser if you use the same procedures that I use.

Being able to solve the easier Sudokus would help.

The Mathematics of Monsters and Machines

Can you add by dropping marbles through a maze of switches? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcDshWmhF4A (watch with the volume off and figure out how it works - /very/ simple, but elegant, no?)
That machine clearly only works as directed for some range of numbers. How about if you want to add arbitrarily large numbers with one, finite machine? Can you build such a machine and then tell someone how to drop marbles into it to add their numbers? – NO!! STOP!! I did not ask, ‘how would you’ – I asked CAN you? Sure, you could prove the affirmative by construction, by making a machine which does so (if one can exist) but can you more succinctly, more elegantly, simply prove that such a machine exists? What if one could not exist? How would you go about proving this?
If you like looking at machines and figuring out what they do, or constructing machines to solve problems, then you will probably like this class. On the other hand, what this class is /really/ about is the mathematical treatment of ALL machines, ALL languages, ALL algorithms. Exactly what abilities – finitely many states? finite memory? infinite memory? non-determinism? – are necessary to solve problems? What sets of abilities are equivalent? How long does it take to solve problems of sufficient complexity?
Are there problems that are simply impossible to solve, although they clearly must have an answer?
To answer the last question, YES! However, f you are willing to accept this claim without /proof! ‘you CANNOT say something like that without PROOF!’/ you probably can skip this class. But if that kind of claim shakes your world up a bit, come to this class and be shaken!!

The course has no real mathematical prerequisites but material does require significant mathematical maturity. Come prepared to think hard and abstractly!

Sequences & Series
Teachers: Robert Assaly

Few problems have neat answers like the ones you get in high-school algebra. Values of $$\pi$$, trig functions, logarithms, and solutions of many equations can be obtained only by sequences or series. I shall show you how to solve polynomial (quadratic, cubic, and so on) equations by using sequences. And I shall talk about the Fibonacci sequence, the Golden Ratio, sums of powers of 1, 2, 3, ..., Pascal's triangle, the binomial theorem, and whatever else our interest leads to. Fun problems will be posed throughout. My policy is to pace this course so as to be most accessible to the students who register.

Successful completion of one year of algebra, and an enjoyment of math.

[Deprecated] Science

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Discovering Astrophysics

Pinpricks of light. That's all we can see in the sky, yet somehow astronomers can still understand phenomena like galaxies and supernovae and quasars. Even more basic than that, how can we tell how far away a star is? How do we know what stars are made of, or their temperature, or their age? How can we understand black holes, or come up with the big bang theory for the formation of the universe?

In this class, you'll be directing experiments and interpreting the results. We'll give you data, but you'll come up with new ways to collect it, you'll find the patterns, and you'll make conclusions about just what's going on out there in the universe. Meanwhile, we'll present material that will help you in your investigations or explain more of the background behind what you're seeing, from the physics of black holes to general relativity to the formation of the universe.

You should be comfortable with basic mathematics. That means that you should at least know high school geometry, and trigonometry or calculus would be helpful (but not required). However, you shouldn't come to this class if you know too much about astronomy already: if you know what the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram is and what Cepheid variables are, then this probably isn't the class for you.

Teachers: Samin Houshyar

This class is designed for students who have a keen interest in biology and especially interested in how things work at a molecular level. In this class we will go into great detail talking about the building blocks of life. I will focus mostly on proteins, structure and function, enzymes for about 4 weeks. For the rest of the sessions we will look at DNA/RNA, replication, transcription, translation.

You must have taken regular biology. This class is taught at a more advanced level and I recommend being in Honor/AP/IB Biology or have already taken those classes.

Exploring Optics!

Optics is everywhere, from lasers to microwaves to radios. It reaches every part of our lives, so it's no wonder so many people study this broad subject. In this class you will see cool demonstrations, partake in experiments, and even build some simple devices. Come see what optics is all about!

A desire to learn optics!


This class is an introduction to anatomy of the human body. You will learn all about the interesting parts of the human body! There will also be a small emphasis on neuroscience when you learn about the different parts of the brain.

Preferably people who have taken a biology course before.

Electricity and Magnetism by Experiment

The first reference to electrical effects, such as static electricity and
lightning, were recorded over 2500 years ago. Ancient man believed electricity
to be a form of magic; Greek philosophers noticed that when a piece of amber
was rubbed with cloth, it would attract pieces of straw; Indian priests used
electromagnets to impress religious followers. Far from demystifying the
mechanics of Electricity and Magnetism, this class aims to introduce students to the
full beauty and elegance of this field of physics by theoretical discussion and
by experimentation. In 1861 James C. Maxwell summarized almost everything we
know about Electricity and Magnetism in four equations:
\epsilon_0 \displaystyle \bigcirc \hspace{-1.42em} \int \hspace{-.8em}
\int E \cdot ds = \int\!\!\!\!\int\!\!\!\!\int\! q_v\;dV \\
\mu_0 \displaystyle \bigcirc \hspace{-1.42em} \int \hspace{-.8em}
\int B \cdot ds = 0 \\
\oint\! E \cdot dl = -\mu_0\frac{d}{dt}\int\!\!\!\!\int\! B \cdot ds \\
\oint\! B \cdot dl = I + \epsilon_0 \frac{d}{dt}\int\!\!\!\!\int\! E \cdot ds

These four equations describe one of the most universal and elegant relations in
physics. Don't let the notation scare you off -- this class has no
prerequisites (that is, all you have to be able to do is graph a function), but we will rigorously derive Maxwell's explanation of electromagnetic phenomena including light,
electricity, magnets, motors and generators, batteries, and the circuitry of
your home computer. (See syllabus.) Labs will include a Van de Graaff generator,
making solenoids, making an electric motor, and playing with bread board

A familiarity with high school Algebra and Geometry. Additionally, this class will move through basic calculus and multivariable calculus very quickly and lecture segments will, in general, be very fast paced. Come prepared to think hard and abstractly!


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Habits of Mind
Teachers: Daniel Zaharopol

What do mathematics, philosophy, linguistics, biology, history, and some of the hardest puzzles in the world have in common? Underlying them all are common patterns of thought, habits of mind that allow you to appreciate the deepest aspects of these disciplines and make progress in their study. Each week, we'll investigate a different area. We'll construct historical events from original sources, we'll try to reason about abstract mathematical structures, and we'll try to understand some ideas behind deep philosophical arguments. Join us as we try to stretch our reasoning skills and our knowledge of these and other disparate topics.

Intro to Star Wars Miniatures!

Come and learn how to play a fun and exciting game where you pit star wars characters and squads against each other. Make your own teams, themed or otherwise, and compete on a map of the death star, or mos eisely cantina, to beat your opponent's team! Each student will receive a squad of figures to play with and develop, tailored to fit their preference of star wars characters.

- Able to roll dice - Ready to have fun!

Explore More of Star Wars Miniatures!

For those familiar with the basics and the general rules of the game. Especially for those who took my Intro class already in the fall, but if you join the Intro class and advance to a point where you want to move up, that can be arranged. We will discuss more in depth strategy, squad building, and manipulation of the playing field. Students will each receive a squad to play with and develop, and play against other students.

- Able to roll dice - Know the rules of the game (e.g. characters move 6 squares or 12 squares, how doors become open, that you can't move and use double attack in the same turn, etc.) - Ready to have fun!

Intro to Magic the Gathering

Learn how to play the oldest trading card game in the world!

Students will learn to play MTG through getting their own pre-constructed deck.

Note that this class is strictly for beginners only. If you're more experienced, you might want to check out M2053: Intermediate Magic: The Gathering

Intermediate Magic: The Gathering

Designed as a sequel to "Introduction to Magic: the Gathering", this course assumes knowledge of most rules of the game and expands to teach the theory behind it. We will cover aspects of both playing the game (card advantage, tempo, resource management, etc.) and deck construction (deck archetypes, mana curve, combos, etc.). Expect to leave with a enough working knowledge of playing and deckbuilding theory to (with practice) beat most of your friends and maybe win a few local tournaments.

We assume a knowledge of most Magic: the Gathering rules, including some rather abstruse ones. If you're not sure whether you know enough, don't worry - we'll hold a short joint meeting with the introductory course to assess the group. If you'd like to brush up on the rules beforehand, make sure you know all about: the stack (this one's important!), different ability and effect types, combat resolution (legal attacks and blocks, order of operations), and state-based effects. You can find rules here: http://www.wizards.com/Magic/TCG/Article.aspx?x=magic/rules