HSSP Spring 2019
Course Catalog

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Arts Computer Science
Engineering Humanities
Mathematics Science
Social Science Miscellaneous


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A12808: Band!
Difficulty: **

Come play some music with a bunch of really cool kids (and pretty rad teachers) who just love to jam! We'll pick some songs to work on and have a relaxing time doing what musicians love - making music!

Some sort of experience playing a musical instrument but doesn't matter which one! Just make sure to bring it with you! Preferably, you should be able to read music as well.

Computer Science

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C12799: Programming Amazon Alexa with MIT App Inventor Full!

Have you ever wondered how Amazon Alexa decides what to say? This course teaches students computer programming, mobile app development, and conversational artificial intelligence using Amazon Alexa and MIT App Inventor. MIT App Inventor is a visual drag-and-drop coding platform that has made it possible for non-experts to develop smartphone and tablet applications for over a decade. Through this platform, students will program mobile apps and Alexa Skills, ultimately developing their own project to solve a real-world problem. Students will learn about conversational artificial intelligence, which is the ability for a computer to have a conversation with a human, how it currently works, and what it might look like in the future.

This course has no prerequisites. Students with little to no programming experience who are interested in the topic are encouraged to sign up.

C12821: Machine Learning with MIT App Inventor Full!
Difficulty: **
Teachers: Kevin Zhu

Are you curious about machine learning and artificial intelligence? If so, come learn about cool applications of these with MIT App Inventor! MIT App Inventor is a web application for users with minimal programming experience to easily and quickly build mobile applications. This course will let students build powerful apps with computer vision, natural language processing, and more.

C12790: Introduction To Python Full!
Difficulty: **

Have you ever wondered what programming is? Curious about what set of computer science principles underlie the Internet? Come to Introduction to Python to learn more about programming and how it creates the services you depend on everyday.


C12844: Computer Graphics Programming
Difficulty: ***
Teachers: Nick Jordan

This course provides an introduction to computer graphics programming with modern, core-profile OpenGL. We will discuss how OpenGL works internally, and how we can use this knowledge to create interesting graphical effects. We will learn how to structure OpenGL applications and how to create more advanced, stylized computer graphics.

Basic knowledge of computer programming, some intermediate mathematics (such as trigonometry)

C12827: Deep Learning from First Principles
Difficulty: ***

Learn how computers learn. Starts at the mathematical and intuitive basis for inference, and builds up to a practical exploration of deep learning with real datasets. A project + discussion hybrid class, fun for the whole family.

Nothing really. Interest in math and/or CS and/or learning.


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E12826: How to Build a Nuclear Bomb

An instructive, practical course on how to build a nuclear bomb from the ground up. Includes a discussion of the involved physics, chemistry, and engineering. By the completion of the course, students should have a fundamental understanding sufficient to construct a small warhead just using leftovers from the previous evening's dinner. Additional, students will be able to apply these principles in understanding modern nuclear reactors, and will come out with a historical and ethical understanding of the nuclear age.

An interest in building things and complex engineering systems.

E12828: Being Real about Bioengineering
Difficulty: **

Can CRISPR cure every disease? Why is the flu more dangerous than Ebola? Is eternal life possible?

Take a seat and relax, as we explore the rapidly evolving field of bioengineering. We will break down current events with biology, math and reason while exploring whether bioengineering can (or cannot!) solve all our problems. We will dig into hot research topics such as CRISPR gene editing, how to engineer our immune system to fight disease, and much more, while also critically thinking of the current shortcomings of these new technologies. Put yourself into the shoes of a bioengineer for a collaborative and interactive discussion on the future of human biology as we know it!

Biology (recommended, but not required) Algebra (recommended, but not required)


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H12835: Objects: An Interdisciplinary Exploration
Difficulty: **
Teachers: Matisse Peppet

How do we stand in relation to the world around us? In this class, we’ll ground an interdisciplinary investigation of that question in an exploration of ordinary objects. Synthesizing perspectives from philosophy, architecture theory, engineering, and more, we will intertwine theory with lived experience to come to deeper understanding of the things around us. Classes will include reading, mini-labs, and lots of discussion.

A willingness to take abstract theory seriously

H12816: Words in Me
Difficulty: **
Teachers: Kamna Kathuria

The better you understand yourself, the more confident you feel and the better equipped you will be to handle what life throws at you. Through a series of simulation games, activities, videos, and group working sessions, we'll start thinking about about ourselves and our lives from a new perspective. We'll express ourselves to the world around us through discussion, debate, arguments, blogging, journals, spoken word, or whatever we think works best. With articulation comes a feeling of comfort in your own skin, and that's our ultimate goal in this course.

H12792: Irish Presence in America
Difficulty: **
Teachers: Alexander Chen

This course provides students with an overview of the sociological, political, and cultural impacts of Irish diaspora in American society from 1800s to present. This course will also analyze the characteristics, contributions, and impacts of Irish communities in the United States throughout history. By studying the background and factors of migration, students will gain a deeper understanding of trans-Atlantic cultural identity and develop an appreciation to the making of the modern American society. Topics include the Potato Famine, immigration and urbanization, political impact in the U.S., the Gaelic League, St. Patrick’s Day, Irish nationalism and the Easter Rising, and other topics if time permits. Modern figures such as Liam Neilson, John F. Kennedy, and Colm Toibin will be covered. This course will use a variety of primary and secondary sources including digital and print media.
See attached outline for more information regarding the content of this course.

This course is open to ALL students.

H12793: What do all the gods love?
Difficulty: **
Teachers: Kendi Kim

We will read Plato's Euthyphro together as a class every week. We will follow Euthyphro and Socrates dialogue as they discuss what "piety" is, and try to analyze their claims and arguments. Euthyphro claims that piety is "what all the gods love". But Socrates finds this argument untenable. We will try to determine why or why not the argument works, and what its implications are for Socrates.

_Note for students and/or guardians: This text contains the idea of "castration" in the context of Greek myths. Since we will cover difficult or unusual vocabulary as we read, we will learn the meaning of this word. Please do not enroll if you think that you might find this discussion objectionable.

H12836: Ethics Of 2020 Full!
Difficulty: **
Teachers: Haley Schilling

Should we become vegetarian? Should all drugs be legal? How much money should we donate to charity? Is it fair that the world has both billionaires and poverty? Are corporations that plant trees doing enough for the climate? Should self-driving cars kill pedestrians to save passengers?

These are the some of the most pressing ethical questions of today and tomorrow, and will be the focus of our HSSP course. This course will provide a fun and interactive introduction to ethics and philosophy.

H12875: Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences Lecture Series
Difficulty: **

Explore a new topic in the realm of humanities, arts, and social sciences every week through engaging one-time lectures given by various different teachers.


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M12852: Algorithms that run the world!
Difficulty: ***

What are the greatest algorithms that have enabled the modern technological revolution. We will start from elementary sorting algorithms and build onto some of the greatest algorithmic breakthroughs of the 20th century.

So if you want to know what a Monte-carlo search is? Why the. Fast Fourier transform enabled the modern digital revolution and what sorting and linear programming is? This is the class for you.

The only thing that is required is an interest in math and computer science!

M12825: A Lot of Meta-Mathematics
Difficulty: ***

URL: buzzfeed.com/science

Year: 1931

Title: "Mathematicians Hate Him! How One Man Broke Math Last Winter"

Do you want to learn about (and experience) a mathematician's ultimate existential crisis? Have you ever wondered what a 'proof' really is? How can you be sure that all of mathematics is 'correct', if all you can use to prove it is more mathematics?

Come find out in this class! Together, we'll perform and discuss some math leading up to a famous result known as Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems.

Familiarity with basic high-school math like algebra and geometry is required. Familiarity with logic and proofs is recommended. At least 9th grade recommended.


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S12960: Kitchen Chemistry Full!
Difficulty: **

Chemistry is found everywhere, including in the food we eat every day. In this class, we will explore a different concept in chemistry each week and do food-related experiments to illustrate those principles. Results of the experiments can be consumed at the end. Potential topics will include ice cream, mayonnaise, butter, and chocolate.

If you have a food allergy of any sort, you MUST let the teacher know. Many of the experiments will include dairy.

S12810: The Science of Nutrition: A Microscopic to Macroscopic Exploration Full!
Difficulty: *
Teachers: Alexander Ren

Food is a major part of our lives from its day to day necessity to its cultural impact. This course will take both a scientific and cultural approach to understanding food and nutrition. We will start at the basic building blocks of nutrients and work our way up to dietary trends and marketing of food through the media. Students will walk away as introspective consumers better able to make choices about what they eat.

A basic understanding of biology and chemistry is helpful but not necessary.

S12845: Soil Ecosystems from Micro to Global Scales
Difficulty: **
Teachers: Hayley Gadol

Soil is NOT just dirt! Soils serve many important roles in our lives including growing the foods we eat and providing support under the buildings we live in. However, soils can be difficult to understand because they are complex and heterogeneous mixtures of many different components. Soils are heterogeneous at all scales, from across latitudes down to sub-micron (smaller than a bacterium) lengths. Throughout this course, students will learn about the basic components of soils and how the complicated interactions of these components influence soil physical, chemical, and biological properties. Students will also complete hands-on activities to understand soil properties in action. Upon completion of this course, students should understand how soils are able to carry out numerous ecosystem services from food production to fighting climate change.

S12817: Next Generation Biology

Is 23andMe reliable? What is that new MIT nano center about? Should we be worried about designer babies? An exciting look into new emerging fields in biology. Topics include CRISPR and gene editing, sequencing technologies and ancestry testing, protein engineering, neuroscience, and bioethics.

S12824: 40 Orders of Magnitude: Selected Problems in Physics
Difficulty: ***

Physics treats the mysteries of the universe at its most fundamental levels and over the years, we now understand everything from the interactions of subatomic particles to the evolution of the entire universe. In this course, we will investigate various areas of physics. Every class, we will be focusing on solving a single problem in an area of physics ranging from relativity to quantum mechanics. We’ll look at the math and physics underlying rotating black holes, the Casimir effect, the principle of least action, and much more! Each class will begin from the very fundamentals and mathematically build up everything needed to solve each problem.

Math is the language of physics, so it’s important to have a good grasp of algebra and basic calculus.

S12837: Thermodynamics and Applications
Difficulty: ***
Teachers: Evan Tey, Keith Phuthi

An introduction to the theory of thermodynamics from a physics perspective with discussions on the Laws of Thermodynamics, Entropy, Radiation, Heat Engines and how these concepts can be used to understand Global Warming, Energy Generation and the Heat Death of the Universe.

A familiarity with Calculus and the Ideal Gas Law would be helpful but not necessary. Everything will be explained with the assumption that you are not familiar with the concepts.

S12811: Quantum Mechanics, with Applications in Astrophysics and Computation
Difficulty: ***
Teachers: Kavish Gandhi, Yuan Lee

This course will present the quantum mechanical basis for some of the most exciting topics in physics today. We will explore how physics at the smallest length scales (quantum physics) affects physics at the other galaxy-sized extreme (astrophysics), and how it could change the way we communicate and solve problems using digital technology (computation). Each class will present a few ideas or physical facts with reasonable mathematical depth: get ready to learn about Bell’s theorem, the Chandrasekhar limit, and much, much more!

Each class will also have a handout containing all of the results presented in lecture, occasionally accompanied by presentation slides. Challenge problems and links to additional reading will be given out at the end of class.

An introductory background in mechanics is helpful, but not required. What is required is an unbridled passion for physics, and a desire to learn a new paradigm for thinking about how our universe works.

S12832: The Chemistry in Our Lives
Difficulty: **

Ever wonder how science influences your day to day life? In this class, we'll talk about some of the infinite ways chemistry has advanced society! Weekly topics will include sensors, light, and so much more! You'll come away from this class with a greater appreciation of the science all around you.

High school chemistry

S12843: The Science of Recognizing Good Science
Difficulty: **

Has it ever been difficult for you to discern when scientific research reported in the media is being exaggerated, misunderstood, or flat-out fabricated? Are you eager to learn more about how professional scientists conduct research and assess the validity of their results? Do you want to be able to explain to that one Facebook friend why their link to a "scientific" study has issues?

Topical subjects such as climate change research, vaccine efficacy and safety studies, and stem cell research will be discussed in an objective context to identify what makes up a good (or not-so-good) study and how its contributions to a scientific body of knowledge can be evaluated by the larger scientific community. This course will touch on important facets of research, including the scientific method, proper construction of hypotheses, ensuring statistically robust scientific studies, the peer-review process, and the design of clinical trials.

No pre-existing knowledge of how to conduct scientific research is assumed, but students should plan to participate in interactive, seminar-like discussions. All questions regarding the process of conducting and evaluating scientific research are highly encouraged.

S12803: From Neurons to Thoughts: An Introduction to the Human Mind and Brain
Difficulty: **
Teachers: Dima Ayyash

The human brain processes complex stimuli from the world into meaningful information. It enables us to distinguish faces, colors, sounds, or objects; perceive depth, size, or motion; navigate the space around us; learn new information and remember it decades later; communicate our ideas to others, sometimes in multiple languages, and often non-verbally; understand what others are thinking or feeling; and much more! This course will introduce you to the human brain: how it is organized, what tools we use to study it, and how findings from brain research have influenced the way we think about education, medicine, morality, and even conflict resolution! Topics covered will include human development, perception, thinking, language, emotion, memory, and social cognition.

S12813: Sensational Neuroscience: How Your Brain Understands the World

Ever wonder why some people hear “yanny” while others hear “laurel”? Or how visual illusions work? Come learn how the brain processes information from the senses to generate your perception of the world, and how this process can be hijacked. The classes will consist of interactive lectures followed by demonstrations, in which you will make sour things taste sweet, bend your vision, and mind control your classmates. During the last class, we will tour real neuroscience labs at MIT!

We're excited to explore the brain with you!

(Note: The first class will involve a sheep brain dissection. Any students who wish to leave during this portion of the class will be welcome to do so.)

Social Science

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S12850: Social Psychology and Game Theory
Difficulty: **

Did you know that game theory and social psychology can be used to experimentally test cultural norms that we don't understand? In this course we will discuss how the principles and foundations, compatibility, and how to use game theory to better understand social phenomena like reputation and judgment of peers.

S12851: Happiness
Difficulty: *
Teachers: Kevin Li, Alicia Weng

This course will cover contemporary social science research on happiness. Topics will include major contributing and non-contributing factors, including money, relationships, technology, and physical health, global and historical perspectives on happiness, and biases and other problems of happiness measurement.

S12848: Make Your Own Language
Difficulty: **

Are you fascinated by languages? Do you want to make one?

Come construct a completely new language, while also understanding how languages work and the cool stuff they do with sounds, words, structure, and other things.

We'll provide: something to write on, something to write with
Bring: something to think with and preferably some friends

Speaking at least one language

S12796: Economics and Psychology
Difficulty: **
Teachers: Danielle London

An overview of the research and theories on how human psychology influences Economic decision-making. Will include a brief introduction to Game Theory.


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X12876: Math and Science Lecture Series
Difficulty: **

Explore a new topic in the realm of math and science every week through engaging one-time lectures given by various different teachers.


X12853: Deep Discussions
Difficulty: *
Teachers: Keith Phuthi, Evan Tey

Discussions are everywhere around us. They're how we argue with parents, how we learn subjects we can't learn from books, they're how hostage situations are negotiated, they're how leaders make decisions about what happens in the world. Discussions are all about understanding information, organizing ideas, and asking the right questions to get people towards a conclusion.


X12829: The Logic of Human Behaviors and Interactions: a Conversation
Difficulty: ***
Teachers: Ruidi Cao

Ever wondered why people make small talks that hold no value in information exchanges? Thought about why people give excuses that are obviously false? Puzzled about the meaning of laughter in a social situation? Rest assured that you're not alone, for I too have pondered on these questions.
This class is meant as a chance to have a conversation on the deeper logic regarding human behaviors, including but not limited to the ones listed above. A goal of the class is to truly understand said behaviors, and extract meaningful ways of action from such understandings.
Ideas taught in this class will be a mix of ones I learned through reading, as well as ones I came up myself through reflections, as well as all the unique insights everyone brings.

Students are expected to be interested in reflecting on the topic, and have done so independently in the past. High levels of mental maturity and eagerness to participate strongly recommended.