Spark! Spring 2009
Course Catalog

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This is the Spark 2009 Course Catalog. If you'd like to learn more about Spark, please visit the Spark Homepage. If you're trying to sign up for Spark, please see Spark's Registration Page.

We hope you enjoy Spark 2009! If you have any questions about the classes below, feel free to contact their teachers directly, or e-mail us at

We will do our best to ensure that all classes run as scheduled; but we do occasionally have to re-schedule or cancel a class, due to resource issues, family emergencies, or the like. Should this happen, we'll let you know as soon as possible and give you the chance to select an alternative class.


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Intro to Pop Art
Teachers: Edward Menendez

An in depth look at the art that plagued the late 20th century, the era of Pop Art. This course is predominantly lecture based and will involve close readings of essays and analysis of paintings and photographs that propelled the art movement.

Basic Crocheting!

This is a great course to learn a relaxing and fun activity! Single, half-double and double crochet will be taught. :)

Glamour: The Art of Make-up Full!
Teachers: Elizabeth Levin

According to statistics, over 17% of American women never leave the house without make-up. However, there is a far stretch between a little mascara and the work of Kevyn Aucoin or Marnee Simon! Learn how to design and apply make-up like a runway or glossy MUA.

Balloon Animal Bonanza

Want to impress your friends? Intrigued by the balloon twisting of a clown? Learn to make a balloon dog and more! No experience (or large red nose) required. **Note: Balloons contain latex**

Cartooning for Artists and Non-artists Full!
Teachers: Bridget Pelkie

Do you find yourself doodling in the margins of your notebooks, on the corner of your desk, on bathroom stall doors? Now's your chance to put that creativity to good use!

We'll talk about what makes a good cartoon, looking at classic examples from yesteryear to today, including newspaper strips and web comics. Using the inspiration from the masters, we'll explore some cartooning of our own, with some group and individual activities. If all goes well, you'll take some great ideas for comics home with you.

Take note: This is not really a learn-to-draw class. It's more than a write-the-perfect-joke class. What we're really interested in here is how a comic operates: characterization, dialogue, pacing, interactions between visual/text, and how all these features contribute to a successful cartoon.

Because we take the funnies seriously.

None, other than an interest in cartooning. It would be great if you bring an example or two of comics that you really enjoy, though not necessary.

Introduction to Composition: Counterpoint
Teachers: Daniel Bulmash

Have you ever wanted to compose your own music? In this class, we'll cover the basics of two-part harmony, focusing on simple two-voice counterpoint. Learn rules for writing good melodies and for harmonizing them in interesting ways! If time remains, we will touch on 4-voice harmony in the style of Bach.

Familiarity with reading music (preferably both bass and treble clef), scales, key signatures, and intervals.

Videography: Crash Course in Camera Skills (Middle School)


Ever wanted to make a movie? Wondered how directors create such complicated plot lines and then manage to shoot all those frames? Do you have a story to tell?

This crash course in videography will go over storyboarding, shooting skills, and maybe even some editing! We will be working from an idea, to a storyboard, to frame planning, and finally to shooting. Afterwards, we will screen our short films (5 minutes or less) to one another and participate in a short critique session.

Please be prepared with an idea for a very short film. Participation is absolutely necessary so be ready to talk, use the camera, and get into the spirit.

None! Just an open mind to drawing, acting, and using mad camera skills.

Modular Origami
Teachers: Josh Hester, Thomas Hu

Do you like to fold? Do you like to build things? We will combine the best of both worlds by folding units out of paper and putting them together to make awesome 3D geometric pieces of art. We will decide as a class the particular model to work on. We might split into partners to make the unit folding go quickly, or we might split into larger groups to make something huge out of 50+ pieces of paper!

Some experience folding origami (this class is not suited for beginners). Patience with folding the same thing many times in a row. It will be worth it!

Teachers: Joshua Velson

Diabolo, or Chinese yo-yo, is a circus art that is practiced around the world for performance and enjoyment. This class is intended for levels of skill ranging from absolute beginners to those with an intermediate working knowledge of tricks. All props will be provided.

Intro to DJing
Teachers: Cyril Lan

Have you ever heard a DJ mix music at your school dance, at a local club, or on the radio? Want to learn how to spin your own beats? Here's your chance --- this introductory course will cover the fundamentals such as beatmatching, mixing, cuing and scratching. We'll also talk a bit about DJing history and culture.

- A love for music - A good sense of rhythm and beat

Anime Illustration: Basic CG
Teachers: Jennifer Fu

Anime and manga are media particularly noteworthy for their artistic elements, and while styles vastly vary, many share the same kinds of illustration techniques. As more and more artists are breaking out of analog and into digital, Photoshop replaces traditional implements as the tool of choice for many. This class will cover the basics of computer anime illustration, including overview of tools, inking, layers, cel-shading, tablets vs Pen Tool, and some additional tips to add special visual appeal to a work.

An interest in anime or art, an attention span. Minimal art software (not necessarily Photoshop) familiarity is suggested by not required.

Videography: crash course in camera skills (High School)


Ever wanted to make a movie? Wondered how directors create such complicated plot lines and then manage to shoot all those frames? Do you have a story to tell?

This crash course in videography will go over storyboarding, shooting skills, and maybe even some editing! We will be working from an idea, to a storyboard, to frame planning, and finally to shooting. Afterwards, we will screen our short films (5 minutes or less) to one another and participate in a short critique session.

Please be prepared with an idea for a VERY short film. Participation is absolutely necessary so be ready to talk, use the camera, and get into the spirit.

Origami for fun!
Teachers: Jennifer Tang, Lucy Wu

Come learn how to make fun stuff with paper! Things that we have done in the past are: boats, camera, piano, pacman, and more! This class is for beginners. If you've done any origami before, you might be get bored.

Basic Knitting!
Teachers: Lizi George, Rena Katz

You will learn to knit, purl and much more! We will make a small project too :). This class is for all levels of knitters!

Make Chainmail

People have been weaving wire into fabrics and chains since before you were born! And, well, for quite a while before that, too.
Continue this tradition by learning to link metal rings to make delicate jewelry or the most awesome shirt you've ever seen.

Chainmail needs a bit of patience.


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The Physics of Bookshelves Full!
Teachers: Laura Schuhrke

Ever wanted to know how you bookshelf holds all of those books? Want to know how much force it takes to break a 2x4? If so, this class is for you. A basic introduction to beam bending mechanics with awesome physics.

Pressure Vessels Full!
Teachers: Laura Schuhrke

Ever wanted to know the physics behind the forces in your coke can? Ever wanted to know how much pressure a 2 liter soda bottle can take? Want to know exactly what forces are acting when a these and other pressure vessels rupture? Explore coke cans, soda bottles, propane tanks and more.

Launch Systems and Orbital Mechanics
Teachers: Derreck Barber

Going into space is a very complicated task. Understanding the underlying principles of this task, however, is remarkably easy. I will walk you through the derivation of a few basic rocket and orbital mechanics equations. Then we will examine a variety of launch and orbit problems. I will come prepared with a couple of problems. The rest will be questions that you have! From missile defense systems to missions to mars, ask whatever space-related questions you want! We'll try to solve them!

Some basic calculus is recommended.

Electric Vehicle Basics Full!

How do electric vehicles work? Are they more efficient than hybrid electric/gasoline or gasoline only vehicles? In this course, learn the basics of batteries, electric vehicle technology, and their environmental impacts.

Questions about Space Travel, Orbits, Space Elevators Full!
Teachers: Bruce Mackenzie

Bring your questions. Preference for questions about how to travel to various planets, where to manufacture fuel, use of rotating tethers to fling you around the solar system, unusual types of rockets, space elevators, etc. There will little math or equations, just general information.

Thermodynamics Part 1 (or Fun with Energy Conservation)
Teachers: Melissa Kaufman

We will explore the First Law of Thermodynamics and discuss how work and heat transfer and energy are all the same thing. Then we will solve some interesting problems such as how high would we need to drop a bucket of water to raise its temperature 10 degrees.

Basic physics. Be able to define and identify forces, work, energy.

Thermodynamics Part 2 (or Chaos!)
Teachers: Melissa Kaufman

This course will explore the Second Law of Thermodynamics. We will explore some of the implications of the Second Law as well as discuss its uses in the field of engineering through some problems.

Knowledge of basic physics. Be able to define and identify forces, work, energy, etc. Taking my first class is not necessary for this class although they are related.

Automotive Engine Basics
Teachers: Craig Wildman

We will discuss how automotive engines work from a theoretical and practical point of view. We will take an engine apart in class to see in detail how they work. The discussion will cover engines, fuels, environmental issues, and emerging technologies, such as biofuels and hybrid powertrains.

How to Live on Mars
Teachers: Bruce Mackenzie

How would you build a house on Mars? I'll show lots of pictures of possible Mars structures. We will review the conditions on Mars which affect how you would live, work, grow food, and build houses. Differences from Earth include: low temperature, very low pressure, carbon-dioxide atmosphere, almost 25 hour days, long seasons, dust, and radiation. One advantage is lots of cheap land. The Mars soil and air have every element we need to live and build structures, but not in convenient building forms such as wooden 2x4's. We might have to make fiberglass, brick, or aluminum structures. They must be cylindrical to hold the internal air pressure, with air-locks for doors. Oh, incidentally, how to pay for the rocket to get you there is not included. I will also suggest ways you can get involved and help the settlement of space. If interested, we can form an internet discussion group to continue the discussion, or write to to join the web discussion group.

Rocket Science for Middle Schoolers: ASTRONAUT SCHOOL Day 1
Teachers: Hemant Chaurasia

Want to design, build and launch your very own model rocket? Want to learn all about how rockets work, the engineering and physics behind their design, and the amazing places they can take us?

Then join me for a practical class in Rocket Science for Middle Schoolers! We'll cover:

- The physics of rocket flight
- Rocket design ("Space Systems Engineering")
- Applications in space exploration
- A practical demonstration of a model rocket -- that YOU are going to build and launch!

If you like the sound of all that, consider signing up for my 9-week HSSP course "ASTRONAUT SCHOOL for Middle Schoolers": you'll learn all about space survival skills, building moonbases and journeying to Mars, the history and future of spaceflight, and even discovering alien life on other planets!

Build Your Own Headphone Amplifier
Teachers: Michael Price

Like the Splash workshop bearing the same name, this will be a hands-on introduction to analog electronics.

A headphone amplifier uses the same type of circuit building blocks as almost everything else, and it might noticeably improve the sound quality of your headphones. I'll teach you some basic ideas about how circuits work, and demonstrate how to build and test them using equipment at the MIT Edgerton Center. Each of my brave students will receive a kit of electronic parts and documentation explaining the operation of the circuit, step by step. Hopefully, you'll all finish and take home working headphone amplifiers.

IMPORTANT: Unless you are receiving financial aid, a $10 lab fee (to be turned in at the beginning of the class) will be required to cover the cost of the components.

Questions about Living in Space and Future Space Settlements
Teachers: Bruce Mackenzie

Bring your questions. I will try to answer them. and maybe throw some questions back at you. Preference for questions about how to live in space, construct spinning space settlements for artificial gravity, create settlements on the surface of other planets and moons, grow food, find air and water, stay warn or cool, etc. There will be little math or equations, just general information.


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How to Write a Short Story in 300 Words or Less
Teachers: Dawn Raffel

The art of microfiction is exploding in literary magazines, anthologies, and all over the web. Here's how to make yours stand out.

Enthusiasm, imagination, love of language.

Banks, Credit, and Crashes (Oh my!)
Teachers: Gregory Hutko

Confused by the "economic crisis"?

Come to this crash course on banking and investments. Find out what Wall Street does and how what they do effects you and your family.

Lastly, we'll look at the lives of bankers and traders to help you decide if a career on Wall Street is right for you.

Grammar Basics: Everything You Were Supposed to Learn about Writing but Didn't Full!
Teachers: Vivien Tsao

What is the difference between a present participle and a gerund? Do you feel nauseous or nauseated? How can you differentiate between an indirect object and a direct object? What is a subordinating conjunction? How does it differ from a correlating or a coordinating conjunction?

If your brain is twisting in agony from the onslaught of questions, take this course! We will unravel the mysteries of grammar and take a look at diagramming sentences.

A Brief Conversation About the Baha'i Faith
Teachers: David Nawi

Can you imagine covering an entire religion in one hour? Neither can I. So let’s sit down, get relaxed, and have a short conversation about a religion you may not have heard of or know much about. Be sure to bring your questioning nature and open mind along for the ride.

Auction Action --- Bid for prizes! Full!
Teachers: Gregory Hutko

Want to learn how sites like Ebay and Google or auction houses like Sotheby's decide who gets a product, advertising space, or fine art?

Come to Auction Action to learn the theory behind the bidding process. You'll learn some bidding strategy and will be able to try your hand against your classmates for a variety of small prizes, snacks, and candy.

Teachers: Jennifer Melot

This course provides an introduction to the music of Dmitri Shostakovich by considering the connections among some of his work.

A willingness to listen.

How to Read a Poem
Teachers: Lance Ozier

Have you ever read a poem and wondered what the heck is going on? Or, as the poet T. S. Eliot once wrote, have you “had the experience but missed the meaning”? In this class you will learn some simple techniques to help you make more sense of the poems you read.

Interest in words and language.

Archaeological Decipherment

If your are fascinated by the mystery of undeciphered languages, this course is for you! We will survey decipherments of the past, methods of decipherment, and still-undeciphered scripts.


Ascesis and Praxis
Teachers: Anya Thetford

From juice fasting detoxes, military xerophagy, and hunger strikes to Ramadan, Yom Kippur, and Lent, people all around the world practice different types of fasting at different times for different reasons. Fasting for religious and spiritual reasons has been a part of human custom since pre-history and fasting has been recommended as a therapeutic intervention by physicians of most cultures, throughout history, from ancient to modern. Fasting is also often used as a tool to make a political statement, to protest or to bring awareness to a cause. Let's take a look at a few examples of fasting and abstinence practices, and then discuss reasons why we fast and some possible benefits of the various practices.

Introduction to Japanese
Teachers: Cathy Zhang

Interested in anime, Japanese pop music, Japanese rock music, or just the Japanese language? Come and learn the basics of Japanese, from the alphabet to basic grammar, and bring questions!

Some familiarity with the Japanese alphabets (hiragana and katakana) would be very useful.

Connecting Religious and Scientific Belief Full!
Teachers: David Nawi

It is our beliefs that help guide our decisions and help us make sense of the world. Religious and scientific belief can thus be seen as two distinct yet complimentary aspects of our beliefs as a whole, and not as mutually exclusive. Come discuss more about why so many people feel the need to separate the two and denigrate one or the other, and how you can weave the two together in your own life.

Copyright: Laws and Implication

We often hear scare stories about kids who download songs from the Internet and then get sued for millions. Downloading music and other media is considered by many to be equivalent to stealing.

But what is it that the kid steals when he downloads a song, and from whom does he steal it? We would like to think that it is the music itself, but the downloaded file just contains a bunch of numbers that the computer uses to make sound. And why is the fine so high? Surely, the song doesn't cost thousands of dollars, especially when a CD with a dozen of them costs just a few bucks.

In this class, we will discuss the theory behind copyright laws, and what the court cases and battles that go into them are. We will also discuss some of the interesting implications of these laws (such as the fact that 80-year-old Mickey Mouse cartoons are still under copyright).

(Note: This class will be a re-run of the Splash 2008 class. If you took that one, you probably will be bored).

Introduction to Historical Linguistics
Teachers: Bruce Arthur

Historical linguistics is the study of how languages change over time. In this class, we'll learn how language change happens. We'll also learn that once we know how language change happens, we can do all sorts of cool stuff with that knowledge.

Skills you will learn in this class include
* how to tell whether two languages are related, just by looking at them

* how to re-construct languages that have been extinct for hundreds or thousands of years, just by looking at related languages

This is an introductory course. If you already know a lot about Linguistics, you will probably find it uninteresting. Explore something new instead!

Environmental Stewardship: Who Cares?

Why does one person care and another person not? We'll look at the psychology, philosophy, and economics behind environmental stewardship, and where you fit in.

Course Webpage :

Conversational Latin I
Teachers: Antony Nguyen

A minimal-grammar, no-translation introduction to the true spoken tongue of the Romans.

By the end of this course, you’ll seem like an educated Roman elite with your vast knowledge of numbers, letters, and basic greetings, just in case you end up in ancient Rome.

None. Toga optional.

Reading Comics
Teachers: Harrison Brown

We'll discuss comics from the 1930s to today, with a focus on literary criticism and the "literary" uses of the medium. Authors and artists discussed may include: Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso, Neil Gaiman, Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware, Tom Siddell, Ryan North, Winsor McCay, Bill Willingham, Dave Sim, Chris Onstad, Alison Bechdel, Rich Burlew.

Anatomy of a Metaphor
Teachers: A L

Running short on time? Classes giving you stress? Romantic woes weighing on your mind?

These questions may not seem metaphorical, but they are.

Metaphors: we not only encounter them in the arts but also think with them. Find out how metaphors are described by Conceptual Metaphor Theory and how we encounter them in communication and reasoning.

Intro to Criminal Justice
Teachers: Shar Gunn

Intro to Criminal Justice is an interactive class in which students will learn the basic terms, definitions and procedures to help them understand the criminal justice system.

Students will learn about violent crimes, job and educational requirements, arrest procedures, the cycle of crime, and finger printing analysis. Students will be able to analyze their own fingerprints and patterns and participate in classroom role plays.

Topics of discussion:
• Team building
• Booking
• Arrests and Pat Searches
• Crime and Trends

Students should be mature and able to handle topics related to criminal justice, such as robbery, assault, rape and murder --- Uniform Crime Report (violent crimes), which we will briefly discuss.

How to Save the World in Your Spare Time
Teachers: Shava Nerad

Is there something you'd like to do in your local community to make the world (or your part of it) a better place? Ever wondered how a seasoned community organizer plans a project? Want to learn new ways to think about bringing people together to change the world? In a couple hours, you can learn enough to create a plan which will let you and your friends and allies in your community set out to create positive, nonviolent change. With 30-some years of nonprofit and political organizing experience, Shava Nerad learned community organizing from her dad, who worked with MLK and the SCLC on the summer marches in the civil rights movement of the 60's. She brings experience inherited from union, social action, and civil rights movements of the 40's-60's from her dad, along with organizing experience from the 70's through today in her own career. The prerequisites for this class were: Come with an idea of something you'd like to change -- the first thing in the class, I'll give you a piece of paper that says "If I could change one thing in the world it would be ____________; I am really passionate about ____________" Be motivated! 7th and 8th graders, be even *more* motivated!

Be willing to plan and do something about it all!

Poetry for Young People
Teachers: Susan Shepherd

Limericks, sonnets, classical Swinburne and the craziness of e.e. cummings all come together in this course, where students will have a chance to share their favorite poems and poets, get recommendations for poems and poets they might enjoy looking up, and hear poems read aloud.

Blogs, College Essays, and Magazines, Oh My!
Teachers: Amy Estersohn

What do these three kinds of writing have in common? They are all examples of the personal essay, where the main character is YOU.

In this class, we will discuss how to narrate the ordinary moments of your life in extraordinary ways.

If you have any work you would like to bring with you, like a blog entry or a rough draft of a college essay, feel free to do so. Otherwise, this class is open to all age and experience levels.

Newcomb's Paradox
Teachers: David Farhi

What does it mean to act rationally? In this class we’ll discuss Newcomb’s paradox, and talk about what constitutes a rational choice. We may get sidetracked into discussions of free will, time travel, and parallel universes. This class will be very discussion based.

What's In a Name? The Sociology Behind First Names

In the first part of the century, Mary and John were the most popular first names in the United States. Now, they've been relegated to 93rd and 17th. What happened? Why was Madison the 598th most popular girl's name in the 1980s, but the 29th most popular name in the 1990s?

Take this class to find out the answer to these questions, and learn some of the basics about naming.

Paradoxes of Democracy, Voting, and Social Choice: Elections
Teachers: Stephen M. Hou

Come learn ideas with applications in mathematics, economics, engineering, and political science! What if, in hypothetical two-way races, Clinton beats Obama, Obama beats Edwards, and Edwards beats Clinton? Is this even possible? (Yes.) What would then be a fair way to decide the "best" preferences of Democrats? Whether it's a T-shirt design contest or a presidential election, voting converts preferences of individuals into a single preference for the community. We'll discuss Arrow's Impossibility Theorem, which states that there is no "perfect" way of doing so. We'll demonstrate a few of the mind-boggling flaws that every voting method must have.

If you want to learn more about paradoxes of democracy, please come to the instructor's other class on apportionment (instead of elections) as well!

Comfort with arithmetic; interest in voting, political science, decision-making, and/or economics

Sonnets: A Dynamic Discipline

Witty, provocative, versatile.

Despite its fairly strict and restrictive form, (14 lines, iambic pentameter) sonnets have a myriad of styles in historical and modern poetry.

This class is designed to show you how sonnets have grown and developed over the past centuries into a diverse and powerful form that knows no bounds.

We'll spend the first hour learning how to read and talk about a few classic sonnets to ground you in the sonnet tradition. The second hour will be dedicated to discussing you the myriad paths sonnets have taken since then.

Come ready to think. Come ready to talk.

Chaucer's Canterbury Tales
Teachers: Erin Fitzgerald

Literature course where we will read one (or two, depending on time) of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English. Class will cover a little bit of introduction to Chaucer and late 14th century England, as well as pronounciation of Middle English and comparison of Modern English to Middle English (we will explore how some letters have acquired different sounds since Chaucer's time, as well as how many words have also changed meanings).

Where the Musical Scale Comes From
Teachers: Rob Speer

Why does the musical scale we know consist of 12 notes, and why are they those notes in particular? Are there other scales that would sound just as good if you had been listening to them your whole life? (There are, because people throughout the world play music on many different scales.)

It turns out that scales arise from some simple mathematical rules about when notes sound harmonious together. This class will show you how the Western musical scale arises from those rules, and how with some different choices we could have ended up with 5, 19, 22, or even 53 notes. You'll hear what music sounds like on unfamiliar scales, and even get the opportunity to play a piano keyboard with 19 notes in each octave.

This class will make use of basic math. You should understand how to multiply fractions and raise numbers to a power. It will also help if you are familiar with musical intervals -- for example, what thirds and fifths sound like.

King...or Yang di-Pertuan Agong?
Teachers: Anya Thetford

Duke or Sultan? Infanta or Princess? Tsarevich or Khan? Whose royal highness is it? And what's a consort anyway? In this class we'll take a shot at cracking the whole gamut of royal titles world-wide...or at least we'll get through a fine selection! (Yeah, I bet you didn't know that Yang di-Pertuan Agong is the title of the highest ranking office in Malaysia...who is an elected monarch, by the way. Pretty neat, right?)

Paradoxes of Democracy, Voting, and Social Choice: Apportionment
Teachers: Stephen M. Hou

Come learn ideas with applications in mathematics, economics, engineering, and political science! The seats in the House of Representatives is given to states in proportion to their populations. But the division is never exact. Is it possible that, in using a "fair" division method, an increase in the size of the House leads to a state losing a seat? (Yes.) We'll discuss the Balinski-Young Theorem, which states that there is no "perfect" way of fair division. We'll demonstrate a few of the mind-boggling flaws that every division method must have.

If you want to learn more about paradoxes of democracy, please come to the instructor's other class on ELECTIONS (instead of APPORTIONMENT) as well!

Comfort with arithmetic; interest in voting, political science, decision-making, and/or economics.

Why the world is the way it is
Teachers: Tony Valderrama

Do you remember the Berlin Wall? 16-bit video game consoles? The Challenger disaster? Madeleine Albright? The Iran-contra scandal?

In this class we'll explore how the short-term effects of events after 1960 have shaped the current state of the world.

Math & Computer Science

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Differentiation and Integration of Friendly Functions I: the Basics
Teachers: Michael Livshits

The aim is to understand the basics of differentiation and integration, starting with simple examples. Concentrating on well-behaved, "friendly" functions, we will not have to wade through somewhat intimidating notions of continuity and limits to get going. This class is for people who are fluent in high school algebra and geometry, and are curious about differentiation and integration; some "precalculus" is a plus, familiarity with physics will help with motivation and appreciation. People who know some calculus may also find this unorthodox approach entertaining and/or thought-provoking. Most of the content of this class is summarized in the first 10 slides for the 15' talks that I gave at MathFest in 2004 and at the joint AMS-MAA meeting in 2006 (both fell on Friday the 13th), available at

Fluency in high school algebra and geometry, "precalculus" is a plus, familiarity with physics will help.

Learn Programming with Interactive Art
Teachers: J.D. Zamfirescu

This class is really about two things: programming and interactive visual art.

First you'll learn the basics of programming in Java, one of the world's most popular languages. Second, you'll learn about interactive computer art, including some basic principles of visual design.

Should be lots of fun! No programming experience required (and in fact, you may find the first bit of the class boring if you already know programming, but feel free to come anyway!)

Bring a laptop if you'd like to follow along.

Fractals and Fractal Dimension Full!
Teachers: Zandra Vinegar

Math through a kaleidoscope:
Beautiful, no?
This class will dive headfirst into the key concepts of Fractals including symmetry, expressible infinity, and chaos. Specifically, we will take an in depth look at the Sierpinski Triangle (briefly covering the difference between fractal dimension and topological dimension), the Lorenz Water Wheel (illustrating the ideas of the Butterfly Effect and Strange Attractors), and the well-known Mandelbrot Set. If you want to see mathematics from a completely alien perspective, this class is for you.

Proving Godel's Incompleteness Theorem
Teachers: Catherine Olsson

Godel's First Incompleteness Theorem showed that no matter how rigorous a logic system is, there will always either be true things that the system cannot prove or the system will be inconsistent (ie, "broken").

What does that mean? Why do we care about formal systems anyway? And what's so cool about the proof itself that there's a Spark class about it?

If you're curious and motivated, and ready to learn a whole lot in an awfully short span of time, this class is for you! Along the way, we'll explore ideas of truth and provability, self-referential statements (such as "this statement is unprovable"), how math and meaning go hand in hand, and perhaps (if we have time) learn what number theory has to do with whether computers can think.

The more you know about formal logic to begin with, the easier this class will be for you, but anyone is welcome to attend.

A little familiarity with mathematical logic. If you don't know anything about logic, don't worry - gloss over the first half of the wikipedia article on first-order logic ( and you'll be fine. We'll review it all in class anyway.

Differentiation and Integration of Friendly Functions II: Some Theory
Teachers: Michael Livshits

Continuation of Differentiation and Integration of Friendly Functions I. We will develop a streamlined theory of differentiation and integration based on some simple inequalities and prove the fundamental theorem of calculus. We may also a take a look at more sophisticated topics (power series, Taylor formula, integration and differentiation of multivariable functions, etc.) or discuss the relation of our approach to limits and continuity, if there is enough time and interest. The core content of this class is summarized in the last 3 slides for the talks that I gave at MathFest in 2004 and at the joint AMS-MAA meeting in 2006 (both fell on Friday the 13th), available at

Differentiation and Integration of Friendly Functions I or familiarity with differentiation and integration.

What is Infinity?
Teachers: Eric Wofsey

What does it mean for two sets to have the same number of elements (a set is just any collection of objects)? Well, if the sets are finite, we just count how many elements there are and see whether we get the same number. But if the sets are infinite (for example, the set of all whole numbers), what do we do? Can we "count to infinity"? Is there some other way we can compare two sets without counting them? In this class we'll see how to answer these questions. We'll find that in fact, there is more than one "size" of infinity. That is, "infinity" is not a single "number" but many different ones, and some infinities are infinitely bigger than other infinities!

Real-time Graphics: Drawing pretty pictures REALLY REALLY fast! Full!
Teachers: David Benjamin

So you load up your newest video game, and a giant mango-eating purple alien with fifteen eyes pops up on your screen. You marvel for a few minutes at the 3d rendering and how realistic it looks, during which time the alien has already stolen all your mangoes and run away. You are left only with a profound desire to find out how the creature got here anyway.

While you play your video games, a chip inside the computer works hard to render 3d scenes as fast as 60 times a second. Starting from only coloring individual pixels, it is possible to build up the ability to render something as complex as an alien (or a teapot). This class will explore how this is done.

Note: This is neither an art nor a video game class.

Microeconomics in 50 Minutes
Teachers: Scott Kominers

The course title is self-explanatory.

Familiarity with algebra and basic probability theory.

Simple Math Problems That are Still Unsolved
Teachers: Michael Kling

Ever heard of the 196 algorithm, or the Collatz conjecture? These are only a couple examples of math problems that are easy to describe using just basic addition and multiplication. Yet, mathematicians still don't fully understand them. If we have time, we'll also look at a few that are more difficult, such as the Goldbach Conjecture.

Basic Algebra, Geometry

Why Matchmakers?
Teachers: Scott Kominers

Matchmakers are not just used in marriage markets any more! Hospitals use national-scale matchmakers to assign medical students to residency positions and Boston uses similar mechanisms to assign students to public schools. But why?

Two-sided matching markets abound; examples include the marriage, college admissions, and employment markets. In this class, we introduce stable matching, the solution concept for these markets. We then discuss the motivation for and application of stable matching mechanisms.


Ever wanted to learn to Scheme? Want to take over the world? We recommend a class in the social studies category.

Ever wanted to learn Scheme? Have you heard of functional programming, but never learned any functional languages?

Come to our class, and we’ll teach you the basics of Scheme, and how to learn more.

Some exposure to programming, but not to Scheme.

Teachers: Robert Assaly

What comes after 1, 1, 4, 10, 28, 76? If you enjoy puzzles like this one, then this class is for you! They are not just fun; they do lead to useful procedures for solving many math problems. We shall talk about the Fibonacci sequence, the Golden Ratio, and lots of other sequences that don't have a name but are challenging and/or useful.

Constructing Numbers
Teachers: Daniel Zaharopol

What are numbers, really? I mean, what *are* they? As children, we were taught how to count, as if numbers had always been there and were obvious. When you got to fractions, well, those were supposed to be clear too. And then real numbers? $$\pi$$? It was always brushed under the rug... it's just some weird decimal that goes on forever, right?

Well, you can't prove anything about numbers if you don't know what they really are. How do we know that mathematical constructions actually work? What basis tells us that even something as simple as addition makes sense --- how do you even define it? What could it possibly mean to take something like $$\pi^{\sqrt{2}}$$? Well, the numbers can be built out of something much, much simpler. You can work your way right up from almost nothing to the full complexity of the real numbers. Come and find out how a mathematician thinks about a concept you might have thought was simple.

This will be a very challenging course, but not like the mathematics you see in school: it won't be about memorizing formulas or lots of calculations. This class is for people who like and are good at dealing with abstract concepts and logical deduction.

Metacircular Scheming

An introduction to Scheme, a ridiculously flexible and powerful programming language.

This class is meant for people who don't know Scheme (or other lisp variants). However, you should have some minimum programming experience - you should know what if statements and functions are.

How to Win Money Off Your Friends
Teachers: Zandra Vinegar

First section of the class: How to be very very likely to Win Money off your friends
How to make the right choice… in order to win money, of course. A bit of intro math, and then some situations in which the right setup makes most people /very/ likely to slip up.
Second section of the class: How to definitely Win Money off your friends
Not a gambler? – this isn’t cheating per se, it’s simply leading your opponent to assume that they have a chance…

Quantum Computing is Awesome
Teachers: Harrison Brown

Ever wanted to factor huge numbers really quickly? (Ever wanted to break the codes used to transmit secure data online?) How about searching a database without looking at each element? What about simulating an entire universe, particle by particle? To do this, you need to harness the power of quantum mechanics and build a quantum computer. We'll discuss the history of quantum computing, what quantum computers can (and can't) do, and the future of quantum.

Familiarity with elementary probability theory and complex arithmetic will be assumed. (In particular, no prior knowledge of quantum mechanics is necessary.)

Optimization Theory
Teachers: Michael Axiak, Yalu Wu

Optimization is all about solving complex problems. For example, how many flavors of ice cream should your ice cream parlor carry in order to maximize profit? How would you cut a piece of yarn into four pieces to maximize the area of the quadrilateral formed? Where should you locate an emergency facility in order to minimize transportation costs? How should you drive in order to minimize gas usage?

We will show you how to model real-life problems and find optimal solutions of your own!

Algebra II.

Introduction to Computer Programming Full!
Teachers: Anika Huhn

This hands-on class is intended for people who want to start writing code (and learn how to use it) but have not been exposed to it before. I will start from the very beginning, and by the end of the class you will have seen enough to know how to learn more on your own and take on your own projects. I will also try to give you some direction as to what might be fun projects to take on.

Little to no experience. (You should not sign up for this class if you already know how to program. I would like the class to start off on approximately the same level.)

Mac OSX Survival Guide
Teachers: Van Nguyen

With the increase in the number of Apple computers in use in the academic community, Mac OSX is a force to be reckoned with. If you've switched recently or would like to know how to use your friend's Mac, this is the course for you.

We'll blaze through typical ways of using OSX to do what you want. We'll learn how to avoid common mistakes recent switchers make. And we'll learn a few neat tricks that others around you might not even know about!

Some previous computer exposure is helpful.

Introduction to Functions with Haskell
Teachers: Jennifer Melot

This class strengthens students' understanding of functions and sets using the functional programming language Haskell.

Integral Calculus
Teachers: Andrew Spieker

How do you find the area under a parabola? How can you prove the formula for the area of a triangle? What about a circle?

These are questions that can be answered with integral calculus, the study of continuous sums. We will briefly review limits, continuity, and differentiability. Then, we will go on to define the integral as a limit of Riemann sums, and prove the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus.

Techniques for integration will be introduced as time permits.

Two years of algebra, one year of geometry, and precalculus are necessary. Knowledge of differential calculus (derivatives, slope, rate of change) will be extremely useful. This course can serve as a preview to integral calculus, a review of it, or even just a fun two-hour seminar!

Typographical Number Theory with Achilles and the Tortoise

The basis of this course comes from Douglas Hofstadter's book "Godel, Escher, Bach." By explaining some concepts, such as strange loops, recursion, and strings and theorems as they appear in axiomatic systems of varying strength, as well as some insightful and comical dialogue between Achilles and the Tortoise, the subjects of a favorite Zeno's paradox, we can open up a whole new possible way of thinking about logic and intelligence, and hopefully get a conceptual handle on Godel's theorem of Incompleteness.

Functions and Dimensions
Teachers: Anika Huhn

We will build three dimensional models of four dimensional hypercubes and discuss functions in various dimensions. (This course takes some math that I find interesting and tries to make it feel more real with colorful, physical models.)

Introduction to HTML
Teachers: Albert Wang

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the basis for the World Wide Web. This class will teach you some basic ways you can write HTML to create web pages.

Proofs, Induction, Mass Chaos, and Love
Teachers: Letitia Li

Induction is the simplest type of proof, requiring only two parts. Yet small false statements, very well hidden, can "prove" strange things. And somehow, it's related to matchmaking, puzzles, and a temple that can end the world.

How the Web Works
Teachers: Leonid Grinberg

Almost everyone (at least who will be at Spark!) has heard of the Web, but many don't understand quite how it works. We will begin by discussing what sets the Web apart from other means of networked data-sharing, and then talk about the actual technology that makes it possible.

Note: This is NOT a web design course. Though I will talk about information that is useful to know for a web designer, the purpose will be to discuss the inner workings of the web. As such, you will probably not leave the class knowing how to make your own web site.

You should have basic experience with using computers and the Web. If the idea of opening a Web page and clicking on a link is not foreign to you, you should be fine.


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Really Precise Clocks
Teachers: Ian Leroux

Of all physical quantities, time is the one we can measure most accurately. Come find out how (and why!) we do it.

We'll take a whirlwind tour of precision timekeeping devices from sun dials to the upcoming generation of optical atomic clocks.

Know the connection between time and frequency. Understanding the scientific notation for very small numbers (like $$10^{-17}$$) will also be helpful.

Seeing Things
Teachers: Abby Noyce

How vision works! We'll start with light entering the eye, and get at least to edge-detecting neurons, and possibly to object recognition.

You should have some familiarity with the nervous system and how neurons work.

Exploring the World Oceans: A Sampling of Oceanography

71% of the earth is covered by water. Come learn about this vast final frontier, its physics, chemistry, biology, impact on climate, and the secrets it reveals about the past and hints about the future.

Not Just Handwaving
Teachers: Anya Thetford

Many nonverbal behaviors reveal our emotions, yet there is only one that can be claimed to expose our thoughts. Gesture is an inseparable part of speech, communication and thought which can be studied through the lens of psychology, linguistics, and other social sciences. In this class, we'll talk a bit about what constitutes a gesture, the different kinds of gestures, and their cultural relativity. We'll focus in on what research tells us about gesture's expression of and role in our cognitive processes and strive to answer the perplexing question--why do we gesture the way we do anyway?

Maxwell's Equations Full!
Teachers: Zandra Vinegar

These four equations describe one of the most universal and elegant relations in physics. They are Maxwell’s equations, unifying all observations of relativity, electricity, and magnetism. Don’t let the notation scare you off – this class has no prerequisites (as in, just be able to graph a function), but we will rigorously derive Maxwell’s explanation of electromagnetic phenomena (including light, electricity, magnets, …). “Derive” with the catch that, as I don’t believe in writing long equations on the board, everything in this class will be presented as a series of intuitive /and/ rigorous deductions, preserving concepts rather than constants.
We will begin with only two observations. First, the relativistic nature of light: you can’t catch up to a light beam – it will always move away from you at speed c. Second, our observations of the force between two charges described by $$ \frac{q_1 q_2}{r^2} $$: $$ q_1 $$ and $$ q_2 $$ being the magnitude of the two charges, and r being the distance between them. From these two observations, we will DERIVE the explanation of everything else. Aka, the world will unfold before you and it will be beautiful.

All this said, and there being no “hidden prerequisites,” the world will need to unfold before you /very/ quickly. I basically just claimed that I would introduce all of single-variable calculus and about half of multivariable calculus in the first hour of class – which I believe is an attainable goal – but this class will be rigorous, will be extremely intense, and will require the full two hours.

The Strange World of Relativity
Teachers: David Farhi

Did you ever want to travel forward in time? Fit a 20 ft pole into a 10 ft barn? Weigh as much as the sun? Come see how you can do these and other really weird things just by traveling really fast.

Some Fun with Astronomy
Teachers: Michael Shaw

Imagine life as an astronomer. You're trying to figure out whats happening billions of miles away. Your only tool is whatever light happens to reach Earth through billions of miles of gas and dust. In this course, we begin to investigate this problem using all the tools at our disposal. We'll start off with a brief history of astronomy, and then spend most of the class talking about some modern problems in the field--about the life cycle of stars, and the structure of the universe itself.

Come prepared with your own questions, and we'll do our best to answer them!

Quantum Tunneling, Black Holes, and The Weird Universe

It turns out that behind the scenes nature works in bizarre and wonderful ways. We’ll explain some of these ideas, ranging from the very small --- where particles routinely walk through walls and almost anything can happen --- to the very large --- where the fabric of space and time itself is curved, a glance at the sky can show you the birth of the Universe, and mysteriously named Black Holes are inescapable for anything, even light itself. We’ll discuss these cryptic sentences and explain how weird our Universe really is.

No prior knowledge needed. Only a desire to learn something new about our Universe.

Snap, Crackle, BOOM!!!: A fiery introduction to chemistry
Teachers: Tony Valderrama

This is chemistry the way it was meant to be taught - with flames and explosions! Learn about simple reactions and basic chemistry as we explore the atom through exciting demos.

The Neural Basis of Audition

Ever wondered how air waves get converted into neural signals and what allows us to hear such a variety of sounds? Come find out!

How Animals Learn - or - Who's smarter: a crow, an octopus, a chimpanzee or a two year old?
Teachers: Lori Thomas

Come learn a little bit about the world of animal cognition. Along the way, we'll probably talk about instinct - what it's good for and where it fails, the value of competition when teaching parrots, how more species than we think use tools regularly, and why the intro question just isn't fair.

Brief Intro to Some Interesting Physics
Teachers: Anika Huhn

This will be a class that will involve hanging out and talking about a few interesting things in many fields of physics. My goal is to introduce you to a lot so that you learn how much you might find if you go out and read and study further. The first hour will be a lecture, and the second hour will be time for you to talk to the people around you about the physics that was just introduced. There will be questions to think about and toys to play with (an old computer to take apart and some lenses, polarizers, and other physics toys). :)

I will not assume that you have any specific knowledge, but the discussion will be more interesting if you have had an introductory physics course already or know your way around electronics.

What Do Babies Know?

What kinds of knowledge are we born with, and what do we learn as young babies? In this class we will discuss everything from why peek-a-boo works so well to the origins of morality. Do babies know the laws of physics --- and how could we tell if they did? Do babies know that some people are nicer than others? Can they do basic math at only 6 months of age?

On Black Holes, Singularities, and the Event Horizon
Teachers: Michael Shaw

We're going to dive right in to the most massive objects in our universe, billions of times the mass of the sun. (Note: we won't actually dive into a black hole--it's hard to get out). When small stars die, they peter out. When massive stars die, they explode in supernovas, outshining an entire galaxy, and what's left is a black hole, a singularity of mass so dense that even light is trapped behind. We'll tour around a few black holes, study their effect on our daily lives, and of course, the seven ways a black hole can kill you. I'll venture into wormholes, white holes, and other exotics, and we'll even bring in a sporting interest and talk about how Stephen Hawking once lost a bet on black holes, and how it was related to the ultimate demise and even death of these most mysterious of objects. (Food for thought: how does a black hole die, anyway?) Be ready to open your minds, to be bent by the curvature of spacetime, and generally to lose yourself in the fun and beauty of the most amazing objects out there in the sky.

The Psychology of Perception: How Your Eyes May Be Deceiving You
Teachers: Vivien Tsao

Is line segment AB longer than segment BC? How do humans determine distance in 2D paintings?

In this course, we will look at the physiological basis of vision and the psychological basis of perception and see how the two mesh to give us visual illusions.

How the Climate Changes
Teachers: Rebecca Dell

Did you ever wonder what people mean when they talk about "global warming" or "climate change"? This course will talk about what the climate is, how it works, and how we measure it. This lets us know something about how it has changed in the past, how might it change in the future, and how humans effect that.

The Chemistry of Poisons
Teachers: Sid Creutz, Kevin Hwang

Overview of the structure, chemistry, and mechanisms of action of well-known and lesser-known poisons. May include cyanide, arsenic, nerve gas, and various other poisons used for murder, assassination, and war throughout history.

A Deeper Look at Mechanics
Teachers: David Farhi

This class will be fast tour of kinematics, Newton’s Laws, dynamics, and angular motion. It will be geared towards students taking a high school physics class (without calculus) who are frustrated by the dumbed-down math and want to see the real concepts behind the theory.

Single variable calculus is required. Multivariable calculus and high school mechanics will not hurt.

Hands-on Astronomy: Observing with Telescopes

Use telescopes to explore the skies! We will learn how to set up and use MIT's 8-inch teaching telescopes. We will then go onto the roof and use the telescopes to examine stars, planets, and (if the night is good) nebulae and star clusters, including detailed observing of the Moon and Saturn. We'll finish by warming up with hot chocolate and chocolate poptarts*.

Class will be from 6-7, running until the end of Spark. From 7-9 will be open observing; all are welcome to observe! Warm clothes are a must for all attendees, including gloves and a hat; a good rule for observing is to dress as if the weather is 20 F colder than it actually is.

If you are late and/or want to come to open observing, come to 37-292 and/or have Spark personnel call the teachers.

*MIT observing tradition -- we'll tell you about it!

An interest in astronomy and a willingness to learn! Make sure to bring warm clothes.

Teachers: Stephanie Bachar

When first discovered, prions were so novel and controversial that those who stood by the prion theory were shunned by much of the science community.

Why? Because prions, the infectious proteins that cause Mad Cow Disease, break the fundamental genetic dogma of biology.

How do prions work? Where are prions found? Why do prions exist? What do prions have to do with cannibalism? We'll attempt to answer all these questions and more during this class.

High school biology or an equivalent understanding of genetics, proteins and cell structure.

Applied Cryomania
Teachers: Joshua Velson

Liquid nitrogen is cold. Really, really cold. Colder than the heart of a freshman physics teacher. And it is concentrated, pourable awesome. In this class our dedicated team of cryomaniacs will take you through 77 Kelvins worth of the science and practice of playing with some very, very cold things. Remember kids, when the ice cream stops steaming, it's warm enough to eat.

Human Vision
Teachers: Zandra Vinegar

From the physics of optical lenses, to parallax, to the bio-chemistry of rods and cones, this class will explore, in depth, the mechanisms of human vision. Three lecture segments will be broken by two blocks of hands-on lab. The first lecture will be an introduction to the eye biologically and to the physics of the eye’s lens. The first lab will be on the mathematics of how parallax gives you depth perception. The second lecture will dive into the chemistry of the rods and cones which lead to our experiences of light and color. The second lab will be a series of experiments on the associated phenomena of “primary colors.” And the final lecture will introduce some of the neurological components of sight, specifically those which lead to our experience of optical illusions.

None, but we will move quickly as to cover a huge amount of material. Come prepared to be focused and responsive for the full two hour period. Bring questions.


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How to Start Your Own Business Full!
Teachers: Bohan Liu, Julian Yuen

Ever wanted to start your own business? We'll teach you the basics so that you can go out and learn more about what it takes to become an entrepreneur!

The Art of Follow-Up Full!
Teachers: Dina Betser

Wondering why you lost touch with that old camp friend? Want to learn how to consistently stand out to people you meet? This class breaks down the process of keeping in touch and following up with friends and contacts into manageable, easy-to-remember guidelines. It's never too early to form good networking habits---they'll be helpful in the long-run for internship prospects and beyond!

Wikipedia: Behind the Scenes
Teachers: Rob Speer

Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. It's an incredible source of information on millions of topics, but it can be bewildering at times, especially if you venture onto the editing side. How do you edit Wikipedia in a way that won't just be undone by another editor? Who decides what belongs in Wikipedia and what doesn't? How can you tell whether to trust what's written in an article?

Rob Speer, a Wikipedia admin, will answer these questions and more. This class will make you a more informed user of Wikipedia, and show you how you can contribute to it yourself as well.

Some computer skills.

Storytelling, Rhetoric, and the Oral Tradition

The class will focus on the theory and practice of oral storytelling and rhetoric. Each student should come prepared with at least one story (max. 5 minutes) to tell.

First Contact: The Art of Meeting New People

We will cover themes, skills, and tips pertaining to a variety of potentially challenging social interactions. These will include the art of asking out a romantic interest, behavior on a first date, formal business meetings issues, and other social situations. The course will start as a lecture and then break into activities to teach themes.

Studying Abroad in High School

Did you know high school students can study abroad? Learn about programs that allow you to study in countries all over the world from China to the Czech Republic. We will discuss common misconceptions, resources and the advantages of studying abroad in high school.

This class will be led by a student who studied abroad in Austria and a student who studied abroad in the Czech Republic.

The Most Challenging Puzzles
Teachers: Daniel Zaharopol

Each year, around a thousand people gather at MIT for the annual "Mystery Hunt," a contest in which teams compete to solve some of the deepest and most challenging puzzles around --- often given without any instructions! We'll go through a sample of these puzzles and try to work through them together. Stretch your brain and grow your skills for finding deep patterns, examining open-ended questions, and pulling out solutions without nearly enough information.

Food Allergies and School
Teachers: Bruce Mackenzie

Do you have a food allergy, and find it awkward when a friend offers you pizza you can't eat? Or don't know what you can eat in the school cafeteria? Join us just before lunch and discuss it.
This is not a formal class, just a time to give suggestions and hear how others with food allergies handle social situations and nutrition. Or just hang out and eat lunch. Bring your own bag lunch, we don't recommend sharing food at this meeting.

Explore MIT
Teachers: Beth Schaffer

This is not your average campus tour! We’ll explore the winding basements, the towering Green Building and some of the wackier elements of the architecture around MIT. I’ll be taking you on a tour of a lot of the stranger places around campus as well as some of the prettiest sights. Be prepared to walk!

Note that we will be using the same route we used during Splash.

Breakfastology 101

Want to learn how to cook a delicious and balanced breakfast? Come learn how to cook pancakes, bacon, popovers, fruit salad and other delicious breakfasty goods.

Ability to handle kitchen implements without causing fire / loss of limbs / major blood loss.

Time Travel for Fun and Profit

This class aims to explore the role of time travel, parallel universes and alternate worlds in fiction, as well as possibilities for its existence in the real world. Concepts covered will include paradoxes, stable time loops, various hypotheses regarding multiple universe theory, white holes, and the ways in which time may flow. Examples from fiction will include Doctor Who, Jumper, All The Myriad Ways, Heroes, and The Time Traveler's Wife.

You may attend this class more than once; however, if you travel back in time to attend the class with your past self, we request that you refrain from damaging the timestream on MIT property, as multitemporal lawsuits cause all sorts of legal headaches.

Quidditch for Muggles
Teachers: David Zou

Got mad skillz? Like Harry Potter?
Ever want to play Quidditch? Now's your chance!
Come learn how to play the game that's taking the Muggle world by storm. You may even get the chance to meet real live Quidditch players. Come and play or just watch.

shoes and clothing appropriate for running and physical activities. Wands optional.

Hardcore College Admissions
Teachers: Chris Su

HYPSMC = Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Caltech = the Holy Grail of College Admissions.

Want to get into one of these?

MIT Admissions Blogger and veteran with over 1,600 posts shares some insights (disclaimer: my opinions are strictly personal and do not represent the official positions of any college =p).

Truffles Making 101

Come learn the exquisitely delicious art of turning chocolate into truffles. Impress your friends and family!

Intellectual Property and the Modern Teen (take!)
Teachers: Brianna Veenstra

Whether you want to start a business based on a big idea or just listen to a favorite song, intellectual property laws govern what can and can't (legally) be done with inventions and information.

This section (take!) will focus on how to avoid breaking the law when you use other peoples' work and incorporate it into your own.

Disastrous Sushi Making
Teachers: Letitia Li

There can only be so many ways to mess it up, but I seem destined to go through them all. And yet, it's still cheap, and people seem to eat it anyway.

Ask Us Anything!
Teachers: Roshini Zachariah

Three MIT Students stand at the front of the room:
Michelle Bentivegna: MIT Sophomore in Civil Engineering and Political Science. She can answer questions on history and current politics, as well as explain why Boston's sanitation system is run by the Mafia.
Chris Kennedy: Mathematician, Physicist, Chemist, currently an MIT Junior. You should ask him why the Pauli Exclusion Principle is cool.
Roshini Zachariah: MIT Senior double majoring in Music and Biological Engineering. You should ask her about her four years of experience in MIT bio labs -- but she can't answer anything that's classified.

These three MIT students will do their best to answer questions on anything academic.

Surviving an Apocalypse
Teachers: Murtaza Nek, Nur Shahir

What would you do with your last hours of freedom if an alien species took over Earth and enslaved the human race? Or if a tsunami wiped out the Eastern coast of the United States, resulting in mass migrations (and land riots) of unprecedented magnitude? Would you have what it takes to survive?

Put your creative thinking skills to the test in this class, where you'll discuss strategies and methods of surviving apocalypses! Come unassuming, leave thinking about hypotheticals you never thought you would.

Intellectual Property and the Modern Teen (create!)
Teachers: Brianna Veenstra

Whether you want to start a business based on a big idea or just listen to a favorite song, intellectual property laws govern what can and can't (legally) be done with inventions and information.

This section (create!) will focus on how to protect your rights when you share content you've created.


In this class we will play Mao, a card game about learning rules. In most games, first you learn how to play and then you play. In Mao, you learn the rules by playing! You will be told only a minimal amount of information about the rules of Mao before play begins, and then will be penalized if you break rules. By observing when you (and other players) are penalized, you can figure out how the rules work. When you "win", you get to add a new rule to the game which the other players have to figure out. You can come to as many sections as you like, though the game will start over for each new section.

Patience and enthusiasm! Mao can be a very frustrating game, and if getting punished for unexplained and seemingly arbitrary reasons annoys you, you will probably not enjoy the game. As a warning, if you get frustrated and start making the game less fun for others, you will be asked to leave. Familiarity with the game of UNO will be slightly helpful but is not at all necessary.

Swing 4 Noobs (and the not so Nooby)
Teachers: David Zou

Crash Course Swing class for beginners and up. I'll start from the basics and then go straight into learning move (turns and such). Guaranteed to teach you something new, no matter what your experience is.

Everyday Yoga

Want to learn what Yoga is all about? Want to have fun and learn some everyday exercises which keep you fit and healthy? This class is where you can do it all. I will be covering the history and significance of Yoga and help you learn some time proven exercises.

Purpose of Meaning
Teachers: Dawood Rouben

The God question.

Curiosity and an open mind.

How to Solve a Rubik's Cube
Teachers: Marcel Thomas

In this class, I will teach you the beginner's solution to the Rubik's Cube. If there's time, I will introduce more advanced mechanical puzzles of various shapes and levels (including a 4-Dimensional Rubik's Cube). Also if there's time, I will introduce the advanced solution to the Rubik's Cube (the speedcuber's method).

Surviving an Apocalypse
Teachers: Murtaza Nek, Nur Shahir

What would you do with your last hours of freedom if an alien species took over Earth and enslaved the human race? Or if a tsunami wiped out the Eastern coast of the United States, resulting in mass migrations (and land riots) of unprecedented magnitude? Would you have what it takes to survive?

Put your creative thinking skills to the test in this class, where you'll discuss strategies and methods of surviving apocalypses! Come unassuming, leave thinking about hypotheticals you never thought you would.

Rookie Rugby
Teachers: Adedoyin Ogunniyi

Better than football.
The most awesomest sport ever invented!!!!!
Come and ruck it out with the MIT Women's Rugby Club.

Any and all are welcome.

The Art of Money
Teachers: Chris Su

Just last summer, inflation in Zimbabwe topped 11 million percent, forcing the government to print banknotes bearing the denomination of 100 billion ($$10^(11)$$). Also, by the end of this year, you will see the DC and Territory Quarters, adding on to the 50 State Quarters released between 1999 and 2008.

Money design is an integral part of preserving our history, and this class invites you to explore the story contained in US and international money.

If not for anything else, come and see 100,000,000,000 dollars live. :D (and get a free souvenir!)

Negotiation for Beginners
Teachers: Michaela LaVan

Learn how to haggle, bargain, dicker, and finagle so you can get stuff for cheap!

This short, interactive class will teach you some simple bargaining strategies and help you get over your shyness about bargaining.

Pipe cleaners

They're fuzzy, they're bendy, they're colorful, and they're back with a vengeance! Thousands of pipe cleaners are poised to take over Spark 2009, and Amanda and Catherine are armed and ready with hundreds of ideas of fun things to do with them. We'll teach you how to make all kinds of awesome pipe-cleaner creatures and creations, from dinosaurs to butterflies, from robots to penguins. Then we'll let you loose to tackle some fiendish pipe-cleaner construction challenges. We hope to see you there!


Basic overview of the techniques used to explore horizontal and vertical caves.

What Not to Wear
Teachers: Anya Thetford

"You're wearing what? You can't go out of the house like that!" We've all heard these words at some time or another, and we might have an idea of what not to wear, but have we learned what to wear? After checking out a few fashion disasters and taking a bit of Trinny and Susannah's advice, we'll move on to more serious business: what not to wear in an interview. We'll talk about how to avoid wardrobe malfunction and why what you wear actually does make a difference. Remember, you want the interviewer to be listening to what you're saying, not critiquing what you're wearing. But don't worry--you can wear what you want to class!

Master the Knot: Introduction to Knot Tying

A rope can be a powerful tool. This class will teach you a variety of knots to let you tie anything to anything. Moor a boat, climb a mountain, or tie your best friend to a tree, all with the power of knots.

This course will turn beginners into ninja knot masters. If you're already a ninja knot master, you will be bored.

Teachers: Nicholas Zehender

Travel to strange new classrooms. Meet interesting, unusual people, and kill them! Patrol is a high-action game of live combat with rubber-dart guns. Shoot your friends, then watch out as they try to take their revenge. Sponsored by the MIT Assassins’ Guild.

NOTE: Since this event is run by a separate student group at MIT, you will need a separate permission slip for it. Please print out the form found at, have your parent/guardian sign it and bring it with you. You will not be allowed into the class otherwise.

Make sure you bring a signed copy of the permission slip ( with you!

So I can solve a Rubik's Cube, now what?!
Teachers: Marcel Thomas

This is a class intended for people who can solve a Rubik's Cube and want to move on to more advanced puzzles. I will teach you how to solve the 4x4, 5x5, ..., nxn cubes, as well as the Megaminx and Square-1. I will also go over the speedcuber's method for solving a normal Rubik's Cube. In addition, I will teach you how you would go about solving the Cube blindfolded. If there's time, I'll try and go over the 4-Dimensional and 5-Dimensional analogs of a Rubik's Cube as well.

You need to know how to solve a Rubik's Cube (though not necessarily fast).

Social Skills: How to deal with people
Teachers: Jeremy Smith

Believe it or not, being able to deal with people is one of the most important attributes of many successful people. I am going to teach you how you should think about yourselves and others, how to deal with all kinds of people in all situations, and some tips on how to improve yourself. This class could be life-changing; when I discovered this material, it was for me. You must be MATURE and NON-DISRUPTIVE. I won't tolerate folks who vie for class attention, so do not come if you plan on acting this way. I'm a guy, so what I say may not necessarily apply to females - girls are welcome, but just be aware that I am not one of you and a lot of what I have to say may not apply.

You must be MATURE. You must be NON-DISRUPTIVE during class. You must come with an OPEN MIND.